US H2183 H1
An environmentally sealable plastic shipping container is provided that includes a main container cover and body portion fabricated of a set of plastic extrusions and end caps, connected by tenon-type joints facilitating construction using commercially available adhesives and optional aluminum extrusions with commercially available mechanical fasteners where desirable for rapid opening or closing.
1. A shipping container comprising:
(a) a substantially rectangular body portion having a bottom and four sides defining an opening into said body portion, said body portion including
(i) a substantially rectangular bottom panel defining said bottom of said body portion and four substantially rectangular side panels defining respective said four sides of said body portion;
(ii) a first plurality of hollow extruded members defining the edges of said body portion, said extruded members including means for holding said bottom panel and said side panels in substantially perpendicular relationship to each other defining the rectangular shape of said body portion; and
(iii) a second plurality of corner members interconnecting respective said extruded members at the respective corners of said body portion;
(b) a substantially rectangular cover for said container corresponding in size to said body portion, said cover including a substantially rectangular top panel and four hollow extruded members defining the edges of said cover, said four extruded members including means for attachment to said top panel, and four corner members interconnecting respective said four extruded members at the respective corners of said cover;
(c) means defining a hermetically sealable interface between said cover and said body portion;
(d) an adhesive sealably joining said bottom panel and four side panels and said corner members to said first plurality of extruded members to form said body portion, and sealably joining said top panel, corner members and to said four extruded members to form said cover; and
(e) a plurality of latches for releasably attaching said cover to said body portion.
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This application claims priority of the filing date of Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/340,515 filed 14Dec. 2001, the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein.
The invention described herein may be manufactured and used by or for the Government of the United States for all governmental purposes without the payment of any royalty.
The present invention relates generally to reusable shipping containers, and more particularly to an improved reusable shipping container having environmentally sealable modular construction.
Environmentally sealed shipping containers known in the prior art have found substantial use in protecting commercial products under long term storage or in transport under environmentally challenging conditions. The prior art containers typically are constructed of fiberglass, rotationally molded plastic, injection molded plastic, blow molded plastic or welded metal, preferable reusable, and are used in applications in which the protected product may be sensitive to temperature, humidity or other environmental hazards.
Examples of relevant prior art packaging and shipping containers include those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,893,588 to Martin wherein a drawn sheet of metallic or plastic material pallet is used as the base of a heavy-duty container, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,050,604 to Flanders and U.S. Pat. No. 5,170,933 to Perry disclosing disassemblable reusable containers, and U.S. patent U.S. Pat. No. 5,287,970 to Weidt for a plastic container having pocket-like free spaces. Other reusable containers in the prior art are typically of a heavy metallic construction or are limited to certain specific sizes because of the limitations on the plastic molding processes.
The invention solves or substantially reduces in critical importance problems with previously existing reusable shipping containers by providing an environmentally sealable plastic shipping container having a main container cover and base comprising a set of plastic extrusions and end caps, connected by tenon-type joints facilitating construction using commercially available adhesives and optional aluminum extrusions with commercially available mechanical fasteners where desirable for facilitating rapid opening or closing of the container. The container of the invention may be constructed of substantially any size and rectangular geometry without special molds or tooling. When the container is no longer suitable for its intended purpose, the plastic material of which the container is constructed can be recycled by returning the container to a reprocessing facility for melting or regrinding the plastic for reuse.
It is therefore a principal object of the invention to provide an improved environmentally sealable reusable shipping container.
It is another object of the invention to provide an environmentally friendly shipping container.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide a container easily fabricated to any desired size using standard hardware and no special tools.
It is yet another object of the invention to provide an environmentally sealable container having substantially standard component part configurations and may be fabricated to substantially any size using standard parts.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a container whose structural material can be reground and recycled and reused or remanufactured as a container defined by the invention.
These and other objects of the invention will become apparent as a detailed description of representative embodiments proceeds.
In accordance with the foregoing principles and objects of the invention, an environmentally sealable plastic shipping container is provided that includes a main container cover and body portion fabricated of a set of plastic extrusions and end caps, connected by tenon-type joints facilitating construction using commercially available adhesives and optional aluminum extrusions with commercially available mechanical fasteners where desirable for rapid opening or closing.
The invention will be more clearly understood from the following detailed description of representative embodiments thereof read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:
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It is preferable that the extrusion defining each edge element 26 a-d of cover 18 include a flange 51 in order to provide means for latching cover 18 to body portion 11 in the assembled condition shown in FIG. 1. Notch 53 may be provided at positions along flange 51 corresponding to the locations of latches 50 on body portion 11 in order to releasably secure cover 18 to body portion 11 using the latch type illustrated in FIG. 1. It is, however, noted that other conventional latch types may be used, such as a simple clamp structure (not shown) attaching body portion 11 to cover 18 at flange 51 wherein notch 53 may not be required.
A significant advantage of the container structure disclosed and claimed herein is that edge elements 32 a-d may be fabricated from a single extrusion and cut to the appropriate length(s) corresponding to the desired size of the container. Similarly, corner posts 20 a-d, edge elements 44 a-d, and edge elements 26 a-d may be fabricated from the respective extrusions and cut to the appropriate length(s) for the desired container structure size and configuration. Additionally, in certain configurations, certain extruded structural elements of the assembled container may be substantially identical. For example, a container could be configured wherein extrusions for corner posts 20 and edge elements 32 and 44 could be identical with minor machining needed on one of the extrusions for completion of the structure. Accordingly, a small number of extrusion structures would be required to structure a container of substantially any desired size. Each corner element 31 a-d, 41 a-d and 25 a-d may be fabricated using conventional molding (such as injection or compression molding) and/or machining processes. One minor advantage of the corner structures just described is that the extrusions and corner elements could be sized such that the corner elements could be molded substantially identically with only minor finish machining being required on corner elements 25. The materials of construction for the component parts of the container, including all extrusions, corner elements and flat panels, may be selected by one skilled in the art guided by these teachings and preferably include plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated PVC (CPVC), or other extrudable materials such as styrene, polyethylene, or polypropylene, the specific selected material not considered limiting of the invention disclosed and claimed herein. In the assembled condition for the container, all joints may be preferably bonded together and hermetically sealed using commercially available adhesive, such as cyanoacrylate epoxy, silicone adhesive, or plastic weld adhesives for the plastic materials and similar adhesives for other candidate extrudable materials.
Addition of pressure relief valves, desiccant ports, humidity indicators, or other commercially available hardware (not shown) may be added to the structure of the container of the invention in order to facilitate a wide variety of uses for the invention.
The invention therefore provides an improved environmentally sealable shipping container. It is understood that modifications to the invention may be made as might occur to one with skill in the field of the invention within the scope of the appended claims. All embodiments contemplated hereunder that achieve the objects of the invention have therefore not been shown in complete detail. Other embodiments may be developed without departing from the spirit of the invention or from the scope of the appended claims.