Title:
Flexible toroidal reel
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A reel or spool comprises of a long flexible split cylindrical channel joined end to end to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit on its circumference open to accept wound material. The resulting reel or spool is used to store, transport, receive or dispense linear flexible materials such as wire, hose, cord, or chain which lend themselves to being wound helically and/or over themselves. The spool's main purpose is to provide inexpensive, robust, lightweight, flexible, rapidly windable, easily carriable, wall hangable, easily manufacturable, single piece, easily recyclable, compact and secure containment of the wound material while preventing external damage, destructive bending, kinking, flattening or tangling of the material and allowing controllable winding and unwinding of said material. The channel can be made of a lengthwise split flexible tube, a formed sheet of plastic or preferably from single split corrugated plastic drainage pipe. The ends can be joined with a sleeve coupling, welded, riveted, stapled or glued. Being of a single piece construction, there are no flanges or joints to break and the reel is free to expand and evenly distribute forces exerted by the wound material. Different size reels are easily manufacturable from different size pipes or different pipe lengths without re-design, re-molding or re-tooling. The opening on the reel can be oriented anywhere on the reel's circumference at the time of manufacture simply by curving the pipe along a different line.



Inventors:
Chlipalski, Rafael (Nepean, CA)
Application Number:
11/186104
Publication Date:
01/25/2007
Filing Date:
07/22/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
242/601, 242/613.1
International Classes:
B65H75/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DONDERO, WILLIAM E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mr. Rafael Chlipalski (Nepean, ON, CA)
Claims:
What is claimed as my invention is:

1. In accordance with the objectives of the present invention, the invention comprises of a long flexible split cylindrical channel joined end to end to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit anywhere on its circumference open to accept wound material.

2. A reel as defined in claim 1, wherein the split cylindrical channel is made of lengths of standard plastic corrugated drainage pipe welded, glued, riveted or stapled end to end to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit anywhere on its circumference open to accept wound material.

3. A reel as defined in claim 1, wherein the split cylindrical channel is made of lengths of standard plastic corrugated drainage pipe joined end to end by two or more coupling sleeves sliding, straddling and crimping the ribs at each end of the pipe to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit anywhere on its circumference open to accept wound material.

4. A sleeve which holds the two ends of a split corrugated pipe against each other by sliding over and fastening the two end ribs of the pipe to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit anywhere on its circumference open to accept wound material.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

A reel or spool usually comprises of two flanges spaced apart by and sharing a common axis with an intersecting cylindrical barrel. The resulting reel or spool is used to store, transport, receive or dispense linear flexible materials such as wire, hose, rope, or chain which lend themselves to being wound helically and/or over themselves. The spool's main purpose is to provide compact and secure containment of the wound material while preventing destructive bending, kinking, flattening or tangling of the material and allowing controllable winding and unwinding of said material.

The standard approach to reel design is a one-piece, two-piece or three-piece assembly of the two flanges and barrel. In most designs the barrel and flanges are rigid yet full of holes to minimize weight. The flanges are relatively thin discs which extend radially and orthogonally from the barrel ends and are subject to breakage and chipping along their circumferences because of their exposure.

Barrel diameter is critical to the strength of the reel, preventing damage to the wound material and to the speed of winding it. Too small a diameter will kink and/or flatten the wound material, severely weaken the reel at the flange to barrel joints and slow winding. Hence, most reels enclose a significant amount of wasted space because the reel diameter is usually a significant percentage of the flange diameter. The flange diameter cannot be significantly larger than the barrel diameter because the larger the flange, the greater the leverage force on the flange from within and without. Large flanges need to be stronger which generally means the weight and cost of the reel increases. Hence, reel capacity is generally increased by increasing the barrel length. This makes reels bulky, squarish and difficult to carry.

For example, mountaineers need to deal with huge quantities of rope which must remain untangled. A reel would solve this problem if it were light and shatter resistant yet large enough to be carried over the shoulder. Currently, there is no reel design which satisfies these criteria.

Another example is the need for tradesmen to carry large quantities of electrical extension cord and air hoses. In cold weather, air hoses kink and loop and are difficult to manage if wound on a reel with a small diameter barrel. Ideally, tradesmen would prefer a large diameter, lightweight reel which winds and unwinds quickly and could be slung over the shoulder for easier hands-free carrying. At the same time they don't want a reel which isn't durable or wastes space in transport or storage. Many forgo the reel altogether and wind their hoses and wire on their forearms. This makes for all kinds of problems with twisted, tangled and unraveling bundles.

The bulkiness of reels also extends into their storage and shipment. This is a big problem for one-piece reels but two and three piece reels can be assembled on site which greatly saves on storage space. However, because flanges cannot be adjusted once in storage, reel capacity is usually increased by adjusting the barrel length. Increasing the barrel length introduces the need for a winding guide to efficiently spool the flexible material on the reel and prevent overlapping tangles. Increasing the barrel length also increases the exposure of the wound material to external dirt and damaging blows. A possible solution would be to extend the flanges around the wound material to protect it except that winding and unwinding would be hampered on longer barreled reels.

Another disadvantage to the prior art is that holes are placed on the flange extremities through which the end of the wound material is fixed to prevent unraveling. This is as cumbersome as threading a needle and since the wound material cannot cover the hole, space is again wasted on the reel.

Another disadvantage to the prior art is that reels made of differing materials are difficult to recycle. Hence, many end up in landfills where their bulky nature takes up an inordinate amount of space.

Garden hose reels sold in hardware stores take up an inordinate amount of valuable shelf space because of their bulkiness. They are also quite expensive yet fragile when compared to ordinary reels. Garden hose reels often come mounted on their own carts which are low to the ground. This requires bending over in an uncomfortable and backbreaking position in order to reel in the hose.

The present invention solves the problems discussed above in a manner not revealed in the known prior art.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

An objective of the present invention is to solve problems associated with flange and barrel reels by eliminating the flanges and barrel and using a toroidal design. The present invention is made from a split corrugated pipe, flexible tube or rolled sheet of plastic joined end to end forming a hollow torus with a slit opening on its circumference through which material can be wound.

One advantage of the present invention is its ease of manufacture. Standard corrugated plastic drainage pipe is split lengthwise and coupled, welded, riveted, stapled or glued end to end. A simple machine could be designed to do this and installed at the winding factory without the need to ship or store empty reels from a reel manufacturer. Any diameter reel can be made on the spot without retooling or re-molding simply by cutting the pipe to different lengths or using different diameter pipes. The pipe is inexpensive, lightweight, flexible and strong. It forms a protective shell around the wound material so very little is exposed to dirt and external damage. The pipe corrugations allow both easy bending of the pipe and act as side ribs to securely contain the wound material.

Polyethylene would be the preferred material for constructing this invention. It remains flexible over a wide temperature range and is less susceptible to shattering at cold temperatures unlike standard rigid plastic or molded reels. The reel can expand to counteract and evenly distribute the pressures exerted by the wound material. There are no barrel to flange joints or weak points which are subject to leverage forces. The outside circumference of the reel does not have exposed edges which stick out unsupported so it is far less likely to chip and break as flanges do.

Another advantage of the present invention is its ease of carrying especially for mountaineers and trades people. The diameter of the reel would normally be far greater than the diameter of the pipe making up the reel. This is advantageous for over the shoulder carrying with the added benefits of speedy winding and no end of reel hose kinking. Since the reel is relatively narrow compared to barreled reels, there is also no need for an external winding guide to properly spool the material. The reel's low profile and flexibility makes it ideal for tradesmen to slip it into narrow spaces in their commercial vehicles and utilize the large ‘donut hole’ for miscellaneous storage. It's also easy to hang on a wall hook. By replacing rigidity with flexibility for strength and the even distribution of forces along the inside of the torus makes this reel far lighter to carry than any comparable barrel and flange design.

Another advantage of the present invention is its utility as a garden hose reel. If a sleeve is used to slide over and clasp the ribs at the end of the pipe as a means of joining the pipe end-to-end, the reel can be easily stored in a disassembled state on store shelves thereby saving space. Because corrugated drainage pipe is inexpensive yet durable, this reel is one fifth to one tenth the cost yet more durable than current garden hose reel designs. Since the reel has no crank close to ground level, the hose can be speedily wound from a standing position without inducing back strain.

Since this reel is made from a single piece of pipe, it also makes it easily recyclable as the material is homogenous.

Another advantage of the present invention is that the slit opening can appear anywhere on its circumference which gives winding options not available to flange and barrel reels. For example, if the slit appears on the side, the reel can be placed in a horizontal position and the material can be pushed into the slot from above in a lasso spinning motion. This would be particularly advantageous for garden hoses as the reel would not need to be lifted in order to wind the hose.

Another advantage of the present invention is that it does not require a hole to prevent the wound material from unraveling. The end of the material can be tucked under and held by the overlapping reel. Alternately, a sliding sleeve could be used to block the reel's slit and prevent the material from unraveling.

Another advantage of the present invention is that because it's shaped like a lifesaver or wreath, decorative and eye-catching designs and advertisements could be printed on its exterior surface.

In accordance with the objectives of the present invention, the invention comprises of a long flexible split cylindrical channel joined end to end to form a hollow toroidal reel with the slit on its circumference open to accept wound material. The reel may have holes or slots cut in order to expose the ends of the stored wound material and fix it to the reel. Alternately clips may be used to fasten the ends of the wound material to the reel.

Still other objects and advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in this art from the following detailed description, wherein I have shown and described the preferred embodiment by way of illustration of the best mode of the invention. However, the drawings and description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature, and not as restrictive.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is further described in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a reel according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a top view of the reel of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an end view of the reel of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a sectional top view along line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of an optional sleeve coupling for the reel of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an isometric view of an optional sleeve coupling the end ribs of the reel of FIG. 1;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the Figures and particularly to FIG. 1, a reel 20 is made from a split corrugated plastic drainage pipe welded, fastened or coupled end to end forming a hollow torus with a slit 21 opening on its circumference through which material can be wound on its interior surface. In some embodiments of the present invention reel 20, at least one start hole 23 is provided which extends through the reel shell to provide external access to one end of the wound material and fix that end to the reel 20 so winding can commence. Therefore, the start hole 23 is appropriately sized to allow passage of a hose end or extension cord plug and provide bearing engagement between the edge of the hole 23 and the wound material.

In some embodiments of the present invention reel 20, two or more coupling sleeves 22 join the two ends of the corrugated pipe to form the reel 20. The sleeves 22 slide transversely over the rib 24 at each end of the corrugated plastic drainage pipe thereby locking them together to form the reel. Two or more sleeves 22 are used because a single cylindrical sleeve, not shown, would be more difficult to slide over the entire length of the pipe's end ribs. This allows the empty reel 20 to be disassembled at will to save on storage. It also allows the reel size to be easily customized from different lengths of pipe.

The sleeves 22 do not normally block the slit 21 in the pipe but one of the sleeves 22 can be used to lock the wound material onto the reel 20 by sliding the sleeve 22 over the slit 21 thereby preventing unraveling of the wound material, not shown. FIG. 5 shows the preferred embodiment of the sleeve 22. FIG. 6 shows how the sleeve 22 grips the end ribs of the corrugated plastic pipe in order to form the reel. At least one other sleeve is required to join the rib ends across the slit from the first sleeve.

The sleeve design allows quick assembly and disassembly of the reel 20 and allows the slit 21 to be re-oriented anywhere along the reel's 20 circumference.

In view of the above, it will be seen that various aspects and features of the invention are achieved and other advantageous results attained. While preferred embodiments of the invention have been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the invention in its broader aspects.