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Publication numberUS20020176767 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/865,762
Publication dateNov 28, 2002
Filing dateMay 25, 2001
Priority dateMay 25, 2001
Publication number09865762, 865762, US 2002/0176767 A1, US 2002/176767 A1, US 20020176767 A1, US 20020176767A1, US 2002176767 A1, US 2002176767A1, US-A1-20020176767, US-A1-2002176767, US2002/0176767A1, US2002/176767A1, US20020176767 A1, US20020176767A1, US2002176767 A1, US2002176767A1
InventorsDave Gisselberg
Original AssigneeDave Gisselberg
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Vessel racking system
US 20020176767 A1
Abstract
A vessel racking device comprising a wheeled material handling system that rides on a ground based track system which lies between a staging area and a storage area. The storage area is made up of a plurality of cells positioned above, at or below ground level. Through a set of fixed longitudinal rails, the ground based track system enables the wheeled towerless material handling system to move between the water's edge and the storage area in a reproducible manner by a moderately skilled operator. The wheeled towerless material handling system is capable of lifting a vessel out of the water and placing it in a cell. The wheeled towerless material handling system is capable of altering its vertical profile to avoid and/or clear overhead obstructions.
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Claims(30)
I claim:
1. A vessel racking device, comprising:
a staging area configured to temporarily position a vessel for transfer by said vessel racking device;
a storage area comprising a lattice structure having a plurality of cells, each of said cells adapted to receive and hold said vessel;
a ground based track system fixed to the ground and positioned adjacent to and spanning the distance between said staging area and said storage area;
a wheeled towerless material handling system riding on a portion of said ground based track system, said wheeled towerless material handling system configured to selectively alter the vertical profile of said wheeled towerless material handling system and selectively move said vessel between said staging area and said storage; and
a power system of sufficient power operatively connected to distribute sufficient power to said wheeled towerless material handling system to enable handling, loading and discharging said vessel from said storage area and said staging area.
2. The vessel racking device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said wheeled towerless material handling system further comprises:
an existing excavator configured with bogies to ride on said portion of said ground based track system;
a telescoping lift system operatively mounted to said existing excavator; said telescoping lift system configured to handle said vessel and selectively alter said vertical profile; and
a counterforce member located on said existing excavator to enhance stability of said wheeled towerless material handling system.
3. The vessel racking device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said wheeled towerless material handling system further comprises:
an existing telehandler comprising a telescopic boom, said existing telehandler configured with bogies to ride on said portion of said ground based track system; and
a telescoping lift system operatively mounted to a distal end of said telescopic boom; said telescoping lift system configured to handle said vessel and selectively alter said vertical profile; and
a counterforce member located on said existing telehandler to enhance stability of said wheeled towerless material handling system.
4. A vessel racking device as claimed in claim 1 further comprising an alignment system configured to facilitate handling of said vessel.
5. A vessel racking device, comprising:
a staging area configured to temporarily position a vessel for transfer by said vessel racking device;
a storage area having a plurality of cells configured to receive and hold said vessel;
a ground based track system comprising at least two longitudinal rails fixed to the ground and substantially parallel to each other, said ground based track system positioned adjacent to and spanning the distance between said staging area and said storage area;
a towerless material handling system having a carriage, body, telescoping lift system, and a counterforce member, wherein said telescoping lift is operatively attached to said body to allow pickup, handling and discharge of said vessel, said body is rotatably fixed to said carriage to allow rotation of said body about a substantially vertical axis, said carriage is engaged to said ground based track system by a set of carriage bogies to allow movement of said towerless material handling system about said ground based track system, and said counterforce member configured and positioned on said towerless material handling system to enhance stability of said towerless material handling system especially during handling of said vessel; and
a power system of sufficient power operatively connected to distribute sufficient power to said towerless telescoping material handling system to enable handling said vessel at and between said staging area and said storage area.
6. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said ground based track system further comprises a transverse rail system and a set of rail bogies, said transverse rail system comprises at least two transverse rails configured to engage said carriage bogies, each of said transverse rails engages at least a portion of said longitudinal rails by said set of rail bogies, and said transverse rail system is driven by said power system to allow selectively positioning said transverse rail system about said longitudinal rails.
7. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said towerless telescoping material handling system further comprises a telescopic boom operatively fixed at a first end to said body and operatively fixed at a second end to said telescoping lift system, said telescopic boom configured to selectively articulate said telescopic lift system into a variety of positions conducive to loading, handling and discharging said vessel.
8. The racking device as claimed in claim 6, wherein said towerless telescoping material handling system further comprises a telescopic boom operatively fixed at a first end to said body and operatively fixed at a second end to said telescoping lift system, said telescopic boom configured to selectively articulate said telescopic lift system into a variety of positions conducive to loading, handling and discharging said vessel.
9. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said counterforce member is a mass of sufficient weight located on said body opposite from said telescoping lift system.
10. The racking device as claimed in claim 6, wherein said counterforce member engages, at least during handling of said vessel, an unobstructed under region of at least one rail of said ground based track system.
11. The racking device as claimed in claim 10, wherein said counterforce member comprises at least one counterforce bogie in contact with said unobstructed under region.
12. The racking device as claimed in claim 10, wherein said counterforce member comprises a “J” shaped post fixed to said carriage, said “J” shaped post extends vertically down from and below said carriage and at least engages said unobstructed lower region when said towerless material handling system begins to become unstable thus significantly reducing the chance of rollover.
13. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said power system is positioned at a power generation area located adjacent to said ground based track system.
14. The racking device as claimed in claim 9, wherein said mass comprises said power system.
15. The racking device as claimed in claim 14, wherein said towerless material handling system further comprises a set of operator controls located on said towerless material handling system near said telescopic lift to allow an operator to handle said vessel from a position on said towerless material handling system.
16. The racking device as claimed in claim 14, wherein said vessel racking device further comprises a set of operator controls remotely located from said towerless material handling system to allow an operator to remotely handle said vessel with said racking device.
17. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein at least one tine is operatively attached to said telescoping lift, said at least one tine is configured to support said vessel.
18. The racking device as claimed in claim 5, wherein said longitudinal rails are recessed into said ground to significantly reduce the profile of said ground based track system.
19. A vessel racking device, comprising:
a staging area configured to temporarily position a vessel for transfer by said vessel racking device;
a storage area having a plurality of cells configured to receive and hold said vessel;
a ground based track system comprising at least two longitudinal rails fixed to the ground and substantially parallel to each other, and at least two transverse rails engaged by a set of rail bogies to at least a portion of said longitudinal rails to allow selective positioning of said at least two transverse rails about said ground based track system;
a telescopic lift system operatively fixed to an existing hydraulic excavator to allow pickup, handling and discharge of said vessel, said existing hydraulic excavator is fitted with a set of carriage bogies and a counterforce member to engage at least a portion of said at least two transverse rails, and said existing hydraulic excavator configured to operatively provide power to said set of rail bogies.
20. A vessel racking device, comprising:
a staging area configured to temporarily position a vessel for transfer by said vessel racking device;
a storage area having a plurality of cells configured to receive and hold said vessel;
a ground based track system comprising at least two longitudinal rails fixed to the ground and substantially parallel to each other;
a telescopic lift system operatively fixed to a telescoping boom of an existing telehandler to allow pickup, handling and discharge of said vessel, said existing telehandler is fitted with carriage bogies and a counterforce member to engage at least a portion of said ground based track system to allow selective positioning of said existing telehandler about said ground based track system and secure handling of said vessel.
21. A method of handling a vessel with a vessel racking device comprising the steps of:
providing and distributing sufficient power to said vessel racking device to handle said vessel;
positioning a tracked material handling system in a position to receive a vessel;
receiving said vessel by said tracked material handling system;
supporting said vessel by at least one tine operatively connected to said tracked material handling system;
reducing the vertical profile of said tracked material handling system to avoid obstacles, if present, and increase said tracked material handling system's stability during support of said vessel;
moving said tracked material handling system to a pre-selected discharge position adjacent to a pre-selected discharge location configured to receive said vessel; and
discharging said vessel to said pre-selected discharge location.
22. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of using an alignment system to accurately and in a reproduceable manner receive, support, move, handle and discharge said vessel.
23. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of operating said tracked material handling system from a fixed location on said tracked material handling system.
24. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of operating said vessel racking system from at least one fixed position located adjacent to said vessel racking device.
25. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of operating said tracked material handling system by a movable remote control device.
26. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of providing and distributing said power from at least one power source located on said tracked material handling system.
27. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, further comprising the step of providing and distributing said power from at least one power source located adjacent to said vessel racking device.
28. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 26, wherein said at least one power source is hydraulic.
29. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, wherein said discharge location is water of sufficient depth to receive said vessel.
30. The method of handling a vessel as claimed in claim 21, wherein said discharge location is a storage cell.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates to a material handling system for handling articles such as vessels. More specifically, the invention relates to railed material handling systems which handle and store vessels onshore.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Typically, when a vessel is not in use it will be tied up at a dock, berth or mooring buoy. Most marinas, however, do not have sufficient berths or mooring buoys to accommodate all of the vessels that are used in and around the marina. Furthermore, maintaining or storing vessels in berths and/or mooring buoys can be costly. One solution is to provide land based storage for vessels that will not be used for extended periods of time. The most common land based storage for vessels is a trailer. Another storage means is dry stacking the vessels in a storage area.

[0003] Trailers are inexpensive but require a vehicle fitted with a trailer hitch; a ramp of sufficient slope to accommodate both the trailer and the vessel; and a skilled operator to handle the trailer. One system which alleviates the ramp and some of the skilled operator problems is set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 4,976,211 to Reinhardt, for “Boat Launching System.” However, the Reinhardt system does not address the significant amount of real estate required to store a trailer which is either empty or loaded.

[0004] An alternative is dry stacking which includes a (uncovered or covered) rack adapted to store a number of vessels in cells or bays. The cells are aligned along a wall, and are set up in shelves. In this way, a number of vessels are stored on each shelve, with a number of shelves rising vertically, with one vessel stored above another, much like books in a book shelve. Such systems eliminate the need for the trailer, the vehicle, the ramp and the need for a significant amount of real estate. A typical dry stack system may utilize a free ranging lift truck as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,027,303 to Voegeli for “Non-Counterweighted Lift Truck and Method of Operation.” Other dry stack systems utilize an overhead crane of varying degrees of complexity as described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,189,198 to Filak, for “Small Boat Dry Storage Facility;” U.S. Pat. No. 3,786,942 to Dane for “Dry Sail Marina;” U.S. Pat. No. 4,190,013 to Otis et. al. for “Floating Dry Storage Facility for Small Boats;” and U.S. Pat. No. 6,007,288 to Maffet for “Watercraft Storage System.” Such overhead systems usually require the storage rack(s) to be positioned next to a navigable channel cut into the dry stack area or the overhead rails to extend over the water.

[0005] The need for a navigable channel in most overhead systems typically requires an initial carving out of the channel and continued dredging to maintain navigability, both costly drawbacks to the overhead crane style system. Common to all racking systems with overhead cranes is the inaccessibility of the overhead crane and its related systems. Furthermore, overhead cranes tend to be electrically powered to reduce weight aloft, but suffer from corrosion and the effects of the harsh marine environment. Finally, a major drawback with overhead crane style systems, like the systems describe in the patents of Otis, Filak, Dane, and Maffet is the need for an unobstructed vertical height from the overhead rail to the water's edge along the rail path of the crane tower.

[0006] An alternative to the overhead crane system is a ground based tower system as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,797,055 to Tworoger et al. for “Load Moving Apparatus;” and U.S. Pat. No. 4,953,488 to Heidtmann for “Boat Carrousel.” In a ground based tower system, a tower supports a set of vertically positioned rails about which a fork or lift car travels. A major drawback to tower based systems is the fixed vertical height of the tower. Like the overhead crane system, the tower based system is difficult to repair and maintain at the upper region. When the tower is mobile, there must be a vertical clearance of any obstructions greater than or equal to the height of the tower in all areas where the tower operates very similar to the vertical clearance required for overhead crane systems. Where vertical obstructions exist, like overhead power lines, costly relocation of the obstruction or the dry stacking system is required. Furthermore, the openings and associated doors of the storage areas must be of sufficient height to accommodate ingress and egress of the tower. Such large openings and doors can be difficult to install and maintain. Where the storage area is climate controlled, such large openings, when opened, upset the regulated environment of the storage area. Such a problem is typically compensated for by increasing the capacity of the climate control system or installing flexible curtains. Finally, construction and erection of the tower can be complicated, costly and require custom designed and fabricated systems.

[0007] In view of the above described deficiencies associated with dry storage devices and methods utilizing either a trailer or tower to handle a vessel, the present invention has been developed to alleviate these drawbacks and provide further benefits to the user. These enhancements and benefits are described in greater detail herein below with respect to several alternative embodiments of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The device includes a wheeled towerless material handling system that rides on a ground based track system which lies between a staging area and a storage area. The storage area is made up of a plurality of cells positioned above, at or below ground level. Through a set of fixed longitudinal rails, the ground based track system enables the wheeled towerless material handling system to move between the water's edge and a storage area in a reproducible manner by a moderately skilled operator. The wheeled towerless material handling system is capable of lifting a vessel out of the water and placing it in a cell. The wheeled towerless material handling system is capable of altering its vertical profile to avoid and/or clear overhead obstructions.

[0009] The ground based track system includes longitudinal rails which are positioned on the ground, rather than positioned overhead. In a preferred embodiment, a set of transverse rails are moveably fixed to the fixed longitudinal rails. When present, the transverse rails are preferably propelled about the longitudinal rails on a set of rail bogies. The towerless material handling system includes a wheeled carriage configured to move about the ground based track system. In a preferred embodiment, the wheeled carriage is mounted on the transverse rails of the preferred embodiment of the ground based track system.

[0010] The towerless material handling system further includes a telescoping lift system capable of lifting a vessel out of the water and placing it in a designated cell for storage. In one embodiment, the telescoping lift system includes at least one tine or fork configured to support and handle a vessel. In a preferred embodiment, the towerless material handling system includes a turntable or rotex configured to rotate the towerless material handling system about a substantially vertical axis. In one embodiment, the towerless material handling system includes a body mounted on the turntable which in turn is mounted on a carriage to allow rotation of the body above the carriage. The carriage bogies are fixed to the carriage to allow transverse movement. In the above described configuration, the device has four degrees of freedom to handle the vessel.

[0011] In another embodiment, the telescoping lift system is capable of tilting off a substantially vertical axis, thereby giving the device another degree of freedom and enhanced vessel handling capabilities. In an alternative embodiment, the tines or forks are configured to rotate about a substantially horizontal axis, thereby giving the device another degree of freedom and enhanced vessel handling capabilities. In yet another embodiment, the tines or forks are configured to move laterally, thereby giving the device another degree of freedom and enhanced vessel handling capabilities. In the most preferred embodiment, each of the features described above are part of the device, thereby resulting in seven degrees of freedom to handle the vessel. In sum, for each operative attachment between two components, at least one degree of freedom is achieved.

[0012] As can be appreciated, power and control to move the device through the various degrees of freedom can be hydraulic, electric, mechanical and/or a combination thereof. In the most preferred embodiment, hydraulic power moves the device through any one or all of the device's degrees of freedom at the same time. In one embodiment, the controls are located in a operators cab within the towerless material handling system. In an alternate embodiment, the device is controlled remotely. To assist the operator and promote repeatability of movements, the device further includes a series of positional indicators which coincide with each degree of freedom of the device.

[0013] In the most preferred embodiment, the device is a modified hydraulic excavator 61 which rides the ground based track system. The excavator is modified by replacing the track and bogie system with a set of carriage bogies to allow the device to roll on or in the transverse rails. As can be appreciated, the excavator's power system as originally configured provides power to move the device about the transverse and/or rotational degrees of freedom.

[0014] The excavator is further modified by removing the boom, stick, and bucket and replacing it with a telescoping lift system configured much like a standard negative reach forklift. This allows the telescoping lift to be lowered below the ground based rail system to handle a vessel position at the berth. The excavator's power system is modified to move the device about at least the longitudinal and lifting degrees of freedom. As can be appreciated by one skilled in the art, the modification and use of an excavator mounted on the ground based track system is easier to construct and install than a towered device.

[0015] In another embodiment, the device includes a modified telehandler which rides the ground based track system. The modifications to the telehandler are similar to the excavator modifications described above. Telehandlers which do not possess a rotex or a rotational degree of freedom about an axis substantially perpendicular to the ground may be further modified by fitting at least one rotex or turntable between the body and the carriage which rides the ground based track system. By incorporating a telehandler, the transverse rails can be eliminated.

[0016] This invention allows easy, repeatable alignment with the cells and or vessel to be handled when compared to conventional free ranging marina forklifts. All movements of the present invention are in association with fixed rails and, if installed, a reference system thereby reducing or eliminating any guess work in handling vessels.

[0017] One special concern is to ensure that there is sufficient counterforce so that the vessel or load on the telescoping lift system does not tip over or otherwise destabilize the towerless material handling system. In one embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by means of a counterweight, as is typical on standard forklifts and earth moving machines, like excavators. Generally the counterweight may include the power system of the machine, as is the case in one embodiment of this invention. In another embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by configuring the turntable or rotex to prevent decoupling. In another embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by means of a rollover preventer slideably coupling the towerless material handling system to an underside surface of at least one rail in the ground based track system. In another embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by using rails which have a substantially “C” cross section adapted to receive and allow bogies (carriage or rail) to freely rotate and move within the rails. In another embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by using at least one counterforce bogie attached to the towerless material handling system and positioned to ride on an unobstructed underside surface of at least one rail in the ground based track system. In a preferred embodiment, the counterforce bogie may be positioned on or near the underside of the transverse rail in opposition to a carriage bogie or positioned on or near the underside of the transverse rail adjacent to a carriage bogie. The use of a counterforce bogie is similar to the typical bogie configuration on a roller coaster, and is well known in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018]FIG. 1 is a layout view of a vessel racking system including a modified excavator.

[0019]FIG. 2 is a layout view of a vessel racking system including a modified telehandler.

[0020]FIG. 3 is an elevation view of a towerless material handling system mounted on a ground based track system.

[0021]FIG. 3a is a detailed view of a longitudinal rail within a track pit.

[0022]FIG. 3b is a detail view of a rail bogie.

[0023]FIG. 4 is a plan view of a vessel racking system including a modified excavator.

[0024]FIG. 4a is a is a detail elevation of a counterforce bogie.

[0025]FIG. 4b is a cross section view of a counterforce bogie.

[0026]FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a control device.

[0027]FIG. 6 is a layout view of the prior art.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0028] Detailed embodiments of the present invention are disclosed herein. It is to be understood, however, that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention that may be embodied in various and alternative forms. The figures are not necessarily to scale where some features may be exaggerated or minimized to show details of particular components. Therefore, specified structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention.

[0029]FIGS. 1 and 2 show the general configuration of a vessel racking device 100. The racking device 100 takes a vessel from a staging area 10, picks it up, and moves it into the storage area 20 for long term storage. The staging area 10 will typically consist of either or both a vessel berth 12 for positioning a vessel in the water for pick up or a driveway 14 for positioning a vessel on a standard trailer for pick up. The staging area 10 is located near one end of a ground based track system 30. The ground based track system 30 runs from the staging area 10 into the storage area 20. The storage area 20 includes a lattice structure 22 consisting of individual cells or bays 24 sized to hold vessels. The racking device 100 includes a ground based track system 30, and a towerless material handling system 60.

[0030] In one embodiment, as depicted in FIGS. 3 and 4, the ground based track system 30 is made up of longitudinal rails 32, and transverse rails 34. The longitudinal rails 32 are attached to the ground at periodic intervals from the staging area 10, to the storage area 20. The longitudinal rails 32 are substantially parallel to each other. The transverse rails 34 ride on or in the longitudinal rails 32 on a set of wheels or rail bogies 40. To ride in the longitudinal rails 32, the rail bogies 40 ride in a channel formed into the longitudinal rails 32. To ride on the longitudinal rails 32, the rail bogies 40 are configured to engage at least a portion of an upwardly facing surface of the longitudinal rails 32. The transverse rails 34 riding in or on the longitudinal rails 32 is an operative attachment which results in a degree of freedom in a horizontal plane.

[0031] The towerless material handling system 60 in turn rides the transverse rails 34 on a carriage 90 that has a set of carriage bogies 92 that roll on or in the transverse rails 34. To ride in the transverse rails 34, the carriage bogies 92 are positioned in a channel formed into the transverse rails 34. To ride in the transverse rails 34, the carriage bogies 92 are configured to engage at least a portion of an upwardly facing surface of the transverse rails 34. The carriage 90 riding in or on the transverse rails 34 is an operative attachment which results in a degree of freedom in a horizontal plane. Whether a longitudinal rail 32 or transverse rail 34, each is fitted with a stop 44 to limit movement about the ground based track system 30 (See FIGS. 3 and 4).

[0032] In a preferred embodiment, the material handling system 60 is a hydraulic excavator modified to ride the ground based track system 30 and handle vessels to and from the staging area 10. The modified hydraulic excavator includes a telescoping lift system 62. The telescoping lift system is configured to move up or down at least one tine or fork 63 much like a negative reach forklift. The movement of at least one tine or fork 63 by the telescoping lift system 62 is an operative attachment which results in a degree of freedom in a vertical plane.

[0033] The tines or forks 63 are adapted to support the vessel (from above or below). In one embodiment, the telescoping lift system 62 can extend the tines or forks 63 below the surface of the water or to a sufficient height above the ground to make contact with and support the underside of the vessel depending on its location in the water, on a trailer or in a storage cell 24. In another embodiment, the vessel is supported by at least one tine or fork 63 positioned at a sufficient height above the vessel. In such an arrangement, support of the vessel is carried out by support structures (not shown) which extend beneath and make contact with the bottom of the vessel or attach to the vessel at or above its waterline.

[0034] In another embodiment, the towerless material handling system further includes a telescoping boom 64 fixed to a body 70 and the telescoping lift system 62 as shown in FIG. 2. Extension and retraction of the telescoping boom 64 allows the vessel to be moved away from or closer to the body 70. As can be appreciated, this type of movement is critical to the positioning of a vessel in or out of a cell or bay 24. A telescoping boom 64 of proper length could eliminate the need for the transverse rails 34. In another embodiment, the telescoping boom 64 is pivotably fixed to the body 70 and pivotably fixed to the telescoping lift system 62 to allow enhanced articulation of the tine(s) 63. For each pivotable fixation between the telescoping lift system 62, telescoping boom 64 and body 70, a operative attachment is established and provides another degree of freedom in which to handle the vessel.

[0035] Furthermore, a pivotably fixed telescoping boom 64 and pivotably fixed telescoping lift system 62 would allow the extension range of the telescoping lift system 62 to be reduced. It is further contemplated that fixation of the telescoping boom 64 can occur at the periphery, middle or central region of the body 70. FIG. 2 depicts a pivotable fixation of the of the telescoping boom 64 at the periphery of the body 70. In yet another embodiment, the towerless material handling system 60 is a modified telehandler adapted to engage said ground based track system 30.

[0036] Focusing on the tines 63, in one embodiment, at least one tine 63 is rotatably attached to the telescoping lift system 62 to allow rotation about at least one axis substantially parallel to the ground. Rotatable attachment of at least one tine 63 to the telescoping lift system 62 creates an operative attachment and yet another degree of freedom. Allowing at least one tine 63 to rotate in such a manner enhances the ability to launch, retrieve and/or handle the vessel.

[0037] A turntable or rotex 80 positioned between the body 70 and the carriage 90 allows the towerless material handling system 60 to fully rotate about an axis perpendicular to the ground. Such an operative attachment provides a degree of freedom in which to handle the vessel. This degree of freedom, in combination with the degrees of freedom associated with the ground based track system 30, and the towerless material handling system 60 allows the tine(s) 63, and hence the vessel supported by the tine(s) 63, to be articulated into a wider range of positions for handling the vessel.

[0038] As can be appreciated, the typical excavator includes a rotex or turntable 80; and therefore would not require extensive modifications to rotate the towerless material handling system 60. In contrast, some existing telehandlers do not include a rotex or turntable 80 and would require modification to allow rotation of the telescoping boom 64.

[0039] Operation of the towerless material handling system 60 can occur from a cab 72 located on the body 70 (FIGS. 3 and 4) or from a position remote from the body 70 (not shown). The operator cab 72 is configured with the necessary controls 101 (FIG. 5) to fully operate the towerless material handling system 60. The controls 101 are similar to standard heavy load moving machinery such as forklifts, excavators and telehandlers, and are well known in the art.

[0040] In one embodiment, the material handling system 60 includes a counterweight 74. The purpose of the counterweight 74 is to provide a counterforce mechanism to offset the weight of the load on the tines 63 to prevent the towerless material handling system 60 from tipping over. As can be appreciated from the simple physics of the configuration of the system, the weight of the vessel or other load on the tines 63 of the towerless material handling system 60 will produce a large force on the front end of the material handling system 60. Without some measures to counteract these forces it is possible for the material handling system 60 to become unstable or even tip over. The counterweight 74 is a common means of preventing such a condition on similar heavy load moving machinery such as a forklift of front end loading dozer. In at least one embodiment of the present invention, the counterweight 74 will consist of the power system 100 of the towerless material handling system 60.

[0041] In an alternate embodiment, the means of providing a counterforce is produced by a counterforce bogie 94, as depicted in FIGS. 4a and 4 b. The counterforce bogie 94 engages a lower surface or region of at least one rail of the ground based track system 30. In a preferred embodiment, the counterforce bogie 94 engages a lower surface or region of at least one transverse rail 34. When a load is on the tines 63 of the towerless material handling system 60, the counterforce bogie 94 holds the towerless material handling system 60 in place by preventing the side of towerless material handling system 60 opposite the load on the tines 63 from rotating up and away from the transverse rails 34. This system is similar to typical bogie arrangements that are standard on roller coasters, and are well known in the art. As an added or independent safety feature, the device 100 includes a rollover preventer 76 (FIG. 3 and 4), which is substantially a post and hook that extends vertically down below the carriage 90 and engages a lower surface of the transverse rails 34. If the towerless material handling system 60 does begin to tip or become unstable the hook portion of the rollover preventer 76 will grab or engage the transverse rail 34, thus preventing a rollover.

[0042] In another embodiment, the counterforce require to prevent a rollover is achieved by configuring the turntable or rotex 80 to prevent decoupling of the body 70 from the carriage 90. In another embodiment, the counterforce is achieved by using rails 32, 34 which have a substantially “C” cross section adapted to receive and allow bogies 40, 92, 94 to freely rotate and move within the rails 32, 34.

[0043] As can be appreciated, inclusion of a modified excavator or telehandler requires further modifications to adapt it to ride the ground based track system 30. In a preferred embodiment, the existing carriage wheels of a wheeled excavator or telehandler are modified or replaced with carriage bogies 92 (FIG. 3 and 4) to ride in or on the transverse rails 34. If the wheeled excavator includes a telescopic boom 64, the existing carriage wheels could be modified or replaced with carriage bogies 92 to ride in or on the longitudinal rails 32. Where the existing excavator (or telehandler) has crawler tracks, the modifications would be more extensive and require replacing the crawler tracks and bogies with carriage bogies 92.

[0044] In operation, a preferred embodiment of the towerless material handling system 60 moves longitudinally along the longitudinal rails 32 by rolling on the rail bogies 40 that are connected to the transverse rails 34. This will allow the towerless material handling system 60 to move longitudinally from the staging area 10 into the storage area 20 after picking up the vessel or other load. The towerless material handling system 60 will then roll into the proper position to place the vessel into a corresponding predetermined cell 24. The telescoping lift system 62 will then raise the vessel into the proper vertical position, and rotate on the rotex 80 to align the vessel with the appropriate corresponding cell 24. The towerless material handling system 60 will then move transversely on the transverse rails 34, by rolling on the carriage bogies 92, to put the vessel into the corresponding cell 24.

[0045] In one embodiment, shown in FIG. 3a, the longitudinal rails 32 are recessed in a track pit 33. Use of a track pit 33 allows placement of the longitudinal rails 32 even with, or slightly below the surface of the ground or floor of the storage area 20, thus eliminating the tripping hazzard of raised rails.

[0046] In one embodiment, depicted in FIG. 3b, the rail bogies 40 (and the carriage bogies 92) include a bogie tire 42. The bogie tire 42 reduces the noise of the bogies on the rails, and also provides minimal shock absorption.

[0047] Movement of the towerless material handling system 60 along the track system 30 can be achieved in a number of different ways. In the preferred embodiment, power is provided by means of a drive axle 50 (FIG. 3 and 4). Rotation is provided to the drive axle 50 by any number of conventional means including by means of a standard power system 100. In one embodiment, the power system 100 of the towerless material handling system 60 provides rotation by means of standard gearing. In the most preferred embodiment, a hydraulic system turns the drive axle 50. Movement by means of hydraulics is well known in the art.

[0048] In the preferred embodiment, hydraulics provide the motive means. A hydraulic longitudinal drive 102 provides rotational forces to move the towerless material handling system 60 along the longitudinal rails 32, and a hydraulic transverse drive 106 provides the rotational forces to move the towerless material handling system 60 along the transverse rails 34. When engaged, the drive axle 50 will move the towerless material handling system 60 along the longitudinal rails 32. The drive axle 50 can also transfer rotational forces by means of the clutch 104, thus allowing movement of the towerless material handling system 60 along the transverse rails 34.

[0049] In at least one embodiment the invention also includes an alignment system to allow the operator to determine the position of the towerless material handling system 60 in relation to the cells 24 within the storage area 20. The alignment system is depicted in FIG. 4, and includes a longitudinal position indicator 160 and a series of longitudinal reference points 165. In one embodiment, the operator determines the longitudinal position of the towerless material handling system 60 by visually noting the position of the longitudinal position indicator 160 in relation to the longitudinal reference points 165.

[0050] The alignment system also includes a transverse position indicator 170 and corresponding transverse reference points 175. Operation of the transverse position indicator 170 and corresponding transverse reference points 175 is identical to the operation of the longitudinal position indicator 160 and longitudinal reference points 165.

[0051] As depicted in FIG. 3, the alignment system also includes an elevation indicator 150 and corresponding elevation reference points 155 located on the telescoping lift system 62. The operator is able to visually determine the elevation of the tines 63 by noting the location of the elevation indicator 150 in relation to the corresponding elevation reference point 155. In at least one embodiment the elevation indicator 150 and corresponding elevation reference points 155 are electronically coupled to provide elevation reference information electronically.

[0052] The alignment system also includes a transverse angle indicator 180 located on the underside of the body 70, and a corresponding transverse reference arc 185 located on the rotex 80. Because of the location of the transverse angle indicator 180 and corresponding transverse reference arc 185, which is below the body 70 of the material handling system 60, and thus out of view of the operator, the transverse angle indicator 180 and transverse reference arc 185 are electronically coupled, and provide the operator with transverse angle information through an electronic display.

[0053] The alignment system also includes a vertical angle indicator 190 and corresponding vertical reference arc 195 located on the telescoping lift system 62, to provide the operator with information regarding the vertical angle of the material handling system 60.

[0054] In another embodiment, the alignment system incorporate electronically interconnected reference analyzers (not shown) which electronically determine, and describe, the attitude and position of the vessel and towerless material handling system 60 in relation to or within the staging area 10 and storage area 20. The alignment system is configured to achieve a high degree of repeatability of the positions and altitude of the vessel and racking device 100 to properly handle, stow, and/or launch the vessel.

[0055] The towerless material handling system 60 is operated by means of a control device 101, as shown in FIG. 5. In one embodiment, the control device 101 is located in the operator cab 72 of the material handling system 60. In an alternate embodiment, the control device 101 is located remotely from the material handling system 60, either on a moveable handheld controlling mechanism, or from at least one fixed location adjacent to the staging area 10 and/or storage area 20. The control device 101 includes a rail control 110 for controlling the position of the material handling system 60 on the rails. The rail control 110 is designed for operation much like the joy stick on a computer or video game, and such controls are well known in the art. Movement of the rail control 110 left or right as the operator faces the control device 101, will move the material handling system 60 left or right on the longitudinal rails 32. Movement of the rail control 110 forward or backward will move the material handling system 60 forward or backward on the transverse rails 34.

[0056] The control device 101 also includes a material handling control 120, which is designed similarly to the rail control 110. Movement of the material handling control 120 forward will lower the tines 63 of the telescoping lift system 62. Movement of the material handling control 120 backwards will raise the tines 63. Movement of the material handling control 120 left or right will rotate the towerless material handling system 60. As described, the two control levers of the control device 101 allow complete control of the device 100 with two hands.

[0057] With respect to the above description, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the invention, to include variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operations, assembly and use, are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings, and described in the specification, are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

[0058] Therefore, the foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described. Accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents are considered to fall within the scope of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7112007Jul 26, 2004Sep 26, 2006Maffett William CCradle for item transportation and storage, especially watercraft storage
US7270297 *Jan 30, 2004Sep 18, 2007The Boeing CompanyHoist for aircraft cabin construction
US7367747 *Jan 24, 2006May 6, 2008Maff-Stack, LlcAdjustable and extending transport cradle for watercraft
US7465141 *Jan 25, 2006Dec 16, 2008A-V Stak Systems Inc.Multilevel vertical general aviation hangar
US7726247Nov 17, 2006Jun 1, 2010Neland Richard LBoat and automobile storage apparatus
US8079779 *Dec 7, 2009Dec 20, 2011Kyong-Hyung LeeDevice for pulling out a ship
US8596946 *Jan 28, 2009Dec 3, 2013The Richard C. Lydle 2008 Delaware TrustWatercraft dry dock storage systems and methods
US20050184194 *Jan 30, 2004Aug 25, 2005Schaefer Karl J.Hoist for aircraft cabin construction
US20110052350 *Jan 28, 2009Mar 3, 2011Lydle Richard CWatercraft dry dock storage systems and methods
CN100579864CNov 20, 2006Jan 13, 2010中国国际海运集装箱(集团)股份有限公司;深圳中集天达空港设备有限公司Yacht storeroom and its access equipment distance-regulating device
EP1561637A1Feb 2, 2005Aug 10, 2005Giovanni OttonelloDevice for launching, hauling and ground handling of small vessels
Classifications
U.S. Classification414/261
International ClassificationB63C3/06, B66F9/07, E04H6/00, B66F9/065, B63C15/00
Cooperative ClassificationE04H6/00, B66F9/0655, B63C3/06, B63C15/00, B66F9/07, B66F9/072
European ClassificationB66F9/065T, B63C3/06, E04H6/00, B66F9/07, B66F9/07B, B63C15/00