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Publication numberUS20050127072 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/972,070
Publication dateJun 16, 2005
Filing dateOct 22, 2004
Priority dateOct 23, 2003
Publication number10972070, 972070, US 2005/0127072 A1, US 2005/127072 A1, US 20050127072 A1, US 20050127072A1, US 2005127072 A1, US 2005127072A1, US-A1-20050127072, US-A1-2005127072, US2005/0127072A1, US2005/127072A1, US20050127072 A1, US20050127072A1, US2005127072 A1, US2005127072A1
InventorsDonald Schmidt
Original AssigneeDonald Schmidt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Collapsible shipping container
US 20050127072 A1
Abstract
The present disclosure is directed to a collapsible shipping container and a system of stacked collapsible shipping containers.
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Claims(24)
1. A collapsible shipping container, including:
a base having a generally planar base surface and a plurality of receiving terminals connected to a pair of generally parallel cross members connected to the base surface; and
a pair of upstanding walls having upright supports removably attached to the base at the receiving terminals, the upright supports extending generally perpendicular to the base surface, each of the upstanding walls including a plurality of spaced-apart shelving support members extending between the upright supports;
wherein the upstanding walls are adapted to be removably connected to at least one shelf; and
wherein the collapsible shipping container is adapted to be disassembled and reassembled at the base, upstanding walls and the at least one shelf.
2. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the upstanding walls are adapted to be connected to a plurality of shelves.
3. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein each upstanding wall includes two upright supports.
4. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the at least one shelf is removably connected to the upstanding walls so as to be generally planar to the base surface.
5. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the upstanding walls are connected together with at least two braces extending between the upstanding walls and opposite the shipping container from the base.
6. The collapsible shipping container of claim 5 wherein the braces are removably attached to the upright supports.
7. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the upstanding walls are connected together with removable trusses.
8. The collapsible shipping container of claim 7 wherein the removable trusses are removably attached to the upright supports.
9. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the base includes a pair of laterally oriented supports extending generally perpendicular to the cross members and a plurality of decking slats attached to the laterally oriented supports.
10. The collapsible shipping container of claim 9 wherein the cross members are removably attached to the laterally oriented supports.
11. The collapsible shipping container of claim 10 wherein the decking slats and laterally oriented supports are included in a conventional pallet.
12. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the cross members are fixedly attached to the receiving terminals, and the cross members are removably attached to the base surface.
13. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein the cross members are fixedly attached to the base surface and include a pair of standoffs attached to an upper cross support having an open channel.
14. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein each of the receiving terminals include a peripheral member disposed about and attached to an inner sleeve, wherein the inner sleeve is adapted to be removably connected to one of the upright terminals.
15. The collapsible shipping container of claim 1 wherein each upstanding wall includes a plurality of removably interconnected wall segments.
16. A system of stacked collapsible shipping containers including:
an assembled shipping container having:
a base having a generally planar base surface and a plurality of receiving terminals connected to a pair of generally parallel cross members connected to the base surface; and
a pair of assembled upstanding walls having upright supports removably attached to the base at the receiving terminals, the upright supports extending generally perpendicular to the base surface, each of the upstanding walls including a plurality of spaced-apart shelving support members extending between the upright supports;
wherein the upstanding walls are adapted to be removably connected to at least one shelf; and
at least one disassembled shipping container having:
a plurality of disassembled upstanding walls disposed between the assembled upstanding walls of the assembled shipping container.
17. The system of claim 16 wherein the at least one disassembled shipping container includes a disassembled cross member having attached receiving terminals, the disassembled cross member disposed on the base surface of the assembled shipping container.
18. The system of claim 16 wherein the cross members of the assembled shipping container include a pair of first upper cross supports each attached to a first standoff, wherein each of the first cross supports includes a first open channel; and the at least one disassembled shipping container includes a second base having a pair of second upper cross supports each attached to a second standoff, wherein each of the second cross supports includes a second open channel.
19. The system of claim 18 wherein the base of the assembled shipping container is stacked with the second base of the at least one disassembled shipping container.
20. The system of claim 19 wherein the pair of first standoffs of the base of the assembled shipping container are disposed within the second open channel of the second base of the disassembled shipping container.
21. The system of claim 20 wherein the second open channels each include a pair of stops disposed therein adapted to prevent the first standoffs from movement relative to the second cross supports when the pair of first standoffs of the base of the assembled shipping container are disposed within the second open channel of the second base of the disassembled shipping container.
22. The system of claim 18 wherein the disassembled upstanding walls each include a plurality of disassembled upstanding wall segments, wherein each of the disassembled upstanding wall segments includes a pair of upright support segments, and
wherein each of the upright support segments are disposed within the first open channel of the assembled shipping container.
23. The system of claim 16 wherein the assembled shipping container includes at least one assembled shelf removably connected to the upright supports, and wherein the disassembled shipping container includes at least one shelf unit disposed on the assembled shelf.
24. The system of claim 16 wherein the at least one disassembled shipping container includes five disassembled shipping containers.
Description
REFERENCE TO CO-PENDING APPLICATION

This patent application claims priority to co-pending United States provisional application for patent filed on Oct. 23, 2003, having Ser. No. 60/513,731, and entitled “Collapsible Shipping Container,” which is incorporated by reference into this disclosure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure relates to shipping containers. More particularly, the present disclosure relates to collapsible and stackable shipping containers that can be easily reduced in size for return shipping.

Shipping containers are used to transport plants or other items around the country or continent. For instance, plants may be grown or cultivated all year round in a warmer region of the country, such as in a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Region 10, and then transported from the place of origin to a zone 4 region destination during warmer months for resale by nurseries in that region. The shipping containers typically have a base that is adapted to interface with a forklift, and upstanding walls attached to the base and supporting a set of shelves. The plants are loaded onto the shelves, sometimes in flats, for transport.

Once the plants are transported to the destination, the grower is faced with the dilemma of what to do with the shipping containers. Often, simply returning the empty containers to the place of origin is not a cost effective option. Shipping costs are typically charged for each square foot of shipping space used, and sending a load of empty containers back to the place of origin can double the total shipping costs for the grower. In practice, the costs of shipping empty containers back to the place of origin prevent growers from realizing suitable profit margins. Instead, many growers have opted for disposable, or single use, shipping containers to transport plants. Disposable shipping containers appear to be the preferred product of choice to reduce shipping costs in transporting plants.

Disposable shipping containers, however, are not without disadvantages. Disposable shipping containers must have sturdy construction to prevent or minimize damage to the plants, and preferred disposable containers are not inexpensive. In addition, disposable containers are wasteful. Accordingly, there is a continuing need to create a sturdy, and cost effective shipping container that can be inexpensively transported when empty.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure is directed to collapsible shipping containers that include a sturdy construction to minimize damage to contents during shipping. The collapsible shipping containers can be reused and shipped empty back to the place of origin yet are more cost effective than a disposable shipping container. The collapsible shipping containers can be disassembled and reassembled. In one working example, parts of four disassembled shipping containers can be disposed within and stacked into one assembled shipping container in a system. Thus, a system of five shipping containers can be shipped back to the place of origin in the same amount of space as a single shipping container.

The shipping containers and system of shipping containers of the present disclosure include several advantages. Each shipping container is sturdy and can protect the contents to be shipped from damage. In one example, shipping containers can withstand over forty round trips before losing effectiveness. The cost of the shipping containers in one example is less than five times as expensive a disposable shipping container. Accordingly, the grower is able to realize substantial savings in shipping costs in using the shipping containers and systems of the present disclosure over standard shipping containers or the conventional disposable shipping containers.

In one aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a collapsible shipping container. The collapsible shipping container includes a base having a generally planar base surface and a plurality of receiving terminals. The receiving terminals are connected to a pair of generally parallel cross members connected to the base surface. Upstanding walls having upright supports are removably attached to the base at the receiving terminals. The upright supports extend generally perpendicular to the base surface. Each of the upstanding walls includes a plurality of spaced-apart shelving support members extending between the upright supports. The upstanding walls are adapted to be removably connected to at least one shelf. The collapsible shipping container is adapted to be disassembled and reassembled at the base, upstanding walls and the at least one shelf.

In another aspect, the present disclosure is disclosure is directed to a system of stacked collapsible shipping containers. The system includes an assembled shipping container having a base with a generally planar base surface and a plurality of receiving terminals. The receiving terminals are connected to a pair of generally parallel cross members connected to the base surface. Assembled upstanding walls having upright supports removably attached to the base at the receiving terminals. The upright supports extend generally perpendicular to the base surface. Each of the upstanding walls includes a plurality of spaced-apart shelving support members extending between the upright supports. The upstanding walls are adapted to be removably connected to at least one shelf. The system also includes at least one disassembled shipping container having a plurality of disassembled upstanding walls disposed between the assembled upstanding walls of the assembled shipping container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded partial view of a shelving assembly in accordance with one embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a cross-section of a cross member shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 illustrates a side view of one of the cross members from FIG. 1 in greater detail, with part shown in phantom.

FIG. 4 shows the embodiment of FIG. 1 with the pallet assembled to the two cross members.

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of shelf uprights positioned relative to the cross members.

FIG. 6 is an exploded view showing how shelves are inserted.

FIG. 7 is a side view of a portion of the shelving system with shelves mounted thereon.

FIG. 8 illustrates one embodiment of how the shelf uprights are assembled for return shipping.

FIG. 9 is an exploded view of a shelving assembly in accordance with another embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 10 is a partial view of a system of nested and interlocked shelving assemblies of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a cross-section of a portion of the shelving assembly of FIG. 9.

FIG. 12 illustrates a system of shelving assemblies of FIG. 9 prepared for return shipping.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

This disclosure relates to collapsible and stackable shipping containers. The disclosure, including the figures, describes the shipping containers with reference to a several illustrative examples. For instance, the disclosure proceeds with respect to a pair of example shipping containers described below. However, it should be noted that the present invention could be implemented in other forms, as well. Also, the present disclosure is with respect to the shipping containers for plants for illustrative purposes only. Other examples, and other contents, are contemplated and are mentioned below or are otherwise imaginable to someone skilled in the art. The scope of the invention is not limited to the few examples, i.e., the described embodiments of the invention. Rather, the scope of the invention is defined by reference to the appended claims. Changes can be made to the examples, including alternative designs not disclosed, and still be within the scope of the claims.

FIG. 1 shows an exploded partial view of a shelving assembly constructed in accordance with the present disclosure. The shelving assembly includes a base, such as a conventional pallet 10, which includes laterally oriented supports 12 and decking slats 14. Pallet 10 is formed in a conventional manner. First and second cross members 16 and 18 can be removably attached to the ends of the pallet 10. Cross members 16 and 18 are illustratively formed of an elongated angle iron shaped portion with a pair of upright receiving terminals 20 and 22 disposed on opposite ends thereof. The size of cross members 16 and 18 is just larger than the external periphery of one of the ends of pallet 10. Therefore, cross members 16 and 18 can be assembled over the top of opposite lateral ends of pallet 10, as illustrated by arrows 24, as shown in FIG. 4.

FIGS. 2 and 3 show more detailed views of the cross member 16. FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of cross member 16 taken along the section line 2-2 shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 2 better illustrates that cross member 16 is formed of an angle iron portion 30 and that the upright receiving terminal 20 extends above an upper portion of angle iron 30. Of course, the term angle iron used herein is simply to describe the shape of the spanning portion of cross member 16, and is not to be interpreted as a limitation to the material of cross member 16. Indeed, cross member 16 can be formed of iron, aluminum, titanium, plastic or polymer material, or any other desired material. FIG. 3 is a side view of cross member 16 taken in the direction indicated by arrow 40 shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 3 illustrates upright receiving terminal 22 and further shows that the angle iron portion 30 of cross member 16 is sized just large enough to receive the end of lateral support 12 and the end decking slat 14 of pallet 10.

FIG. 5 shows a further portion of the shelving assembly in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 5 shows an exploded view of cross members 16 and 18, along with a pair of uprights 44 and 46, and further including a pair of braces 48 and 50. In the illustrative embodiment, uprights 44 and 46 each include upright supports 52 and 54 that are connected to one another by slide rails 56. The lower portion of upright supports 50 and 52 are sized to be received within an interior of terminals 20 and 22. Of course, terminals 20 and 22 could be sized to be received within the lower portion of upright supports 52 and 54. The upper ends of upright supports 52 and 54 are sized to receive the lower ends of braces 48 and 50 therein. In the illustrated embodiment, uprights 48 and 50 include pivotal supports 60 and 62 that are pivotally connected to uprights members 48 and 50 at pivot points 64 and 66. The distal ends of supports 60 and 62 include apertures 68 and 70 therein. When assembled, the apertures 68 and 70 are aligned with corresponding apertures 72 and 74 on upright supports 52 and 54. Once the apertures are aligned, securing pins 76 and 78 are lockably inserted through the aligned apertures to hold members 48 and 50 in place within the upper ends of upright supports 52 and 54.

FIG. 6 illustrates uprights 44 and 46 assembled onto cross members 16 and 18, with upper support members 48 and 50 assembled thereon as well. FIG. 6 further illustrates that shelves 80 are slidably mountable to the slides 56 on uprights 44 and 46. In the embodiment illustrated, shelves 80 each have a plurality of distending tabs 82. The tabs 82 are sized to extend out from shelf 80, and to receive the slide rails 56. Therefore, opposing pairs of tabs 82 reside on the outer periphery of slide rails 56 to slidably receive the slide rails 56. FIG. 7 is a side view of a pair of shelves 80 mounted over slide rails 56 viewed from the direction shown by arrow 90 in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 illustrates one embodiment for packing a plurality of shelving assemblies for return shipment in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 8 is a front view of a shelving assembly taken in the direction illustrated by arrow 92 in FIG. 6, wherein the shelving assembly is packed for return shipment. FIG. 8 shows cross member 16 along with terminals 20 and 22. The terminals 20 and 22 each have an upright assembly 44 and 46 inserted therein as shown in FIG. 6. However, rather than having shelves mounted on slide rails 56, other upright assemblies 44 or 46 are assembled onto cross member 16 (and the corresponding cross member 18, not shown) such that the slide rails 56 nest relative to one another. Of course, it will be noted that uprights 44 and 46 may be identical to one another and they are simply numbered with two different designation numerals for the sake of the present description. However, since they are identically sized, they can simply be placed, in pairs, across members 16 and 18 with their corresponding slide rails 56 nesting relative to one another as shown in FIG. 8. In this way, a large number of uprights 44 and 46 can be packed onto a single pallet for shipment.

It will, of course, be noted that in accordance with another embodiment, a shelving assembly such as that shown in FIG. 6 can be maintained in tact and a plurality of shelves can be mounted on top of each pair of slide rails 56. In this way, shelves 80 from a plurality of different shelving assemblies can be packed into a single shelving assembly, again for return shipment.

FIG. 9 shows an exploded view of another embodiment of the shelving assembly constructed in accordance with the present disclosure. The shelving assembly, indicated generally at 110, includes a base member 112 having decking slats 114 and laterally oriented supports 116. In the example, the laterally oriented supports 116 each include upper and lower supports 118, 120 connected together with a set of attachment bars 122. This configuration provides for strong yet lighter-weight laterally oriented supports 116. The each end of the laterally oriented supports 116 includes an upright receiving terminal 124. The laterally oriented supports 116 are connected together with a pair of cross members 126 disposed on each end of the supports 116.

The cross members 126 each include an upper cross support 128, and each upper cross support 128 includes an open channel 130 extending at least part of the distance along the length of the support 128. The example includes the channels 130 extending along the entire length of the cross support 128 and having a pair of stops 132 disposed in a middle region of the support 128. The cross members 126 in the example also include a pair of standoffs 134 attached to the cross supports 128 and terminating at the receiving terminals 124. The standoffs 134 each include a standoff support 136 extending generally perpendicular to the cross supports 128 and then formed into feet 138. The feet 138 generally parallel to the cross support 128 and then are formed upwardly at offset portion 140 and terminate at receiving terminal 124. The standoffs 134 are formed in such a way so that if the feet 138 are in contact with the ground or floor, and so that the cross supports are generally parallel with the plane of the ground or floor, the receiving terminals 124 and laterally oriented supports 116 will not be in contact with the ground. The feet 138 can also include an attached support member 142 that is also connected to the underside of a decking slat 114. As indicated in the example, the stops 132 are positioned just inside of the standoff supports 136 along the cross supports 128.

The construction of the base member 112 permits nesting and interlocking of several base members, as indicated in FIG. 10. FIG. 10 shows a set of two stacked base members 112 a and 112 b. In the example shown, the standoffs 134 a, and more specifically the feet 138 a, of base member 112 a are disposed within channel 130 b in cross support 128 b of base member 112 b. When the base members 112 a and 112 b are nested as shown, the stops 132 b prevent the standoffs 136 from moving along the length of the channel 130 b. As such, the base members 112 a and 112 b are interlocked to prevent lateral movement relative to one another.

FIG. 9 also shows upstanding walls 144, 145 each including two wall segments, i.e., lower wall segments 146 and upper wall segments 148. Of course, any number of one or more wall segments can be used to make up an upstanding wall. Lower wall segments 146 each include two upright supports 150. Upper wall segments 148 also each include two upright supports 152. The upright supports 148 and 150 in each wall segment are connected together along the length of the upright supports with a plurality of spaced-apart slide rails 153 to form the wall segments 146, 148. As shown in the example, upright supports 150 are adapted to mate with receiving terminals 124. In the example, the terminals 124 are sized to receive upright supports 150. Of course the upright supports 150 could be sized to receive terminals 124 or otherwise be removably attachable to terminals 124.

FIG. 11 shows an example cross-section view of upright receiving terminal 124 of FIG. 9. The upright receiving terminal 124 of the example includes a peripheral member 141 and an attached inner sleeve 143. The inner sleeves 143 are adapted to receive the upright supports 150 from upright walls 144, 145, and the peripheral member 141 are adapted to protect the structural integrity of the inner sleeves 143 in case of damage to the terminals 124.

Also shown in the example of FIG. 9, upright supports 150 in the lower wall segments 146 are adapted to mate with upright supports 152 in the upper wall segments 148. The upright supports 150 in the example also include posts 154 having a diameter generally smaller than the diameter of the upright supports 152 of upper wall segments 148. The upright supports 152 are sized to receive posts 154. Of course, the upright supports 150, 152 could otherwise be constructed to mate with each other.

In the example shown, the wall segments 144, 145 are connected together with removable trusses 156 (shown in FIG. 12). The removable trusses 156 are attached to the upright supports 148, 150 with fasteners such as bolts or securing pins. Each side of the wall segments 144, 145 includes two crossed trusses 156, as shown in the example. In the example shown in FIG. 9, the lower wall segments also each include a pair of crosses and permanent trusses 158. In the examples shown, removable trusses 156 and permanent trusses 158 are used to maintain the structural integrity of the upstanding walls 144, 145. Other mechanical support structures can be used, including braces 48 and 50 and pivotal supports 60 and 62 shown in FIGS. 5 and 6.

As shown in FIG. 9, Shelves 80 are adapted to be removably connected to the upright walls 144, 145 at the slide rails 153 in a manner similar to that shown with respect to FIG. 6 and discussed above. In one embodiment, a standard assembly 110 includes three shelves 80, but more or fewer could be used as well.

FIG. 12 shows a system of shelving assemblies prepared for return shipment. FIG. 12 is a front view of a shelving assembly 110 taken in the direction illustrated by arrow 160 in FIG. 9. The system includes a plurality of dissembled shelving assemblies are packed into one shelving assembly 110 that is left assembled. In the embodiment shown, two disassembled shelving assemblies are packed into the assemble one. In one embodiment, three or four disassembled shelving assemblies are packed into a single assembled one. Thus, in this embodiment, four or five shelving assemblies can be packed for return shipping into the space of one assembled unit. Of course, other amounts are possible.

In the example shown, the base unit 112 a and upstanding walls 144 a, 145 a of a first shelving assembly 110 are left assembled. The base units 112 b, 112 c and wall segments from the other two shelving units are disassembled. The three base units 112 a, 112 b, 112 c are stacked and interlocked in a manner shown in FIG. 10. The removable trusses 156 of the shelving unit 110 can be temporarily removed while the system is packed. The upright supports 150 of wall segments 146 b, 146 c, and upright supports 152 of wall segments 148 b, 148 c are fit within the channels 130 of base member 112 a. The slide rails 153 are spaced-apart such that a plurality of shelves 80 b, 80 c from disassembled units can be stacked on the shelves 80 a connected to the upstanding walls 144, 145. The removable trusses 156 b, 156 c can be stored on the base member 112 a. Once the disassembled parts are stored in the shelving assembly 110, the removable trusses 156 of the shelving assembly can be reattached to provide for extra support.

In one embodiment, the base of the shelving assembly is sized such that two units can sit side-by-side on a standard trailer. For instance, in one embodiment, the base is approximately 40 inches by 48 inches in size. In another embodiment, the base is sized to just fit over a standard pallet of 40 inches by 48 inches in size. The present invention has now been described with reference to several embodiments. The foregoing detailed description and examples have been given for clarity of understanding only. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes can be made in the described embodiments without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Thus, the scope of the present invention should not be limited to the exact details and structures described herein, but rather by the appended claims and equivalents.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8047391 *Jun 14, 2006Nov 1, 2011Xiamen Sunnypet Products Co., Ltd.Foldable and portable frame