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Numéro de publicationUS20060113302 A1
Type de publicationDemande
Numéro de demandeUS 11/222,065
Date de publication1 juin 2006
Date de dépôt8 sept. 2005
Date de priorité9 sept. 2004
Autre référence de publicationWO2006029288A2, WO2006029288A3
Numéro de publication11222065, 222065, US 2006/0113302 A1, US 2006/113302 A1, US 20060113302 A1, US 20060113302A1, US 2006113302 A1, US 2006113302A1, US-A1-20060113302, US-A1-2006113302, US2006/0113302A1, US2006/113302A1, US20060113302 A1, US20060113302A1, US2006113302 A1, US2006113302A1
InventeursPanduranga Mandava, Alexander McCredie
Cessionnaire d'origineInteligistics, Inc.
Exporter la citationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
Liens externes: USPTO, Cession USPTO, Espacenet
Modular shipping unit and system
US 20060113302 A1
Résumé
A modular shipping system including a plurality of modular support members for supporting at least one item thereon. The system includes at least one upstanding frame having a plurality of receiving areas for receiving and supporting respective one of the modular support members therein. The frame includes an attachment mechanism for attaching the frame to a similar frame positioned adjacent thereto, thereby providing an interlock modular shipping unit of a plurality of frames. The modular support member, the frame and/or the modular shipping unit can be dissassembled or collapsed. A modular support member and a frame are also disclosed.
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Revendications(26)
1. A modular shipping system, comprising:
a plurality of modular support members, each configured to support at least one item thereon; and
at least one upstanding frame having a plurality of receiving areas configured to receive and support a respective one of the plurality of modular support members therein, the frame further comprising an attachment mechanism configured to attach the frame to a similar frame positioned adjacent thereto, thereby providing an interlocked modular shipping unit of a plurality of frames;
wherein the modular support member, the frame, the modular shipping unit or any combination thereof is configured to be disassembled or collapsed.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the modular support member comprises:
a substantially planar base member having an attachment structure positioned along a perimeter area thereof; and
a plurality of side frame members having an attachment structure positioned along a bottom edge thereof, with the attachment structure of the side frame members configured to interact with the attachment structure of a respective perimeter area of the base member, thereby providing an upstanding frame attached to the base member.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein the modular support member further comprises at least one removable panel configured to engage with a respective side frame member, thereby forming a side wall.
4. The system of claim 3, wherein at least one edge of the panel is engageable with and slidable along a groove extending along the respective side frame member.
5. The system of claim 3, wherein at least one side frame member includes an insertion slot sized and shaped so as to receive an edge of a respective removable panel, wherein the removable panel is inserted through the slot and at least one edge of the panel is engageable with at least one groove extending along an inner surface of the respective side frame member.
6. The system of claim 3, wherein at least a portion of the panel, the modular support member, the frame, the modular shipping unit or any combination thereof is manufactured from a material that is water resistant, waterproof, fire resistant, fireproof, explosion proof, impact resistant, impact proof, heat resistant, pressure resistant, impact resistant, projectile proof, load resistant, shock resistant, compression resistant, vibration resistant, abrasion resistant, insulative, self-extinguishing, energy absorbent, transparent to X-ray signals, mold resistant, mildew resistant, fungi resistant, insect resistant, resistant to chemical reactions, or any combination thereof.
7. The system of claim 3, wherein at least a portion of the panel, the modular support member, the frame, the modular shipping unit or any combination thereof is manufactured from a metal, a semi-metal, an alloy, a plastic, a urethane-based material, polyurethane, aliphatic polyurethane, a synthetic material, a polymer, a metal/polymer hybrid material, a ceramic material, a ceramo-plastic material, a woven fiber material, filament wound fiber, fiberglass, glass, vermiculite, expanded mica, a powdered metal material, a laminated material, an extruded material, a cast material, a molded material, or any combination or mixture thereof.
8. The system of claim 2, wherein the modular support member further comprises a top frame member having an attachment structure positioned along at least one edge thereof configured for attachment to an upper edge of at least one of the side frame members.
9. The system of claim 8, further comprises at least one removable panel configured to engage with the top frame member, thereby forming a top wall.
10. The system of claim 2, wherein the attachment structure of one of the side frame member and the base member is a shaped tongue, and the attachment structure of the other of the side frame and the base member is a groove shaped to receive and engage the tongue along the groove.
11. The system of claim 2, wherein the base member is substantially square-shaped, with the modular support member comprising four side frame members, each engageable with a respective perimeter portion of the base member, thereby forming a box frame.
12. The system of claim 1 1, further comprising a top frame member having an attachment structure positioned along at least one edge thereof configured for attachment to an upper edge of at least one of the side frame members.
13. The system of claim 12, further comprising a plurality of removable panels configured to respectively engage each side frame member and top frame member, forming side walls and a top wall, thereby forming an enclosed housing.
14. The system of claim 1, wherein the modular support member includes a locking mechanism configured to lock the modular support member into a respective receiving area of the frame and prevent withdrawal of the support member without unlocking of the locking mechanism.
15. The system of claim 14, further comprising a locking mechanism control device in communication with the locking mechanism and configured to lock and unlock the locking mechanism, and thereby at least one modular support member, based upon authorization signals.
16. The system of claim 15, further comprising an input device in communication with the locking mechanism control device and configured to accept data input from a user, a subsequent control system, a communication device, or any combination thereof.
17. The system of claim 14, wherein the modular support member is slidable with respect to the receiving areas of the frame, and wherein the modular support member is continually urged at least partially out of the receiving area, such that, when the locking mechanism is deactivated, the modular support member slides at least partially out of the receiving area.
18. The system of claim 1, wherein the frame includes at least one receiving area configured to receive two modular support members therein, the modular support members positioned immediately adjacent each other within the receiving area.
19. The system of claim 18, wherein at least a portion of each of the two modular support members are in direct or indirect contact with a locking mechanism, wherein the locking mechanism is configured to lock the modular support members together or lock the modular support members to the frame, thereby preventing removal therefrom.
20. The system of claim 1, wherein the modular support member comprises:
a substantially planar base member having an attachment structure positioned along a perimeter area thereof and a plurality of side frame members having an attachment structure positioned along a bottom edge thereof, with the attachment structure of the side frame members configured to interact with the attachment structure of a respective perimeter area of the base member, thereby providing an upstanding frame attached to the base member;
at least one removable panel configured to engage with a respective side frame member, thereby forming a side wall;
a top frame member having an attachment structure positioned along at least one edge thereof configured for attachment to an upper edge of at least one of the side frame members; and
at least one removable panel configured to engage with the top frame member, thereby forming a top wall;
wherein at least one of the panels is moveable and provides access to an interior area of the modular support member, and thereby the item positioned therein.
21. The system of claim 1, further comprising a central control unit in communication with the modular shipping unit and configured to: (i) communicate with and control at least one locking mechanism; (ii) interact with at least one locking mechanism control device; (iii) track and identify the at least one item, the modular shipping unit, the modular support member, the frame, or any combination thereof; (iv) communicate with and control at least one component of the unit; or any combination thereof.
22. The system of claim 1, further comprising:
at least one signal emitting device in operative communication with the modular shipping unit, the at least one item, the modular support member, the frame, or any combination thereof; and
at least one signal receiving device in communication with the signal emitting device and configured to receive signals emitting from the signal emitting device.
23. The system of claim 1, wherein a sensor device is in operative communication with the modular shipping unit, the at least one item, the modular support member, the frame, or any combination thereof, and wherein the sensor device is configured to obtain and communicate data directed to temperature, pressure, humidity, a physical characteristic, a chemical characteristic, an environmental condition, contact, impact, motion, or any combination thereof.
24. A modular support member, comprising:
a substantially planar base member having an attachment structure positioned along a perimeter area thereof;
a plurality of side frame members having an attachment structure positioned along a bottom edge thereof, with the attachment structure of the side frame members configured to interact with the attachment structure of a respective perimeter area of the base member, thereby providing an upstanding frame attached to the base member;
a top frame member having an attachment structure positioned along at least one edge thereof configured for attachment to an upper edge of at least one of the side frame members; and
a plurality of removable panels, each configured to engage with a respective side frame member and the top frame member, thereby forming an enclosed housing with side walls and a top wall;
wherein at least one item is positionable within an interior area of the enclosed housing; and
wherein the modular support member is disassemblable by removing the panels and disengaging the attachment structures of the side frame members, the top frame member and the base member.
25. A frame for housing a plurality of modular support members therein, the frame comprising:
a plurality of receiving areas configured to receive and support a respective one of the plurality of modular support members therein; and
an attachment mechanism configured to attach the frame to a similar frame positioned adjacent thereto, thereby providing an interlocked modular shipping unit;
wherein the frame is collapsible by folding portions of the frame into contact with one another.
26. A modular shipping system, comprising:
a plurality of modular support members comprising a disassemblable enclosed housing each configured to support at least one item therein, wherein at least one of side walls and a top wall of the enclosed housing includes a removable panel; and
a plurality of upstanding frames, each having a plurality of receiving areas configured to receive and support a respective one of the plurality of modular support members therein, with each frame further comprising an attachment mechanism configured to attach the frame to a similar frame positioned adjacent thereto, thereby providing an interlocked modular shipping unit of a plurality of frames;
wherein each modular support member includes a locking mechanism configured to lock the modular support member into a respective receiving area of the frame and prevent withdrawal of the support member without unlocking of the locking mechanism.
Description
    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/608,315, filed Sep. 9, 2004 and also to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/634,028, filed Dec. 7, 2004, which are herein incorporated by reference in their entirety.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0003]
    The present invention relates generally to shipping, transportion, packaging and display devices and systems for use in connection with shipping, transporting, packaging and displaying goods, items, objects and the like. In particular, the present invention relates to a modular shipping unit and system, a modular support member and a frame that provides an interlocked modular shipping unit for use in connection with such goods, items and objects.
  • [0004]
    2. Description of Related Art
  • [0005]
    According to the prior art, there are various packaging and transport devices and systems available for moving goods, equipment, items, objects, etc. from one location to another, and subsequently allowing these goods to be unloaded, extracted and/or displayed at the desired location. For example, when moving a large quantity of goods to an overseas or remote location and in order to safely package these goods during transport, large shipping containers are typically used. In particular, the standard shipping container used throughout the world is a twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU), which is specifically dimensioned to provide a standard and consistent shipping container for use in packaging and transport. Such containers are normally transported by sea on a container ship or individually on a truck, such as a tractor-trailer or the like.
  • [0006]
    These standard and prior art shipping containers have many drawbacks. For example, when these TEUs are filled with goods, the end weight or gross weight precludes the use of any other means of transportation other than this aforementioned container ship or tractor-trailer. For example, the prior art shipping containers cannot be transported on smaller vehicles and aircraft. Furthermore, since such containers are, in effect, a large box, with the goods simply positioned therein, it is difficult to extract and individually transport specified goods in a unitized or modular manner. Instead, such a container must be offloaded in a manual and labor-intensive manner.
  • [0007]
    Yet another drawback of prior art shipping systems, such as these standard shipping containers, is the inability to specifically locate and identify not only a desired container (or unit), but also to locate any individual item and its whereabouts within this container. Even if the specific container is located, the laborer must comb through the contents of the container in order to locate a specified item for offloading and disposition. Further, as discussed above, even if this item is appropriately located, it may be positioned in an inconvenient location within the container that requires the manipulation and movement of multiple other items in order to gain access to it.
  • [0008]
    Another drawback of these prior art shipping containers is the requirement that these containers meet certain safety and security requirements. For example, an inspector, such as a customs agent, must be able to individually inspect each item within the container. As discussed above, since the items are simply packed into the container, inspection of each individual item proves to be a difficult and lengthy process for the inspector.
  • [0009]
    While packaging and transport of goods, items and objects are engaged in throughout many applications, one specialized application is the transport of equipment for use in connection with the armed services. For example, the armed services require a dynamic logistics system to support the goal of superior “situational awareness”. For example, such requirements exist for the Army's Future Combat System, the Navy's Maritime Pre-Positioned Force and the Air Force's Central Transport Command. These logistical systems require accurate integration of information in real time, in order to provide various persons and entities with Total Asset Visibility, as well as In-Transit Visibility, which provides efficiency and mobility of goods throughout the system. In one example, various armed forces' deployment depots will supply the field with pre-packaged and proportioned equipment and munitions for use in rapid deployment and extractions. Accordingly, there remains a need for small, compact and lightweight unitized shipping systems and devices that provide for the shipment of items and objects that are quickly bundled together without banding, blocking, bracing or use of additional platforms.
  • [0010]
    One goal of, for example, the Army's Future Combat Systems program is the transformation to a lightweight, rapidly deployable and network-centric “Objective Force”, which is able to rapidly respond to conflicts anywhere in the world. In particular, the Army transformation requirements include the ability to put a combat-capable brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division in 120 hours, and five divisions on the ground within 30 days. Typically, a first response will include the rapid airlift of troops followed by sea-based support with a heavier combat brigade or division that includes armor and artillery. In order to support, supply and replenish this force, the Army will require a modular shipping system capable of packaging, palletizing, staging and shipping supplies, equipment and munitions to various locations throughout the world.
  • [0011]
    As discussed above in connection with typical shipping systems, as well as armed forces' requirements, there remains a need in the art for a modular shipping unit and system that can be easily assembled, loaded, transported, unloaded and disassembled. It is estimated that one out of every three shipping containers are abandoned in the field or at the dock, and these containers simply rust and pose safety, environmental and other hazards. Accordingly, it is also desirous to provide a modular shipping unit that is completely collapsible and/or disassembleable for use in maintaining, repairing and even transporting the collapsed or disassembled units. While disassembleable or collapsible, there is also a need for modular shipping units, modular support members and frames that are easily assembled and attached to provide an interlocked unit, such as one that can replace the TEU, where each of the individual support members within the unit and system are secure and tamper-resistant. Many other deficiencies of prior art shipping systems and containers also exist, such as the standard materials of construction, difficulty of manipulation, difficulty of tracking, etc.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0012]
    It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that overcomes the deficiencies of the prior art. It is another object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that is flexible and lightweight for efficient packaging, shipping, deployment and manipulation. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that includes modular, unitized and interlocking units to provide an interlocked modular shipping unit, which may be a replacement for a standard shipping container. It is a further object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that includes individual components that can be disassembled and/or collapsed. It is another object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that includes multiple and individual support members that can be separated from the unit and individually or collectively transported on various vehicles and aircraft. It is a still further object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that is highly configurable and able to contain or otherwise package a variety of goods, items and objects. It is another object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that includes a tracking and information system that overcomes the drawbacks of the prior art. It is a further object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that provides for the monitoring of various parameters, events and conditions associated with the unit, and for communicating this information and data to a predetermined location or control device. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a modular shipping unit and system that is capable of tracking, monitoring, recording, storing and otherwise processing data associated with the goods, items, objects and/or various components and sub-components of the unit and system.
  • [0013]
    Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a modular shipping system. The modular shipping system includes at least one modular support member for supporting at least one item thereon. At least one upstanding frame is included, and this upstanding frame has multiple receiving areas for receiving and supporting a respective one of the modular support members therein. The frame also includes an attachment mechanism for attaching the frame to another similar frame positioned adjacent thereto. This attachment provides an interlocked modular shipping unit of multiple of these frames. Further, the modular support member, the frame and/or the unit can be disassembled and/or collapsed.
  • [0014]
    The present invention is also directed to a modular support member. This modular support member includes a substantially planar base member having an attachment structure positioned along perimeter areas thereof. The support member also includes multiple side frame members having attachment structures positioned along the bottom edges thereof, where the attachment structure of the side frame members interact with the attachment structure of a respective perimeter area of the base member, which provides an upstanding frame attached to the base member. A top frame member, having an attachment structure positioned along at least one edge thereof, is designed to attach or interact with an upper edge of at least one of the side frame members. Multiple removable panels are provided, and these panels engage with a respective side frame member and top frame member, thereby forming an enclosed housing with side walls and a top wall. At least one item is positionable within an interior area of the enclosed housing. Further, the modular support member is fully disassembleable by removing the panels and disengaging the attachment structures of the side frame members, the top frame member and the base member.
  • [0015]
    The present invention is further directed to a frame for housing multiple support members therein. In particular, the frame includes multiple receiving areas for receiving and supporting a respective one of the modular support members therein. The frame includes an attachment mechanism for attaching the frame to another similar frame positioned adjacent thereto, thereby providing an interlocked modular shipping unit of multiple of these frames. The frame is collapsible by folding portions of the frame into contact with one another.
  • [0016]
    These and other features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as the methods of operation and functions of the related elements of structures and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following description and the appended claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of this specification, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts in the various figures. It is to be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for the purpose of illustration and description only and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the invention. As used in the specification and the claims, the singular form of “a”, “an”, and “the” include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0017]
    FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a modular shipping system according to the present invention;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2 is a schematic view of one embodiment of a frame for housing multiple modular support members therein according to the present invention;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the frame of FIG. 2;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 4 is a further perspective view of the frame of FIG. 3 with a modular support member positioned therein;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 5 is a side schematic view of one embodiment of a frame, in use, for housing multiple modular support members therein according to the present invention;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 6 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention during an intermediate stage of assembly or disassembly;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 7 is a further perspective view of one embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention during an intermediate stage of assembly or disassembly;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 8 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention as assembled;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 9 is a side sectional view of a portion of one embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 10 is a schematic view of one embodiment of a modular shipping system according to the present invention;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 11 is a schematic view of a further embodiment of a modular shipping system according to the present invention;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a further embodiment of a modular shipping system according to the present invention;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 13 is a side, schematic view of a further embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention; and
  • [0030]
    FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a further embodiment of a modular support member according to the present invention.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0031]
    The present invention is directed to a modular shipping system 10, which includes multiple modular support members 12 and multiple upstanding frames 14, together which make up an interlocked modular shipping unit 16. In particular, the modular shipping system 10 includes multiple, unitized modular support members 12 that are capable of supporting and/or housing one or more items 200 thereon or therein. Further, the upstanding frame 14 includes multiple receiving areas 18 for receiving and supporting a respective one of the multiple modular support members 12 therein. In addition, the frame 14 includes an attachment mechanism 20 for attaching each frame 14 to a subsequent frame, thereby providing an interlocked modular shipping unit 16.
  • [0032]
    In addition, and as discussed in detail hereinafter, the modular support member 12, the frame 14 and/or the modular shipping unit 16 can be disassembled or collapsed for subsequent handling, disposition and transport. One preferred and non-limiting embodiment of a fully assembled modular shipping system 10 is illustrated in FIG. 1 and, in particular, as illustrated in this figure, twenty modular support members 12 are positioned within receiving areas 18 of the frames 14. In addition, five frames 14 are attached together to house these modular support members 12, and to provide the interlocked modular shipping unit 16.
  • [0033]
    The frame 14 is shown in FIGS. 1-5, and in use in FIGS. 1, 4 and 5. As best seen in FIGS. 2-4, at least one side of a respective receiving area 18 is at least partially bounded by multiple cross members 24, and these cross members 24 support at least one modular support member 12 thereon. Referring now to the embodiment of the frame 14 of FIGS. 2-4, the frame 14 includes four receiving areas 18, and each receiving area 18 is sized and shaped so as to receive and support a respective modular support member 12 therein. In the configuration shown, the frame 14 includes six vertical members 26 and twelve horizontal members 28. Each horizontal member 28 is attached between two vertical members 26, and four of the pairs of horizontal members 28 form a support area 30 within the receiving area 18 of the frame 14.
  • [0034]
    In this manner, three levels or rows are provided, namely Row A, Row B and Row C. Specifically, Rows A and B include the aforementioned support areas 30 for supporting a modular support member 12 thereon, while Row C includes horizontal members 28 that extend over a respective modular support member 12. Therefore, the modular support members 12 are captured within the receiving areas 18 and form a unitized and secured containment system for the modular support members 12.
  • [0035]
    In use, as shown in FIGS. 1, 4 and 5, and in this embodiment, two modular support members 12 are insertable into a respective receiving area 18 in Row A, and each member 12 is supported on two horizontal members 28, which are in the form of a cross or X. Similarly, two support members 12 are insertable into a respective receiving area 18 in Row B and are similarly supported on two support areas 30, each of which includes two horizontal members 28 in a cross or X pattern. Accordingly, the support members 12 are fully supported within and secured together by the frame 14.
  • [0036]
    Another benefit of the configuration of the embodiment of the frame 14 illustrated in FIG. 2 is the collapsibility. In particular, multiple junction or connection points at the center or ends of the horizontal members 28 are articulated or hinged in order to allow the frame 14 to be collapsed. Specifically, at least each point a can be articulated or hinged, such that portions of the horizontal members 28 are collapsible toward each other until the vertical members 26 are substantially adjacent each other. Such a collapsing motion can be similar to an “accordion” collapsing motion, and allows for the minimization of the overall frame 14 size. Therefore, when not in use, the frame 14 can be collapsed and easily stored or transported for further use. It is envisioned that all of the junction points of the vertical members 26 and horizontal members 28 of the frame 14 are articulated or hinged, which would allow additional flexibility in collapsing the frame 14.
  • [0037]
    As discussed above, in one preferred and non-limiting embodiment, the frame 14 has four receiving areas 18 for receiving a respective modular support member 12 therein. As discussed hereinafter, the modular support member 12 may be provided in many configurations, however these configurations are unitized, specifically dimensioned and insertable into the receiving areas 18 of the frame 14. In addition, it is envisioned that not all receiving areas 18 of the frame 14 need be used in any particular frame 14. As shown in FIG. 5, three of the receiving areas 18 are used, while the fourth receiving area 18 is unused. Accordingly, this arrangement provides for additional flexibility in configuring support members 12 within the frames 14, which collectively interlock to form the modular shipping unit 16.
  • [0038]
    As illustrated in schematic form in FIG. 2, each frame 14 includes one or more attachment mechanisms 20 for attaching one frame 14 to another similar frame 14 positioned adjacent thereto. As shown in one embodiment in FIG. 2, it is envisioned that multiple attachment mechanisms 20 are used, and each vertical member 26 includes multiple attachment mechanisms 20 to securely and releasably attach the frames 14 to each other. Any attachment mechanism 20 is envisioned, and the structure to achieve this attachment would be apparent to one skilled in the art. For example, such an attachment mechanism 20 may be a latching system, a magnetic attachment system, mechanical linkage, etc. It is also envisioned that these attachment mechanisms 20 are lockable to each other, so as to prevent unauthorized detachment. See FIG. 10.
  • [0039]
    The basic unit that forms the support or housing of the items 200 is the modular support member 12. In addition, in one preferred and non-limiting embodiment, this modular support member 12 is entirely assembleable and disassembleable, and the support member 12 in the various intermediate stages of assembly or disassembly is illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, and an assembled modular support member 12 is illustrated in FIG. 8. In particular, in this embodiment, the modular support member 12 includes a substantially planar base member 32, and this base member 32 includes an attachment structure 34 positioned or disposed along a perimeter area 36 of the base member 32. Further, multiple side frame members 38, also having an attachment structure 40 positioned or disposed along a bottom edge 42 thereof, are configured to interact with the attachment structure 34 of the base member 32. When the attachment structures 34, 40 of the members 32, 38 interact, an upstanding frame 44 is created and is attached to the base member 32. Also, in this embodiment, multiple removable panels 46 are provided, and each removable panel 46 is sized and shaped so as to engage with a respective side frame member 38, thereby forming a side wall 48.
  • [0040]
    As best seen in FIGS. 6 and 7, each side frame member 38 includes an insertion slot 50, which is sized and shaped so as to receive an edge 52 of a respective panel 46. Specifically, the edge 52 of the removable panel 46 is inserted through the insertion slot 50 and is engageable with a groove 54 extending along an inner surface 56 of the respective side frame member 38. In particular, this groove 54 extends along the inner surface 56 that is opposed to the insertion slot 50, such that the panel 46 is removably engaged with the side frame member 38. It is also envisioned that other inner surfaces of the side frame members 38 are grooved or slotted such that the panel 46 is engageable with and slidable along these grooves, such that edges of the panels 46 are positioned within walls of the side frame members 38. Any manner of effectively and removably engaging the panels 46 with the side frame members 38 is envisioned.
  • [0041]
    In this embodiment, the modular support member 12 also includes a top frame member 58. As with the base member 32 and the side frame members 38, the top frame member 58 also includes an attachment structure 60 positioned along at least one edge and used to attach the top frame member 58 to an upper edge 62 of one or more of the side frame members 38. As seen in connection with the side frame members 38, the top frame member 58 also includes an insertion slot 50 through which a respective removable panel 46 can be inserted. In this manner, a top wall 64 is provided.
  • [0042]
    In addition, the top frame member 58 may include multiple insertion slots 50 that correspond with and align with the insertion slots 50 of the side frame members 38. Accordingly, in one embodiment, the panels 46 of the side frame members 38 extend slightly beyond the insertion slots 50 of each side frame member 38 and into the insertion slots 50 of the top frame member 58. In one embodiment, it is this interaction of the panels 46 and insertion slots 50 that create the attachment structure 60 of the top frame member 58. Such an arrangement will prevent the top frame member 58 from laterally sliding off of the side frame members 38, since the panels 46 of the side frame members 38 extending at least partially within the top frame member 58. Various attachment structures 34, 40, 60 can be utilized, such as tongue and groove (as discussed hereinafter), tabs, slots, latching mechanisms, magnetic mechanisms, etc. These attachment structures 34, 40, 60 need only allow a user to easily assembly and disassemble the support member 12.
  • [0043]
    Once assembled, and prior to engagement of the panels 46, the attachment of the side frame members 38 to the base member 32 creates a frame structure, where the base member 32 serves as the support surface for the item 200, and, further, the item 200 can be secured to, rest against or otherwise contact or use the upstanding frame created by the side frame members 38. Furthermore, as illustrated in FIG. 8, when using the top frame member 58 and the panels 46, an enclosed housing 66 is provided. This enclosed housing 66 is secure, easily assembled and also easily disassembled for further transport, storage or use. While, as discussed above, the modular support member 12 may be in the form of an upstanding frame or an enclosed housing 66, the modular support member 12 may also include only the base member 32 (acting as a pallet), which supports the item 200 and is easily inserted into a respective receiving area 18 of the frame 14.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 9 illustrates one possible engagement between the base member 32 and side frame members 38. In particular, as seen in the embodiment of this figure, the attachment structure 40 of the side frame member 38 is a shaped tongue 68. Further, the attachment structure 34 of the base member 32 is a shaped groove 70, which extends along the perimeter area 36 of the base member 32. In operation, the shaped tongue 68 of each side frame member 38 is inserted into and engaged along the shaped groove 70 of a respective side or portion of the base member 32. Also illustrated in FIG. 9 is the insertion of a removable panel 46 into a side frame member 38 toward the groove 54. The shape of the tongue 68 permits removal only by sliding along the groove 70, while preventing other removal options. Of course, it is envisioned that the attachment structure 34 of the base member 32 is the tongue 68, while the attachment structure 40 of the side frame member 38 is the groove 70.
  • [0045]
    When assembling the modular support member 12 (and when using the side frame members 38 and/or panels 46), the side frame members 38 may be engaged in sequential order, such that the side frame members 38 abut and are secured immediately adjacent each other. For example, when using four side frame members 38, such as when building the side walls 48 of the enclosed housing 66, each side frame member 38 is slid into position and abuts the side frame member 38 that was inserted immediately prior to it. Such a construction and assembly allows for a tighter fit between the side frame members 38 and the base member 32. In addition, this sequential construction provides a seamless enclosed housing 66 or upstanding frame 44. Next, when creating the enclosed housing 66, the top frame member 58 is placed on the engaged side frame members 38 and panels 46 are inserted through the insertion slots 50 of the top frame member 58 and into the side frame members 38. Finally, a removable panel 46 is inserted through the insertion slot 50 of the top frame member 58, thereby creating a secure, sealed and structural enclosed housing 66.
  • [0046]
    When inserting the modular support members 12 into the frame 14, it is envisioned that each modular support member 12 includes appropriate structure to be slid into and out of a respective receiving area 18 of the frame 14. For example, the frame 14 may be provided with tracks or other components that allow for the easy and slidable insertion or removal of a modular support member 12 into and out of the frame 14. In addition, and as best seen in FIGS. 6-8, the base member 32 may also include leg extensions 22 projecting from an underside of the base member 32. These leg extensions 22 provide voids or gaps 23 between the leg extensions 22. It is these gaps 32 that provide an insertion area for the forks of a forklift or other similar lifting and transport machine. In addition, the aforementioned tracks or sliding structure may be disposed on these leg extensions 22.
  • [0047]
    In order to provide additional security to the modular shipping system 10, and as illustrated in schematic form in FIG. 10, the modular support member 12 may include a locking mechanism 72, which serves to lock the modular support member 12 into a respective receiving area 18 of the frame 14, and prevent withdrawal of the support member 12 without the activation or unlocking of the locking mechanism 72. This locking mechanism 72 may serve to lock two modular support members 12 together, a modular support member 12 to the frame 14, or the locking mechanisms 72 of respective modular support members 12 together. As discussed above, the locking mechanism 72 can be any mechanism or structure that is known in the art. For example, the locking mechanism 72 may be a latching system, a magnetic locking system, a mechanical linkage, or any other means for securing and preventing withdrawal of this modular support member 12 from the frame 14 without disengaging or unlocking the locking mechanism 72.
  • [0048]
    As seen in FIG. 10, a locking mechanism control device 74 can be provided. This locking mechanism control device 74 is in communication with one or more of the locking mechanisms 72 and used to effectively lock and unlock the locking mechanism 72 (and therefore the modular support member 12) based upon authorization signals 76. The locking mechanism control device 74 may be hardwired or in wireless communication with the locking mechanisms 72 and any communications platform or interaction is envisioned.
  • [0049]
    In order to provide appropriate authorization signals 76 to the locking mechanism 72, an input device 78 is provided. This input device 78 is in communication with the locking mechanism control device 74. In particular, the input device 78 accepts data input from a user, and, based upon this data, the locking mechanism control device 74 engages or disengages the locking mechanism 72. In addition, the input device 78 may accept data input from a subsequent control system, a communication device, etc. Still further, the locking mechanism control device 74 may also be in communication with the attachment mechanism 20 of the frame 14. For example, when the attachment system 20 is equipped with the appropriate structure, and in communication with the locking mechanism control device 74, the attachment mechanism 20 may allow for the remote and/or authorized attachment and detachment of the frames 14 from each other. Again, this actuation of the attachment mechanism 20 may be based upon some authorization signal 76.
  • [0050]
    It is also envisioned that when the modular support member 12 is slidable with respect to the receiving areas 18 of the frame 14, the modular support member 12 is continually urged at least partially out of the receiving area 18. Accordingly, when the locking mechanism 72 is deactivated, the modular support member 12 slides at least partially out of the receiving area 18. Such an operation has many benefits. For example, this spring-loaded or urging of the modular support member 12 from the frame 14 enables an inspector to quickly inspect the support member 12 and/or the items 200 therein. In addition, if a visual inspection is required, the inspector can simply slide the panel 46 through the respective insertion slots 50 of the side frame members 38 and top frame member 58, and inspect the items 200 positioned therein. In addition, this spring action allows for the easy unloading of the frame 14 or modular shipping unit 16, such as by forklift, equipment or even manually.
  • [0051]
    In a further embodiment, the modular shipping system 10 includes some means for securing the item 200 supported on the modular support member 12 to a portion thereof, such that the item 200 is substantially immovable during transport. For example, various tie-downs, ropes, lines, etc. may be used to secure the item 200 to the base member 32 or side frame members 38. See FIG. 3. As seen in FIG. 10, it is also envisioned that some locking mechanism 72 or device can be in operational communication with the movable panels 46, such that these panels 46 can be locked into an immovable position. Such a device would provide further security and prevent an unauthorized person from removing the panels 46. Still further, such a mechanism or device could be in communication with the control device 74 discussed above.
  • [0052]
    In a further embodiment, the modular shipping system 10 includes a central control device 80 in communication with the modular shipping unit 16. This central control device 80 can perform a variety of functions. For example, the central control device 80 may communicate with and control the locking mechanism 72, the attachment mechanisms 20, or other components or sub-components of the unit 16. In addition, the central control device 80 may interact with the locking mechanism control device 74, and may also track and identify the item 200, the modular shipping unit 16, the frame 14, modular support member 12, or any combination thereof.
  • [0053]
    In a further embodiment, multiple signal emitting devices 82 are used. Specifically, these signal emitting devices 82 are in operative communication with the modular shipping unit 16, the frame 14, the modular support member 12, and/or the items 200. In addition, a signal receiving device 84 is provided, and this signal receiving device 84 is in communication with the signal emitting devices 82 for receiving signals emitted from these devices 82. As shown in FIG. 11, the signal receiving device 84 may be integral with or in communication with the central control device 80, such that the signals emitted from the signal emitting devices 82 can be remotely received by the signal receiving device 84 and processed by the central control device 80. However, the signal receiving device 84 can be positioned on, in or adjacent the modular shipping unit 16, the frame 14, and/or the modular support members 12.
  • [0054]
    In one preferred embodiment, the signal emitting devices 82 are radio frequency identification (RFID) tags or transponders that are attached to an item or object (e.g., the support members 12, the frames 14, the shipping unit 16, the items 200, etc.) to be tracked. Similarly, the signal receiving device 84 is one or more antennae positioned in communication with the tags, such that the tags can be energized and read, thereby identifying the object to which the tag is attached or associated with. Accordingly, not only can the items 200 be tracked, but each individual modular support member 12, each individual frame 14, and each shipping unit 16 can also be identified, tracked or otherwise located in and throughout a complex shipping system. For example, the central control device 80 can be used to track and identify any item 200, component or sub-component of a specified unit 16 or any of the units 16 that are stationed, deployed, in transport, etc.
  • [0055]
    The modular shipping system 10 may also include one or more sensor devices 86 in operative communication with the modular shipping unit 16. For example, the sensor device 86 may be associated with or positioned in the unit 16, with the item 200, with the frame 14, with the support member 12, etc. Further, the sensor device 86 obtains and communicates data directed to the temperature, pressure, humidity, a physical characteristic, a chemical characteristic, an environmental condition, contact, impact, motion, etc. Still further, this information and data can be transmitted to the central control device 80 for use in determining the conditions associated with any unit 16 or item 200 in the shipping system.
  • [0056]
    Dependent upon the application in which the modular shipping system 10 of the present invention is used, a variety of materials of construction are envisioned. For example, at least a portion of the panels 46, the modular support member 12, the frame 14 and/or the modular shipping unit 16 can be manufactured from a material that is water resistant, waterproof, fire resistant, fireproof, explosion proof, impact resistant, impact proof, heat resistant, pressure resistant, projectile proof, load resistant, shock resistant, compression resistant, vibration resistant, abrasion resistant, insulated, self-extinguishing, energy absorbing, transparent to X-ray signals, mold resistant, mildew resistant, fungi resistant, insect resistant, resistant to chemical reactions, or any combination thereof. Many of these characteristics can be obtained using the appropriate materials of construction, such as a metal, a semi-metal, an alloy, a plastic, a urethane-based material, polyurethane, aliphatic polyurethane, a synthetic material, a polymer, a metal/polymer hybrid material, a ceramic material, a ceramo-plastic material, a woven fiber material, filament wound fiber, fiberglass, glass, vermiculite, expanded mica, a powdered metal material, a laminated material, an extruded material, a cast material, a molded material, or any combination or mixture thereof.
  • [0057]
    The materials of construction can be customized, produced and used to achieve the appropriate physical characteristics in order to protect the items 200 as well as the components and sub-components of the system 10. Still further, since the modular support member 12 is completely disassembleable, any of the components or sub-components of the support member 12 can be individually made from a variety of different materials. For example, different panels 46 can be used for different situations, and a panel 46 need simply be removed from the frame members 38, 58, and different panels 46 replaced therein. This provides even greater flexibility to the resulting characteristics and safety and security benefits of the assembled modular support member 12.
  • [0058]
    Yet another beneficial functionality of the modular shipping system 10 is illustrated in FIG. 12. In particular, the modular shipping unit 16 (comprising multiple attached frames 14 with modular support members 12 therein, each support member 12 housing one or more items 200) is transported as a collective unit. Initially, one or more of the support members 12 can be packed at a warehouse or storage center, and the unit 16 can be transported to additional warehouses or storage centers to pack additional items 200 and insert additional support members 12 in empty or added frames 14. Once the unit 16 is carrying its final payload or items 200, the unit 16 is shipped or transported to the final destination via, for example, a tractor-trailer or the like.
  • [0059]
    After arrival at the final destination, such as a store, outlet, subsequent warehouse, etc., the items 200 do not have to be individually unloaded and stocked on shelves. Instead, the modular support members 12 can be individually utilized as display areas for the items 200 or products, as seen in FIG. 12. Furthermore, it is also envisioned that the frames 14 can be used to display the modular support members 12, and thus their contents or items 200, simply by detaching the frames 14 and positioning them in the store, such that the modular support units 12 are accessible. In either case, the final destination does not have to build or supply any shelving or the like for displaying the items 200 for purchase or visual identification, either using the stacked modular support members 12 or the support member 12 positioned in the frame 14.
  • [0060]
    In one example, the frames 14 (holding multiple modular support members 12 therein) can be oriented to permit access to all of the support members 12. For example, the frames 14 can be supplied with wheels, rollers, retractable rollers and the like for ease of manipulation at the final destination. By removing panels (if necessary), a person would have access to the contents, or items 200, of each modular support member 12. Therefore, the presently-invented system 10 represents an end-to-end packaging, storage, transport and display system that reduces the logistical needs of prior art systems. The modular support members 12 and/or the frames 14 provide a final product or item 200 shelving and display area.
  • [0061]
    Yet another embodiment of the modular support member 12 is illustrated in FIG. 13. As shown in this Figure, in order to provide a secure, enclosed housing 66, the top frame member 58 can be positioned over the side frame members 38, by inserting the upper edge 62 of each side frame member 38 into a side frame groove 88 extending along a bottom surface of the top frame member 58. Of course, the insertion slots 50 of the top frame member 58 still align with the insertion slots of the side frame members 38, such that the removable panels are insertable therethrough. However, in this embodiment, the insertion slot 50 for the top frame member 58 is positioned substantially adjacent the entryway of the insertion slot 50 for each side frame member 38. Therefore, after the panels 46 are inserted in the insertion slots 50 of each side frame member, the insertion of the panel 46 in the insertion slot of the top frame member 58 serves to secure and “lock down”the panels 46 of the side frame members 38, thereby preventing unauthorized removal of the panels 46 of the side frame members 38.
  • [0062]
    As discussed above, the panels 46 can be in operational communication with a locking mechanism 72. In the embodiment of FIG. 13, such a locking mechanism 72 can prevent removal of the panel 46 of the top frame member 58. Therefore, since the panel 46 of the top frame member 58 locks down the panels 46 of each side frame member 38, and the panel of the top frame member 58 is locked by the locking mechanism 72, the enclosed housing 66 is secure from unauthorized intrusion.
  • [0063]
    In order to inspect the contents of the housing 66 by an authorized person, the modular support member 12 need merely be slid partially out of the receiving area 18 of the frame 14, the locking mechanism 72 unlocked, and the panel 46 of the top frame member 58 slid away. In this embodiment, the locking mechanism 72 would only be disposed on the accessible side of the top frame member 58, such that the panel 46 of the top frame member 58 could be slid away and in towards the receiving area 18 for inspection purposes. Further, in such an arrangement, once the panel 46 of the top frame member 58 is slid at least partially away, at least one panel 46 of the side frame members 38 could be slid up at least partially through the insertion slot 50, thereby providing additional visible and physical access to the items 200 in the enclosed housing 66.
  • [0064]
    Also, as seen in FIG. 13, the top panel member 58 could include extension portions 90 that extend beyond the side walls 48 of the enclosed housing 66 or frame 44. These extension portions 90 could serve to protect the modular support member 12 from damage, and effectively act as “bumpers” to absorb detrimental contact. It is also envisioned that the base member 32 can include these extension portions or “bumpers” for the same reason. These extension portions 90 provide additional safety and damage-resistant measures to the modular support member 12.
  • [0065]
    A still further attachment structure 60 for use in connection the top frame member 58 to the side frame members 38 is illustrated in FIG. 14. As illustrated in this embodiment, the tongue-and-groove configuration is utilized. In particular, the shaped tongue 68 is positioned on the upper edge 62 of at least one (and preferably two) of the side frame members 38. This tongue 68 is sized and shaped so as to be insertable within and along a shaped groove 70 extending along a bottom surface of the top frame member 58. Also as discussed above in connection with the embodiment of FIG. 13, the panel 46 is used to “lock down” the panels 46 of the side frame members 38. Further, a locking mechanism 72 could be used on one or both sides of the panel 46 or the top frame member 38 for preventing detachment of the attachment structure 60 (tongue 68 and groove 70) and/or for locking the panel 46 within the top frame member 58. Still further, in this embodiment, the insertion slot 50 of these side frame members 38 would extend through the shaped tongue 68 and into the side frame member 38. Of course, it is envisioned that the attachment structure 60 can be the above-discussed latching system, magnetic system, mechanical linkage, etc.
  • [0066]
    One specialized use of the modular shipping system 10 and modular shipping unit 16 of the present invention is the armed forces' desire for modular, interlocking and palletized containers that, when joined together, form a twenty-foot ISO-equivalent unit or TEU. Generally, the requirement is that the matrix should be at least two across, two high and four deep or 2×2×4=16 units/TEU. As discussed above, each modular support member 12 can be used as an individual pallet or support area, as well as an aggregate modular shipping unit 16. In one embodiment, each modular support member 12 will have a tare weight equal to or less than 450 pounds, and each modular container will allow four-way forklift access (via the gaps 23) and support a maximum payload of up to 3,000 pounds.
  • [0067]
    In one embodiment, and when the modular support members 12 are inserted into the frame 14, the modular support members 12 may interlock top to bottom, such as by using the locking mechanism 72, and this interlocking will be automatic during the loading process. Other interlocking units can also be attached together using attachment mechanism 20 or locking mechanism 72. In one embodiment, the modular shipping unit 16 will comply with ISO 1496-1 standards, and each modular support member 12 will withstand the rough-handling testing in compliance with IAW Mil-Std-1660. Still further, each modular support member 12 will be transportable via C130, C17 and C5 aircraft without additional platforms, and each member 12 can withstand airdrops.
  • [0068]
    As discussed above, the modular support member 12 represents a novel approach to unitized packaging and shipping. Since the modular support member 12 is disassembleable (as discussed above), each modular support member 12 is capable of being disassembled to approximately 20% of its original dimensions. In one embodiment, the support member 12 is a container that measures 4′×40″×4′, which is a basic design footprint of a standard shipping pallet. In one embodiment, the empty support member 12 weighs 250 pounds, and this support member 12 can function as a simple pallet, a four-sided bin, a secure enclosed box, or as an open-box frame pallet. Further, the modular support member 12 is compatible with standard packaging practices and specifications acceptable to the Department of Defense and its suppliers.
  • [0069]
    In one embodiment, the frame 14 is articulated and is 8′×4′×8′6″, and this frame 14 houses four modular support members 12 therein. In one embodiment, the frame 14 weighs approximately 400 pounds and provides structural support for interlocking support members 12 having a gross weight of 11,400 pounds. Each support member 12 can be accessed from the frame 14 similar to a drawer in a chest of drawers, and the modular support member 12 can be manufactured from a lightweight, hybrid tubular frame, and may incorporate a plastic/metal hybrid matrix to provide strength and reduce overall weight.
  • [0070]
    The modular shipping unit 16 is equivalent to a standard-size TEU or standard shipping container, and the matrix is 2×2×5, which provides twenty modular support members 12. The modular shipping unit 16, in one embodiment, will have a total tare weight of 7,000 pounds, gross weight of 57,000 pounds and a total payload capacity of 50,000 pounds.
  • [0071]
    In another embodiment, the modular support members 12, the frame 14 and/or the modular shipping unit 16 are manufactured from materials that are recyclable. In addition, these materials may be adaptable (or transparent) to radio frequency identification technologies, and may be scannable by X-ray systems. Still further, the various components of the modular shipping system 10 can be manufactured from structural composites, bonding agents and hybrid plastic/metal technology materials that reduce weight and improve strength. The use of specialized materials allows for increased durability against the rigors of a harsh shipping environment, such as elevated temperatures, humidity, shock, vibration, compression, abrasion, etc.
  • [0072]
    For example, by using polyurethanes, the durability of the components of the shipping system 10 is improved. Still further, in special applications, polyurethanes are also abrasion resistant and resistant to penetration of projectiles. Aliphatic polyurethanes can be used and exhibit high strength characteristics. Urethane foams are capable of absorbing high levels of energy, and these urethanes can be reinforced or filled with vermiculite, fiberglass, ceramics, etc. Various composite blends are envisioned, and urethanes also exhibit self-extinguishing and insulative characteristics.
  • [0073]
    The use of the central control device 80, signal emitting device 82, signal receiving device 84, sensor device 86 and other automated functions allow the modular shipping system 10 of the present invention to track, identify, record, distribute, prompt and alert in real time. In addition, these devices allow for: (i) air sampling of cargo containers; (ii) sensing and monitoring of temperature, pressure and vibration of cargo; (iii) activation and release of locking mechanisms 72; (iv) location of individual modular support members 12; (v) inventory or item 200 tracking; (vi) real-time processing of shipping and receiving documents, etc.
  • [0074]
    Since the modular shipping unit 16 can be broken down into individual modular support members 12, a more economical shipment process is provided, such that less-than-truckload quantities can be shipped, loaded and unloaded without a predetermined loading sequence. In one embodiment, each modular support member 12 is embedded with a distinct passive RFID tag, and the support member 12 is transparent to X-ray and other screening technology used by Customs and Border Patrol. Accordingly, the modular shipping unit 16 can be more easily screened and cleared at border crossings, since each modular support member 12 is independently accessible.
  • [0075]
    In addition, the use of the RFID-enabled modular shipping unit 16 allows for the precise location and parametrics of items 200 and cargo positioned within the unit 16 at any time. This, in turn, allows a substantial reduction in manpower and resources devoted to cargo checking, surveillance monitoring and response teams for emergency situations. In addition, the central control device 80 and/or each individual modular shipping unit 16 or modular support member 12 can be equipped with the appropriate identification technology to monitor the accumulated contents, provide tamperproof/alert surveillance, monitor embedded sensors, etc. In addition, due to the unitized nature of the modular shipping system 10 of the present invention, the items 200 in each individual modular support member 12 are known, as well as the storage position in the frame 14 and in modular shipping unit 16. Therefore, this allows for the prompt removal of any individual piece of cargo or item 200, if required.
  • [0076]
    In this manner, a modular shipping system 10 is provided that overcomes many of the deficiencies of the prior art. For example, the design of the present modular shipping unit 16 creates an additional 200 cubic feet of space by extending the height from 6′10″ to 8′6″. The modular support members 12 are designed or dimensioned identically to a standard, or to accept such a pallet, which permits better allocation of space and distribution of cargo. Each modular support member 12 is designed to handle a 2,500-pound payload, which permits better distribution of weight. The use of the central control device 80 and signal receiving device 84 allows for the required Total Asset Visibility, and further, the components of the system 10 may be created to be transparent to scanning technologies for inspection purposes. Numerous other benefits are provided by the modular shipping system 10 of the present invention.
  • [0077]
    Following are various examples that illustrate the benefits of the present invention. In particular, the modular shipping unit 16 is easily “broken down” into the various modular support members 12, which can then be conveniently and efficiently transported by highway, rail, air and sea-based transportation. With specific reference to the “armed forces” application, various examples of transportation scenarios follow, each of which discuss the critical footprints and cargo capacities of each transportation type.
  • [0000]
    Scenario 1: Humvee
  • [0078]
    The Humvee, M1113, is the basic replacement for the Jeep as a primary workhorse in the Army. Its basic cargo footprint is 52 inches wide and 84.3 inches long. It has a payload capacity of 5,100 pounds, and using the present invention, the Humvee can handle two fully-loaded modular support members 12, or at a reduced weight, it can handle a four-member loaded frame 14.
  • [0000]
    Scenario 2: Huey Helicoptor
  • [0079]
    The Huey, UH-1N, is the primary workhorse for search and rescue, medical evacuations and re-supply operations. The Huey has a large-capacity cabin with two full-size sliding doors, which permit pass-through access. Its basic dimensions are 57′ long, 9′ wide and 12′ high, and the Huey has a maximum gross weight of 10,000 pounds when flying at a 10,000-foot altitude. It is assumed to have a payload capacity of 5,000 pounds. Accordingly, the Huey can transport two fully-loaded modular support members 12 and potentially up to four modular support members 12 (such as in a frame 14) at reduced weights.
  • [0000]
    Scenario 3: C17 Aircraft
  • [0080]
    The C17 Globemaster III aircraft is a primary air cargo transport. This aircraft has an airdrop capability of 60,000 to 110,000 pounds, and a maximum payload capacity of approximately 170,000 pounds. Presently, the C17 aircraft can transport eleven Platform 463L pallets for airdrop missions, and a total of eighteen 463L pallets using a cargo handling system. The basic cargo compartment has a loadable width of 18′ and a floor length of 68.2′.
  • [0081]
    The C17 aircraft can handle three sequentially loaded modular shipping units 16 at a full weight of 171,000 pounds or up to eight modular shipping units 16 loaded two abreast and four deep, at a reduced weight. Theoretically, the C17 aircraft could be configured to airdrop the maximum payload of 171,000 pounds using the present modular shipping unit 16 configuration.
  • [0000]
    Scenario 4: Platform 463L
  • [0082]
    The Platform 463L is the current standard platform used for palletizing for airlift, and is used extensively in the armed forces. This platform is 108″ long and 80″ wide, and has a usable cargo area dimensions of 104″ and 80″. Two frames 14, or eight modular support members 12, can be placed in the footprint of the Platform 463L for a total dimension of 96″ in length, 80″ in width and 102″ in height. In using the modular support members 12 of the present invention in the frames 14, no additional platforms are required for shipping via various vehicles, such as the C17 aircraft. Further, each frame 14 is interlocking and self-supporting.
  • [0083]
    Overall, the present invention provides a modular shipping system 10 that overcomes the deficiencies of the prior art. The modular support unit 16, as well as its components and sub-components, are flexible, lightweight and easy to package, ship, deploy and manipulate. The modular support members 12, as well as the frames 14, are interlocking, and the modular shipping system 10 includes the integration of appropriate technologies for identification and tracking of the components of the system 10, as well as the items 200 supported on the modular support members 12. The components and sub-components of the modular shipping unit 16 can be manufactured from a variety of materials to achieve the desired functionality, and various environmental and other conditions associated with the unit 16 can be monitored or sensed and transmitted to some central control device 80. In summary, the modular shipping system 10 provides a novel and innovative “modular” approach to shipping, packaging, transporting and displaying various items 200.
  • [0084]
    Although the invention has been described in detail for the purpose of illustration based on what is currently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiments, it is to be understood that such detail is solely for that purpose and that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments, but, on the contrary, is intended to cover modifications and equivalent arrangements that are within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. For example, it is to be understood that the present invention contemplates that, to the extent possible, one or more features of any embodiment can be combined with one or more features of any other embodiment.
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Classifications
Classification aux États-Unis220/1.5
Classification internationaleB65D88/00
Classification coopérativeB65D90/023, B65D90/0006, B65D88/129
Classification européenneB65D90/00B, B65D88/12F, B65D90/02D
Événements juridiques
DateCodeÉvénementDescription
9 déc. 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: INTELIGISTICS, INC., PENNSYLVANIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:MANDAVA, PANDURANGO RAO;REEL/FRAME:021948/0081
Effective date: 20081206