Title:
Side Loading Rack and Protective Curtain
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A side loading rack for holding multiple components, which rack includes a rigid open frame, a matrix of side loading storage bins and a flexible curtain for protecting the contents of the bins from dust and contamination. The flexible curtain drops down from the top of the frame and includes multiple spaced guide assemblies, the ends of which are movable within guide tracks located on vertical members of the rigid frame. A flexible strap attached to the top of the curtain is used to affect vertical movement of the curtain.



Inventors:
Hernandez, Alfonso (Jalisco, MX)
Bazany, Donald J. (Grand Haven, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/466910
Publication Date:
02/28/2008
Filing Date:
08/24/2006
Assignee:
BRADFORD COMPANY (Holland, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090120883SHELF ACCESSORY FOR A DISHWASHER RACKMay, 2009Jadhav et al.
20060138062Frame for a switchgear cabinetJune, 2006Dahmer et al.
20040238468Hanger trolleyDecember, 2004Dosso et al.
20060163182Skateboard rackJuly, 2006Borseth
20090179531WORK STATIONS FOR MANICURISTSJuly, 2009Ton
20100078401RETAIL STORE SHELVING STRUCTUREApril, 2010Vulpitta
20040182808Garment hangar systemSeptember, 2004John Sr.
20080035593Portable Clothes StandFebruary, 2008Roberts
20090008345Shoe rackJanuary, 2009Sabounjian
20070144986Adjustable Holder and OrganizerJune, 2007Hill
20070108142Merchandise display rackMay, 2007Medcalf et al.



Primary Examiner:
BARNETT, DEVIN K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOOD, HERRON & EVANS, LLP (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A rack for holding multiple components, said rack comprising: a rigid frame having a plurality of upper horizontal frame members and a plurality of lower horizontal frame members interconnected by a plurality of vertical members to form an open rigid frame; a matrix of storage bins located within said open rigid frame, each of said bins having a pair of opposed side walls, a top wall, a bottom wall, the front of each of said bins being open for the open side loading of a component therein; a vertically movable flexible curtain mounted upon a front side of said rigid frame, said curtain being attached at a bottom edge to a front one of the plurality of lower horizontal members of said rigid frame; and a flexible strap for controlling vertical movement of said curtain, said strap being attached to a top edge of said curtain and movable over a bracket member attached to one of the upper horizontal members of said rigid frame.

2. The rack of claim 1 wherein said bracket member includes a roller over which said strap is movable.

3. The rack of claim 1 wherein said flexible curtain includes a plurality of spaced guide assemblies attached thereto, said ends of said guide assemblies being movable within vertical tracks located in a pair of said vertical members of said rigid frame.

4. The rack of claim 3 wherein said flexible curtain forms horizontal folds in said curtain between said guide assemblies as said curtain is lowered to expose the open front of said bins.

5. The rack of claim 1 wherein said opposed side, top and bottom walls of said matrix of storage bins are manufactured from fabric material.

6. The rack of claim 5 wherein said matrix of storage bins is suspended from rigid frame rods extending between a pair of said upper horizontal frame members.

7. A side loading rack for storage of multiple components, said rack including: a rigid open frame; a matrix of side loading storage bins contained within said rigid open frame; a flexible curtain for protecting an open side of said storage bins from contamination, said curtain being fixedly secured at the bottom to said rigid frame and operable to drop down from the top of the frame to expose the open side of said bin for loading and unloading of components; and a flexible strap attached to the top of said curtain for controlling vertical movement of said curtain.

8. The side loading rack of claim 7 wherein said flexible strap is movable over a bracket attached to an upper portion of said rigid frame.

9. The side loading rack of claim 8 wherein said bracket includes a roller over which said strap is movable.

10. The rack of claim 7 wherein said flexible curtain includes a plurality of vertically spaced guide assemblies attached thereto, said ends of said guide assemblies being movable within vertical tracks located in said rigid open frame.

11. The rack of claim 10 wherein said flexible curtain forms horizontal folds in said curtain between said guide assemblies as said curtain is lowered to expose the open front of said bins.

12. The rack of claim 7 wherein said bins each include opposed side, top and bottom walls manufactured from fabric material.

13. The rack of claim 7 wherein said bins each include opposed side, top, bottom and rear walls manufactured from fabric material.

14. The rack of claim 7 wherein said matrix of storage bins is suspended from supports extending between a pair of upper horizontal frame members of said rigid open frame.

15. A rack for holding multiple components, said rack comprising: a rigid frame having a plurality of plurality of vertical members; dunnage located within said rigid frame for storing components during shipment; a vertically movable flexible curtain mounted upon a front side of said rigid frame, said curtain being attached at a bottom edge to a horizontal member of said rigid frame; and a flexible strap for controlling vertical movement of said curtain, said strap being attached to a top edge of said curtain and movable over a bracket member attached to another upper horizontal member of said rigid frame.

16. The rack of claim 15 wherein said flexible curtain includes a plurality of guide assemblies attached thereto, said ends of said guide assemblies being movable within tracks secured to said vertical members of said rigid frame.

17. The rack of claim 16 wherein each of said guide assemblies includes a pair of end members engaged with said tracks and a middle member extending between said end members.

18. The rack of claim 15 wherein a portion of each of said guide assemblies resides in a loop in the flexible curtain.

19. The rack of claim 17 wherein said end members are plastic.

20. The rack of claim 17 wherein each of said end members has a head residing and movable within one of the tracks.

21. A rack for holding multiple components, said rack comprising: a rigid frame having a plurality of plurality of vertical members; dunnage located within said rigid frame for storing components during shipment; a vertically movable flexible curtain mounted upon a front side of said rigid frame, said curtain being attached at a bottom edge to a horizontal member of said rigid frame; and a plurality of guide assemblies attached to said flexible curtain, end portions of said guide assemblies being movable within tracks secured to said vertical members of said rigid frame.

22. The rack of claim 21 wherein said rack comprising a flexible strap for controlling vertical movement of said curtain, said strap being attached to a top edge of said curtain and movable over a bracket member attached to another upper horizontal member of said rigid frame.

23. The rack of claim 21 wherein said each of said guide assemblies comprises a pair of end members engaged with said tracks and a middle member extending between said end members.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to a rack for holding components in a matrix of storage bins and, more particularly, to a rack for holding components, such as industrial components, in side loading bins of the rack so as to facilitate quick and easy access to the components while protecting those components from dust and contamination.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is now common practice to load components and, particularly, industrial components such as components of a motor vehicle, in a transportable storage rack. Many of these racks comprise a rigid open frame within which there is mounted a matrix of rows and columns of storage compartments or bins made from fabric material, each compartment or bin of which holds a single component preparatory to it being used to assemble an industrial product. Many of these transportable storage racks having the rows and columns of side loading storage compartments or bins include a curtain over the open side of the storage bin to protect those bins and the components stored therein from dust and other industrial contamination until such time as the rack is ready for unloading. Commonly, these curtains or covers flip up or slide side-to-side to expose the open side of the bins for loading and unloading of products into and from the bins. One such cover or curtain which rolls up on a window shade style of roller is disclosed, for example, in Published U.S. Patent Application No. 2005/0012005.

A problem with these side-to-side or flip-up or roll-up-type covers is that in some instances, they protrude past the side profile of the rack and therefore require additional floor space or they may separate and be torn off when open. Another often encountered problem is that these curtains interfere with part loading and unloading, or, at the very least, reduce usable side open space of the rack.

It has been an objective of this invention to overcome these prior art problems with a side opening loading rack and protective curtain which accomplishes these objectives at a minimal cost for the curtain and its resulting protection.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the practice of this invention, there is provided a side loading rack for holding multiple components within dunnage in the form of rows and columns of flexible fabric storage bins located within a rigid open frame of the rack. A flexible curtain for protecting the contents of the bins is located on one side of the frame and is operable to drop down from the top of the frame over the open side of the bins. This curtain includes multiple vertically spaced guide assemblies, the ends of which are movable within guide tracks located on vertical members of a rigid frame. A flexible strap attached to the top of the curtain is movable over a bracket at the top of the frame to affect vertical movement of the curtain. At the bottom of the rigid frame, there is a locking bracket for securing the strap to the bottom of the rigid frame with the curtain in a raised position protective of the contents of the rack.

The primary advantage of this invention resides in the fact that it provides a very simply operated curtain which is protective of the contents of the rack and which relies upon gravity to affect opening of the curtain to expose the contents of the rack and which facilitate closing of the curtain by simply pulling on a strap attached to the top of the curtain to close it. It also has the advantage of not blocking the side opening of the rack when the curtain is in the fully opened position so that it in no way interferes with component loading or unloading.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other objects and advantages of this invention will be made more readily apparent from the following description of the drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a rack incorporating the invention of this application with the curtain of the rack in the fully closed position;

FIG. 2 is a view similar to FIG. 1, but with the curtain partially open;

FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 1, but with the curtain fully open;

FIG. 4 is a front elevational view of the curtain of the rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the curtain of FIG. 5;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged perspective view, partially in phantom, of the end of a curtain guide assembly movable within a track of a vertical frame member of the rigid frame;

FIG. 6A is an enlarged perspective view, partially in phantom, of the end of a curtain guide assembly movable within a track secured to a vertical frame member of the rigid frame in accordance with an alternative embodiment;

FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7A is a cross-sectional view like FIG. 7 of the embodiment shown in FIG. 6A;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged perspective view of the lower portion of the control strap when the curtain is fully raised; and

FIG. 9 is an enlarged perspective view of the roller at the top of the rigid frame over which the control strap is movable.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

With reference now to FIGS. 1-3, there is illustrated the side loading rack 5 which includes a rigid frame 10, a matrix 12 (see FIGS. 2 and 3) of side loading compartments or bins 14 and a protective curtain 16 for covering and protecting the open side of those bins 14.

With particular reference to FIG. 1, it will be seen that the rigid frame 10 comprises a rectangular upper horizontal frame 18, a rectangular lower horizontal frame 20 and a plurality of vertical frame members 22, 24, 26 and 28 interconnecting the upper and lower horizontal frames 18, 20.

The upper horizontal frame 18 comprises a pair of side frame members 30, 32, a rear frame member 34 and a front frame member 36. Similarly, the lower horizontal frame 20 comprises a pair of opposed side members 38, a rear member 40, and a front member 42, all interconnected at the corners to form the rectangular lower horizontal frame 20. The lower frame 20 may be reinforced by cross frame members, one of which is shown as 44. Similarly, the sides of the rigid frame 10 may be reinforced by side cross members 48 extending between the vertical corner frame members. Similarly, the rear of the frame 10 may be reinforced by a rear cross member (not shown). All of these frame members mentioned above may be made from metal tubing, metal angle iron or any other suitable material. In the illustrated embodiment, these frame members are all square tubing members. Other configurations or designs of racks may be used in accordance with the present invention.

In order to facilitate movement of the rigid frame 10 with its contents between stations in a manufacturing facility, or between facilities, the rigid frame 10 is mounted upon corner casters 54 which include wheels 56. These casters or wheels enable the rack 10 to be easily transported between various locations. If desired other means of transport may be incorporated into the rigid frame 10 to enable it to be easily moved.

Located within the upper horizontal frame 18, there are a plurality of bin matrix supports or members 60 which engage, extend between and are supported from opposing frame members 34 and 36 of the upper horizontal frame 16. As explained more fully hereinafter, each of these supports 60 supports one vertical fabric element of the matrix 12 of storage bins 14. However, other configurations or designs of supports 60 may be used.

With reference now to FIGS. 1-3, and particularly to FIG. 3, it will be seen that the matrix 12 of storage bins, known in the industry generally as dunnage, comprises a plurality of bins 14 arranged in parallel rows and columns. Other known types of dunnage include pouches which may be moveable inside the rack or fixed in one location. In accordance with this invention, any configuration, style or type of dunnage may be used.

Each bin 14 comprises a pair of opposed side walls 64, a bottom wall 66 and a top wall 68. The side walls 64 are all defined by vertical sheets of fabric which extend from the top of the matrix 12 to the bottom. Fabric top and bottom walls extend between these vertical walls and are sewn or otherwise secured as by fabric welding to the vertical walls, so as to define cells, spaces or areas for components, parts or products to be placed within the bins and to protect the components from contact with other components in adjacent bins during shipment or transport. It will also be noted that each of the vertical walls, except for the side edgemost walls, functions as a side wall for two horizontally adjacent compartments and each bottom wall, except for the topmost and bottommost walls, function as a bottom wall for one bin and a top wall for the next adjacent lower bin. At the top of each of the interior vertical sheets of fabric, which define the side walls 64, there is a flap or loop 70 (FIGS. 1-3) sewn, welded or otherwise defined along the top edge of each of these sheets of fabric. The supports 60 extending across the upper horizontal frame 18 extend through these loops 70, so as to support the matrix of bins suspended from the supports 60. As shown in FIG. 1, at the outer upper edges of matrix 12, there are two sets of three fabric sheets which terminate at the top in loops 69a, b, c and 71a, b, c. The endmost supports 60 at each end of the plurality of supports 60 extend through those loops 69a, b, c and 71a, b, c to support the outer edge of bin matrix 12.

The top and bottom walls 66, 68 of the storage bins 14 may be either flexible fabric only or may be a rigid material as, for example, a rigid sheet of plastic. Whether these top and bottom walls of cells or storage bins 14 are flexible or rigid will depend upon the application and the weight of the components to be placed in the bins, as well as the degree of protection required for such components.

With reference now to FIGS. 1-3, 4 and 5, there is illustrated the fabric curtain 16 which protects the contents of the bins 14 when that curtain 16 is raised or enables those contents or components to be accessed when the fabric curtain 16 is lowered. With particular reference first to FIGS. 4 and 5, it will be seen that the fabric curtain 16 is generally rectangular and sized so as to cover the open side of the rack 10 between the vertical side frame members 24, 26, the front frame member 36 of the upper horizontal frame 18, and the front frame member 42 of the lower horizontal frame 20. At its upper edge, the curtain 16 has a loop 72 sewn or otherwise formed as by welding of the fabric. See FIGS. 4 and 5. Similarly, formed at equidistant spaces along the vertical length of the fabric, there are four additional loops 74, 76, 78 and 80 formed in the fabric, again by sewing, welding or any other conventional fabric connecting technique. See FIG. 5. Each of these loops 74, 76, 78 and 80 extends horizontally for the complete width of the curtain 16. Although five loops 72, 74, 76, 78 and 80 are illustrated in FIG. 5, the curtain may have any number of loops, depending on its size.

As seen in FIG. 5, along the curtain's lowermost edge, there is a rigid bar 79 fixedly attached to the lower edge of the curtain 16 as by being sewn therein or otherwise attached to the bottom edge of the fabric. This lower rod or bar 79 also extends for the full width of the fabric curtain 16 but may be any desired length or configuration. An alternative to a rigid bar 79 such as a rod may used, for example.

A curtain guide assembly 82 is located within each of the loops 72, 74, 76, 78 and 80 of the curtain 16 as shown in FIG. 6. Each guide assembly 82 extends horizontally for the full length of the loop from one side of the curtain 16 to the other and even beyond the side edges 84, 86 of the curtain 16. The end portions, ends or end members of each guide assembly 82 extends through vertical slots or tracks 88 (see FIG. 6) between vertical elements 93, 95. The vertical elements 93, 95 are shown as square tubes in cross section but may be other configurations. In one embodiment, each end of each of the guide assemblies 82 is fitted with a hub or washer 90 on the outside of the vertical elements or posts 93, 95. These hubs 90 are secured to the ends of the guide assemblies 82 by a cotter pin 94 which extends through a small diametral bore in the ends of the guide assemblies 82. The hub 90 is thus captured between the vertical members 93, 95 and vertical side frame member 24 on one side of frame 10 along with vertical members 93, 95 and vertical side frame member 26 on the opposite side of frame 10. Thereby, the guide assemblies 82, with the curtain 16 attached thereto, are able to slide up and down in the slots or tracks 88 between the vertical posts 93, 95. See FIG. 6.

With reference to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, it will be seen that each of the vertical frame members 24, 26 at the front of the rack 5 in fact comprises three vertical elements, a vertical outer tube 24, and a pair of vertical tube members 93, 95 defining a slot or trackway 88 therebetween. The vertical tube members 93, 95 are welded or otherwise secured to the inside surface 21 of the vertical side frame member 24 or 26 with spaced apart plates 96 such that an opening 89 exists between the tube members 93, 95 and the vertical frame member 24 or 26. The ends of the curtain supporting guide assemblies 82 including the attached washers 80 are movable in the opening 89. See FIGS. 6 and 7.

Another embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 6A and 7A. In this embodiment, each of the vertical frame members 24, 26 of the rigid frame 10 has a track 122 secured to an inside surface 124 of the vertical frame member with fasteners 123. Any other suitable means of securing the track 122 to a vertical frame member may be used in connection with the present invention. Each track 122 is a unitary member having a pair of opposed sidewalls 126 joined by a connecting wall 128. Each of the sidewalls 126 has a lip 129, the lips 129 extending towards each other. Each track 122 has an interior 130 which is sized to receive and retain a portion or head of an end member 132 of a guide assembly 134 as described below. Although one configuration of track 122 is illustrated and described, any other form of retainer or track may be used in accordance with the present invention, such as a groove in the vertical frame members 24, 26 of the rigid frame 10, for example.

As seen in FIGS. 6A and 7A, guide assembly 134 comprises a pair of opposing end members 132 and a middle member 136 therebetween. Each of the end members 132 comprises an outer head 138 and an inner head 140. The heads 138, 140 are spaced from one another to define a groove 142 therebetween which receives and retains the lips 129 of the sidewalls 126 of the track 122. The outer head 138 is located and moves inside the interior of the track 122. The inner head 140 is located outside the interior 130 of the track 122 and prevents the material of the curtain 16 from entering the interior 130 of the track 122. A connecting portion 141 of end member 132 having an X-shaped cross-sectional configuration and joining portion 143 are both located and secured inside the middle member 136 of the guide assembly 134 in a manner described below. Each end member 132 is preferably made of injection molded plastic, but may be made of any suitable lightweight material.

The middle member 136 of each guide assembly 134 comprises a tubular support having a hollow interior 137 which fits over the portions 141 and 143 of the end members 132. The tubular middle member 136 is preferably made of metal, but may be made of any suitable lightweight material such as various plastics. Although one configuration of guide assembly is illustrated, the present invention may be used with any other type or configuration of guide assembly.

As shown in FIGS. 6A and 7A, the joining portion 143 of end member 132 may have a groove 144 formed therein and the tubular middle member 136 may have a hole 146 therein which receives a fastener 148. The fastener 148 passes through a grommet 150 surrounding an opening in the curtain 16 to prevent separation of the curtain 16 from the guide assembly 132. Although the fastener is illustrated as being a screw, it may be any other suitable fastener. The fasteners may move within the groove 144 in the end member 132 and thereby allows some movement of the curtain 16 relative to the end members 132 of the guide assemblies 134.

With reference to FIGS. 4 and 8, it will be seen that the lower edge of the curtain 16, with its attached rigid bar 79, is attached or otherwise fixed to the front lower frame member 42, as by straps or wire loops 98. Of course, any other conventional connector may be used in lieu of straps or wire loops 98 to fixedly secure the lower edge of the curtain 16 to the lower horizontal frame member 42 of the lower horizontal frame 20.

In order to enable the curtain 16 to be raised and lowered relative to the open side of the rack 5, there is a flexible strap 100 fixedly attached to the upper edge 102 of the curtain 16. As may be seen most clearly in FIG. 8, the strap 100 has a loop 104 formed therein. With reference to FIG. 1, it will be seen that the fabric strap 100 is longer than the height of the curtain 16. Consequently, when the curtain is in its fully open position, or lowermost position with the open side of the rack 5 fully exposed so as to enable components to be inserted or removed from the bins 14 of the rack 5, as shown in FIG. 3, the strap 100 extends from the top 102 of the curtain 16, which is now at the bottom of the rack, upwardly for the full height of the rack 5 to and around a roller 112 of a bracket 114 secured to the upper horizontal frame member 36. See FIGS. 3 and 9. To raise the curtain 16, all that is required is for the operator to grasp the free end of strap 100 as, for example, the loop 104 of the strap 100 and pull the strap 100 downwardly, thereby causing the upper edge 102 of the curtain with its supporting rod 82 within loop 72 to be raised, followed by all of the other guide assemblies 82 within the loops 74, 76, 78 and 80 until the curtain 16 is at the topmost position illustrated in FIG. 1. When the curtain 16 is in this topmost closed position of the open side of the rack 5, as shown in FIG. 1, the loop 104 on the end of the strap 100 may be placed within a generally U-shaped bracket 120, welded or otherwise secured at one end 108 to the lower frame member 42 of the lower horizontal frame 20 of rack 5. The opposite end 110 of the bracket is spaced from the frame member 42 so that the loop 104 of the strap may be passed through the gap between the end 110 of the bracket 120 and the frame member 42 and secured thereby to the bracket.

When the time comes to lower the curtain 16 from its raised position shown in FIG. 1, all that is required is for an operator to remove the loop 104 formed in the strap 100 from the lowermost bracket 120 and allow gravity to cause the curtain 16 to drop downwardly. As the curtain 16 drops downwardly, folds are formed in the curtain (see FIG. 2) between adjacent guide assemblies 82 contained within the loops 72, 74, 76, 78 and 80. If at any time it is desired to maintain the curtain 16 in a position other than either a fully open or fully closed position, the strap 100 may be wrapped around the upper frame member 36 and tied thereto as illustrated in FIG. 2.

With reference now to FIG. 8, it will be seen that there is a small loop 116 formed in the end of the strap 100 immediately above the lower and larger end loop 104. A common threaded closure chain link 118 is contained within this smaller loop 114. In the course of assembly of the rack 5 and curtain 16, the free end of the strap 100 is first passed over the roller or pulley 112, after which the threaded closure chain link 118 is inserted into the smaller end loop 116 and the threaded sleeve portion of the link 118 threaded onto the threaded portion of the shaft of the link 118 to close the link and thereby secure the chain link to the end of the strap 100. Due to large size of the link 118 compared to the smaller space between the roller 112 and horizontal frame member 36 as shown in FIG. 9, the link 118 acts as a stop to prevent the end of the strap 100 from pulling through the roller or pulley 112 when the curtain 16 is lowered to a fully open position. Of course, other forms of stops could readily be used to serve this same function.

While we have described only a single preferred embodiment of our invention, persons skilled in this art will appreciate numerous changes and modifications which may be made without departing from the spirit of our invention. For example, the bins 14 of the matrix 12 of bins may be made without a fixed rear fabric wall with the result that both ends of the bin are open. In that event, two curtains, one on each side of the rack, could be utilized to control opening and closing of either end of the bin. Therefore, we do not intend to be limited except by the scope of the following appended claims.