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Publication numberUS3552466 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJan 5, 1971
Filing dateOct 11, 1968
Priority dateOct 11, 1968
Publication numberUS 3552466 A, US 3552466A, US-A-3552466, US3552466 A, US3552466A
InventorsFairchilds Bert S
Original AssigneeHoover Aircraft Products Co
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Inflatable freight container
US 3552466 A
Images(3)
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent [72] Inventor Bert S. Fairchllds Miami, Fla. {211 App]. No. 766,767 [22] Filed Oct. 11, 1968 [45] Patented Jan. 5, 197] [73] Assignee Hoover Aircrafl Products Co.

Miami, Fin. a corporation of Florida [54] INFLATABLE FREIGHT CONTAINER 4 Claims, 12 Drawing Figs.

[52] ISO/0.5, 190/41, 220/7 [51] hit. Cl. 365d 89/02, 865d 7/28, 365 1/02 [50] Field of Search 206 (inquired); l35/(lnquired); 220/4, 6, 7, 1.5; 15019.5; l90/4lZipper; ISO/.SUTD; 220/9UTD [56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,951,608 6/1960 Morrison 206/( inquired) 3,160,307 12/1964 Morrison 220/4X Primary Examiner-George E. Lowrance Attorney-John H. Oltman ABSTRACT: A freight container having a wall or walls which can be inflated to confine freight and which can be collapsed to greatly reduce the volume of the container. In preferred embodiments the inflatable walls are made up of sealed cells of flexible material each having two opposed areas connected together by many threads which limit spreading of the cell. A valve is provided for each cell for inflation and deflation thereof.

PATENTEDJAN 5m 3,552,466

SHEU 1 OF 3 INVENTOR. BERT S. FAIRCHILDS Mh 5a @147 PATENTEHJAN 519?: 3.55;? 456 SHEET 2 [IF 3 FIG.8

INVENTOR. BERT S. FAIRCHILDS Pmumnm 5|97| 3,552,466

SHEET 3 OF 3 INVENTOR. BERT S. FAIRCHILDS 2,46, zewam INFLATABLE FREIGHT CONTAINER BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Packages, boxes and other freight are sometimes preloaded into a larger freight container for shipment on a carrier such as an airplane, train or ship. Such preloading of freight into freight containers has been particularly useful to airlines because the preloaded containers can be transferred into an airplane quicker than the individual packages, boxes or the like. The freight containers used most commonly by the airlines at the present time have been rigid and noncollapsible. If such a container must be returned to its point of shipment, the space occupied by it is wasted. If a rigid container is shipped only partially full, the load may shift inside the container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The inflatable freight container of the present invention can be stored or shipped in a collapsed condition when necessary, and when collapsed the container occupies very little space. When inflated, the container has sufficient strength to hold packages, boxes or other freight. When the container is only partially full, part of the container may be left deflated so that it can be conformed to the cargo by a net, ties or other retention means to prevent shifting of the cargo. The freight container of the invention includes a wall or walls made up of one or more cells of flexible material, and each cell has two opposed wall areas which are ordinarily parallel to each other and which are connected together throughout their area by many threads which limit spreading of the cell and give it structural strength. The floor of the container may be a rigid panel to which any desired number of cells may be attached to provide sidewalls The top of the container may be made up of inflatable cells or it may alternatively be a rigid panel. Where more than one cell is used, as is ordinarily the case. the cells are preferably joined together by flexible strips, and zippers may be provided in the strips if desired. Each ceii is provided with a valve for inflation and deflation thereof.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved freight container.

Another object of the invention is to provide a freight container with walls which can be inflated to erect the container and deflated to collapse the container.

A further object of the invention is to provide a freight container including an inflatable cell of flexible material having opposed areas connected together by threads which limit spreading of the cell.

Another object of the invention is to provide a freight container made up of inflatable cells which are joined together by flexible binding material.

A further object of the invention is to provide zippers at cornets of the container to facilitate unfastening and folding of the walls.

Another object of the invention is to provide a freight container including sidewalls composed of inflatable cells connected to a rigid base panel which facilitates lifting of the container.

Other objects of this invention will appear in the following description and appended claims, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part of this specification wherein like reference characters designate corresponding parts in the several views.

n the Drawings:

FIG. I is a perspective view, partly broken away, of an inflatable freight container in accordance with one embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a sectional view of part of the container taken along line 2-2 of FIG. I;

FIG. 3 is sectional view taken along line 3-3 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a freight container in accordance with another embodiment of the invention, showing how the walls of the container may be deflated and disconnected by means of zippers;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 4 showing the walls in an inflated condition and connected together by means of the zippers;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view of one comer of the container of FIG. 5 taken along line 6-6 ofFIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view showing the container in a deflated condition with the walls folded up;

FIG. 8 is a sectional view of one lower corner of the container taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary sectional view showing a valve for inflating one wall of the container;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an inflatable freight container in accordance with another embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 11 is a sectional view of the top portion of the container of FIG. 10 taken along line 11-11 of FIG. 10; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view, partly in section, showing two containers in the fuselage of an airplane and held in place by straps, one of the containers being only partly full.

Before explaining the present invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and arrangement of parts illustrated in the accompanying drawings, since the invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or car ried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology or terminology employed herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.

As shown on the Drawings:

Referring first to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, an inflatable freight container 20 is shown which includes a rigid base panel 22, four upright inflatable sidewalls 24, 26, 28 and 30, and a rigid cover panel 32 which has been shown broken away to reveal the interior of the container. The base panel 22 and the cover panel 32 are preferably made of a strong material such as metal, plastic, fiberglass or wood, wood being shown merely for purposes of illustration. The panel 22 serves as a pallet to facilitate lifting the container as with a forklift machine. Legs 34 and 36 are shown on the bottom of base panel 22, but these may be omitted if desired. In this embodiment, the top panel 32 is secured to the sidewalls by straps or ties (not shown) which encircle the container. However, other ways of securing the cover panel 32 are available.

Each of the sidewalls 24, 26, 28 and 30 is an inflatable cell which is provided with a valve for inflation and deflation thereof. Only the valves 38 and 40 for walls 24 and 26 are visible in FIG. 1, but it will be understood that walls 28 and 30 also have valves.

The construction of each inflatable cell will be described with reference to FIG. 2 wherein a sectional view of sidewall 26 is shown. The cell that forms sidewall 26 is made of flexible material including two relatively large sheets 42 and 44 which are spaced apart and parallel to each other when the cell is inflated. Preferably, the sheets 42 and 44 are made of a strong fabric such as nylon which is coated or impregnated with a sealing material such as Neoprene. The sheets 42 and 44 are interconnected throughout their area by a large number of short threads 46 which are attached at their opposite ends to the sheets 42 and 44. The threads 46 are flexible and allow the sheets 42 and 44 to collapse when the cell is deflated. However. when the cell is inflated, the threads 46 limit spreading of the sheets 42 and 44 to the positions shown in FIG. 2. Thus, a substantial air pressure can be built up inside the cell with the threads 46 retaining the sheets 42 and 44 against spreading so that the cell has substantial structural strength.

The upper edges 48 and the lower edges 50 of the sheets 42 and 44 are connected together respectively by flexible bindings 52 and 54. It may be seen that binding 52 overlaps the edges 48 and the overlapping edges are cemented together in an airtight manner. Similarly, binding 54 overlaps the edges 50 and is cemented thereto. The other edges of the cell have similar bindings attached thereto so that the cell is a completely sealed enclosure. The material of the bindings may be the same as or similar to that of the sheets 42 and 44. All of this material must be airtight.

The bottom of the sidewall 26 is fastened to the base panel 22 by means of a flexible strip 56 and screws 60. The strip 56 is cemented to the binding 54, and if desired to the sheet 44, and a portion of strip 56 extends inwardly of the container over the top surface of panel 22. The inner portion of the strip 56 is provided with grommets 62 at spaced intervals and the screws 60 extend through the grommets into the panel 22. The other walls 24. 28 and 30 are similarly attached to the base panel 22 by means of strips 64, 66 and 68 fastened down by additional screws 60.

The comers of the walls 24, 26, 28 and 30 are connected together as shown in FIG. 3 by additional flexible strips. The inner strips 70, 72, 74 and 76 are each connected to the inside surfaces of two adjoining walls, and the outer strips 78, 80, 82 and 84 are each connected to the outside surfaces of two adjoining walls. All of these strips are cemented to the appropriate surfaces of the walls, and they are flexible to facilitate collapsing of the walls when they are deflated. The various strips may be made of a suitable strong fabric material.

With the container in the inflated condition shown in FIG. 1, it is apparent that cargo may be loaded into the container and confined by the walls of the container. For storage of the container or for shipment of an empty container, the walls may be deflated and collapsed onto the base panel 22 of the container. The cover 32 may also be placed on top of the collapsed walls on the base 22 and ties may be used to secure the parts together. It would be possible to hinge the base 22 and the cover 32 at one or more places to permit folding of these members.

FIGS. 4 through 8 illustrate another embodiment of the invention. Referring first to FIG. 5, there is shown a container 100 consisting of a rigid base panel 102 having legs 104 and 106, four upright sidewalls 108, 110, 112 and 114 and a rigid cover 116 which has been shown broken away. The sidewalls are inflatable as in the embodiment of FIG. 1, and the sidewalls are provided with valves, only two of the valves, 118 and 120, being visible.

Each of the sidewalls is an inflatable cell constructed almost the same as in the embodiment of FIG. 1. A portion of the sidewall 110 is shown in FIG. 8 and illustrates the construction. The sidewall 110 includes opposed sheets of flexible material 122 and 124 which, when the cell is inflated, are spaced apart and parallel to each other as shown. The sheets I22 and 124 are connected together throughout most of their area by a large number of flexible threads 126 which are connected at their opposite ends to the sheets 122 and 124. The threads 126 serve the same function as threads 46 described previously; that is they limit spreading of the sheets 122 and 124 so that a substantial pressure can be built up inside the cell to make the cell fairly rigid.

Each of the sidewalls is attached to the base panel 102 in the manner shown in FIG. 8. An end portion 128 of sheet 124 overlaps the base panel 102, and a similar end portion 130 of sheet 122 is doubled back over portion 128 and cemented thereto with suitable cement material to provide an airtight joint. A socket 132 with a threaded recess (not shown) is mounted in panel 102. and the end portions 128 and 130 are apertured to receive a bolt 134 which is screwed into the socket 132. The other edges of the sheets 122 and 124 may be connected together by bindings 136 and 138 in the manner shown in FIG. 6, the bindings being cemented to the sheets in the manner described in connection with bindings 52 and 54 shown in FIG. 2. The materials of the sheets 122 and 124 and the bindings may be the same as described previously.

A plurality of anchors 140 are cemented to the outside surfaces of the upright walls of the container, and each of these anchors 140 holds a ring 142 to which ties may be secured for tying the container down.

One vertical corner of the container is shown in FIG. 6. It may be seen here that an outer flexible strip 144 is cemented to the exterior surfaces of the two sidewalls 110 and 112, and an inner flexible strip 146 is cemented to the inner surfaces of sidewalls I and 112. The inner strip 146 includes a fold portion 148 which extends between walls 110 and 112 where they meet. An intermediate flexible strip 150 lies between strips 146 and 144 and is cemented to both of them and also to the outer surfaces of walls and 112. All three strips 144, 146 and are slit vertically where they overlap each other and a zipper is provided at this slitted region. The teeth 152 of the zipper are attached to the two parts of strip 150, and the slide 154 of the zipper projects outwardly between the two parts of strip 144. The zipper teeth 152 extend over the full height of the container. Each corner of the container is provided with an identical zipper. It is apparent that when the four zippers are unzipped, the sidewalls of the container may be spread outwardly in the manner shown in FIG. 4. The sidewalls may be deflated and folded up on top of the base panel 102 in the manner shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 shows a valve 118 mounted in the sidewall 108. The valve 118 is of the type used on inner tubes for tires.

FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate another embodiment of the invention which is very similar to the embodiment of FIG. 1 except that the top of the container is made up of inflatable cells as well as the sidewalls of the container. The container 200 includes a rigid base panel 202 to which upright inflatable sidewalls are connected, only two of the sidewalls 204 and 206 being visible in FIG. 10. These sidewalls are constructed in exactly the same manner as described previously in connection with FIGS. 1-3 except that the sidewall 206 and the identical sidewall at the rear end of the container (not shown) have live sides instead of four sides. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 10, the end wall 206 is provided with a zipper at each of its five sides to allow it to be disconnected from the adjoining walls. The zippers and associated connecting structure may be made as illustrated in FIG. 6. Thus, boxes, cartons or the like may be loaded into the container through the opening provided when end wall 206 is removed.

FIG. 11 illustrates one way of constructing the sidewalls 204 and 208 and the two panels 210 and 212 of the top of the container. These walls are made from two sheets of material 214 and 216 which are cemented to intermediate strips 218, 219 and 220 to form four cells as shown. The other edges of the sheets are connected together by binding material such as the binding strips 52 and 54 described in connection with FIG. 2. The sheets 214 and 216 are connected together throughout most of their area by threads 222 which limit spreading of the sea sheets in each cell when inflated. The material of the sheets may be the same as described previously. The strips 218, 219 and 220 may be fairly rigid to support the top panels 210 and 212 as shown in FIG. 11, but the flexibility of the sheet material will allow the container to be collapsed when it is deflated.

FIG. 12 shows two containers 230 and 232 secured in the fuselage of an airplane by means of straps 234. The container 230 is identical to container 20 of FIG. 1 and represents a full container with a rigid top cover 236 provided on it. Container 232 represents a partially full container. No top cover is provided on this container, and the sidewalls of the container have been bent over and strapped down to fully confine the contents of the container and prevent the contents from shifting. Nets could be used to tie down the containers rather than individual straps if desired. As shown in FIG. 12, the straps 234 are connected to rails 238 and 240 and to floor anchors 242, but it will be apparent that other types of anchoring means may be utilized. Containers which are used in aircraft may be larger than those shown in FIG. 12. The container 200 of FIG. 10 is provided with a peaked top to conform more closely with interior shape of an airplane fuselage so that it can substantially till the fuselage.

Thus, the invention provides a freight container having walls made up of inflatable cells which have substantial rigidity when inflated and which can be collapsed when deflated. The rigidity of the cells is greatly enhanced by the provision of flexible threads interconnecting the opposed major areas of the cells. A container can be made with a single inflatable wall, such as a cylindrical wall, if desired, but the multicell structure is preferred at the present time.

I claim:

1. ln a freight container of an inflatable-deflatable type which includes a rigid rectangular base pallet and inflatable walls connected to said base pallet and forming therewith an enclosure, said walls including rectangular airtight cells having as boundaries thereof opposed sheets of flexible material connected together by flexible threads which limit spreading of said sheets when the cells are inflated, and valve means for inflation and deflation of the cells, the combination therewith of a first flexible connector strip means adhered to and extending along the length of one lower edge of each vertical wall cell adjoining said base, said first strip extending over said pallet and fastened to said pallet by fastener means to provide a flexible connection to retain said cells when upright but allowing folding of said cells on said pallet, and second connector strip means bridging adjacent edges of each adjacent pair of cells of said wall means, said second connector strip means adhering to and extending along the length of each of said adjoining edges and providing a joint which retains said edges together when said cells are inflated and allows folding of said cells when said cells are deflated, said second connector strip means including one strip bridging said adjoining edges on the inside of said enclosure and another strip bridging said edges on the outside of said enclosure to provide double retention of the edges.

2. The freight container as claimed in claim I in which said strips of said second strip means are split and secured at a medial portion thereof to a zipper strip with a zipper which can be zipped to retain said edges together and unzipped to separate said edges in order to facilitate folding of said walls.

3. The freight container as claimed in claim 1 in which four of said cells are connected serially end-to-end with two such cells forming sidewalls and two other cells forming a peaked top for said container, and two end wall coverings are connected by zipper means to said cells forming the other two walls of said container, said coverings being removable by unfastening said zipper means.

4. In a freight container of an inflatable-deflatable type which includes a rigid rectangular base pallet and inflatable walls connected to said base pallet and forming therewith an enclosure, said walls including rectangular airtight cells having as boundaries thereof opposed sheets of flexible material connected together by flexible threads which limit spreading of said sheets when the cells are inflated, and valve means for inflation and deflation of the cells, the combination therewith of a first flexible connector strip means adhered to and extending along the length of one lower edge of each vertical wall cell adjoining said base, said first strip extending over said pallet and fastened to said pallet by fastener means to provide a flexible connection to retain said cells when upright but allowing folding of said cells on said pallet, and second connector strip means bridging adjacent edges of each adjacent pair of cells of said wall means, said second connector strip means adhering to and extending along the length of each of said adjoining edges and providing a joint which retains said edges together when said cells are inflated and allows folding of said cells when said cells are deflated and zipper means in said second connector strip means capable of being zipped to connect said cells together and unzipped to separate said cells to facilitate folding thereof.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3653710 *Apr 29, 1970Apr 4, 1972Delbert J BarnardStorage compartment liner with inflatable support ribs
US3841479 *May 15, 1972Oct 15, 1974Continental Can CoContainer and container blank
US3889743 *Jan 2, 1973Jun 17, 1975Presnick Michael CInflatable insulation for packaging
US4054191 *Nov 24, 1975Oct 18, 1977Marvin Glass & AssociatesCarrying case for toys, dolls, or the like
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US4355723 *Apr 29, 1980Oct 26, 1982Loeber Fred MShipping container with coil spring supports
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Classifications
U.S. Classification206/386, 206/522, 383/3, 220/7
International ClassificationB65D37/00, B65D90/02
Cooperative ClassificationB65D37/00, B65D90/02
European ClassificationB65D37/00, B65D90/02