BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Containers are used in a wide variety of applications. In particular, industrial and retail applications require numerous containers to store and organize inventory including products and components. In a manufacturing application, the production of a single item may include, for example, the assembly of thousands of parts that are stored at various stations or locations along an assembly line. Similarly, in retail applications, particularly with respect to on-line or mail-order retailers, inventory may be stored in containers within a warehouse or other storage facility. In many applications, containers for parts and inventory are often stored in shelves, conveyors or carousels, which can be used to move the containers and allow a single user to have access to a high number of containers without moving from a station. Often, a single container is divided into separate compartments in order to hold different parts or products.
Due to changes in product design and fluctuations and change in inventory, storage systems making use of containers are frequently altered. Accordingly, containers have been made which use removable dividers to create different compartments of varying sizes within a container in a manner that allows the configuration of the container to be easily altered when necessary. Any removable dividers used in such containers should be secure enough so that they do not unintentionally become dislodged because it could result in inventory problems that can be detrimental to a production line or the like.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Current designs for containers and accompanying removable dividers are unable to meet the needs of customers in being both easily configurable and re-configurable yet able to prevent unintentional movement of the dividers within the container.
The present invention relates to a storage device. The storage device includes a container having a first side wall, a second side wall, a bottom wall, and an indentation. The first and second side walls each have a guide track formed by pair of guide members with bases affixed to the side walls and ends spaced apart from the side walls. The bases are spaced apart from each other at a first distance and the ends are spaced apart from each other at a second distance that is less than the first distance. The storage device further includes a divider having a first end, a second end, a wall extending along a plane between the first and second ends, and a bump projecting from a portion of the divider. The first and second ends each have a flange extending substantially perpendicular to the wall of the divider and sized so as to fit within a corresponding one of the first and second guide tracks. A portion of the flange has a width that is greater than the second distance. The wall of the divider has a thickness that is less than the second distance. The flanges are removeably insertable within the guide tracks such that the bump of the divider extends into the indentation of the container.
Preferably, the first flange and second flange are slideable within the guide tracks such that the divider can be inserted and removed from the container by sliding engagement of the first and second flanges with the corresponding guide tracks. Further preferably, the extension of the bump into the indentation restricts the sliding engagement between the first and second flanges with the corresponding guide tracks such that a threshold force is necessary to remove the divider from the container.
Preferably, each of the flanges has a triangular cross section such that each flange has an outside surface adjacent to one of the first and second side walls the container and a first and second inside surface that extends between the outside surface of the flange and the wall of the divider. The first and second guide members of each guide track are preferably angled toward each other so as to substantially contact the first and second inside surfaces, respectively, of the corresponding flange.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a divider for use with a container. The divider includes a wall portion sized to fit within an interior cavity of the container such that the divider extends between a first and second side wall of the container. The divider also includes a first end and a second end. The first end and the second end each include a flange extending substantially perpendicular to the wall of the divider. Each flange is adapted to slideably engage a corresponding one of a first guide track affixed to a first side wall and a second guide track affixed to a second side wall of the container. Further, the first end includes a projection adapted to engage an indentation formed in the first side wall.
FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a storage device having a container and a removable divider assembled partially therewith according to an aspect of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of a container in accordance with an aspect of the invention;
FIG. 3 is a front plan view of a divider in accordance with an aspect of the invention;
FIG. 4 is a side plan view of a divider in accordance with an aspect of the invention;
FIG. 5 is a top plan view of a guide track included in a container in accordance with an aspect of the invention;
FIG. 6 is a cross sectional view of a divider having a flange inserted within a guide track formed on a container;
FIG. 7 is an isometric view of a divider having a flange according to an aspect of the invention; and
FIG. 8 is an isometric view of a portion of a container wall having a guide track according to an aspect of the invention.
Referring to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts, there is shown in FIG. 1 a storage device according to an exemplary embodiment. The storage device includes a container 10, which includes left and right side walls 12, 14, a bottom wall 16, a front wall 18, and a back wall 20. As used in the present disclosure, directional terms such as front, back, top, bottom, left and right are used in exemplary fashion only, for clarity of the description of the preferred embodiments shown in the drawing figures, and are not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure, unless specifically stated.
The walls 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 are arranged to form an interior portion 22, the side walls 12, 14 being substantially parallel to each other and substantially perpendicular to the front 18 and back 20 walls. The size and shape of container 10 can vary with the intended use of the storage device. Such variances can include the overall volume of the interior portion 22 and the height, width and depth of container 10, among others. Preferably, front wall 18 includes a handle 24 to facilitate removal of container 10 from any storage means associated with container 10, including shelves, conveyors, and carousels. The handle may be decorative to provide a pleasing appearance or features specific to a particular manufacture. Further, it is preferred that container 10 be made in sizes corresponding to commercially-available shelves, conveyors, and carousels such that container 10 can be more easily used therewith.
Divider 60 is provided for use with container 10 and is sized so as to extend across the width of container 10 from left side wall 12 to right 14 side wall generally perpendicularly thereto. Alternatively, divider can be adapted to extend across the length of container 10, from front wall 18 to back wall 20. Divider 60 is structured so as to form distinct compartments 22 a, 22 b within container 10 when divider 60 is fully assembled into container 10. Multiple dividers can be supplied to form a desired number of compartments depending on the application of storage device and the contents thereof. As shown in FIG. 1, divider includes a wall 62, left edge 64, right edge 66, bottom edge 68 and top edge 70. Preferably, divider 60 extends from the bottom wall 16 of container 10 to a point near the top of left 12 and right 14 side walls.
Top edge 70 of divider 60 preferably includes a flange 72 that extends outwardly from wall 62 generally toward the front 18 or back 20 walls of container 10. Flange 72 increases the rigidity of divider 60, particularly with respect to bending of divider 60, which can cause divider 60 to become dislodged from container 10. Further, flange 72 aides in removal of divider 70 from the storage device by providing a feature onto which a user of container 10 can grasp. Flange 72 may also be angled downward, which can facilitate the insertion of product into the container and also provide a label area 77. Label area 77 provides a location to which a label, which may relate to the contents of the container or the particular division thereof, and can be affixed such that it is visible by a user.
Bottom edge 68 of divider 60 is structured to contact bottom wall 16 of container. Preferably, bottom wall 16 of container 10 includes a nesting trough 25 in the form of a groove made in bottom wall 16. Nesting trough 25 preferably extends from the junction of bottom wall 16 and left side wall 12 to the junction of bottom wall 16 and right side wall 14, and has an appropriate width to receive bottom edge 68 of divider 60 therein. Bottom edge 68 of divider 60 preferably extends into nesting trough 25 at a sufficient depth to securely hold bottom edge 68 therein. For example, nesting trough 25 can be structured to allow bottom edge 68 of divider 60 to extend therein at a depth of about 0.063 inches. The extension of bottom edge 68 of divider 60 into nesting trough 25 provides added stiffness to wall 62 of divider to resist bending thereof and to prevent items held within container 10 from passing between bottom edge 68 of divider 60 and bottom wall 16 of container 10 from one compartment to another.
Divider 60 is primarily secured in a position within container 10 by including a flange 74 on each of the left 64 and right 66 edges of divider 60 that substantially mate with a guide track 26 formed on each of the left 12 and right 14 side walls of container 10. Guide track 26 preferably extends from the bottom wall 16 of container to near the top edge 15 of container. Preferably, guide track 26 extends to a point just below top edge 70 of divider 60 when divider 60 is assembled with container 10. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, guide track 26 is formed by a pair of guide members 28 a, 28 b, that extend outwardly from a side wall (shown as right side wall 12, in FIG. 5) of container 10. Each guide member 28 a, 28 b includes a base 30 and an end 32. Base 30 is formed where guide member 28 attaches to side wall 12 and the end 32 is spaced apart at an appropriate distance therefrom. Guide track 26 is formed such that guide members 28 a, 28 b are spaced further apart from one another at the bases than at the ends, as illustrated by distances d1 and d2 between bases 30 a, 30 b and ends 32 a, 32 b, respectively, wherein distance d1 is greater than distance d2. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, this is achieved by forming guide members 28 a, 28 b so as to angle toward each other, creating a triangular cross-section. Preferably, the guides stop angling forward, one another near the end, i.e., they may bend at points 40 a and 40 b. Other arrangements are possible for guide track including rectangular and semi-circular. FIG. 8 illustrates another potential wall and guide track arrangement 26.
As shown in FIG. 1, flange 74 extends from each of left end 64 and right end 66 of divider 60 and is structured to slideably engage guide track 26. As shown in FIG. 6, this engagement is achieved by forming flange 74 with a cross section that substantially matches that of guide track 26 such that flange 74 fits between guide members 28 a and 28 b. Preferably, at least most of the interior surfaces of guide members 28 a, 28 b contact interior faces 76 a, 76 b of flange 74. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, flange 74 has a substantially triangular cross section so as to substantially match the cross section formed by guide members shown in FIG. 5. Distance d2 between ends 32 a, 32 b of guide members 28 a, 28 b is greater than the thickness of wall 62 of divider 62 such that wall 62 extends outwardly from guide track 26. Flange 74 is structured to have a width greater than distance d2 such that flange 74 is secured within guide track 26 in both the front-back and left-right directions. As shown in FIG. 6, ends 32 a, 32 b of guide members 28 a, 28 b can extend outwardly substantially parallel to one another so as to contact a portion of wall 62 of divider 60. This arrangement facilitates the alignment of left 64 and right 66 ends with the corresponding guide tracks 26 during assembly of divider 60 with container 10. FIG. 7 illustrates another potential divider and flange arrangement 74.
By providing a flange 74 on both left edge 64 and right edge 66 of divider 60 and corresponding guide tracks 26 on both left wall 12 and right wall 14 of container 10 as described herein, divider 60 helps to prevent left 12 and right 14 side walls from bending outwardly during use. For example, if a container without such a divider were filled, the contents thereof may exert pressure on the walls of the container, causing the sides to bend outwardly. However, divider 60, when secured to the side walls 12, 14 of container 10, as discussed herein, creates an inward force between the side walls 12, 14 to help maintain their position. This feature also helps to retain divider 60 within container 10 by retaining left and right edges 64, 66 of divider 60 within guide tracks 26 in the presence of an outward force acting on the side walls 12, 14 of container 10.
Projection 80 is formed on divider 60 such that it aligns with an indentation 34 formed on container 10 when divider 60 is positioned within container 10. In the alternative, an indentation can be formed on divider 60, with the mating projection formed on container 10. As shown in FIG. 6, projection 80 is formed on outside surface 78 of flange 74, and indentation 34 is formed on interior surface 27 of guide track 26. Alternatively, indentation 34 can be formed on either one or both of guide members 28 a, 28 b, projection 80 being formed on either or both interior faces 76 a, 76 b of flange 74. Yet further, the indentation 34 extend completely or partially through the material, i.e., completely or partially through wall 12. A hole is particularly advantageous for manufacturing purposes.
Preferably, guide members 28 a, 28 b are formed so as to exert a force on interior faces 76 a, 76 b of flange 74. This can be accomplished, for example, by forming guide member 28 a such that the angle formed by the intersection of guide member 28 a and interior surface 27 of guide track 26 is less than the angle formed by the intersection interior face 76 a and exterior face 78 of flange 74. The pressure exerted by guide member 28 a on interior face 76 a of flange 74 helps to retain divider 60 in its position within container 10. For example, this pressure may create a frictional force between flange 74 and guide track 26 that restricts the sliding motion therebetween. Additionally, the pressure between flange 74 and guide track 26 helps to maintain projection 80 within indention 34. Indentation 34 and projection 80 are formed so as to increase the force necessary to remove divider 60 from container 10. The amount of force necessary to remove divider 60 from container 10 will vary with the materials used as well as the amount of pressure that exists between flange 74 and guide track 26. Similarly, the amount of additional force which is required by including projection 80 and indentation 34 will vary based on the shapes thereof and the materials from which side walls 12, 14 and projection 80 are made. Generally, the amount of force required to remove divider 60 from container 10 should be such that divider 60 does not inadvertently become dislodged during use of the container, while being such that it can quickly and easily removed by a human when desired. As mentioned above, indentation can take the form of a hole that extends through either side walls 12, 14 or guide members 28 a, 28 b depending on the configuration thereof.
Flange 74 may be formed with a tapered leading end 82. As shown in FIG. 1, leading end 82 is preferably tapered inwardly in the front-to-back direction toward wall 62 and outwardly in the left-to-right direction toward the corresponding edge 64 or 66 of divider 60. This helps the user of the storage device insert flange 74 into guide track 26, particularly when a pressure-fit is formed therebetween.
Groove 36 may be formed from top edge 15 of container 10 above indentation 34 in side walls 12, 14. Groove preferably extends into side walls 12, 14 at a distance approximately equal to the distance at which bump 80 extends form divider 60. Groove 36 is structured such that bump 80 can slide therein during assembly of divider 60 into container 10 to reduce wear to bump 80 and side walls 12, 14 from friction therebetween. Groove 36 terminates at distance above indentation 34 so as to not interfere with the fit of bump 80 into indentation 34 and the effect achieved thereby.
A plurality of dividers 60 can be provided for use with a single container 10. In such an embodiment, all dividers may be substantially identical, and a corresponding number of substantially identical pairs of guide tracks 26 (as shown in FIG. 1.) are formed along left 12 and right 14 side walls. This allows the user of the storage device to divide container 10 into a desired number or configuration of separate compartments as desired.
Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.