Title:
MOBILE GARMENT CARRIER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A garment carrier (110) adapted to fit within a transportation container, especially a sea freight or air freight container. The carrier comprises a support frame (115, 117) and hanger rails (138) connectable to the support frame. The carrier is operable between an assembled state, in which the support frame components are interconnected to define a storage region for garments, and a disassembled state in which at least some of said support frame components and hanger rails are disconnected from one another to allow said disconnected components and hanger rails to be stacked upon each other such that said storage region is substantially eliminated.



Inventors:
Meehan, Gerard (Belfast, GB)
Application Number:
12/091597
Publication Date:
05/14/2009
Filing Date:
10/26/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/18; B65D19/38
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20040140280Gun safe with pull out delivery systemJuly, 2004Cleveland et al.
20040074858Collapsible clothes drying rackApril, 2004Thuma et al.
20070119800Stacking systemMay, 2007Cornish
20060016709Cassettes for receiving glass substratesJanuary, 2006Chen et al.
20070175772Free-standing or hanging jewelry and/or accessory holderAugust, 2007Cunningham
20050284833Corner post and maufacturing process for making sameDecember, 2005Wyatt et al.
20090057253SUPPORT TRAY WITH INFINITE MOUNTING POSITIONSMarch, 2009Blackburn
20070007223Modular overhead storageJanuary, 2007Thrush et al.
20090090680RACK SYSTEMS FOR USE WITH KITCHENWARE WASHING ASSEMBLIES AND RELATED METHODSApril, 2009Bigott
20080190872Modular shipping and display palletAugust, 2008Scollon et al.



Primary Examiner:
NOVOSAD, JENNIFER ELEANORE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VAN DYKE, GARDNER, LINN & BURKHART, LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A garment carrier adapted to fit within a transportation container, the carrier comprising a support frame being comprised of a plurality of support frame components; and at least one hanger rail connectable to said support frame, wherein the carrier is operable between an assembled state, in which said support frame components are interconnected to form said support frame, said support frame defining a storage region for garments, and said at least one hanger rail being connected to said support frame and extend substantially across said storage region, and a disassembled state, in which at least some of said support frame components and hanger rails are disconnected from one another to allow said disconnected components and hanger rails to be stacked upon each other such that said storage region is substantially eliminated.

2. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 1, wherein said support frame comprises first and second side frames, a respective first upright being provided at one end of each side frame and a respective second upright being provided at the other end of each side frame; at least one first rail support member connectable between respective first uprights, and at least one second rail support member connectable between respective second uprights, wherein said at least one hanger rail is connectable between said first and second rail support members.

3. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein said first and second side frames are substantially rectangular in shape and, when the carrier is in the assembled state, are spaced apart in substantially parallel planes, said at least one rail support member extending substantially perpendicular to said parallel planes and said at least one hanger rail extending substantially parallel with said parallel planes.

4. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein said rail support members are connectable to said uprights at a plurality of locations along the length of the upright.

5. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 4, wherein each upright comprises, spaced apart along its length, a plurality of apertures for receiving a fixing member.

6. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 5, wherein a respective male or female member is provided adjacent or around each aperture, a corresponding female or male member being provided on said rail support members for engagement therewith when said rail support members are connected to said uprights.

7. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein said at least one hanger rail is connectable to said rail support members at a plurality of locations along its length.

8. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 7, wherein each rail support member comprises a plurality of apertures spaced apart along its length for receiving a bolt or other fixing member.

9. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein each rail support member is shaped to define a shelf which, in the assembled state, extends between the respective uprights and supports an end of at least one of said hanger rails.

10. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein each rail support member comprises an elongate body portion and a respective bracket at each end of the body portion, the brackets being connectable to the respective uprights.

11. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 10, wherein said brackets extend substantially perpendicularly from said body portion.

12. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 11, wherein said brackets are fixed to said body portion end-to-end such that the rail support member is substantially U-shaped.

13. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 10, wherein each bracket includes at least one aperture for receiving a bolt or other fixing member.

14. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, comprising a brace member connectable to one or other of said side frames and extending substantially diagonally across said side frame.

15. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 1 further comprising at least one ground engagable wheel fixed to, or removably mountable on, the support frame.

16. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 15, wherein the wheel is incorporated into a respective wheel assembly unit, said wheel assembly unit being pivotable about an axis that is substantially parallel with the in use axis of rotation of the wheel between a ground-engaging position and a stored position in which the wheel is located substantially above, in use, the level of the lower cross-pieces.

17. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, in which at least one of said side frames includes at least one abutment member projecting outwardly of the respective side frame.

18. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 17, wherein said at least one abutment member includes at least one elongate bar extending substantially along the length of at least one of said side frames, and being located at the in use upper and/or in use lower end of the respective side frame.

19. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 17, wherein said at least one abutment member includes at least one abutment pad.

20. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 17, wherein at least some of said abutment members are reversibly extendable in a direction away from the carrier.

21. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 15, further comprising a lifting mechanism operable between a deployed state, in which the lifting mechanism is arranged to engage with a ground surface in order to lift the support frame with respect to the ground surface, and a retracted state in which the support frame is not lifted with respect to the ground surface.

22. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 21, wherein, in the deployed state the lifting mechanism is arranged to lift the wheel out of rolling contact with the ground surface, and in the retracted state the wheel is capable of rolling engagement with the ground surface.

23. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 21, wherein said lifting mechanism comprises at least one ground engagable rail coupled to the support frame and movable towards and away from the in use underside of the support frame by means of a coupling mechanism, and said coupling mechanism comprising, two or more linkage members pivotably connected to each of the rail and the support frame.

24. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 1, wherein said at least one hanger rail comprises a rail portion and a cap portion, the cap portion being releasably engagable with the body portion in order that hangers may, in use, be clamped between the rail portion and the cap portion.

25. A garment carrier as claimed in claim 2, wherein said rail support members are slidably coupled to respective uprights for sliding movement longitudinally of said uprights.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to mobile garment carriers, especially for a shipping container or for an air freight container.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

Garments are commonly transported from their country of manufacture to their country of sale or distribution in general purpose shipping containers. The transportation of shipping contained may take place by land, air and/or sea.

In order to protect the garments from damage or undue creasing, it is preferred to hang the garments within the shipping container rather than simply stack them one on top of the other. To this end it is common for organisations to modify the general purpose containers to include hanging equipment. Most commonly, a rail is welded across the inside of the container from end to end, from which rail garments, or racks of garments, can be suspended.

A perceived problem with this arrangement is that the utility of the modified containers is compromised by the provision of the rail, which is usually a permanent fixture of the modified container. As a result, once the garments have been unloaded, it is not usually possible to put the modified container to immediate good use. This a particular problem in today's garment industry where the transportation of garments is mostly one-way traffic: garments are transported from one country, say in the Far East, to another country, for example the United Kingdom, but not the other way round. This means that the modified containers normally end up being transported back to the country of origin (or to another destination where they can be used to carry garments) either empty, or only partially filled with other cargo. Clearly, this is uneconomical.

Another perceived problem with the conventional arrangement is the time taken to load and unload garments into the containers. Typically, the containers only become available when the carrying vehicle (e.g. ship, plane, train, lorry) arrives at the loading/unloading destination. Thus, if the carrying vehicle is to continue its journey with the same containers, its departure is delayed by the time it takes to load and unload the containers. Again for economical reasons it is desirable to reduce the loading/unloading time.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, one aspect of the invention provides a garment carrier adapted to fit within a transportation container, the carrier comprising a support frame being comprised of a plurality of support frame components; and at least one hanger rail connectable to said support frame, wherein the carrier is operable between an assembled state, in which said support frame components are interconnected to form said support frame, said support frame defining a storage region for garments, and said at least one hanger rail being connected to said support frame and extend substantially across said storage region, and a disassembled state, in which at least some of said support frame components and hanger rails are disconnected from one another to allow said disconnected components and hanger rails to be stacked upon each other such that said storage region is substantially eliminated.

From another aspect the invention provides a garment carrier adapted to fit within a transportation container, the carrier comprising a support frame; one or more hanger rails; and at least one wheel arranged to facilitate movement of the carrier with respect to ground.

Preferably, the support frame is generally rectangular in cross-section and comprises two opposing side-frames, said one or more hanger rails being supported, in use, between said opposing side frames. Preferably, the carrier comprises at least three wheels which, conveniently, may be fixed, or mountable, to one or other of the side frames.

Preferably, the carrier comprises at least one adjustable abutment member being extendible outwardly with respect to the support frame. More preferably, the carrier comprises at least one adjustable abutment member on either side of at least one set of opposing sides of the support frame. Preferably, the carrier includes at least one adjustable abutment member on the base of the support frame.

Preferably, the carrier includes at least one fixed abutment member projecting outwardly from the support frame.

In preferred embodiments, the carrier includes a lifting mechanism comprising at least one rail coupled to the base of the carrier and movable between a deployed state and a retracted state. In the deployed state, the lifting mechanism lifts the at least one wheel off a ground surface. The lifting mechanism is preferably coupled to the base of the carrier by means of a pivotable linkage mechanism comprising, for example, two or more linkage members pivotably connected to each of the rail and the base of the carrier.

Further preferred features are recited in the dependent claims and other advantageous features and aspects of the invention will become apparent to those ordinarily skilled in the art upon review of the following description of specific embodiments and with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the invention are now described by way of example and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a mobile garment carrier embodying the invention:

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of a first component of the carrier of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of second component of the carrier of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2C is a perspective view of a third component of the carrier of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows in side view a transport container loaded with eight garment carriers as shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of part of a garment carrier including a lifting mechanism;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a mobile garment carrier;

FIG. 6 is a side view of the mobile garment carrier of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is an end view of the mobile garment carrier of FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is a plan view of the mobile garment carrier of FIG. 5;

FIGS. 9 and 10 show perspective views of respective suspension mechanisms for use with the wheels of garment carriers embodying the invention;

FIGS. 11 and 12 show perspective views of respective alternative hanger rail configurations;

FIG. 13 shows a perspective view an alternative mechanism for connecting the rail supports to the uprights;

FIG. 14 shows a plan view of the upright shown in FIG. 13; and

FIG. 15 shows a side view of an alternative rail support.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring now to FIG. 1 of the drawings, there is shown, generally indicated at 10, a mobile garment carrier embodying the invention. The carrier 10 comprises a support frame 12 which includes two opposing end or side frames 14, 16. The side frames 14, 16 are generally or substantially rectangular and are comprised of a respective spaced-apart upper cross-piece 18, 20 and lower cross-piece 22, 24 and a respective spaced-apart left upright 26, 28 and right upright 30, 32. The side frames 14, 16 are joined to one another at their respective lower cross-pieces 22, 24 by two spaced apart base supports 34, 36. Four spaced-apart hanger rails 38 are provided between the opposing side frames 14, 16, conveniently connected between the respective upper cross-pieces 18, 20.

In the preferred embodiment, the upper cross-pieces 18, 20 are arranged to project beyond the locations where the outermost hanger rails 38 join with the upper cross-pieces 18, 20. The respective projecting portion of the upper cross-pieces form abutment members which, in the preferred embodiment are fixed and provided with a respective abutment plate 40. Preferably, the left and right uprights 26, 28 and 30, 32, the base supports 34, 36 and the hanger rails 38 are made from rigid material, preferably metal e.g. steel or aluminium, of substantially rectangular cross-section. The upper and lower cross-pieces 18, 20 and 22, 24, which are also preferably made from metal, are conveniently L-shaped in cross-section in order to facilitate fixing the base supports and hanger rails thereto. The abutments 40 may be extendible and retractable in an in use substantially horizontal direction.

The carrier 10 also includes a set of wheels 42. In the preferred embodiment there are four wheels: a respective two wheels 42 being provided on each lower cross-piece 22, 24. The wheels may take any suitable conventional form and may be mounted to the carrier 10 in any suitable conventional fashion. It is preferred that the wheels 42 are able to pivot, or swivel, during use (at least about an axis that is substantially parallel with the uprights, or which is substantially vertical during use) and, to this end, it is convenient to use castors or similar wheels such as may be found on, for example, furniture or trolleys.

In the preferred embodiment, the carrier 10 further includes a plurality of adjustable abutment members which, in FIGS. 1 and 2, take the form of adjustable feet 44. The feet 44 are extendible outwardly of the support frame 12 (downwardly as viewed in FIG. 1) by any suitable conventional means including screw and thread arrangements or telescopic means. Preferably, there are four feet, each foot 44 conveniently being provided on the lower cross-pieces 22, 24 adjacent a respective wheel 42. Each foot 44 is moveable between a retracted state, in which it extends from the support frame 12 less than the outermost portion of the respective adjacent wheel 42, and an extended state, in which it projects from the support frame 12 further than the outermost portion of the respective adjacent wheel 42. The arrangement is such that, when a foot 44 is in the retracted state, the respective associated wheel 42 is, during use, in contact with the ground and may roll freely; and when the foot 44 is in the extended state, the respective wheel 42 is lifted off the ground during use, the carrier thus being supported by the foot 44.

In use, garments may be loaded onto the carrier 10 in a number of different ways. Typically, garments are fitted onto conventional individual garment hangers (not shown) or onto conventional multi-garment racks/hangers (not shown), which hangers are suspended from one or other of the hanger rails 38. Once the carrier 10 is loaded, it may be wheeled (with the feet 44 in the retracted state) into a shipping, or transport, container (not shown in FIG. 1). When the carrier 10 is inside the container, the feet 44 may be moved to the extended state thereby lifting the wheels 42 off the base of the container. This prevents the carrier 10 from rolling within the container. It is preferred that the feet 44 are arranged to project sufficiently far from the carrier 10 in the extended state so as to lift the carrier 10 up until its top abuts against the roof of the container. Thus a bracing effect is achieved between the carrier 10 and the container which serves to secure the carrier 10 with respect to the container.

One or more similar adjustable abutment members (not shown) may be provided elsewhere on the support frame 12 (for example on the upper cross-pieces 18, 20 and/or left and right uprights 26, 28 and 30, 32) and be arranged to project upwardly of the carrier 10, to the left, to the right, forwards and/or rearwards (all as viewed in FIG. 1), and arranged to provide, either individually or combined, a bracing effect between the carrier 10 and the container.

Typically, a shipping container is large enough to receive a plurality of carriers 10 end-to-end or side-by-side depending on the dimensions of the container and the carrier 10. The carrier 10 shown in FIG. 1 is particularly arranged so that the respective abutment plates 40 of adjacent carriers 10 abut against one another. Not only does this help to brace the carriers 10 securely within the container, but it also maintains a spacing between the respective outermost hanger rails 38 of adjacent carriers 10 and this spacing ensures that all of the hanger rails 38 are useable. In a preferred embodiment, the abutment members that carry the plates 40 are extendible. FIG. 3 shows a side view of a transport container 100 loaded with eight carriers 10.

When unloading a container, the feet 44 (and any other extendible abutment members) are moved to the retracted state thereby allowing the, or each, carrier 10 to be wheeled out of the container. Preferably, a cover 46 (shown in dashed outline in FIG. 1) fits around the loaded carrier 10 during use in order to protect the garments carried thereby. The cover 46 may be made from, for example, cloth or plastics.

Referring now to FIGS. 2A to 2C, it will be seen that the carrier 10 may readily be disassembled. In the preferred embodiment, the carrier 10 comprises three main component types shown respectively in FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C. FIG. 2A shows an upper piece comprising upper cross-pieces 18′, 20′, hanger rails 38 and abutment plates 40. FIG. 2B shows a side frame comprising left and right uprights 26, 30, upper and lower cross-pieces 18′, 22, two wheels 42 and two feet 44. FIG. 2C shows a base support 34. The left and right uprights 26, 30 include a respective socket 50 for inter-engagement with a respective lug 52 provided on the cross-piece 18′ of the upper piece shown in FIG. 2a (FIGS. 2a and 2b are not shown to scale). Similar lugs 52 are provided on the cross piece 20′ of FIG. 2a. Clearly to form the opposite side of the carrier 10 a second side frame (not shown) similar to the side frame shown in FIG. 2b is provided. The second side frame includes sockets for inter-engagement with the lugs 52 provided on the cross-piece 20′. It will be understood that when the carrier 10 is assembled, the two cross-pieces 18′ together form the upper cross-piece 18 and the two cross-pieces 20′ together form the lower cross-piece 20. When assembled, the top piece is conveniently bolted (or releasable fixed in any other suitable conventional manner) to the side frames via apertures 54. The base supports 34 may be similarly fixed to the lower cross-pieces 22, 24 via apertures 56.

It will be seen that when the carrier 10 is disassembled into the component parts illustrated in FIGS. 2A to 2C, it may readily be flat-packed for efficient storage. Referring now to FIG. 4, there is shown part of a garment carrier including a lifting mechanism, generally indicated as 70. The lifting mechanism may be used in conjunction with any garment carrier, including the garment carrier 10, any alternative embodiments of garment carriers described herein or any other garment carrier embodying any aspect of this invention. The lifting mechanism 70 comprises an elongate member in the form of a rail or bar 72 coupled to the base of the garment carrier. In FIG. 4, the base of the garment carrier is shown as including a cross bar 71 (which, in use, is disposed substantially parallel with the surface on which the garment carrier rests), the crossbar 71 extending between two uprights at either end or side of the garment carrier. The uprights, which is shown as 73 in FIG. 4 carry castors 75, or other wheels, at their in-use lower ends, although the castors may be provided elsewhere on the base. The rail 72 is preferably substantially parallel with the base or crossbar 71 of the garment carrier 70. The coupling between the rail 72 and the base/crossbar 71 is such that the rail 72 is movable between a deployed state (as shown in FIG. 4) and a retracted state (not illustrated). In the deployed state, the rail 72 is spaced apart from the base/crossbar 71 to an extent that it is at least partially disposed beyond the castors 75 with respect to the carrier 70. The arrangement is such that, when the rail 72 engages with a ground surface (not shown) the castor 75 do not engage with the ground surface. In the retracted state, the rail 72 does not extend beyond the castor 75, i.e. it is located between a notional line joining the in-use lower surfaces of the castors and the base/crossbar 71. In this state, when the garment carrier rests on a ground surface, the castors 75 engage with the ground. The rail 72 preferably does not engage with the ground in this state although it could optionally be flush with the castors 75 so that both the castors 75 and the rail 72 engage with the ground. In the preferred embodiment, the rail 72 is located against the crossbar 71 when in the retracted state.

The coupling mechanism between the rail 72 and the base of the garment carrier preferably takes the form of a pivotable linkage mechanism. The linkage mechanism may comprise a plurality of link members 74, each being pivotably coupled or connected to the base/bar 71 and the rail 72. Each link member 74 may take the form of a bar having one end pivotably connected to the crossbar 71 and the other end pivotably connected to the rail 72. In the preferred embodiment each link member 74 comprises two spaced apart, substantially parallel bars, a respective one being disposed on either side of the rail 72 and crossbar 71 and each being pivotably connected to the rail 72 and the crossbar 71.

In the preferred embodiment, therefore, the rail 72 is movable between its deployed and retracted states by means of a pivoting motion as the link members 74 rotate about their pivot points with the crossbar 71 and rail 72.

To facilitate actuation of the rail 72 between the retracted and deployed states, a lever 76 may be provided on the lifting mechanism 70. The lever 76 may be provided in the form of an extension of one or more of the linkage bars 74, as illustrated by way of example in FIG. 4. Hence, with reference to FIG. 4, movement of the lever 76 in the direction indicated by arrow A1 causes the linkage bar 74 to pivot thereby causing the rail 72 to be actuated from the deployed state to the retracted state.

A locking mechanism (not shown) may be provided to lock the lifting mechanism 70 in the deployed state or the retracted state. A second lifting mechanism (not shown) being substantially similar to the lifting mechanism 70, is typically provided on the opposite side (not shown) of the garment carrier.

During use, when the lifting mechanism 70 is retracted, the garment carrier may be wheeled along a suitable ground surface. When it is desired to prevent the garment carrier from rolling, the lifting mechanism may be actuated to the deployed state thereby lifting the castors 75 off the ground surface. In this state, the rails 72 are in contact with the ground surface and allow a sliding movement of the garment carrier if required. Since the garment carriers are typically shipped inside shipping containers, the lifting mechanism 70, when deployed, may cause the garment carrier to be braced between two opposing internal surfaces of a shipping container thereby effectively locking the garment carrier in position.

Further, in the preferred arrangement, the spaces defined by the linkage bars 74, the rail 72 and the base/crossbar 71 may receive the fork (not shown) of a forklift and so facilitate the lifting and transporting of the garment carriers.

Referring now to FIGS. 5 to 8, a preferred embodiment of a garment carrier 110 is described. The carrier 110 comprises a frame or framework including first and second opposing side frames 115, 117 which, typically, are substantially rectangular in shape. The side frames 115, 117 each comprise a respective spaced-apart upper cross-piece 119, 121 and lower cross-piece 123, 125 and a respective spaced-apart left upright 127, 129 and right upright 131, 133. The side frames 115, 117, and more particularly the respective opposing uprights thereof, are joined, in an assembled state, to one another by means of at least one of, and typically a plurality of, rail support members 135. In the preferred embodiment, each pair of opposing uprights 127, 129 and 131, 133 are joined together by at least two respective rail supports 135, a respective rail support 35 typically being located at or adjacent the in use upper and lower ends of the uprights 127, 129, 131, 133. Typically, each rail support 35 extends substantially perpendicularly between the side frames 115, 117. At least one of the upper cross pieces 119, 121 is shaped and dimensioned to project beyond its respective side wall 117, 119 outwardly of the carrier 110 so that it may serve as a buffer or abutment against adjacent carriers during use. Additionally, or alternatively, one or both of the lower cross-pieces 123, 125 may be shaped and dimensioned to project beyond their respective side wall 117, 119 outwardly of the carrier 110 so that they may serve as a buffer or abutment against adjacent carriers during use.

At least one hanger rail 138 is connectable between opposing rail supports 35. Each hanger rail 138 typically takes the form of a rigid or semi rigid bar or rod and preferably is substantially circular in cross-section. In the preferred embodiment, the rails 138 run substantially perpendicular to the rail supports 135.

The hanger rails 138 and rail supports 135, when assembled, together form a rack from which garments may be hung.

Advantageously, a brace 137, typically in the form of a rigid bar, is provided at one side 117 of the carrier 110. The brace 137 extends obliquely or substantially diagonally across the side 117. Preferably, the brace 137 extends substantially from one corner of the frame 117 substantially to the diagonally opposing corner of the frame 117. The brace 137 may be fixed to the frame 117 by any convenient means but is preferably removably attachable to the frame 117, e.g. by means of bolts or other fixings, so that it may be removed when it is desired to disassemble the carrier 110. In the illustrated embodiment as may best be viewed in FIG. 7, the brace 137 has a respective socket portion 139 at each end, each socket portion preferably extending substantially perpendicularly from the brace 137 and defining a respective socket which fits onto a respective lug (not visible) projecting from the frame 117 and which may be secured in place by bolts 141 or other fixings.

At least one but typically a plurality of apertures 141 are formed in each of the uprights 127, 129, 131, 133. The apertures 141 are spaced-apart along the respective upright in a longitudinal direction and are preferably distributed along substantially the entire length of the respective upright. The apertures 141 formed in an upright of one side frame 117, 119 are arranged to face, and to be substantially in register with in a direction substantially perpendicular to the uprights, the apertures 141 formed in an opposing upright of the other side frame 119, 117. The apertures 141 provide means by which the rail supports 135 may be detachably mounted on the uprights and conveniently take the form of bolt-receiving apertures. Advantageously, a male or female formation is provided adjacent or at least partially around each aperture, a corresponding, inter-engaging female or male member being provided on the rail supports as is described in more detail below. In the illustrated embodiment, a male member in the form of a lip or collar 143 is provided around each aperture 141.

Each rail support 135 comprises a body portion 145 with a respective bracket portion 147 provided at either end. Each bracket 147 includes at least one a preferably at least two apertures 149 being compatible in size and spacing with the apertures 141 formed in the uprights. In use, the brackets of each rail support 135 engage with a respective opposing upright of a respective side frame 117, 119 such that the apertures 149 of the brackets 147 are aligned with a respective aperture 141 of the respective upright. In this arrangement, a respective bolt or other removable fixing may be inserted through the aligned apertures and secured in an appropriate fashion to fix the rail support 135 between two uprights. In the illustrated embodiment, a channel or recess (not visible) is provided around each aperture 149 in the brackets 147 for inter-engagement with the collar 143 around the respective upright aperture 141. This provides the rail supports 135 with an improved load-bearing capability. The brackets 147 preferably extend substantially perpendicularly from the body portion 145 and comprise at least two apertures 149. The brackets 147 are conveniently substantially L-shaped in transverse cross-section. Preferably, the brackets 147 and body portion 145 are connected end-to-end to one another. Alternatively, at least some of the brackets (not illustrated) may be relatively truncated and comprise only one aperture. Such brackets are able to pivot with respect to the upright about their respective fixing.

The body portion 145 includes at least one but typically a plurality of apertures 151 spaced-apart along its length. The body portion 145 is shaped to define a shelf and, to this end, is conveniently substantially L-shaped in transverse cross section. When fitted between opposing rail supports 135 a respective end of each hanger 138 rests on a respective shelf. The end of each hanger 138 may be provided with an aperture for receiving a bolt, or other fixing, or may carry a bolt or other fixing that is compatible with the apertures in the rail support 135. Hence, the hangers 138 may be releasably fixed to the rail supports 135. When the carrier 110 is assembled, the apertures 151 in opposing rail supports 135 are aligned such that the hangers 138 run substantially perpendicular to the rail supports 135. It will be appreciated that other conventional means for releasably fixing the hangers 138 to the rail supports 135 and/or the rail supports 135 to the uprights may be employed.

The carrier 110 advantageously has a plurality of wheels 142, conveniently 4 wheels, especially swivelling wheels, one at each lower corner as shown. The wheels 142 may be detachable, or at least lockable. In a preferred embodiment (not shown), each wheel 142 is incorporated into a wheel assembly unit, each wheel assembly unit being pivotable about an axis that is substantially parallel with the axis of rotation of the wheels 142 between a ground-engaging position (e.g. as shown in the drawings) and a stored position (not illustrated) in which the wheels 142 are located substantially above (in use) the level of the lower cross-pieces 123, 125 such that the carrier may rest on the ground (not shown) without appreciable interference from the wheels 142. This allows the advantage of effectively being able to remove the wheels without the disadvantage of potentially losing the wheels once they are removed. The carrier 110 may also comprise one or more sockets and/or plugs on its in use underside, and cooperating plugs and/or sockets on its in use upper face so that two or more carriers may be stacked one on top of the other with respective plugs and sockets engaging for stability. For example, the in use lower end of each upright 127, 129, 131, 133, may be shaped to define a respective socket, while a corresponding plug or projection may be provided at the other end of each upright, or vice versa.

Optionally, the or each lower cross-piece 123, 125 may carry one or more rigid straps 155 on its in use underside, the straps being positioned and dimensioned to receive a tine of a fork lift (not shown). Preferably, the or each cross-piece 123, 125 has two such straps 155, spaced apart to accommodate the tines of conventional fork lifts.

In an alternative embodiment (not illustrated), each hanger is connectable to the rail supports by means of a twist and lock mechanism which may comprise a respective key member at each end of each hanger, typically in the form of a plate disposed substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the hanger, and one or more corresponding slots formed in the rail supports for receiving and retaining the key members. The preferred arrangement is that the slot(s) are shaped and dimensioned to allow the keys to be inserted when in a first orientation and to allow the key members to be rotated (after insertion into the slot, e.g. by rotation of the respective hanger) into a second orientation in which they are retained by the slot.

Typically, most of not all of the components of the carrier 10, 110 are formed from steel, especially mild steel, or aluminium.

It will be apparent that the carrier 110 can readily be assembled and disassembled by connecting/disconnecting the various components of the framework as appropriate. Moreover, the carrier 110 may adopt a plurality of configurations to suit different garment transporting requirements. In particular, the number of hanging racks (i.e. sets of hanger rails 138 with supports 138) is selectable, as is the position and relative spacing of the racks. Within each rack, the number, position and relative spacing of the hanger rails 138 is also selectable.

Referring now to FIG. 9, each wheel 42, 142, 75 of the carrier 10, 110 may be coupled to the carrier 10, 110 by a suspension mechanism 80 which may comprise a shock absorber, for example in the form of resilient biasing element, such as a spring 82, contained within a housing 84, and arranged to act on a respective wheel 42, 142, 75 via a wheel support 86. The suspension mechanism 80 may be fixed to the carrier 10, 110 by any convenient conventional means, e.g. by bolts or screws. FIG. 19 shows an alternative suspension mechanism in the form of a shock absorbing pad or plate 88 provided between the carrier 10, 110 and a respective wheel support 87. The shock absorbing pad 88 may be formed from, for example, rubber.

Referring now to FIG. 11, there is shown, in part, an alternative hanger rail 238. The rail 238 includes a rail portion 239 and a cap portion 241. The cap portion 241 may be removably fitted onto the rail portion and secured to the rail portion 239 by any suitable fixing, e.g. one or more bolts 243. The cap portion 241 may be shaped to substantially match the shape of the external surface of part of the rail portion 239 (typically the in use upper part of the rail portion 239) so that the cap portion 241 fits closely to the rail portion 239. Preferably, the cap portion 241 is dimensioned to extend substantially along the entire length of the rail portion 239. The cap portion 241 serves as a clamp by which hangers (not shown), particularly hangers which have a string, or similar, hanging portion, can be secured to the rails 238. FIG. 12 shows an alternative hanger rail 238′, which is similar to the hanger rail 238, in which the rail portion 239′ and cap portion 241′ have an alternative cross-sectional shape. In particular, the in use upper and/or lower faces of the hanger rail 238′ may be shaped to define a respective apex. In some embodiments, a longitudinal groove 245 may be provided along one or both sides of the hanger rails 38, 138, 238, 238′. This improves the strength of the rails and is particularly preferred when the rails are formed from metal such as aluminium.

Referring now to FIGS. 13 and 14, in an alternative embodiment, the rail support 235 and the uprights 227, 229, 231, 233 are arranged for sliding inter-engagement. To this end, the uprights 227, 229, 231, 233 include an elongate female connector, or slide 290, running longitudinally of the uprights. A corresponding male connector 292 is provided at each end of the rail supports 235. Alternatively, the female connector(s) may be provided on the rail supports and a male slide-like connector may be provided on each upright. In the illustrated embodiment, the bracket portions 247 of the rail members 235 are provided with curved runners 294 adapted to fit within correspondingly curved tracks 296 provided on the uprights. Each rail support 235 may be coupled between two uprights by slotting the bracket portions 247 into the respective slide 290. The arrangement is such that, when so engaged, the rail supports 235 are able to be moved only longitudinally of the uprights. The rail supports 235 may be fixed in a desired vertical or longitudinal position with respect to the uprights by any suitable means. Preferably, however, this is achieved by means of a cam device 298 which is pivotably or rotatably mounted on the support 235 adjacent a respective aperture 299. The cam device 298 is rotatable or pivotable between a first operational state, in which the shape and relative angular orientation of the cam device is such that it does not impede relative sliding movement between the rail support 235 and the respective upright, and a second operational state in which the shape and relative angular orientation of the cam device is such that it bears against the respective upright to prevent relative sliding movement between the two.

Referring now to FIG. 15, in an alternative embodiment, at least some of the rail supports 335 may have a body portion 245 shaped to define a plurality of seats 295 along its length, each seat being shaped and dimensioned to receive an end of a respective hanger rail 38, 138, 238, 238′, wherein the shape of the seats 295 substantially match the portion of the hanger rail to be seated therein. Preferably, a respective seat 295 is provided adjacent each aperture 351.

The respective features of the embodiments described herein may be used in other embodiments and/or in combination with other features as will be apparent to a skilled person.

The main advantages of carriers embodying the invention are outlined below. It will be seen that carriers embodying the invention benefits not only the organisation sending/receiving the garments, but also the organisation performing the transportation. Transportation containers may be loaded and unloaded more quickly than is possible using conventional methods since the carriers 10, 110 may be rolled into/out of the containers rather than loading/unloading garments individually. Moreover, because the garments can be pre-loaded into the carriers 10, 110, there is no need to wait for the arrival of the containers before loading can begin.

The provision of a support frame around the garments and in particular the provision of the cover 46 serves to provide additional protection for the garments during transportation and storage. Moreover, the covers 46 may optionally be sealed with a conventional tamper-evident sealing device. This further increases the security and facilitates control of the cargo.

The management of the cargo is facilitated because, before and after the garments are loaded into or unloaded from the container, the cargo is in manageable, mobile units, i.e. carriers 10, 110 which are easier to control (e.g. for an onward journey, distribution or storage) than a pile of individual garments. Moreover, each carrier 10, 110 may be provided with a unique identifier, e.g. barcode, to further facilitate management of the cargo.

The use of carriers 10, 110 obviates the need to modify existing shipping containers. Thus, the transportation organisation can use standard containers without having to keep a supply of modified containers for garments. This reduces the incidence of container redundancy.

Because the preferred carriers can readily be dismantled, flat-packed and re-assembled, they do not cause storage problems when not in use and can be returned to the garment source in a space- and cost-efficient manner.

It will be understood that invention is not limited to the specific configuration of carrier 10, 110 shown in the drawings. For example, the size and shape of the carrier may be modified to suit the application (and in particular the size and shape of the transport container for which it is intended). Similarly, the number of, and position of, the wheels 42, feet 44 (and other adjustable and non-adjustable abutment members), hanger rails 38, base supports 34, lugs 52 and apertures 54, 56 may be modified or varied to suit the application. For example, in alternative embodiments the carrier may have two or more tiers of hanger rails, spaced-apart along the length of the uprights. This arrangement is particularly suitable for carrying garments that are relatively short in length.

The invention is not limited to the embodiments described herein which may be modified or varied without departing from the scope of the invention.





 
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