Multi-purpose foldable M-frame transport and storage apparatus for slabs, panels and other flat sheet products
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An improved apparatus and method for the transport of multiply slabs of panels including slabs of marble, granite, stone, glass, and heavy objects. At least one set of foldable A-frames hinged and secured to the base and an optional securing assembly. The base is an elongated frame comprising of at least two tunnels to provide means for fork lifting and U bars for over head lifting, cross members for support, pad plates covered by rubber wedge to stabilize cargo. The top supports, A-frames, are cushioned with appropriate resilient material.

Gardner, Richard C. (Knoxville, TN, US)
Dozier, Chris (Knoxville, TN, US)
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Primary Examiner:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
American Business Centers, Inc. (Alcoa, TN, US)
We claim:

1. A multi-purpose foldable transport and storage apparatus for slabs, panels, and other flat sheet products, comprising: A horizontal base; One or more supports, One or more A-frame members joined to said base, said A-frame members having hinged joined upper and lower portions and wherein one or more A-frame member is hinged allowing folding and stack ability, an elongate receiving guide way for receiving the lower edge of a flat sheet; said frame with a base containing side and end fork openings, overhead crane and tie down U-bars, said invention is constructed of substantial material of sufficient size and strength to accommodate cargo.



This application claims the benefit of provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/782,035, filed Mar. 14, 2006 the present inventors.


Not Applicable


Not Applicable


1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to machines and processes used to transport and store flat sheet products, specifically to an improved method and apparatus for transport of heavy stone marble and granite panels or slabs.

2. Prior Art

Heavy flat sheets or slabs pose safety issues in additions to excessive storage and transport expenses. An average individual truckload of rock or marble slabs can weigh between 20,000 to 40,000 pounds.

Cranes have been used for years in the transport of rock and marble. Presently rock and marble slabs are transported vertically on storage racks strapped to the bed of trucks or placed in wood crates sometimes nailed together for support and stability. Often A-frame structures are used in the slab and panel transport industry by strapping the slabs to the A-frame.

The heavy weight and size of granite and marble slabs create safety hazards, storage and space limitations, and excessive transport and delivery expenses. Additional expenses are incurred in returning the transport devices back to the supplier after cargo has completed its destination.

Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act; stating, “employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious harm,” necessities new development. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued several bulletins alerting employers to the hazards associated with handling and transporting heavy slabs and challenged the industry to design adequate means and methods for storage and transfer of rock slabs (shib Sep. 8, 2005).

Storage problems occur during and after transport. During transport shifting occurs on the A-frames, wooden crates and storage racks. The racks and frames become deformed and fail, as a result, the slabs may shift or fall while they are being unloaded. The present A-frames have not been designed to take into account the weight of the slabs. The A-frames also have not been designed to prevent shifting of other slabs if one of the slabs either shifts or is removed. The slabs can also shift or fail due to failure, or to improper placement of the restraining devices.

The A-frame appears to be the most popular means for transporting slabs, and after delivery the A-frame is returned to the supplier empty taking up just about as much space on the return trip as it did during delivery. Problems with the wooden crate after delivery evolve around having to hand saw them out one at a time and separate with a forklift. Due to the size and weight of the crates the probability of tipping over during lifting and forklift use is probable. There is very little space for the forklift positioning pickup from the bottom location of the slabs. Tausheck, in U.S. Pat. No. 3,765,550 (1971) presents a dolly for lifting and transporting large flat sheet products, which is limited to one flat sheet product.

Several examples of transport dollies used for panels exist, but very few exist for the support of heavy slabs. In U.S. Pat. No. 2,006,197,298 to Shore (2006) Dock Plates are used at loading docks to provide a path for loading and unloading goods between a truck bed and a loading dock. Normally dock plates are made of heavy metal; therefore, requiring frequent replacement of the wheels used to transport and store the dock plate dolly.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,085,329 to Crowell and Kellerman (1992), a sheeting or panel support invention using an A-frame at each end with a base to create a support system that stores and holds panels in place. Such a sheeting support system is difficult to transport, but the system can maintain heavy weighted objects. U.S. Pat. No. 6,866,463 Riordan, Liggins, Colberg, A dolly known as the E-Frame system is used in manufacturing operations. Each E-frame dolly is removable and the wheels are used for mobility. E-frame has ease of mobility but limited to objects that do not have excessive weight.

Transporting apparatuses using lifting platforms, such as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,411,360 to Hilliker and Malley (1995) create complexity in the use of inflated airbags to lift and transport slabs. The A-frames must be disassembled and the racks stacked in relationship for return shipment and storage. Disassembly takes time and man power.

Clamps and pins are used in U.S. Pat. No. 5,899,560 to Collins (1999) to prevent the slab cart frame assembly from spreading apart when the clamps are engaged. The slab cart is built strong enough to carry marble, granite, stone, glass and other heavy objects, but it is limited to one slab placed between a pair of elongated frame members and wheels mounted hereto. A clamp for shock absorption is also used in U.S. Pat. No. 4,695,067 to Willey (1987), which is a wheeled article carrier for transporting elongated articles.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,601,892 to Scarborough (2003) discloses the use of two channels connected by a cable. Lifting of the cable lifts the channels and the slab for moving and relocation. Moving and transporting heavy slabs of marble and rock panels by crane in U.S. Pat. No. 1,272,359 to Bell (1918) challenges the same problems of today. Transport and storage of heavy marble and stone slabs suffer from a number of disadvantages:

    • (a) The use of A-frames strapped to the bed of a truck creates safety hazards due to unbalance loads in transit and deliver.
    • (b) Wood crates nailed together can shift in transit and must be hand sawed out one at a time and separated with a forklift.
    • (c) Extra tools are needed to assemble and disassemble wood crates.
    • (d) Transport means lack accountability for heavy weighted slabs.
    • (e) Restraining devices are not strong enough to withstand weight and shifting of slabs.
    • (f) After delivery, the A-frames are returned to the supplier empty, thus taking up as much space on the return trip as they did during delivery of cargo.


Several objects and advantages of said invention are:

    • (a) to provide safe mobilization and transport balanced loads and multiply means of maneuvering loads of slabs;
    • (b) to provide a means to carry multiple slabs per load;
    • (c) to provide pick-up from either end or either side with a forklift;
    • (d) to provide lifting from an overhead crane;
    • (e) to provide a method to fold, nest and stack after use to conserve space;
    • (f) to provide a storage device for slabs during and after transporting;
    • (g) to provide a means to erect and fold A-frames without external hardware;
    • (h) to provide strength through design to support heavy loads;
    • (i) to provide pad plates to eliminate fasteners;
    • (j) to provide a secure strapping mechanism;
    • (k) to provide a system with no legs or wheels;
    • (l) to provide a smooth surface material to prevent marble from damage and scratches.

Further objects and advantages are to provide an invention of durability with an improved transport and storage means. Still further objects and advantages will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.


In accordance with the present invention, named M-Frame, an improved multi-purpose transport and storage apparatus designed to adhere to safety concerns for use in heavy slabs, panels and sheets of stone, marble or other flat sheets. Said M-Frame represents a substantial improvement in the means of transport, delivery, pick-up, stacking, storage, and to everyone's surprise the M-Frame accomplishes all of the above with no need for extra hardware and the need for fasteners (which damage forklifts and cargo) is eliminated.


In the drawings, closely related figures have the same number but different alphabetic suffixes.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the M-Frame with stanchions (A-frames) in folded position.

FIG. 1A is an end elevational view, partially in sections, of the assembled tunnel base portion of said M-frame.

FIG. 1B is an end front elevational view of the assembled base portion and transport members of said M-frame.

FIG. 2 depicts details of a rubber fastener block as used in accordance with said M-frame.

FIG. 3 depicts pivoting A-frame stanchions in upright position

FIG. 3A depicts mounted A-frame stanchions in upright position

FIG. 3B depicts A-frames in up-right transport position anchored to base

FIG. 3C depicts one set of A-frames folded down in storage position and the other A-frame set in transport position.

FIG. 3D depicts both sets of A-frames in folded storage position.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged, fragmentary, partially exploded view illustrating the manner in which the A-frame stanchions pivot.

FIG. 5 is an end view of said M-frame base, depicting the A-frame folded down with top exposed expressing hinged system.

FIG. 5A depicts details of hinged system with attached A-frames

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of said M-frame with A-frame stanchions in the folded, storage position.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the M-frame with the A-frame stanchions partially upright; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of said M-frame with complete assembly of the A-frames lower end and front end of A-frames in folded position.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of said M-frame with lower A-frames in up-right position and upper A-frames rising.

FIG. 10 is a front view of said M-frame, to include base, and A-frame stanchions in upright position ready to receive slabs that slide directly in front of A-frame stanchions.


Reference Numerals

  • 4 flat strip of steel used to form tunnel
  • 8 steel channel positioned next to steel strip to form tunnel
  • 12 end cross member (metal bar)
  • 16 cross member near U bars
  • 20 cross member near pivot points of A-frames
  • 26 short piece of c-channel—helps support cross member 16
  • 30 corner gusset—(all 4 corners) quadrilateral
  • 35 rectangular gusset—helps support base
  • 40 pad plates—thin steel plates
  • 49 U-bars—horseshoe shaped bars
  • 53 A receivers—steel pockets to receive floating A-frames when in raised position
  • 57 locator angles—narrow strips of angle, helps center frame
  • 61 rubber wedge shaped blocks—slips over steel pad plates (40)
  • 70 bolts
  • 74 square steel tubing (A-frames)
  • 78 extruded rubber strip inserted along 74 steel tubing
  • 82 flat steel brace
  • 86 steel brace at cross member 16
  • 90 pivoted sleeve for A-frame anchor A
  • 94 welded bar belonging to Floating A assembly welded to tunnels
  • 96 flat washers
  • 99 hinged barrels
  • 100 nuts that affix the rubber blocks to steel pad plates
  • 104 long bolt—joining halves of hinge
  • 108 nut installed
  • 112 short pieces of square tubing
  • 118 mounting plate
  • 122 solid round bar


In accordance with said M-frame, various embodiments of a folding, transport and storage apparatus generally comprises a base. With reference now to drawings, and in particular to FIG. 1, there is illustrated a base 4 and 8 with at least two object supports 12.

Generally the base is a horizontal frame that, and along with the rest of the apparatus is constructed of welded, steel tubing connected by welding. Although other materials may be used with appropriate strength and durability to accommodate the size ands weight of the objects to be loaded, we substantially desire the use of steel and welding.

Base 4, 8 and 12 supports at least one folding A-frame stanchion set 74. Attached to the base are members 49, 40, 30, 57, 35, 53, 122, 16, 20, 26,

FIG. 1A depicts single piece of flat strip steel 4 welded between two equally long pieces of C-channel 8.

FIG. 1B depicts the base comprising of at least two sets of tunnels formed by at least one piece of flat steel 4 welded to two equally long pieces of steel channel 8 supported by at least two support members 12 preferably attached by welding. Attached to base is 49 horse-shoe shaped steel bars.

Referring particularly to FIGS. 3, 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D, A-frames 74 extend upward from the base in a generally vertical orientation in working mode and folded down in storage mode.

OPERATION—FIGS 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The manner of using said M-frame, with reference to the drawings begins with FIG. 1. Operation starts with the tunnels formed by 4 and 8 and said tunnels allow a forklift to pick up loads. Cross members span the tunnels perpendicular to the length. Said end members 12 support the ends. Cross members 16 aid in support of U-bars 49 and cross members 20 aid in support of pivot sections of A-frames. Members 26, short pieces of channel are welded to face cross members for additional support. Corner steel gussets 30 applied over each end (all four corners) to reinforce the corner for strength and safety.

Said U-bars 49 provide pick up locations to attach chains or ropes for lifting points with a crane or can be used in conjunction with strapping support to maintain cargo. Rectangular gusset 35 welds on across the face of 4 to prevent all of the lifting force from being concentrated at the end welds inside the tunnel.

Pad plates 40 are thin rectangular steel plates, each having two threaded studs protruding from the top surface. A-shaped frames 74 with base points 122, 112,94, 118, and top hinge points 82. A-shaped frame consisting primarily of square section tubing with an extruded rubber strip 78 to protect cargo from scratching and damage.

FIG. 2—Rubber wedge shaped block 61 is not shown on FIG. 1, as said rubber wedge shaped block 61 goes over thin steel plates 40 shown on FIG. 1. Rubber wedge shaped block 61, goes over 40, attached with bolts 70, nut 96 and washers 100. Cargo placed on top of 61.

FIG. 4—Pivot Assembly consists of mounting plate 118; solid round bar 122, and hollow square tube 90. The solid round bar 122 lives inside the square tube 90, providing the pivot points at the base of each fixed A-frame assemblies.

The pivot assembly is built as a unit and dropped into the tunnel valley FIG. 1 located in the center of said M-Frame, after which mounting plates are welded to inner walls of tunnel

The hinged assembly for A-fame structures FIG. 5—Considering said end view of M-frame, with said A-frame structures in folded position, hinged barrel 99 is attached by long bolt. FIG. 5A depicts hinged system comprised of hinged barrel 99 attached by bolt 104 and nut 108.

Said M-Frame FIG. 6 depicts apparatus with A-frames 74 in resting position with visible tunnels 4 and 8 cross members 12, 20. U-bars 49, rubber-stripping 78 on 74 A-frame tubing. Anchored A-frame pivoting sleeve 90 and floating A-frame 94 assembly visible. A-frame hinged barrels 99 with flat steel braces 82 near cross member 12.

Method for depicting A-frame into working position FIG. 7 demonstrating flat steel brace 86 and depicting brace 82 at the top of A-frame exposing hinged barrel 99 with long bolt 104. Said pivot assembly 118 in resting position. U-bars 49 resting on tunnels 8 and 4 with cross member 12 supporting end structures near fork lift entry.

Unlike a stepladder, The A-frame 74 assembly is not portable. In FIG. 8, the lower, corner stanchion fits into the receiver 53, said steel pockets made up of pieces of cut angle. The floating A-frame stanchion rests in the receiver 53 when in the raised/working position. Visible is said hinged barrels 99 with steel brace 82 allowing movement to materialize. Support Brace 86 aids the support of weight placed on A-frames.

The act of raising a pair of A-frames consistent with FIG. 9, method is grasp said pair of A-frames 74 at or near the hinge barrels 99 and braces 82 joining them and lifting. Initially they rotate in an arc. Once the pair of A-frames 74 becomes vertical, the floating A assembly can fold away from the fixed one and the base of the floating A can be guided into the receivers 53. The process is then repeated with the other pair of A assemblies. Once both assemblies are in the upright position the said M-frame is ready to be loaded.

Said M-Frame in working position FIG. 10 depicts A-frame 74 stanchions in up-right working position with the rubber tubing strip 78 over 74. Said brace 82 and hinged barrel 99 at top of A-frame structure. Support member 86 used to maintain balance and weight. Said floating A assembly stanchion is shown fitting into receiver 94 as A assembly stanchion in center of M-Frame is shown mounted to pivoting sleeve 90.

M-frame weight capacity is approximately 9,000 pounds. Cargo panels or marble slabs are placed on both sides of the M-frame structure. Strapping mechanism is optional and can be attached to or around frames, over frames, used in conjunction with U-bars or tunnels. Loaded M-Frame can be lifted by overhead crane or Forklift.


From the description above, a number of advantages of said M-Frame become evident:

    • (a) Safety hazards are minimized by the structural design.
    • (b) Minimal storage space is used upon return trip to supplier after cargo has been delivered, as M-frame in the resting position can be stacked as high as necessary.
    • (c) Substantially no shifting occurs on the M-Frames during storage and transport.
    • (d) Forklift has ample space for insertion from both ends, center, and overhead lifting is simplified by use of U-bars
    • (e) No parts are removed for folding or in working position, no tools need
    • (f) Substantially no damage to cargo due to rubber tubing over frames and rubber block situated on the base of said M-frame
      Conclusion, Ramification, and Scope

Accordingly, the reader will see that said M-frame is different in the respect that commercial success has been obtained in an art long felt, but with unsolved need and failure of others. At the request of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. said M-Frame substantially meets the challenge in reducing hazards to human life, thus the most important aspect of said apparatus. Challenged by the prior art that was not working, namely the A-frame, crates nailed together, and racks, we developed a new combination of the old features and the M-Frame was born. The re-arranged A-frames, no nails, no disassembly; is an unexpected surprise to those in the field.

Furthermore, said M-Frame has additional advantages in that:

    • It eliminates the need for disposable A-frames or wood crates
    • folds down to 10″ in height, no tools required
    • stackable, saves space in plant and truck
    • side and end fork openings, overhead crane and tie down lugs
    • 9,000 lb. Capacity
      Although the descriptions above contain many specifications, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of said M-Frame.

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