Title:
Collapsible rack unit
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Provided herein is a collapsible rack unit that includes a housing, a hanging bar, and a pair of hinged arms that extend between the housing and the hanging bar. The hinged arms extend generally parallel to the housing in a closed position and extend generally perpendicular to the housing in an open position. In preferred embodiments, the hinged arms include a base portion that is associated with the housing and an arm portion that is hingedly connected to the base portion.



Inventors:
Seehoff, Gary (Encino, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/516146
Publication Date:
03/06/2008
Filing Date:
09/05/2006
Assignee:
EVRIHOLDER PRODUCTS, INC.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47H1/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20030000900MAGNETIC BRUSHJanuary, 2003Yu
20070193966Multi-function sports equipment wall hangerAugust, 2007Dettorre
20030150831Portable flat pack merchandise displayAugust, 2003Elston
20050029209Slide systemFebruary, 2005Engel
20040089624Horizontally oriented clotheslineMay, 2004Farley
20060027514Portable firearm standFebruary, 2006Carlson et al.
20060278591First in, first out, gravity-feed can organizerDecember, 2006Tippets et al.
20040217072Louvered rackNovember, 2004Bash et al.
20090315289Folding table cartDecember, 2009Brandon
20050224433Wall storage systemOctober, 2005Heneveld Sr.
20090152221Modular Wine Rack SystemJune, 2009Hynes



Primary Examiner:
MAI, LANNA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JEFFER, MANGELS, BUTLER & MITCHELL, LLP (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A rack unit comprising: a housing, a hanging bar, and a pair of hinged arms that extend between the housing and the hanging bar, wherein the hinged arms extend generally parallel to the housing in a closed position and wherein the hinged arms extend generally perpendicular to the housing in an open position.

2. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the housing is adapted to be affixed to a wall.

3. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the hinged arms include a base portion that is associated with the housing and an arm portion that is hingedly connected to the base portion.

4. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the hanging bar includes a pair of openings defined therein that each receive one of the hinged arms, and wherein the hanging bar is slidable on the hinged arms.

5. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the hanging bar includes a plurality of fingers that cooperate to define a plurality of hanging slots.

6. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the housing includes a back portion and a flange extending outwardly from the back portion, wherein the back portion and flange cooperate to define a recess into which at least a portion of the hanging bar is received when the rack unit is in the closed position.

7. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the hanging bar is locked in place in the open position.

8. The rack unit of claim 7 wherein at least one of the hinged arms includes an outwardly biased ball bearing that locks the hanging bar in place in the open position.

9. The rack unit of claim 4 wherein the hinged arms each include a stopper on an end thereof, wherein at least a portion of the diameter of the stoppers are greater than the diameter of the openings in the hanging bar.

10. The rack unit of claim 9 wherein the stoppers are removable.

11. The rack unit of claim 1 wherein the hanging bar is in contact with the housing when the unit is in the closed position and is spaced from the housing when the unit is in the open position.

12. The rack unit of claim 3 wherein the hinged arm includes a locking mechanism for maintaining the arm portion in the closed and open positions.

13. A method of hanging an article, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a rack unit that is affixed to an object, (b) moving a pair of arms from a closed position to an open position, (c) moving a hanging bar along the pair of arms, and (d) hanging the article on the hanging bar.

14. The method of claim 13 wherein step (b) includes pivoting the arms from the closed position where the arms are generally parallel to the hanging bar to the open position where the arms are generally perpendicular to the hanging bar.

15. The method of claim 14 wherein the hanging bar includes openings defined therein through which the arms extend, and wherein step (c) includes sliding the hanging bar along the arms.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein at least one of the arms includes an outwardly biased ball bearing that locks the hanging bar in place in the open position.

17. The method of claim 13 wherein the hanging bar includes a plurality of fingers that cooperate to define a plurality of hanging slots.

18. A collapsible rack unit for hanging articles, the rack unit comprising a base, a hanging bar and a collapsing mechanism, wherein the unit has at least two modes, one mode where the base, hanging bar and collapsing mechanism are collapsed together in a generally cylindrical package and another mode where the base is spaced from the hanging bar in an extended position spaced by the collapsing mechanism.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to racks, and more particularly to a collapsible rack unit for hanging clothes and the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Space is often limited in household areas such as laundry rooms or laundry areas, closets, garages, bedrooms, bathrooms and the like. Particularly in the laundry room/area people encounter the problem of finding space to air dry garments as they come out of the washer or dryer. For example, some garments cannot be placed in the dryer, but must be air dried; some garments can only go in the dryer for a short time and then must be air dried. However, due to limited space in the laundry area it is not desirable to always have a rack sticking out from the wall for hanging such items. Racks can often be bulky and get in the way of other items in the laundry area or closet when not in use. Many such racks are floor models and/or bulky wall models. Accordingly, a need exists for a rack that can be wall, under shelf or closet mounted, and collapsed and hidden when not in use.

SUMMARY OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In accordance with a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a rack unit that includes a housing, a hanging bar, and a pair of hinged arms that extend between the housing and the hanging bar. The hinged arms extend generally parallel to the housing in a closed position and extend generally perpendicular to the housing in an open position. In preferred embodiments, the hinged arms include a base portion that is associated with the housing and an arm portion that is hingedly connected to the base portion.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of hanging an article. The method includes the steps of providing a rack unit that is affixed to an object, moving a pair of arms from a closed position to an open position, moving a hanging bar along the pair of arms, extending it out and away from the housing, and hanging the article on the hanging bar.

In accordance with yet another aspect of the present invention there is provided a collapsible rack unit for hanging articles that includes a hanging bar and a collapsing mechanism. The unit has at least two modes, one mode where the base, hanging bar and collapsing mechanism are collapsed together in a generally cylindrical package and another mode where the base is spaced from the hanging bar in an extended position spaced by the collapsing mechanism.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a collapsible rack unit in an open position in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the rack unit of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the rack unit of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the rack unit of FIG. 1 in a partially open position;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the rack unit of FIG. 1 in a closed position;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a portion of the rack unit of FIG. 1 showing the base portion of the hinged arm and the housing cut away to reveal the locking mechanism; and

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the collapsible rack unit of FIG. 1 in an open position with clothes hanging therefrom.

Like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

As shown in the drawings, for purposes of illustration, the invention is embodied in a collapsible rack unit for hanging items, such as clothes, belts and the like.

For exemplary purposes only, described hereinbelow is a preferred embodiment wherein the rack is used to facilitate hanging clothes. However, this is not a limitation on the present invention. It will be understood that the rack can be used to support any desired item.

It will be appreciated that terms such as “front,” “back,” “top,” “bottom,” and “side” used herein are merely for ease of description and refer to the orientation of the components as shown in the figures. It should be understood that any orientation of the rack unit, and the components thereof described herein is within the scope of the present invention.

Referring to FIGS. 1-7, generally, the rack unit 10 includes a housing 12, a pair of hinged arms 14 and a hanging bar 16. The housing 12 includes a back portion 20 that has a flange 22 extending outwardly therefrom. The flange 22 and back portion 20 cooperate to define a recess 24 which is sized to receive the hanging bar 16, as will be described more fully below.

In a preferred embodiment, the housing 12 is adapted to be affixed to a wall or other object. Those skilled in the art will understand that there are numerous ways to connect the housing 12 to the wall. In an exemplary embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2, the rack unit 10 preferably includes a pair of plates 18 that include an opening 18a defined therein that cooperates with an opening 12a in the housing 12 through which a threaded fastener 26, such as a screw, can be inserted for threading into a wall. The plate 18 also includes an opening 18b for receiving a threaded fastener 26 for securing the plate 18 to the housing. And, the plate 18 includes another opening 18c that is sized to receive the base portion 28 of the hinged arm 14.

In a preferred embodiment, each hinged arm 14 includes a base portion 28 and an arm portion 30 that is hingedly connected to the base portion 28. The base portion 28 is affixed to plate 18. In a preferred embodiment, the base portion 28 is permanently welded to plate 18. This can be done by inserting base portion 28 into opening 18c and welding it therein or omitting opening 18c and welding base portion 28 directly to plate 18. In a preferred embodiment, the plate 18 and hinged arms 14 (and their various components) are made of metal or the like and the housing 12 and hanging bar 16 (and their various components) are made of a high density plastic or the like. However, the materials are not a limitation on the present invention.

In a preferred embodiment, the arm portion 30 is connected to the base portion 28 by an intermediate portion 32 that includes a male end 32a onto which the arm portion 30 slides and is press fit (other connections, such as screws, welding, gluing and the like are contemplated), and an opposite end 32b that is hingedly connected to the base portion 28. In another embodiment, the intermediate portion 32 can be omitted and the arm portion 30 can be directly hinged to the base portion 28.

In a preferred embodiment, the arm 14 includes a locking mechanism 46 for locking the arm portion 30 in the open and closed positions (described more fully below). As is shown in FIGS. 2 and 6, in a preferred embodiment, the locking mechanism 46 includes a ball bearing 46a biased by a spring 46b and a grub screw 46c for holding the ball bearing 46a and screw 46b in place. The ball bearing 46a and then the spring are inserted into a threaded opening 28a in the bottom of the base portion 28 and extends through another opening 28b, whose diameter is smaller than that of the ball bearing 46a, near the top of the base portion 28. The grub screw 46c is then screwed into the bottom of the base portion 28, thereby securing the spring 46b and ball bearing 46a inside the base portion 28 and biasing a portion of the ball bearing 46a through opening 28b. End 32b of the intermediate portion 32 includes an arcuate track 48 defined therein that has locking indentations 50 at opposite ends thereof. Track 48 and locking indentations 50 are adapted to allow ball bearing 46a to ride therealong. Locking indentations 50 are deeper than track 48 and correspond to the open and closed positions of the arm portion 30. In use, when arm portion 30 is moved from one position to the other, after applying a little pressure, ball bearing 46a exits the corresponding locking indentation 50 and rides along track 48 until it pops into the other corresponding locking indentation 50. Other locking mechanisms are also contemplated.

As is best shown in FIG. 2, the hanging bar 16 includes a plurality of fingers 34 that cooperate to define a plurality of hanging slots 36, which are sized to receive the hook portion of a typical clothes hangar. The hanging bar 16 also includes an arm channel 38 into which the arms 14 can be folded when the rack unit 10 is in the closed position. As can be seen in FIG. 5, when the unit 10 is in the closed position it has a generally cylindrical shape as a result of the curvature of the outer surface of the hanging bar 16 and the cylindrical shape of the arms 14.

The hanging bar 16 also includes a pair of openings 40 defined transversely therethrough, through which the arms 14 extend. The arms 14 include stoppers 42 on the ends thereof that prevent the hanging bar 16 from coming off the end of the arms 14 when the hanging bar 16 is pulled to the open position. In a preferred embodiment, the stoppers 42 are removable from the arm portion 30 for assembly and disassembly of the rack unit 10. As shown in FIG. 2, in a preferred embodiment, the stopper 42 is removable from the arm portion 30 by a biased button or ball bearing 44a and opening 44b arrangement.

In operation, the rack unit 10 is initially in the closed position, as is shown in FIG. 5. In this position, the hanging bar 16 is received in recess 24 and the arms 14 are hinged inwardly and received in the arm channel 38. Preferably, the arms 14, recess 24, hanging bar 16 and arms 14 (together with any other components) are sized such that the rack unit 10 is compact as is shown in FIG. 5. For example, in a preferred embodiment, in the closed position, the rack unit 10 measures about 25.5 inches long, is about 2 inches wide at its widest point and about 1.75 inches deep ensuring it is neatly stored and out of the way when not in use.

To place the rack unit 10 in the open position, the user first pulls and hinges the arms 14 outwardly, as is shown in FIG. 4, until the arms 14 extend approximately perpendicularly from the housing 12 and wall (and ball bearing 46a pops into the locking indentation 50 that correponds with the open position). Then, the user grasps the hanging bar 16 and pulls it outwardly until the stoppers 42 prevent the hanging bar 16 from going any further. At this point, as is shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, the rack unit 10 is in the open position. The user can then hang the hook portion of a hangar in any of the hanging slots 36. In an embodiment that includes the biased ball bearing 44a and opening 44b arrangement between the stopper 42 and arm portion 30, the ball bearing 44a is also used to lock the hanging bar 16 in the open position. When the hanging bar 16 is pulled outwardly along the arms 14, because of the rounded shape of the ball bearing 44a, the ball bearing is pushed inwardly and then is biased back outwardly once the hanging bar 16 has been pulled past the button 44a. In another embodiment, the hanging bar 16 can have an indentation defined in the surface of the opening 40 that receives the ball bearing 44a for locking the hanging bar 16 in place.

To close the rack unit 10, the user slides the hanging bar 16 back into the housing and hingedly closes the arms 14, which fit compactly into the arm channel 38 of the hanging bar.

In a preferred embodiment, the flange 22 of the housing 12 includes an area on the top and bottom thereof where it bulges outwardly. This area defines a finger recess 52 between the flange 22 and the hanging bar 16. This arrangement makes it easier for a user to grasp the hanging bar 16 and pull it outwardly.

In an alternative embodiment, the housing can be omitted and the hinged arms can be directly affixed to the wall. In another embodiment, the arms can extend into the wall in the closed position and then be pulled straight outwardly to the open position. In this embodiment the arms are always perpendicular to the wall, housing and hanging bar.

The foregoing embodiments are merely examples of the present invention. Those skilled in the art may make numerous uses of, and departures from, such embodiments without departing from the spirit and the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention is not to be limited to or defined by such embodiments in any way, but rather, is defined solely by the following claims.