US 3578050 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent  lnventors Joseph L. Weingarten (1927 Oak Tree Drive, East Rettering, Ohio 45440); Stephen R. Mehaffie, Dayton, Ohio (1596 Beaver Ridge Road, Ketting, Ohio 45429)  Appl. No. 823,643  Filed May 12, 1969  Patented May 11, 1971  COLLAPSIBLE AIRCARGO CONTAINER 4 Claims, 11 Drawing Figs.
 US. Cl. ISO/0.5, 220/6  Int. Cl ..B65d,19/18, B65d 11/18  Field ofSearch 150/.5, 4.6, 7; 220/4, 6.7; 206/(Vac), 65 (B)  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,720,998 10/1955 Potter.. 220/6 3,000,418 9/1961 Bitting 206/(Vac) 3,160,307 12/1964 Morrison 220/4X 3,312,181 4/1967 Davidson 206/65(B)X Primary Examiner-George E. Lowrance Attorneys-Harry A. Herbert, Jr. and Herbert H. Brown ABSTRACT: A collapsible aircargo container is disclosed which is particularly adapted for aircraft transportation. The container is secured at its lower edges to a pallet on which the products rest within the container. The latter is formed of a double walled airtight rubberized material having a passageway between the walls to receive air under pressure. One or more spring loaded air valves are inserted in the material of the container and communicate with the compartment formed between the double walls. A frame member is also provided, made of a double walled material, to provide an entrance to the interior of the container. The frame, when charged with air under pressure, will stand upright to support the container material and, when devoid of air, can be moved around hinges to be against the pallet. Adjustable straps of webbing material are secured to the outer surface of the container and the frame member so as timlly to secure the contained product to the pallet and to be protected by the container. After the products have been stowed within the container, the pressure of air in the double walls of the container and frame member is reduced to cause the container material to hug or settle down onto the aggregate contour of the products. The container and frame member can be collapsed by complete removal of air pressure when not in use, to occupy a space no greater than the physical dimensions, i.e. thickness and size of the container material and the attached pallet.
COLLAPSIBLE AIRCARGO CONTAINER BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Discussion of the Prior Art Containers of the prior art are usually made rigid, sufiiciently large to permit access to the personnel engaged in packing the products. Upon reaching their destination, and the contents removed, the empty container are shipped back to their point of origin to be used over again. The theatre of war, or ultimate distination of the filled containers, maybe such as not to require movement of any products in the reverse direction so that the return trip of the empty containers represents loss in valuable space on the plane on account of their rigidity of construction, also in the manpower necessary in handling bulky structures at the transfer points. Moreover, this rigidity of construction may, when being packed, leave air spaces between the outermost products and the interior of the container, and unless precautions are taken,
the products may rattle and possibly shift position due to the gyrations of the plane en route. Other forms of coverings have their own objection, particularly those of thesemirigid type in that the load must be prearrangedin order to derive at least some support from the covering. In other words, the load must be arranged to fit the covering or container, and not vice versa. Perhaps the most significant objection is the fact that the container, when empty, occupies the same space as when filled so that valuable space must be allowed on the plane when returning empty containers for reshipment.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION An object of the invention is to provide a double walled aircargo container which can be attached to a rigid frame and can be expanded to receive products, and with the products in place can be contracted to cause the envelope and frame to settle down on the outline or contour of the products to assist in holding them in position.
Another object is to provide an aircargo container which can be attached to a rigid frame hingedly mounted on a pallet and to which the container is secured, the container being adapted to be expanded to receive packaged goods, also the frame member being adapted to be collapsed when empty so as to occupy the minimum space when being returned for more goods.
Still another object is to provide an aircargo container which can be increased as to size by inflation in order to receive the maximum amount of goods, and in which thecom tainer can be caused to settle down onto the outermost surface of the goods and closely follow the aggregate contour thereof. The container is to be adapted to receive holding straps which secure the same and its contents to a carrying pallet.
Another object is to provide an aircargo container made sufficiently large by pneumatic effect to hold a large quantity of articles, boxes, etc., and place a restraining force on the outermost surface contour of the articles, the container being adapted to be greatly reduced as to size when the load has been removed and the container is being returned to receive another load.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 represents a view, in perspective, of the improved pneumatic covering or container with crisscross straps and positioned at one end about a frame which supports a roll down curtain.
FIG. 2 represents a fragmentary view in perspective, and greatly enlarged, of the lower comer portion of the improved container including one of the crisscross straps.
FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. l except for'showing a swinging double door at the front of the frame and in which the entire door and frame are hinged for knockdown purposes.
FIG. 4 represents a typical section, greatly enlarged, of the improved container and frame member, without the straps and fastening devices. This view is taken at about the section line 4-4 in FIG. 1. The broken dot-dash lines indicate that the showing does not represent the actual width of the pneumatic container or frame member.
FIG. 5 is a showing, also enlarged, of the plan view of the container without the holding str'aps; the dot-dash lines again indicating that the showing does not represent thefull width or length of the container.
FIG. 6 illustrates in outline a typical load of boxes to be shipped in the improved container and showing, in particular, the outside contour thereof.
FIG. 7 is a side view showing the shape of the container after covering the load illustrated in FIG. 6.
FIGS. 8, 9 and 10 are side views similar to FIG. 7 and showing how the improved container can conform to the contours of box loads of other shapes.
FIG. 11 is a fragmentary and diagrammatic showing of the container in a wholly deflated condition so as to occupy the minimum space when being returned to its initial loading station.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT REferring to FIGS. I, 2 and 3, reference character 1 designates or represents a pallet sufficiently large to receive and support the products for shipment, the pallet being formed in any suitable manner. It may be made of plywood with the necessary cross strengthening beams or of a sandwich construction incorporating top and bottom facings, a core material and a wooden frame such as is shown in US. Pat. No. 3,429,536 in'the name of Petry and Weingarten. At one end-of the pallet there is an inverted U-shaped frame member generally shown at 2 (FIG. 2') and this frame member is connected to the pallet through two or more hinges 3. Oneleg of these hinges is secured to the pallet and the other leg is secured, as by a bolt, to the upright framemember 2. The vertical legs of the frame member are indicated at 5, and these legs are spanned at the top by a horizontal leg 6. The legs are integrally joined at the comers, and the lower endsof the frame are closed and are spaced apart by the use of the hinges 3.
The vertical and horizontal lengths of the frame may take a construction such as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. The body of the frame is constituted of thick canvas sheets 7 or strips which are impregnated with a thick rubbery solution such as neoprene to render them airtight. These strips, at each end, have a curved portion 8, and the canvas strips are maintained at adistance apart for reasons as will be described hereinafter. The end or curved portions 8 are reinforced by heavy canvas strips 9 which'are also impregnated with a suitable rubbery solution forming a layer 9' and leaving the latter quite stiff in configuration, and generally forming an air seal. The outer surfaces of the canvas strips7 and the reinforcing strips 9 are dipped bodily in a melted neoprene solution which, upon hardening, causes the end portions of the mat meinber to become stiff. Thus, the sides of the mat are spaced apart and held in this manner by the stiffness of the material with which the canvas strips are impregnated and also by reason of the reinforcing strips 9. If desired, and as shown -more particularly in FIG. 5, the ends of the mat can be still further reinforced by the use of laterally extending strips 10, also impregnated with neoprene or similar material, and these strips may be integrally joined to the reinforcing strips by comer pieces 11 made of impregnated canvas and extending diagonally along each of the corners as shown in' FIG. 5. At one or more edges provide a number of cross threads 13 at right angles to thecanvas sides 7 which are woven into the fabric as the layers are formed. The number of threads per square inch and their length can be controlled. The threads which are preferably made of nylon are quite numerous and may range in number from 16 to the square inch to 60 to the square inch; the large in number of the joining, or distance limiting threads, the finer should be the thread. The threads are embedded in the canvas layer 6 only to such extend as will obtain secure adhesion to the canvas. Thus, as the air under pressure is admitted at the air valve or valves 12 from to pounds per square inch, the mat member 2 becomes inflated but only to the extent to a allowed by the length of the threads 13 which preferably is such as to leave the mat in a flat condition as shown in FIG. 4. As stated hereinbefore, these mats, that is, the two vertical legs generally indicated at 2 and the horizontal leg at the top can be integrally joined together at the upper comers, and together they form an inverted U-shaped frame member which when inflated constitutes a rigid construction. The hinges 3 allow this structure to be folded downwardly against the pallet as can be seen in FIG. 3, particularly when the interior of the frame members has been deflated by releasing the pressure at the air valves 12. As shown in more detail in FIG. 4, the bolts which hold the hinges 3 in position can be molded into the outer skin of the mat, the bolts terminating in a head 14 and the mat being thickened at that point as shown. These bolts extend outwardly, and are threaded at one end to receive a nut 15 and a washer 16, which upon being tightened bear against the metal plate of the hinge 3. The lower element of the hinge can be secured by means of a threaded bolt 17 which can bite into the wooden pallet l. The top horizontal portion 6 of the frame is provided at each end wit a circular fixture 18 which carries a rod 19 extending across the frame. On this rod, there is mounted a roll of nylon, constituting a curtain 20, which can be pulled down against spring pressure, and in ef fect, closes off the front end of the container. There are straps and belt tighteners, as shown in FIG. 1, which extend over the curtain and hold the same flatwise against the container. A description of these straps and tighteners will appear hereinafter. The sides 21 of the container, forward and rear, are made of a double wall mat construction similar to that of the frame which was described in connection with FIGS. 1 and 2. The shape of these mats is determined broadly by the general design and size of the product aggregation which is to be covered. The side mats may be provided with their own air valves or one common valve by which the mats can be inflated up to any desired pressure, preferably the same amount as the frame member 2. The side mats 21 are so designed as to have flat extremities indicated at 22, 23, 24 and 25 and across these extremities there extends flat end and top mats of the double wall construction, which are sealingly joined at their extremities to the end portions of the side mats 21. All of these vertical, top and side mats are preferably integrally joined at their junctions and preferably the air space between the flat portions of each of these mats is coextensive, so that when air pressure is introduced by an appropriately positioned air valve, the air will flow through the side members 21, the end members 22, 23 and 24, and also the top member 25. Since all of these members are provided with the transversely extending threads 12, the introduction of air pressure will cause the members to straighten out and become completely flat surfaces except at the comer extremities where, as stated hereinbefore, the mats are integrally joined together in such a way as not to close off the air passage way between the walls of the interconnecting mats. It has been pointed out that each container i.e., the length and width of the walls of the side, and end top members are designed to contain products which, in the aggregate, have a different outside contour so that when the air is introduced, the various mats including the frame member 2 take on their predetermined shapes which are designed to conform broadly to the contour of the container material. Such a contour of the products is shown in FIG. 6 which are intended to be enclosed within a container which takes the shape shown in FIG. 7 after the air pressure has been decreased as explained hereinafter. It will be understood that the introduction of air, for example 5 to ID pounds per square inch, which passes through all of the passageways of the various side and top mats shown in FIG. 1 will cause the container as a whole to expand but still retain their flatness on account of the restraining effect of the threads. The introduced air, of course, does not interfere with the interior of the container because it is confined solely to the space within its walls. The products can therefore be stowed within the slightly enlarged container by rolling the curtain l8 upwardly about its rod, the arrangement of the products being such that there is a minimum space between the general outline of the products and the inside surface of the immediately adjacent mat.
After the goods had been placed within the container while the mats have been expanded by the use of air under pressure, the nylon curtain 18 is rolled down to close the front entrance. The pressure between the double walls of the various mats is then described to a pressure just above that of the atmosphere. Under these circumstances, the mats tend to settle down and hug or close any space that might exist between the various boxes. For example, if the products having an outline shown in FIG. 6, and indicated by the general reference character A were place in a double walled container similar to FIG. 7, the configuration of the container would change and the latter conform to the general outline of the product mass, as indicated in FIG. 7. This partial collapsible or settling down effect of the container tends to place some restraint on the various boxes and prevents them from moving with respect to one another while in transit.
It has been pointed out that the products rest upon a pallet which may be made of heavy plywood or may be formed as a sandwich construction, as shown in my US. Pat. No. 3,429,536, and cleated, if desired, in order to leave room for the forks of a lift or conveyor. In order to securely attach the container to the pallet, I employ a number of strong straps 26 made of webbing and these straps are equally spaced over the sides, also over the ends and top mats. The straps are preferably held in position as they drape over the container by cementing them along the upper surface of the top mats, employing a waterproof cement, such as an epoxy resin. It will be noted that straps fall down over the nylon curtain when the latter has been unrolled to close off the front entrance.
AT the position where the lower end of the vertical straps would drape over the edges of the pallet 1, there is a male connecting member 27, as shown in enlarged form in FIG. 2, this member being secured to the edge of the pallet by a pair of screws 28 and extending upwardly, to form a tapered end portion 29 having a slot 30 therethrough. Directly above the connectors 27, the lower ends of the vertical strap or straps are provided with a standard form of belt tightening device 31 which allows the surplus length of strap to be taken through the device and to come out at the top where it can be pulled upwardly, similar to an ordinary two-piece seatbelt tightener.
The strap tightening device is provided with a corrugated or toothed roll which grips the strap when the pivoted clasp is pressed toward the female portion 32 as it rotates on a pivot 33. There is an opening at the bottom of the clasp, the entrance to which is controlled by the position of the pivoted member 31 and this opening is adapted to receive the tapered portion 29 of the male connector which is secured to the edge of the pallet. Lugs (not shown) within the belt tightening device enter the aperture 30 and hold the strap tight to the connector 27 but still allowing adjustment to be made by pulling up on the extra length 34 of the strap. As shown in FIG. 1, there are a number of these belt fasteners secured to the lower ends of the vertical straps and there is a similar number at the opposite side (not shown) of the container so that the straps 24 which pass transversely about the container will not only firmly hold the container to the pallet l but also serve the to apply pressure to the pressurized mats which surround the container products. As in the case of the vertical straps, belt tighteners are also provided with respect to the horizontal straps, the male connectors for those tighteners being secured, preferably by rivet as indicated in FIG. 3, to the vertical legs 4'of the frame member 2. Thus, by reason of these vertical and horizontal straps the container is rigidly secured by the belt tighteners to the pallet l and the various side portions of the mat as a whole are securely held about the contained products. If desired, additional horizontal straps 35 may be provided along the exterior surface of the curtain 20, each strap tenninating in a belt tightener secured in any suitable manner to the vertical legs 4 of the frame member. Thus, all parts of the container formed as a double walled construction and provided with air under pressure are secured to the pallet I by means of the various vertical and horizontal straps 25, 30, all of which may be provided with a belt tightening structure and in addition, where necessary, anchoring connections may be made to the pallet. It will be understood that the strips are not tightening until after the pressure in the double wall mats has been reduced to about 1 pound per square inch, these straps serving to assist the reduced pressure, in causing the container to follow closely the outermost boundary of the product content.
It will be understood that when the products are to be removed from the containers which have reached their destination, it may be desirable to reintroduce the high-pressure air to free the envelope of the container from the products, assuming that the straps have been removed.
There is another important advantage of our improved structure, in that it can be knocked down when not in use and is being shipped back to an initial point of supply ready to be inflated and to be packed by another shipment of goods. For this purpose, and assuming that all of the products had been removed from the interior, the air pressure is allowed to drop to that of the atmosphere by opening the air valves so that the double walled mats become flabby. The U-shaped frame members 4, 5 are adapted to b bev swung about the hinge devices 3 so as to lay flat against the pallet 1, carrying with them all of the other mats so that the entire structure is completely flattened as they lie on the pallet. This condition is exemplified in FIG. 11 and the only space which is taken up by the pallet and the normally large container, in its knocked down condition, is that occupied by the physical material of the deflated mats and the thickness of the pallet. Whereas, it has been the custom heretofore to retum a single container of rigid construction and without any knockdown feature, to the initial shipping point, it is'now possible to return to he the shipping point five or possibly of the deflated and knocked down containers which altogether would not occupy any more space then an a single container of the rigid and noncollapsible type.
FIGS. 9, l0, and 11 show structures in which the design of the container has been changed to accommodate various outlines or contours of the shipment, and as shown, each of these containers is provided with the horizontal and vertical straps together with the individual belt tighteners 31 as explained hereinbefore. It will be understood that the containers of FIGS. 10, 11 and 12 are made up of double walled mats in which there are connecting passageways throughout the area of the container and to which air pressure can be employed to first enlarge the container and then reducethe pressure after the products have been place in position.
FIG. 3 is a view, similar to FIG. I but in place of the curtain I have shown double doors 35 hinged, as at 36, to the vertical members 5. The doors, which maybe formed of double walled mats, and the hinges may be connected to each member by a bolt device, similar to the hinged member 3 shown in FIG. 4. Handles 37 are provided on the doors. Thus, the double doors 35 can be swung open to present an entrance for the goods being placed in the container, while the latter is inflated in the manner described hereinbefore.
' cargo can rest, means for securing the container to the pallet,
said container including air inflatable means for supporting the container In an upright expanded position on the palle and for forming a rigid entrance for the container to provide access to the interior of the container for stowing purposes and which will permit the envelope of the container to hug the irregular boundary surface of the article content with a decreased air pressure whereby the container serves to hold the individual products in firm relation with respect to one another and in the absence of any air pressure, to cause the container to collapse and be constituted only of the container material and pallet when completely empty to conserve space in returning the empty container to their point of origin.
2. A container for aircargo, said container including a pallet on which the cargo can rest and constituted of a gas impervious material with walls spaced from one another and having an area sufficient to cover the cargo, said material being adapted to retain air under pressure, an inverted U-shaped frame structure for forming an entrance into the container for stowing of the cargo within the container, said frame structure being fonned of a gas impervious material with walls spaced from one another and adapted to retain air under pressure, valve means for introducing air under pressure to the inner wall space within the container and within the frame structure to increase the stowage space, within the container and for forming a rigid structure, said frame structure being secured to said pallet and adapted to remain upright thereon when air under pressure is admitted to said inner wall space, said structure when inflated, serving to support a portion of the container and thereby give access to the interior thereof for stowing purposes, said container material being sufficiently flexible to permit said material to drop down and rest upon the outer boundaries of the contained product when the gas pressure within the inner wall space is reduced to an amount slightly above atmospheric whereby the material of the container serves to hug the container products and thereby prevent any undue movement between the products while in transit.
3. A container for aircargo according to claim 2 and in which said pallet has retaining hooks around the periphery thereof and equally spaced straps encircling the container when loaded, and means for tightening the straps about the container whereby the container is held securely to the pallet at the retaining hooks so that the tightening effect of the straps and the hugging effect of the partially deflated container serve to constrain any movement between the products during transit.
4. A shipping container for aircargo, said container being constituted of a double wall gas impervious material, the space between the walls being adapted to receive and retain air under pressure, a pallet on which the cargo can rest, means for securing the container to the pallet, means for introducing air under pressure to said inner wall spaced when enlarging the interior of the container to accommodate the maximum quantity of articles received thereby, said articles, in the aggregate, presenting an irregular outer boundary area, means for forming a rigid entrance for the container to provide access to the interior of the container for stowing purposes, said container being of a flexible material to permit contracting the envelope of said container by decreased air pressure within said spaces so as to hug the irregular boundary surface of the article content whereby the container serves to hold the individual products in firm relation with respect to one another and in the absence of any air pressure, to cause the container to collapse and be constituted only of the container material and pallet when completely empty whereby space is conserved in returning the empty containers to their point of origin.