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Publication numberUS20060186119 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/064,380
Publication dateAug 24, 2006
Filing dateFeb 23, 2005
Priority dateFeb 23, 2005
Also published asUS20090212050, US20100155397
Publication number064380, 11064380, US 2006/0186119 A1, US 2006/186119 A1, US 20060186119 A1, US 20060186119A1, US 2006186119 A1, US 2006186119A1, US-A1-20060186119, US-A1-2006186119, US2006/0186119A1, US2006/186119A1, US20060186119 A1, US20060186119A1, US2006186119 A1, US2006186119A1
InventorsYu Zheng
Original AssigneeYu Zheng
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Collapsible structures with liners
US 20060186119 A1
Abstract
A structure has at least three foldable frame members, each having a folded and an unfolded orientation. A fabric material covers each frame member to form a panel for each frame member when the frame member is in the unfolded orientation, and each panel is coupled to an adjacent panel to form a ring of panels that enclose an interior space. A liner is removably retained inside the interior space.
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Claims(15)
1. A structure comprising:
at least three foldable frame members, each having a folded and an unfolded orientation;
a fabric material covering each frame member to form a panel for each frame member when the frame member is in the unfolded orientation;
each panel being coupled to an adjacent panel to form a ring of panels that enclose an interior space; and
a liner that is removably retained inside the interior space.
2. The structure of claim 1, wherein each panel has a left side and a right side, with the left side of each panel coupled to the right side of an adjacent panel, and the right side of each panel coupled to the left side of another adjacent panel.
3. The structure of claim 2, wherein the left side and right side of each panel is vertical.
4. The structure of claim 1, wherein each frame member is twisted and folded to form a plurality of concentric loops when in the folded orientation.
5. The structure of claim 1, wherein each panel has a bottom side which rests on a surface to support the structure.
6. The structure of claim 1, wherein the liner is made of a fabric material.
7. An assembly, comprising:
a structure having:
at least three foldable frame members, each having a folded and an unfolded orientation;
a fabric material covering each frame member to form a panel for each frame member when the frame member is in the unfolded orientation; and
each panel being coupled to an adjacent panel to form a ring of panels; and
a liner that has an interior space, with the structure removably retained inside the interior space of the liner.
8. The assembly of claim 7, wherein each panel has a left side and a right side, with the left side of each panel coupled to the right side of an adjacent panel, and the right side of each panel coupled to the left side of another adjacent panel.
9. The assembly of claim 8, wherein the left side and right side of each panel is vertical.
10. The assembly of claim 7, wherein each frame member is twisted and folded to form a plurality of concentric loops when in the folded orientation.
11. The assembly of claim 7, wherein each panel has a bottom side which rests on a surface to support the structure.
12. The assembly of claim 7, wherein the liner is made of a fabric material.
13. The assembly of claim 7, further including a border frame member that couples the panels.
14. A structure comprising:
a coiled wire supporting a covering which is attached to the wire to define a tunnel-like interior space, the coiled loop and the covering having a first opened end and a second closed end; and
a liner that is removably retained inside the interior space.
15. The structure of claim 14, further including a first tie member provided at the first end, and a second tie member provided at the second end.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to collapsible structures, and in particular, to structures which can be reduced in size, and which are provided with a liner.

2. Description of the Prior Art

The organization and storage of objects and items has become increasingly important given the large amounts of items that are in a house or office, and the small amounts of space that are provided. Shelving, stackable boxes, organizers and other similar products have become increasingly popular choices for people to store and organize objects and items.

In addition, the provision of shelters and similar structures has found an increasing number of applications, including use as tents, play structures, and hunting blinds, among others.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

It is an object of the present invention to provide storage devices that are adapted to receive a variety of different types of objects and items.

It is another object of the present invention to provide storage devices that can facilitate the effective organization of stored items.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a liner that can be used with a collapsible structure.

In order to accomplish the objects of the present invention, the present invention provides a structure having at least three foldable frame members, each having a folded and an unfolded orientation. A fabric material covers each frame member to form a panel for each frame member when the frame member is in the unfolded orientation, and each panel is coupled to an adjacent panel to form a ring of panels that enclose an interior space. A liner is removably retained inside the interior space. The structure can be used as a storage device, or as a shelter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a structure according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 1B is a perspective view of the structure of FIG. 1A shown in use with a liner.

FIG. 1C is a partial cut-away view of the section C of the play structure of FIG. 1A illustrating a frame member retained within a sleeve.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a connection between two adjacent panels of the structure of FIG. 1A taken along line 2-2 thereof.

FIGS. 3A through 3E illustrate how the structure of FIG. 1 may be twisted and folded for compact storage.

FIGS. 4-9 are perspective views of structures according to different embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a structure according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an internal wire that is used to define and support the structure of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the structure of FIG. 10 taken along line 12-12 thereof.

FIGS. 13-15 are perspective views of structures according to other embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 16 illustrates how the structure of FIG. 15 can be reduced into a smaller configuration.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The following detailed description is of the best presently contemplated modes of carrying out the invention. This description is not to be taken in a limiting sense, but is made merely for the purpose of illustrating general principles of embodiments of the invention. The scope of the invention is best defined by the appended claims.

FIGS. 1A-1C illustrate one embodiment of the present invention, where a structure 20 has four generally flat panels 22, 24, 26 and 28 connected to each other to form a ring of panels that encircles an enclosed space. Each panel 22, 24, 26, 28 can be provided with any number of sides, but FIGS. 1A-1B illustrate each panel as having four sides, a left side 30, a bottom side 32, a right side 34 and a top side 36. Each panel 22, 24, 26 and 28 has a frame retaining sleeve 38 provided along and traversing the edges of its sides 30, 32, 34, 36. A frame member 40 is retained or held within each frame retaining sleeve 38 to support each panel 22, 24, 26 and 28. Only one frame member 40 is shown in FIG. 1C; the other frame members 40 are not shown but are the same as frame member 40.

Each frame member 40 may be provided as one continuous loop, or may comprise a strip of material connected at both ends to form a continuous loop, or a strip of material having opposing ends that are spaced-apart or overlap inside the sleeve 38. Each frame member 40 is preferably formed of flexible coilable steel having a memory, although other materials such as plastics may also be used. The frame members should be made of a material which is relatively strong and yet is flexible to a sufficient degree to allow it to be coiled. Thus, each frame member 40 is capable of assuming two positions or orientations, an open or expanded position such as shown in FIG. 1A, or a folded position in which the frame member is collapsed into a size which is much smaller than its open position (see FIG. 3E).

Fabric or sheet material 42 extends across each panel 22, 24, 26 and 28, and is held taut by the respective frame member 40 when in its open position. The term fabric is to be given its broadest meaning and should be made from strong, lightweight materials and may include woven fabrics, sheet fabrics or even films. The fabric should be water-resistant and durable to withstand wear and tear. Each frame member 40 may be merely retained within the respective frame retaining sleeve 38 without being connected thereto. Alternatively, the frame retaining sleeves 38 may be mechanically fastened, stitched, fused, or glued to the respective frame members 40 to retain them in position.

FIG. 2 illustrates a possible connection for connecting adjacent edges of two panels 22 and 24. The fabric pieces 42 are stitched at their edges by a stitching 44 to the respective sleeves 38. Each sleeve 38 may be formed by folding a piece of fabric. The stitching 44 also acts as a hinge for the panels 22 and 24 to be folded upon each other, as explained below. The connections for the three other pairs of adjacent edges may be identical. Thus, the connections on the left side 30 and the right side 34 of each panel 22, 24, 26 and 28 act as hinge connections for connecting an adjacent panel.

At the top side 36 and the bottom side 32 of each panel 22, 24, 26 and 28, where there is no hinge connection to an adjacent panel, the frame retaining sleeve 38 may be formed by merely folding over the corresponding fabric piece and applying a stitching 46 (see FIG. 1C). The fabric piece 42 for the corresponding panel may then be stitched to the sleeve 38.

A fabric base 50 may be connected to the bottom side 32 of each panel 22, 24, 26, 28. The fabric base 50 can be made of the same type of material as the fabric material 42. In addition, one or more handles 56 can be attached (e.g., by stitching) to one or more of the panels 22, 24, 26 or 28 at any desired location (e.g., on the fabric 42 or the top side 36).

Openings 52 may be provided in some or all of the panels 22, 24, 26, 28. These openings 52 may be of any shape (e.g., triangular, circular, rectangular, square, diamond, etc.).

While the structure 20 of FIG. 1A is shown and described as having four panels, each having four sides, it will be appreciated that the structure 20 may be made of any number of panels, each having any number of sides, without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, each structure 20 may have three or more panels, and each panel may have three or more sides. Thus, the basic structure 20 of the present invention may take a variety of external shapes. However, each panel of the structure 20, regardless of its shape, is supported by at least one frame member 40.

FIGS. 3A through 3E describe the various steps for folding and collapsing the structure 20 of FIG. 1 for storage. In FIG. 3A, the first step consists of pushing in panels 24 and 26 such that panel 24 collapses upon panel 22, and panel 26 collapses upon panel 28. Then, in the second step shown in FIG. 3B, the two panels 22 and 24 are folded so as to be collapsed upon the two panels 26 and 28 to form a stack of four panels 22, 24, 26, 28 and their respective frame members 40. The stack of panels is then twisted and folded to collapse the frame members and panels into a smaller shape. In the third step shown in FIG. 3C, the opposite border 45 of the structure is folded in upon the previous fold to collapse the frame members with the panels. As shown in FIG. 3D, the fourth step is to continue the collapsing so that the initial size of the structure is reduced. FIG. 3E shows the fifth step with the frame members and panels collapsed on each other to provide for a small essentially compact configuration having a plurality of concentric frame members and layers of the panels so that the collapsed structure has a size which is a fraction of the size of the initial structure 20.

As best shown in FIG. 1B, an inner liner 60 can be seated inside the interior space defined by the panels 22, 24, 26, 28. The liner 60 can be made of a fabric material that has sufficient strength to support and hold items and objects to be stored inside the liner 60. The liner 60 can even be provided in the form of a conventional laundry bag having a drawstring (e.g., see liner 60 f in FIG. 9 and liner 104 in FIG. 10) that can be pulled and tied together to seal the contents inside the liner 60. The liner 60 can be sized and configured to fit snugly inside the interior space defined by the panels 22, 24, 26, 28, so that the liner 60 itself would define a bottom wall 62 and four side walls (e.g., 64). The liner 60 can be provided with an upper border 66 that can be folded over the top sides 36 of the panels 22, 24, 26, 28.

The liner 60 provides a storage function as it holds or retains items or objects. The structure 20 (and in particular, its panels 22, 24, 26, 28) provides structural support and structural integrity for the liner 60. When the liner 60 is fitted inside the structure 20, the entire assembly 10 (the structure 20 and the liner 60) can be lifted and carried around as a single assembly. The liner 60 is removable from the structure 20, so the liner 60 can be washed, or a different liner 60 can be used with the structure 20. The ability to replace liners 60 is useful because the user may have worn out an existing liner 60, or may desire to use a liner 60 that has a different color or pattern. As a result, the use of the liner 60 can impart different appearances to the entire assembly 10, thereby providing an improved aesthetic effect for the structure 20. In addition, the underlying structure 20 does not need to be changed, thereby increasing the useful life of the structure 20.

The assembly 10 shown in FIG. 1B can be used in many applications. For example, the assembly 10 can be used to store items and objects, such as laundry, toys, folded clothing, stationery, books, diapers, tools, utensils, food, etc. The assembly 10 can also be used as a shelter if the structure 20 is provided in a larger size. For example, openings can be provided in the fabric material 42 (e.g., 52) and in the liner 60 to allow for ingress and egress, and the opened top of the liner 60 can be sealed by extending the material of the liner 60 over its top.

FIG. 4 illustrates an assembly 10 a according to another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 10 a is essentially the same as the assembly 10 in FIGS. 1-3E, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIGS. 1-3E and FIG. 4 except than an “a” is added to the designations of the same elements in FIG. 4. The structure 20 a in FIG. 4 can be the same as the structure 20, but the liner 60 a actually extends outside the panels 22 a, 24 a, 26 a, 28 a of the structure 20 a, with the structure 20 a seated inside the interior of the liner 60 a to provide structural support and structural integrity for the liner 60 a. The liner 60 a can be separated from the structure 20 a, so the liner 60 a can be washed, or a different liner 60 a can be used with the structure 20 a. In addition, an optional opening 29 can be provided in a wall 64 a of the liner 60 a to allow ingress and egress if the assembly 10 a is to be used as a shelter.

FIG. 5 illustrates an assembly 10 b according to another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 10 b is similar to the assembly 10 a in FIG. 4, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIG. 4 and FIG. 5 except than a “b” is used for the designations of the same elements in FIG. 5. The structure 20 b can be the same as the structures 20 and 20 a except that the panels 22, 22 a, 26, 26 a have been omitted. The opposing panels 24 b and 28 b are spaced apart from each other and connected by spacers (e.g., two poles 22 b, 26 b) that can be received inside corresponding folds at the upper border 66 b of the liner 60 b. These folds can actually resemble sleeves which are formed by folding over the upper border 66 b. The poles 22 b, 26 b can extend through openings 86 b provided in the fabric material 44 b of the panels 24 b, 28 b. Again, the structure 20 b is positioned inside the interior of the liner 60 b, and the structure 20 b can be removed from the liner 60 b.

FIG. 6 illustrates an assembly 10 c according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 1Oc is similar to the assembly 1Ob in FIG. 5, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIG. 5 and FIG. 6 except than a “c” is used for the designations of the same elements in FIG. 6. Again, the structure 20 c is positioned inside the interior of the liner 60 c. The structure 20 c further includes a border frame member 90 having opposite sides 92 and 94 that are hingedly connected (e.g., using the technique shown in FIG. 2) to the top sides 36 c of the panels 28 c and 24 c, respectively. The border frame member 90 is oriented transverse to the panels 24 c, 28 c when the structure 20 c is deployed for use. The border frame member 90 can be housed in a frame retaining sleeve that can be the same as sleeve 38. The interior region defined by the border frame member 90 can be covered with fabric, or can be opened to act as a mouth for the assembly 10 c to receive objects and items that are to be stored in the assembly 10 c. The border frame member 90 also functions to space and connect the panels 24 c and 28 c, and to provide increased support for the structure 20 c. The border frame member 90 can be twisted and folded in the same manner as the other frame members 40. Thus, the structure 20 c can be reduced in size by folding the panels 24 c and 28 c on to the border frame member 90 about their hinged connections to form a stack of three frame members and panels, with the stack twisted and folded using the principles illustrated in FIGS. 3C-3E.

FIG. 7 illustrates an assembly 10 d according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 10 d is similar to the assembly 10 c in FIG. 6, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIG. 6 and FIG. 7 except than a “d” is used for the designations of the same elements in FIG. 7. Again, the structure 20 d is positioned inside the interior of the liner 60 d to support the liner 60 d, and the structure 20 d includes a border frame member 90 d. However, the structure 20 d in FIG. 7 has four smaller panels 22 d, 24 d, 26 d, 28 d that are sized and shaped differently from the panels 24 c and 28 c. Specifically, the panels 22 d, 24 d, 26 d, 28 d have a generally rounded or circular shape, and each is sized with a diameter that is less than the length of the corresponding side of the border frame member 90 d that the panel 22 d, 24 d, 26 d or 28 d is hingedly connected to. Fabric 91 d can be attached to the panels 22 d, 24 d, 26 d, 28 d and the frame member 90 d to create a space enclosed by the panels 22 d, 24 d, 26 d, 28 d, the frame member 90 d and the fabric 91 d. Alternatively, the fabric 91 d can be omitted. The interior region defined by the border frame member 90 d can be covered with fabric, or can also be opened to act as a mouth for the assembly 10 d to receive objects and items that are to be stored in the assembly 10 d. The border frame member 90 d functions in the same manner as the border frame member 90, and the structure 20 d can be reduced in size by folding the panels 22 d, 24 d, 26 d, 28 d on to the border frame member 90 d about their hinged connections to form a stack of frame members and panels, with the stack twisted and folded using the principles illustrated in FIGS. 3C-3E.

FIG. 8 illustrates an assembly 10 e according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 10 e is similar to the assemblies 10 c and 10 d in FIGS. 6-7, and borrows from the principles illustrated in FIGS. 6-7, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIGS. 6-7 and FIG. 8 except than an “e” is used for the designations of the same elements in FIG. 8. Again, the structure 20 e is positioned inside the interior of the liner 60 e to support the liner 60 e. Here, the structure 20 e includes two border frame members 90 e and 92 e positioned parallel and spaced-apart from each other, with two panels 22 e and 26 e hingedly connected between the two border frame members 90 e and 92 e in opposing relationship. The panels 22 e and 26 e can be the same as the panels 22 d and 26 d in FIG. 7. Fabric 91 e can be attached to the panels 22 e, 24 e, 26 e, 28 e and the frame members 90 e, 92 e to create a space enclosed by the panels 22 e, 24 e, 26 e, 28 e, the frame members 90 e, 92 e and the fabric 91 e. Alternatively, the fabric 91 e can be omitted. The interior region defined by one border frame member 90 e can be covered with fabric, or can also be opened to act as a mouth for the assembly 10 e to receive objects and items that are to be stored in the assembly 10 e. The interior region defined by the other border frame member 92 e can also be opened, or covered by a fabric material.

FIG. 9 illustrates an assembly 10 f according to another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 10 f is similar to the assembly 10 b in FIG. 5, and borrows from the principles illustrated in FIGS. 1-3E and 5, so the same numeral designations will be used for the same elements in both FIG. 5 and FIG. 9 except than an “f” is used for the designations of the same elements in FIG. 9. The structure 20 f in FIG. 9 can be the same as the structure 20 b, but the liner 60 a is received inside the interior space defined by the panels 24 f and 28 f of the structure 20 f. Poles 22 f and 26 f can be inserted through openings 86 f provided in the fabric material 44 f of the panels 24 f and 28 f. The liner 60 f can be removed from the structure 20 f, so the liner 60 f can be washed, or a different liner 60 f can be used with the structure 20 f.

FIGS. 10-12 illustrate an assembly 100 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 100 includes a structure 102 and a liner 104. The liner 104 can have the same construction as the liner 60 described above. The structure 102 resembles a tunnel, and has an internal support wire 122 supporting a covering 124 which is attached to the wire 122 to define the tunnel-like interior. The wire 122 is helically coiled, with the adjacent coils 123 being normally biased in spaced apart relation, as shown in FIG. 11. The wire 122 defines a first end 126 and a second end 128. At the first and second ends 126 and 128, the wire 122 extends past the outer coil 123 a and 123 b, respectively, so that a segment 125 a and 125 b at each end 126, 128 of the wire 122 overlaps with the outer coil 123 a and 123 b, respectively.

The covering 124 is attached to the wire 122 by gluing, stitching, fusing, mechanically fastening or other conventional attachment methods. Alternatively, as shown in FIGS. 10 and 12, a sleeve 130 may be stitched or otherwise provided along the covering 124 with the wire 122 housed or attached therein. The first end 126 of the wire 122 terminates at a first substantially circular edge 132 of the covering 124. The outer coil 123 a of the first end 126 forms a substantially circular end wire portion 134 to provide support to the first edge 132 of the covering 124. Similarly, the second end 128 of the wire 122 terminates at a second substantially circular edge 136 of the covering 124. The outer coil 123 b of the second end 128 forms another substantially circular end wire portion 140 to provide support to the second edge 136. The circular end wire portion 134 and its circular edge 132 defines an opening through which the liner 104 may be inserted. The opening defined by the wire portion 140 and the circular edge 136 can be covered by a fabric wall 138. Thus, the covering 124 and the fabric wall 138 together define an enclosed interior space that receives the liner 104.

The overlapping segment 125 a may be attached to the outer coil 123 a along the length of the segment 125 a, or the outer coil 123 a and the overlapping segment 125 a at the first end 126 of the wire 122 may be retained in the same sleeve 130. Similarly, the overlapping segment 125 b may be attached to the outer coil 123 b along the length of the segment 125 b, or the outer coil 123 b and the overlapping segment 125 b at the second end 128 of the wire 122 may be retained in the same sleeve 130.

A first set of tie members 142 is provided in spaced-apart manner along the first edge 132, and a second set of tie members 144 is provided in spaced-apart manner along the second edge 136. Each tie member 142, 144 can be embodied as two strings or thin pieces of fabric which can be tied together to create a knot, or as opposing straps that carry a VELCRO™pad. Each set of tie members 142, 144 could comprise any number of tie members (including just one tie member), but preferably comprises at least two tie members.

In addition, one or more handles 148 can be attached (e.g., by stitching) in spaced-apart manner to the circular edge 132.

The wire 122 is preferably made from a strong yet springy metal, such as steel or iron, but also can be made from other strong and coilable materials, such as fiberglass or plastic. Such materials are preferably capable of allowing the wire 122 to maintain its coiled shape. The covering 124 is preferably made from a strong durable fabric, such as cotton, canvas, mesh or net, but can also be made from other strong durable materials such as PVC or plastic. The term fabric is to be given its broadest meaning and should be made from strong, lightweight materials and may include woven fabrics, sheet fabrics or even films. The covering 124 can be water-resistant and should be durable to withstand wear and tear associated with extended use with heavy objects.

The structure 102 can be easily collapsed and folded for storage by compressing the wire 122. Specifically, to compress the wire 122, the user grips the circular end wire portion 134, or the first edge 132, of the structure 102 with one hand, and while using the other hand to grip the other circular end wire portion 140, or the second edge 136, pushes or compresses the end wire portion 134 against the end wire portion 140. This compresses the plurality of helical coils of the wire 122 against each other. This compression is made possible by the springy nature of the wire 122, and its helically coiled configuration. With the wire 122 compressed, the tie members of the first and second sets of tie members 142, 144 are tied together to secure the structure 102 in a compressed configuration.

The liner 104 provides a storage function as it holds or retains items or objects. The structure 102 provides structural support and structural integrity for the liner 104. When the liner 104 is fitted inside the structure 102, the entire assembly 100 (the structure 102 and the liner 104) can be lifted using the handles 148, and carried around as a single assembly. The liner 104 is removable from the structure 102, so the liner 104 can be washed, or a different liner 104 can be used with the structure 102.

FIG. 13 illustrates an assembly 200 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 200 includes a structure 202 and a liner 204. The liner 204 can have the same construction as the liner 60 described above. The structure 202 also resembles a tunnel, and has a first end loop 222 and a second opposing end loop 224 that are separated and coupled by a plurality of panels. In the embodiment of FIG. 13, the structure 202 has two panels 226 and 228, each of which can have the same construction as the panels 22, 24, 26, 28 described above. Each panel can have four sides, a first end side 230, two lateral sides 232 and 236, and a second end side 234. The first end side 230 of each panel 226, 228 is hingedly connected to the first end loop 222, and the second end side 234 of each panel 226, 228 is hingedly connected to the second end loop 224. The second end loop 224 functions as a bottom that is adapted to rest on the ground or surface, and the first end loop 222 can function as an open top. The panels 226 and 228 can be spaced apart from each other at any orientation, but in the embodiment shown in FIG. 13, the panels 226, 228 can be generally parallel to each other. Fabric 240 can be stitched to the lateral sides 232, 236 of each panel 226, 228, and to the end loops 222 and 224, to partially or completely cover the sides of the structure 202. The loops 222 and 224 can be positioned generally parallel to each other.

Each loop 222, 224 is essentially made up of a continuous frame member (not shown, but can be the same as frame member 40) that is retained or held within a frame retaining sleeve 242. An optional fabric can extend completely across the space enclosed by the loop 224, while the space enclosed by the loop 222 is preferably opened. As a result, the loop 222 defines a top opening through which the liner 204 can be introduced or removed.

As set forth above, the first end side 230 of each panel 226, 228 is hingedly connected to the first end loop 222, and the second end side 234 of each panel 226, 228 is hingedly connected to the second end loop 224. The hinged connections can be the same as that illustrated in FIG. 2. As an alternative, the sides 230 and 234 can be removably connected to the loops 222, 224 by a conventional attachment mechanism, such as one or more pairs of opposing VELCRO™ pads that are provided along the sides 230, 234 and the circumference of the loops 222, 224. Other conventional attachment mechanisms, such as but not limited to hooks, fasteners, buttons, snap-fit engagements, loops, snap buckles, zippers and ties, can also be used without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

In addition, one or more handles 248 can be attached (e.g., by stitching) in spaced-apart manner to the first end loop 222.

The structure 202 can be the same as the structures illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 5A of U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,847 to Zheng, whose entire disclosure is hereby incorporated by this reference as though fully set forth herein. The structure 202 can be twisted and folded in the manner shown and described in connection with FIGS. 5A-5E of U.S. Pat. No. 6,668,847 to Zheng.

The liner 204 provides a storage function as it holds or retains items or objects. The structure 202 provides structural support and structural integrity for the liner 204. When the liner 204 is fitted inside the structure 202, the entire assembly 200 (the structure 202 and the liner 204) can be lifted using the handles 248, and carried around as a single assembly. The liner 204 is removable from the structure 202, so the liner 204 can be washed, or a different liner 204 can be used with the structure 202.

FIG. 14 illustrates an assembly 300 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. The assembly 300 includes a structure 302 and a liner 304. The liner 304 can have the same construction as the liner 60 described above. The structure 302 is made up of a single figure-eight frame member 306, which can be the same as the figure-eight frame member shown and described in FIGS. 1 and 2 of U.S. Pat. No. 4,825,892 to Norman, whose entire disclosure is hereby incorporated by this reference as though fully set forth herein. The figure-eight configuration of the frame member is characterized by a left loop 306 a separated from a right loop 306 b by a crossover point 310. Each loop 306 a, 306 b has a straight portion 312 for resting on a flat surface when the structure 302 is in the configuration shown in FIG. 14. The frame member 306 can be formed from any of the materials used for the frame members 40 described above. The figure-eight configuration shown in FIG. 14 can be formed by a single 360 degree twist of the frame member 306.

The structure 302 has left and right frame retaining sleeves 320 and 322, respectively, which retain the frame member 306. The sleeves 320 and 322 also define straight portions that retain the respective straight portions 312. A first fabric 330 can be stitched or otherwise attached to the interior space defined by the loops 306 a, 306 b. A second fabric 332 can be stitched or otherwise attached to the space outside the loops 306 a, 306 b, so that the first and second fabrics 330, 332 together define an enclosed space inside the structure 302.

The structure 302 can be reduced to a smaller configuration by pushing or deforming the straight portions 312 towards each other, causing the two large loops 306 a, 306 b to be deformed so that they overlie each other. Then, the crossover 310 is partly bent towards one of the straight portions 312. The loops 306 a, 306 b are then twisted and folded using the principles illustrated in FIGS. 3C-3E herein, and in FIGS. 5-7 of U.S. Pat. No. 4,825,892.

An optional opening 340 can be provided in the first fabric 330 of the loop 306 a adjacent the top of the structure 302 near the crossover 310. The liner 304 is adapted to be fitted through the opening 340 into the interior of the structure 302. The liner 304 provides a storage function as it holds or retains items or objects. The structure 302 provides structural support and structural integrity for the liner 304. When the liner 304 is fitted inside the structure 302, the entire assembly 300 (the structure 302 and the liner 304) can be lifted using the handles 342 (which can be attached to the loops 306 a, 306 b), and carried around as a single assembly. The liner 304 is removable from the structure 302, so the liner 304 can be washed, or a different liner 304 can be used with the structure 302.

FIG. 15 illustrates a structure 402 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. A liner (not shown) is adapted to be introduced through an opening 404 in the top of the structure 402. The liner can have the same construction as the liner 60 described above. The structure 402 is made up of a two separate frame members 406, 408 which intersect each other. The frame members 406, 408 can be formed from any of the materials used for the frame members 40 described above. Each frame member 406, 408 defines a portion of the base of the structure 402. Specifically, the frame member 406 has a base portion 410 and an arched portion 412, while the frame member 408 has a base portion 414 and an arched portion 416. The frame members 406, 408 intersect at points 418 where each frame member 406, 408 transitions from its base portion to its arched portion. Each frame member 406, 408 can be housed in a frame retaining sleeve similar to the sleeve 38 described above. Fabric material 420 can be attached to the sleeve of the frame members 406, 408 to cover the interior space defined by the frame members 406, 408. An opening 404 can be provided in the fabric material 420 at the top of the structure 402 between the arched portions 416 and 412.

Referring to FIG. 16, the structure 402 can be reduced to a smaller configuration by pushing the base portions 410 and 414 towards each other to form a stack of loops, which are then twisted and folded using the principles illustrated in FIGS. 3C-3E herein.

The liner is adapted to be fitted through the opening 404 into the interior of the structure 402. The liner provides a storage function as it holds or retains items or objects. The structure 402 provides structural support and structural integrity for the liner. When the liner is fitted inside the structure 402, the entire assembly (the structure 402 and the liner) can be lifted using the handles 430 (which can be attached to the top of the arched portions 416 and 412), and carried around as a single assembly. The liner is removable from the structure 402, so that the liner can be washed, or a different liner can be used with the structure 402.

Thus, the present invention provides numerous embodiments of storage structures and shelters that allow a replaceable liner to be used with a collapsible structure. The liner can be removed, and the structure itself can be reduced to a smaller configuration for ease of storage, packing and transportation.

While the description above refers to particular embodiments of the present invention, it will be understood that many modifications may be made without departing from the spirit thereof. The accompanying claims are intended to cover such modifications as would fall within the true scope and spirit of the present invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7308989 *Sep 17, 2003Dec 18, 2007Patent Category Corp.Collapsible structures
US20140177981 *Dec 18, 2013Jun 26, 2014Adk Packworks LlcFoldable carrying device
WO2007111831A1 *Mar 14, 2007Oct 4, 2007Azad SabounjianCollapsible container
Classifications
U.S. Classification220/9.2
International ClassificationB65D33/02
Cooperative ClassificationD06F95/002
European ClassificationD06F95/00B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 23, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: PATENT CATEGORY CORP., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ZHENG, YU;REEL/FRAME:016328/0455
Effective date: 20050215