Title:
Reel assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a customizable reel assembly comprising a universal base spool and at least one insert adapted to be mounted on the spool. The spool has a cylindrical hub and first and second flanges projecting radially from either end of the hub. The insert is selected based on the desired application of the reel assembly and adds a structural or functional feature to the spool. The insert is selected from a group of inserts that are all mountable on the base spool with each insert of the group having various structural or functional features. Also disclosed is a method of constructing a reel.



Inventors:
Couchey, Brian P. (Inman, SC, US)
Leidel, William E. (Greer, SC, US)
Application Number:
11/516889
Publication Date:
03/13/2008
Filing Date:
09/07/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
242/613.4, 242/614.1
International Classes:
B65H75/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KIM, SANG K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FLASTER/GREENBERG P.C. (Philadelphia, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A customizable reel assembly comprising: a universal base spool having a cylindrical hub, a first flange positioned at a first end of the cylindrical hub and a second flange positioned at a second end of the cylindrical hub, the first and second flanges projecting radially from the hub; and at least one insert mounted on the universal base spool, the insert adding at least one of a functional or structural feature to the spool, and the insert being selected from a group of inserts having various functional and structural features, based on a desired application of the reel assembly, wherein each insert in the group of inserts is mountable on the base spool.

2. The reel assembly according to claim 1, wherein the at least one insert provides one or more features selected from the group consisting of radial reinforcement ribs, circumferential reinforcement rings, handles, viewing ports, ports adapted to engage handling material, and a central tube defining a central bore.

3. The reel assembly according to claim 1, wherein the at least one insert comprises first and second inserts engaging the first and second flanges respectively.

4. The reel assembly according the claim 3, wherein the first and second inserts are attachable to the base spool.

5. The reel assembly according the claim 3, wherein the first and second inserts are attachable to each other, retaining the base spool therebetween.

6. The reel assembly according the claim 1, the cylindrical hub further comprising an inner portion extending therethrough through between the first and second flanges, the at least one insert extending through the inner portion.

7. The reel assembly according the claim 1, wherein the base spool is independently usable for holding wound material thereon.

8. The reel assembly according the claim 1, wherein the at least one insert is attached to the base spool by overmolding the insert to the base spool.

9. A reel assembly for holding wound materials thereon, for use in various intended applications each having various functional and structural requirements, the reel assembly comprising: a generally cylindrical, hollow base member having first and second opposing ends and first and second flanges extending radially outward from the first and second opposing ends, the base member being adapted to accommodate materials wound thereon between the first and second flanges; and at least one supplemental piece adapted to be mounted on the base member, the supplemental piece selected from a plurality of supplemental pieces each providing at least one functional or structural feature, the supplemental pieces within the plurality being structured to be retained on or within the spool and the at least one supplemental piece being selected from the plurality based on the various functional and structural requirements of the intended application; the base member and the at least one supplemental piece having engagement means for retaining the selected at least one supplemental piece on the base member.

10. The reel assembly of claim 9, wherein the at least one functional or structural features are selected from the group consisting of radial reinforcement ribs, circumferential reinforcement rings, handles, viewing ports, ports adapted to engage handling material, and a central tube defining a central bore.

11. A method of constructing a reel comprising: providing a universal base spool, having a generally cylindrical hub and flanges disposed at either end of the hub, and a plurality of inserts having varied strength and functional features; determining the strength and functionality requirements of the reel; selecting an insert from the provided plurality for mounting on the base spool; and mounting the selected insert to the base spool.

12. The method according to claim 11, further comprising the step of mounting a second insert to the base spool

13. The method according to claim 11, wherein the insert is adapted to fit within at least a portion of the base spool.

14. The method according to claim 11, further comprising the step of fixedly attaching the insert to the spool.

15. The method according to claim 11, further comprising the steps of mounting a second insert to the spool and attaching the selected insert to the second insert.

16. The method according to claim 11, wherein the base spool is adapted to be used with each insert in the plurality of inserts.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to apparatus for holding wire, cable or the like. In particular, the invention relates to a modular reel assembly facilitating the attachment of various insert portions to a base spool, based on an intended application.

BACKGROUND

Typically, reels are used for retaining a winding of cable, wire, or the like. Reels generally comprise a hub having a cylindrical wall defining an outer barrel surface and flanges at either end of the hub. The flanges project radially outwardly from each end of the barrel surface.

Manufacturers, purchasers and users of the wound materials have many different desirable criteria for reels. By way of example, some reels may be disposable, while others are reusable. Also, there are many different strength levels required for reels, depending on the material wound thereon and the application that the reel will be used in. Finally, it is also desirable for reels to have various features such as drive hole patterns, recesses to accept various labels, handles and viewing ports to see the amount of material wound on the reel.

In the past, reels were individually manufactured to the desired specifications. However, this requires retooling to make each type of reel. This adds expense and time to the reel making process.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to modular apparatus for holding wire, cable or the like. One aspect of the present invention is a customizable reel assembly comprising a universal base spool and at least one insert adapted to be mounted on the spool. The spool has a cylindrical hub and first and second flanges projecting radially from either end of the hub. The insert is adapted to add at least one functional feature to the spool. The insert is selected based on the desired application of the reel assembly from a group of inserts. The insert is mountable on the base spool.

A further aspect of the invention includes a method of constructing a reel. The method includes providing a universal base spool and a plurality of inserts having varied strengths and functional features. The base spool has a generally cylindrical hub and flanges disposed at either end of the hub. The method further includes determining the strength and functionality requirements of the reel and choosing an insert from the provided plurality for mounting on the base spool based on the strength and functionality requirements of the reel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings a form that is presently preferred; it being understood, that this invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a reel assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the reel assembly of FIG. 1, taken along the line 2-2.

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the reel assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a tab and cavity engagement of two inserts.

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of the base spool of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an insert according to a second embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of portion of a reel assembly including a flange and hub according to a third embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a reel assembly according to a fourth embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an insert according to a fifth embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an insert according to a sixth embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the figures, where like reference numerals indicate like elements, there is shown an embodiment of a reel assembly, which is identified generally by the numeral 10. The reel assembly 10 is used for holding wound material, such as cable or wire.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3, the reel assembly 10 preferably has a universal base spool 12 and first and second inserts 14, 16. The base spool 12 has a cylindrical hub 18 and first and second flanges 20, 22, extending radially from the longitudinal ends of the hub 18. The cylindrical hub 18 defines an outer barrel portion 24 that is the winding surface for the materials to be wound on the reel 10. Annular lips 26, 28 are disposed around the outer circumference of the flanges 20, 22 and extend longitudinally, parallel to the surface of the barrel portion 24, away from each other and the hub 18. A central bore 30 extends longitudinally through the hub. The bore 30 is concentric with the barrel portion 24. A radial disc 32 extends between the central bore 30 and the barrel portion 24 is in a place that is generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the hub 18.

The inserts 14, 16 fit within the base spool 12. The inserts 14, 16 have radial flange portions 34, 36 adapted to mate to the flanges 20, 22 radially inward of the annular lips 26, 28, outside of the flanges 20, 22. The flange portions 34, 36 have an outer terminus defined by an outer face 38, 40 that lies in a plane which is generally perpendicular to the axis of the central bore 30. The illustrated example of the flange portions 34, 36 have support bracing in the form of annular rings 42, 44 and radial support ribs 46, 48, located between the outer faces 38, 40 and flanges 20, 22. The rings 42, 44 and ribs 46, 48 provide stiffening support to the flanges 20, 22 of the reel 10 when the inserts 14, 16 are mounted on the base spool 12. The support bracing may be increased or decreased depending on the desired application of the reel 10. Alternatively, other bracing structures may be used, such as honeycombs or a solid insert.

Central portions 50, 52 of the inserts 14, 16 are disposed radially inward from the flange portions 34, 36 and extend further away from the outer faces 38, 40 than the flange portions 34, 36. Preferably, when the inserts 14, 16 are mounted on the base spool 12, the central portions 50, 52 each extend into the hub 18 and engage the radial disc 32. It is preferable that the central portions 50, 52 have central annular rings 54, 56 and central radial ribs 58, 60 extending between the rings 54, 56. Like the ribs 46, 48 and rings 42, 44 of the flange portions 34, 36, the ribs 58, 60 and rings 54, 56 of the central portions 50, 52 serve to provide rigidity and support to the reel 10 when the inserts 14, 16 are inserted on the base spool 10. All of the rings are concentric and that all of the ribs radially extend from the center point of the rings.

The inserts 14, 16 attach to each other and to the base spool 12 via interlocking tabs 62 and cavities 64 which engage each other in a male/female relationship. The tabs 62 and cavities 64 are able to engage each other through apertures 63 in the radial disc extending through the middle of the hub 18. A detailed view of the tab 62 and cavity 64 engagement is shown in FIG. 4. The engagement shown in FIG. 4 is between tabs located on the central portions 50, 52 of the inserts 14, 16; however, the engagement is exemplary of any instances where tabs 62 and cavities 64 are used to lock members of the reel 10 together. The tab 62 is preferably arrow shaped, with a narrowed shaft 66 and a pointed tip 68 that has a flared portion 70 adjacent the shaft 66. Correspondingly, the cavity 64 is adapted to accept the tab 62 in locking engagement, with a narrowed passageway 72 leading to a tapered cavern 74 sized to accommodate the tip 62 of the tab 68.

While the tab 62 and cavity 64 are shown here in relation to the central portions 50, 52, they can be used in to connect the hub 18 to the inserts 14, 16. In such a case, the hub 18 preferably has raised cavity pillars 76, having a cavity 64 disposed therein, for accepting tabs 62 disposed on the insert 14. Also, the inserts 14, 16 may be mounted on the hub 18 by a combination of tab 62 and cavity 64 engagements located on the central portions 50, 52 as well as the hub 18 and flange portions 34, 36. While the details of a tab 62 and cavity 64 engagement are shown here, any number of engagements may be used to retain the inserts 16, 14 to the base spool 12 or to each other. The inserts 14, 16 may be attached to the hub 12 through other forms of snap fits, threaded engagement, adhesive, solvent bonding, sonic welding, spin welding or any other form of mechanical or chemical engagement.

In addition to being adapted to receive the inserts 14, 16, the hub 18 may also accept various other types of inserts, depending on the strength and functionality requirements of the user. In a case where more strength is required, inserts with more bracing will be chosen, whereas in a case where light material will be wound on the reel 10, it may be desirable to use minimally reinforced inserts to minimize costs and shipping weight. FIG. 5 shows a top view of the hub 18 having multiple apertures 63 extending through the radial disc 32, as well as cavity pillars 76 located on the flange 20 and the radial disc 32, which are adapted to accept mounting tabs 62 from various types of inserts. By way of example, such alternative inserts (not shown) could be similar in shape and size to the inserts 14, 16 and be configured with tabs 62 to engage cavities 64 disposed on the radial disc 32. Further, the hub 18 may be used with an insert 78 that engages only the flanges, 20, 22. The insert 78 has a central bore ring 80, circumferential rings 82 and radial ribs 84. The insert 78 provides structural support to the flanges 20, 22 when mounted thereon.

An alternative embodiment of a reel 110, having a base spool 112 and inserts 114, 116, is shown in FIG. 8. The spool 112 has a cylindrical hub 118 and first and second flanges 120, 122 disposed at either longitudinal end of the hub 118. The cylindrical hub 118 defines an outer barrel portion 124 that is the winding surface for the materials wound on the reel 110. The flanges 120, 122 extend radially from the hub 118 and have annular lips 126, 128 extending away from the hub 118 from the perimeter of the flanges 120, 122. A bore tube 130 is disposed centrally within the hub 118. A radial disc 132 is disposed between the bore tube 130 and the hub 118.

Inserts 114, 116 are adapted to engage the hub spool 112 in a similar manner to those 14, 16 shown in FIGS. 1-6, or by any other suitable method as described above. The inserts 114, 116 have flange portions 134, 136 adapted to engage the flanges 120, 122 and central portions 138, 140 adapted to fit within the hub 118. The flange portions 134, 136 have rings 142, 144 and ribs 146, 148 like those in the flange portions 34 and 36. Likewise, the central portions 138, 140 have rings 154, 156 and ribs 158, 160. The innermost central rings 154, 156 define a bore 155 extending longitudinally through the reel 110. One advantage of having the bore 155 defined by the rings 154, 156 instead of a portion of the spool 112 is that the bore 155 can be customized by using different inserts 114, 116. In a case where a narrower bore 155 is desired, there are preferably radial spacers (not shown) between the central bore 130 of the spool 112 and the innermost central rings 154, 156. Inserts which engage only the flange portions 120, 122, such as that shown in FIG. 6, may also be used with the spool 112 to provide a reel 110 as desired. Alternatively, inserts (not shown) extending only through the hub 118 may also be used with the spool 112.

In addition to providing structural support to the base spool 12, the inserts 14, 16 may also have various functional features. These features will vary based on the intended application of the reel 10 but, by using inserts 14, 16 having the variable features, a standard base spool 12 can provide many levels of functionality and support, minimizing the need to stock multiple types of spools 12 to accommodate various reel 10 requirements. Below, many features that are desirable for reels are discussed. These features may be used in connection with reels based on spools 12, 112 as shown or any other base spool used in connection with variable inserts.

As shown in FIG. 8, the insert 114 contains an ID pocket 162. The pocket 162 is shown here attached to the central portion 138, however it may be located anywhere on the inserts 114, 116. The pocket is generally sized and shaped to accept an active or passive RF identification device or some other identification device to be used with the reel 110. Location of the pocket 162 on the inserts 114, 116 allows the use of various types of pockets without having to modify the base spool 112.

As shown in FIGS. 1-3, the insert 14 has a viewing window 86, a cutting brace port 88 and an access port 90. The window 86 is preferably an aperture or transparent section of the insert 14 adapted to allow users to see how much material is wound on the reel 10 while viewing the reel 10 from the side. The window 86 is used in connection with an additional window 87 located on the flange 20. The window 87 may be transparent material or an aperture extending through the flange 20. Alternatively, the flange 20 may be constructed using a lattice structure or some other types of perforation, where the additional window 87 is not necessary.

The cutting brace port 88 is disposed on the insert 14 adjacent the inner surface of the barrel 24 and has a radial surface 89 that tracks the profile of the barrel portion 24. The cutting brace port 88 is adapted to facilitate the insertion of a brace (not shown) into the hub 18. Preferably, the brace has an outer arcuate surface that is adapted to flushly engage the inner surface of the barrel portion 24. The cutting brace is used to provide backing support to the barrel portion 24 when a device, such as a guillotine cutter, is used to cut the material wound on the reel 10, thereby resisting crushing or deformation of the reel 10.

The access port 90 is used in connection with a D-shaped port 91, located on the flange 20 to provide access to the internal end of the material wound on the reel 10. This is beneficial in testing the continuity of wound material, such as fiber optic cable. In use, the internal end of the wound material is thread through the D-shaped port 91 and then through the access port 90 before winding the material on the reel 10. Once wound, users will have access to both ends of the round material to perform continuity, resistance and any other desired tests.

FIG. 9 shows an embodiment of an insert 214 that can be mounted to the spool 12. The insert 214 may have the same dimensions and mounting points as the insert 14. A label recess 216 is located on an outer face 218 of the insert 214. The label recess 216 is generally arcuate and just deep enough to allow the application of a label (not shown) therein while retaining the label inward of the outer face 218 of the insert 214. Preferably, a portion of the label recess 216 has a textured surface 217 to facilitate the formation of air pockets between the label and the insert 214, which aids in removal of the label. The label recess 216 may be adapted to any desirable shape, depth and surface to accommodate a variety of label types as desired.

In the center of the insert 214, a plurality of handle apertures 220 are located on a central bevel 222 that extends around the center of the outer face 214. The handle apertures 220 are preferably adapted to allow a user to grip the reel 10. The central bevel 222 is preferably angled enough to allow the insertion of a user's fingers into the handle apertures 220 to lift the reel 10. Like the insert 14, the insert 214 has an access port 90 that is adapted to provide access to the internal end of the wound material.

FIG. 10 shows an insert 314 having an access port 90, like those discussed above, and a set of winding holes 316, 318 adapted to engage the apparatus that is used to wind material onto the reel 10. Each of the winding holes 316, 318 are located at 90° intervals around the insert 314. The winding holes 316 are located across from each other and at a shorter radius from the center of the insert 314 than the winding holes 318. Those skilled in the art will recognize that any configuration of winding holes may be used without departing from the scope of the present invention. Winding hole patterns may be customized by choosing inserts having hole patterns that fit the desired application.

Referring now to FIG. 7, an embodiment of a base spool 412 may be used in connection with an overmolded insert 414. The base spool 412 preferably has a barrel portion 424 and a flange 420 with an annular ring 426 extending around an outer portion thereof. The spool 412 has a retaining tab 428 that extends generally parallel to the flange 420. A space between the retaining tab 428 and the flange 420 is preferably filled with the insert 414 when the insert is molded over the spool 412. Like the spools 12, 112, the spool 412 may be used without any insert to carry wound material. Like the inserts 14, 114, 214 and 314, the overmolded insert 414 may be customized according to a desired application. This may be done by varying the construction or materials used in the overmolded insert 414 to meet desired criteria.

A variety of materials may be used to construct the reel assemblies discussed above. The inserts and spool may be constructed from materials such as plastics, metals, composites, ceramics or any other materials that would meet the needs of the user. By way of example, it may be preferable to construct the base spool from a chemical resistant material to avoid any type of reaction between the reel and the wound material. It may also be beneficial to construct the insert out of a rigid material that provides sufficient support to the spool, as well as resistance to deflection or failure. By way of further example, in a case where the base spool is designed for economical purposes, but a particular user desires additional strength not provided by the spool, the inserts may be constructed of a more expensive, stronger material than the spool.

In use, a vendor or supplier preferably has one embodiment of a base spool that is constructed to meet minimum requirements of the various applications in which the reel may be used. In a case where the reel will be disposed of after a single use, and where there will be minimal strain on the reel, the reel may be used with no inserts, or inserts that provide minimal support, thereby minimizing the cost of the reel. Such inserts may provide features such as winding holes or a label recess. Alternatively, in a case where the reel is going to be reused, or where there will be large amounts of stress put on the reel, it would be desirable to use heavily reinforced inserts to provide additional strength the base spool. In this case, although the initial cost of a reel may be higher than one that is not reinforced, cost savings are realized by not having to order multiple reels to meet a user's needs. With the present invention, a variety of needs may be serviced by modifying a single base spool to fit the desired application, thus reducing costs for vendors and suppliers.

A variety of modifications to the embodiments described will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the disclosure provided herein. Thus, the invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof and, accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.