System and method for utilizing a tool-less rail in a rack
A rail system is described for use in a rack. The rail system comprises a rail having a self-locking mechanism to lock the rail to a rack. Additionally, the rail comprises a length adjustment mechanism that enables selective length adjustments based on the depth of the rack.
 Racks are used for the mounting of multiple servers and often use four vertical support members that define the corners of the rack. Rails are mounted in pairs between the front supports and the back supports. A server is mounted to each pair of rails by, for example, slides. The pairs of rails can be placed at numerous vertical locations to receive servers in a vertical arrangement.
 Rails tend to be bulky items that are rather limited in their adaptability for use in a variety of rack systems. For example, many rails are fixed in length, and they cannot be used for the mounting of cable management systems, such as cable arms. Additionally, many rails require additional components, such as fasteners, by which each rail is attached to the rack. Thus, the attachment and detachment of rails in a rack system can be time consuming, and the rails have limited adaptability with respect to their use in racks of differing depths and with cable management systems.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Certain embodiments of the invention will hereafter be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference numerals denote like elements, and:
 FIG. 1 is a side view of a rack system according to certain embodiments of the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is an isometric view of an embodiment of a rail that can be used in the rack system illustrated in FIG. 1;
 FIG. 3 is isometric view of an embodiment of a first end of the rail illustrated in FIG. 2;
 FIG. 4 is an isometric inside view of an embodiment of a second end of the rail illustrated in FIG. 2;
 FIG. 5 is a side view of the rail illustrated in FIG. 2 in a contracted state; and
 FIG. 6 is a side view similar to FIG. 5 with the rail in an expanded state.DETAILED DESCRIPTION
 Referring generally to FIG. 1, a system 10 is illustrated as representative of embodiments of the present invention. System 10 comprises a rack 12, a plurality of rails 14 and electronic devices 16 mounted on rails 14. Electronic devices 16 may comprise a variety of devices, including servers, computers, computer related equipment, telecommunications equipment and other electronic devices that may be mounted in rack 12. Additionally, system 10 may comprise cable management systems 18 mounted to selected rails 14.
 Rack 12 may be designed in a variety of configurations, depending on the particular application and the size, type and utilization of electronic devices 16. By way of example, rack 12 may have a pair of rear vertical supports 20 and a pair of corresponding front vertical supports 22. A rail 14 may be coupled between each rear vertical support 20 and corresponding front vertical support 22. Thus, at a given level along rack 12, a pair of rails 14 may be used to support a given electronic device 16.
 Depending on the type of electronic device 16, cable management system 18 may be coupled to a rear of at least one of the rails 14 used to support that particular electronic device. An example of a cable management system 18 comprises a cable arm used to generally maintain cables coupled to a given electronic device 16 at a location to the rear of the device. Additionally, slides (not shown) can be utilized with rails 14 to enable sliding motion of each electronic device 16. The sliding motion facilitates movement of the device between a position within rack 12 and an extended position for performing service or other operations on the device.
 Referring generally to FIG. 2, an embodiment of one of the rails 14 is illustrated. In this embodiment, rail 14 comprises a first end 24 and a second end 26 disposed generally on an opposite longitudinal end of the rail from first end 24. First end 24 and second end 26 are connected via a rail structure 28. By way of example, first end 24 may be selectively coupled to one of the front vertical supports 22, and second end 26 may be coupled to the corresponding rear vertical support 20 such that rail structure 28 extends between the front vertical support 22 and the rear vertical support 20.
 Rail 14 further comprises a self-locking mechanism 30 that automatically locks rail 14 to vertical supports 20,22 when rail 14 is attached into rack 12. Self-locking mechanism 30 comprises at least one self-lock 32. By way of example, the self-locking mechanism 30 may comprise a pair of self-locks 32 with a self-lock 32 disposed at each of the first end 24 and the second end 26.
 Although self-locks 32 may have various configurations, an embodiment of the self-lock 32 is illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3. In this embodiment, self-lock 32 comprises a pin 34 that is biased to extend through a rail end, e.g., first end 24 or second end 26. Each pin 34 is positioned to engage rack 12 via a rack recess or an opening, such as a conventional square hole that may be formed in each vertical support of rack 12.
 Each pin 34 may be coupled to a slide bar 36 that is slidingly coupled to rail structure 28. For example, each slide bar 36 may be captively and slideably held by mounting pins 38 extending from rail structure 28. Mounting pins 38 may be slideably received in a corresponding slot 40 formed in each slide bar 36.
 Additionally, each pin 34 may be biased towards a lock position by a spring member 42, as illustrated in FIG. 3. By way of example, spring member 42 may be captured between a structural portion 44 of slide bar 36 and rail structure 28 to move the slide bar 36 and pin 34 to the position in which pin 34 extends through the rail end 24,26, as best illustrated in FIG. 3.
 A handle 46 may be coupled to slide bar 36 to facilitate retraction of pin 34 against the bias of spring 42 during detachment of rail 14 from rack 12. However, during installation, the pin 34 may automatically be pushed to a retracted position by abutment with the rack 12 until pin 34 passes into an appropriate opening in the vertical support. At this stage, spring 42 biases pin 34 to its extended, locked position, as illustrated in FIG. 3.
 Although first end 24 and second end 26 may be formed in a variety of configurations, one example is illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. As illustrated in FIG. 3, first end 24 may comprise a bracket 48 from which engagement features 50 extend for engagement with rack 12. In the embodiment illustrated, a pair of engagement features 50 extend from bracket 48 in the form of downturned tabs 52 sized and positioned to move through conventional rectangular rack holes for engagement with the rack. However, a variety of other rack engagement features and brackets may be utilized depending on the desired design of the overall rack and rail system. Furthermore, bracket 48 may comprise an opening 54 through which pin 34 extends.
 Similarly, second end 26 comprises a bracket 56 connected to rail structure 28. Second end 26 further comprises an engagement feature 58 that may comprise a pair of downturned tabs 60 similar to tabs 52 of first end 24. Furthermore, bracket 56 may have an opening 62 through which a self-locking pin 34 extends.
 With further reference to FIG. 4, rail 14 may further comprise a cable arm attachment bracket 64. Cable arm attachment bracket 64 is designed to permit connection of a cable management system 18 to rail 14 rather than to one of the rear vertical supports 20 of rack 12. Bracket 64 may be designed in a variety of configurations depending on the design of a corresponding cable management arm. However, the example illustrated in FIG. 4 comprises an external frame 66 that substantially defines an interior region 68 for slideably receiving a cable arm mount or other cable management system mounting feature.
 Referring generally to FIGS. 5 and 6, rail 14 further comprises a length adjustment mechanism 70 that enables the extension and contraction of rail 14 to accommodate racks of differing depths. For example, the longitudinal length of rail 14 may be adjusted between a contracted state, as illustrated in FIG. 5, and an extended state, as illustrated in FIG. 6. Although other length adjustment mechanism 70 may be utilized, one embodiment comprises a slide bracket 72 slideably mounted on a slide base member 74. In this embodiment, slide bracket 72 and slide base member 74 are combined into rail structure 28, and first end 24 is affixed to slide base member 74 while second end 26 is affixed to slide bracket 72.
 By way of example, slide bracket 72 may be slideably mounted to slide base member 74 via a plurality of pins 76 that extend through a corresponding groove 78. Pins 76 have oversized heads 80 that prevent inadvertent separation of slide bracket 72 and slide base member 74. As first end 24 and second end 26 are moved towards or away from one another, pins 76 translate along groove 78. By way of further example, groove 78 may be formed longitudinally along slide bracket 72, and pins 76 may extend through groove 78 to slide base member 74 to which they are connected.
 Accordingly, each of the rails 14 may be tool-lessly attached to or detached from a variety of racks of differing depths. The self-locking mechanism 30 enables the automatic locking of a given rail 14 at a desired location within the rack 12, and handles 46 permit the simple, tool-less unlocking and detachment of the rail from the rack. Furthermore, cable arm attachment bracket 64 enables the attachment of a cable arm or other type of cable management system directly to a given rail 14. It should be understood, however, that the embodiments described herein have been provided to enhance the understanding of the reader, but those embodiments should not be construed as limiting the invention as set forth in the claims.
1. A system, comprising:
- a rack; and
- a plurality of rails that are tool-lessly attachable to and detachable from the rack, each rail comprising:
- a self-locking mechanism to lock the rail to its rack; and
- a length adjustment mechanism to enable selective length adjustments based on the depth of the rack.
2. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein each rail further comprises a cable arm attachment bracket.
3. The system as recited in claim 1, further comprising a cable arm coupled to at least one rail of its plurality of rails.
4. The system as recited in claim 1, further comprising an electronic device mounted in the rack.
5. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the self-locking mechanism comprises a biased pin.
6. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the self-locking mechanism comprises a pair of opposed, biased pins.
7. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the length adjustment mechanism comprises a slide bracket.
8. The system as recited in claim 7, wherein the slide bracket is slideably mounted on a plurality of pins.
9. The system as recited in claim 7, wherein each rail further comprises at least one handle connected to the self-locking mechanism to enable selective release of the rail from the rack.
10. A system comprising:
- a rail having an end that is selectively extensible and a self-lock disposed on the end.
11. The system, as recited in claim 10, wherein the rail further comprises a cable arm attachment bracket.
12. The system, as recited in claim 10, wherein the rail further comprises a second self-lock.
13. The system, as recited in claim 10, wherein the self-lock comprises a biased pin.
14. The system, as recited in claim 10, wherein the rail further comprises at least one handle connected to the self-lock.
15. A method, comprising:
- forming a rail with at least one extensible member to enable mounting of the rail in racks of differing depths;
- deploying a self-locking mechanism on the rail with a self-lock on each opposed longitudinal end of the rail; and
- coupling at least one handle to the self-lock to enable tool-less detachment of the rail from a rack.
16. The method as recited in claim 15, wherein deploying comprises spring biasing the self-locking mechanism toward a locked position.
17. The method as recited in claim 15, wherein forming comprises forming the extensible member as a slide bracket.
18. The method as recited in claim 15, further comprising mounting the rail in a rack.
19. A rail system comprising:
- means for providing selective adjustment to the length of a rail;
- means for automatically locking the rail in a rack; and
- means for tool-lessly releasing the rail from a rack.
20. The rail system as recited in claim 19, wherein the means for providing comprises a slide bracket.
21. The rail system as recited in claim 19, wherein the means for automatically locking comprises a spring-biased pin.
22. The rail system as recited in claim 19, wherein the means for tool-lessly releasing comprises at least one handle coupled to the spring-based pin.