Modular storage system

A modular system including a plurality of modular units, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein. Each modular unit has a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces. Each modular unit is configured to be coupled to another modular unit along facing, parallel outer surfaces thereof when a facing outer surface of one of the modular units is moved towards the facing outer surface of the other modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to the facing outer surfaces until the modular units contact each other.

Skip to: Description  ·  Claims  · Patent History  ·  Patent History

Description

The present invention is directed to a modular storage system, and more particularly to a modular storage system for use with school and office supplies.

BACKGROUND

School and office supplies, such as notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, staplers, scissors, binding clips, loose leaf papers, rubber bands, correction tape, correction fluid, drawing guides, letter openers, highlighters, erasers, calculators and the like are often desired to be stored in a storage unit. However, the storage needs for any individual user will vary from user to user and thus a single storage unit of fixed capacity may not meet the needs of different users. In addition, a user may often desire to utilize the storage unit in a portable manner, or desire to modify the configuration of the storage unit. Accordingly, there is a need for a storage unit which can be assembled to meet the needs of individual users, and which provides portable storage units.

SUMMARY

In one embodiment, the present invention is a modular storage system which can be assembled in various configurations, and which provides individual modular units which can be separated from each other and used as a standalone component. More particularly, in one embodiment the invention is a modular system comprising a plurality of modular units, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein. Each modular unit has a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces. Each modular unit is configured to be coupled to another modular unit along facing, parallel outer surfaces thereof when a facing outer surface of one of the modular units is moved towards the facing outer surface of the other modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to the facing outer surfaces until the modular units contact each other.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the modular storage system of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the modular storage system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is another perspective view of the modular storage system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the modular storage system of FIG. 3, with the various drawers moved to their open positions;

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of the modular storage system of FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the modular storage system of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the system of FIG. 1 rearranged in a different configuration;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the modular storage system of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of another alternate embodiment of the modular storage system of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is an exploded view of the modular storage system of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is an exploded view of the modular storage system of FIG. 9, showing the locations of various magnetized or attachment surfaces; and

FIG. 12 is a side cross section taken along line 12-12 of FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As shown in FIG. 1, in one embodiment the modular system of the present invention, generally designated 10, includes a plurality of modules or modular units 12 which are directly coupled together to form the modular system 10. Each modular unit 12 may have various sizes and shapes, and may be configured to be hand carried and to store school and office supplies therein. The modular system 10 may be configured such that when the modular units 12 are assembled, the modular system 10 forms a generally rectangular prism.

As best shown in FIG. 5, in the illustrated embodiment the modular system 10 includes five modular units 12. However, the modular system 10 may have any of a wide variety of numbers of modular units 12, and the modular units 12 can vary from those shown herein. In the illustrated embodiment, the modular system 10 includes a storage shelf modular unit 12a, a storage slot modular unit 12b, a pair of drawer modular units 12c, 12d, and a hanging file folder modular unit 12e. The storage shelf modular unit 12a includes a pair of vertically spaced shelves 14 extending substantially the entire length and width of the modular unit 12a such that the storage shelf modular unit 12a can receive loose leaf papers, notebooks, binders and the like therein. The storage shelf modular unit 12a may be sized to relatively closely receive a notebook of 8½×11 sheets of paper therein.

The storage slot modular unit 12b includes a plurality of generally vertically-extending cavities 16 in which various school and office supplies such as pens, pencils, staplers, scissors, letter openers, highlighters, erasers and the like may be stored.

Each of the drawer modular units 12c, 12d includes an outer drawer casing 18, as well as a drawer 20 that is movably, slidably, or rollably received in the outer drawer casing 18. Each drawer 20 has a pull handle 22 to aid in opening and closing the drawer 20. FIG. 4 illustrates the drawers 20 of the drawer modular units 12c, 12d moved at least partially to their open positions. Each drawer 20 defines an inner cavity 24 in which papers and various school and office supply products can be stored.

Drawer modular unit 12d has a lesser depth than the drawer modular unit 12c. In particular, drawer modular unit 12d has a depth that is less than the drawer modular unit 12c by a distance about equal to the depth of the storage slot modular unit 12b such that when the drawer modular unit 12d and storage slot modular unit 12b are placed adjacent to each other, their combined depth is substantially equal to the depth of the drawer modular unit 12c.

The hanging file folder modular unit 12e includes a main inner cavity 26 in which a plurality of folders, including, but not limited to, hanging file folders 28, may be received for storing and organizing various papers and the like.

The modular system 10 may have various sizes and dimensions. For example, in one embodiment the system 10 may have a height of about 13.5 inches, a width (i.e., along dimension w1 of FIG. 1) of about 9.25 inches, and a depth of about 12.25 inches. The modular system 10 may define a volume of less than abut 8600 cubic inches, or less than about 1296 cubic inches and may have a weight of less than about 30 lbs, or less than about 15 lbs, or less than about 10 lbs. Each modular unit 12 may be a generally rectangular prism defining a volume of less than about 1720 cubic inches, or less than about 500 cubic inches, and may have a weight of less than about 10 lbs, or less than about 5 lbs, or less than about 3 lbs.

As noted above, each of the modular units 12 may be shaped as a generally rectangular prism having a plurality (i.e., six) of generally flat, planar outer surfaces and a storage cavity therein. At least one or perhaps more of the outer surfaces of each modular units 12 may include an attachment structure or fastening means 32 forming or located adjacent to one of the outer surfaces for coupling each modular unit 12 to another modular unit 12. For example, as best shown in FIG. 6, each of the modular units 12 may include a foot or protrusion 34 extending outwardly from a bottom surface thereof.

Each foot 34 may be generally rectangular in top view, and may cover at least about 50%, or at least about 80%, or at least about 90% of the surface area of the associated outer surface of the modular unit 12. Each foot 34 may have a height of about 0.15 inches, or less than about 0.5 inches, or less than about 0.25 inches. Each foot 34 may have a height that is less than about 10%, or less than about 5% of the height of the associated modular unit 12.

As best shown in FIG. 5, some or all of the modular units 12 may include a recess 36 forming or located adjacent to an upper outer surface thereof. Each recess 36 can be considered to be part of the attachment structure or fastening means 32. In the illustrated embodiment, the storage slot modular unit 12b and drawer modular units 12c, 12d each include a recess 36 on an upper surface thereof. Each recess 36 may be sized to generally closely receive the foot or feet 34 of other modular units 12 therein.

Each recess 36 may be generally rectangular in top view, and may cover at least about 50%, or at least about 80%, or at least about 90% of the surface area of the associated outer surface of the modular unit 12. Each recess 36 may have a depth of about 0.15 inches, or less than about 0.5 inches, or less than about 0.25 inches. Each recess 36 may have a depth that is less than about 10%, or less than about 5% of the height of the associated modular unit 12.

The feet 34 and recesses 36 of the modular units 12 can cooperate to couple the modular units 12 together to form an assembled modular system 10. For example, the feet 34 of the hanging file folder modular unit 12e and the drawer modular unit 12c can be received in the recess 36 of the storage shelf modular unit 12a such that the hanging file folder modular unit 12e and drawer modular unit 12c are thereby coupled to the storage shelf modular unit 12a. Similarly, the feet 34 of the drawer modular unit 12d and storage slot modular unit 12b can be received in the recess 36 of the drawer modular unit 12c such that the drawer modular unit 12d and storage slot modular unit 12b are thereby coupled to the drawer modular unit 12c. In this manner, each of the modular units 12 can be coupled together to form the modular unit system 10 of FIG. 1. FIG. 2 illustrates the modular unit system 10 wherein each foot 34 of the upper modular units 12b, 12c, 12d, 12e is received in a corresponding recess 36.

In this manner each modular unit 12 can be coupled together. For example, with reference to FIG. 5, when the foot 34 of the hanging file modular unit 12e is to be received in the recess 36 of the storage slot module 12a, the hanging file modular unit 12e is arranged and positioned such that its bottom surface 30a faces and is located above the top surface 30b of the storage slot module 12a. More particularly the bottom surface 30a of the hanging file modular unit 12e and the top surface 30b of the storage slot module 12a (i.e. the facing or engaging or coupling surfaces) are arranged such that they are facing and generally parallel and at least partially overlapping such that a line that is generally perpendicular to the facing or engaging surfaces 30a, 30b extends through both of the facing surfaces 30a, 30b. The facing surfaces 30a, 30b are then moved toward each other in a direction generally perpendicular to the facing surfaces 30a, 30b until said modular units 12d, 12e contact each other and the foot 34 is received in the recess 36.

Various other shapes and arrangements of the protrusions 34 and recesses 36 may be utilized without departing from the scope of the invention. However, the use of relatively shallow protrusions 34 and recesses 36 that cover relatively wide areas of the associated surface of the modular unit 12 may be desired to provide relatively secure coupling of the modular units 12 without sacrificing space in the storage cavities of the modular units 12. In particular, if the protrusions 34 and recesses 36 were to be relatively deep, then the recesses 36 may protrude into the inner cavity of a modular unit 12 and reduce its storage capacity. In addition, the protrusions 34 and recesses 36 may allow the modular units 12 to be relatively quickly and easily coupled to and uncoupled from each other. The weight of the modular units 12, along with the weight of any components or supplies stored in the modular units 12 may serve to couple the modular units 12 together by gravity forces.

The modular system 10 allows each module 12 to be separated from the modular system 10 for stand-alone use, or for use as a portable storage component. The modular units 12 may also be able to be coupled together in various other configurations beyond those identically shown herein. For example, the attachment structure 32 can be utilized to couple the modules 12 together in the configuration shown in FIG. 7 wherein the position of the drawer modular unit 12d and storage slot modular unit 12b are reversed from their positions of FIG. 1.

Each of the modular units 12 may have a height dimension, a length dimension, and a width dimension, and at least one of the dimensions of one of the modular units 12 may be a positive integer multiple (i.e., in one case between one and four, inclusive) of one of the dimensions of at least one of the other modular units. For example, the storage shelf modular unit 12a may have a width w1 (FIG. 1), and the hanging file folder modular unit 12e may have a width w2. The width w2 may be half the width w1 such that two hanging file modular units 12e can be stacked on top of the storage shelf modular unit 12a, as shown in FIG. 8 to form a modular system 10′. Thus, the modular units 12 may have various dimensions to allow various stacking arrangements. However, the modular units 12 may not necessarily have dimensions which are positive integer multiples of any other modular unit 12.

FIGS. 9-12 illustrate another embodiment of the modular system 10″ wherein the modules 12 can be coupled together by magnets, and in which case the attachment structure 32 includes magnets or magnetic strips 46. In particular, as shown in FIGS. 11 and 12 each module 12 may include strip or plurality of strips or portions of magnetized material 46 (i.e., a permanently magnetized and/or ferromagnetic material) located on or adjacent to one of the outer surfaces. Each outer surface of each module 12 may include one or more of the magnetic strips 46, but each outer surface need not necessarily include any magnetized strips 46. The magnetized strips 46 may be made of a relatively thin material or may have a thickness of less than, for example, about 0.5 mm.

The magnetic strips 46 may be configured and located to couple the plurality of modular units 12 together to form the modular system 10 shown in, for example, FIG. 9. By way of example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 11 the storage shelf module 12a includes three magnetic strips 46 located along a top surface thereof, and the lower right drawer module 12c includes three magnetic strips 46 along its bottom surface that are configured to magnetically interact with the magnetic strips 46 of the storage shelf module 12a to magnetically couple the storage shelf module 12a and drawer module 12c.

The storage slot modular unit 12b may then be located on top of the drawer module 12c such that the magnetic strip 46 on the lower surface of the storage slot modular unit 12b magnetically interacts with a magnetic strip 46 on top of the drawer module 12c to magnetically couple the storage slot modular unit 12b and the drawer module 12c. The various other modules 12 can be coupled together in a manner which is readily apparent. Of course, in this embodiment each of the modules, including modules 12a, 12b, 12c, 12d and 12e may include and can be coupled together by the magnetic strips 46.

When the attachment structure 32 is in the form of the magnetic strips 46, the magnetic strips 46 may be located internal to each modular unit 12. In particular, as shown in FIG. 12, each modular unit 12 may include an outer covering material 50, such as fabric, plastic, vinyl, polyester/nylon, woven materials, leather or other nonmagnetized, nonmetallic or nonmagnetizable material such that the magnetic strips 46 are located between the outer covering material 50 and an inner support wall 52 which defines the storage cavities of the associated modular unit 12.

The inner support walls 52 of the modular units can be made of a variety of materials, including cardboard, plastic (such as PVC), non-metallic materials or other materials of sufficient strength to give each module the desired shape. In this manner, the outer covering material 50 provides a smooth and pleasing appearance to each modular unit 12 yet does not interfere with the magnetic interaction or forces between the magnetic strips 46 to allow coupling of the modular units 12 together. The use of a nonmetallic outer covering material 50 may also help to reduce the weight of the modules 12 and increase ease of handling and carrying. It should be noted that the thickness of the magnetic strips 46 of FIG. 12 is exaggerated from the thickness that may actually be used, as the strips 46 may be sufficiently thin that they do not protrude outwardly and may form a smooth transition at their outer ends. In the embodiments not using magnetic strips as the coupling structure 32, the cross section may be the same as that in FIG. 12 but will lack the strips 46.

Rather than utilizing magnetic material as the attachment structure 32, each module 12 may include strips or pieces of hook-and-loop fastening material (such as VELCRO® hook and loop fastening material). Thus, the strips 46 shown in FIG. 11 may be made of hook-and-loop fastening material. In this case, however, the outer covering material 50 may not be located over the strips 46 to allow the pieces of hook and loop fastening material to engage each other. In this case, the strips of hook-and-loop fastening material may be located on or form part of the flat, planar outer surfaces of the modular units 12.

In addition, rather than utilizing VELCRO® or magnetized material as the attachment means, various other means, such as interengaging geometries, clasps, brackets, clips and the like may be used as the attachment structure 32. However, the attachment structures 32 may be configured such that the outer surfaces of each modular unit 12 are coupled by moving the outer surfaces of one modular unit 12 toward and engaging a generally parallel outer surface of another modular unit 12, while such movement is in a direction generally perpendicular to one of the engaging outer surfaces. For example, when utilizing the feet/protrusion, magnetic or hook-and-loop fastening material as the attachment structure 32, the modular units 12 may be joined in this manner (i.e., by moving the module 12 towards each other in a perpendicular manner as opposed to joining surfaces by sliding). Thus, the engaging faces may face each other when one of the outer surfaces are moved toward and engages a parallel outer surface of the other module 12, and the engaging surfaces may at least partially overlap during engagement. The attachment structure 32 ensures that when the modules 12 are coupled, they are coupled by more than mere frictional/gravitational forces (i.e. when one module 12 is simply loosely placed on top of another module).

Having described the invention in detail and by reference to the various embodiments, it will be apparent that modifications and variations thereof are possible without departing from the scope of the invention.

Claims

1. A modular system comprising a plurality of modular units, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein, each modular unit having a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces, wherein each modular unit is configured to be coupled to another modular unit along facing, parallel outer surfaces thereof when a facing outer surface of one of said modular units is moved towards the facing outer surface of the other modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to said facing outer surfaces until the modular units contact each other.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein said facing outer surfaces of said modular units to be coupled are facing each other such that a line that extends generally perpendicular to the facing outer surfaces intersects both of the facing outer surfaces when said modular units are spaced apart but moved towards each other during said coupling.

3. The system of claim 1 wherein said modular system includes at least two types of modular units, said at least two types of modular units differing in size or shape.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein said at least two types of modular units differ in both size and shape.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit has a generally rectangular prism shape.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit defines a volume of less than about 1728 cubic inches.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit has a weight less than about two pounds.

8. The system of claim 1 wherein said plurality of modular units includes at least one of a storage slot module unit, a drawer module unit, a storage shelf module unit or a hanging file holder module unit.

9. The system of claim 1 wherein said system has a generally rectangular prism shape when said plurality of modular units are coupled together.

10. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit includes a cavity for storing school and office supplied therein.

11. The system of claim 1 wherein said modular system includes at least two types of modular units, said at least two types of modular units differing in size or shape, and wherein each of said at least two types of modular units has a height dimension, a length dimension and a width dimension, and wherein at least one of said dimensions of one of said types of modular units is a positive integer multiple of another dimension of the other type of modular units.

12. The system of claim 11 wherein said positive integer is a positive integer in the range of 1 to 4, inclusive.

13. The system of claim 11 wherein said positive integer number is a positive integer other than 1.

14. The system of claim 1 wherein each of said modular units is coupled to another modular unit along at least one of said outer surfaces.

15. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit includes an attachment structure for coupling said modular unit to another modular unit.

16. The system of claim 1 wherein each module is configured to be directly coupled to another module.

17. The system of claim 1 wherein each module includes an outer covering material covering substantially all of the outer surfaces thereof, wherein said outer covering material is non-metallic.

18. The system of claim 1 wherein each modular unit is configured to be coupled to another modular unit along facing, parallel outer surfaces thereof when a facing outer surface of one of said modular units is moved towards the facing outer surface of the other modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to said facing outer surfaces until said modular units contact each other such that each module is coupled together by more than frictional or gravitational forces.

19. A modular system comprising a plurality of modular units, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein, each modular unit having a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces and being configured to be coupled to another modular unit when one of said outer surfaces is moved toward a generally parallel outer surface of said another modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to one of said generally parallel outer surfaces such that each module is coupled together by more than frictional forces, and wherein said generally parallel outer surfaces face each other during said movement of said one of said outer surfaces such that said generally parallel facing surfaces at least partially overlap during said movement of said one of said outer surfaces.

20. The system of claim 19 wherein each modular unit is configured to be coupled to said another modular unit when one of said generally parallel facing surfaces is moved towards and engages a generally parallel facing surface of said another modular unit.

21. The system of claim 19 wherein each modular unit is directly coupled to another adjacent modular unit along parallel, facing and adjacent outer surfaces thereof.

22. An assembled modular system comprising a plurality of modular units, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein, each modular unit having a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces, wherein each modular unit is coupled to another modular unit along facing, parallel outer surfaces thereof, and is coupled thereto by moving a facing outer surface of one of said modular units towards the facing outer surface of the other modular unit in a direction generally perpendicular to said facing outer surfaces until said modular units contact each other.

23. A modular unit that is sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein, said modular unit having a generally rectangular prism shape with a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces, wherein said modular unit has an outer coupling surface that is configured to be coupled to an outer coupling surface of another modular unit when said coupling surface of said modular unit faces and is generally parallel to said coupling surface of said another modular unit, and when at least one of said coupling surfaces is moved towards the other coupling surface in a direction generally perpendicular to said coupling surfaces until said modular unit and said another modular unit contact each other.

24. A method for assembling a modular system comprising the steps of:

providing a first and a second modular unit, each modular unit being sized to be hand carried and configured to store school and office supplies therein, each modular unit having a plurality of generally flat outer surfaces;
arranging said first and second modular units such that an outer surface of said first modular unit faces a generally parallel outer surface of said second modular unit; and
moving at least one of said modular units in a direction generally perpendicular to said facing surfaces until said facing surfaces engage each other to couple said first and second modular unit together.

Patent History

Publication number: 20060244348
Type: Application
Filed: May 2, 2005
Publication Date: Nov 2, 2006
Inventors: Kenneth Richied (Liberty Township, OH), MaryKay Curley (Binghamton, NY)
Application Number: 11/120,046

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: 312/108.000
International Classification: A47B 87/02 (20060101);