Patent application title: CONTAINERS
Alex Pidgley (Berkshire, GB)
Steven John Burge (Somerset, GB)
IPC8 Class: AB65D8530FI
Class name: Special receptacle or package for a household appliance
Publication date: 2009-09-17
Patent application number: 20090230006
Patent application title: CONTAINERS
Steven John Burge
NIXON & VANDERHYE, PC
Origin: ARLINGTON, VA US
IPC8 Class: AB65D8530FI
A container is provided having cushioning means which define at least in
part a protected region for receiving an article such as a lap-top
computer. The dimensions of the protected region are adjustable and the
position of the cushioning means can be adjusted with the article in
situ. The container can thereby actively provide the article with an
optimised protected region which can confirm closely to articles of
41. A container having cushioning means which defines at least in part a protected region for protecting the contents thereof against damage, at least part of the cushioning means is movable to adjust the dimensions of the protected region, in which there is provided means for biasing the movable cushioning means towards the contents in use.
42. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the movable cushioning means is movable for compression against the contents so that the protected region can be tightened, in use, with the contents in place.
43. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the cushioning means is biased towards a contracted position and movable towards an expanded position against the biasing means.
44. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the container comprises two major opposite faces and the cushioning means is positioned between the opposite faces.
45. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the container is an insert for a primary container.
46. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the container is formed as a sleeve.
47. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the cushioning means comprise two or more cushioning units movable relative to each other.
48. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the cushioning means comprise a pair of L-shape cushioning units.
49. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the cushioning means comprise one or a plurality of enclosed volumes housing a fluid and defined by an at least partly resilient envelope.
50. A container as claimed in claim 49, in which the fluid is retained in the envelope under pressure.
51. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the cushioning means incorporates at least two different cushioning materials, said two materials having different physical properties.
52. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which at least part of the cushioning means is formed as a separate and removable insert which can be fitted to and removed from the container.
53. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which at least part of the cushioning means is formed integrally as part of the structure of the container.
54. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which at least part of the cushioning means is adjustable laterally within the container.
55. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which at least part of the cushioning means is adjustable longitudinally within the container.
56. A container as claimed in claim 41, in which the container includes one or more panels and the cushioning means are adjustable in one or more directions parallel to the panel/s.
57. A laptop computer container comprising or including a container according claim 41.
58. A storage member for a laptop computer container, the member comprising one or more storage areas and having releasable attachment means for attachment to a container.
59. A storage member as claimed in claim 58, in which the releasable attachment means comprise a hook and loop fastener.
60. A storage member as claimed in claim 58, in which the storage member is formed at least in part from a waterproof material.
61. A storage member as claimed in claim 58, in which the storage member is waterproof.
62. A storage member as claimed in claim 58, in which the storage areas comprise one or more pockets.
The present invention relates generally to containers and
particularly, although not exclusively, to containers formed as cases or
holders for conveying articles or equipment. The container of the
invention may be formed as an insert for a carrying case for electronic
or electrical equipment. The present invention finds particular, although
not exclusive, application in the structure of a carrying case for a
In recent times the prevalence of the so-called lap-top or portable computers has increased greatly, and many people find it a great convenience to be able to carry a small, portable computer from one work place to another, or between their place of work and home, to allow them greater freedom and flexibility in organising their working life. Computers, however, are relatively shock-sensitive items of high value which must be treated with care in order to preserve their functionality. Such shocks and impacts would at least damage or distort their casing, and at worst cause internal damage possibly resulting in malfunction or even total breakdown of the computer.
Specialist luggage in the form of carrying cases for computers is available on the market, and this very often incorporates padded or lined wall structures which serve at least to some extent to absorb impacts or shocks encountered during travelling, for example should the user place the computer in its carrying case heavily on the ground, or even drop it or have it knocked from their grasp.
In known containers the dimensions of the region in to which an article is placed to be protected is fixed. Accordingly the size of the region is set for a particular size of article. In order to function optimally the dimensions of the protected region are closely matched to the size of the article so that potentially damaging movement is prevented.
The present invention seeks to provide a container, suitable for, but not exclusively for, carrying computers, sensitive electronic equipment, medical equipment, cameras, sports equipment, musical instruments, fragile contents, portable screens, glass items and the like shock-sensitive equipment or contents.
According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a container having cushioning means which define at least in part a protected region for protecting the contents of the container against damage, in which the dimensions of the protected region are adjustable.
The present invention therefore provides a container in which the protected region can be adapted for differently sized articles. This therefore avoids the requirement for multiple containers if different articles are to be accommodated.
The container may comprise a protection system which is `active`. By this is meant that the protected region of the container can adapt to differently sized contents and can be moved to abut and press firmly against the contents.
The cushioning means may be biased towards a contracted position and movable towards an expanded position.
The container may be constructed so that the protected region can be tightened, in use, with the contents in place. There may be provided tensioning means for applying tension to the cushioning means within the protected region. The tightening may be reversible to allow removal of an article.
The dimensions of the protected region may be adjustable, in use, with the contents in situ. This allows the cushioning means to be moved so that they are forced against the contents. In other words, the contents can be placed in the container and then the cushioning means are moveable to hold the contents firmly and `grip` them. Once the cushioning means reach a required position it may be securable in position so that it remains in an optimal maximally contracted position.
The container may be formed as an insert for a primary container. The primary container may also protect the article, or the container may comprise the sole source of protection. For example, the container may be in the form of a sleeve, cradle or sling into which a lap-top computer can be inserted and then the container together with the computer are placed in a protective carrying case.
Alternatively, the container may itself comprise a primary container such as a carrying case within which is formed the adjustable protected region according to the present invention.
The cushioning means may comprise one or more movable cushioning units.
The cushioning means may comprise two or more cushioning units which are movable relative to each other. In this way the dimensions of the protected region can be varied. For example, relative separation and approach of the cushioning units may be used to adjust the width of a protected region.
The cushioning units may be formed as a surround which engage the periphery of an article.
The cushioning means may be movable in one or more planes.
The cushioning means may be fixable in position to set or pre-set the protection region.
The cushioning means may comprise a pair of L-shape cushioning units. When placed together such units can form a generally U-shape sling-like element.
Dependant on the types of article which are to be accommodated by the container one or more dimensions (height, length, width) of the protected region may be variable.
There may be cushioning means provided on some or all faces of a container and the position of some or all of the cushioning units may be adjustable.
The present invention also comprehends a container in the form of a protective insert which can be introduced into otherwise known primary containers (padded or otherwise) for the purpose of increasing the ability of the primary container to absorb shocks and protect the contents held in the insert from impact.
The cushioning means may comprise one or a plurality of enclosed volumes housing a fluid or gel and defined by an at least partly resilient envelope.
One advantage of the use of enclosed volumes for shock absorption lies in the fact that the fluid may be retained in the envelope under pressure, and the appropriate pressure required for specific circumstances may be chosen in dependence on the nature of the contents to be conveyed and the particular form of the envelope.
The enclosed volume/s may comprise sealed units (i.e. permanently inflated) or may comprise units which are inflatable and deflatable.
The enclosed volumes may be formed as separate pockets or enclosures independent from one another and housed within a larger enclosure. The individual envelopes may be of any convenient shape from spherical or tetrahedral to rectangular "cushion-shape" elements, and the larger enclosure within which they are contained may comprise a separate compartment within the container or carrying case. The number of individual elements within a given volume of the larger enclosure will, therefore, determine the size of the larger enclosure and therefore the extent to which it protrudes into a protected region. The number of elements may also determine the degree of resistance to movement of an article since the ability of the separate pockets or envelopes to move in relation to one another will depend on the proportion of the enclosure filled by such elements.
An envelope defining a fluid-containment volume may comprise a layer of flexibly resilient material defining at least one wall of each of a plurality of individual fluid-containment volumes or pockets. Alternatively, the envelope defining the fluid-containment volume may comprise two layers of flexibly resilient material with a plurality of partitions separating the space between them into a plurality of individual fluid-containment volumes.
As well as this, the material from which at least a part of the container is made may itself be formed with one or a plurality of fluid-containment volumes which receive and retain fluid, preferably but not exclusively under pressure.
An envelope defining the fluid-containment volume may alternatively comprise two layers of flexibly resilient material with a plurality of partitions separating the space between them into a plurality of individual fluid-containment volumes.
At least some of a plurality of fluid-containment volumes may intercommunicate with one another although, alternatively, the volumes may be all entirely independent of one another.
In view of its intended use to absorb impacts and shocks, the volume envelopes are preferably made of a material sufficiently resistant to tearing or rupture as to be substantially non-rupturable in use.
The term "fluid" is to be understood to include (but without limitation) gas, liquid or gel. Of course other materials, including solids and semi-solids, could also be used to form cushioning means.
The gas within the containment volume is conveniently air but other gases may be used if preferred or if their particular properties lend themselves to such use.
The gel may be any semi-solid colloidal solution or jelly, although certain properties are seen as advantageous.
In one embodiment the gel of choice may exhibit inverse thixotropic properties upon experiencing shock loading.
The gel may include a coloured dye. This may be especially desirable when used in combination with a container having transparent sections that expose the cushioning means. Further, the colour of the coloured dye may be indicative of properties of the gel.
The cushioning means may incorporate at least two different cushioning materials, the said two materials having different physical properties.
The cushioning materials may be housed together or separately in one or more enclosed volumes. The cushioning materials may comprise a solid, semi-solid liquid, gas or gel material.
The at least two different cushioning materials may comprise: air and gel; air and foam; gel and foam; or air, gel and foam.
The cushioning means may be formed as a separate and removable insert which can be fitted to and removed from the container. Alternatively, the cushioning means may be formed integrally as part of the structure of the container.
The cushioning means may be formed integrally as part of the structure of the container.
The cushioning means may be formed as a separate and removable insert which can be fitted to and removed from the container. Such an insert may be formed as a shaped element, for example at least partly conformed to the shape of the intended components (which is especially useful in the case of dedicated computer cases) and separated into the plurality of individual compartments.
In embodiments where the cushioning means is formed from a self-supporting material, such as foam, a resilient envelope may not necessarily be employed. However, even in such cases an envelope may still be employed for purposes such as protecting the cushioning material and concealing it from view.
The container may further comprise a restraining strap to secure a contained item within the container.
The position of the cushioning means relative to the remainder of the container may be adjustable to allow alteration of the dimensions of the protected region. Alternatively or additionally the size of the cushioning means and/or the extent to which it protrudes into a protection region may be variable.
According to a further aspect of the present invention there is provided a lap-top computer protection means comprising a container as described herein.
According to a further aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of protecting an item comprising the steps of placing the item in a protective insert container and placing the insert container in a primary container.
According to an alternative aspect of the present invention there is provided a storage member for a container, the storage member comprising one or more storage areas and having releasable attachment means for attachment to a container.
By providing a separate storage member which is releasably connectable to a container the storage member can be transported together with the container and then removed and used separately.
The storage areas may comprise, for example, pockets, zipped pockets, slots or flaps.
The releasable attachment means may comprise a hook and loop fastener arrangement such as Velcro (RTM). Alternative releasable attachment means comprise, for example, clips, hooks or clamps. The form of the attachment means should be such that the storage number can quickly and easily be attached and detached for transportation or use.
The storage member may be adapted to be resistant to one or more factors. For example, the storage member may be formed so as to be fireproof, bulletproof or shockproof.
The storage member may be waterproof and such or may include a portion which is waterproof. Accordingly, at least a part of the storage number may be formed from or coated with a waterproof material.
The present invention will now be more particularly described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container in the form of a protective sleeve and shown in a contracted position;
FIG. 2 is a plan view of the protective sleeve of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 shows two L-shape cushioning units forming part of the sleeve shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the sleeve shown in FIG. 1 in an expanded position;
FIG. 5 is a plan view of the sleeve shown in FIG. 4;
FIG. 6 shows the cushioning units of FIG. 3 in a spaced apart relationship;
FIGS. 7A to 7C illustrate how the insert shown in FIGS. 1 to 6 moves from a contracted position to an expanded position upon insertion of an article to be protected;
FIGS. 8A to 8E show a container formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 9 is a section of a container having cushioning units formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 10 illustrates the movement of a base unit forming part of the container shown in FIG. 9;
FIG. 11 is a plan view of the container shown in FIGS. 9 and 10 with lateral cushioning units shown in an outermost position;
FIG. 12 is a plan view of the container shown in FIG. 11 with the cushioning units shown following an inner translational movement;
FIG. 13 is a perspective partial section of the container shown in FIGS. 9 to 12 illustrating the movement of a base cushioning unit;
FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a container formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 14 shown with a front, cover section removed to reveal the structure of a base section;
FIG. 16 is a section of a cushioning unit forming part of the container of FIG. 14;
FIG. 17 is a front view of the cover section of FIG. 16 shown attached to the base section;
FIG. 18 is a front view of a container formed according to an alternative embodiment shown in a contracted configuration;
FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 18 shown inserted in a further container;
FIG. 20 is a front view of the container of FIG. 18 shown in an expanded configuration;
FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the container of FIG. 20 shown inserted in the further container shown in FIG. 19;
FIG. 22 is a top perspective view of a container formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 23 is a bottom perspective view of FIG. 22;
FIG. 24 is a top perspective view of the container shown in FIGS. 22 and 23 shown in an open position;
FIG. 25 is a bottom perspective view of the container of FIGS. 22 to 24 shown with lateral flaps in an open position;
FIG. 26 is a section of a zipper member used to close the lateral flaps shown in FIG. 25;
FIG. 27 is an exploded section of the cushioning unit for use in conjunction with the container shown in FIGS. 22 to 25;
FIG. 28 is a section of the cushioning unit of FIG. 27 shown assembled in an in-use configuration;
FIG. 29 is a perspective view of a cushioning insert incorporating the cushioning unit of FIG. 28;
FIGS. 30A to 30C illustrate the steps in incorporating the insert of FIG. 29 into the container of FIGS. 22 to 25;
FIG. 31 is a perspective view of a protective sleeve of the type shown in FIGS. 1 to 7 shown inserted into a carrying case;
FIG. 32A is a plan view of a carrying case container formed according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention shown accommodating a first, larger item;
FIG. 32B is a plan view of the carrying case shown in FIG. 32A adapted to accommodate a second, smaller item;
FIG. 33 is a perspective view of a carrying case container formed with an inflatable cushioning element;
FIG. 34 is a section of a wall forming part of a container according to the present invention;
FIG. 35 is a perspective view of a cushioning unit formed according to the present invention;
FIG. 36 is a section of the cushioning unit of FIG. 35 taken along line XXXVI-XXXVI;
FIG. 37 is a front view of a storage member formed according to an alternative aspect of the present invention;
FIG. 38 is a rear view of the storage member shown in FIG. 37;
FIG. 39 is a side view of the storage member shown in FIGS. 37 and 38;
FIG. 40 is an underplan view of the storage member shown in FIGS. 37 to 39;
FIG. 41 is a front view of a storage member formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 42 is a perspective view of the storage member shown in FIG. 41;
FIG. 43 is a perspective view of a storage member formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 44 is a perspective view of a storage member formed according to an alternative embodiment;
FIG. 45 is an exploded schematic view of the storage member shown in FIG. 44;
FIG. 46 is a plan view of an insert layer forming part of the storage member shown in FIG. 45; and
FIG. 47 is a plan view of a rear panel shown in FIG. 45 incorporating the inserts shown in FIG. 46.
Referring first to FIGS. 1 to 3 there is shown a container generally indicated 10 in the form of a protective sleeve.
The container 10 comprises front and rear panels 11, 12. The panels 11, 12 are generally square and have opposite upper and lower sides 11a, 11b and opposite lateral sides 11c, 11d (only panel 11 is described in detail below).
The panels 11, 12 are spaced by two opposing L-shape cushioning units 15, 16. The cushioning units 15, 16 are formed as tubular envelopes housing pressurised air.
The L-shape cushioning units 15, 16 each comprise a longer leg 15a, 16a and a shorter leg 15b, 16b.
The L-shape is formed by bending the tubes to form comers 15c, 16c.
The longer leg 15a of the unit 15 runs along the length of the lateral side 11c of the panel 11 (and therefore along the corresponding side of the panel 12). The corner 15c of the unit 15 corresponds to the intersection of the lateral side 11c and the lower side 11b of the panel 11. The shorter leg 15b continues from the corner 15c alongside the lower side 11b to approximately the mid-point of the lower side 11b. The unit 16 is arranged in exactly the same way as the unit 15 in that it runs alongside the lateral side 11d and to the mid-point of the lower side 11b at which point the shorter leg 16b meets the shorter leg 15b.
The panels 11, 12 are joined along their lower sides by a U-shape strap 20 and at the bottom of the lateral sides by U-shape straps 21, 22. The straps 20, 21, 22 are formed from an elastic material. In addition, towards the top of the upper side 11a the exterior side of the panel 11 is provided with two loops 23, 24 at either lateral side. The panel 12 is provided with corresponding loops (not shown) and between each pair of loops on the panels 11, 12 a strap 25, 26 is passed. At each end of the straps 25, 26 is an enlarged head 27, 28 each of which has a projecting nose portion 27a, 28a which prevents their heads 27, 28 from passing through the loops 23, 24. In the configuration shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 the length of the straps 25, 26 is such that there is an excess of material and the heads 27, 28 are pulled through the loops 23, 24.
The panel 11 is provided with a fastener 29 in the form of hook and loop fastener. The panel 12 is provided with a flap 30 which can be pulled over onto the panel 11 where it can be attached to the fastener 29 as shown in FIG. 2.
Referring now to FIGS. 4 to 6 the container 10 illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 3 is shown in an expanded configuration with a protected region of increased dimensions.
The increase in dimensions of the protected area is achieved by relative separation of the two L-shape cushioning units 15, 16. The movement of the units 15, 16 causes the straps 21, 22 to be stretched and causes the straps 25, 26 to be pulled through the loops 23, 24 to the point at which the nose portions 27a, 28a abut against the loops 23, 24 and restrict further movement. The shorter leg portions 15b, 16b of the units 15, 16 slide on top of the strap 20. The extent of the strap 20 is such that the ends of the portions 15b, 16b are retained in the expanded configuration.
The longer leg portions 15a, 16a of the units 15, 16 are connected to respective lateral sides of the panels 11, 12 by gusset members 13, 14. The gusset members 13, 14 extend between the panels 11, 12 and are joined at approximately their mid-point to the portions 15a, 16a. The gusset portions 13, 14 allow the inward and outward movement of the units 15, 16 whilst remaining attached to the panels 11, 12.
According to the principles described in relation to FIGS. 1 to 6 a container can be moved between expanded and contracted positions and placed at any position intermediate the expanded and contracted positions to accommodate articles of differing sizes. The heads 27, 28 may have attachment means for attachment to the panels once the required separation of the cushioning units has been selected to hold the container stably in position.
Referring now to FIGS. 7A to 7C the movement of the container 10 between the contracted and expanded positions is illustrated.
In FIG. 7A the container 10 is shown in the contracted position illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 3 in which the cushioning units 15, 16 are adjacent each other. In order for an article having a width greater than that defined between the portions 15a, 16a the top opening defined between the panels 11, 12 is widened. The opening is widened by moving the free ends of the leg portions 15a, 16a away from each other. Accordingly the leg portions 15a, 16a pivot about the corners 15c, 16c so that they are inclined as shown in FIG. 7B. In this position the straps 25, 26 are moved through the loops 23, 24 to the maximum extent so that the nose portions 27a, 28a abut against the loops 23, 24. In addition, the gussets 13, 14 move outwardly with the portions 15a, 16a.
Once the position shown in FIG. 7B has been achieved an article can be lowered through the opening between the panels 11, 12 and as such the article will slide down the inside of the gussets 13, 14, pushing on the leg portions 15a, 16a progressively so that the leg portions 15b, 16b are pulled apart and the leg portions 15a, 16a assume the parallel configuration shown in FIG. 7c against the resilience of the straps 21, 22. The relative maximum expanded positions of the cushioning units could be pre-set by fixing the heads in position prior to insertion of an article. Alternatively, an article could be inserted into the container and then the straps could be moved to pull the cushioning units inwards before securing the straps. This forces the units against the article and holds it firmly in place. Once the article is maximally inserted the flap 30 can be pulled over the opening and secured to the fastener 29 of the panel 11 as shown in FIG. 7c.
Referring now to FIGS. 8A to 8B there is shown a container 110 formed according to an alternative embodiment
The container 110 comprises a generally C-shape (in section) foam padded front panel 111 and a generally rectangular foam padded rear panel 112. The container is open at one end and closed at the other by a base panel 112a.
Within the interior of the container 110 are two opposing L-shape cushioning units 115, 116 movable between expanded positions shown in FIGS. 8B and 8C and contracted positions shown in FIGS. 8D and 8E.
The cushioning units 115, 116 are connected to the front panel by fabric straps 121, 122 which are stitched to the front panel 111 at the open end of the container. The straps 121, 122 are flexible and can crumple into expansion gaps 121a, 122a formed between the front panel 111 and the longer leg portions 115a, 116a of the units 115, 116.
The front panel has two eyelets 104 through which are threaded fastening straps 125, 126. The straps 125, 126 pass into the interior of the container around the sides of the longer leg portions 115a, 116a and are attached to the interior face of the rear panel 112.
The straps 125, 126 can move freely through the eyelets 1034 from the position shown in FIGS. 8B and 8C to the position shown in FIGS. 8D and 8E.
Because the straps 125, 126 are fixed to the rear panel 112, when they are pulled through the eyelets in the direction illustrated in Figures SD and 8E, they cause the units 115, 116 to be pulled inwards. Similarly the straps 125, 126 can pass back through the eyelets 104 to allow the units to expand into the gaps 121a, 122a as shown in FIGS. 8B and 8C.
The straps 125, 126 are backed with hook and loop fasteners and the exterior face of the front panel 111 has corresponding hook and loop fastener patches 125a, 126a. Accordingly an article can be placed in the container 110 and thereafter the straps 125a, 126a can be pulled through the eyelets 104 to cause the units 115, 116 to be moved inwards until they are compressed against the article. When the units 115, 116 are moved to a maximum contracted position (defined by the article) the straps 125, 126 are secured in position to the patches 125a, 126a.
A retaining strap 127 extends between the panels 111, 112. The strap 127 is fixed to the rear panel 112 and releasably fixed to the front panel 111. This allows the strap to be released and pulled over the top of an article, then fixed to the front panel 111 to hold the article in place.
To remove the article this process is reversed to release the "gripping" forces provided by the units 115, 116.
In this way the container provides "active" protection of an article. Not only is the position of the protective material adjustable, but it is actively moveable to engage the article and in a sense apply a clamping force which means the cushioning units confirm to the article i.e. it is a snug fit. It is particularly advantageous to be able to adjust the dimensions of the interior of the container with the article in situ because there is no requirement to pre-set the dimension (which may not be accurate) for a particular article.
FIGS. 9 to 13 show a container 210 formed according to an alternative embodiment. The container 210 comprises a flat rear panel 212 and a front panel 211 having a shallow elongated U-shape in section (as shown best in FIGS. 11 and 12). A top flap 236 (see FIG. 9) can be used to open and close the container.
The interior of the container 210 includes two generally cylindrical lateral cushioning units 215, 216 and a cylindrical base cushioning unit 217. The flap 236 includes a fixed cushioning unit 218. Each of the units 215, 216, 217, 218 comprises a gel-filled bag.
The lateral units 215, 216 are independently laterally movable within the container interior and the base unit 217 is moveable up and down independently of the lateral units to allow the shape, size and position of a protected region to be adjusted.
In order to allow the base unit 217 to be lifted a fabric tab 219 is provided (see FIGS. 10 and 13) and is connected at one end to the unit 218. The other end of the tab 219 extends out of the container to allow it to be grasped (see FIG. 10) and can be secured in position following use (see FIG. 13) by releasable attachment means such as velcro (RTM). The tab can be lifted after an item has been placed in the container so that the base 217 is lifted sufficiently for the item to be held tightly between the base 217 and fixed 218 units.
FIGS. 14 to 17 show a container 310 formed according to an alternative embodiment.
The container 310 comprises a flat rear panel 312 and a front panel 311 having a shallow elongated U-shape in section.
The rear panel 312 incorporates a U-shape cushioning unit 301 having side sections 301a, 301b and a base section 302 extending along the sides and bottom of the panel 312.
The unit 301 is retained on the panel by a U-shape base strap 320 and two lateral elastic straps 321, 322. In addition, two lateral elastic restraining chords 303a, 303b are attached to the panel 312 and pass around the free ends of the unit 301. The chords 303a, 303b are passed through eyelets 304 in the front panel 311 and held together by a clip 305 having hooks at opposing ends.
The unit 301 is shown in more detail in FIG. 16 and comprises a generally cylindrical body formed from plastics material.
The base section 302 is corrugated which allows its length to be changed so that the side sections 301a, 301b can be moved towards and away from each other as shown by the arrows.
In use when the side sections 301a, 301b can be forced apart against the resilience of the straps 321, 322 and the chords 303a, 303b as the base section 302 expands and flattens to increase the area of a protected region.
The base panel 312 extends beyond the open end of the front panel 311 as a result of a trapezoidal extension section 31 le having a central opening 31 if which allows the container 310 to be attached to a hook or the like, for example for display purposes.
Referring now to FIGS. 18 to 21 there is shown a container 410 according to an alternative embodiment.
The container 410 comprises a base 405a which supports a body 405b which is generally oval in section. The body 405b comprises two spaced lateral panels 405c, 405d joined at their end by central panels 405e, 405f.
The bights of the U-shape panels 405c, 405d accommodate generally cylindrical cushioning units 415, 416.
The base 405a and panels 405c, 405d are formed from an elastic material. The central panels 405e, 405f are formed from an inelastic material. Accordingly the cushioning units 415, 416 can be moved from the contracted position shown in FIGS. 18 and 19 to the expanded position shown in FIGS. 20 and 21 by stretching the sections 405c, 405d and base 405a. The stretching of the sections 405c, 405d is facilitated by loops 405g situated at the open end of the bights of the sections 405c, 405d to allow them to be pulled apart.
The base 405a is fixed in position and the cushioning units 415, 416 can be moved laterally to allow the width of the container 410 to be stretched outwardly when an item is introduced and then return due to the elasticity of the panels 405c, 405d when an item is removed.
In FIGS. 19 and 21 the container 410 is shown inserted into a primary container 435 (the container 435 is represented in terms of its interior space). The container 435 provides a cushioning unit 435a upon which the base 405a rests when the container 410 is inserted. In this embodiment therefore part of the cushioning is provided by the container 410 and part of the cushioning is provided by the primary container 435 into which the container 410 is inserted.
Referring now to FIGS. 22 to 30 there is shown a container and a cushioning insert for a container according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
Referring first to FIGS. 22 to 25 there is shown a container 510. The container 510 comprises generally rectangular front and rear panels 511, 512 having opposite upper and lower sides 511a, 511b and opposite lateral sides 511c, 511d (only panel 511 is described in detail below as the two halves of the container 510 are identical).
A sling 506 formed from neoprene extends along the sides 511b, 511c, 511d, in a generally U-shape configuration and is fixed to the panels 511, 512, in this embodiment by stitching.
The sling 506 comprises lateral sections 506a, 506b and a base section 506c. Windows 506d, 506e are formed at the intersection of the sections 506a, 506b with the base 506c. Windows 506f, 506g are formed approximately mid-way along each of the lateral section 506a, 506b. A pad 506h is provided approximately mid-way along the base section to give additional strength and to form a gripping area.
A flap 530 is fixed to the rear panel 512 and extends over the opening defined between the sides 511a, 512a of the panels 511,512. The flap 530 includes a hook and eye fastener 530a which can attach to a corresponding fastener 530b on the external face of the panel 511 (see FIG. 24).
Each of the lateral sides 506a, 506b is longitudinally split into two flaps 506a1, 506a2, 506b1, 506b2 (as shown best in FIG. 25). The flaps can be moved between an open position (shown in FIG. 25) and a closed position (shown, for example, in FIG. 24). The flaps can be secured in the closed position by a zipper arrangement 508 shown in more detail in FIG. 26.
The zipper arrangement 508 is formed at the intersection of two flaps 506b1, 506b2. The edges of the flaps 506b1, 506b2 are turned over and co-operating zipper tracks 508a, 508b are stitched to the turned edges so that the tracks are held on the undersides of the flaps. A zipper tab 508c is provided to run on the track 508a. The tab 508c is concealed by the cusp formed between the turned over flap edges so that the zipper arrangement is as inconspicuous as possible.
FIG. 27 shows a cushioning unit 509 formed to fit into the container shown in FIGS. 22 to 26. The unit 509 is made up of five discrete sub-units: two lateral units 509a, 509b; two corner units 509c, 509d; and a base unit 509e. In use the unit 509 is arranged to form a U-shape cushioning structure as shown in FIG. 28 with the sub-units 509a, 509b arranged to lie in the lateral sling sides 506a, 506b, the corner sub-units 509c, 509d arranged to lie at the intersections between the lateral sling sides 506a, 506b and the sling base 506c and the base sub-unit 509e arranged to lie along the sling base 506c.
In order to hold the sub-units of the cushioning unit 509 together and to allow them to move with respect to each other they are held in a neoprene sock 509i shown in FIG. 29.
The installation of the cushioning unit 509 into the contain 510 is illustrated in FIG. 30A to 30C.
In FIG. 30A the container 510 is shown with both pairs of lateral flaps in the open position. A cushioning unit is slid along the sling base 506c until the base 506c is approximately half way along the length of the unit 509.
In FIG. 30B the lateral sub-units 509a, 509b of the unit 509 are bent upwards and pass between the flaps. Thereafter the flaps are closed and zipped together using the zipper arrangements 508 to complete the installation as shown in FIG. 30C.
Because of the nature of the material from which the container is formed and the structure of the cushioning unit, the base can move up and down and both sides can move inwards and outwards to allow adjustment of the protected region inside the container. The resilience of the material from which the container is formed means that it is resiliently biased to a contracted position in which the protected region is at a minimum volume. Inserting an item to be protected forces the protected area to increase only by the extent required and the cushioning material is biased towards the item to ensure a close fit. The protection provided by the container is therefore "active" in that it adapts to the size and shape of an inserted item.
Referring now to FIG. 31 a container 110 of the type shown in FIGS. 1 to 7 is shown in conjunction with a carrying case 135.
The construction of the case 135 is such that it is not the familiar "clam-shell", but rather it is the top wall 136 that carries a handle (not shown) and that serves as the point of access to the interior of the case, being releasably connectable to the side wall 137. Other forms of container, such as backpacks, messenger bags, drop-in cases, trolleys and laptop cases are also compatible with the teachings of the present invention.
The interior of the case 135 houses the insert. The case itself has no specific cushioning means although in other embodiments the case may provide additional protection.
The container is therefore formed as an insert for a primary container in the form of a carry case.
FIGS. 32A and 32B show schematically a container in the form of a carrying case 640 comprising a soft fabric enclosure including two main substantially parallel enclosure side walls 641, 642 and top 643 and bottom 644 walls. The top wall 643 is provided with a carrying handle 648. A rear enclosure panel 645 form a base and a front enclosure panel (not shown) forms a lid. Four flexible pockets 646 are secured in each of the case corners. The pockets 646 can be opened so that fluid-filled envelopes 647 (or other cushioning means such as foam) can be inserted or removed to change the size of the pockets. A resealable pocket opening may be provided for this purpose
FIG. 32A illustrates a lap top computer 650 fitted into the case 640. The computer 650 is preferably larger than the area immediately available between the pockets 646 and so displaces the envelopes; this ensures that the computer is held firmly in position away from the extremities of the case, and is protected at its corners.
In FIG. 32B a lap top computer 651 of smaller dimensions than that shown in FIG. 31 is fitted in the case. In FIG. 32 the pockets have been increased in size by filling more envelopes 647 into each pocket 646 to reduce the dimensions of the protected region in the interior of the case so that the smaller computer can be firmly retained.
Referring now to FIG. 33 a carrying case 740 comprises a soft fabric enclosure having two main substantially parallel major walls 745, 749 one of which, the wall 745 has a surrounding perimetrical edge comprising respective end walls 741, 742 and top and bottom walls 743, 744. The top wall 743 is provided with a carrying handle 748, for which purpose the top wall 743 may be reinforced below by means (not shown) which give it sufficient stiffness to resist the load imposed on it by the handle 748.
It should be appreciated that the material from which the case 740 is made comprises a relatively flexible abrasion-resistant sheet material that may be a woven fabric or natural or artificial fibres, or may be an extruded homogenous material such as a plastics sheet.
The wall 749 has a fabric flap 755 that defines a pocket 756 therein. A generally rectangular laminar panel 757 is formed as an inflatable envelope, and is of sufficient dimension to cover a majority of the wall 749. The panel 757 is inserted into the pocket and the flap 755 is releasably secured to the wall 749 by any convenient means such as hook and eye fasteners. The panel 757 is provided with a valve 758 allowing it to be inflated or deflated. By changing the level of inflation of the panel, and hence the size of the panel, the interior space of the case can be adjusted.
In other embodiments the panel 757 is formed as part of the structure of the container, for example by bonding the panel 757 to the wall 749 or by sewing the panel into the pocket.
Referring now to FIG. 34 cushioning means formed as part of the structure of a movable container wall 860 are illustrated. The upper surface of the wall 860 is composed of a plurality of individual envelopes or pockets 861 each having a rectangular plan form, and each being substantially independent from its neighbours and secured to the underlying wall by welding, adhesive or other suitable means. The envelopes 861 may alternatively be integrally formed with the wall so that no separate bonding of edges is required. The envelopes 861 have respective domed tops 862 and define a containment volume 863 within which is housed gas under pressure. The array of domed tops 864 form a substantially continuous (although in practice discontinuous) support surface for an item to be carried in a container, such as a portable or lap top computer. The resiliently flexible laminar material of which the envelopes 861 are composed allows the enclosed volumes 863 to change shape when the shape of the envelope 861 is distorted, for example due to pressure by contact with an applied force. Compression of the gas within the containment volume 863 allows the element as a whole to absorb the shocks and impacts to which the wall 860 may be subject in use, especially if, for example, the container were dropped whilst housing a relatively heavy computer. The container wall 860 is adapted to be movable relative to a protected region it partly defines so as to change the dimensions of the region.
Referring now to FIGS. 35 and 36 a cushioning insert element comprising cushioning means suitable for use in a container according to the present invention is illustrated. The element 965 comprises substantially parallel upper and lower major faces 966, 967, end walls 968, 969 and longitudinal side walls 970, 971. The major faces 966, 967 exhibit an array of slight bulges 972.
The internal structure of the element 965 can be seen in FIG. 36. The major faces 966, 967 are spanned by a plurality of transverse partitions 973 and longitudinal partitions 974 separating the interior volume of the element 965 into a plurality of cells or pockets 975, each of which contains a gas (preferably air) under pressure. In other embodiments (not shown) cushioning elements are provided on all faces of the container.
In use the cushion element 965 acts as a resilient mattress to cushion any impact to which the container may be subject in use, for example by being set down heavily or by being dropped, thereby absorbing the shock of impact and protecting the interior contents, which typically may be a computer as discussed above, from damage.
Referring now to FIGS. 37 to 40 there is shown a storage member generally indicated 1070 formed according to an alternative aspect of the present invention.
The storage member 1070 comprises a generally rectangular wallet-or case-type article.
The storage member comprises a base panel 1071 of an elongate oval shape. Extending from the two rectilinear sides of the base 1071 are a front and rear panel 1072, 1073 which converge to give a frusto-conical section defining an opening opposite the base 1071. A zipper track 1074 traverses the opening between the upper ends of the panels 1072, 1073 so that the interior of the storage member 1070 can be accessed. The panels 1072, 1073 are joined by end panels 1075 (only one is shown in FIG. 39) which are gusseted to allow for expansion if required.
The rear panel is provided with a fastener element 1076 in the form of a hook and loop fastener adapted for attachment to a co-operating fastener on a container (not shown) such as a lap top computer case, briefcase, suitcase or the like. The fastener element 1076 is a releasable fastener so that the storage member 1070 can be easily attached and detached as required. In addition, the rear panel 1073 is provided with two loops 1077, 1078 which can be hooked over suitable projections or the like on a container for increased stability.
Referring now to FIG. 41 there is shown a storage member 1170 formed according-to an alternative embodiment.
The storage member 1170 is very similar to the storage member 1170 shown in FIGS. 37 and 38 except that the front panel 1173 is provided with additional storage areas. The storage areas comprise a zipped pocket 1178, pockets 1179 with openings covered by flaps, slots 1180 for receiving credit cards or business cards, an open pocket 1181 for receiving airline tickets 1182 and the like and a pen/pencil holder 1183.
Referring now to FIG. 42 there is shown a storage member 1270 formed according to an alternative embodiment. The storage member 1270 comprises a front and rear panel 1272, 1273 joined together to give a gusseted arrangement along their two lateral sides. The upper sides of the panels 1272, 1273 form an opening for receiving documents or other articles. The front panel 1272 is provided with further storage areas in the form of credit card slots 1280, a pocket 1281 for receiving airline tickets 1282 and the like and a pen/pencil holder 1283.
Referring now to FIG. 43 there is shown a storage member 1370 formed according to an alternative embodiment.
The storage member 1370 comprises a base 1371 with two upstanding enclosure panels 1372, 1373. Opposite the base 1371 the panels 1372, 1373 define a generally U-shape opening along which runs a zipper track 1374. Attachment loops 1377, 1378 are provided on the rear panel 1373 for attachment to a container. Additional releasable attachment means in the form of hook and loop fasteners, clips or the like may also be provided. In this embodiment, the material from which the base 1371 and panels 1372, 1373 are formed is waterproof so that the storage member 1370 is waterproof. The zip arrangement 1374 is also capable of preventing the ingress of water to the interior of the storage member 1370.
Referring now to FIG. 44, a storage member 1470 formed according to an alternative embodiment is shown.
The storage member 1470 comprises a front and rear panel 1472, 1473 permanently joined around their perimetral edges with the exception of a zipper track 1474 which defines an opening. The front panel 1472 includes an external pocket 1485 and may include one or more internal pockets (not shown).
Opposite the zipper track 1474 the storage member 1470 is provided with a U-shape shoe 1486 formed from a semi-rigid material to create a hand-grip region.
Referring now to FIG. 45 there is shown an exploded view of the main body of the storage member 1470 shown in FIG. 44 excluding the hand grip 1486. The front panel 1472 is formed from a plastics material such as poly vinyl chloride. A liner panel 1490 is used to cover the interior surface of the front panel 1472. The material from which the liner 1490 is formed may be chosen for a particular purpose, such as an anti-static function, waterproof function or desiccating function as appropriate for the contents. In some embodiments the liner 1490 is interchangeable to give different properties to the interior of the storage member. The rear panel 1473 may also have a liner.
Referring now to FIGS. 46 and 47 the construction of the rear panel 1473 is illustrated. The rear panel 1473 comprises a major external panel 1473 and an internal panel 1491 of mesh or netting which is provided with the attachment loops 1477, 1478.
The netting panel 1491 is laid onto the interior surface of the major panel 1473 and the edges of the panel 1473 are folded over as illustrated by the arrows before being stitched into position as shown in the Figure.
In alternative embodiments the netting layer 1491 may be substituted for a cushioning layer which provides protection for the contents of the storage member 1470.
Patent applications in class FOR A HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCE
Patent applications in all subclasses FOR A HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCE