Title:
Modular pallet
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pallet and method of assembly of a pallet are disclosed. The pallet preferably employs a two part construction including a deck and a plurality of plastic spacers separately fabricated from the deck and coupled to the deck. The plurality of spacers may be provided in sections which are modular and are configured to be nested with each other when not assembled to a pallet. The deck may be made of simple plywood construction.



Inventors:
Carrasco, Randy (Orange, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/899207
Publication Date:
03/13/2008
Filing Date:
09/05/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/53.3, 108/57.34, 108/53.1
International Classes:
B65D19/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WILKENS, JANET MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Myers Andras LLP (Irvine, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A pallet, comprising: a deck; and a plurality of plastic spacers separately fabricated from the deck and coupled to the deck.

2. A pallet as set out in claim 1, wherein said plastic spacers are formed in sections and each of the spacer sections comprises: a substantially flat portion coupled to the deck; and a plurality of feet extending from the substantially flat portion.

3. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein each of the plurality of feet comprises a hollow body and an extrusion extending substantially through the hollow body.

4. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein the plurality of feet of each spacer section form a single row.

5. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein plural rows are arranged in parallel on the deck.

6. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein the deck comprises a substantially flat panel made of plywood.

7. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein the substantially flat portion and the plurality of feet are unitarily formed.

9. A pallet as set out in claim 1, wherein the plurality of spacer sections are modular and are configured to be nested with each other when not assembled to a pallet.

10. A pallet as set out in claim 1, wherein the plurality of spacers are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

11. A pallet as set out in claim 2, wherein the plurality of modular spacer sections are coupled to the deck using one or more of the following: corrosion-resistant staples, bonding using a two-part polyurethane, and bonding using an acrylic adhesive.

12. A method of assembling a pallet, comprising: providing a deck; separately providing a plurality of modular plastic spacer sections; and coupling the plurality of modular plastic spacer sections to the deck to form a pallet.

13. A method as set out in claim 12, wherein the plurality of modular spacer sections are nestable, the method further comprising: un-nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections.

14. A method as set out in claim 12, wherein the coupling comprises using at least one of the following coupling means: corrosion-resistant staples, bonding using a two-part polyurethane, and bonding using an acrylic adhesive.

15. A method as set out in claim 12, wherein the plurality of modular spacer sections are nestable, the method further comprising: decoupling the plurality of modular spacer sections from the deck; and nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections.

16. A method as set out in claim 12, further comprising stacking the pallet with another pallet.

17. A method as set out in claim 12, wherein providing the plurality of modular spacer sections comprises cutting the plurality of modular spacer sections from a two-dimensional pre-manufactured structure having a matrix of feet.

18. A method as set out in claim 17, wherein each of the plurality of modular spacer sections comprises a single row of feet.

19. A method of assembling a pallet, comprising: providing a deck; providing a plurality of nested modular spacer sections; un-nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections; and coupling the plurality of modular spacer sections to the deck.

20. A method as set out in claim 19, wherein the modular spacer sections are made of plastic.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present application claims priority under 35 USC section 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/843,303, filed Sep. 7, 2006, the disclosure of which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is related to package engineering and global logistics.

2. Description of the Prior Art and Related Information

Pallets have become a standardized means of shipping a variety of products, including, for example, stacked electronic components of various types. Standardized criteria for pallet designs, in the electronics industry for example, are set out in a published specification, the Electronics Industry Pallet Specification (EIPS2000). The goals of such standards are to reduce costs throughout the supply chain. As may be seen in the EIPS specification a typical pallet includes a flat upper surface or deck with spacer blocks mounted to and extending down from the deck. Wood is the typical material used for the deck and spacer blocks.

Many countries have enacted strict import requirements for pallets, mainly because of recent concerns about insects and disease spreading across international boundaries. These and other factors have made it undesirable to use pallets having solid wood spacer blocks. One option would be to employ a design using a plywood deck and plywood spacer blocks. However, testing has revealed that this is not a viable option particularly in wet areas. Once the plywood spacers get wet, they begin to deteriorate and weaken.

Accordingly, a need presently exists for an improved pallet design.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the present invention provides a pallet having a deck and a plurality of plastic spacers separately fabricated from the deck and coupled to the deck.

In accordance with one preferred embodiment of the invention, the plastic spacers are formed in sections and each of the spacer sections has a substantially flat portion coupled to the deck and a plurality of feet extending from the substantially flat portion. Each of the plurality of feet may have a hollow body and an extrusion extending substantially through the hollow body. The plurality of feet of each spacer section may form a single row, and plural rows are arranged in parallel on the deck. The deck may have a substantially flat panel made of plywood. The substantially flat portion and the plurality of feet of the spacer sections may be unitarily formed.

In one embodiment, the plurality of spacer sections are modular and are configured to be nested with each other when not assembled to a pallet. The plurality of modular spacer sections may be preferably made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Preferably the plurality of modular spacer sections are coupled to the deck using one or more of the following: corrosion-resistant staples, bonding using a two-part polyurethane, and bonding using an acrylic adhesive.

In another aspect, the present invention provides a method of assembling a pallet, including providing a deck, separately providing a plurality of modular plastic spacer sections, and coupling the plurality of modular plastic spacer sections to the deck to form a pallet.

In one embodiment, the plurality of modular spacer sections are nestable, the method further including un-nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections. The coupling may be done using at least one of the following coupling means: corrosion-resistant staples, bonding using a two-part polyurethane, and bonding using an acrylic adhesive.

one embodiment, the plurality of modular spacer sections are nestable, the method further including decoupling the plurality of modular spacer sections from the deck, and nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections. The method may also include stacking the pallet with another pallet. Providing the plurality of modular spacer sections may include cutting the plurality of modular spacer sections from a two-dimensional pre-manufactured structure having a matrix of feet. In one embodiment, each of the plurality of modular spacer sections includes a single row of feet.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method of assembling a pallet is provided which includes providing a deck, providing a plurality of nested modular spacer sections, un-nesting the plurality of modular spacer sections, and coupling the plurality of modular spacer sections to the deck. In one preferred embodiment, the modular spacer sections are made of plastic.

Further aspects of the construction and method of operation of the invention, with additional objects and advantages thereof, will be best understood from the following description of specific embodiments when read in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a pallet in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a modular spacer section in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary view of the modular spacer section of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of nested modular spacer sections.

FIG. 5A is a perspective view of a large spacer section with multiple rows and columns of feet.

FIG. 5B is a perspective view of multiple spacer sections cut from the large spacer section in FIG. 5A.

FIG. 5C is a perspective view of a pallet before being assembled.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the pallet of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the pallet of FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 is another cross-sectional view of the pallet of FIG. 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A preferred embodiment of the present invention will now be described, by way of example, in reference with the accompanying drawings. It shall be understood that the following description, together with numerous specific details, may not contain specific details that have been omitted as it shall be understood that numerous variations are possible and thus will be detracting from the full understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to those skilled in the art, that the present invention may be put into practice while utilizing various techniques.

Referring to FIG. 1, a preferred embodiment of the modular pallet 10 of the present invention employs a flat deck 12 and a plurality of modular spacer sections 16. Each of the modular spacer section 16 has a plurality of feet 14 employed as spacer blocks. The flat deck 12 and the modular spacer sections 16 may be made from different materials. For example, the flat deck 12 may be made of plywood, while the modular spacer section 16 including the feet 14 may be made of molded plastic.

The deck 12 may preferably comprise a single panel to which the modular spacers 16 including the feet 14 are mounted to form the pallet 10. The panel is preferably made of manufactured wood, such as plywood, for example, at a 0.875 inch thickness. A plurality of spacer sections 16 are provided separately, and then coupled to the panel during assembly of the pallet 10.

The spacer sections 16 span the width of the panel. Each section is preferably formed as a single component, although it is possible that a plurality of spacer sections 16 are formed as one piece. In the embodiment as shown in FIG. 1, three spacer sections 16 are included, each having three feet 14 formed together as a single spacer section. However, more or fewer than three sections 16 may be used for the pallet 10. Also, each spacer section 16 may have more or fewer than three feet 14. Moreover, although the feet 14 in each of the sections 16 form a single row in the embodiment of FIG. 1, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the feet within one modular spacer section may be distributed in multiple rows and columns. In addition, longer spacer sections with larger numbers of feet may be formed together, and then cut to the desired size for a particular pallet size. The panel may also be cut to its size from a larger piece. Therefore, the modular pallet is readily configurable into many different sizes. The modular pallet 10 may also incorporate the specifications of the EIPS2000, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

The material comprising the feet is preferably a suitable plastic such as thermoformed HDPE (High-density polyethylene). As is well known, HDPE has a somewhat higher chemical resistance than Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). HDPE is also somewhat harder and more opaque and it can withstand rather higher temperatures (120° Celsius for short periods, 110° Celsius continuously). High density polyethylene lends itself particularly well to thermoforming, such as blow molding. HDPE has a good impact resistance, light weight, very low moisture absorption, and high tensile strength.

The spacers 16 including the feet 14 are coupled to the deck panel 12 using a suitable technique adapted for attaching plastic to manufactured wood. For example, corrosion-resistant staples or alternately bonding using two-part polyurethane or acrylic adhesive may be employed. For example, PLIOGRIP by Valvoline Panel 60 adhesive, a rubber-toughened epoxy from Ashland Specialty Chemical, is one suitable two-part polyurethane adhesive. Acrylic Adhesives in turn are solvent free products that form a thermoset polymer bond with plastics. There are several types of acrylic adhesives. Suitable commercially available acrylic adhesives include: for example, Loctite H8000 Speedbonder™ Structural Adhesive from Loctite Corporation; Plexus MA832 all purpose adhesive from ITW Plexus Corporation; and Permabond adhesive.

FIG. 2 shows a single spacer section 16 before it is coupled to a deck. As shown, the spacer section 16 includes one row of feet 14. The spacer section 16 may be cut from a larger piece having unitarily formed feet distributed in two-dimensions, i.e., a piece having a matrix of feet.

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary view of the modular spacer section of FIG. 2. As shown, each of the feet 14 comprises a hollow body, in which a hollow extrusion 15 is formed. The extrusions 15 help strengthening the feet 14 without interfering the nesting of the spacer sections 16, as illustrated in FIG. 4.

FIG. 4 shows that a plurality of spacer sections 16 are nested. It is noted that after the pallet 10 is assembled, a plurality of pallets can also be nested. The invention allows the spacer sections 16 to be manufactured stored separately from the deck 12. After manufacturing the spacer sections 16, they can be nested, thus saving storage space. Also, when nested the spacer sections are easier to transport. The spacer sections 16 can be coupled to the deck 12 to form the pallets 10 in the factory, or at the packaging or shipping site.

FIGS. 5A-5C show a method of assembling a pallet according to an embodiment of the invention. FIG. 5A is a perspective view of a large plastic spacer section 11 unitarily formed as one piece with multiple rows and columns of feet 14. The large plastic spacer section 11 is formed using suitable plastic preforms and thermal molding to form the desired size and shape. In FIG. 5B, the large plastic section 11 as shown is cut into a plurality of spacer sections 16, each having a single row of feet 14. FIG. 5C is a perspective view of a pallet before being assembled, including the panel 12 provided separately. After the spacer sections 16 are cut to have the desired size including the desired number of feet for the specific pallet dimensions, plural spacer sections 16 are mounted to the panel 12 as described above. For example, in the illustrated embodiment three sections 16 are mounted to the deck panel 12. This results in a completed pallet 10 of desired size and shape starting from a simple, generic panel and preform.

The pallet 10 shown in FIG. 1 can thus be formed using the components shown in FIG. 5C, for example, by coupling the plastic spacer sections 16 to the plywood deck 12 using adhesives. The pallets 10 may be assembled in the manufacturing factory. In accordance with some embodiments of the invention, the plywood deck 12 are configured to have openings corresponding to the feet 14 of the spacer sections 16. Thus, it is possible to stack or nest the pallets 10 and transport them to the packaging or shipping site. Alternatively, the spacer sections 16 and the deck 12 are transported separately to the packaging or shipping site and assembled therein while taking advantage of the nestable features of the spacer sections.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the pallet 10. FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the pallet of FIG. 6 from the section “B-B.” In this view, three modular sections 16 are shown. FIG. 8 is another cross-sectional view from the section “C-C” across one of the spacer sections 16.

In view of the foregoing, the present invention provides a pallet design that employs the use of a deck, for example made of plywood or similar material with equal or better performance, and which incorporates specially designed plastic spacer blocks. Since the spacer blocks are made of plastic they avoid the disadvantages of solid wood blocks described above. The spacer blocks are designed to provide a modular pallet design. Since the pallet design is modular, it provides a number of benefits.

More particularly, the modular pallet of the invention has a number of advantages. The spacer sections 16 are lightweight, waterproof, and may utilize recycled material. In addition, the spacer sections 16 are compact and may be reusable. The modular design provides a number of additional benefits, including, for example, compliance with restrictive pallet requirements, compact and nestable pallets resulting in logistical advantages over solid wood units. In addition, the design is more robust than all-plastic pallets, yet can be more economical. The modular design also allows many different sized pallets to be configured using a common spacer block part. The spacers can be removed from the assembled pallets and reused elsewhere, leading to improved logistics. The pallets in accordance with embodiments of the invention also provide better standardization with different shipping locations.

The present invention has been described in relation to a presently preferred embodiment, however, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that a variety of modifications, too numerous to describe, may be made while remaining within the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the above detailed description should be viewed as illustrative only and not limiting in nature.