Title:
Foam Buffer Device for Packaging
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A packaging apparatus comprising a foam buffer that provides protection of a computer system component during transit, provides ease of use during pre-packing and packing of the component for transport, does not require the need for additional packing components in combination with the packaging assembly, provides shock and vibration protection during transport, and the foam buffer is configured for ease of manufacture, for reduced manufacturing time and for reduced cost. The foam buffer comprises a foam block formed at least in part from a nonplanar foam extrusion to protect the computer system components during transport. A component socket is provided in the foam block for the reception of the component, and the geometry of the foam surrounding the received computer is configured to provide protection and for ease of manufacture. An exterior of the foam block comprises alternating bands of curvilinear ribs and grooves to provide the desired buffering and shock characteristics, and to reduce manufacturing time by promoting air or gas passage from the foam. Alternate embodiments of the nonplanar foam extrusion can comprise a “U” and an “L” shaped foam extrusion, and the foam block can be assembled from a single continuous piece of a foam extrusion or an assembly of multiple extrusions.



Inventors:
Wang, Zhenyong (Xiamen, CN)
Zhu, Mingfei (Suzhou, CN)
Yeo, Chin Thiam (Singapore, SG)
Application Number:
12/125454
Publication Date:
03/19/2009
Filing Date:
05/22/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/586
International Classes:
B65D85/30
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PERREAULT, ANDREW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FROST BROWN TODD LLC (Cincinnati, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A foam buffer device for protecting a computer system component during transport, the foam buffer device comprising: a foam block configured to protect the computer system component, the foam block comprising: a socket extending into a top of the foam block and configured to engage an end of the computer system component inserted within, the socket having at least one wall extending vertically into the block from the top with a horizontal floor at right angles to a bottom of the at least one vertical wall; and at least one bumper extending outwardly away from the foam block to prevent the computer component from directly contacting a surface other than the at least one vertical wall and the floor of the socket, and a nonplanar foam extrusion having a length and a first end and a second end, the nonplanar foam extrusion comprising at least a portion of the foam block and in contact with at least a portion of the computer system component.

2. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the foam extrusion is “U” shaped in cross section, and further comprises a second vertical wall extending from the floor parallel to the first vertical wall with an inner slot therebetween, the inner slot extending along the length of the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion to comprise at least a portion of the socket.

3. The foam buffer device of claim 2 wherein the foam buffer device further comprises an end piece attached to each end of the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion, wherein each attached end piece is an end portion of the socket.

4. The foam buffer device of claim 2 wherein the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion has end portions configured to be folded such that the floor of the folded end portions define ends of the socket.

5. The foam buffer device of claim 4 wherein the foldable end portions of the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion are configured to fold at a “V” notch adjacent to each end of the foam extrusion, wherein the “V” notch extends downwardly at each end of the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion with the widest portion of the “V” notch at the top of the least one foam block.

6. The foam buffer device of claim 4 wherein the end portions of the “U” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion have hinges at a sharp of the “V” and the hinges are at the external corners of the folded ends.

7. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the nonplanar foam extrusion is “L” shaped in cross section and is configured to fold into a rectangular shaped foam block with the socket extending downwardly therein, the at least one wall forming a vertical perimeter around the rectangular shaped foam block and the floor extending horizontally inward from a bottom of the at least one wall.

8. The foam buffer device of claim 7 wherein the “L” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion has a rectangular opening extending therethrough surrounded by the inwardly extending floor.

9. The foam buffer device of claim 7 wherein the “L” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion is configured to fold into the a rectangular shaped foam block along a of a plurality of “V” notches cut into the “L” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion.

10. The foam buffer device of claim 7 wherein at least the first end and the second end of the L″ shaped nonplanar foam extrusion are secured together

11. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper extends outwardly from the extrusion along the length thereof.

12. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper has an arcuate surface.

13. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper is configured progressive rate geometry wherein the at least one foam bumper becomes stiffer the more it is are deflected.

14. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper extends outwardly from the at least one vertical wall to form a perimeter around the rectangular shaped foam block.

15. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper extends downwardly from the at least one horizontal floor.

16. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the at least one bumper extends downwardly and outwardly from an intersection of the at least one vertical wall and the horizontal floor.

17. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the foam extrusion further comprises at least one gas outlet feature to encourage the passage of gas from the foam during extrusion.

18. A foam buffer device for protecting a computer system component during transport, the foam buffer device comprising: a nonplanar foam extrusion having at least one vertical wall and at least one horizontal wall extending at a right angle to a bottom of the vertical wall, the nonplanar foam extrusion foldably configured to form a socket from the least one vertical wall and at least one horizontal wall, the socket sized for the reception of a computer system component within,

19. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the nonplanar extrusion has an “L” shaped profile formed from the least one vertical wall and at least one horizontal wall, and the “L” shaped nonplanar foam extrusion is folded with the vertical wall forming an outer rectangular perimeter with the horizontal wall extending inwardly from a bottom of the vertical wall.

20. The foam buffer device of claim 1 wherein the nonplanar extrusion has a second vertical wall extending upwardly from the to define a “U” shaped extrusion with the vertical wall and the horizontal wall, and the “U” shaped extrusion is foldably configured to fold upwardly at each end to define a socket therebetween

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application hereby claims the benefit of the provisional patent application of the same title, Ser. No. 60/939,433 filed on May 22, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates, in general, to the protective packaging systems and apparatuses therein, and more particularly to a creating a foam buffer device using specific geometrical configurations for protectively accommodating fragile items such as electronic computer equipment during transport.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Fragile devices, such as electronic devices or computer system components, can use foam block packaging to protect the fragile components from unwanted shock and vibration during the transport process. This ensures that the components arrive unharmed and ready for use. Foam block packaging can be placed on opposing ends of a component, and when placed in a cardboard box, suspend the component within the box for transit. Some foam block packaging materials can be limited in size and shape by the manufacturing processes. For example, planar expanded foam materials such as expanded polyethylene foam (EPE) sheet have excellent cost, shock, and vibration characteristics and can be formed by an extrusion process that can involve, foaming, air/gas releasing, pressing, waste peel off, welding processing, and ageing. Post extrusion shrinkage of the foam extrusion can occur with some blowing agents, and this is caused by a natural migration of the blowing agent (gas) through the walls of closed cells within the extruded foam. When shrinkage occurs, the shrunken foamed extrusion can regain the majority of the original size by simply aging the foam. As the foam is aged, air migrates into the bubbles of the foam to re-enlarge the foam extrusion. This aging process can require time (weeks) for the migration of air into the bubbles of the foam, and thicker cross sections will require even more time for the aging process. Thus, thicker cross sections in a non-planar extruded foam profile can incur greater storage/processing costs than thinner profiles.

The processing of the extrusions can economically limit the thickness of the planar EPE sheet to between about 5 mm to 20 mm. In order to obtain a foam block of sufficient size or shape to protect a fragile component during transit, thicker sheets of EPE foam can be created by laminating or welding multiple sheets together across large areas. This sheet lamination process can produce unwanted voids or separations between large area laminations. When detected, the separations between large area laminations can cause unwanted scrap and wastage of separated foam materials, and when undetected, the separations can adversely affect the buffering protection provided during transit, and could cause unwanted damage to fragile products. Foam blocks formed from planar sheet materials typically provide flat contact areas against a product and against an inside of a box.

Alternately, EPE foam can also be extruded in other non-planar profiles that offer advantages over the formation of buffer devices from sheets or laminated sheets. For example, the EPE foam can be extruded as a long extrusion of a non-planar shape have a specific geometric profile that can conform to the wall thickness limits between about 5 mm to 20 mm. The geometric profile can have height and width, and can be quite complex in shape. To produce these complex foam extrusions, an extrusion die is created that has an inner opening cut into the desired geometric profile. When hot EPE foam is pushed or extruded through the extrusion die, the contact with the extrusion die both forces the hot foam into the geometric profile of the extrusion die, and cools the hot foam into a long foam extrusion with the specific geometric profile of the extrusion die. With nonplanar extrusions, many desirable formed features can be added to the extrusion profile. Examples of nonplanar foam extrusion profiles can include “X” shapes, “U” shapes, “L” shapes or any other shape that can be extruded through an extrusion die. The geometric nonplanar profile can also reduce or eliminate the need for laminations and can provide nonplanar or non-flat areas of energy absorbing contact such as against the product and against the inside of a box.

EPE materials requires post processing time to release air or other foaming gasses used during the EPE manufacturing process. This release of gasses causes the extrusion to shrink in size and the extrusion will re-expand to near net size as air migrates back into the foam. This shrinking/expanding process is called aging and thick cross sections of material can require a longer time for the exchange of internal gasses than thinner cross sections of material. Thus, thicker EPE materials can prolong the post processing time needed to produce an aged lot of the EPE material, and can require additional warehouse storage space to wait for the thicker EPE material to age. This lengthened gas exchange process has the effect of reducing the productivity of a unit of warehouse space as thicker materials are processed.

Consequently, a significant need exists for an improved foam block packaging product which exhibits excellent cost, shock, and vibration characteristics, eliminates lamination failures, and results in reduced processing time and in reduced storage space.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention overcomes the above-noted and other deficiencies of the prior art by providing a foam buffer device for protecting a computer system component during transport. The foam buffer device comprises a foam block configured to protect the computer system component. The foam block comprises a socket extending into a top of the foam block, and the socket is configured to engage an end of the computer system component that is inserted within. The socket has at least one wall extending vertically into the block from the top and a horizontal floor at right angles to a bottom of the at least one vertical wall. The foam block also comprises at least one bumper extending outwardly away from the foam block to prevent the computer component from directly contacting a surface other than the at least one vertical wall, and the floor of the socket. And, the foam block further comprises a nonplanar foam extrusion having a length and a first end and a second end. The nonplanar foam extrusion comprising at least a portion of the foam block and in contact with at least a portion of the computer system component.

In one aspect of the invention, a foam buffer device is disclosed for protecting a computer system component during transport. The foam buffer device comprises a nonplanar foam extrusion having at least one vertical wall, and at least one horizontal wall extending at a right angle to a bottom of the vertical wall. The nonplanar foam extrusion is foldably configured to form a socket from the least one vertical wall and at least one horizontal wall. The socket is sized for the reception of a computer system component within.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention shall be made apparent from the accompanying drawings and the description thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention, and, together with the general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description of the embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 1 is an isometric view showing a first foam buffer device and a second foam buffer device oriented for placement on opposite ends of a component to prepare the component for transport within a box, wherein the foam buffer devices are in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a length of a nonplanar “U” shaped foam extrusion configured to be used with a foam buffer device, with the foam extrusion cut to a length and showing a longitudinally extending component channel configured to receive an end of the component within.

FIG. 3 is an end view of the “U” shaped foam extrusion of FIG. 2 showing a profile of an end of the foam extrusion, and features thereof;

FIG. 4 is a side view of a length of a “U” shaped foam extrusion that is extruded with the profile of FIG. 3 and has a “V” shaped notch cut adjacent to each end with a portion of foam remaining uncut at a sharp of each “V” so that each end can hinge inwardly in the directions shown.

FIG. 5 is a partial cross section side view of the “U” shaped foam extrusion of FIG. 4 with each end rotated 90 degrees at each uncut foam hinge to form a first embodiment of a folded foam buffer device fabricated from a single continuous piece of a foam extrusion

FIG. 6 is an end view of a profile of a foam end extrusion.

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of an assembly of a second embodiment of a foam buffer device formed from a length of the “U” shaped foam extrusion profile of FIG. 3, and further including a portion of the foam end extrusion of FIG. 6 attached to each end of the “U” shaped foam extrusion.

FIG. 8 is an end view of a length of a nonplanar “L” shaped foam extrusion showing the “L” shaped end profile and features thereof

FIG. 9 is an isometric view of a length of the “L” shaped foam extrusion with angled cut ends, and with a plurality of “V” shaped notches cut into the foam so that the foam extrusion can hinge about an uncut foam portion at the sharp of the “V” of each notch.

FIG. 10 is an isometric view of the cut and notched “L” shaped foam extrusion of FIG. 9 with the extrusion folded at the foam hinges into an alternate embodiment of a foam buffer device, and orientated to receive a component within.

FIG. 11 is a section view showing a component at rest supported within an extrusion having arcuate bumpers that provide progressive rate geometry to progressively change the stiffness of the foam under load, and showing each end of the arcuate bumpers having a first height and a first area of contact with a wall of a box.

FIG. 12 is a section view of FIG. 11 showing an object impacting a side of a box containing the component supported within the extrusion, and showing the arcuate foam bumpers presenting an increased contact area between the arcuate bumpers and the wall of the box as a result of the impact force to change the compression behavior of the arcuate bumpers from that of FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The following description of certain examples of the invention should not be used to limit the scope of the present invention. Other examples, features, aspects, embodiments, and advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description, which is by way of illustration, one of the best modes contemplated for carrying out the invention. As will be realized, the invention is capable of other different and obvious aspects, all without departing from the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and descriptions should be regarded as illustrative in nature and not restrictive.

In FIG. 1, an exploded isometric view shows a buffer device 20 of the present invention being placed onto one end of a computer system component 70 prior to transport. Buffer device 20 comprises a foam block 22 formed at least in part from a non-planar foam extrusion (not shown in FIG. 1), and is configured with a component socket 24 to engage with the component 70. The socket 24 is configured to surround all corners and edges of the computer system component 70. Buffer device 20 protects the component 70 from shock and vibration that can be encountered during transport. For example, these situations can include drops, and shock and vibratory situations such as those encountered in a warehouse, a shipping port, a train, or in a trucking environment. To complete the buffering protection of component 70 for transport, a second identical buffer device 20′ (shown in outline for clarity) is placed over an opposing end of the component 70 to suspend the component 70 between opposing buffer devices 20 and 20′. If desired, the assembly of the component 70 with the buffer devices 20 and 20′ can be placed into a cardboard box 110, the flaps 111 folded closed and the box 110 sealed. A component groove or component socket 24 extends partially into the foam block 22 and is sized for reception of a first end 71 of the component 70. Component socket 24 is configured to surround the inserted end 71 of the component 70 with protective foam, and to provide protective support on both the sides and the inserted end of component 70. In FIG. 1, the component 70 is shown as a computer system device such as a laptop or a notebook computer, but is not limited thereto. The exterior of the buffer device 20 is shown in FIG. 1 as the smooth foam block 22, but the non-planar foam extrusions used in the construction of alternate embodiments of the buffer device 20 and the foam block 22 can provide geometric shapes and features that offer advantages that will be described in greater detail below.

The buffer device 20 can be constructed from a closed cell foam such as but not limited to expanded polyethylene foam EPE. With the non-planar extrusion die process, the blowing agent is induced into molten polyethylene to cause foaming, the foamed material is pushed through the non-planar extrusion die, and the extruded foam cools (as it is extruded) to produce a long closed cell foam extrusion with the same desired non-planar geometric profile as the extrusion die.

Extruding EPE foam material to a specific non-planar extrusion profile can offer distinct advantages in simplifying the construction of the buffer device, and in producing non-planar geometric shapes with enhanced shock and vibration performance. The extruded non-planar foam profile is easily cut to a usable length and can include features to create at least a portion of the component socket 24 matched to fit the component 70. For example, in FIGS. 2 and 3, an embodiment of a “U” shaped foam extrusion 30 is shown. For this embodiment, EPE foam material is extruded into long lengths from an extrusion die with a generally “U” shaped profile 31. The extruded foam is then processed, and cut to a desired longitudinal length (FIG. 2). The extruded “U” shaped profile 31 has a first vertical wall 32, a second vertical wall 33, and a floor 34 extending horizontally therebetween. The walls 32, 33, and the floor 34 define a inner slot 36 sized for the reception of the component 70 therein extending longitudinally along the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30.

The exterior of the U″ shaped profile 31 can further comprise alternating bumpers extending outwardly therefrom and grooves extending inwardly therein along the length of the U″ shaped foam extrusion 30. As shown in FIG. 3, the first vertical wall 32 has upper left bumper 40 extending laterally away from the first vertical wall 32, and a left corner bumper 42 extending laterally (outwardly) away from the first vertical wall 32 and downwardly (outwardly) away from the floor 34. As shown, the upper left bumper 40 and the left corner bumper 42 are configured to extend laterally away from the first vertical wall 32 the same amount. The exterior of the second vertical wall 33 is a mirror image of the first vertical wall 32, and is mirrored laterally around inner slot 36. The second vertical wall 33 has upper right bumper 43 extending laterally away therefrom, and a right corner bumper 45 extending laterally away from the second vertical wall 33 and downwardly away from the floor 34. Additionally, right corner bumper 45 and upper right bumper 45 are configured to extend away from the second vertical wall 33 the same amount. An inwardly extending left groove 41 is positioned between the upper left bumper 40 and the left corner bumper 42, an inwardly extending right groove 44 is positioned between the upper right bumper 43 and the right corner bumper 45, and an inwardly extending center groove 41 is positioned between the left corner bumper 42 and the right corner bumper 45. The cross section of inwardly extending grooves 41, 44, and 46 is shown as a an inwardly extending “U” shape but the shape of the grooves can be any other shape such as but not limited to a trapezoid shape, a rectangular shape, or a curved shape, or any combination thereof. The grooves 41, 44, and 46 can be placed to minimize cross sections of “U” shaped foam extrusion 30, or can be placed to optimize shock and vibrational absorption characteristics.

The outwardly extending bumpers 40, 42, 43, and 45 are shown having arcuate geometric shapes which provides impact and shock protection advantages described in greater detail below. Alternately, other embodiments of the outwardly extending bumpers 40, 42, 43, and 45 can be any other shape such as but not limited to a rectangular shape, a trapezoidal shape, a semi-circular shape, a semi-elliptical shape or any other shape that can create a bumper include an angled embodiment or any other geometrical shaped embodiments that can also provide some or all of the impact and shock protection advantages described below.

The “U” shaped profile 31 is configured to be extrudable, and provides numerous advantages in manufacturing and assembly of the buffer device 20. Cross sections of the “U” shaped profile 31 can be optimized to minimize thicknesses, and to reduce aging time. For example, auxiliary gas outlet grooves 37 can be located at the intersection of the vertical walls 32, 33, and the floor 34 if desired. Grooves 37 reduce the cross sectional thickness of the bumpers 42, 45, thereby enhancing the passage of blowing gasses from the extrusion, and promoting the passage of air back into the foam during the aging process.

FIGS. 4 and 5 show a first embodiment of a folded buffer device 55 formed from a single piece of foam extrusion 50 with the U″ shaped profile 31. In FIG. 4, the “U” shaped profile 31 is cut to a length with the inner slot 36 orientated to be accessible from the top. A depth 52 is provided to show the location of an upper surface of the floor 34 within the inner slot 36. A pair of notches 51 are cut into the foam extrusion 50 adjacent to a left end 53 and a right end 54. The notches 51 are configured to leave a small uncut portion of material at a sharp of the “V” of the notch to act as a hinge 58. This enables the left end 53 and a right end 54 of the extrusion 50 to be folded into the folded buffer device 55 (FIG. 5) with the hinge 58 at the outside corners of the folded buffer device 55. Curved arrows are shown within the notches 51 adjacent to each end 53, 54 to illustrate the direction of folding.

FIG. 5 shows the ends 53, 54 folded to produce the folded buffer device 55 formed from the U″ shaped profile 31. The folded buffer device 55 is shown as a partial section view with an exterior view of the folded foam extrusion on the left, and a cross section of the folded foam extrusion on the right. The partial cross section is taken along lines A-A that extend longitudinally along a center of the floor 34 and show how folding the end 54 upwardly moves a portion of the floor 34 to a vertical position to create a device socket 56 within the folded buffer device 55 for the reception of the component 70. The folded buffer device 55 can be constrained in the folded shape by the walls of the box 110 when the assembly of the folded buffer device 55 and the component 70 is placed into the box 110 (see FIG. 1). Alternately, the seams 57 can be glued, laminated, or welded to secure the ends 53, 54 in the folded positions of FIG. 5. Whereas the folded buffer device 55 is shown being formed from a single piece of foam extrusion 50 that is cut, notched, and folded around hinge 58, the folded buffer device 55 can alternately be formed by severing the hinges 58 to separate the foam extrusion 50 into separate pieces, and then securing the separate pieces together to create the buffer device 55. Securing the separate pieces together can include welding, gluing, mechanical fasteners, and the like, but is not limited thereto.

FIGS. 6 and 7 shows an alternate embodiment of an assembled buffer device 65 constructed from the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30 of FIGS. 2 and 3. In this embodiment, an end extrusion profile 60, is extruded with a profile configured to match with the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30, but lacks the inner slot 36. End extrusion profile 60 can be extruded, and then sliced into end pieces 62 that can be laminated or welded to the ends of the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30 (FIG. 7). The assembly of the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30 with two end pieces 62 forms the alternate buffer device 65 with an end device socket 66 extending therein. As shown in FIG. 7, the extrusion profile of the end pieces 62 can match up with the bumpers 40, 42, 43, and 45 as well as the grooves 41, 44, and 46 of the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30. Slicing the end pieces 62 from the end extrusion 61 exposes the newly sliced surfaces of the end pieces 62 to the air. Slicing the end pieces 62 prior to aging reduces the aging time of the end pieces 62 by minimizing the distance that blowing gasses have to travel from the interior of the end pieces 62, and promotes the passage of air back into the foam during the aging process

FIG. 8 shows an L″ shaped profile 81 of an alternate “L” shaped foam extrusion 80 (FIGS. 9 and 10). The L″ shaped foam extrusion 80 is used to create yet another alternate embodiment, a folded buffer device 94, formed from a single piece of foam extrusion (FIG. 10). The “L” shaped profile 81 of FIG. 8 comprises a single vertical wall 82 with a horizontal wall 83 extending laterally to the right from a base of the vertical wall 82. An upper bumper 84 extends laterally and outwardly away from an upper end of the single vertical wall 83 and is shown as approximating half of an ellipse in shape. A corner bumper 85 extends laterally and outwardly away from the single vertical wall 82 the same distance as the upper bumper 84, and extends downwardly away from the horizontal wall 83. As shown, corner bumper 85 is configured to have a semi-elliptical shape extending laterally on either side of the single vertical wall 83. A lower bumper 86 extends downwardly from a free end of the horizontal wall 83 the same distance as the lowest point of the corner bumper 85. Lower bumper 86 is rounded at the end of the downwardly extending portion. An inwardly extending left groove 87 is positioned between the upper bumper 84 and the corner bumper 85, and an upwardly extending center groove 41 is positioned between the corner bumper 85 and the lower bumper 86. The cross section of inwardly extending grooves 87, and 88 is shown as a an inwardly extending “U” shape but the shape of the grooves can be any other shape such as but not limited to a trapezoid shape, a rectangular shape, or a curved shape, or any combination thereof.

The outwardly extending bumpers 84, 85, and 86 are shown as arcuate or curved bumpers, but can be any other shape such as but not limited to a rectangular shape, a trapezoidal shape, a semi-circular shape, a semi-elliptical shape or any other shape that can create a bumper. These shapes can include an angled embodiment or any other geometrical shaped embodiment that can also provide some or all of the impact and shock protection advantages described below.

FIG. 9 is an isometric view of the “L” shaped extrusion 80 cut to length. The left end 87 and the right end 88 of the extrusion 80 are each cut at an opposite 45 degree angle as shown. A series of right angle “V” notches 89 are placed into the extrusion 80 at three points such that a small portion of the vertical portion of the foam material remains uncut at a sharp of the “V” of the notch 89 to act as a hinge 97 for folding. Notches 89 are positioned along the length of the extrusion 80 so that long lengths 90 and 92 are the same length, and short lengths 91 and 93 are the same length. When the notched and cut extrusion 80 is folded around the vertically orientated hinges 97 as shown in FIG. 10, the “L” shaped extrusion 80 forms a rectangular foam block, and yet another alternate embodiment of the buffer device of FIG. 1. Thus, the folded rectangular foam block forms the folded buffer device 94.

FIG. 10 is an isometric view showing a rectangular shape of the folded buffer device 94 with an upper component socket 95 extending downwardly therein for the reception of a computer system component 70′ such as a desktop computer or other computer system component. An opening 96 is located below the upper component socket 95 and between the horizontal walls 83 and extends vertically through the folded buffer device 94. The folded buffer device 94 has the vertical wall 82 extending around a perimeter of the folded buffer device 94 with the horizontal walls 83 extending inwardly at a bottom of the rectangular shape to define the upper component socket 95 sized for the reception of the component 70′ therein. As configured, when an end of the component 70′ is placed into the upper component socket 95, the horizontal walls 83 will contact a bottom end 75 of the component 70′ and the vertical walls 82 will surround a lower portion of walls 76, 77 of the component 70′. A second identical folded buffer device 94′ is shown in outline form above an upper end 78 of the component 70′ in an opposite orientation to mount thereon. The folded configuration of the folded buffer device 94 has the bumpers 84, 85, and 86 extending outwardly from the

Thus, folded buffer devices 94 and 94′ can protect the component 70′ in three axes of movement, along a vertical axis “A”, along a longitudinal axis “B”, and along a lateral axis “C”. The folded buffer device 94 can be constrained in the folded position by placement into the a box such as box 110 (see FIG. 1), or any (or all) of the notched areas 89 and the ends 87, 88 can be secured, glued, laminated or welded to secure folded buffer device 94 in the folded position of FIG. 10. Alternately, using the process described above, an alternate embodiment of the folded buffer device 94 can be assembled from separate pieces that are secured together rather than by folding a single cut and notched piece. Securing methods can include mechanical fasteners, welding, gluing or any other method of securing foam pieces together.

Using a foam extrusion to construct a buffer device such as 20 offers an advantage not found in the prior art. That is, a single extrusion profile can be cut and notched differently to accommodate different sized components. For example, the “L” shaped profile 81 can be used to produce long lengths of foam extrusion 80 that can be cut and notched to match a periphery of a device. In FIG. 9, the “L” shaped foam extrusion 80 is shown cut and notched to provide long lengths 90, 92 and short lengths 91, 93 to match the component 70′. If the long lengths 90, 92 are kept the same as shown in FIG. 9, and the short lengths 91, 93 are doubled in length from those lengths shown in FIG. 9, an alternate folded buffer device 94′ can be created to accommodate a bigger component 70″ that has the same length long sides 77 and doubled length short sides 76′ from those shown on component 70

Thus, one foam extrusion can be used with a wide variety of differently sized products by appropriately cutting the extrusion to the necessary length, and notching the foam extrusion to create a buffer device to fit around the end of the product. This flexibility reduces the number of different buffer devices that need to be stored, and the single foam extrusion can be merely cut to size to match a wide variety of different sized products. This reduces tooling costs by reducing the need for a number of different sized foam extrusions, reduces inventory costs by reducing the number of different type of buffer devices or different foam extrusions that must be stored, and a single foam extrusion can be easily and rapidly cut to a new foldable shape to accommodate a new product with the same cutting equipment.

In preferred embodiments, the foam bumpers for both the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30 and the “L” shaped extrusion 80 are arcuate or curved as shown in at least FIGS. 3, 6 and 8, and do not present a flat bumper surface in any direction. When subjected to a shock load, the geometry of the arcuate bumper surfaces are configured with a progressive rate geometry wherein the foam bumpers become stiffer the more they are deflected. That is, the arcuate bumpers act as a soft bumper for small deflections and progressively increase in stiffness as the deflections increase. Since shock loads are applied to the bumpers as pounds per square inch of area, the area of the bumper has a direct effect on the amount of deflection. As the arcuate bumpers are compressed, the area of the bumper in contact with an inner wall of the box increases, and this spreads the shock load over a greater area of the bumper. This progressive rate geometry embodiment of a buffer device can be advantageous to reduce shock and vibrations transmitted to components supported by the progressive rate geometry foam bumpers, and the arcuate geometry can be tuned with different arcuate profiles to optimize the buffering and protection of fragile components.

One example of a foam extrusion with the progressive rate compression bumpers is shown in a partial cross sectional view of FIG. 11. In FIG. 1, a component 70 is supported within the “U” shaped foam extrusion 30, and both are surrounded by the box 110. The extrusion 30 has arcuate bumpers 40, and 42 in contact with a left wall 112 of the box 110. As shown, the point of contact for each bumper 40, 42 is a line of contact having a first height 115 and bumpers 40,42 have an uncompressed length 116. FIG. 12 shows the partial cross sectional view of FIG. 11 wherein an object 125 has impacted against the left side of the box 110 and the component 70 surrounded by the U″ shaped foam extrusion 30 is being thrown in the direction indicated by the arrow (to the left). The impact of object 125 has compressed the length of the arcuate foam bumpers 40, 42 to a compressed length 118 as shown and increased a height of the line of contact to a compressed height 117. Thus under shock load, the foam bumpers 40, 42 progressively compress from the position of FIG. 11 to the position of FIG. and due to the arcuate geometry of the bumpers, progressively increases the height of the line of contact from 115 to 117 as well as the contact area between the bumpers 40, 42 and the wall 112. Thus, the progressive rate geometry of arcuate bumpers 40, 42 progressively changes the

It should be appreciated that any patent, publication, or other disclosure material, in whole or in part, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein is incorporated herein only to the extent that the incorporated material does not conflict with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth in this disclosure. As such, and to the extent necessary, the disclosure as explicitly set forth herein supersedes any conflicting material incorporated herein by reference. Any material, or portion thereof, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein, but which conflicts with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth herein will only be incorporated to the extent that no conflict arises between that incorporated material and the existing disclosure material.

While the present invention has been illustrated by description of several embodiments and while the illustrative embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not the intention of the applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications may readily appear to those skilled in the art.

For example,