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Publication numberUS3865269 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateFeb 11, 1975
Filing dateDec 3, 1973
Priority dateDec 3, 1973
Publication numberUS 3865269 A, US 3865269A, US-A-3865269, US3865269 A, US3865269A
InventorsColeman Kenneth L
Original AssigneeColeman Kenneth L
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Collapsible material handling and storage container
US 3865269 A
Abstract
A collapsible container which, in its uncollapsed state, is a substantially rectilinear box having a height H, a width W, and a length L. The sidewalls of the container are formed by the hinged combination of six rectangular, rigid sidewall panels. The floor structure of the container is made up of two trapezoidal panels, each having a long base edge of length L and a short base edge of length (L - W), and four right-triangular panels having two edges of equal length W/2. A two-way mechanical drive is connected between the opposing pairs of end-wall panels to collapse or erect the container in a single operation. The two larger sidewall panels are unaffected during the collapsing and erecting operation, allowing access doors to be placed therein as desired. Wheels mounted at the lower four corners of the container are operable when the container is either collapsed or erected. A center bar positioned under the floor panels provides a guide for carriages which are screw-driven from a rotary power source, and further acts as a floor support joist. The center bar supports the floor panels in a co-planar, toggle-locked position. Ramp flanges extending downwardly from the floor panels engage with a moving carriage to break the toggle-lock by lifting the floor at the beginning of the collapsing operation.
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United States Patent 1191 Coleman COLLAPSIBLE MATERIAL HANDLING AND STORAGE CONTAINER [76] lnventor: Kenneth L. Coleman, 1825 N.

' Lincoln Plaza, Apt. 105, Chicago,

Ill. 60614 22 Filed: Dec. 3,1973

21 Appl. No.: 421,238

[52] US. Cl. 220/6, 220/1.5 [51] Int. Cl 865d 7/24 [58] Field of Search 220/6, 7, 75, 1.5

[56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,803,084 8/1957 Freslting 220/6 X 3,602,388 8/1971 l-lurkamp 220/6 X PrimaryExaminer-William 1. Price Assistant Examiner-Steven M. Pollard Attorney, Agent, or Firnt--Molinare, Allegretti, Newitt & Witcoff {57] ABSTRACT A collapsible container which, in its uncollapsed state,

[451 Feb. 11, 1975 is a substantially rectilinear box having a height H, a width W, and a length L. The sidewalls of the container are formed by the hinged combination of six rectangular, rigid sidewall panels. The floor structure of the container is made up of two trapezoidal panels, each having a long base edge of length L and a short base edge of length (L W), and four right-triangular panels having two edges of equal length W/2. A twoway mechanical drive is connected between the opposing pairs of end-wall panels to collapse or erect the container in a single operation. The two larger sidewall panels are unaffected during the collapsing and erecting operation, allowing access doors to be placed therein as desired. Wheels mounted at the lower four corners of the container are operable when the container is either collapsed or erected. A center bar positioned under the floor panels provides a guide for carriages which are screw-driven from a rotary power source, and further acts as a floor support joist. The center bar supports the floor panels in a co-planar, toggle-locked position. Ramp flanges extending downwardly from the floor panels engage with a moving carriage to break the toggle-lock by lifting the floor at the beginning of the collapsing operation.

14 Claims, 14 Drawing Figures PATENTEU F551 1 5 SHEET 1 [IF 5 i luv PATENTED F551 1 1975 3.865259 SHEET 3 [IF 5 FIELD OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to collapsible containers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Collapsible containers may be used to advantage in warehousing, shipping, and other material-handling operations. When such a container is not in use, it may be collapsed to occupy less storage space. Shipping con tainers, which must be returned empty to their original point of shipment, may be more efficiently loaded into transportation vehicles when collapsed.

Many collapsible containers previously designed for such purposes have been difficult to use in that they have required the insertion and removal of pins or the manual actuation of levers and latches-when the container is being collapsed or erected.

It is accordingly a principle object of the present invention to provide a container which may be more easily collapsed and erected.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a collapsible container which is, at the same time, sturdy, durable, low in cost, rigid, lightweight, compact and easily moved from place to place.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention takes the form of a collapsible container in which the sidewalls are constructed of two main, noncollapsing side panels and two hinged pairs of rectangular end panels. The container includes a twoway drive mechanism which applies a contracting force drawing the inner vertical edges of the two opposing end panels inwardly to collapse the container, and applies an expansion force to the same points to erect the container.

The floor of the container is advantageously constructed of two symmetrical folding panel arrangements, each comprising a trapezoidal panel flanked at each end by a right-triangular panel to form one-half of the rectangular container floor. A longitudinal support bar positioned underneath the floor acts both as a floor joist and as a guide for pivot point carriages attached to the end panels. The drive means alternatively applies an expanding (erecting) or a contracting (collapsing) force to these carriages, causing them to move synchronously within the support guide bar.

Wheels positioned at the lower four corners of the container may be used to facilitate the movement of the container in either the collapsed or erected position. The panels themselves are preferably constructed of extruded aluminum sections which-are at the same time lightweight, rigid, and durable.

The powered drive means for collapsing and erecting the container preferably comprises a feed screw driven from a rotary power source. Opposing threads in the feed screw engage with threads in the two carriages.

The floor panels are preferably allowed to reach a fully flat position, resting upon the support guide bar in a toggle-locked" state. At the beginning of the collapsing operation, means incorporated in the drive mechanism apply a lifting force to the floor to break the toggle-lock condition.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS These and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention may be more clearly understood through a consideration of the following detailed description which is presented in conjunction with the attached drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a collapsible container embodying the princples of the present invention, the container being shown in its erected (uncollapsed) state, ready for use;

FIG. 2 is a second perspective view of the container. this time showing the half-panel loading door in one sidewall of the container in the open position;

FIG. 3 is a third perspective view of the container, showing the full-panel unloading door in the other sidewall in its open position;

FIGS. 4, 5 and 6 are perspective views respectively showing the container in the erected, partially collapsed, and fully collapsed states, FIG. 5 showing the container with part of the outer walls broken away to better illustrate the manner in which the six hinged panels making up the container floor fold upwardly into the container as it collapses;

FIG. 7 is a top view of the container in its erected state showing the shape of each of the six hinged floor panels;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view of the container shown with the half-panel loading door in its closed position;

FIG. 9 is a detail cross-section, taken along the line 9-9 of FIG. 7, showing the details of the two-way collapsing-erecting drive mechanism;

FIG. 10 is a top plan view of the drive mechanism as seen from the line 10-10 of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a detailed partial elevation showning the tow-pin mount attached to one end of center guide bar;

FIG. 12 is a detail cross-section taken along the line 12-12 of FIG. 9 showing the cross-sectional shape of the channels which form the center guide bar and the cross-section of one of the internally mounted pivot-pin carriages;

FIG. 13 is a detail cross-section taken along the line 13-13 of FIG. 9 showing the ramp flanges which extend downwardly from adjacent floor panels, the flanges engaging with the drive mechanism to break the togglelocked floor panels at the beginning of the collapsing operation; and

FIG. 14 is a detail cross-section taken along the line 14-14 of FIG. 11 showing the configuration ofthe mating aluminum panel extrusions used to form the sidewalls of the container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION The preferred embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 1, is a collapsible container which, when fully erected (or uncollapsed) forms a rectilinear box made up of two major sidewalls (indicated generally at 21 and 22), two endwalls (one comprising the two folding half-wall sections 24 and 25, and the other ably an aluminum extrusion to which the sheet material (e.g., sheet 34) and horizontal, reinforcing channels (e.g., channel 35) in the major sidewalls 21 and 22 are removably attached to form access doors or, alternatively, are rigidly joined as, for example, by welding. Each of the folding half-walls 24, 25, 27, 28 is hinged to one of the four corner posts, either by means of standard hinges or by hinges formed by extruding mating hinge sections asan integral part of half-wall and corner post edges.

As shown in FIG. 2 of the drawings, the wheeled container is equipped with a retractable tow-pin mechanism, indicated generally at 37, which may be moved downwardly to engage with a towing chain recessed below the surface level of the floor (as indicated at 39 in FIG. 2). To facilitate towing the container in a curved path, the two front wheels (the wheels nearest the towpin mechanism 37) are preferably pivotally mounted on the container.

Because the two major sidewalls (21 and 22 in FIG. 1) do not fold as the container is collapsed, access doors may be placed in these sidewalls as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. The upper half of one sidewall may be fitted with a downwardly folding door panel which, when opened (as seen in FIG. 2), provides convenient access to the container as it is loaded. For rapid unloading of the container, the other sidewall may be fitted with an outwardly opening full-panel door, hinged at the top as shown in FIG. 3 (and including a springloaded counterbalance, if desired). In both cases, the door panels may be provided with spring-loaded locking-pin mechanisms (e.g., the mechanism indicated generally at 41 in FIG. 3) which may be released by pulling a draw-cord (e.g., draw-cord 42 in FIG. 3). The panels may be again secured in place, by first pulling and then releasing the draw-cord, so that the locking pins are re-inserted into receiving sockets bored in the corner posts.

As shown in FIGS. 4, 5, and 6 of the drawings, the container may be collapsed or erected in a single, simple, continuous operation. The drive mechanism for accomplishing this (to be described in detail later) is positioned inside a hollow center bar formed by two channels (indicated generally at 48 in FIG. which is terminated, at one end, with a socket 49 (indicated in FIG. 4) adapted to receive the powered drive shaft of a reversible motor (which may conveniently take the form of a conventional hand-held electrical power drill unit). This drive mechanism cooperates with the configuration of hinged panels making up the containers sidewalls and floor to reduce the process of collapsing or erecting the container to a single step which does not require the additional manual actuation of levers, latches or pins.

The collapsible floor of the container is made up of six planar panels whose shape is clearly seen in the top view of the container, FIG. 7. The floor is divided into two, adjacent, independently operating halves, the first of which comprises two right-triangular panels 51 and 53 flanking a trapezoidal panel 55. The hypotenuse edge of each triangular panel is hinged to one of the non-parallel edges of the trapezoidal panel. The second half of the floor comprises two right triangular panels 57 and 58 similarly hinged to a trapezoidal panel 59.

and 58) is approximately W/2, and the two trapezoidal panels (55 and 59) have a base length substantially equal to L, the length of the shorter edge parallel to the base is substantially equal to (L W), and the base and shorter edges of the trapezoidal panels are spaced apart by the length W/2.

The floor panels may be joined to each other, and to the base of the sidewalls by means of conventional double-leaf hinges, or by bending alternate, dove-tailing flanges in adjacent panels around a single bolt to form an integral, continuous hinge along the entire length of each hinged panel joint. Alternatively, the edges of the floor panels and sidewall frame members may be economically extruded (in known ways) to form a continuous, interlocking, integral hinge without requiring additional parts.

The drive mechanism employed for erecting and collapsing the container is shown in FIG. 9, a cross-section taken along the line-9-9 of FIG. 7. As seen at the far left in FIG. 9, the tow-pin mechanism indicated generally at 37 comprises a casting 61 having a circular opening at its top whichreceives a sleeve 62 through which a tow-pin 63 is journaled. A horizontal rod 65 is welded to the top of the tow-pin 63 to form a T-handle to facilitate manually extending and retracting the towpin. A spring loaded ball 66 engages with an arcuate groove in the periphery of the tow-pin 63 as shown at 68 to hold the tow-pin in its open, retracted position.

In inwardly directed extension (indicated generally at 71) forms a part of the casting 61 and is shaped to con form with the interior walls of a center bar indicated generally at 73, the center bar 73 being composed of two opposing channel structures 75 and 77 having a cross-sectional shape clearly seen in FIGS. 12 and 13 of the drawings. A pivot bearing indicated generally at 74 is fitted into the interior of extension 71 and receives one end of a threaded shaft indicated generally at 76. The other end of the threaded shaft 76 is inserted If the interior dimensions of the opened container are length L, height H, and width W, the equal-length into a similar pivot bearing 78 which, like the extension 71 on casting 61, conforms to the interior walls of the two channels and 77 (seen in FIGS. 12 and 13). The internal rotating section of pivot bearing'78 is rigidly joined to the threaded rod 75 and has the axially aligned, square-shaped socket opening 49 machined therein to receive a drive shaft having a square crosssection extending from the end of the reversible motor 50 (as previously depicted generally in FIG. 4).

The drive shaft 76 is threadably engages with carriage blocks indicated at 81 and 82 in FIG. 9. As the shaft 76 rotates, carriage blocks 81 and 82 move axially in opposing directions due to the opposing thread directions at the two ends of the shaft 76.

I The carriage block 81 is coupled to a sliding block 85 by means ofa tension/compression spring 87. The sliding block 85 is not threaded and does not engage with the drive shaft 76. Similarly, the carriage block 82 is coupled to a sliding block 88 by means of a tension/- compression spring 89.

The sliding block 85 is fastened to an end-wall pulling yoke 91 by means of the bolt 92 as seen in FIGS. 9, l0 and 12. The pulling yoke 91 is in turn fastened to the lower horizontal frame members 95 and 96 (of the sidewalls 27 and 28 as seen in FIG. 1). The outer corners of the frame members 95 and 96 adjacent the casting 61 are rounded with a center of curvature at the axis of pivot pins 93 and 94. Similarly, a pulling yoke 101 is affixed to the underside of the sliding block 88 by a bolt 103 and to the lower, horizontal frame members 104 and 105 (of the end-walls 24 and 25, respectively, as seen in FIG. 1) by means of pivot pins 107 and 109. v

The drive mechanism as depicted in FIG. 9 of the drawings is shown with the container in its fully erected (uncollapsed) state. To collapse the container, the drive shaft 76 is rotated under power such that the carriage blocks 81 and 82 move toward one another. Before this motion begins, springs 87 and 88 are in compression (having been left in a compressed state at the conclusion of the erection operation).

At this point, it should further be noted that the panels 51, 53 and 55 which make up that half of the floor visible in FIG. 9 are in an aligned, flat position, each resting upon the upper surface of the center bar channel 77 as seen in FIG. 12. Being fully flat, the floor is in a toggle-locked condition and the application of a force tending to draw the yokes 91 and 101 together, by itself, would be ineffective to unlock the floor so that the collapsing operation can begin. Although this toggle-locked condition could be avoided by preventing the floor from reaching a completely flat position, a flat container floor is often desirable, and the togglelocked floor provides structural rigidity approximating that which would be provided by a single panel (nonfolding) floor. For this reason, in the preferred embodiment here described, the floor is allowed to assume a fully flat, toggle-locked position and means are employed for lifting the floor panels slightly at the beginning of the collapsing operation so that the application of a pulling tension, drawing the floor and end-panels together, may complete the collapsing operation.

The mechanism for initially lifting the floor comprises an inwardly directed operating flange member 111 which is fastened to the top of carriage 81 and which engages with inclined ramps formed by downwardly extending flanges 113 and 115 which, as more clearly seen in FIG. 13 of the drawings, are attached to the underside of the trapezoidal floor panels 55 and 59.

Thus, as seen in FIG. 9, as the carriage block 81 is moved to the left by the rotation of the drive shaft 76, the sliding block 85 initially does not move, spring 87 is decompressed, and the sliding flange 111 engages with the inclined ramps formed by downwardly extending flanges (e.g., flange 113) to lift the floor panels out of their toggle-locked position. As the carriage block 81 continues its travel, the tension applied to spring 87 draws the sliding block 85 to the right, drawing the yoke 91 with it, and causing the end-walls to pivot inwardly about the pivot pins 93 and 94. The similar motion of carriage block 82 and the sliding block 88 and yoke 101 causes the walls at the other end to pivot inwardly about the pins 107 and 109.

When the container is fully collapsed (as indicated in FIG. 6) carriage 81 continues its travel a short distance, increasing the tension on spring 87. Spring 87 thus eliminates an undesirable end-of-travel jolt and the resulting spring tension secures the container in its closed position. In a similar fashion, when the container is erected, the compression of spring 87 after the container is fully opened eliminates the end-oftravel jolt and leaves the container in a spring-loaded open position.

The springs 87 and 89 and their associated structures also provide shock absorption between the body of the container and the tow pin 63. As best seen in FIG. 9,

the tow pin casting 61, the floor-supporting guide channels and 77, the drive shaft 76 and the carriages 81 and 82 together comprise a sliding structure which is slidably movable with respect to the remainder of the container. Thus, as the tow pin 63 initially engages with the moving tow chain which will propel the container, this sliding structure is allowed to move (to the left, as seen in FIG. 9) with respect to the remainder of the container, further compressing spring 87 as spring 89 expands. The sliding friction between the floor and the support channels 75 and 77 advantageously provides frictional damping to suppress undesirable mechanical oscillations following the initial tow pin impact.

The wall panels of the container may be advantageously and economically constructed from extruded panel sections which lock together, in known ways, to form a reinforced, non-welded wall construction. FIG. 14, a cross-section taken along the lines l4-l4 of FIG. 1 1, illustrates a typical snap-lock wall construction suitable for fabricating a container wherein two mating extrusions lock together to form an integral wall and reinforcing channel.

It is to be understood that the specific collapsible container construction which has been described in detail is merely illustrative of one application of the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications may be made to the structure as described without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. A collapsible container comprising, in combination,

two opposing, parallel, non-folding sidewalls,

two opposing, folding end-walls, each comprising a pair of adjacent panels joined by a vertically extending inwardly pivotable, central boundary,

hinge means for joining the outer vertical edges of each of said folding end-walls to the vertical edge of said non-folding sidewalls,

a floor structure adapted to be folded upwardly between said sidewalls when said container is collapsed, and

a two'way drive mechanism for urging the central boundaries of said opposing end-walls toward one another to collapse said container, and for applying a reverse force urging said central boundaries away from one another to erect said container.

2. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 1 wherein said floor structure comprises two folding rectangular floor sections, each section being formed by the hinged combination of a trapezoidal panel and two right-triangular panels.

3. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 1 including a hinged access door which forms part of one of said non folding sidewalls.

4. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 1 wherein said two-way drive mechanism includes two threaded carriage blocks which respectively engage with spaced-apart sections of a rotary drive shaft, said shaft sections having opposing threads to cause said carriage blocks to move in opposite directions when said drive shaft is rotated, means connecting each of said carriage blocks to one of said opposing end-walls, and means for rotating said drive shaft in a first direction to erect said container and for rotating said shaft in the opposite direction to collapse said container.

5. A collapsible container comprising, in combination,

two opposing, non-folding, major sidewall panels two folding end-walls each comprising a pair of smaller, side-by-side panels, said smaller panels being hinged at their outer vertical edges to the edges of said major sidewall panels,

linking means pivotally connecting each pair of smaller panels at their adjacent, inner vertical edges, and

an upwardly folding floor comprising two independent rectangular floor halves, each comprising the combination of a trapezoidal panel hinged at its non-parallel edges to two flanking righttriangular panels, whereby the application of force between said linking means forcing said end-walls apart is effective to erect said container, and the application of an opposite force between said linking means pulling side end-walls together is effective to collapse said container.

6, A collapsible container as set forth in claim 5, including a transverse joist positioned beneath and aligned with the boundary between said floor halves, said joist supporting the panels making up said floor in a substantially co-planar, toggle-locked configuration when said container is erected, and means for applying a lifting force to said floor before said end-walls are forced together in order to break said toggle-locked configuration.

7. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 6 including a two-way drive mechanism comprising first and second carriages mounted for sliding motion on said joist, a rotary drive screw threadably engaging said carriages in opposing thread directions such that rotation of said drive screw causes said carriages to advance in different directions, and means coupling each of said carriages to one of said linking means.

8. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 6 V wherein said means for applying a lifting force to said floor includes at least one downwardly extending flange attached to the underside of said floor and forming an inclined ramp positioned to engage with one of said carriages.

9. A collapsible rectilinear container comprising, in combination,

two opposing, non-folding, rectangular sidewalls each having a height H and a length L, first and second opposing, folding end-walls each comprising a'pair of vertical panels having a height substantially equal to H and length less than L/2, two folding, rectangular, half-floor sections each comprising a trapezoidal panel, the non-parallel edges of which are each hinged to the hypotenuse 8 edge 'of a right-triangular panel, each of said trapezoidal panels having its longest edge hinged to the bottom edge of one of said sidewalls,

first and second linking means respectively connected to said first and second end-walls, each of said linking means being pivotally attached to both of said pair of vertical panels adjacent their boundary, and

two-way drive means coupling said first and second linking means to force said vertical panels outwardly into a substantially co-planar relationship to erect said container, and for drawing said vertical panels into facing, substantially parallel planes to collapse said container.

10. A collapsible container as set forth in claim wherein said drive means comprises, in combination,

a transverse guide bar positioned beneath the boundary between said half-floor sections when said container is erected to support said half-floor sections in a flat, coplanar relationship,

first and second carriage blocks mounted for transverse sliding motion within said guide bar,

a drive screw having first and second threaded segments of opposing thread directions engaging with said first and second carriage blocks respectively,

means coupling said first and second carriage blocks to said first and second linking means respectively,

and

a reversible motor unit separate from said container adapted to engage with and rotate said drive screw to erect and collapse said container.

11. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 10 including means responsive to the rotary motion of said drive screw at the beginning of an erection operation for applying a lifting force to partially fold said halffloor sections upwardly.

12. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 11 wherein said means coupling said carriage blocks and said linking means includes spring means for permitting said carriage blocks to move while said linking means remain stationary.

13. A collapsible container as set forth in claim 12 wherein said means for applying a lifting force comprises means for translating the transverse motion of at least one of said carriage blocks into the upward motion of said floor structures.

14. A'collapsible container as set forth in claim 12 including means coupled to said carriage blocks adapted to engage with moving means for propelling said container whereby said spring means act to absorb the shock of such engagement.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification220/6, 220/1.5
International ClassificationB65D6/18
Cooperative ClassificationB65D7/26
European ClassificationB65D7/26