Title:
Collapsible Containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Collapsible containers dimensioned to integrate into less-than-load operations are provided. The container may include a base, a pair of first and second opposing walls, each first and second opposing wall including a top edge, two side edges and a bottom edge. The container further includes a top panel removably attached to the top edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls and a plurality of engaging devices positioned along the perimeter of the base and along the two side edges and bottom edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls. The plurality of engaging devices are configured to removably connect the pair of first opposing walls to the pair of second opposing walls and to removably connect the pairs of first and second opposing walls to the base.



Inventors:
Roberts Sr., Ralph L. (Reddick, FL, US)
Roberts II, Ralph L. (Wilmington, OH, US)
Roberts, Roby L. (Captiva, FL, US)
Bronner, Greg (Sabina, OH, US)
Application Number:
12/136401
Publication Date:
12/10/2009
Filing Date:
06/10/2008
Assignee:
You Crate LLC (Wilmington, OH, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KIRSCH, ANDREW THOMAS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DINSMORE & SHOHL LLP (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A collapsible container comprising: a base; a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall comprising a top edge, two side edges and a bottom edge; a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall comprising a top edge, two side edges and a bottom edge; a top panel removably attached to the top edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; and a plurality of engaging devices positioned along the perimeter of the base and along the two side edges and bottom edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; wherein: the plurality of engaging devices are configured to removably connect the pair of first opposing walls to the pair of second opposing walls and to removably connect the pairs of first and second opposing walls to the base; and the collapsible container is dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

2. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the plurality of engaging devices comprise a plurality of male fastening components and a plurality of female fastening components, the plurality of female fastening components configured to accept the plurality of male fastening components.

3. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the plurality of engaging devices comprise a plurality of engaging tabs and a plurality of slots configured to accept the engaging tabs.

4. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the plurality of engaging devices comprise: a plurality of engaging hooks positioned outwardly along the two side edges of the pair of first opposing walls; a plurality of engaging tabs positioned outwardly along the bottom edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; and a plurality of slots positioned along the two side edges of the pair of second opposing walls and the perimeter of the base, the slots configured to accept the engaging hooks and the engaging tabs.

5. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the base further comprises a plurality of support blocks spaced along the underside of the base such that a forklift may be used to lift the collapsible container.

6. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the pairs of first and second opposing walls comprise an exterior face having a graphic.

7. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 6 wherein the graphic depicts an outdoor scene, a playhouse, a building or a shed.

8. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the collapsible container is dimensioned to fit in curtain side linehaul trailers and trailers with overhead roll-up doors.

9. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the base, the pairs of first and second opposing walls and the top panel are made of a plastic material.

10. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the collapsible container further comprises a tarp.

11. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the collapsible container further comprises at least one freight securing mechanism configured to secure items within the collapsible container to the base.

12. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 11 wherein the freight securing mechanism comprises a tie down positioned on an interior face of the base.

13. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 11 wherein the freight securing mechanism comprises a latch positioned on an interior face of the base.

14. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the base, the pairs of first and second opposing walls, and the top panel are configured to be disassembled and stacked to minimize storage space of the collapsible container.

15. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 1 wherein the top panel further comprises at least one vertical lip along the perimeter of an interior face of the top panel such that the vertical lip secures the top panel to the pairs of first and second opposing walls.

16. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 15 wherein the top panel further comprises a first section, a second section and a third section.

17. A collapsible container comprising: a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall comprising: a top edge; a bottom edge comprising a plurality of bottom male fastening components; and two side edges comprising a plurality of side male fastening components; a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall comprising: a top edge; a bottom edge comprising a plurality of bottom male fastening components; and two side edges comprising a plurality of side female fastening components configured to accept the plurality of side male fastening components; a base comprising a plurality of base female fastening components along a perimeter of the base, the plurality of base female fastening components configured to accept the plurality of bottom male fastening components of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; and a top panel configured to removably attach to the top edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; wherein when the collapsible container is in an erected position, the collapsible container is a receptacle dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

18. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 17 wherein the base, the pairs of first and second opposing walls, and the top panel are configured to be stacked when the collapsible container is in a collapsed position.

19. A collapsible container comprising: a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall comprising: a plurality of engaging hooks positioned outwardly along two opposing edges; a plurality of first engaging tabs positioned outwardly along an edge adjacent to the two opposing edges; a substantially flat edge; and an exterior face comprising a graphic; a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall comprising: a plurality of slots positioned along two opposing edges configured to accept the plurality of engaging hooks of the pair of first opposing walls; a plurality of second engaging tabs positioned outwardly along an edge adjacent to the two opposing edges; a substantially flat edge; and an exterior face comprising a graphic; a base comprising a plurality of base slots that are sized and positioned to accept the first and second engaging tabs of the respective pairs of first and second opposing walls to form a receptacle; and a top panel configured to removably attach to the substantially flat edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls; wherein the collapsible container is dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

20. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 19 wherein in the length of the first engaging tabs is different than the length of the second engaging tabs.

21. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 19 wherein the collapsible container further comprises a plurality of freight securing mechanisms.

22. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 21 wherein the plurality of freight securing mechanisms comprise tie downs positioned on an interior face of the base, the pairs of first and second opposing walls and the top panel.

23. A collapsible container as claimed in claim 21 wherein the plurality of freight securing mechanisms comprise latches positioned on an interior face of the base, the first and second pair of opposing walls and the top panel.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to shipping and storage containers and methods, and in particular, embodiments relate to collapsible containers that may be integrated into a motor carrier's current less than load operations without any additional equipment or disruption of service.

BACKGROUND

Containers are utilized by industry and consumers to ship freight from one location to another. Containers are also commonly used to store items for a length of time. Conventional containers, although effective when full of freight, become a source of lost revenue for a motor carrier when the container is empty because the space taken up by the empty container could be used by a full container or other freight. Similarly, in the case of residential or commercial use, an empty container undesirably takes up a great deal of space in a residential or commercial user's basement, attic, storage space, warehouse or other similar location. A user may desire to keep an empty container in his or her possession for future use but for the undesirable space the empty container requires.

Conventional containers are also difficult for a commercial or residential user to load and unload. The top-loading of a shipping container can be a harrowing experience, especially when the item to be shipped or stored is being loaded into a tall container. For example, the article may be accidentally dropped while it is being loaded into the container from the top. Additionally, articles positioned at the bottom of a full top-loaded container may be difficult, if not impossible, to locate or remove if the need arises.

Additionally, conventional containers are not easily integrated into a motor carrier's current less than load (“LTL”) operations. LTL freight, unlike full truckload freight, is collected from various shippers and consolidated onto a trailer. Non-uniformity of conventional container dimensions create inefficiencies in LTL linehaul operations by causing large gaps of dead space in between freight and containers. Similarly, conventional shipping containers are not dimensioned to fit in trailers with overhead, roll-up doors.

Accordingly, a shipping and storing container that takes up minimum space when empty, is easily loaded and unloaded, and integrates into LTL operations is desired.

SUMMARY

According to one embodiment, a collapsible container is provided. The collapsible container includes a base, a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall comprising a top edge, two side edges and a bottom edge, a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall comprising a top edge, two side edges and a bottom edge, a top panel removably attached to the top edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls and a plurality of engaging devices positioned along the perimeter of the base and along the two side edges and bottom edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls. The plurality of engaging devices are configured to removably connect the pair of first opposing walls to the pair of second opposing walls and to removably connect the pairs of first and second opposing walls to the base. Further, the collapsible container is dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

According to another embodiment, a collapsible container is provided. The collapsible container includes a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall including a top edge, a bottom edge comprising a plurality of bottom male fastening components, and two side edges including a plurality of side male fastening components. The collapsible container also includes a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall including a top edge, a bottom edge comprising a plurality of bottom male fastening components, and two side edges comprising a plurality of side female fastening components configured to accept the plurality of side male fastening components. A base including a plurality of base female fastening components along a perimeter of the base, the plurality of base female fastening components configured to accept the plurality of bottom male fastening components of the pairs of first and second opposing walls and a top panel configured to removably attach to the top edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls are also included. When the collapsible container is in an erected position, the collapsible container is a receptacle dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

According to yet another embodiment, a collapsible container includes a pair of first opposing walls, each first opposing wall including a plurality of engaging hooks positioned outwardly along two opposing edges, a plurality of first engaging tabs positioned outwardly along an edge adjacent to the two opposing edges, a substantially flat edge and an exterior face comprising a graphic. The collapsible container also includes a pair of second opposing walls, each second opposing wall including a plurality of slots positioned along two opposing edges configured to accept the plurality of engaging hooks of the pair of first opposing walls, a plurality of second engaging tabs positioned outwardly along an edge adjacent to the two opposing edges, a substantially flat edge, and an exterior face comprising a graphic. The collapsible container also includes a base comprising a plurality of base slots that are sized and positioned to accept the first and second engaging tabs of the respective pairs of first and second opposing walls to form a receptacle and a top panel configured to removably attach to the substantially flat edge of the pairs of first and second opposing walls. The collapsible container is dimensioned to integrate into less than truck load operations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following detailed description will be more fully understood in view of the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a collapsible container with one side removed according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3A is a front view of a first and second opposing wall of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3B is a top view of a base and a bottom view of a top panel of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 4A is a front view of a first and second opposing wall of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 4B is a top view of a base of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 4C is a bottom view of a top panel of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 4D is a side view of a top panel of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5A is a perspective view of a first opposing wall being inserted into a base of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5B is a perspective view of a second opposing wall being inserted into a base of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5C is a close up perspective view of a collapsible container according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 5D is a front view of a collapsible container covered with a tarp according to one or more embodiments of the present invention.

The embodiments set forth in the drawings are illustrative in nature and are not intended to be limiting of the invention defined by the claims. Moreover, individual features of the drawings and the invention will be more fully apparent and understood in view of the detailed description.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

In one embodiment, a collapsible storage and shipping container is provided. According to the embodiment, the container may be used for both commercial and residential shipping and storing applications. The container, which may be made of a plastic material such as natural HDPE, for example, is designed and dimensioned to allow a motor carrier to integrate pickup and delivery of the container into the motor carrier's current less than load (LTL) operations without any additional equipment or disruption of service. For example, according to some embodiments, the container may be loaded and unloaded at a dock or with a liftgate on the trailer so the user or carrier is not required to provide equipment such as a forklift or flatbed trailer. As described herein below, embodiments are dimensioned such that they are easily integrated current LTL operations. Dimensioning of the containers ensures that space is not wasted within the trailer by minimizing gaps caused by oddly-dimensioned freight and containers. According to some embodiments, the container will fit in all linehaul trailers, including, as an example and not a limitation, curtain side linehaul trailers, trailers with overhead roll-up doors and other types of linehaul trailers. Embodiments are also dimensioned to allow the shipping and storage of oversized items, such as couches, other large furniture, machines or equipment. The container may be custom-sized to suit the user's shipping and storage needs.

The container is fully collapsible to provide efficient storage and/or transport of the container when the container is empty, as well as provide increased loading and unloading flexibility for the user. According to some embodiments, engaging tabs and hooks are configured to be inserted into mating slots for easy assembly and collapsibility of the container. The container of this embodiment may be assembled and disassembled without the use of, or need for, tools. Because the container is collapsible, it may be collapsed during transport when the container is empty, thereby decreasing the required volume of the container within the linehaul trailer. This significantly increases the load capacity of the trailer, which frees up the motor carrier to load the trailer with more freight. Likewise, the user may collapse the container when he or she is not presently using the container, thereby taking up less space within the storage area. The collapsibility also allows for increased loading and unloading flexibility. As an example, the freight to be loaded into the container for shipping and/or storage may be placed on the base of the container before the attachment of the sides and top panel. A user may choose to remove just the top panel of the container when unloading an item from the container, or he or she may additionally remove one or more sides to unload items that are difficult to access from the container.

Embodiments may also comprise additional features. Freight securing mechanisms may be provided on the interior surface of the base according to some embodiments. The freight securing mechanisms allow freight to be tied down or secured to the base of the container, thus preventing damage to the freight during transport. Other embodiments may also include a tarp that covers the container for all-weather protection when the container is subject to the elements. Because conventional containers may be unsightly, residential and commercial users may be reluctant to store items in a container in the exterior of their home or place of business where the container may be seen from the road, sidewalk or other public vantage point. However, exterior storage may be desirable where the user does not have adequate interior storage space, does not wish the store the item indoors, or for other reasons. Therefore, according to some embodiments, the exterior of the container may comprise an aesthetically pleasing design. As an example and not a limitation, the design may include a playhouse, club house, fence, landscape scene, or any other pleasing design to disguise the container.

As shown in the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, a collapsible shipping and storage container 10 is provided. The embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 is of a square geometry (e.g., 48″×48″×48″ among others). As described and illustrated herein, other geometries and sizes that integrate into LTL operations are also provided. The container comprises a base 16, a pair of first opposing walls 12, a pair of second opposing walls 12 and a top panel 18 that are configured to easily attach to one another to form the collapsible container 10 without the use of tools. The base 16 and the opposing walls 12, 14 comprise engaging devices that are configured to interlock the base 16 and the opposing walls 12, 14 to each other.

According to the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, the engaging devices comprise a plurality of male fastening components (e.g., 20, 24 and 26) and a plurality of female fastening components (e.g., 21, 25 and 27). More particularly, the male fastening components may include a plurality of engaging hooks 20 (e.g., three on each side of the first opposing walls 12 in this embodiment) and engaging tabs 24, 26, and the female fastening components may comprise a plurality of slots 21, 25, 27. The engaging hooks 20 of the illustrated embodiment are located along two opposing sides of the pair of first opposing walls 12. It is contemplated that the engaging hooks 20 may also be provided along two sides of the pair of second opposing walls 14. The engaging hooks 20 are configured to be inserted and secured to matching slots 21 provided along two opposing sides of the pair of second opposing walls 14. Other engaging device configurations are also possible. More specifically, rather than an fastening hook, an engaging tab with a hole or a notch configured for the insertion of a locking pin to fasten the walls together may also be employed.

The slots 25, 27 located on the base 16 are configured to accept the corresponding engaging tabs 24, 26 of the pairs of first and second of opposing walls 12, 14 (i.e., slot 25 is configured to accept engaging tab 24 and slot 27 is configured to accept engaging tab 26). The slots 25, 27 and engaging tabs 24, 26 are dimensioned such that the pairs of first and second opposing walls 12, 14 may only be inserted in the correct position on the base. For example, slot 25 and engaging tab 24 may be of a length that is longer than slot 27 and engaging tab 26 or visa versa. Similarly, slot 25 and engaging tab 24 may be of a width that is wider than slot 27 and engaging tab 26 or visa versa. As is shown in FIG. 5A, the base 16 comprises support blocks 30 that provide additional support for the container, as well as depth for the slots 25, 27 to accept the engaging tabs 24, 26. The depth of the slots 25, 27 increases the strength and rigidity of the container.

Referring again to FIGS. 1 and 2, the base 16 may contain support blocks 30 as described above. The support blocks 30 form gaps within the base 16 in which a forklift or other transporting device may be inserted to move the container 10 to a specific location. The support blocks 30 also ensure that the container 10 is sufficiently raised from the ground to prevent water from entering the container 10. According to some embodiments, freight securing mechanisms 28 may be provided throughout the floor of the base 16. In FIGS. 1 and 2, the freight securing mechanism 28 are positioned along the perimeter of the floor of the base 16. The freight securing mechanism 28 may be used to secure freight to the base and therefore container 10 by running a strap, bungee cord, rope, twine or other similar device under the latch or ring of the freight securing mechanism 28 and around the freight (FIG. 5A). Many other freight securing mechanism configurations are possible.

Additional embodiments may comprise handles 22 that are located on each wall of the container 22. These handles 22 may be attached to the opposing walls 12, 14. Or, according to other embodiments and as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the handles 22 may be recesses that are formed into the plastic during the molding or formation of the opposing walls 12, 14. The handles 22 may be used to lift and carry the container 10 from one location or another. The handles 22 also aid in erecting and collapsing the container 10, as well as assist in carrying and moving the opposing walls 12, 14.

The top panel 18 of the container 10 is dimensioned such that there is an overhang above each opposing wall 12, 14. Under each overhang (i.e., around the perimeter of the underside of the top panel 18) is a vertical lip 29 that enfolds the walls 12, 14 when the container 10 is assembled, as may be viewed in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1. The vertical lip 29 therefore secures the top panel 18 to the top portions of the walls 12, 14 and ultimately, the container 10.

As described above, the container 10 may be designed and dimensioned in a number of sizes that allow the container 10 to be integrated into LTL operations. FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate an embodiment that is dimensioned as a rectangular container that is taller than the square embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2 (e.g., 48″×48″×75″). As an example, this embodiment may be useful for storing and/or transporting a refrigerator or other tall items. According to the embodiment of FIGS. 3A and 3B, the opposing side walls 12, 14 have four engaging hooks 20 and slots 21 along each side. FIGS. 4A-4C illustrate an embodiment in which the container 10 has a geometry suitable for storing and transporting large, oversized items (e.g., 48″×90″×55″). For example, this embodiment may be utilized to transport bicycles, four-wheelers, dressers, and other relatively long items. The engaging tabs 24a (FIG. 4A) and slots 25a are relatively longer than the engaging tabs 24 and slots 25 provided in the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 and FIGS. 3A and 3B. The increased length of the engaging tabs 24a and slots 25a increase the stability of the container 10. Referring to FIG. 4C, the top of the container 10 is composed of three top panel sections 18a, 18b, and 18c. The three section embodiment allows for easy access to the container 10 as only a small section needs to be removed to access items within the container 10. Additionally, the three sections 18a-18c are easy for a single person to install and remove as the pieces are smaller and lighter than one large top panel. According to the embodiment, an interior engaging lip 29b may be provided in addition to an exterior engaging lip 29a along portions of the three sections 18a-18c to increase the stability of the container 10. Some embodiments comprising the three top sections 18a-18c may employ a notch fit to assemble the top 18 onto the top of the container 10. As illustrated in FIG. 4D, 18b may comprise notch 52 which is configured to rest upon corresponding notches 50 located on 18a and 18b. In this manner, all three sections 18a-18c may be securely attached to first and second opposing walls 12, 14.

FIGS. 5A-5D illustrate a method of erecting a collapsible container 10 according to one embodiment. Referring initially to FIG. 5A, the base 16 is placed on level surface. Freight may be placed on the base 16 at this time, or any other time in the assembly process. Next, a first opposing wall 12 (i.e., a wall having male engaging structures 20) may be lifted by the handles 22 (not shown) so that the engaging tabs 24 are aligned with the engaging slots 25. The wall 12 and engaging tabs 24 are then pushed down into the engaging slots 25. This is repeated for the other second opposing wall 12.

Now referring to FIG. 5B, a second opposing wall 14 (i.e., a wall having female engaging structures) may be lifted over the base 16 such that the engaging tabs 26 are aligned with the slots 27 on the base 16, and the engaging hooks 20 of the pair of first opposing walls 12 are aligned with the slots 21 of the second opposing wall 14. After positioning the second opposing wall 14 into place, the wall 14 is then pushed down so that the engaging tabs 26 enter the slots 27 and the engaging hooks 20 of wall 12 grip and secure the wall 14. This is repeated for the remaining second opposing wall 14 having slots 21 such that all four opposing walls 12, 14 are fitted and locked together to the base 16.

After the opposing walls 12, 14 are in place and the freight has been loaded, the top panel 18 may be placed on the top portion of the opposing walls 12, 14 and fit into place, as illustrated in FIG. 5C. The vertical lip 29 secures the top panel 18 to the opposing walls 12, 14. The container 10 is now fully assembled and ready for storage and/or transport. According to some embodiments, a tarp 40 may be fitted over the container to protect the container 10 from the elements, including wind, rain, frost, snow and sun, for example (FIG. 5D). The tarp 40 may be secured to the container 10 by flaps 42. The flaps 42 may be secured by attachments 44a, 44b which may be Velcro, or a loop in which a hook or a clip may use to engage attachment 44a to attachment 44b, for example. The container 10 may be collapsed by removing the top panel 18, then removing the pair of second opposing walls 14 and finally the pair of first opposing walls 12. The base 16, opposing walls 12, 14 and top panel 18 may then be stacked into a compact form for later use.

The foregoing description of the various embodiments of the invention has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise steps and/or forms disclosed. Many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art of the above teaching. Moreover, although multiple inventive aspects have been presented, such aspects need not be utilized in combination, and various combinations of inventive aspects are possible in light of the various embodiments provided above. Accordingly, the above description is intended to embrace all possible alternatives, modifications, combinations, and variations that have been discussed or suggested herein, as well as all others that fall with the principles, spirit and broad scope of the inventions as defined by the claims.