Title:
Collapsible Portable Shelter
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable collapsible shelter trailer comprising of a container having four doors on each side that are hinged along the bottom, and which may be folded to a horizontal position to yield a portable shelter having rigid frame and flexible fabric sections. The deployment of the fabric shelter after the doors are deployed is accomplished by air actuated cylinders which are mounted to each of the doors, and are controlled from a control panel by means of air valves that regulate the flow of compressed air into the cylinders to impart tension to the fabric shelter.



Inventors:
Trautman, Earl Dennis (Delta, BC, CA)
Roberts, Benjamin H. (White Rock, BC, CA)
Mahaffey, Robert James (Vancouver, CA)
Application Number:
11/380324
Publication Date:
11/16/2006
Filing Date:
04/26/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B7/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAPMAN, JEANETTE E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NEXUS LAW GROUP LLP (VANCOUVER, BC, CA)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A collapsible portable shelter comprising: a rigid, hollow container having vertical sides, a horizontal top and bottom, wherein at least one of the sides includes a wall portion that is hingedly connected to said side at the lower edge of the wall portion to enable the wall portion to be swung between a closed vertical position and an open horizontal position, the wall portion having an outer edge, and said side defining an opening circumscribed by edges of said side when said wall portion is in the open position; means associated with the container and with said wall portion for releasably securing said wall portion in the vertical position; at least one support mechanism cooperating with the wall portion for providing stability to the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position; a flexible cover secured to the outer edge of the wall portion and to the container around the opening in said side, and adapted to extend above the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position to define a covered space above the wall portion; a fluid actuated tensioner extending outwardly from the vertical side and within the covered space above the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position for supporting the flexible cover above the wall portion and providing tension to the flexible cover; a source of pressurized fluid in fluid communication with the tensioner for providing fluid to the tensioner; and a control valve associated with the source of fluid for regulating the amount of fluid flowing into the tensioner to cause a lengthening of the tensioner in response to input from a user.

2. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 wherein the fluid actuated tensioner is pneumatically actuated and the pressurized fluid is a pressurized gas.

3. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2 wherein the pressurized gas is compressed air.

4. The apparatus as claimed in claim 3 wherein the fluid actuated tensioner comprises: a pair of air cylinders, one on each side of the wall portion, each air cylinder being hingedly connected at a first end to an inside surface of the wall portion near the lower edge thereof in a manner that enables a second end of the air cylinder to swing in relation to the wall portion; and a horizontal cross member that is connected at each end to one of the air cylinders at the second end thereof, wherein the air cylinders and the horizontal cross member define a frame that is hinged in relation to the wall portion and which is able to abut the inside of the flexible cover to apply tension to the cover; and wherein the apparatus further includes a manifold located mid-way between said air cylinders and in fluid communication with the source of compressed air and with the air cylinders for distributing an equal amount of air to each of the cylinders.

5. The apparatus as claimed in claim 4 wherein the support mechanism comprises a plurality of adjustable legs hingedly connected to the outside of the wall portion in a manner that as the wall portion in swung toward the horizontal position, the adjustable legs swing away from the wall portion into a vertical orientation and into contact with the surface on which the apparatus is rests so that each leg provides support to the wall portion.

6. The apparatus as claimed in claim 5 wherein the support mechanism further comprises at least one stop cable connected to an upper portion of the side of the container and to an upper portion of the wall portion, the cable being of a length sufficient to permit the wall portion to be lowered into the horizontal position, but which prevents the wall portion from being lowered beyond the horizontal position.

7. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 further comprising a trailer chassis and wherein the container is mounted to the chassis such that the apparatus may be towed behind a vehicle.

8. The apparatus as claimed in claim 7 wherein the fluid actuated tensioner is pneumatically actuated and the pressurized fluid is a pressurized gas.

9. The apparatus as claimed in claim 8 wherein the pressurized gas is compressed air.

10. The apparatus as claimed in claim 9 wherein the fluid actuated tensioner comprises: a pair of air cylinders, one on each side of the wall portion, each air cylinder being hingedly connected at a first end to an inside surface of the wall portion near the lower edge thereof in a manner that enables a second end of the air cylinder to swing in relation to the wall portion; and a horizontal cross member that is connected at each end to one of the air cylinders at the second end thereof, wherein the air cylinders and the horizontal cross member define a frame that is hinged in relation to the wall portion and which is able to abut the inside of the flexible cover to apply tension to the cover; and wherein the apparatus further includes a manifold located mid-way between said air cylinders and in fluid communication with the source of compressed air and with the cylinders for distributing an equal amount of air to each of the cylinders.

11. The apparatus as claimed in claim 10 wherein the support mechanism comprises a plurality of adjustable legs hingedly connected to the outside of the wall portion in a manner that as the wall portion in swung toward the horizontal position, the adjustable legs swing away from the wall portion into a vertical orientation and into contact with the surface on which the apparatus is rests so that each leg provides support to the wall portion.

12. The apparatus as claimed in claim 11 wherein the support mechanism further comprises at least one stop cable connected to an upper portion of the side of the container and to an upper portion of the wall portion, the cable being of a length sufficient to permit the wall portion to be lowered into the horizontal position, but which prevents the wall portion from being lowered beyond the horizontal position.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/594,641, filed Apr. 26, 2005. This and all other references referenced herein are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all their teachings and disclosures, regardless of where the references may appear in this application.

BACKGROUND

The invention relates to the field of portable shelters and more particularly to collapsible portable shelters having both rigid frame and flexible fabric sections which collapse to a rigid container or trailer.

Transportable shelters having both rigid frame and flexible fabric sections which collapse to a rigid container or trailer are known and used in a variety of industries and applications that require economical and rapidly deployable temporary shelter facilities, such as for example, military, disaster response, forestry and construction applications. Desirable traits of such portable shelters include the ease of transportability and the ease and speed of deployment. Accordingly there is a need for shelters that are simple to deploy using as few personnel as possible, and which may be easily deployed by such personnel in the shortest amount of time possible.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides collapsible portable shelters having both rigid frame and flexible fabric sections which collapse to a rigid container or trailer in which the deployment of the fabric shelter after the doors are deployed is accomplished by air actuated cylinders which are mounted to each of the doors, and are controlled from a control panel by means of air valves that regulate the flow of compressed air into the air cylinders to impart tension to the fabric shelter.

Thus, in one aspect, the collapsible portable shelter herein comprises a rigid, hollow container having vertical sides, a horizontal top and bottom, wherein at least one of the sides includes a wall portion that is hingedly connected to said side at the lower edge of the wall portion to enable the wall portion to be swung between a closed vertical position and an open horizontal position, the wall portion having an outer edge, and said side defining an opening circumscribed by edges of said side when said wall portion is in the open position, means associated with the container and with said wall portion for releasably securing said wall portion in the vertical position, at least one support mechanism cooperating with the wall portion for providing stability to the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position, a flexible cover secured to the outer edge of the wall portion and to the container around the opening in said side, and adapted to extend above the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position to define a covered space above the wall portion, a fluid actuated tensioner extending outwardly from the vertical side and within the covered space above the wall portion when the wall portion is in the horizontal position for supporting the flexible cover above the wall portion and providing tension to the flexible cover, a source of pressurized fluid in fluid communication with the tensioner for providing fluid to the tensioner, and a control valve associated with the source of fluid for regulating the amount of fluid flowing into the tensioner to cause a lengthening of the tensioner in response to input from a user.

Some embodiments of the collapsible portable shelter may also include a trailer chassis and the container is mounted to the chassis such that the apparatus may be towed behind a vehicle. In either case, the fluid actuated tensioner may be pneumatically actuated and the pressurized fluid may a pressurized gas. In particular, the pressurized gas is compressed air.

In some embodiments, the fluid actuated tensioner comprises a pair of air cylinders, one on each side of the wall portion, each air cylinder being hingedly connected at a first end to an inside surface of the wall portion near the lower edge thereof in a manner that enables a second end of the air cylinder to swing in relation to the wall portion, and a horizontal cross member that is connected at each end to one of the air cylinders at the second end thereof, wherein the air cylinders and the horizontal cross member define a frame that is hinged in relation to the wall portion and which is able to abut the inside of the flexible cover to apply tension to the cover, and wherein the apparatus further includes a manifold located mid-way between said air cylinders and in fluid communication with the source of compressed air and with the air cylinders for distributing an equal amount of air to each of the cylinders.

In some embodiments, the support mechanism may comprise a plurality of adjustable legs hingedly connected to the outside of the wall portion in a manner that as the wall portion in swung toward the horizontal position, the adjustable legs swing away from the wall portion into a vertical orientation and into contact with the surface on which the apparatus is rests so that each leg provides support to the wall portion. As well, the support mechanism may further comprise at least one stop cable connected to an upper portion of the side of the container and to an upper portion of the wall portion, the cable being of a length sufficient to permit the wall portion to be lowered into the horizontal position, but which prevents the wall portion from being lowered beyond the horizontal position.

These and other aspects, features and embodiments are set forth within this application, including the following detailed description and attached drawings. In addition, various references are set forth herein, including in the Cross-Reference To Related Applications, that discuss certain systems, apparatus, methods and other information; all such references are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all their teachings and disclosures, regardless of where the references may appear in this application.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention in collapsed state of a trailer;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in a deployed state in which all four walls or doors are folded down in a horizontal position, and the fabric shelter in place;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 2 without the fabric shelter covering to expose the internal structures of the collapsible portable shelter;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a corner of the trailer showing two mounted air actuated cylinders when the trailer is in the collapsed state;

FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of one air cylinder in the configuration it would be in when the wall or door on which it is mounted is in the deployed state;

FIG. 5a is a close-up view of the rod end of the air cylinder in FIG. 5;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the air cylinder of FIG. 5 showing its attachment to the corresponding shelter support tube; and

FIG. 6a is a close-up view of the rod end of the air cylinder in FIG. 6.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the exemplary embodiments illustrated in the drawings, and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications of the inventive features illustrated herein, and any additional applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated herein, which would occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention.

With reference to FIGS. 1 to 6a, an embodiment of a collapsible portable shelter of the present invention in its collapsed state (FIG. 1) forms a trailer 10 comprising a rigid hollow container or box structure 14 having rectangular vertical sides and a horizontal top and bottom. The container 14 is mounted on a trailer chassis 16 having wheels 18 mounted on two low profile axles 17 which eliminating the need for wheel wells. Stabilizing jacks 19 are provided at each corner of the trailer frame for leveling and stabilizing the trailer. The container has a sub frame 20 with a solid floor of wood or aluminum 22 on which are provided two F tracks 24 used to tie down on-board cargo.

Each corner of the container has a tubular vertical corner post 26 of the sub frame 20 that support the roof 30. The roof 30 has its own sub frame mounted to the corner posts, that supports the roof joists and roof panels. The two sub frames and corner posts form the main frame for the fold down doors 34 that are mounted on each side of the trailer. This upper structure is designed to give maximum opening size. The size of the material used in the structure is determined by the overall length of the trailer. In the illustrated embodiment, the length of the corner posts are set by the size of the sub frames and have 88″ of clear opening.

Each of the vertical sides of the container include wall portions, which are referred to herein as doors 34, that are each hinged at their lower edge to the bottom sub frame 20 to enable the doors to be swung between a closed vertical position and an open horizontal position. The vertical side defines a door frame or opening circumscribed by edges of the vertical side when the door is in the horizontal position. In order to allow one-person deployment of the doors, there are provided torsion bars associated with the container and the doors that reduce the weight of each door to approximately 10 percent of the total door weight. While in the illustrated embodiment, the wall portions or doors are shown to virtually take up the entire vertical sides to maximize the amount of available space in the deployed apparatus, it is conceivable that the doors could be made smaller than the vertical sides in some embodiments.

The doors are releasably secured or held in the closed position by door locks of the kind used in standard trailers. Each door has an angle 36 of 2 to 3 inches attached to the top and sides of the door and approximately 1″ from the inside edge, except for the rear door 40 where there is a 42″ gap on the outside angle to accommodate loading of equipment via a ramp 42, which is retained in loading ramp case 43 during transport of the trailer. The doors have a rubber weather strip installed around the perimeter to eliminate air and water leaks. There is also provided an awning rail 38 adjacent the angle 36 for securing a flexible cover or fabric shelter 80 to the door. The rear fold down door 40 has a 42″ man-door installed which allows users to load or unload ancillary equipment and supplies without lowering the main door and deploying the fabric structure.

On the outside of each door are provided adjustable legs 45 that are preferably mounted no more than five feet apart. These legs are locked in the closed position with a spring catch. The adjustable legs are released from the spring clips before the doors are lowered and the adjustable legs swing into position and are set to hold the doors in a horizontal position, thereby acting as a support mechanism for the doors.

Wire door stop cables 50 are provided on each side of the doors to stop the doors in the horizontal position, thereby also acting as a support mechanism for the doors. These cables are mounted at the top corner of the door frame and a distance of 3″ from the top edge of the door and 1″ from the side of the door. ⅜″ bolts with sleeves are used to mount the cables to the door and door frame. These cables prevent over-tensioning of the fabric, which would occur if the doors are not stopped at the horizontal position. All cables are mounted on the inside of the fabric shelter portions.

Each fold down door 34 has two air actuated cylinders 60, each being mounted with a mounting bracket 62 that is bolted to the door a distance of 2″ from bottom inside edge of door to center of the blind end pin, and 3 7/16″ from side edge to the center of the cylinder. The air actuated cylinders are mounted to the mounting bracket with a blind end pin and two cotter pins. Accordingly, the air cylinders are able to swing or pivot in relation to the door.

The flexible cover or fabric shelter 80 is provided and made of a waterproof PVC coated polyester material or something similar, which can also be insulated. The roof of the fabric shelter and two sides are attached to the door frame. A horizontal cross member such as shelter support tube or awning tube 100 is provided having a slot at each end for attachment to an air cylinder. The fabric shelter is attached to the support tube 100 by sliding a beaded edge on the inside of the fabric shelter, located where the roof meets the outside wall, into a corresponding groove on the support tube. Accordingly, the air cylinders and the support tube define a frame that is hinged in relation to the door, and together they act as a fluid or pneumatically actuated tensioner that supports the fabric shelter above its respective door when in the deployed position and provides tension to the fabric shelter.

Referring to FIGS. 5 & 6, the rod end mechanism of each air actuated cylinder 60 is shown (FIGS. 5a and 6a) and is attached to the shelter support tube 100 along with two cables 110 and 112. The rod end mechanism utilizes adjusting screw 114 received within a hex nut 115 for final tensioning of fabric. The cables 110 and 112 ensure that the air actuated cylinder, hence the support tube 100 extends into the correct position. These cables are mounted on the same ⅜″ bolts as the door stop cable 50 and are installed before the fabric shelter. The rod end is inserted into the support tube and the fabric shelter is then attached to the angles on the outside edges of the doors using awning rails 38 and fasteners.

Each end or long wall of the fabric shelter has a 42″ zippered door 120 in the center of the fabric wall. When positioning two trailers, side-by-side, a fabric tube may be used to join the two trailers together. Multiple trailers can be joined in this way using either front, rear or side doors. All doors can have two-step staircases 130 or a 36″ wide ramp 42 attached to allow ingress or egress to the trailer.

Control panel hinges are mounted to the front driver's side corner tube with the rear of the panel in its stowed position 2″ from the front wall. Two hood catches are attached to hold the control panel 70 in its transport position. The control panel utilizes a source of compressed air from an air bottle mounted in the control panel or a static high-pressure storage tank mounted to the trailer frame or from a 120-volt air compressor. This air source is connected to the main control panel, equipped with one master control valve and four control valves, one for each door. The control panel also has a shore power plug for remote power hookup and light switches to turn the lights off and on.

From the control panel, a large air line is deployed to a central location for each door, where a manifold then allows a smaller air line to be routed to each of the cylinders located at each door side. The manifold must be located at the center of the door on the main frame of the trailer, and the small lines must be of equal length. This is the only way that the cylinders will extend or contract at the same speed. It is important for this to happen otherwise jamming will occur.

In deploying the portable shelter trailer, the adjustable legs on a door are released from their spring clips, and then the door locks are released to permit the door to be pulled open and lowered until it stops. This is repeated for the other doors. To erect the individual fabric shelter portions, the desired air valve on the control panel is turned on to allow the flow of compressed air to actuate the corresponding air cylinders on that door to tension the corresponding fabric shelter portion. With this air actuation system, each shelter portion may be erected in a very short period of time, often in a matter of seconds. This is repeated for the three other shelter portions to complete the deployment of the entire unit. From within the trailer, locking pins are inserted into a hole 134 provided on each of the cylinders, and then all of the air valves are turned off to stop the flow of air to the cylinders. From within the enclosed area, three bungee cords (described below) are removed each shelter portion and a retention-webbing strap.

To stow the trailer, attach the three bungee cords to the sides of the shelter for each unit. These cords are used to pull the fabric inside the trailer as the doors are raised and prevent the fabric from jamming between the door and the door frame. Next, attach the retention straps to the webbing handle, located on the inside corner of each corner post 60″ from the floor. These straps hold the shelters and cylinders in an upright position to allow stowage of equipment and supplies during transport. If the surface on which the trailer is parked is irregular, return the adjustable legs to the stowing position. Then remove the locking pins from the cylinders by pushing on the awning tube and lowering the cylinders at the same rate. Now lift the doors from outside and lock in-place with door locks. Stow the adjustable legs in spring clips. Return the ancillary equipment and supplies to the trailer using the stairs or the ramp through the man-door. Secure the equipment with tie-downs. Trailer is now ready for transport.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that, although specific embodiments have been discussed herein for purposes of illustration, various modifications may be made without deviating from the scope of the invention, which is defined in the appended claims.