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Publication numberUS20020139798 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/108,851
Publication dateOct 3, 2002
Filing dateMar 29, 2002
Priority dateMar 30, 2001
Publication number10108851, 108851, US 2002/0139798 A1, US 2002/139798 A1, US 20020139798 A1, US 20020139798A1, US 2002139798 A1, US 2002139798A1, US-A1-20020139798, US-A1-2002139798, US2002/0139798A1, US2002/139798A1, US20020139798 A1, US20020139798A1, US2002139798 A1, US2002139798A1
InventorsBradlee Beall, William Logan, Michael Testerman
Original AssigneeWorthington Steelpac Systems
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Shipping pallet
US 20020139798 A1
Abstract
A shipping pallet is provided. The shipping pallet includes a bottom panel, side panels, end panels and a top panel. Hook rods affixed to supports of the side panels engage support hooks attached to cross-braces of the bottom panel. End connectors associated with supports of the end panels protrude through orifices defined in supports of the side panels to attach the end panels to the side panels. Top clips affixed to supports of the top panel engage a J-channel of each side panel, thereby connecting the top panel to the side panels.
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Claims(20)
Having thus described the invention, we claim:
1. A collapsible shipping container, comprising:
a pair of side panels, each side panel including a base end, a hook rod located adjacent said base end and a slot;
a base panel having a pair of opposed sides and including at least one support hook on each of said opposed sides, wherein said hook rod of each of said pair of side panels engages a respective at least one support hook on said pair of opposed sides of said base panel; and
at least one end panel including a pair of spaced end connectors, wherein each end connector includes a hooked portion that extends through a respective slot in said pair of side panels and engages a wall portion adjacent said slot in each of said pair of side panels.
2. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1, wherein each of said side panels includes a J-channel located adjacent an upper end of said side panel, and the shipping container further comprises a top panel including clips that engage the respective side panel J-channels.
3. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1, wherein each said side panel includes a plurality of spaced parallel side panel supports, said hook rod is joined to each side panel support and comprising at least one slot located along each of a left end and a right end of said side panel, wherein the outermost side panel supports define said left end and right end at least one slot.
4. The collapsible shipping container of claim 3, wherein a plurality of support hooks are provided and wherein each support hook of said plurality of support hooks includes a base on which a bottom surface of a corresponding side panel support seats in a substantially flush manner.
5. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1, wherein said base panel includes a plurality of spaced cross braces and a plurality of support hooks, each cross brace includes opposing ends and a hook from said plurality of support hooks is mounted to each opposing end of each cross brace.
6. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1, comprising a pair of end panels, each end panel comprising a plurality of end connectors wherein each end panel includes:
a plurality of end panel supports, each end panel support defining opposing ends;
at least two end panel J-channels, each end panel J-channel receiving like opposing ends of said end panel supports; and
said end connectors are attached to each end panel J-channel proximate to a top end panel support and a bottom end panel support.
7. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1, wherein each end connector of said pair of spaced end connectors comprises an upper tab and a lower tab, and the lower tab includes said hooked portion.
8. A collapsible shipping pallet, comprising:
a base panel including a plurality of spaced parallel cross braces secured to a plurality of spaced parallel slats, the slats extending in a direction approximately normal to the cross braces;
at least two side panels receivably engaged to said base panel, each side panel including a plurality of spaced parallel side panel supports, each side panel support defining a base end and a top end;
a hook rod joined to each side panel support adjacent said base end; and
at least one end panel removably engaging each of said at least two side panels, the at least one end panel including a plurality of spaced parallel end panel supports and a pair of spaced J-channels, each end panel support defining opposing ends, the opposing ends being received by a respective one of said J-channels of said at least one end panel.
9. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein said base panel further comprises a pair of spaced fork tunnels joined to said plurality of cross braces.
10. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein each cross brace of said plurality of spaced parallel cross braces of said base panel defines opposing ends and one support hook of a plurality of support hooks is mounted to each cross brace opposing end.
11. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein each said side panel includes a side panel J-channel fastened to each side panel support proximate said top end of said side panel support.
12. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 11, further comprising a top panel, including:
a plurality of spaced parallel top panel supports, each top panel support defining opposing ends;
at least one slat connected to each of said top panel supports, extending in a direction normal to said top panel supports; and
a plurality of top clips, wherein one top clip is fastened to each opposing end of said top panel supports and said top clips engage said side panel J-channels.
13. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 12, wherein the number of said top panel supports is the same as the number of said side panel supports.
14. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 12, wherein said top clips include at least one wing, whereby the at least one wing engages a lower portion of a cross brace of a base panel of a separate shipping pallet.
15. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein each of said side panels includes at least one cross brace rod fastened to the outermost said side panel supports, the cross brace rod extending in a diagonal manner across the respective side panel.
16. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein the outermost said side panel supports each define a plurality of slots;
each said end panel includes a plurality of end connectors, wherein each end connector includes an upper tab and a lower tab, and the lower tab includes a hooked portion; and
said upper tab and said lower tab of each end connector of said plurality of end connectors extend through a corresponding slot of said plurality of slots defined in said side panel supports, wherein the hooked portion engages the side panel support defining the slot.
17. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 8, wherein said at least one end panel includes at least one end panel cross brace rod fastened to one end of a top end panel support and to an opposite end of a bottom end panel support, extending in a diagonal manner across said end panel.
18. A collapsible shipping pallet, comprising:
a base panel including a pair of spaced fork tunnels;
a first side panel;
a first fastener for selectively connecting said first said panel to said base;
a second side panel;
a second fastener for selectively connecting said second side panel to said base;
a first end panel;
a third fastener for selectively connecting said first end panel to said first side panel;
a fourth fastener for selectively connecting said first end panel to said second side panel;
a second end panel;
a fifth fastener for selectively connecting said second end panel to said first side panel; and
a sixth fastener for selectively connecting said second end panel to said second side panel.
19. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 18, further comprising a top panel and a seventh fastener for selectively connecting the top panel to at least one of said first side panel and said second side panel.
20. The collapsible shipping pallet of claim 19, wherein said seventh fastener comprises a top clip including at least one wing which engages a lower portion of a cross brace of a base panel of a separate shipping pallet.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of provisional application Serial No. 60/280,251, filed Mar. 30, 2001.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0040] Referring now to the drawings wherein the showings are for purposes of illustrating a preferred embodiment of the invention only and not for purposes of limiting the same, FIG. 5 shows a shipping pallet 10 in accordance with the present invention. The shipping pallet 10 includes a base panel 12 which is selectively connected to two opposing side panels 14. Selectively connected to the side panels 14 in an opposing fashion are two end panels 16. A top panel 18, shown in an exploded fashion, can be connected to the side panels 14.

[0041] Turning now to FIG. 11, a top plan view of the base panel 12 illustrates its components. They include a plurality of spaced parallel cross-braces 20 which provide structural support both for the base panel 12 and for the entire pallet. Five cross-braces 20 are illustrated, however, this number may vary depending on the particular application. The cross-braces 20 are secured to spaced parallel slats 22. It is evident from FIG. 11 that the cross-braces 20 and slats 22 are oriented approximately normal to each other. FIG. 4 shows that the cross-braces 20 are U-shaped. The slats have a V-shape. The number of slats 22, as with the number of cross-braces 20, may vary depending on the application. The slats 22 are connected to the cross-braces 20 by means standard in the art, such as welding, riveting, or the like. As is also evident from FIG. 1, the slats are positioned below the cross-braces.

[0042] A pair of spaced rails or fork tunnels 24 are joined to the cross-braces 20 on a side opposite to the slats 22 by welding, riveting, or other means known in the art. As may be best seen from FIG. 19, each rail 24 has an inverted U-shape with a flat top surface and two spaced legs. Returning to FIG. 11, the U-shaped cross-braces 20, V-shaped slats 22 and inverted U-shaped rails give great rigidity to the base panel. The rails 24 provide increased structural stability and a location for a fork lift or other loading and unloading device to access the shipping pallet. In addition, the rails 24 are spaced in such a manner as to accommodate the wheels of wheeled vehicles meant to be shipped. Thus, the product to be shipped can be easily pushed or pulled on or off of the shipping pallet as desired. Moreover, the rails 24 may serve as convenient anchoring points at which the product to be shipped can be secured to the base panel 12 by means known in the art, i.e., strapping, tying, chaining, and the like. The rails 24 are typically some distance from the ground due to the cross-braces 20 and the slats 22 positioned underneath them. This allows the anchoring means to be easily wrapped around each rail 24. Such anchoring may also be done at the cross-braces 20 or at both the rails 24 and the cross-braces 20.

[0043] At each end of each cross-brace 20, a support hook 26 is mounted. As best shown in FIG. 2, the support hooks 26 allow the side panels 14 to easily connect to the base panel 12. The support hooks 26 are joined to the cross-braces 20 by welding, riveting, bolting, press fitting or other similar means known in the art.

[0044] With reference to FIG. 12, the components of the side panels 14 are shown. Each side panel 14 includes a plurality of supports 28 that extend in a vertical manner when the pallet is assembled. Each support 28 is joined near its base to a hook rod 30 by means known in the art such as welding, clamping, press fitting, bolting, etc. Each support 28 is fastened at its top end to a J-channel 32. The top end of each support 28 is joined to an interior portion of the J-channel 32 by standard fastening means such as welding, bolting, riveting, press fitting, clamping, etc.

[0045] With reference to FIG. 10, the shape of the J-channel 32 is illustrated. The J-channel 32 defines a pocket 34 into which the top end of the supports 28 (not shown) are inserted. An upper portion 36 of the J-channel 32 is bent or formed in a U-shaped manner so as to provide the appropriate size for pocket 34. A lower leg portion 38 provides an extended surface on which the supports 28 may rest for added stability. The lower leg portion 38 terminates in a tail portion 40 which is bent back on itself, providing additional support for the J-channel 28.

[0046] Returning now to FIG. 12, cross-brace rods 42 are fastened to the outermost supports 28′ and extend in a diagonal manner across each side panel 14. The cross-brace rods 42 provide the stability and rigidity necessary to prevent excessive flex in each side panel 14. As can be best seen in FIG. 19, the vertical supports 28 are each U-shaped in cross-section for rigidity.

[0047] Turning to FIG. 13, each end panel 16 includes a plurality of supports 44 extending in a horizontal manner when the pallet is assembled. Each end of each support 44 is received by a J-channel 46 which may be fastened by welding, riveting, bolting, press fitting, or other standard means known in the art. The shape of each J-channel 46 is substantially the same as that described above in FIG. 10. With continuing reference to FIG. 13, end connectors 48 are attached to each J-channel proximate to the topmost support 44′ and bottommost support 44″. Cross-bracing rods 50 are fastened to opposing ends of the top support 44′ and the bottom support 44″, extending across each end panel 16 in a diagonal manner. These end rods 50 provide the necessary support and stability to reduce flex by the end panel 16. As with the vertical supports 28, the horizontal supports 44 are U-shaped in cross-section, as best shown in FIG. 16.

[0048] Turning to FIG. 14, the top panel 18 includes a plurality of spaced supports 52. As best seen in FIG. 5, the number of supports 52 in the top panel 18 approximately corresponds to the number of supports 28 in each side panel 14 and the number of cross-braces 20 in the base panel 12. Referring back to FIG. 14, a pair of spaced slats 54 serve to connect the supports 52 and create a single top panel unit 18. The slats 54 are attached to each support 52 by welding, riveting or any other means known in the art. Top clips 56 are fastened to each end of each support 52 by welding, bolting, press fitting, riveting, clamping, or other means as known in the art.

[0049] The assembly of the components of the shipping pallet 10 is shown in FIGS. 1 through 6. With reference to FIG. 1, the side panels 14 are connected to the base panel 12 one at a time, or if assembly is performed by more than one person, both may be attached approximately simultaneously. The hook rod 30 is placed within each support hook 26 to facilitate connection.

[0050] The details of this connection are illustrated in FIG. 2. The support hooks 26, attached to the cross-braces 20, define an inner surface which accepts and engages the hook rod 30. The hook rod 30 is positioned at a level which causes the base of each support 28 of the side panel 14 to seat substantially flush with a base portion of each support hook 26 when the side panel is rotated into an upright orientation, thereby securing each side panel 14 to the base panel 12 in a substantially vertical manner.

[0051] The details of the design of each support hook 26 are shown in FIG. 9. A base portion 58 of the support hook is connected to the cross-brace 20 (FIG. 2) on the base portion's underside. The upper surface of the base portion 58, as mentioned above, allows the base of the support 28 (not shown) to seat in a substantially flush manner. A leg 60 extends vertically from one end of the base portion 58 and terminates in an upper portion 62. The upper portion 62 is bent so as to define a pocket 64 to receive the hook rod 30, as shown in FIG. 2. With continuing reference to FIG. 9, an end face 65 of the upper portion 62 is spaced at a distance from the base portion 58 so as to allow easy clearance of the hook rod 30. The height of the leg 60 is designed to correspond with the placement of the hook rod 30 on the support 28 so as to allow the hook rod 30 to gain entry to the pocket 64 and then engage the inner surface of the upper portion 62. More particularly, the hook rod 30 enters the pocket 64 when the upper portion of the side panel 14 is rotated away from the base panel 12, as illustrated in FIG. 2. Upon the hook rod 30 entering the pocket 64, the upper portion of the side panel 14 is rotated to an upright position, as mentioned above, so that the side panel 14 is approximately normal to the base panel 12. In this orientation, the hook rod 30 engages the inner surface of the upper portion 62 and the bottom of the support 28 seats substantially flush on the base portion 58.

[0052] Turning back to FIG. 1, the hook rod of each side panel 14 is thus inserted into each support hook 26, thereby securing each side panel 14 to the base panel 12. At this point, however, the side panel 14 is not yet stabilized with respect to the base panel 12 and can rotate counterclockwise in relation thereto.

[0053] With reference to FIG. 3, the assembly of the end panels 16 is shown. The end panels 16 are connected to the side panels 14, above the rails 24. Such connection of the end panels 16 to the side panels 14 stabilizes the side panels 14 with respect to the base panel 12 and prevents any rotation of the side panels.

[0054] Turning now to FIG. 4, the details of the connection of the end panels 16 to the side panels 14 are provided. Once the hook rod 30 of the side panel 14 has engaged the support hooks 26 and is rotated upright, the end connector 48, which is attached to the J-channel 46, engages a vertically extending slot 66 defined in the outer support 28′. All of the supports 28 may define the vertical slots 66 for ease of manufacturing, however, only the slots 66 defined in the outer supports 28′ are engaged by the end connectors 48 of each end panel 16.

[0055] With reference to FIG. 8, the design of the end connector 48 shows how this engagement is accomplished. The end connector 48 includes a main wall 67 from which two opposed side walls 68 extend at approximately a 90° angle. Thus, a U-shaped connector is provided. Protruding from the main wall 67 in an opposite direction from the side walls 68 is an upper tab, 70. Spaced therefrom is a lower tab 72, also extending from the main wall 67. The lower tab 72 includes a protruding portion 74 which is oriented parallel to the upper tab 70, and a hook portion 76 which extends normal to the protruding portion. The protruding portion 74 and hook portion extend through the slot 66 (FIG. 20) of a side member along with the upper tab 70. Once the protruding portion 74, is extended through the orifice 66, the end panel 16 can be slid down in relation to the side panel 14 until the upper tab 70 also extends through the slot (FIG. 17). In this position, the hook portion 76 prevents the end connector from disengaging the side member 28′. Thus, the engagement of the end panel 16 to the side panel 14 is facilitated as shown in FIGS. 16 and 17. Because the end connector 48 is positioned at each side of both the top supports 44′ and the bottom supports 44″ (FIG. 13) of the end panel 16, a four-point engagement of each end panel 16 to the side panels 14 occurs. Thus, a stable framework is created.

[0056]FIG. 5 illustrates the manner in which the top panel 18 is oriented in relation to the side panels 14, end panels 16, and base panel 12 for assembly. The top clips 56 of the top panel 18 engage the J-channels 32 of the side panels 14 to form the shipping pallet 10.

[0057] The construction of each top clip 56 is shown in FIG. 7. The top clip 56 has a first wall 80 and a first leg 82 extending in a direction approximately thereto. Spaced parallel to and apart from the first wall 80 is a second wall 84 terminating in an angled second leg 86. Connecting the first and second walls 80 and 84 is a base wall 88. The space between the first wall 80 and the second wall 84 is of a dimension so as to allow firm insertion of the J-channel 32 (FIG. 16) into the top clip 56, e.g., an interference fit. The first and second legs 82 and 86 facilitate smooth insertion of the J-channel 32 into the top clip 56. The second wall 84 of the top clip 56 defines an opening 90 which allows some flex, creating more of a snap-type fit on the J-channel 32. Louvers 91 are located on both sides of the opening 90 to allow the top clips to snap into place on the J-channel. The louvers are located far enough away from the base wall 88 to ensure clearance with the J-channel. As mentioned, the base wall 88 extends between terminal portions of the first wall 80 and the second wall 84. The two opposed ends of the base wall 90 are bent so as to form a tab or wing 92.

[0058] The engagement of the top clips 56 to the J-channel 32, which facilitates connection of the top panel 18 to the side panels 14, is shown in FIG. 6. The top clip 56 slides over the J-channel 32, which is fastened to the side panel supports 28. The top clip 56, is designed to have an interference fit with the J-channel 32, as described above, so that a tight connection may be accomplished. The upper wall 88 (FIG. 7) of the top clip 56 provides a positive stopping point of the clip 56 against the J-channel 32 during assembly. Because the top clip 56 is clamped onto the J-channel 32 by its own force, i.e., the interference fit, rather than a fastener or other means, removal is easily facilitated by a worker pushing the top panel 18 in an upward direction. Thus, easy installation and removal are facilitated by the design of the present invention.

[0059] With reference to FIGS. 15 through 17, the assembled shipping pallet 10 and details of the connections are shown. The side panels 14, the end panels 16, the base panel 12 and the top panel 18 are shown in an assembled state in FIG. 15.

[0060] Turning to FIG. 16, an upper corner of that assembly is illustrated. The top clip 56 of the top panel 18 engages the J-channel 32 which is fastened to the support 28 of the side panel 14. The end panel 16 engages the side panel 14 via the end connector 48 which extends through the slot 66 (FIG. 17) defined by the support 28. The end connector 48 is attached to the support 44 of the end panel 16.

[0061] The connections of a bottom corner of the shipping pallet are shown in FIG. 17. The hook rod 30 which is connected to the support 28 of the side panel 14 engages the support hook 26 which is fastened to the cross-brace 20 of the base panel 12. The bottom support 44 of the end panel 16 connects to the support 28 of the side panel 14 by the protrusion of the end connector 48 through the orifice 66. Thus, the side panels 14 engage the base panel 12, the end panels 16 engage the side panels 14 and the top panel 18 (as shown in FIG. 16) also engages the side panels 14, creating a simple, strong and easily assembled and disassembled structure.

[0062] Particular note is made of the connection of the top panel 18 to the side panels 14 and the side panels 14 to the base panel 12. The specific connections described above take place at each support, e.g., five points per panel as shown in FIG. 15. Of course, it should be recognized that the number of support points and related connections may vary according to the particular application.

[0063] Turning now to FIG. 18, two assembled shipping pallets 94 and 96 according to the invention are shown in a stacked configuration. FIGS. 19 through 24 illustrate the details which provide for easy and stable stacking of the pallets 94 and 96. It is to be noted that the stacking of the two pallets 94 and 96 is presented for the purpose of illustration only, as depending on the application, more pallets may be stacked.

[0064] The top clips 56′ of the bottom pallet are a key point of contact and stability between the stacked pallets 94 and 96, as shown in FIGS. 19 and 20. The bent portions 92′ of the top clips 56′ of the bottom pallet 96 surround a portion of the cross-brace 20″ of the base panel 12″ of the top pallet 94. By surrounding part of the cross-brace 20″, the bent portions 92′ of the top clip 56′ contain and thus prevent the top pallet 94 from sliding or shifting lengthwise on the bottom pallet 96.

[0065]FIG. 23, shows pallets 94 and 96 from a side view, providing further detail to FIG. 24. The containment of each cross-brace 20″ by bent portions 92 of each top clip 56′ is evident.

[0066]FIG. 21 depicts the stacked pallets 94 and 96 from an end view. Further details of the contact points are shown in the enlarged view of FIG. 22. The containment of the cross-brace 20″ of the base panel 12″ of the upper shipping pallet 94 by the bent portions 92′ of the top clip 56′ of the lower shipping pallet 96 is evident. As mentioned above, this containment prevents shifting or sliding of the top pallet 94 relative to the bottom pallet 96. However, such containment is maximized only along a longitudinal direction of the shipping pallets 94 and 96. It is the placement of the slat 22″ of the base panel 12″ of the top pallet 94 relative to the top clip 56′ of the top panel 18′ of the bottom pallet 96 which prevents shifting or sliding of the top pallet 94 in a transverse direction. As shown in FIG. 22, at each side of the top shipping pallet 94, a slat 22″ is located such as to allow the top pallet to remain proximate to the top clips 56′ of the bottom pallet 96. Thus, the top clips 56′ contain movement by the slats 22″, preventing shifting of the top pallet 94 off of the bottom pallet 96. As a result, the top clips 56′ of the bottom pallet 96 act in the described manner to engage the components of the base panel 12″ of the top pallet 94 to prevent movement of the top pallet 94 relative to the bottom pallet 96 in both longitudinal and transverse directions. The present invention thus facilitates stacking and control of shifting by stacked pallets in a simple yet effective manner.

[0067] The materials to be used in the components of the shipping pallet 10 are preferably made from a suitable conventional metal, such as steel. However, it is possible that other structural materials such as reinforced composites, high strength aluminum, or structural polymers may be used. Particular note is made of the top clips 56 which may also be made of spring steel or other resilient yet strong material.

[0068] The shipping pallet 10 of the present invention provides numerous advantages over shipping pallets of the prior art. Among these advantages are ease of manufacture due to the use of fewer components, which reduces manufacturing costs. Other advantages include ease of assembly and ease of disassembly. The ease of assembly and disassembly both lead to the advantage that fewer workers are needed to put together or break down a shipping pallet of the present invention, thus reducing labor costs and freeing up workers for other tasks. In addition, it is anticipated that less time will be needed to assemble and disassemble the shipping pallet of the present invention, leading to an increased efficiency of the process, thereby reducing the cost associated with the use of the shipping pallet of the present invention. Further, the shipping pallet of the present invention is made with minimal sharp edges, creating a safer assembly for both workers and the products to be shipped. The presence of minimal sharp edges allows workers to move more rapidly in assembly and disassembly, thereby leading to a maximum use of resources. Minimal sharp edges also decrease the likelihood of damage to the product being shipped due to contact with the pallet, reducing the costs associated with such damage.

[0069] The anchoring of a product to be shipped within the shipping pallet of the present invention is much more versatile than pallets of the prior art. The presence of multiple cross-braces and rails or fork tunnels provides many points at which a product may be secured. Thus, different products having different locations at which they must be secured are easily accommodated with the shipping pallet of the present invention. The rails are advantageous because they may also serve as pathways for products having wheels. For example, before assembly of the side and end panels, a product having wheels may be easily pushed onto the rails and along the bottom panel to a point at which it is secured. Upon arriving at its destination and disassembly of the top panel, side panels and at least one end panel, the product may be released from its anchors and easily rolled off of the shipping pallet along the rails. The rails also serve as fork tunnels and provide a convenient and stable location at which a loading or unloading vehicle, such as a fork lift, may handle the shipping pallet. This reduces the chance that the pallet may be improperly handled, thereby reducing the possibility of injury to workers or damage to the shipped product.

[0070] The overall structure, having no additional fasteners for assembly or disassembly, allows for fast and easy use. Moreover, the shipping pallet of the present invention is also strong and structurally stable. As described above, two or more units may be stacked and the forces associated with such stacking are uniquely distributed according to the design of the present invention. The weight of the product in an upper pallet is transferred to the structural components of the base panel of that pallet. More particularly, the cross-braces 20″ and slats 22″ of the base panel 12″ of the upper pallet 94 are supported on the side panels 14′ of the lower pallet 96. These, in turn, transfer the weight to the base panel 12′ of the lower pallet 96. Thus, the forces associated with the stacked pallets are distributed along these structural members in a downward fashion to the base of the lowermost pallet, which is typically regarded as the most stable arrangement. In addition, the design of the present invention creates specific stacking points at which cross-braces of the upper pallet are positioned in the top clips of the lower pallet and the bottom slats of the upper pallet are positioned in between the top clips of the lower pallet. This prevents dissimilar stacking that may result in uneven loading. Further, this stacking and securing of stacked pallets is facilitated without any additional hardware. Since all of the connectors used, the top clip 56, the J-channels 32 and 46, the support hooks 26 and the end connectors 48 are permanently mounted to their respective panel, there are no connectors that can get misplaced.

[0071] Since the base panel 12, side panels 14, end panels 16 and top panel 18 can be disassembled from each other, the pallets can be reduced in volume for return to the shipper after the vehicle or other product is removed from the pallet. The various components of the pallet can be secured to each other by suitable conventional means for the return trip. Because the fasteners are integrated with each respective panel as described above, the disassembly process is simplified. There is no need for a worker to remove any fasteners, as each panel is merely pulled from the other panel or panels to which it is connected. Also, no tools are necessary to facilitate disassembly, resulting in a faster process, as the time to obtain and use such tools is eliminated. Further, because there are no separate fasteners, the time involved in gathering and consolidating fasteners for the return trip after their removal is also eliminated. Moreover, the chance of losing separate fasteners is removed, resulting in a cost savings from a lack of the necessity of repeated investments in separate fasteners. Integral fasteners also reduce the chances that a particular fastener will not be installed during assembly of the shipping pallet, creating a safer structure for both the product to be shipped and workers handling the shipping pallet.

[0072] The invention has been described with reference to a preferred embodiment. Obviously, modifications and alternations will occur to others upon reading and understanding the preceding detailed description. It is intended that the invention be construed as including all such modifications and alterations insofar as they come within the scope of the appended claims or the equivalents thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0015] The invention may take form in certain components and structures, a preferred embodiment of which will be illustrated in the accompanying drawings wherein:

[0016]FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a base panel and one side panel of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0017]FIG. 2 is an enlarged end elevational view of a portion of the base panel and one side panel of a shipping pallet of FIG. 1;

[0018]FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the base panel, two side panels and two end panels of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0019]FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the base panel, the side panel, and the end panel of FIG. 3;

[0020]FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention with a top panel exploded;

[0021]FIG. 6 is an enlarged end elevational view of a portion of the side panel, an end panel and the top panel of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0022]FIG. 7 is a greatly enlarged perspective view of a top clip of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0023]FIG. 8 is a greatly enlarged perspective view of an end connector of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0024]FIG. 9 is a greatly enlarged end elevational view of a support hook of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0025]FIG. 10 is a greatly enlarged end elevational view of a J-channel of a shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0026]FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the base panel of FIG. 1;

[0027]FIG. 12 is a side elevational view of the side panel of FIG. 1;

[0028]FIG. 13 is an end elevational view of the end panel of FIG. 3;

[0029]FIG. 14 is a top plan view of the top panel of FIG. 5;

[0030]FIG. 15 is a reduced perspective view of a fully assembled shipping pallet in accordance with the present invention;

[0031]FIG. 16 an enlarged perspective view of an upper corner of the shipping pallet of FIG. 15;

[0032]FIG. 17 is an enlarged perspective view of a lower corner of the shipping pallet of FIG. 15;

[0033]FIG. 18 is a perspective view of two shipping pallets in accordance with the present invention in a stacked configuration;

[0034]FIG. 19 is an enlarged perspective view of one corner of the two shipping pallets of FIG. 18;

[0035]FIG. 20 is an enlarged perspective view of another corner of the two shipping pallets of FIG. 18;

[0036]FIG. 21 is an end elevational view of two shipping pallets in accordance with the present invention in a stacked configuration;

[0037]FIG. 22 is an enlarged end elevational view of a portion of the two shipping pallets of FIG. 21;

[0038]FIG. 23 is a side elevational view of two shipping pallets in accordance with the present invention in a stacked configuration; and

[0039]FIG. 24 is an enlarged side elevational view illustrating a portion of the two shipping pallets of FIG. 23.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention relates to containers for shipping products. More particularly, the present invention relates to a new shipping pallet for safely transporting vehicles or other products.

[0004] 2. Description of Related Art

[0005] When large items such as lawn tractors, riding lawn mowers, all terrain vehicles, or other four-wheeled and recreational vehicles, or even outboard motors, snow mobiles or the like are transported from one place to another, they are typically carried in pallets or shipping containers. These vehicles need to be protected when in transit from damage caused by contact with other products, displaced objects, the transport vehicle and the devices used to load and unload the products, such as forklifts or cranes. To help minimize any damage, the products are often placed on or in some type of container or pallet.

[0006] Pallets of the prior art have typically been made of wood, corrugated fiber board, steel, or other similar materials. The designs of these containers exhibit significant disadvantages. A primary disadvantage of non-reusable containers is disposal. For example, a wooden or corrugated fiber board container, upon arriving at its destination, must be taken apart so the product held in it can be prepared for sale or use. Once the container is disassembled, it is typically thrown away. This generates a significant amount of solid waste which creates environmental problems, increases the cost of predisposal storage, and raises the cost of disposal. Even when a pallet design is minimized, such as providing only a base pallet without sides or a top, the base pallet must still be disposed of. At the same time, the lack of sides or a top may result in increased damage to the product.

[0007] In addition to the problem of disposal, shipping pallets that are not reusable may increase the cost of the product being shipped. Because the shipping pallet may only be used for one or two trips, its entire cost cannot be distributed among multiple uses. Thus, a non-reusable shipping pallet which appears at first blush to be less expensive than a reusable one may actually be more expensive when the total number of uses is considered.

[0008] In order to alleviate the above problems of disposal and cost, reusable shipping pallets have been developed. These pallets are typically of sturdier construction than disposable pallets and are designed to be returned to the shipper from the receiver for multiple reuse. Thus, disposal is much more infrequent and the cost of each shipping pallet may be distributed over the total number of times each pallet is used. However, in order for such pallets to be efficient, it is often necessary that they are easily disassembled to “break down” into a compact unit for return to the shipper when the product is no longer inside. This ability to “break down” allows more pallet units to be returned in one trip, requiring fewer total return trips, thereby reducing the cost associated with the use of such units.

[0009] Shipping pallets which are able to break down, otherwise known as collapsible pallets, have taken several forms. Those that have been constructed from wood or corrugated fiber board have not had the structural stability to protect large, heavy products for multiple trips. Thus, collapsible steel shipping pallets have been developed. Such pallets are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,671,854 issued to Thomas, U.S. Pat. No. 5,609,111 issued to Hasegawa et al., and U.S. Pat. No. 5,494,167 also issued to Hasegawa et al. One of the primary disadvantages of the inventions described in these patents is complexity. Each of these pallets utilizes a great multitude of components and fasteners. Such complexity increases the initial material cost and the assembly cost of the pallets. More significantly, it also results in an increase of the amount of time necessary for a worker to disassemble, or break down, each shipping pallet at the receiving location. Moreover, such increased complexity also typically requires the involvement of more than one worker to disassemble the pallet. The end result is a shipping pallet which requires a great deal of expense to manufacture, assemble, and disassemble for reuse.

[0010] In response to these disadvantages, shipping pallets utilizing fewer fasteners have been developed. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,505,323 issued to Naoki et al. discloses the use of a container utilizing interlocking connections. However, the interlocking of components is accomplished by specially formed members which contain bulges. These bulges add to the specialized design, and hence, the cost of manufacturing such a shipping pallet. In addition, the pallet of Naoki requires that all sidewalls lock to the base and to one another through cumbersome means, creating a unit which is not easily assembled and disassembled.

[0011] Accordingly, it is desirable to develop a new and improved shipping pallet which is strong, collapsible, easy to manufacture and easy to assemble and disassemble, thereby overcoming the foregoing difficulties and others and providing better and more advantageous overall results.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] In an exemplary embodiment of the invention, a collapsible shipping container is provided. The shipping container includes a pair of side panels and each side panel includes a base end, a hook rod located adjacent to the base end and a slot. A base panel includes a pair of opposed sides and includes at least one support hook on each of the opposed sides to engage a respective support hook on the pair of opposed sides of the base panel. At least one end panel includes a pair of spaced end connectors and each end connector includes a hooked portion that extends through a respective slot in the pair of side panels and engages a wall portion adjacent the slot in each of the pair of side panels.

[0013] In another exemplary embodiment of the invention, a collapsible shipping pallet is provided. The shipping pallet includes a base panel that has a plurality of spaced parallel cross braces secured to a plurality of spaced parallel slats and the slats extend in a direction approximately normal to the cross braces. At least two side panels receivably engage the base panel and each side panel includes a plurality of spaced parallel side panel supports. Each side panel support defines a base end and a top end. A hook rod is joined to each side panel support adjacent the base end and at least one end panel removably engages each of the side panels. The end panel includes a plurality of spaced parallel end panel supports and a pair of spaced J-channels and each end panel support defines opposing ends. The opposing ends are received by a respective J-channel of the end panel.

[0014] In yet another exemplary embodiment of the invention, a collapsible shipping pallet is provided. The shipping pallet includes a base panel with a pair of spaced fork tunnels and a first side panel. A first fastener selectively connects the first said panel to the base. A second fastener selectively connects a second side panel to the base. A third fastener selectively connects a first end panel to the first side panel and a fourth fastener selectively connects the first end panel to the second side panel. A fifth fastener selectively connects a second end panel to the first side panel and a sixth fastener selectively connects the second end panel to the second side panel.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7021461 *Nov 4, 2003Apr 4, 2006Keyboard CarriageVehicle shipping rack and related methods
US7240799 *Dec 21, 2004Jul 10, 2007Zhi Qiang ZhangFoldable container
US8276753 *Dec 9, 2005Oct 2, 2012Power Retailing Group S.A. De C.V.Product containment, transportation, exhibiting, and dispensing packaging structure
US8403284Jun 27, 2008Mar 26, 2013Jon KorbonskiPallet assembly
Classifications
U.S. Classification220/7, 206/600, 108/56.1
International ClassificationB65D6/26, B65D21/00, B65D6/08, B65D6/22, B65D6/00, B65D6/18, B65D85/68
Cooperative ClassificationB65D2585/686, B65D7/24, B65D7/30
European ClassificationB65D7/24, B65D7/30
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 22, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: WORTHINGTON INDUSTRIES, INC., OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LOGAN, WILLIAM J.;REEL/FRAME:012917/0029
Effective date: 20020402
Mar 29, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: WORTHINGTON INDUSTRIES, INC., OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:TESTERMAN, MICHAEL R.;BEALL, BRADLEE S.;REEL/FRAME:012749/0584
Effective date: 20020326