Title:
Shelf system for elongated articles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed are shelf systems, in particular shelf systems which are used to support, display and/or organize articles having a length substantially greater than their width or diameter. Such elongated articles include, but are not limited to, the following: construction materials, such as pipes, moldings, lumber, extrusions and the like; garden tools, such as rakes, hoes, shovels, picks and the like; and home cleaning tools, such as brooms, mops and the like.



Inventors:
Kaperst, Michael (Washington, DC, US)
Weintraub, James (Huntingtown, MD, US)
Application Number:
12/153330
Publication Date:
11/19/2009
Filing Date:
05/16/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
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20100032392SHELF BOTTLE PUSHER SYSTEMFebruary, 2010Camello et al.
20100057245PICKING CART AND PICKING SYSTEMMarch, 2010Hironaka et al.
20060027517Self-positioning space organizer and holderFebruary, 2006Bahu et al.
20070000850Storage box file organizerJanuary, 2007Thompson
20090085452FURNITURE PULL-OUT GUIDEApril, 2009Rehage
20070062899Apparatus and method for stowing utility cartsMarch, 2007Royalty
20090294393SLIDE ASSEMBLY FOR A RACKDecember, 2009Chen et al.
20050284825Lockable spinner displayDecember, 2005Goldsmith et al.



Primary Examiner:
CHAN, KO HUNG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DUANE MORRIS LLP (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A shelf system comprising: (i) at least two panels of predetermined size and shape; and (ii) means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart, wherein each of said panels has a first surface and a second surface and an edge and contains a plurality of holes extending completely through said panel from said first surface to said second surface, wherein each of said plurality of holes is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, wherein each of said panels comprises a material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain said panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load, and wherein said panels are arranged such that at least one hole on one of said panels is substantially aligned with at least one hole on the other of said panels.

2. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart comprises a plurality of substantially rigid members, each of said substantially rigid members having a first end and a second end and a length equal to said pre-determined distance.

3. The shelf system according to claim 2, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart further comprises one or more means for affixing an end of each of said rigid members to a surface of each of said panels.

4. The shelf system according to claim 2, wherein each of said panels further contains a second plurality of holes dimensioned to accept and hold an end of each of said rigid members.

5. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a pre-determined distance apart comprises a plurality of rigid members, each of said rigid members having a first end and a second end and a length greater than said pre-determined distance.

6. The shelf system according to claim 5, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a pre-determined distance apart further comprises one or mote means for affixing each of said rigid members to an edge of each of said panels.

7. The shelf system according to claim 2, wherein each of said rigid members contains at least one groove dimensioned to accept and hold an edge of one of said panels.

8. The shelf system according to claim 2, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a pre-determined distance apart comprises a base member having at least two grooves dimensioned to accept and hold an edge of one of said panels.

9. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of holes is substantially the same size.

10. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of holes is not substantially the same size.

11. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of holes in one panel is substantially the same size as the hole in the other panel with which said hole is aligned.

12. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein each of said panels individually comprises at least one material selected from the group consisting of: woods, plastics, resins, polymers, metals, alloys and combinations of any two or more thereof.

13. The shelf system according to claim 1, further comprising a third panel of predetermined size and shape, wherein said panel has a first surface and a second surface and an edge and contains a plurality of holes extending completely through said panel from said first surface to said second surface, and wherein each of said plurality of holes is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, and wherein said panel comprises a material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain said panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load, and wherein said panel is arranged such that at least one hole on said panel is substantially aligned with at least one hole on another panel.

14. The shelf system of claim 13, wherein the predetermined distance between said third panel and one of said at least two panels is substantially equal to the predetermined distance between said at least two panels.

15. The shelf system of claim 13, wherein the predetermined distance between said third panel and one of said at least two panels is substantially less than the predetermined distance between said at least two panels.

16. The shelf system of claim 13, wherein the predetermined distance between said third panel and one of said at least two panels is substantially greater than the predetermined distance between said at least two panels.

17. The shelf system according to claim 13, further comprising a fourth panel of predetermined size and shape, wherein said panel has a first surface and a second surface and an edge and contains a plurality of holes extending completely through said panel from said first surface to said second surface, and wherein each of said plurality of holes is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, and wherein said panel comprises a material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain said panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load, and wherein said panel is arranged such that at least one hole on said panel is substantially aligned with at least one hole on another panel.

18. The shelf system of claim 17, wherein the predetermined distance between any two adjacent panels is substantially equal to the predetermined distance between any other two adjacent panels.

19. The shelf system of claim 17, wherein the predetermined distance between any two adjacent panels is not substantially equal to the predetermined distance between any other two adjacent panels.

20. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart can be adjusted to change said predetermined distance.

21. The shelf system according to claim 1, wherein said means for maintaining said panels parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart comprises a pallet rack.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to shelf systems, in particular shelf systems which are used to support, display and/or organize articles having a length substantially greater than their width or diameter. Such elongated articles include, but are not limited to, the following: construction materials, such as pipes, moldings, lumber, extrusions and the like; garden tools, such as rakes, hoes, shovels, picks and the like; and home cleaning tools, such as brooms, mops and the like.

2. Description of the Related Art

In any retail business, storage and display of merchandise and inventory is a fundamental concern. While it is usually desirable to maximize the exposure of merchandise and inventory to potential customers seeking to purchase, it is just as important to preserve and maintain the quality and integrity of such articles. Moreover, it is also important to ensure the most efficient use of space within the business. Similar considerations attach in other situations, including industrial settings, offices and homes and residences, where it is often necessary to store and/or organize articles.

These concerns are magnified in the case of elongated articles, i.e. items having a length substantially greater than their width or diameter. Such elongated articles include, but are not limited to, the following: construction materials, such as pipes, rods, moldings, extrusions, boards, dowels and the like; gardening tools, such as rakes, shovels, hoes and the like; household cleaning tools, such as mops, brooms and the like; office articles, such as rolled plans, spreadsheets, blueprints and the like; bolts of fabric; coils of fibers or wire; etc.

These elongated articles are, of course, too long to fit comfortably into any conventional drawer. Accordingly, these articles are generally stored by being stood on end in a corner or in a rack of some type, or by hanging them on a wall rack or a nail, or simply laying them in a pile on the floor. Each of these approaches has problems.

For example, if the articles are stood on end in a corner, then elongated articles with enlarged ends, such as rakes or brooms, will not fit well. If there are many articles, then they will look messy and will not be easily accessible or even viewable. It is also quite possible that the articles will get damaged, for example by rubbing or bumping against one another. Moreover, if unsupported, one or more articles may topple over and injure someone and/or damage the item(s). Articles stored vertically can also be damaged and/or cause damage or injury when being handled, for example when being removed for purchase.

Similarly, if piled on the floor, the articles will look messy and will not be easily accessible or even viewable. Also, to get an article at the bottom of the pile, one would need to disassemble and then reassemble the whole pile. It is also likely that one or more articles may get damaged in the pile. Moreover, articles stored in a pile, such as pipe and the like, can roll over and fall on someone.

If the articles are hung a hook or nail on the wall or ceiling, the items may still fall and possibly injure someone. Moreover, most construction materials, such as pipes, dowels, molding and the like, do not have a hole or similar recess to hold them on a hook or nail, or even a bulge to hold them between such supports.

Many solutions have been proposed for racks or shelf systems to store, hold and/or display elongated items. Such proposals include: U.S. Pat. No. 418,435 for a “Display Rack for Tools”; U.S. Pat. No. 1,915,020 for an “Umbrella Holder”; U.S. Pat. No. 2,815,863 for “A Garden Tool Stand”; U.S. Pat. No. 3,145,031 for a “Mobile Tool Supporting Apparatus”; U.S. Pat. No. 3,298,531 for “Devices For Storing Tools And The Like”; U.S. Pat. No. 3,298,532 for “Device For Storing Articles”; U.S. Pat. No. 3,759,538 for a “Garden Kaddy”; U.S. Pat. No. 3,819,034 for a “Shipping and Display Arrangement for Brooms”; U.S. Pat. No. 4,742,782 for a “Sheet Metal Shelving Assembly”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,011,028 for an “Adjustable Arrow Holder”; U.S. Pat. No. 5,810,177 for a “Versatile Tool Rack Assembly”; U.S. Pat. No. 7,063,218 for an “Anti-Tip Rack for Long Handled Tools”; and U.S. Patent Publication No. US2007/0017884 for a “Modular Wine Rack”.

Each of these proposed solutions, however, has one or problems which have limited their acceptance and/or use by the industry. Accordingly, there remains a need for a shelf system for supporting, displaying and/or organizing elongated articles.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to overcome the deficiencies of known and available racks and shelf systems. It is further an object of the present invention to provide a shelf system for supporting, displaying and/or organizing elongated items.

In accordance with these and other objects, a first embodiment of the present invention is directed to a shelf system comprising: (i) at least two panels of predetermined size and shape; and (ii) means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart, wherein each of the panels has a first surface and a second surface and an edge and contains a plurality of holes extending completely through the panel from the first surface to the second surface, wherein each of the plurality of holes is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, wherein each of the panels comprises a material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain said panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load, and wherein the panels are arranged such that at least one hole on one of said panels is substantially aligned with at least one hole on the other of said panels.

Among the advantages of the present invention are: (a) simple, i.e. typically made of few parts and easy to assemble; (b) inexpensive to manufacture; (c) sturdy when free standing; (d) adjustable; (e) easy to store, organize and/or display elongated articles in a neat arrangement in which all articles are equally accessible and protected from damage; (f) versatile; (g) easy to mass produce; (h) lightweight, i.e. typically made of plastics or light metal composite material; (i) corrosion resistant, i.e. typically made of light metal composite material or plastics.

It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an exemplary panel 10 that may be used in the inventive shelf system.

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and four substantially rigid members 21-24 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart.

FIG. 3 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a pallet rack 30 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart.

FIG. 4 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a substantially rigid base member 41 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart.

FIG. 5 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a plurality of substantially rigid base members 51, 52 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A first preferred embodiment of the present invention is a shelf system comprising: (i) at least two panels of predetermined size and shape; and (ii) means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart, wherein each of the panels has a first surface and a second surface and at least one edge and contains a plurality of holes extending completely through the panel from the first surface to the second surface, wherein each of the plurality of holes is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, wherein each of the panels comprises a material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain said panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load, and wherein the panels are arranged such that at least one hole on one of said panels is substantially aligned with at least one hole on the other of said panels.

Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows an exemplary panel 10 that may be used in the inventive shelf system. This exemplary panel is shown to have a substantially square shape, but any suitable shape may be employed including circles, ellipses and polygons. As shown in FIG. 1, the exemplary panel 10 has a first surface 100 and a second surface 200 and a plurality of edges 301-304.

The exemplary panel 10 contains a plurality of holes 1001-1009 that extend completely through the panel 10 from the first surface 100 to the second surface 200. The size of the panel(s) used in the inventive shelf system may be determined empirically depending, for example, on the number of holes desired and the width or diameter of the articles intended to be stored, displayed and/or organized.

Each of the plurality of holes 1001-1009 is dimensioned to accept a plurality of articles to be stored, displayed and/or organized. Each of the plurality of articles is an elongated article which has a length substantially greater than its width or diameter. Such elongated articles include, but are not limited to, the following: construction materials, such as pipes, moldings, lumber, extrusions and the like; garden tools, such as rakes, hoes, shovels, picks and the like; and home cleaning tools, such as brooms, mops and the like. Each of the plurality of holes 1001-1009 is dimensioned to accept at least two of these elongated articles. Suitable dimensions for each of the plurality of holes in any given panel in the present invention, such as holes 1001-1009 in exemplary panel 10, may be determined empirically by one skilled in the art depending, for example, on the width or diameter of the articles intended to be stored, displayed and/or organized and the overall size of the panel.

The panels used in the inventive shelf system, such as the exemplary panel 10 shown in FIG. 1, may be made of any suitable material having a bending modulus sufficient to maintain the panel in a substantially planer form even when placed under a load. That is, the panels may be made of any material, or combination of materials, which does not bend or distort excessively when assembled into the inventive shelf system and a plurality of articles are placed in at least one of the plurality of holes. Illustrative examples of suitable materials for the panels include, but are not limited to, the following: woods, plastics, resins, polymers, metals, alloys, laminates, composites, fibers, papers and combinations of any two or more thereof. The panels in the inventive shelf system are all preferably made from the same material(s), although in certain embodiments they can be made from different materials.

In addition to at least two suitable panels, the inventive shelf system further comprises means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. According to certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, such means comprises a plurality of substantially rigid members. These substantially rigid members may be made of any suitable material(s), ie. any material or combination of materials that will maintain the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart, and may be made from the same material(s) or from different material(s). Illustrative examples of suitable materials for the substantially rigid members include, but are not limited to, the following: woods, plastics, resins, polymers, metals, alloys, laminates, composites, fibers, papers and combinations of any two or more thereof.

According to other preferred embodiments, the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart comprises a pallet rack or a pre-existing shelf system to which the panels may be attached. Such a pallet rack or pre-existing shelf system may be made of any suitable material, including those listed above for the substantially rigid members.

According to still other preferred embodiments, the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart comprises a substantially rigid base member to which the panels may be attached. This base member may be made of any suitable material, including those listed above for the substantially rigid members.

According to still other preferred embodiments, the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart comprises a plurality of substantially rigid base members, each of these base members being attached to a panel. Each of these base members is individually composed of any suitable material, including those listed above for the substantially rigid members.

Suitable equivalents of each of these various embodiments described above may also be used as the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. The suitability of any potential equivalent may be determined empirically by one skilled in the art, for example by constructing a model shelf system using the potential equivalent and testing it under the intended load(s).

As noted above, the panels of the inventive shelf system are maintained at a predetermined distance apart. This predetermined distance may be any distance suitable for storing, displaying and/or organizing the intended elongated articles. The suitability of any potential distance may be determined empirically by one skilled in the art based on the length of the articles to be stored, displayed and or organized or by constructing a model shelf system using the potential distance and testing it with the intended article(s).

In certain embodiments of the shelf system of the present invention, the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart is adjustable, i.e. the predetermined distance may be changed if desired. For example, if the means for maintaining the panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart is a base member having a grooves for accepting an edge of a panel, the base member may have a plurality of grooves spaced according to a predetermined pattern. In such an embodiment, the predetermined distance may be changed by moving one or both panels from one groove to another. Similar modifications may be performed on other embodiments of the inventive shelf system.

FIG. 2 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and four substantially rigid members 21-24 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. According to embodiments such as this, substantially rigid members 21-24 may be attached to either an edge or a surface of panels 10, 11 by any suitable method.

Suitable methods for attaching substantially rigid members 21-24 to panels 10, 11 may be determined empirically by one skilled in the art through routine experimentation. For example, substantially rigid members 21-24 may be attached to an edge of panels 10, 11 by use of a combination of bolts, washers and free nuts fastened through holes in substantially rigid members 21-24 aligned with holes in the edge(s) of panels 10, 11. Alternatively, substantially rigid members 21-24 may be attached to a surface of panels 10, 11 by use of a bracket, with screws or bolts and nuts, or an adhesive, such as a glue or epoxy. Still other ways of attaching substantially rigid members 21-24 to panels 10, 11 include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following: captured nuts in combination with bolts, nuts (free or captured) in combination with screws, screws, rivets, welding, glues, epoxys, resins, acrylates and the like.

Each of the methods of for attaching substantially rigid members 21-24 to panels 10, 11 may be used alone or in combination with another way. For example, if substantially rigid members 21-24 are attached to a surface of panels 10, 11 by a weld, a bracket with bolts and nuts may also be used to further strengthen the shelf system.

FIG. 3 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a pallet rack 30 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. Panels 10, 11 may be attached to pallet rack 30 by any suitable method.

FIG. 4 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a substantially rigid base member 41 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. Panels 10, 11 may be attached to substantially rigid base member 41 by any suitable method.

FIG. 5 shows an exemplary shelf system of the present invention, which has two panels 10, 11 and a plurality of substantially rigid base members 51, 52 as the means for maintaining said panels substantially parallel to one another at a predetermined distance apart. Panels 10, 11 may be attached to substantially rigid base members 51, 52 by any suitable method.

Although the detailed description of preferred embodiments above contains many details and specifics, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention in any way, but rather as merely providing illustrative examples of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. For example, the holes in the panels may be any suitable shape, including round, square, rectangular, or irregularly shaped holes depending upon the article(s) being stored, displayed and/or organized. There may be three or four or more panels in the shelf system.

The foregoing description and the following examples are illustrative only and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the methods of the present invention without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, it is intended that the present invention cover the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.