US 20080029421 A1
A stacked shipping configuration useful for stacked upper and lower unitized loads of soft or flexible articles such as bales of natural rubber includes an upper unitized load stacked on top of a lower unitized load. An upper separator is associated with the upper unitized load and a lower separator associated with the lower unitized load. Each separator has a first leg and a second leg with the first legs of the separators disposed against each other between the unitized loads. The separators protect the unitized loads from damage when a lifting device is inserted between the loads to lift the upper load from the lower load.
1. A stacked shipping configuration of two unitized loads; the configuration comprising:
upper and lower unitized loads; the upper unitized load being stacked on top of the lower unitized load;
an upper separator associated with the upper unitized load and a lower separator associated with the lower unitized load; and
each separator having a first leg and a second leg; the first legs of the separators disposed against each other between the unitized loads; the second legs extending away from each other.
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17. A stacked shipping configuration of two unitized loads of natural rubber bales; the configuration comprising:
upper and lower unitized loads of natural rubber bales; each unitized load being stretch wrapped with at least one layer of stretch wrap;
the lower unitized load including one of a slip sheet and a slip tray;
the upper unitized load including one of a slip sheet and a slip tray;
the upper unitized load being stacked on top of the lower unitized load;
first and second separators associated with the upper unitized load and third and fourth separators associated with the lower unitized load;
each separator having a first leg and a second leg;
the first legs of the first and third separators disposed against each other between the unitized loads;
the first legs of the second and fourth separators disposed against each other between the unitized loads; and
the second leg of each separator being secured to one of the unitized loads by at least one of a packaging band and the layer of stretch wrap.
18. A separator for use with a unitized load of natural rubber bales; the separator comprising:
a body having a first leg and a second leg; the first and second legs defined an L configuration adapted to engage a front corner of the unitized load of natural rubber bales; and
the legs having a length, a width, and a thickness; the thickness of the legs being less than five percent of the width of the legs.
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This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/833,635 filed Jul. 26, 2006; the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention generally relates to shipping configurations wherein a unitized load is stacked on top of another unitized load. More particularly, the invention relates to separators that are used to allow a lifting device to be inserted between stacked loads. Specifically, the invention relates to the structure of separators and the use of separators with unitized loads—especially unitized loads of soft or flexible materials such as bales of natural rubber.
A unitized load is a single large article or a plurality of articles grouped together for shipping. The articles may be individual items such as material bales. The article also may be containers filled with their own goods. Although the articles are usually the same, the articles may be a mixture of different things. The articles may be grouped orderly or randomly. The articles may be grouped on a wooden pallet, a non-wooden pallet, a slip sheet, a slip tray, or another shipping aid. Examples of these are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,613,447, 5,881,651, and 6,490,982. Each unitized load may be stretch wrapped after it is formed. Unitized loads may be stacked one on top of the other when they are loaded into a container for shipping. When the shipper intends to stack the unitized loads, the shipper does not want to place the upper load on a thick pallet in order to save the air space that would have been occupied by the pallet. The shipper may use a thin slip sheet or a slip tray. Such unitized loads are placed directly on top of the other load. One problem with this stacking configuration is the problem of removing the top load from the bottom load after the top load settles into the top of the bottom load during transport. The loads are typically removed from the container with a power lift vehicle such as a fork lift. Inserting the forks between the upper and lower unitized loads can damage the stretch wrapping, the article packaging, or the articles themselves. When the articles are soft or flexible in nature, the process of inserting the forks between the unitized loads is more difficult and damage to at least the stretch wrap or protective packaging frequently occurs.
An example relevant to the invention is a unitized load of natural rubber bales. Each natural rubber bale is wrapped with a protective packaging layer and the entire unitized load of natural rubber bales is stretch wrapped for shipping. When one load is stacked on top of another, the natural properties of the rubber bales cause the loads to interlock together and bow outwardly. Inserting forks between these interlocked loads is not easy without damaging some portion of the load. Shippers thus desire a device and packaging configuration that solves the problem of inserting the forks between stacked upper and lower unitized loads, especially when the articles are soft or flexible.
Commercial rubber users prefer the rubber to be in bales of a convenient size, which is from about seventy to about eighty pounds, although the size of the bales varies greatly, depending on the producer and consumer. Such a size can be achieved using a bale having in the range of about 1.5 to 1.8 cubic feet of volume. The process of forming such a rectangular solid bale from the rubber is well known and will be well within the knowledge of one of skill in the rubber industry. Once formed, the bales are usually packaged in a plastic bag, although it is also known in the industry to package the bales in a shrink-wrap or stretch-wrap polymer, such as a polyethylene film. If for no other reason, this individual bale packaging minimizes the fusing of rubber in adjacent bales. Although these packaging techniques maintain the independence of the bales, the weight of the bales and the shipping time causes them to settle with the some bales to bulge outwardly. The bulging bales make the process of inserting forks of a forklift difficult.
The invention generally provides separators and a packaging configuration wherein at least one separator is used to protect a unitized load when a fork is inserted between stacked upper and lower unitized loads. The invention also provides a configuration wherein at least two separators are used with stacked unitized loads. The separators include legs positioned against each other and between the unitized loads. The fork of the lifting device is inserted between the separator legs. The separators also indicate the proper location for the insertion of the fork so the load will be balanced once lifted.
One configuration of the separators includes a body having a first leg and a second leg. The first and second legs define a generally L-shaped structure adapted to be fit over the corner of a unitized load. The separators are aligned so that the fork may be slid between the separators when the fork is being guided between the loads. The legs between the loads may be longer than the outer legs.
In another configuration, the legs of the separator are disposed ninety degrees from one another, the longer leg is three times longer than the short leg, and the width of the short leg is the same as its length. The body of the separator is fabricated from a recyclable plastic having a thickness in the range of 0.040 inches to 0.060 inches. The longer legs are placed between the unitized loads against each other with the short legs extending away from each other.
The invention also provides a separator body that is formed flat and then bent into an L configuration for use. The L configuration may be a somewhat rounded L without a sharp angular break between the legs. In one configuration, a fold line is defined between the legs that allows the user to fold the legs into an L shape for use with the loads. The body may be formed end-to-end with another separator body. A line of separation is provided between the separator bodies.
In another configuration, the separators may define banding openings that allow for different banding configurations. Each leg may define a single banding opening, a pair of banding openings, or four banding openings. Packaging bands may be threaded through these openings to secure the separators to the unitized loads and to stabilize the loads. The separators may be used in combination with a slip sheet or slip tray to provide banding anchors.
The invention also provides a method for packaging bales of natural rubber for shipment. The method includes the steps of forming first and second unitized loads of natural rubber bales, stretch wrapping each of the loads, positioning separators at the top of the lower load and at the bottom of the upper load, and placing the upper load on top of the lower load with the separators aligned. The method may include the optional steps of securing the separators with the stretch wrap or banding the loads with packaging bands that engage the separators. The loads may be formed on a slip tray or a slip sheet.
The configurations may be implemented individually or combined together to define additional configurations of the invention.
The drawings are not to scale. Similar numbers refer to similar features throughout the specification.
Separators 6 are used to help guide the forks 11 of a lift vehicle between loads 2 and 4 while protecting goods 5. Separators 6 help forks slip between loads 2 and 4 while preventing or minimizing damage to the stretch wrapping 9 or the individual goods 5. Separators 6 are thus positioned with respect to loads 2 and 4 at locations to receive standard forks of a forklift or other lift vehicle. For example, separators 6 may be spaced 24 inches center-to-center when they are positioned on loads 2 and 4.
The body of each separator 6 may be fabricated from any of the slip sheet materials described in the patents cited above. The body may be made from a wide variety of materials including, but not limited to, plastics and metals. In the exemplary embodiment, separator 6 is formed from a recyclable polymer material such as polyethylene or high density polyethylene. The body may have a thickness from 0.010 inches to 0.100 inches with 0.040 inches to 0.060 inches being useful for many configurations. A thicker body will add rigidity and support to the bottom of loads 2 and 4 while a thinner body will flex with goods 5 while still providing the benefits of the invention described herein. A thin aluminum body may be used as an alternative.
In the examples of the invention depicted in
Optional banding holes 10 may be defined by the bodies of separators. In the examples, banding holes 10 are one inch diameter holes that will receive standard banding straps used in the packaging industry. Holes 10 may be centered as shown in
When in use, each separator 6 is bent into an L configuration to fit around at least the front corners of loads 2 or 4. The front of the load is the side of the load where the forks 11 of a lift vehicle are inserted. Packaging bands 8 may be threaded through separators 6 to secure them to the load. Alternative banding configurations are shown in
Another alternative configuration of separator 6 is depicted in
In any of the configurations described above, upper load 4 may be packed on a slip tray 7 which may eliminate the need for separators 6 on the bottom front corner of upper load 4. In this configuration, separators are used on the upper corner of lower load 2 to work in cooperation with the bottom of slip tray 7 to protect goods 5 and wrapping 9.
In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.
Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.