Title:
Article of manufacture for a flexible silo
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An article of manufacture for a flexible silo with a cone of specified volume has a plurality of attachments fabricated about the upper perimeter in a radial formation in relation to the center of the cone. The radially positioned attachments allow for quickly attaching and removing the flexible silo to and from a support structure free of the need for integral structural members. The storage capacity may be increased by adding a cone shaped top panel or a vertical cylinder. A top panel may also have an inlet spout for connecting to a filling device for dust containment while filling. The flexible silo may be constructed of a wide range of flexible materials that allow the use of the flexible silo in a multitude of applications. The flexible silo may be constructed of materials that are inexpensive for single use or multiple uses and easily disposed.



Inventors:
Kosich, Mark Michael (Bailey, NC, US)
Application Number:
12/152304
Publication Date:
11/20/2008
Filing Date:
05/14/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D30/10
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Primary Examiner:
HICKS, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARK M KOSICH (BAILEY, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo comprising: a cone of specified volume, of flexible material fabrication comprising a larger top opening and a smaller outlet opening; and a plurality of means for connecting said flexible silo to a silo support structure, of male or female construction, each said means located radially along the larger upper perimeter of said cone, to provide support and tension across the width of said cone;

2. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 1, said cone further comprising an outlet cylinder, or spout, extending from or attaching to the outlet of said cone lower perimeter opening;

3. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 1, said cone alternatively comprising a skirt or cylinder with an upper perimeter extending from said cone and located at a point between said cone larger top opening and smaller outlet opening and with a lower perimeter suspending free of said cone, thereby providing means for connecting the outlet area of the invention to dust containment components;

4. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 3, said cylinder or skirt further comprising a cone shape with a larger upper perimeter a smaller lower perimeter, with said larger upper perimeter extending from or attaching to said cone and located at a point between said cone larger top opening and smaller outlet opening with said smaller lower perimeter suspending free of said cone, thereby providing an alternative means for connecting the outlet area of the invention to dust containment components;

5. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 1, said cone further comprising a top panel with an outer perimeter to conform to the configuration of the upper perimeter of said cone, extending from or fabricated to the upper, larger perimeter of said cone, and further comprising an inlet opening and an inlet cylinder or spout extending from or attaching to the perimeter of said inlet opening;

6. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 5, wherein said top panel forms an inverted cone shape comprising a smaller top opening perimeter and a larger lower perimeter, thereby increasing the capacity of said flexible silo, with an outer perimeter to conform to the configuration of the upper perimeter of said cone, extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter of the larger cone opening;

7. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 6, said top panel that forms an inverted cone shape further comprises an inlet opening and an inlet cylinder or spout extending from or attaching to the perimeter of said inlet opening;

8. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 1, said cone, alternatively, further comprising a body cylinder with a lower perimeter to conform to the configuration of the upper perimeter of said cone, extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter of said cone, to expand the storage capacity of said flexible silo;

9. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 8, said body cylinder further comprising a plurality of means, of male or female construction, fabricated about the upper perimeter for connecting the upper perimeter of said cylinder to a silo support structure, or to support the upper perimeter by a means external to a silo support structure;

10. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 8, said body cylinder further comprising a top panel, with an outer perimeter to conform to the configuration of the upper perimeter of said cylinder, extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter of said cylinder;

11. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 10, said top panel further comprising an inlet opening and an inlet spout extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter of said inlet opening;

12. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 10, wherein said top panel forms an inverted cone shape comprising a smaller top opening perimeter and a larger lower perimeter, thereby increasing the capacity of said flexible silo, with an outer perimeter to conform to the configuration of the upper perimeter of said body cylinder, extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter of the larger cone opening;

13. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 6, said top panel that forms an inverted cone shape further comprises an inlet opening and an inlet cylinder or spout extending from or attaching to the perimeter of said inlet opening; and

14. An article of manufacture for a flexible silo as claimed in claim 1, said flexible silo fabricated from any of a wide variety of flexible materials, including but not limited to, woven organic fabric; woven poly fabric; flexible sheet material; craft materials; multiple ply materials of any number, type and combination of materials; laminations of any number, type and combination of materials; and flexible materials with coatings; and of which may be comprised of more than one component to form the invention and its parts; and which may be combined by any of a wide variety of joining methods, including but not limited to, stitches; adhesive; and heat seal.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/930,899

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

DESCRIPTION OF ATTACHED APPENDIX

Drawings; Information Disclosure Statement PTO/SB/08a

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the field of bulk materials handling and more specifically to an article of manufacture for storing bulk products.

Silos, bins, hoppers, day bins and portable bins are presently known for use as rigid storage containers for powder and granular product comprising a cone section with an outlet and using a wide variety of valves that can be used to control product flow. These storage systems are usually constructed of steel, aluminum or plastic silo body mounted on a rigid steel framework. Flexible fabrics for the silo body are also used in some applications with the flexible silo body suspended on a rigid steel framework. It is also known that some smaller storage bins are constructed with a molded plastic silo body mounted on a rigid molded framework.

Product flow from rigid containers can be unreliable. Brute force equipment such as a mechanical agitator, pulsing cone valve or air injector devices can be installed inside the silo cone near the outlet to facilitate product flow. A vibrator mounted on the silo wall can be used to assist product flow from a silo by imparting high frequency, low amplitude pulsation. And it is known that vibration can also contribute to unreliable or no-flow conditions when used with certain products by de-aerating and causing compaction of the product.

Flexible silos fabricated of flexible fabric or poly sheet material for the silo body are a low cost option to rigid steel or plastic silos and are used similarly in function as stationary storage bins and are often fitted with a flow control valve. A flexible silo is supported on a rigid structure using parallel sleeves fabricated about the upper perimeter of the flexible silo vertical section and sometimes also about the lower perimeter. The flexible silo body is supported with rigid horizontal members that run through the sleeve openings thereby suspending the flexible silo on the rigid framework.

Mobile portable bins that can be transported from one point for filling and to another point for discharging are also known. Mobile portable bins consist of a framework and a bin that is supported upon the framework. The bin usually has a cone shaped bottom and a valve supported on the outlet opening. The bin is fabricated of steel, aluminum, plastic or flexible fabric.

Food, pharmaceutical and a number of chemical processes offer fixed and mobile product storage applications that require hygienic conditions and applications that must avoid cross contamination of product from one batch to another. In these types of situations silos, bins, hoppers, day bins and portable bins may need to be washed, and in some cases, sterilized between each use. Purified water and a cleaning solution may be used to wash the container. Cleanliness and sterilization prior to reuse may require validation. The mix of water, solution and residual product will be discharged, often to a city or county sewer system and thereby impacting the environment. Fresh water supply can be contaminated by this bin washing procedure.

Stainless steel product contact materials are most widely used in sanitary applications, while plastic surfaces may be preferred in some instances. Flexible silo materials are not conducive to washing and sterilization and are generally not used in wash down applications. However, the potential exists to remove and replace a flexible silo body after use. Present method flexible bin and silo equipment however, is designed to mimic the look and function of rigid bins and silos. The flexible fabric silo body, with rigid members running through the horizontal sleeves makes it a semi-permanent fixture and is not conducive to quick and easy removal of the flexible fabric silo body.

Bulk bags with lifting loops or sleeves attached to the upper perimeter of the bag can be used as replaceable, disposable storage containers. They require associated bulk bag discharging equipment for hoisting and dispensing the product stored within.

Further, U.S. Pat. No. 5,695,2861 describes a cube shaped bulk bag with a flat bottom that utilizes sleeves that run parallel along two opposite lengths of the lower perimeter of the bulk bag side panels. Rigid horizontal structural members are passed through the sleeves to support and lift the bulk bag. The horizontal members are lifted by a hoisting mechanism. When the bag is lifted, product stored within can be discharged through an outlet spout opening in the bottom of the bag.

Bulk bag discharging equipment is very tall and occupies the height of about three to five times the height of a bulk bag. Bag squeezing devices mounted along the sides of the discharger frame are sometimes used to loosen stored product and to assist with product flow from the container. Dust containment requires manually connecting a bottom outlet spout to containment components. An operator must work underneath the suspended bulk bag to make the dust tight connection. Operation of a manual valve requires the operator to reach under the bag to actuate the valve.

If multiple products are used in a process, cross contamination issues can cause concerns with using bulk bag discharging systems and conveying systems since product contacts the internals of the dust containment enclosure, valve and conveying equipment. Elaborate bag spout interface options are available from discharger manufacturers to help minimize dust release but, as mentioned, require an operator to make a manual connection while working under the suspended bulk bag.

If the facility has more than one discharge point, a bulk bag discharge apparatus is required to occupy each discharge point or a conveying system is needed to deliver product from the bulk bag apparatus to each discharge point. If multiple products are used in a process, cross contamination and sanitation issues can cause concerns with using bulk bag discharging systems and conveying systems.

There is an invention disclosed in U.S. Patent Application No. 60/958,1382 for an apparatus that utilizes a flexible silo that is easily placed on and removed from a support frame. The invention is designed to support a flexible bin or silo having a cone shaped bottom. The invention makes provision for securing the container by loops or other male or female connecting means that are positioned radially about the upper perimeter of the cone section of the flexible container. Present method bulk bags and flexible silos whether flat panel bottom or cone bottom are not suitable for use with the invention. Therefore, there is a need for a flexible silo as described in the claims herein.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The primary advantage of the invention is an inexpensive and replaceable alternative to rigid storage silos such as steel and plastic.

Another advantage of the invention is a simpler means of attaching a flexible silo to a support structure and disassembling as compared to present method flexible silos and bulk bag systems, free of the need for integral structural members and requiring no special tools.

Another advantage of the invention is the provision of means for connecting to a silo support structure that extend radially in relation to the center of the cone, providing support and tension across the width of the silo cone.

A further advantage of the invention is the flexible silo may be fabricated of a wide variety of flexible materials for chemical and environmental compatibility and to meet certain disposal requirements.

Another advantage of the invention is that the flexible silo can be fabricated for use in sanitary applications.

And yet another advantage of the invention is that the flexible silo can be easily placed onto a support structure and easily removed for disposal after use.

A further advantage of the invention is the elimination of cross contamination between process batches and the need for washing and drying the silo interior by disposing and replacing the silo body after use.

Yet another advantage of the invention is the flexible silo can be impacted or manipulated to encourage product flow from the silo.

Still yet another advantage of the invention is the flexible silo, fabricated of flexible material and supported at the upper perimeter of the cone section, retains a taut cone bottom shape for reliable product flow while discharging and remains free of the requirement to hoist the flexible silo upward to compensate for sagging as product discharges.

And yet another advantage of the invention is an increase in process efficiency with the ability to use the invention as a portable bin, thereby permitting an operator to assemble and disassemble multiple flexible silos for use as needed, away from the process discharge point.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following descriptions, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein, by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of the present invention is disclosed.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is disclosed an article of manufacture for a flexible silo comprising: a cone of specified volume comprising a larger top opening and a smaller outlet opening, a plurality of means for connecting said flexible silo to a silo support structure, of male or female construction, each said means located along the larger upper perimeter of said cone, extending radially in relation to the center of said cone, to provide support and tension across the width of said cone of specified volume and to allow quick and simple connect and disconnect of said flexible silo, free of the need for tools. Said flexible silo may further comprise a top panel or a cylindrical expanded section above said cone which may comprise a top panel with additional connecting means and an inlet spout.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments to the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. It is to be understood that in some instances various aspects of the invention may be shown exaggerated or enlarged to facilitate an understanding of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 3, 3A is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 4, 4A is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 5, 5A is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Detailed descriptions of the preferred embodiment are provided herein. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed system, structure or manner.

Turning first to FIG. 1 there is shown a perspective view of a flexible silo 20 wherein flexible silo 20 is comprised of a cone 21 of specified volume that may include a cone shape formed of one or more panels that form a geometric cone shape comprising a larger open top formed by upper perimeter 30 and a smaller lower perimeter 22.

A plurality of means 28 of male or female construction for attaching the flexible silo to a support structure are fabricated about the upper perimeter 30 of the larger cone opening and positioned radially in relation to the center of the cone to provide support and tension across the width of the cone 21. The plurality of means for attaching the flexible silo to a support structure 28 allows for quick and simple connect and disconnect of the flexible silo, preferably free of the need for tools.

The plurality of means 25 for attaching the silo may be constructed of male or female components and are shown as loops 24. This allows simple connect and disconnect of the flexible silo to and from a silo support structure, quickly and free of the need for tools.

Flexible silo 20 is suitable for use in applications where the flexible silo will be used as a replaceable and flexible silo body that can be connected to a silo support structure. Some examples of silo support structures include, but are not limited to: portable bin, day bin, hopper, silo, bulk bag discharger and the invention disclosed in U.S. Patent Application No. 60/958,138 which is designed for use with the invention 20.

The fabrication of means for attaching the flexible silo to a support structure 28 extending from the upper perimeter of the cone 21 for support and tension further distinguishes the invention from conventional bulk bag design. Those familiar with the art will recognize that a bulk bag is fabricated as a square, rectangular or circular cylinder with straight side walls. A bottom panel, usually a flat panel with an outlet opening and a cylinder of fabric called a spout, is fabricated to the outlet opening. Occasionally, the bottom panel is formed into a cone shape which helps powder product flow more freely from the outlet opening during product discharge. Bulk bag loops are fabricated vertically along the vertical side walls of the bag and reach above the upper perimeter of the bulk bag body. This cube shaped bulk bag is designed as a low cost shipping container that can stand alone or be stacked two or three high. When it is time to discharge the contents, the container is lifted and suspended by the loops. The outlet spout is then opened or is first connected to a dust containment apparatus and then opened.

Construction methods used in bulk bag, flexible silo and liner construction may be employed in the construction of the invention. The invention 20 may be fabricated from any of a wide variety of flexible materials, including but not limited to, woven organic fabric; woven poly fabric; flexible sheet material; craft materials; multiple ply materials of any number, type and combination of materials; laminations of any number, type and combination of materials; and flexible materials with coatings; and of which may be comprised of more than one component to form the invention and its parts; and which may be combined by any of a wide variety of joining methods, including but not limited to, stitches; adhesive; and heat seal.

Materials for the invention may be selected depending upon the working environment of the application and product to be stored within. Material selection may also be influenced by means of disposal such as land fill, incineration or recycling. In some applications, flexible silo 20 may be used as a single use container and is designed for quick assembly to a support structure and quick removal, without the use of tools. Other applications may call for extended use and therefore the material selection may be more heavy-duty type for durability over time. Yet, other applications may call for sanitary materials and method of construction and also construction within a clean room environment.

The degree of flexibility of the material of construction may vary for different applications. The invention may be used with static, stationary equipment or on equipment that is design to flex or manipulate the flexible characteristics of the invention 20.

As shown in FIG. 2, the smaller lower perimeter 22 provides an opening for product discharge. In some cases, it may be allowable to provide a closed bottom that can be cut open for product discharge, however, it more likely that the invention 20 will utilize and open bottom and may further employ a means for closure (not shown).

FIG. 3 illustrates an outlet cylinder or spout 24 that may be a separate item as shown in FIG. 3A that can be attached to lower perimeter 22, or said outlet cylinder or spout 24 can be an extension from the lower perimeter 22 of cone 21. Outlet cylinder or spout 24 allows the flexible silo 20 to be connected to components that may facilitate dust containment or for the attachment of auxiliary components. An outlet cylinder or spout allows for closing the opening easily by use of a draw string or other closing item (not shown).

In FIG. 4, an alternative outlet dust connection option is shown. FIG. 4A shows a cylinder or skirt 27 with a perimeter that is larger than the outlet perimeter 22 of cone 21. Combining cylinder or skirt 27 with cone 21, the FIG. 4 illustration shows cylinder or skirt 27 with an upper perimeter 25 positioned at a point above the lower perimeter 22 of cone 21. Cylinder or skirt 27 lower perimeter is suspended free of cone 21. Skirt 27 can provide an alternative means to connect to dust containment equipment (not shown) thereby keeping outlet 22 free of the dust containment equipment.

In an alternative embodiment, FIGS. 5 and 5A show a cone shaped skirt 29. Combining cone shaped skirt 27 with cone 21, the FIG. 5 illustration shows cone shaped skirt 29 with an upper perimeter 26 positioned at a point above the lower perimeter 22 of cone 21. Cylinder or skirt 27 lower perimeter is suspended free of cone 21. Skirt 27 can provide an alternative means to connect to dust containment equipment (not shown) thereby keeping outlet 22 free of the dust containment equipment. A cone shaped skirt 29 is easier to attach to cone 21 because the angle of the skirt cone 29 is similar to or the same as cone 21.

FIG. 6 shows a perspective view of the invention 20 with a flat top panel 31 extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter 23 of cone 21. Optional inlet cylinder or spout 37 extending from or attaching to the perimeter of an opening 32 in top panel 31, may be used to connect to the outlet of a device (not shown) located above flexible silo 20 to contain dust and maintain a hygienic working environment. Such a device would likely be storage or process equipment with inlet cylinder or spout 37 connected during the transfer of product to the invention 20.

FIG. 7 shows a perspective view of the invention 20 with an inverted cone top panel 41, comprising a smaller top opening 42 and larger lower perimeter 45 extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter 23 of cone 21. When bulk materials such as powders and granules are metered into a container, the product will form a peak known as the angle of repose. Inverted cone top panel 41 may be fabricated of one or a plurality of panels to form a pyramid shape. This provides for increased volume capacity of the flexible silo 20. Inlet cylinder or spout 47 extending from or attaching to the perimeter of an opening 42 in inverted cone top panel 41, may be used to connect to the outlet of a device (not shown) located above flexible silo 20 to contain dust and maintain a hygienic working environment.

FIG. 8 shows a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the invention 20 that vertically expands the storage capacity of the flexible silo 20 by utilizing a cylindrical enclosure 50. Cylindrical enclosure 50 may be constructed of a single panel or fabricated of a plurality of panels to match and extend from or attach to the configuration of the upper perimeter 54 of cone 21. An optional flat top panel 51 may be added. Top panel 51 is shown with an outer edge perimeter 55 extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter 53 of cylindrical enclosure 50. Inlet cylinder or spout 57 may also be added. Inlet cylinder or spout 57 extending from or attaching to the perimeter of an opening 52 in top panel 51, may be used to connect to the outlet of a device (not shown) located above flexible silo 20 to contain dust and maintain a hygienic working environment.

A plurality of means 58 for attaching cylinder enclosure 50 to a silo support structure (not shown), or to support the upper perimeter 65 by a means external to a silo support structure may also be added. Constructed of male or female components, means 58 for attaching cylinder enclosure 50 to a silo support structure or to support the upper perimeter 65 by a means external to a silo support structure are shown as loops 58 positioned along upper perimeter 55 of cylinder enclosure 50. This allows simple connect and disconnect of the upper perimeter 65, quickly and free of the need for tools.

FIG. 9 shows a perspective view of the invention 20 with an inverted cone top panel 61, comprising a smaller top opening 62 and larger lower perimeter 65 extending from or fabricated to the upper perimeter 53 of cylinder enclosure 50. When bulk materials such as powders and granules are metered into a container, the product will form a peak known as the angle of repose. Inverted cone top panel 61 may be fabricated of one or a plurality of panels to form a pyramid shape. This provides for increased volume capacity of cylinder enclosure 50. Inlet cylinder or spout 67 extending from or attaching to the perimeter of an opening 62 in inverted cone top panel 61, may be used to connect to the outlet of a device (not shown) located above flexible silo 20 to contain dust and maintain a hygienic working environment.

While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular form set forth, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.