US20110253016A1 - Pallet System - Google Patents

Pallet System Download PDF

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Publication number
US20110253016A1
US20110253016A1 US12/763,055 US76305510A US2011253016A1 US 20110253016 A1 US20110253016 A1 US 20110253016A1 US 76305510 A US76305510 A US 76305510A US 2011253016 A1 US2011253016 A1 US 2011253016A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
leg
opening
legs
associated
side
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Abandoned
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US12/763,055
Inventor
Joseph W. Leakey
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Leakey Joseph W
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Priority to US12/763,055 priority Critical patent/US20110253016A1/en
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Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D19/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D19/0004Rigid pallets without side walls
    • B65D19/0006Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element
    • B65D19/0008Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface
    • B65D19/001Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface the base surface being made of a single element
    • B65D19/0012Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface the base surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D19/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D19/0004Rigid pallets without side walls
    • B65D19/0006Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element
    • B65D19/0008Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface
    • B65D19/002Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface the base surface being made of more than one element
    • B65D19/0024Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface the base surface being made of more than one element forming discontinuous or non-planar contact surfaces
    • B65D19/0026Rigid pallets without side walls the load supporting surface being made of a single element forming a continuous plane contact surface the base surface being made of more than one element forming discontinuous or non-planar contact surfaces and each contact surface having a stringer-like shape
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00258Overall construction
    • B65D2519/00283Overall construction of the load supporting surface
    • B65D2519/00288Overall construction of the load supporting surface made of one piece
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00258Overall construction
    • B65D2519/00313Overall construction of the base surface
    • B65D2519/00318Overall construction of the base surface made of one piece
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00258Overall construction
    • B65D2519/00313Overall construction of the base surface
    • B65D2519/00323Overall construction of the base surface made of more than one piece
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00258Overall construction
    • B65D2519/00313Overall construction of the base surface
    • B65D2519/00328Overall construction of the base surface shape of the contact surface of the base
    • B65D2519/00333Overall construction of the base surface shape of the contact surface of the base contact surface having a stringer-like shape
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00258Overall construction
    • B65D2519/00313Overall construction of the base surface
    • B65D2519/00328Overall construction of the base surface shape of the contact surface of the base
    • B65D2519/00343Overall construction of the base surface shape of the contact surface of the base contact surface being substantially in the form of a panel
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00547Connections
    • B65D2519/00552Structures connecting the constitutive elements of the pallet to each other, i.e. load supporting surface, base surface and/or separate spacer
    • B65D2519/00557Structures connecting the constitutive elements of the pallet to each other, i.e. load supporting surface, base surface and/or separate spacer without separate auxiliary elements
    • B65D2519/00567Structures connecting the constitutive elements of the pallet to each other, i.e. load supporting surface, base surface and/or separate spacer without separate auxiliary elements mechanical connection, e.g. snap-fitted
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00736Details
    • B65D2519/00935Details with special means for nesting or stacking
    • B65D2519/0094Details with special means for nesting or stacking nestable
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D2519/00Pallets or like platforms, with or without side walls, for supporting loads to be lifted or lowered
    • B65D2519/00004Details relating to pallets
    • B65D2519/00736Details
    • B65D2519/0098Dismountable elements
    • B65D2519/00985Dismountable elements the pallet being not usable as a pallet after dismounting

Abstract

The present invention includes systems, methods and apparatus for pallets that may be assembled for reliable use, and then easily disassembled into component parts that take up less space during storage and/or shipment. Embodiments of the present invention include an upper platform portion and a lower support portion, in which the upper portion has a plurality of downwardly oriented legs that engage corresponding openings in the lower portion, creating a completed pallet having a vertical space between the upper and lower portions through which the arms of a forklift or other transporting device may be inserted. In some embodiments, the lower portion is made up of a single component part, and in other embodiments the lower portion is made up of a plurality of component parts. The upper and lower portions may be separated after use by applying a separating force, and are separately stackable and therefore take up less space during storage and transport.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • 1. Field of the Invention
  • The present invention relates to a multiple piece pallet system in which the components of the system may be assembled into usable pallets, and disassembled into separate pieces when not in use allowing for more efficient stacking, storage, shipping and transport of the pallet systems between uses.
  • 2. Description of Related Art
  • Pallets are well known for their use as a loading platform for storage and movement of products in quantity. Pallets provide a stable base for a manufacturer or distributor of a product to stack items thereon, which may be easily moved using of a forklift or pallet jack. Pallets are generally constructed from wood, metal, or plastic, and are ordinarily designed so that when placed under materials to be shipped or stored, a clearance is available for insertion of the lifting arm(s) of a forklift or pallet jack.
  • Many types of pallets are reusable requiring that they be durable in construction, lightweight, and stackable. The durability of a pallet is often dependent upon the type of material used for construction. Pallets constructed of wood may provide years of service if not exposed to moisture or other conditions or materials that could result in deterioration of the wood, or to unusual loading situations which could cause collapse of the wood frame or wood components. However, because wood is a porous material, wooden pallets are not preferred for use in the food industry, since wood may be weakened by the absorption of water and/or may harbor bacterial growth that could contaminate food products. Additionally, insects and other pests can burrow into the wood and be transported into and infest a previously uncontaminated storage area. Wooden pallets also tend to splinter over time, requiring users to use care to avoid injury when handling such pallets.
  • Another significant disadvantage of wooden pallets is that they are usually constructed from numerous smaller pieces of wood using nails or screws making a finished pallet difficult to collapse or disassemble. Wooden pallets generally do not interlock or readily stack, so it is dangerous to stack them very high; and stacks of wooden pallets take up considerable space when not in use.
  • Plastic and metal are frequently used as alternatives to wooden pallets, since they do not suffer from the drawbacks of porous wood. Metal pallets have significant strength durability under normal circumstances, but they are expensive to manufacture and once damaged, cannot be readily repaired. The parts of metal pallets are ordinarily welded or riveted together, so they are not easily disassembled. Plastic pallets are generally less expensive than metal pallets, and may be provided in a variety of different molded sizes and shapes. The components of existing plastic pallets are frequently shipped in a disassembled state to a location where they are assembled into finished pallets for use. These component parts are easily stacked and/or nested together and take up a minimal amount of space. However, these existing pallet systems are designed such that once the pallets are assembled and used, they cannot be easily disassembled back into their component parts without destroying the pallets or rendering them uselessly unstable. This poses a significant storage and transportation problem, since the assembled pallets cannot be easily stacked or nested together, and take up far more space than their separated component parts.
  • It is therefore desirable to provide systems, methods and apparatus for pallets that may be assembled for reliable use, and then easily disassembled into component parts that take up less space during storage and/or shipment.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention includes systems, methods and apparatus for pallets that may be assembled for reliable use, and then easily disassembled into component parts that take up less space during storage and/or shipment. Embodiments of the present invention include an upper platform portion and a lower support portion, in which the upper portion has a plurality of downwardly oriented legs that engage corresponding openings in the lower portion, creating a completed pallet having a vertical space between the upper and lower portions through which the arms of a forklift or other transporting device may be inserted. In some embodiments, the lower portion is made up of a single component part, and in other embodiments the lower portion is made up of a plurality of component parts.
  • The legs of the upper portion engage the lower portion by the insertion of the legs into complementary openings in the lower portion. The lower openings are of a complementary size and shape so that the legs of the upper portion can be inserted and will be secured by the frictional forces created from the contact of the outer surface of the legs and the inner surface of the openings. In embodiments of the invention, the outside edges of the legs of the upper portion may be tapered or angled, with the inside edges of the openings in the lower portion having similar complementary tapering or angles. In these embodiments, the legs are secured to the openings by frictional forces created by forcibly inserting the legs into the openings. In embodiments of the invention, these frictional retaining forces may be increased by providing rough, unfinished and/or jagged surfaces on one or more outside edges of the legs, on one or more inside edges of the openings, or combinations of both. Increasing the frictional coefficients between the legs and openings helps prevent the upper and lower portions from separating, thereby providing for a more stable pallet system when assembled.
  • The upper and lower portions may be separated after use by applying a separating force between them. The component parts may be pried, pulled or otherwise taken apart. The component parts may then be conveniently stacked and/or nested together taking up less space than the assembled pallets during storage and/or transport.
  • Embodiments of the present invention include methods for creating a pallet comprising the assembly of two or more pieces for use, followed by the disassembly of those pieces after use, so that they may be easily stacked for ease of shipment and storage.
  • In several embodiments, a pallet is created by the temporary attachment of a single upper portion to a single lower portion (such as that shown in FIG. 1) to create a completed load bearing pallet having side gaps for receiving the arms of a forklift, pallet jack, or other similar device. In these embodiments, the upper portion includes a generally flat horizontal surface providing a platform upon which goods may be placed for transport and storage. The upper surface need not necessarily be continuous inasmuch as gaps between support or cross members may be present. In these embodiments, the profile of the upper portion has a generally rectangular in shape, and the lower portion has a similar rectangular shape; in some embodiments this shape may be approximately square.
  • The upper portion should have a horizontal surface that is generally flat, and may contain openings to reduce the overall weight of the pallet. For example, and without limitation, the upper surface may include of various grid-like segments that may create strength and support while allowing for the use of less material to decrease the overall weight of the pallet. In some embodiments, the underside of the horizontal surface may also be generally flat in order to create a surface for the forks of the lifting device to apply upward pressure upon to lift the pallet and any goods placed thereon.
  • In these embodiments, the lower portions of the pallet system generally include support members that extend between the openings into which the legs of the upper portion are inserted. In an exemplary embodiment, the lower portion of the pallet may have a grid-like structure, formed by linear support sections. For example and without limitation, these support members may be provided in a pattern similar to that used in the tic-tac-toe game; and/or the structures may extend at angles between the openings. The bottom of the lower portion should be generally flat with sufficient surface area as to provide support to the pallet system when bearing significant weight. The outside or peripheral profile of the lower portion may be slightly larger or wider than the upper portion to provide additional stability.
  • It is to be appreciated that in other embodiments, the lower portion may be made up of two or more separate pieces, each piece having one or more complementary openings therein for receiving one or more legs of the upper portion. For example and without limitation, an upper portion having nine legs may be mated with a lower portion made up of three separate (and potentially identical) pieces, each such piece being in the form of a strip having three openings therein (see FIG. 1A). The outside or peripheral profile of the lower portion formed by the multiple parts may be slightly larger or wider than the upper portion for additional stability.
  • In most embodiments, there is no floor or other blockage in the openings in the lower portion such they are completely open throughout, and materials (such as a rope, or in some embodiments, the legs of the upper portion) may pass freely through them. The depth of the sides or edges of these openings may be increased to provide additional surface area against which the legs of the upper portion may come into frictional contact. In some embodiments, the openings may have substantially vertical sides which conform to the sides of the legs of the upper portion. In some embodiments of the invention, the openings are only indentations that are partially open at the base, having a generally flat bottom segment or floor covering some or all of the base.
  • In general, the upper portions of the pallet systems of the present invention have legs extending downward from the horizontal surface to support the upper portion when mated with the lower portion of the pallet system. The legs are of a sufficient vertical height to create space between the upper and lower portions to allow the forks or other devices to fit between the upper and lower portions to pick up the pallet for the purpose of transporting the pallet while loaded with goods. The outer surfaces or sides of the legs and the inner surfaces or sides of the openings are complementary. These surfaces are preferably angled, allowing the legs to wedge into the openings and be held in place by frictional forces. These forces are compounded when goods are placed upon the upper portion, thereby creating further force to secure the legs in the openings. It is to be appreciated that the complementary legs and openings of the upper and lower portions may be of any suitable shape, including rectangular, square, rounded, hexagonal, octagonal, conical, cylindrical and/or variations of these shapes. It is to be appreciated that each leg of an upper portion and each opening of a lower portion has its own size, shape, length, angle and surface condition, which are complementary as to each other; however not all leg/opening combinations are identical, and these characteristics may differ from one leg/opening combination to another in different embodiments of the invention.
  • In most embodiments, the legs of the upper portion are slightly tapered so that the circumference of the leg becomes gradually greater from the bottom of the leg to the top of the leg that is connected to the upper portion. Furthermore, the openings of the lower portion are tapered in a complementary fashion so that the circumference of the openings taper inward so the bottom of each opening has a smaller circumference than the top of the opening. Accordingly, when the legs of the upper portion are inserted in the openings of the lower portion, the complementary size of the legs and openings allow for the frictional securement of the upper and lower portions of the pallet systems.
  • In some embodiments, the openings in the lower portion of the pallet are sized such that they will not permit the legs of the upper portion to pass completely through them. In these embodiments, the distal ends or bottoms of the legs are prevented from extending beyond the lower edges of the openings of the lower portion. In this way, the weight of any goods placed on the upper portion is transmitted through the sides of the legs to the complementary openings in the lower portion, helping increase the frictional forces that hold the legs in the openings, instead of being transmitted directly through the legs to the floor upon which the pallet rests. In related embodiments, the legs slide though the indentation to a point where the distal ends or bottoms of the legs are flush with the bottom of the opening.
  • In other embodiments, the legs slide though the indentation to a point where the distal ends of the legs extend to or below the bottom of the opening. In these embodiments, when a pallet is assembled by connecting the upper portion to the lower portion, the distal ends of the legs of the upper portion contact the floor or other surface upon which the pallet system is placed.
  • In many embodiments, one or more of the legs of the upper portion are provided with one or more tabs, dimples, buttons, prongs, ribs, ridges or the like that project outward from one or more edges or sides of such legs. These outward projections provide increased friction against the corresponding edges or sides of the openings of the lower portion. In some embodiments, some or all of the openings of the lower portions may be provided with complementary recesses, grooves or receptacles into which the projections of the legs may be inserted. When such legs of the upper portion are inserted in such openings of the lower portion, these legs are secured not only by the frictional force for the legs entering the openings, but also by the projections engaging the receptacles. The projections and receptacles should be of a relatively small size and/or shape in order to allow the upper and lower portions to be readily separated when not in use.
  • It is to be appreciated that projections may be provided on one or more, or any suitable combination of legs of the upper portion, and further that such projections may be provided on one or more or any suitable combination of the sides/edges of each such leg. For example, and without limitation, projections may be provided on opposite sides of a given leg (e.g., provided on north/south sides), but not on the other sides of that leg (e.g., not on east/west sides); however, an adjacent leg may have projections located on the east/west sides but not on the north/south sides. In some embodiments, multiple protrusions may be provided on a given side of a leg. The position(s) of the projection(s) may be anywhere on a given side of a leg, but in most embodiments will be nearer the hilt or proximal end, as compared to the bottom or distal end of the leg. Many different permutations and combinations of position and/or number of protrusions are contemplated by the present invention.
  • In a similar corresponding manner, the recesses or grooves of the lower portion openings may be provided on one or more, or any suitable combination of openings of the lower portion; and further, each such recess or groove may be provided on one or more or any suitable combination of the sides/edges of each such opening. In some embodiments, multiple recesses may be provided on a given side of an opening. The position(s) of the recess(s) may be anywhere on a given side of an opening, but in most embodiments will be nearer the upper or wider end of the opening, as compared to the bottom or narrow end of the opening. Many different permutations and combinations of position and/or number of recesses are contemplated by the present invention. It is to be further appreciated that, although the legs and openings of most embodiments are provided with corresponding projections and recesses, each leg or side having a protrusion thereon need not necessarily engage an opening having a complementary recess or groove.
  • It is to be appreciated that different combinations of protrusions and/or recesses and/or frictional surfaces are also within the scope of these embodiments. For example and without limitation: a given leg may be provided with a protrusion on one side (north) and a rough surface on the opposite side (south) such that pressure created by the compression of the projection against one side of an opening (which may or may not have a corresponding recess) increases the frictional attachment of the rough surface on the opposite side.
  • It is also to be appreciated that in some embodiments, the positions of the projections and recesses may be reversed, such that one or more recesses may be provided on one or more legs, and one or more projections may be provided on one or more openings. As with other embodiments, different numbers, positions and combinations of protrusions and/or recesses and/or frictional surfaces are also within the scope of these embodiments.
  • When pallet systems of the present invention are no longer in use, they may be easily disassembled by separating the upper portion from the lower portion. The detachment of the upper and lower portion involves applying a separating force to each of these portions to remove the legs from the openings. This may be done by holding one portion in place while applying a force to the other portion. Simple tools such as a hammer, mallet, pry bar, fork, or other similar devices may be used to assist in separating the portions from each other. The upper and lower portions do not include any moving parts (nuts, bolt, locks, etc.) that may be damaged or deteriorate from overuse or fatigue, and are preferably constructed out of rigid plastics commonly known in the art that can withstand strong forces and will resist breaking when a separating force is applied to them.
  • For storage or shipping, a plurality of upper portions and lower portions of the pallet systems may be stacked to conserve space. The legs of the upper portion are preferably hollow, allowing the legs from an upper portion to be inserted in the legs of second upper portion that is placed below the first upper portion. Several such upper portions may be nested and stacked together in this manner to obtain significant reduction in space. When stacked in such a manner, several of the upper portions of the pallet system may be secured together, by any means commonly known in the art such as ties, or rope, so that the stack of sections may be transported or moved without the individual members separating or falling apart.
  • The lower portions of the pallet system may be stacked in a similar manner. The openings a first lower portion generally fit into the openings of a second lower portion, and so on, such that several of the lower portions may be stacked together in a relatively small space. The stack of lower portions can be secured together to allow for easy transport of the lower portions of the pallet systems when the pallets are not in use.
  • In one example, a standard trailer is capable of holding the component parts for 1300 standard pallets in a disassembled state; but after the pallets are assembled and have been used, the same trailer is only able to hold 600 assembled pallets, requiring two more trailers to transport all 1300 of the assembled pallets. Embodiments of the present invention make it possible to disassemble and ship all 1300 of the pallets in a single trailer.
  • It is therefore an object of the invention to provide systems, methods and apparatus for pallets having a modular nature with component parts that are easily assembled and disassembled creating a significant reduction in space needed for transportation and storage.
  • It is a further object of the present invention to provide pallet systems, methods and apparatus for pallets that may be assembled by frictionally inserting legs of an upper portion into complementary openings in a lower portion to form a pallet, and that may be easily disassembled by removing the legs from the openings.
  • It is a further object of the present invention to provide systems, methods and apparatus for efficiently storing and shipping used pallets by disassembling them into component parts that may be stacked and/or nested together to take up less space than the assembled pallets.
  • These and other objects, advantages, and features of the invention, together with methods for assembly and disassembly, will become apparent from the following detailed description.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention illustrating an upper and lower portion of an exemplary pallet system of the present invention.
  • FIG. 1A is a perspective view of another embodiment of the invention illustrating a different upper and lower portion of an exemplary pallet system of the present invention.
  • FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the embodiment of the lower portion of the exemplary pallet system of FIG. 1.
  • FIG. 2A is a top plan view of the embodiment of the lower portion of the exemplary pallet system of FIG. 1A.
  • FIG. 3 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of the lower portion of the exemplary pallet system of FIG. 1.
  • FIG. 3A is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of the lower portion of the exemplary pallet system of FIG. 1A.
  • FIG. 4 is a perspective view illustrating attachment of the upper and lower portions of the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1.
  • FIG. 4A is a perspective view illustrating attachment of the upper and lower portions of the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 1A.
  • FIG. 5 is a side cross-sectional view of an assembled embodiment along line 5-5 of FIG. 4.
  • FIG. 6 is an enlarged side cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of the invention, showing an exemplary attachment between a leg and an opening.
  • FIG. 7 is a side view of a stack of assembled pallet systems.
  • FIG. 8 is a side view of a stack of disassembled nested upper sections of exemplary pallet systems of the present invention.
  • FIG. 9 is an enlarged cross-sectional disassembled side view of the embodiment of FIG. 6.
  • FIG. 10 is an enlarged cross-sectional disassembled side view of a leg/opening combination of an embodiment of FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 11 is an enlarged cross-sectional disassembled side view of an alternative embodiment of the invention, showing an exemplary attachment between a leg and an opening.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • The invention, in its various aspects, will be explained in greater detail below with regard to the illustrated embodiments. While the invention will be described in conjunction with these embodiments, the illustrated exemplary embodiments themselves do not limit the scope of the invention. Rather the invention, as defined by the claims, includes alternatives, modifications, combinations and/or equivalents of the illustrated embodiments.
  • Referring to the drawings wherein like reference characters designate like or corresponding parts throughout the several views, and without limiting the scope of the invention, it is seen that the illustrated exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 1-4 include an upper portion 21 and lower portion 31 that may be assembled together to form assembled pallet systems 25, such as those shown in FIGS. 4 and 4A. The upper portion 21 should have a generally flat upper surface 22 (which may include gaps) that serves as a platform upon which goods may be placed for support and transport. The upper surface 21 of the illustrated pallet systems are generally square, however, in other embodiments, the upper portion may be provided in other shapes that still allow for the convenient placement and transport of goods.
  • The illustrated upper portions 21 include a plurality of legs 23 extending outwardly (downwardly) therefrom. Legs 23 should be spaced apart from each other to allow for a distribution of weight to be placed on each leg. In the illustrated exemplary embodiments, legs 23 are provided at the corners of the upper portion, at the center of each side of the upper portion, and in the center of the upper portion. Such a configuration provides openings between the legs, allowing for the insertion of forks from a forklift, pallet jack, or other lifting device commonly used in the art to be inserted under the upper portion when the pallet system is assembled, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 4A. Since most forklifts or pallet jacks commonly used in the art use two arms to properly balance a loaded pallet, a pallet system with legs configured as shown allows for the arms to be inserted from any side of the pallet system.
  • The lower portion 31 illustrated in FIGS. 1, 2, 3 and 4, has the same general profile as the illustrated upper portion 21. In these embodiments, lower portion 31 includes a generally flat bottom surface 32 which acts as a surface upon which the pallet system may remain stable when placed on the ground or floor. While the illustrated bottom surface 32 of the lower portion 31 is generally flat, there may be spaces in the bottom surface, as long a significant portion of the bottom surface 32 is able to lie on the ground or other surface to keep the pallet system stabilized.
  • It is to be appreciated that in other embodiments, the lower portion 31 may be made up of two or more separate pieces, each piece having one or more complementary openings 34 therein for receiving one or more legs 23 of the upper portion 21. For example and without limitation, an upper portion 21 having nine legs may be mated with a lower portion 31 made up of three separate (and potentially identical) pieces, each such piece being in the form of a strip having three openings 34 therein, such as that shown in FIGS. 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.
  • The lower portion 31 includes a plurality of openings 34 provided in locations that correspond to the locations of legs 23 of the upper portion 21. The outside edges, surfaces or sides 29 of legs 23 are preferably tapered or angled, and the outside edges, surfaces or sides 36 of openings 34 of the lower portion are correspondingly tapered or angled, so that each of legs 23 may be inserted into a corresponding opening 34 such that sides 29 of legs 23 are frictionally secured against sides 36 of corresponding openings 34, holding the upper and lower portions together.
  • It is to be appreciated that the complementary legs 23 and openings 34 of the upper and lower portions may be of any suitable shape, including rectangular, square, rounded, hexagonal, octagonal, conical, cylindrical and/or variations of these shapes. Openings 34 may be provided in any suitable shape, so long as those shapes correspond to the shapes of the corresponding legs 23 which are to be inserted therein. It is to be appreciated that each leg 23 of an upper portion 21 and each opening 34 of a lower portion 31 has its own size, shape, length, angle and side surface condition(s), which are complementary as to corresponding pairs of legs 23 and openings 34; however not all pairs of leg/opening combinations are identical, and these characteristics may differ from one leg/opening combination to another in different embodiments of the invention to improve frictional connectivity. For example, and without limitation, all legs and openings may have the same cross section (e.g. square, rectangular, hexagonal, etc.), or they may have different cross sections. For example, and without limitation, in the exemplary illustrated embodiments of FIGS. 1-4, the cross sectional shape of some of the leg/opening combinations 23, 34 are square, others are octagonal, and still others are hexagonal.
  • In some embodiments, some or all of the sides 29 of some or all of the legs 23 may have a rough, jagged, unfinished and/or uneven surface in order to provide additional frictional securement when inserted into openings 34. Similarly, in some embodiments, some or all of the sides 36 of some or all of the openings 34 may have a rough, jagged, unfinished and/or uneven surface in order to provide additional frictional securement when legs 23 are inserted therein. It is to be appreciated that not all sides 29 of all legs 23, nor all sides 36 of all openings 34 are necessarily provided with such rough surfaces; that a rough side 29 of a leg 23 may not necessarily make contact with rough side 36 of an opening 34; that any suitable combination of rough or non-rough sides 29 may be provided on legs 23; that the number and location of rough sides 29 may be different for different legs 23 of the same upper portion 21; that any suitable combination of rough or non-rough sides 36 may be provided on openings 34; that the number and location of rough sides 36 may be different for different openings 34 of the same lower portion 31. However, in preferred embodiments complementary sides 29, 36 are provided with such rough surfaces to increase frictional securement between legs 23 and openings 34.
  • In the illustrated embodiments, the top surfaces of the lower portion 31 have angled or curved areas 35 which allow for the easier insertion of forks or other lifting instrumentalities into the pallet system. These angled or curved surfaces help direct the lifting arms into the central space between the upper and lower portions of the assembled pallet system, rather than preventing the forks form moving forward, or even pushing the pallet system.
  • In the illustrated embodiments, openings 34 of the lower portion are open. In some embodiments (not shown), these openings are wide enough to allow corresponding legs 23 of the upper portion to slide through or past the bottom surface 32 of the lower portion 31. In other embodiments (not shown), openings 34 may be more narrow than their corresponding legs 23 thereby preventing the legs from reaching or passing through to bottom surface 32; in these embodiments, weight placed on the upper surface 22 is transferred from sides 29 of legs 23 to sides 36 of openings 34 increasing the frictional connection between the upper and lower portions.
  • Referring to the detail of the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 5 and 10, it is seen that legs 23 are inserted into openings 34 of a lower portion 31, with the distal ends (bottoms) of the legs 23 coming flush with the bottom surface 32 of the lower portion 31, as shown in FIG. 5. However, in alternative embodiments, legs 23 may be secured into openings 34 in a manner where legs 23 are wider than openings 34 such that the distal ends of the legs 23 are prevented extending fully into openings 34. In these embodiments, the distal ends of legs 23 do not come flush with the bottom surface 32, but instead extend to a level either above the bottom surface 32 of the lower portion 31. In this way, the weight of any goods placed on the upper portion 21 is transmitted through the sides 29 of legs 23 to the sides 36 of the complementary openings 34 in the lower portion 31, helping increase the frictional forces that hold legs 23 in openings 34, instead of being transmitted directly through the legs 23 to the floor upon which the pallet rests.
  • An alternative embodiment of a leg and opening combination is illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 9. In this alternative embodiment, one or more of legs 23 have one or more tabs, dimples, buttons, prongs, ribs, ridges or the like 27 that project outward from one or more of the sides 29 of such legs 23. The projections 27 serve to further secure the legs into the openings 34. Openings 34 may have complementary recesses, grooves or receptacles 37 for receiving the projections, as shown in FIG. 9, but in other embodiments no such receptacles are provided. When legs of the upper portion having projections 27 thereon are inserted in openings 34 of the lower portion, the projections 27 may mate with the complementary receptacles 37 as shown in FIG. 6, creating additional frictional securement between the upper and lower portions of the pallet system. The projections 27 and receptacles 37 (when provided) should be of a relatively small size and/or shape in order to allow the upper and lower portions to be readily separated when not in use.
  • In different embodiments, the projections 27 may be provided on one or more, or any suitable combination of legs of the upper portion, and such projections 27 may be provided on one or more or any suitable combination of the sides/edges 29 of each such leg. For example, and without limitation, projections may be provided on opposite sides of a given leg (e.g., provided on north/south sides), but not on the other sides of that same leg (e.g., not on the east/west sides); however, an adjacent leg may have projections located on the east/west sides but not on the north/south sides. In some embodiments, multiple projections 27 may be provided on a given side 29 of a leg 23. The position(s) of the projection(s) 27 may be anywhere on a given side 29 of a leg 23, but in most embodiments will be nearer the hilt or proximal end, as compared to the bottom or distal end of the leg. Many different permutations and combinations of position and/or number of protrusions are contemplated by the present invention.
  • In different embodiments, the complementary recesses or grooves 37 of the lower portion openings 34 may be provided on one or more, or any suitable combination of openings 34 of the lower portion 31; and each such recess or groove may be provided on one or more or any suitable combination of the sides/edges 36 of each such opening 34. In some embodiments, multiple recesses 37 may be provided on a given side 36 of an opening 34. The position(s) of the recess(s) may be anywhere on a given side 36 of an opening, but in most embodiments will be nearer the upper or wider end of the opening, as compared to the bottom or narrow end of the opening. Many different permutations and combinations of position and/or number of recesses are contemplated by the present invention. It is to be further appreciated that, although the legs 23 and openings 34 of most embodiments are provided with corresponding projections 27 and recesses 37, each leg 23 or side 29 having a protrusion thereon need not necessarily engage an opening 34 having a complementary recess or groove.
  • It is to be appreciated that different combinations of protrusions and/or recesses and/or frictional surfaces are also within the scope of these embodiments. For example and without limitation: a given leg may be provided with a protrusion 27 on one side (north) and a very rough surface on the opposite side (south) such that pressure created by the compression of the projection 27 against one side 36 of an opening (which may or may not have a corresponding recess 37) increases the frictional attachment of the rough surface on the opposite side.
  • It is also to be appreciated that in some embodiments, the positions of the projections and recesses may be reversed, such that one or more recesses may be provided on one or more legs, and one or more projections may be provided on one or more openings, as shown in FIG. 11. As with other embodiments, different numbers, positions and combinations of protrusions and/or recesses and/or frictional surfaces are also within the scope of these embodiments.
  • In use, the upper 21 and lower 31 portions of the pallet systems of the present invention are provided in an unassembled state. The upper portions 31 are stacked and nested together to conserve space as shown in the cross sectional view of FIG. 8. The lower portions are similarly stacked and nested together to save space. Pallets are then assembled using the upper and lower portions, as shown in the cross sectional view of FIG. 5. Legs 29 of the upper portion 21 are secured to corresponding openings 34 of lower portion(s) 31 by frictional forces created by forcibly inserting the legs 29 into the openings 34.
  • When the pallet assemblies are not longer in use, the upper 21 and lower 31 portions may be separated by applying a separating force between them. The component parts are pried, pulled or otherwise taken apart. This may be done by holding one portion in place while applying a force to the other portion. Simple tools such as a hammer, mallet, pry bar, fork, or other similar devices may be used to assist in separating the portions from each other. The upper and lower portions do not include any moving parts (nuts, bolt, locks, etc.) that may be damaged or deteriorate from overuse or fatigue, and are preferably constructed out of rigid plastics commonly known in the art that can withstand strong forces and will resist breaking when a separating force is applied to them. The component parts may then be conveniently stacked and/or nested together (FIG. 8) taking up considerably less space than the assembled pallets (FIG. 7) during storage and/or transport.
  • For storage or shipping, a plurality of upper portions and lower portions of the pallet systems may be stacked as shown in FIG. 8, taking up considerably less space than the assembled pallets shown in FIG. 7. The legs 23 of the upper portion 21 are preferably hollow, allowing the legs from an upper portion to be inserted in the legs of second upper portion that is placed below the first upper portion. When stacked in such a manner, several of the upper portions of the pallet system may be secured together, by any means commonly known in the art such as ties, or rope, so that the stack of sections may be transported or moved without the individual members separating or falling apart. The lower portions of the pallet system may be stacked in a similar manner. The openings a first lower portion generally fit into the openings of a second lower portion, and so on, such that several of the lower portions may be stacked together in a relatively small space. A rope or other securing means may be passed through the openings of such a stack to hold the members of the stack together during storage and transport.
  • It is to be understood that variations and modifications of the present invention may be made without departing from the scope thereof. It is also to be understood that the present invention is not to be limited by the specific embodiments disclosed herein, but only in accordance with the appended claims when read in light of the foregoing specification.

Claims (32)

1. A pallet assembly comprising a single upper portion having a generally flat upper surface and a plurality of downwardly extending legs integrally attached thereto, a lower portion comprising no more than three lower support structures, each such structure having at least one opening therein for receiving one of said legs such that an associated opening is provided for each leg, wherein each leg and its associated opening have a complementary tapered shape, wherein insertion of each leg into its associated opening frictionally holds each such leg and opening together, and wherein the width of each of said openings is slightly smaller than the width of each of said legs such that distal ends of said legs do not extend to bottoms of said openings when inserted therein for increasing frictional connectivity under load.
2. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has a rough surface for increasing frictional engagement with the opening associated with such leg.
3. The assembly of claim 1 wherein opposite sides of at least one leg have rough surfaces for increasing frictional engagement with the opening associated with such leg.
4. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has a rough surface for increasing frictional engagement with the leg associated with such opening.
5. The assembly of claim 1 wherein opposite sides of at least one opening have rough surfaces for increasing frictional engagement with the leg associated with such opening.
6. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has a rough surface, and at least one side of at least one opening also has a rough surface, for increasing frictional engagement at said rough surfaces.
7. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess in a side of an opening associated with such leg.
8. The assembly of claim 2 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess in a side of an opening associated with such leg.
9-10. (canceled)
11. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess on a leg associated with such opening.
12. The assembly of claim 4 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess on a leg associated with such opening.
13-15. (canceled)
16. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has a rough surface for temporary engagement with the opening associated with such leg.
17. The assembly of claim 1 wherein opposite sides of at least one leg have rough surfaces for temporary engagement with the opening associated with such leg.
18. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has a rough surface for temporary engagement with the leg associated with such opening.
19. The assembly of claim 1 wherein opposite sides of at least one opening have rough surfaces for temporary engagement with the leg associated with such opening.
20. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has a rough surface, and at least one side of at least one opening also has a rough surface, for temporary engagement at said rough surfaces.
21. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess in a side of an opening associated with such leg.
22. The assembly of claim 16 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess in a side of an opening associated with such leg.
23-24. (canceled)
25. The assembly of claim 1 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess on a leg associated with such opening.
26. The assembly of claim 18 wherein at least one side of at least one opening has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary slip engagement with a recess on a leg associated with such opening.
27-29. (canceled)
30. A method of using pallet systems comprising:
a. transporting a plurality of upper portions and a plurality of lower portions of pallet systems to a location, each such system comprising an upper portion having a generally flat upper surface and a plurality of downwardly extending legs, a lower portion comprising no more than three lower support structures, each such structure having at least one opening therein for receiving one of said legs such that an associated opening is provided for each leg, wherein each leg and its associated opening have a complementary tapered shape, and wherein the width of each of said openings is slightly smaller than the width of each of said legs such that distal ends of said legs do not extend to bottoms of said openings when inserted therein for increasing frictional connectivity under load, and wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary engagement with a complementary recess on an opening associated with such leg;
b. assembling pallets from said upper and lower portions by inserting the legs of each of said upper portions into a the associated openings in said lower portions to fowl assembled pallets;
c. inserting said at least one protrusion into said complementary recess;
d. transporting goods using said assembled pellets;
e. disassembling said pallets by applying a separating force between the upper and lower portions of each pallet and removing said protrusion from said complementary recess;
f. stacking said separated upper portions together; and
g. separately stacking said separated lower portions together.
31. (canceled)
32. A pallet assembly comprising an upper portion having a generally flat upper surface and a plurality of downwardly extending legs, a lower portion comprising at least one lower, support structure, each such structure having at least one opening therein for receiving one of said legs such that an associated opening is provided for each leg, wherein each leg and its associated opening have a complementary tapered shape and wherein insertion of each leg into its associated opening frictionally holds each such leg and opening together, wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one rounded knob protruding out therefrom and at least one side of at least one opening has at least one rounded recess for temporarily receiving said at least one knob, and wherein the width of each of said openings is slightly smaller than the width of each of said legs such that distal ends of said legs do not extend to bottoms of said openings when inserted therein for increasing frictional connectivity under load.
33. A pallet assembly comprising an upper portion having a generally flat upper surface and a plurality of downwardly extending legs, a lower portion comprising at least one lower support structure, each such structure having at least one opening therein for receiving one of said legs such that an associated opening is provided for each leg, wherein each leg and its associated opening have a complementary tapered shape and wherein insertion of each leg into its associated opening frictionally holds each such leg and opening together, wherein at least one side of at least one opening has at least one rounded knob protruding out therefrom and at least one side of at least one leg has at least one rounded recess for temporarily receiving said at least one knob, and wherein the width of each of said openings is slightly smaller than the width of each of said legs such that distal ends of said legs do not extend to bottoms of said openings when inserted therein for increasing frictional connectivity under load.
34-36. (canceled)
37. A process for transporting goods comprising the steps of:
a. inserting a plurality of tapered legs of an upper portion of a pallet into a corresponding plurality of complementary tapered openings in no more than three lower pallet support structures wherein the width of each of said openings is slightly smaller than the width of each of said legs such that distal ends of said legs do not extend to bottoms of said openings when inserted therein, thereby forming a pallet;
b. placing a load onto said pallet, forcing said legs into said openings and increasing frictional connectivity therebetween;
c. transporting said loaded pallet from one location to another;
d removing said load from said pallet and decreasing said frictional connectivity; and
e. disassembling said pallet by removing said legs from said openings.
38. The process of claim 37 wherein at least one side of at least one leg has at least one protrusion extending out therefrom for temporary engagement with a complementary recess on an opening associated with such leg, and comprising the additional steps of engaging said at least one protrusion with said at least one recess.
39. The process of claim 38 comprising the additional step of transporting a formed but unloaded pallet from one location to another, said upper portion and said lower structure being held together during such transport by said at least one protrusion and recess.
40. The process of claim 39 comprising the additional step of disassembling said unloaded pallet by applying a separating force between the upper portion and said lower structure of said pallet and removing said protrusion from said recess.
US12/763,055 2010-04-19 2010-04-19 Pallet System Abandoned US20110253016A1 (en)

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WO2013079121A1 (en) 2011-12-02 2013-06-06 Willems Luc Hugo Andrea Pallet, pallet assembly and assembling method therefor
US20150068436A1 (en) * 2013-06-10 2015-03-12 Rehrig Pacific Company Multiple pallet assembly
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RU192207U1 (en) * 2019-06-13 2019-09-06 Леонид Евгеньевич Селявко Square trainer for group classes on restoration and preventive training of visual-spatial memory by storing images in square cells
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