Title:
Method and apparatus providing support for a parcel being carried manually
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is an apparatus and method for transferring weight of a parcel being carried by a user to the hip area of the user. The apparatus includes one or more small platforms, a brace, and two fasteners. The brace typically slides behind the belt of the user, inside the pants or skirt. The fasteners attach to the belt. The carrier will typically support the parcel with two hands and the platform(s) of the apparatus. The whole apparatus can be fabricated as a unitary component from sheet metal or molded plastic, although often the top surface platform will be covered with some slip-retarding material, such as rubber or plastic. The apparatus is easy to insert and remove, lightweight, and nearly invisible when worn. The device is particularly useful for parcel delivery carriers.



Inventors:
Estrellado, Lorico (Brooklyn Park, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/008898
Publication Date:
07/16/2009
Filing Date:
01/15/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/270
International Classes:
A45F5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SKURDAL, COREY NELSON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Forsgren Fisher McCalmont DeMarea Tysver LLP (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus, adapted to being described by a coordinate system that includes inward, outward, upward, downward, left, and right directions, comprising: a) a rigid first platform, including an essentially flat top surface, the first platform extending outward from a brace; b) the brace, which (i) is rigidly connected to the first platform at an inward edge of the first platform, (ii) is essentially perpendicular to the top surface of the first platform and to a midplane along the edge where the brace is connected to the first platform, (iii) is essentially symmetrical about the midplane, and (iv) curves inward to the left and to the right of the midplane; and c) two fasteners, which (i) are rigidly attached to the brace proximate to a top edge of the brace, one fastener to the left of the midplane and the other to the right of the midplane, (ii) are adapted to attaching the brace to a belt, a garment, or both, and (iii) extend generally outward from the brace.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the brace extends beyond the first platform to the left and right of the midplane.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: d) a rigid second platform, the second platform (i) including an essentially flat top surface that is essentially coplanar with the top surface of the first platform, and (ii) extending outward from the brace.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is essentially symmetrical about the midplane.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the fasteners are hooks that open generally downward.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the platform, brace, and hooks share a unitary component fabricated from a single material.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the unitary component is fabricated from plastic.

8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the unitary component is fabricated from sheet metal.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the fasteners are located essentially symmetrically left and right of the midplane.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the brace is primarily fabricated from metal or molded from plastic.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the top surface has a slip-reducing form.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the slip-reducing form includes rubber.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the slip-reducing form includes plastic.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the slip-reducing form is gridded, ridged, dimpled, or corrugated.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the brace has a thickness that is less than 5 mm.

16. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the brace is adapted to comfortably fit on the front of a user inside a garment that is secured by a belt.

17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the platform rests on the belt.

18. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the platform extends out from its inward edge a distance greater than 0.5 cm and less than 15 cm.

19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the platform extends to the left and to the right of the midplane, respectively, between 0.25 cm and 10 cm.

20. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the mass of the apparatus is less than 0.5 kg.

21. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the brace has a bottom edge that includes a contour to fit the human form.

21. The method of claim 23, further comprising inserting the brace on the front of a user inside a garment that is secured by a belt; and attaching the fasteners to the belt.



22. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein when the brace is worn by a user, the contour causes the brace to avoid the area of the hipbones.

22. The method of claim 23, further comprising carrying the parcel.



23. A method, comprising placing a parcel onto a top surface of a platform of an apparatus, the apparatus adapted to being described by a coordinate system that includes inward, outward, upward, downward, left, and right directions, the apparatus including a) a rigid first platform, including an essentially flat top surface, the first platform extending outward from a brace; b) the brace, which (i) is rigidly connected to the platform at an inward edge of the first platform, (ii) is essentially perpendicular to the top surface of the first platform and to a midplane along the edge where the brace is connected to the first platform, (iii) is essentially symmetrical about the midplane, and (iv) curves inward to the left and to the right of the midplane; and c) two fasteners, which (i) are rigidly attached to the brace proximate to a top edge of the brace, one fastener to the left of the midplane and the other to the right of the midplane, (ii) are adapted to attaching the brace to a belt, a garment, or both, and (iii) extend generally outward from the brace.

23. The method of claim 23, wherein the weight of the parcel on the platform causes torque directed downward and inward.



24. The method of claim 23, wherein the brace transfers torque to the body of the user.

25. The method of claim 23, wherein the fasteners transfer torque to the belt of the user.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for supporting a parcel being carried by a user. More particularly, it relates to an apparatus that transfers torque and weight from the load to the carrier's body near the hips.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

People often carry in their arms relatively heavy, relatively compact loads over short distances. For example, an office worker might carry a box of copier paper from one room to another. A person might need to carry a box full of books to arrange on a new set of shelves in the home. A worker for a courier, package delivery service, or postal service may need to carry a package from a truck to the door of a recipient many times each day.

In carrying, for example, a box of books, the carrier will typically simply lift the parcel in two hands, and press it against his body to keep it from twisting and falling. He may use the top of his belt buckle to assist in supporting the weight.

A belt buckle is, however, of limited value for such use. All the weight is concentrated in a very small portion of the belt, usually causing the belt to twist and deform. Also, the thickness of the buckle provides a rather narrow platform upon which to rest the object being carried.

It is well known that a typical adult human's hips have great capacity to bear loads. Consequently, technologies have been adapted in a variety of contexts taking advantage of this fact. For example, backpacks for outdoor camping have incorporated hip belts to transfer much of the weight of camping gear they contain away from the arms and shoulders. Flag bearers in parades wear belts incorporating a cup to support the flagstaff from the bottom.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The inventor recognized that an opportunity existed to improve upon available means for manually carrying a compact but possibly quite heavy load. The invention is an apparatus and method that incorporates the concept of transferring weight and torque to the hip area of the user. The terms “user” and “carrier” will be used interchangeably throughout this document.

The apparatus includes three features rigidly connected to each other—a platform, a brace, and a pair of fasteners. The brace slides inside a lower garment of the carrier. For convenience and to avoid pointless repetition, we will refer to this lower garment as “pants” throughout this description, although the lower garment might, within the scope of the invention, be any lower garment, such as trousers, short pants, or a skirt. The brace will be between the pants and the body of the carrier. Other items of clothing may intervene between the pants and the body, such as a tucked-in shirt or an undergarment. When the apparatus is installed on the carrier, and the carrier is standing upright, the top of the platform lies essentially in a plane that is parallel to the ground. The fasteners attach to a belt of the user, or to the top edge of the user's pants, or to both. In some embodiments, there may be two or more platforms attached to the brace.

Some the features of the apparatus may be symmetric about a midplane. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the whole apparatus is symmetric about the midplane. When the apparatus is in place on a carrier, the midplane coincides with the plane of symmetry of a typical human body.

In some embodiments, the brace is generally parallel to the surface of the body of the user. The brace is essentially perpendicular to the top surface of the platform where the brace connects to the platform. The brace curves inward as distance from the midplane increases, so as to fit a human form. The brace may also curve inward in the downward direction away from the platform, also to fit a human form. The brace may include a bottom edge that is contoured, in particular to avoid the area of the hips of the carrier.

The fasteners are adapted to attaching the brace to the carrier's belt, pants, or both. The fasteners extend generally outwards (away from the carrier's body) from the brace. In some embodiments, the fasteners are downward opening hooks that slide over the carrier's belt and pants when the apparatus is worn by the carrier.

To carry a heavy package, the carrier will place the inner portion of the object being carried onto the top of the platform. We will use the term “parcel” as a synonym for the object being carried. The term parcel is explicitly not intended to carry any connotations about the size, weight, shape, or contents of the object being carried, which might be anything. The carrier will typically hold the outer portion of the parcel with his hands, where “inner” and “outer” are relative to the carrier's body. The weight of the object on the platform will create torque on the platform that tends to cause the platform to rotate downward and inward toward the body of the carrier. Because the platform is rigidly attached to the brace, a portion of the torque is transferred through the brace to the torso of the user in the area of the hips.

Torque is also transferred from the platform through the brace to the fasteners, then through the fasteners to whatever the fasteners are attached to, typically the belt and the pants of the carrier. As mentioned previously, in some embodiments of the invention, the fasteners are downward-facing hooks. When the carrier installs the apparatus, the hooks slide down over the belt. In these embodiments, the apparatus is very easy to put on and take off, since it simply slips into place. It is equally easy to remove.

By counteracting the torque applied by the package to the platform, the apparatus transfers a portion of the weight of the package to the area of the hips of the carrier. The inventor has found empirically that the belt platform of the invention makes it relatively easy to carry packages having mass of up to 25 kg.

In embodiments with two platforms, the platforms will ordinarily be separated by some space horizontally. Having two platforms is advantageous if the carrier sometimes needs to have one hand free while carrying a parcel, for example to knock on doors. The two platforms and one hand combine to provide three points supporting the package in a horizontal plane.

In some embodiments, the top of a platform is designed to reduce slipping of the parcel. It may be covered with a non-slip material fabricated from rubber or plastic. The surface may be textured to increase friction and reduce slipping. For example, the surface of the platform might be gridded, ridged, stippled, or corrugated. Texturing may be in addition to the slip-resistant material, or an alternative to it.

The brace will typically be thin and formed from a relatively lightweight material, such as plastic or sheet metal. The entire apparatus is designed to be very lightweight. The thinness of the brace also allows it to be worn comfortably. As mentioned previously, in some embodiments, the brace has a lower edge that is contoured to comfortably avoid the hips themselves.

In some embodiments, the brace and a platform share a unitary component. By a unitary component, we mean an atomic object, made from a single material, and not an object made by joining, connecting, or compositing other objects. Such a unitary component might be fabricated by cutting and bending sheet metal, or by molding plastic, metal, or other material. In other embodiments, the brace, platform, and fasteners all include a unitary component. In some embodiments, the entire apparatus consists of a unitary component. In addition to the structural toughness afforded by such construction, the apparatus will also be relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

The apparatus is lightweight, compact, and easy to install and remove. In some embodiments, it is hardly noticeable visually to observers when installed, with only a small platform protruding out from above the carrier's belt buckle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus.

FIG. 2 is a top view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating the use of an embodiment of the invention apparatus by a carrier to carry a parcel.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus as it is being installed by a carrier.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus after it has been installed by a carrier.

FIG. 6 is a cross-section through an embodiment of the invention apparatus at the plane of symmetry.

FIG. 7 is a side view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus when worn by a carrier, showing fasteners in the form of hooks.

FIG. 8 is a cross-section through fastener hooks in an embodiment of the invention apparatus.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating an embodiment of the invention method.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The following description and drawings referenced therein give illustrative embodiments of the invention. They are not intended to limit the scope of the invention. Practitioners in the art will recognize that many other embodiments of the inventive concepts are possible. All such embodiments should be considered within the scope of the invention.

The first digit of each reference number corresponds to the figure number in which that reference number is first displayed. For example, parcel 310 is first shown in FIG. 3. A reference number may appear in the text prior to the discussion of the figure of its first display.

Apparatus

The purpose of the invention is to assist a user 300 in carrying a parcel by transferring some of the weight of the parcel to the hip area of the user 300. FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus 100. The apparatus 100 will be described with a coordinate system that corresponds to its orientation when normally worn by a human user 300, as shown in the figure. There are three coordinate axes 190, which are mutually perpendicular or essentially so. The first axis 191 has an inward direction, toward the carrier 300, and an outward direction, away from the carrier 300. The second axis 192 has an upward and a downward direction; downward is toward the ground. The third axis 193 has a left and a right direction; left and right are defined from the perspective of a carrier 300 who is using the apparatus 100, which shall also be referred to as “wearing”, the apparatus 100.

The apparatus 100 includes at least one platform 104, a brace 110, and two fasteners 120. The platform 104 is rigid, and contains an essentially flat top surface 105. The platform 104 extends outward from the brace 110. In embodiments with a single platform, the platform 104 is essentially symmetric about a midplane 200, as shown in FIG. 2. When the apparatus 100 is worn normally, the midplane 200 will approximately coincide with the midplane 200 of symmetry of the body 510 of the user 300. The top surface 105 of the platform 104 in some embodiments has a slip-resistant form 180. The slip-resistant form 180 may be achieved by texturing the surface, for example with a grid, dimples, corrugation, or ridges. Alternatively or in addition to texturing, the slip-resistant form 180 may be achieved by the use of a slip-resistant material 181, such as one that includes plastic or rubber.

The platform 104 typically extends outward a distance greater than 0.5 cm and less than 15 cm; preferably the platform extends outward between 2 and 6 cm. The platform 104 typically extends to the left and to the right of the midplane 200, respectively, between 0.25 cm and 10 cm; preferably the platform extends to the left and right of the midplane 200 between 1.5 and 3 cm.

Some embodiments of the invention include two or more platforms 104 (not shown). In the case of two platforms, they will be located essentially symmetrically to each other relative to the midplane. Having two platforms 104 is advantageous if the carrier 300 sometimes needs to have one hand 320 free while carrying a parcel 310, for example to knock on doors. The two platforms 104 and one hand 320 combine to provide three points supporting the parcel 310 in a horizontal plane. Henceforth this description will discuss the case of a single platform, although the extension to two or more platforms follows straightforwardly. The scope of the invention includes such multi-platform embodiments.

The brace 110 is rigidly connected to the platform 104 along an inner edge 107 of the platform 104. The brace 110 is essentially perpendicular to the top surface 105 of the platform 104 along the inner edge 107 of the platform 104; the brace 110 is also essentially perpendicular to the midplane 200 along the inner edge 107 of the platform 104. Like the platform 104, the brace 110 is preferably essentially symmetrical about the midplane 200. The brace extends beyond the platform to the left and right of the midplane 200.

The brace 110 is designed to slide (see FIG. 4) inside pants 430 (or, as mentioned previously, trousers, shorts, skirt, or other similar lower garment), between the pants 430 and the body 510 of the carrier 300. There may be other intervening layers between the brace 110 and the body 510, such as underwear and a tucked-in shirt. (See FIG. 5-8. The brace 110 is curved to match the shape of the hip area 440 of the user 300. The brace 110 curves inward with increasing distance from the midplane 200. (FIG. 2) In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the brace 110 is curved but nearly everywhere vertical, but in some embodiments the brace 110 curves inward when with increasing distance downward from the level of the platform 104, or, equivalently, from a top edge 115 of the brace 110. Again, the geometry of the brace 110 is chosen to comfortably match the shape of the user 300. In some embodiments, the brace 110 is contoured along its bottom edge 116 to fit the human form. In some embodiments, such a contour 170 causes the brace 110 to avoid the hipbone of the carrier 300.

Rigidly attached to the brace 110 proximate to, or on, its top edge 115 are two fasteners 120. The fasteners 120 extend generally outward from the brace, and are adapted to attaching the brace 110 to the belt 400, pants 430, or both. In the embodiment shown in the figures, the fasteners 120 are hooks 150 that open downward. However, the fasteners 120 might be clips, clamps, clasps, loops, or other kind of fastener 120. The advantage of hooks 150 is that the apparatus 100 can be configured so that the hooks 150 easily slide into place over a belt 400 and the top of a pair of pants 430 when the apparatus 100 is installed by the carrier 300.

Some or all features of the apparatus 100 can be made as a single unitary component; that is, a component which is not assembled from sub-components, but rather is created from a single piece of material. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, all features except the slip-resistant material 181 of the top surface 105 of the platform 104 are made by cutting and bending a single piece of sheet metal. Molded plastic or metal can also be used. The compact form of the apparatus 100 makes it very lightweight. In some embodiments, the mass is less than 500 grams (g); preferably, the mass is less than 150 g.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the apparatus 100. The midplane 200, which forms a plane of symmetry of some embodiments of the apparatus 100, appears as a line in this top view of the apparatus 100. For the comfort of the user 300, the brace thickness 210 is quite small, typically less than 5 mm in thickness, and preferably less than 2 mm.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating the use of an embodiment of the invention apparatus 100 by a carrier 300 to carry a parcel 310. The figure shows that a heavy parcel 310 will ordinarily be supported from three points, namely, the two hands 320 of the carrier 300 and the top surface 105 of the platform 104.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus 100 as it is being installed by a carrier 300. The apparatus 100 is inserted between the body 510 and the belt 400 (if any) and pants 430 (or trousers, shorts, skirt, etc.). The figure also shows a belt buckle 410 and belt loops 420, the belt loops 420 being components of the pants 430 of the carrier 300.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus 100 after it has been installed on a carrier 300. In this embodiment, the brace 110 is hidden when the apparatus 100 is installed, so the brace 110 is shown with a dashed line in the figure. When the apparatus 100 is worn, the platform 104 typically rests on the belt 400, belt buckle 410, and pants 430 of the carrier 300.

A midplane section 500, at the location labeled “A-A” in FIG. 5, corresponds approximately to the plane of symmetry of the human body 510. The cross-section is depicted in FIG. 6, which shows for this embodiment of the invention that the top surface 105 of the platform 104 is essentially perpendicular to the brace 110 along the inner edge 107 of the platform 104, which at this location coincides with the top edge 115 of the brace 110. The platform 104 rests on the belt 400, belt buckle 410, and pants 430 of the carrier 300. The brace 110 is between the pants 430 and the body 510 of the carrier 300, although usually with one or more layers of clothing between the brace 110 and the body 510.

FIG. 7 is a side view illustrating an embodiment of the invention apparatus 100 when worn by a carrier 300, showing fasteners 120 in the form of hooks 150 The fasteners 120 attach to the belt 400 or to a garment 435 of the carrier 300. This figure also shows the contour 170 of the brace 110, which provides a cutout around the hipbone of the carrier 300. Here, the left side is shown. A section 700 through a hook 150, which is the kind of fastener utilized in this particular embodiment, at the location labeled “B-B” is shown in FIG. 8. The hook 150 is shown in its installed position, resting on the belt 400 and pants 430 of the user 300. The fasteners 120 help to keep the brace 110 in position and the top surface 105 of the platform 104 level. They also help by transferring torque to the belt 400, which in turn spreads the torque over a portion of the length of the belt 400 itself.

Method

FIG. 9 is a flowchart of an embodiment of the method of the invention. It should be noted that some of these steps might be omitted in some embodiments within the scope of the invention. After the method starts 900, the apparatus 100 of the invention is inserted 910 behind the belt 400 and pants 430 of the user 300. The fasteners 120 are attached 920 to the belt 400 or, in some embodiments, to the pants 430 or other lower garment 435 of the user 300. A parcel 310 is placed 930 onto the platform 104, and typically also held by the user 300 with one or two hands 320 as illustrated in FIG. 3.

The parcel 310 on the platform 104 creates torque that is directed downward and inward. This is counterbalanced 940 by transferring the torque to the body 510 of the carrier 300 through the brace 110 and to the belt 400 of the carrier 300 through the brace 110 and fasteners 120. The overall effect is to transfer a portion of the weight of the parcel 310 to the hip area 440 of the carrier 300. The carrier 300 carries the parcel 310, resting on the platform 104.

CONCLUSION

The embodiments that have been described herein are illustrative of the invention, but do not in any way limit the scope of the invention, which is represented by the following claims.