Title:
STORAGE CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A self-contained container for storing and transporting particulate material is provided, the container including a frame, a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame, at least one loading port in the top wall, and at least one discharge region including at least one discharge port and one sloped wall configured for removing material from the container. The discharge region and discharge port being positioned within the frame.



Inventors:
Cook, George (Crosby, TX, US)
Wiseman, Glenn (Crosby, TX, US)
Newkirk, Kevin (Friendswood, TX, US)
Lusk, Burt (Richmond, TX, US)
Madler, James (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
13/458634
Publication Date:
10/31/2013
Filing Date:
04/27/2012
Assignee:
FRONTIER LOGISTICS, L.P. (Morris, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D88/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PAGAN, JAVIER A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREER, BURNS & CRAIN, LTD (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A container for storing and transporting particulate material, the container comprising: a frame; a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame; at least one loading port in the top wall; at least one discharge region including at least one discharge port configured for removing material from the container, the discharge region and discharge port positioned within the frame at least one sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to the discharge region and an upper edge mounted to a support rod.

2. A container as defined by claim 1 wherein a major axis for the discharge region extends between the opposing side walls, and wherein the discharge region further comprises at least one trough, and the at least one discharge port is proximate to a base of the trough.

3. A container as defined by claim 1 further comprising a plurality of discharge regions, each including the corresponding discharge port and a trough.

4. (canceled)

5. A container as defined by claim 4 wherein at least a portion of the sloped wall upper edge is positioned closer to one of the front and back wall top than the corresponding front or back wall bottom.

6. A container as defined by claim 2 wherein the frame has a lower perimeter, wherein the trough and the discharge port are positioned above the frame lower perimeter, and wherein at least one of the side walls includes an open access region for accessing the discharge port.

7. A container as defined by claim 1 wherein the side walls have a length and the front and back walls have a width, the side wall length is at least twice the front and back width, and wherein the opposing side walls have the same dimensions, and wherein the opposing front and back walls have the same dimensions.

8. A container as defined by claim 1 wherein the frame is configured for attachment to a wheeled carrier.

9. (canceled)

10. A container for storing and transporting particulate material, the container comprising: a frame; a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame; at least one discharge region extending longitudinally between the opposing side walls and adjacent to a top surface of the floor; the discharge region including at least one sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to a trough and an upper edge mounted to a corresponding support rod; and the discharge region further including at least one discharge port positioned on one of the side walls and within the frame, the discharge port aligned with the trough and for removing particulate material from the container.

11. The container of claim 10 further comprising a pair of sloped walls, each sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to the trough and an upper edge respectively mounted to the corresponding support rod.

12. The container of claim 10 wherein the top wall further comprises at least one loading port.

13. (canceled)

14. The container of claim 10 wherein the pair of sloped walls are respectively mounted to the corresponding support rod at a predetermined angle.

15. The container of claim 10 further comprising an auger positioned in the trough to facilitate removal of the particulate material through the discharge port.

16. The container of claim 15 wherein the auger extends through the discharge port.

17. The container of claim 10 wherein an interior surface of the opposing side walls, floor, and sloped wall has an epoxy coating.

18. The container of claim 10 wherein the back wall further comprises a door.

19. The container of claim 10 wherein the container is one of a 20 foot and 40 foot dimensioned container.

20. A container comprising: a frame; a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame; a plurality of discharge regions, each discharge region including: a trough extending longitudinally between the pair of opposite side walls and adjacent to a top surface of the floor; a plurality of sloped wall pairs, each sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to one of the plurality of troughs and an upper edge mounted to a corresponding support rod; and a plurality of discharge ports on each of the side walls and positioned within the frame, the discharge port aligned with the trough and for removing particulate material from the container.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Some embodiments of this invention relate to storage containers, with one example being a container for shipping and/or storage of particulate material, for example, granular, powdered and pelleted materials.

Particulate material is often mined, manufactured or refined, then transported by motor vehicle, such as a dump truck, to a job site. Many conventional systems have been designed to transport particulate material, but require a special vehicle or equipment for unloading it. Therefore, many conventional transportation systems are not capable of storing the material independent from the transportation equipment. This leads to increased costs for both transportation and storage.

One conventional system teaches loading a sealed bag in a container and using a titled support frame to discharge the material using gravity. However, the bag increases the difficulty of loading and unloading particulate material and requires disposal. In addition, a specially designed transportation vehicle is necessary to tilt the container for unloading the material.

In yet another conventional system, a pneumatic discharge outlet is fastened to the bottom of a railway hopper car. However, the hopper car must be used in connection with a railway cart and does not provide for storage of particulate material without the railway cart. In addition, this system is not acceptable for job sites not located next to railway tracks.

Still further, particulate materials are often deposited on the ground for storage once at a job site. This results in the material being exposed to the elements which can lead to spoilage, dilution, change in composition through moisture absorption, and/or loss of material. Another risk is theft of the material.

In many applications such materials are also required to be transported using different vehicles for different legs of a journey. As an example, granular material may be transported using a first dump truck, deposited at a midway location by dumping material on the ground, storing the material for a period of time, and then reloading it into a second dump truck for a second leg of the journey. Each loading and unloading step results in additional labor costs and loss of material.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present container addresses the drawbacks of the prior art. For example, some embodiments of the present container comprise a container for storing a granular or other material that can be loaded and unloaded from vehicles with the material contained therein. Some embodiments utilize sloped walls to facilitate the unloading of particulate material using gravity in combination with a pneumatic and/or an optional auger device. Importantly, some embodiments of the present container include sloped walls positioned inside the container to eliminate the need for tipping or elevation for unloading material. Therefore, no additional special equipment is required. Another beneficial feature of some embodiments is that all discharge equipment is enclosed within the container so that it can be transported using many different methods and stored with other standard sized containers independently from the equipment used to transport the container.

More specifically, a container for storing and transporting particulate material is provided, the container including a frame, a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame, at least one loading port in the top wall, and at least one discharge region including at least one discharge port configured for removing material from the container. The discharge region and discharge port being positioned within the frame.

Also included is a container for storing particulate material, the container having a frame and a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame. The container also has at least one discharge region extending longitudinally between the opposing side walls and adjacent to a top surface of the floor, the discharge region including at least one sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to a trough and an upper edge mounted to a corresponding support rod, and the discharge region further including at least one discharge port positioned on one of the side walls and within the frame, the discharge port aligned with the trough and for removing particulate material from the container.

In addition, also included is a container including a frame, a storage cavity defined by opposing front and back walls, opposing side walls, a top wall, and a floor, each of the front and back walls, side walls, top wall and floor connected to the frame. The container also has a plurality of discharge regions, each discharge region including a trough extending longitudinally between the pair of opposite side walls and adjacent to a top surface of the floor, a plurality of sloped wall pairs, each sloped wall having a lower edge extending adjacent to and longitudinally to one of the plurality of troughs and an upper edge mounted to a corresponding support rod, and a plurality of discharge ports on each of the side walls and positioned within the frame, the discharge port aligned with the trough and for removing particulate material from the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the present container mounted on a wheeled shipping trailer;

FIG. 2A is a side elevation of the present cargo container shown in partial cutaway view, showing two discharge regions, and mounted on a shipping trailer;

FIG. 2B is a top view of a loading port of the present cargo container of FIG. 2A;

FIG. 3A is a side elevation of the present container showing an embodiment with two discharge regions;

FIG. 3B is a side view of one of the discharge regions shown in FIG. 3A as viewed in the direction along the arrows on the line 3B-3B;

FIG. 3C is a top view of the container shown in FIG. 3A as viewed in the direction along the arrows on the line 3C-3C with the top wall removed and showing two discharge regions;

FIG. 3D is a side view of one of the discharge regions shown in FIG. 3A as viewed in the direction along the arrows on the line 3B-3B and configured with an auger;

FIG. 4A is a side elevation of another embodiment of the present container with one discharge region;

FIG. 4B is a side elevation of another embodiment of the present container with three discharge regions;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the present container mounted on a wheeled shipping trailer with back doors in an open position; and

FIG. 6 is a front view of the discharge port.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, a container is generally designated as 10 and includes a frame 12. A storage cavity 14 is defined by opposing front 16 and back walls 18, opposing side walls 20, 22, a top wall 24, and a floor 26. Each of the front 16 and back 18 walls, side walls 20, 22, top wall 24 and floor 26 connect to the frame 12. The example container 10 generally includes walls 16-24 and floor 26 that are coextensive with the frame 12. Some other embodiments may include one or more walls 6-24 and floor 26 that are not coextensive with the frame 12. The walls 16-24, floor 26, and frame 12 may be constructed as desired, but in many applications a useful balance between strength, weight and durability is desirable. In many applications, the frame is constructed of steel of sufficient gauge, with walls 6-24 and floor 26 likewise constructed of steel. They can be attached to the frame 12 by welding, fasteners or other suitable connection means.

Although dimensions may be selected for the container 10 as desired, in many applications interchangeability is desirable so that the container 10 can be easily moved from one vehicle to another, stored with other containers, and the like. In such applications standardization is desirable. It has been discovered that a generally three dimensional rectangular “block” shape is useful in many applications, with the container 10 adopting a relatively longer length than its width or height. This allows for, among other things, an advantageous balance of volume and exterior dimensions for shipping on vehicles. In such applications, the container 10 may be dimensioned so that the side walls 20, 22 have a length that is at least twice the front 16 and back 18 wall widths, and the opposing side walls and opposing front and back walls respectively have the same dimensions.

In some applications, it has been discovered that interchangeability and usefulness with existing transportation network infrastructure is achieved by setting the container 10 dimensions consistent with standard transportation containers 10 which typically have a length of 20 ft, 40 ft, 45 ft, 48 ft, or 53 ft. In addition, standard containers 10 typically have a height and width of 7-8 ft. However, other dimensions are contemplated and may be used based on applications.

Again, a beneficial aspect of many embodiments is the ability to be easily loaded, off-loaded and moved from location to location and vehicle to vehicle without unloading of contained material. Many embodiments accordingly include features for releasable attachment to vehicles (trucks, trailers, forklifts, cranes, ships, planes, rail cars, and the like) to facilitate transportation. As an example and as shown in FIG. 2, the container 10 is configured for releasable attachment to a wheeled carrier 27 for transportation by a vehicle such as a truck (not illustrated). The container 10 may also be transported using a variety of other methods including rail, boat and plane. Since the container 10 is preferably sized using standard container dimensions as are known in the industry, it can be transported and stored using readily available equipment. The means of attachment and locking containers to a transportation vehicle and stackability is well known in the art.

Although the example container 10 has been illustrated in a general three dimensional block shape with particular dimensions, many other shapes and dimensions are possible. As an example, cube or even spherical shapes could be useful.

Moving now to FIGS. 2A and 2B, the container 10 includes at least one, and preferably multiple loading ports 28 located in the top wall 24 for loading material 30 such as sand, gravel, dirt, pellets or other material 30 into the container 10 for storage in the cavity 14. As should be appreciated, various features of the container 10 may be adjusted depending on the material 30 used and desired application. The loading port 28 may include a door 29 hingedly attached that can be pivotally moved between open and closed positions. When the door 29 is in the open position, the container 10 may be loaded using a conveyer, hose or other mechanism as is known in the art. Other configurations, such as generally rounded opening, for the loading port 28 are also contemplated. Alternatively, the loading port 28 may be positioned on a top portion 31 of one or more of the side walls 20, 22 instead of the top wall 24.

In some embodiments, the door 29 is lockable in either the open or closed positions for convenience. In some embodiments, the door 29 is spring loaded for convenience. In these embodiments, a spring (leaf or coil) is attached to the door 29 to urge it into a closed position whereby it remains closed unless opened by an opening force. An opening force can be provided, for example, by engaging the door 29 with a hose nozzle, conveyor end, transport tube, or other element through which material flows into the container 10. This allows for convenience of operation, and eliminates the need for an operator to manually open and close the door 29.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 5, the container 10 may also include at least one access door 32 located on the front 16 and/or back wall 18. Preferably, the back wall 18 includes a plurality of lockable hinged access doors 32. These access doors 32 may also be used to load material 30 using a conveyor, hose, or other mechanism as is known in the art. The access doors 32 will be subsequently described in more detail.

Moving now to FIGS. 2A-3C and 6, at least one discharge region 34 is included to facilitate gravitational flow of material 30 from the cavity 14. Each discharge region 34 preferably includes a discharge trough 35 and at least one discharge port 36. In the illustrated embodiment, the discharge region 34 and corresponding trough 35 have a major axis that extends between the opposing side walls 20, 22 and is adjacent to a top surface 38 of the floor 26. The discharge region 34 may have any of a number of different configurations as may be desirable for particular applications. In many applications, it includes at least one sloped wall 46 to encourage downward flow into the discharge trough 35. In the illustrated embodiment, the discharge region 34 is v-shaped. Dimensions of the discharge region 34 can vary based on application, such as the type of material being transported. Other shape configurations for the discharge region 34, such as a bowl or oval, are also contemplated. The discharge region 34 may also be spread over substantially the entire floor 26.

Preferably, the container 10 includes a plurality of discharge regions 34, each including the discharge trough 35 and the discharge port 36 positioned proximate to a base 40 of each discharge region. The discharge port 36 is generally round and configured to attach to standard pneumatic withdrawal equipment (not shown) which creates a vacuum to assist with removal of material 30 from the container 10. A cover 37 restricting access to the discharge port 36 may also be included to prevent inadvertent removal of material 30.

Discharge ports 36 may be positioned on one or both side walls 20, 22 for each corresponding discharge region 34. Furthermore, the discharge port 36 is positioned within the frame 12 in a recessed access region 42 on one or more of the side walls 20, 22 (see also FIG. 1), and the discharge ports 36 and trough 35 are all positioned above a frame lower perimeter 44. The access region 42 is contained within the frame 12 so that no components from the discharge port 36 protrude from the container 10, thereby ensuring that all components of the container 10 remain contained within the perimeter of the frame 12 to allow for efficient transportation, storage and stacking of the container 10 using existing equipment. This attribute, for instance, minimizes any required space between adjacent containers 10 when being shipped or stored so they can be arranged wall to wall. Alternatively, the discharge port 36 may be positioned on the floor 26 of the container 10 in a similar recessed access region 42.

As shown in FIGS. 2A, 3A and 4A-4B, the discharge region 34 also includes at least one sloped wall 46 having a lower edge 48 extending approximately adjacent to and longitudinally to the trough 35, and an upper edge 50 mounted to a support rod 47 extending from the floor 26 to the upper edge 50. It is also contemplated that the upper edge 50 is mounted directly to the front 16 or back wall 18. The sloped wall 46 may be constructed of steel or other material, and is attached to the support rod 47 using welding or other means. Alternatively, the sloped wall 46 may be attached to the wall 16-22 or support rod 47 using an adjustable means so that the angle □ formed between the upper edge 50 and the wall 16-22 can likewise be adjusted.

The sloped wall 46 is preferably positioned to form an angle □ with the support rod 47, front wall 16 or back 18 wall that is greater than the angle of repose for the material 30 being transported. Most contemplated substances 30 have an angle of repose in the range of 15-45 degrees. The angle □, and therefore slope of the sloped wall 46, can be configured based on the application. As such, a portion of the sloped wall upper edge 50 is preferably positioned vertically closer to the front 16 or back wall 18 top 52 than the front or back wall bottom 54. Specifically, the upper edge 50 is preferably positioned higher than 50% of the front 16 or back wall 18 height and approximately at 75% of the front or back wall. An advantage of this configuration is that gravity is used to facilitate transportation of particulate material 30 to the discharge trough 35 for removal from the container 10 through the discharge port 36.

Multiple configurations are contemplated for the number, angle, placement and other overall arrangement of sloped walls 46 and discharge regions 34 based on the substance 30 and other application details. For example, the configuration illustrated in FIG. 3A includes two discharge regions 34, each with two sloped walls 46 extending adjacent to and longitudinally to the corresponding discharge trough 35, and an upper edge respectively mounted to the corresponding support rod 47.

Other configurations, such as those shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, using one, three or more discharge regions 38 with sloped wall pairs 46, discharge troughs 35 and discharge ports 36 are contemplated based on design requirements, container 10 size and the substance 30 being transported. As should be appreciated, the number of sloped walls 46 may be limited depending on the angle of repose for the particulate material 30 being transported. In addition, in embodiments, the sloped wall 46 may be mounted to another sloped wall without the use of the support rod 47.

In addition, an access area sloped wall 49 (see FIGS. 3B and 3C) positioned above the access area 42 may be included in the discharge region 34 to further facilitate the flow of material 30 to the trough 35. The access area sloped wall 49 is similar in function to the sloped wall 46 described above, but extends inward from the side walls 20, 22 and converges at the trough 35. As should be appreciated, the access area sloped wall 49 should be shaped and configured to function with the sloped wall 46 and other elements in the discharge region 34.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 5, storage areas 55 are accessible by doors 32 and formed between the sloped walls 46 and the floor 26 may be used for general storage of equipment such as hand tools, engines, motors, and other items. As a specific example, in some embodiments it may be useful to maintain a particular temperature or pressure in the container cavity 14. In such applications, heater(s), cooler(s), vacuum(s), and/or pump(s) may be located in the storage areas 55 along with controllers, fuel tanks and required connections. Venting can be provided as may be required to communicate heated/cooled air or fluids to the cavity 14 and to provide airflow/exhaust for any motors in the storage areas 55. Again, arrangement of these elements within the perimeter boundary of the frame 12 offers advantages and benefits related to efficiency of shipping, storage and the like. In some embodiments a motor may be driven by use of fuel contained in a fuel tank also stored in the storage area 55, while in others electrical or other external power supplies may be utilized. A locally stored fuel tank offers the advantage of the container 10 being self-contained and able to be operated without any external input.

Doors 32 may also be included on the front 16 and side walls 20, 22 for access to additional storage areas 55 formed by the sloped walls 46. The number of storage areas 55 will vary based on the number of sloped wall pairs 46. Size and placement of doors 32 can be as desired. In many applications the doors 32 are provided with locking devices.

As shown in FIG. 2A, material 30 may be removed from the cavity 14 using only gravity, or may be aided by mechanical and/or pneumatic means. A combination of gravity and a pneumatic vacuum transfer system 56 is provided in the example embodiment. Such equipment 56 is well known in the art. The pneumatic equipment 56 combined with gravity functions to remove material 30 from the cavity 14 through the trough 35 and discharge port 36, and into a hopper 58 or other device.

For example, in one embodiment product 30 is unloaded using a vacuum hose 59 connected to one of the discharge ports 36. In this example, the flow of product 30 into the trough 35 is controlled using a valve shaft 60 or similar device (see FIG. 3C). Product 30 is then vacuumed out of the trough 35, through a transition tube and out of the discharge port 36 for ultimate discharge to a receptacle 58. The configuration is further described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,411,560.

Different mechanical elements can be provided for aiding in the discharge of material 30. Examples include conveyors, augers and the like. Moving to FIG. 3D, the example embodiment includes an auger 62 positioned in the trough 35 for further facilitating removal of material 30 from the container 10. Specifically, the auger 62 facilitates providing a consistent material 30 flow to the discharge port 36 for removal in an efficient manner. However, material 30 may also be removed from the container 10 using just the auger 62 and without the pneumatic vacuum 56. Each discharge region 34 may include a corresponding auger 62. However, in instances when a pneumatic vacuum 56 is not used, a removable auger extension (not shown) may be placed onto the auger 62 to assist transporting material through the discharge port 36. The auger 62 is powered using a mechanical, electrical or hydraulic drive systems such as a farm tractor connected to the auger via a gear set (not illustrated). Such systems are well known in the art.

In some other embodiments, power for the auger 62 or other discharge aiding means is located in the container 10. In some embodiments, for example, a drive motor is provided in one or more of the storage areas 55. A power linkage is provided linking the motor to the auger 62. In some embodiments the motor may be powered by diesel, propane, natural gas, or other hydrocarbon fuel. In such embodiments a fuel tank may also be provided in the storage area 55. This offers the advantage of the container 10 being completely self contained and not requiring external input for operation.

An interior surface 64 of the opposing front 16 and back 18 walls, opposing side walls 20, 22, top wall 24, floor 26 and sloped walls 46, as shown in FIGS. 2A, 3A, 3C, 4A and 4B, may include an epoxy coating for facilitating storage and removal of material 30. Such a coating may also function to prevent the interior surfaces 64 from corroding and reacting with the granular material 30. In addition, epoxy coating may facilitate removal of material 30 by increasing the slickness of the surface. This may also reduce the angle of repose for the material 30 and the corresponding angle of the sloped wall 46. As a result, the area for storing particulate material 30 is increased. In some other embodiments other suitable coatings can be provided to, for instance, comply with health or other industrial standards for material storage.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-3D, the container 10 is filled with material 30 by closing the discharge ports 36 and opening the loading port 28. A conveyor, hose under pneumatic pressure or other suitable loading mechanisms are then used to load granular material 30 through the loading port 28 and into the container cavity 14. Once the container 10 is filled with a designated amount of material 30, the loading port 28 is closed and the container 10 is transported to its destination. Since the container 10 is dimensioned to be a standard size, conventional truck, rail, air and boat are suitable transportation options. Once the container 10 arrives at the destination, it may be stored independently of the transportation equipment until removal of the material 30 is desired. As indicated above, material 30 is preferably removed using a pneumatic device 56 to vacuum material 30 out from the trough 35 and through the discharge port 36.

Importantly, the loading port 28, sloped walls 46, trough 35, discharge outlet 36 and all other container elements are positioned inside a perimeter of the frame 12. As such, no additional special equipment is required for unloading the container 10. As should also be appreciated, the container 10 can therefore be transported using many different methods and stored with other standard sized containers 10 independently from the equipment used to transport the container.

While various embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it should be understood that other modifications, substitutions and alternatives are apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art. Such modifications, substitutions and alternatives can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, which should be determined from the appended claims.

Various features of the invention are set forth in the following claims.