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Title:
ALIGMENT SYSTEM METHOD FOR VERTICALLY STORED OBJECTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/015715
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
An alignment system and method including a frame having an axle connected thereto. Fingers rotatably coupled to the axle independently rotate thereabout. A counterweight affixed to the frame prevents the frame from turning over. When an object is inserted into the alignment system corresponding fingers are moved toward a substantially vertical position. When the object is removed gravity causes the corresponding fingers to return to an extended position to restrict the movement of adjacent objects into the unoccupied space and preserve the unoccupied space for return of the object. The objects remaining in the alignment system are held in an upright manner. Such retention of objects in an upright manner preserves the integrity of delicate objects such as rare books and reduces the tendency of objects to fall in the event of a ground shock.

Inventors:
PARKINS, Gary, A. (2416 North Prairie Avenue, Dallas, Texas, 75204, US)
Application Number:
US2005/044628
Publication Date:
February 08, 2007
Filing Date:
December 12, 2005
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PARKINS, Gary, A. (2416 North Prairie Avenue, Dallas, Texas, 75204, US)
International Classes:
A47F5/12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THIELE, Alan (Strasburger & Price, LLP901 Main Street, Suite 440, Dallas Texas, 75202, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. An alignment system for generally flat, vertically oriented objects to be stored in a substantially upright manner, said alignment system comprising: a frame; an axle affixed to said frame; a plurality of extendable fingers rotatably connected to said axle for independent rotation thereabout; and a weight attached to said frame to counterbalance the weight of said plurality of extendable fingers.

2. The alignment system as defined in Claim 1 wherein each of said fingers in said plurality of extendable fingers is substantially equal in width to the other of each of said extendable fingers.

3. The alignment system as defined in Claim 1 wherein each of said fingers in said plurality of extendable fingers is substantially equal in length to the other of each of said extendable fingers.

4. The alignment system as defined in Claim 1 wherein each of said fingers has a rounded or tapered end distal from said rotatable connection to said stationary axle.

5. The alignment system as defined in Claim 1 wherein each of said fingers in said plurality of extendable fingers is spaced from an adjacent extendable finger to allow free movement thereof.

6. The alignment system as defined in Claim 1 wherein the weight distribution in each of said fingers in said plurality of extendable fingers causes each of said fingers to return to an extended position after rotating around said stationary axle.

7. A method of aligning vertically oriented objects in a substantially vertical manner comprising the steps of: placing an alignment device on a substantially horizontal surface, said alignment device including: a frame having an axle extending therefrom; a plurality of extendable fingers rotatably attached to said axle; a counterweight to said plurality of said extendable fingers affixed to said frame to prevent said frame from turning over; inserting a vertically oriented object in said alignment device whereby one or more of said extendable fingers rotates around said axle to a substantially vertical position.

8. A device for standing objects, that will not stand vertically on their own, to stand in an upright manner, said device comprising: a frame; an axle constructed and arranged to be positioned in a substantially horizontal orientation by said frame; a plurality of fingers rotatably mounted to said axle at a first end and extending outwardly from said axle at a substantially acute angle from the horizontal at a second end; a weight affixed to said frame to prevent said frame from falling over when said plurality of fingers is extending outwardly.

9. The device as defined in Claim 8 wherein each of said fingers in said plurality of fingers has substantially the same width.

10. The device as defined in Claim 8 wherein each of said fingers in said plurality of fingers has substantially the same length.

11. The device as defined in Claim 8 wherein the weight distribution in each of said fingers causes said fingers to fall into said extended orientation.

12. A set of bookshelves comprising: a plurality of shelves; a frame structure positioning each of said plurality of frames in a substantially horizontal orientation; a plurality of alignment device constructed and arranged for placement on each of said plurality of shelves; a frame assembly; an axle affixed to said frame assembly; a plurality of extendable fingers rotatably connected to said axle for independent rotation thereabout; a weight attached to said frame assembly to counter balance the weight of said plurality of extendable fingers.

13. The set of bookshelves as defined in Claim 12 wherein; each of said plurality of extendable fingers moves freely with respect to an adjacent finger.

14. The set of bookshelves as defined in Claim 13 wherein: the mass of each of said plurality of fingers causes it to move into a position at a substantially acute angle with respect to said substantially horizontal shelf unless physically displaced therefrom.

15. A set of reference materials comprising: a plurality of individual books or catalogs; an alignment device constructed and arranged for organizing said individual books or catalogs in an upright manner; said alignment device including: a frame assembly; an axle affixed to said frame assembly; a plurality of extendable fingers rotatably connected to said axle for independent rotation thereabout; a weight attached to said frame assembly to counter balance the weight of said plurality of extendable fingers.

Description:

ALIGNMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR VERTICALLY STORED OBJECTS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of Provisional U.S. Patent Application Serial Number 60/635,307 filed on December 10, 2004.

FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to a system and method for arranging and storing generally flat, vertically oriented objects such as books; more particularly, the present invention provides a significant utility for the arrangement and upright storage of generally flat, vertically oriented objects that typically will not stand on their own.

BACKGROUND

[0003] The conventional method of storing generally flat, vertically oriented objects such as books, magazines, pamphlets, files, floppy disks, videotapes, CD's, DVD's, etc. in an upright position has been through the use of a plurality of shelves commonly referred to as a set of bookshelves. To make maximum use of the storage space provided by the set of bookshelves, to provide ready access to the objects stored in a set of bookshelves and to provide a neat appearance of the objects stored in a set of bookshelves, bookends are often used. One commonly available bookend features a horizontal plate that sits on the top of an individual shelf and slides under one end of the objects being stored on the shelf. A vertical plate extends upwardly from the horizontal plate to engage a surface at the end of the row of objects sitting on

a shelf. Another type of bookend is weighted to assure the upright storage of objects placed on a shelf.

[0004] Prior art devices for assisting in the storage of generally flat, vertically oriented objects have not provided satisfactory results for the reasons described in the following paragraphs.

[0005] Conventional devices for storing reading material such as books, magazines or pamphlets on a shelf are not designed to save the space occupied by a book, a magazine or a pamphlet after the book, magazine or pamphlet has been removed. Oftentimes, the objects remaining on a shelf will "cave in," or tip over into the unoccupied space. Sometimes objects, particularly magazines, will even fall from a shelf when another object is removed.

[0006] When conventional bookends are used, to maintain a neat and orderly appearance, the bookends are used to push the books, magazines, or pamphlets back together into an upright orientation until the space occupied by the object removed no longer exists. If the objects stored on a shelf have little vertical rigidity, such as a magazine or large paper bound book, for example, a metropolitan phone book, constant space management is needed to maintain the organized appearance of the objects remaining on the shelf. When the items stored on a shelf are hardback books or a combination of hardback books and small paperback books, the removal of one object can cause the objects which remain on the shelf to fall towards each other, thereby giving an unorganized appearance to the objects remaining on the shelf and making it difficult to remove a second or third object. If the remaining objects are pushed back together into an upright orientation after the removal of one or more objects, then the organization of the

collection of objects stored on the shelf is compromised. To restore an organized appearance to the objects stored on the shelf, the bookends or other devices associated with a shelf have to be readjusted every time an object is removed. If holding the objects removed from a shelf requires two hands, the objects removed from the shelf must be put down before the position of the bookend or holder device can be readjusted. In some libraries or file rooms, rows of bookshelves are positioned so close together that simply putting down the objects removed from a bookshelf to readjust the position of a bookend or holder device is difficult, if not impossible. Those who have been in the "stacks" portion of older or crowded libraries can attest to the problems encountered when having to remove a book from a partially filled shelf that is located over one's head or near the floor.

[0007] Some conventional storage devices and methods for storing generally flat, vertically oriented objects in an upright position on a shelf further require segregating the stored objects based on their size to prevent damaging the smaller objects when the larger objects are removed. Some of the conventional storage devices and methods used to assist in the storage of items on a shelf actually place a limit on the size of the objects that can be stored, because larger and/or heavier objects, such as the phone books for large cities, are too massive to be adequately supported. Thus, the size and the mass of an object to be stored on a shelf plays a significant factor in the organization of a shelf and whether or not certain sized objects can fit on the shelf.

[0008] Other conventional devices used to assist in the storage of items in a set of bookshelves become unstable and tend to wobble or twist under the load of a full row of heavy objects. Further, in order to support the load of a full row of heavy objects, many conventional

holder devices must be manufactured from a dense, rigid material. Such dense, rigid materials make the holder devices unwieldy, bulky and unattractive. In addition, such holder devices made from dense, rigid materials have several drawbacks. First, they occupy space that could be used for the storage of additional objects. Second, they only have marginal utility when used with heavy objects or books. And third, heavy holder devices can injure a user's foot when they fall from a shelf.

[0009] Still other conventional holders rely on the design of the frame of the bookshelf itself to be effective. Specifically, these conventional holders require additional support from either the sides of the bookshelf frame, the back of the bookshelf frame or an adjacent shelf within the set of bookshelves to adequately support the objects stored on the shelves. Further, many of the conventional holder devices require complex mounting techniques for installing them into the set of bookshelves, techniques that often mar the set off bookshelves or damage the items stored on individual shelves.

[0010] Yet another drawback of conventional holder systems is readily apparent in earthquake prone areas. When an earthquake hits, the conventional holder systems move and all organization of the objects in a set of bookshelves is lost. Frequently, when the conventional holder systems move, the objects within a set of bookshelves often fall to the floor. For safety purposes, there is a need for a system and method which will retain objects on a shelf in the event of ground shock. [001 1] In those situations such as the completion of large research projects or presentations requiring access to a large volume of reference material, many generally flat,

vertically oriented objects, such as unbound treatises or reference materials with soft covers, must be stacked one upon another on a desk or a table when a bookshelf is not available. Alternatively, some objects are leaned against a wall or a piece of furniture. The practice of leaning objects against a wall or a piece of furniture actually stretches and distorts the binding of an object such as a book. Repetition of this practice will eventually destroy a book. If older, more delicate books are being leaned against a wall or piece of furniture, such practice may damage the spine of the book causing pages to fall out and thereby reducing the value of a book that cannot be replaced.

[0012] To keep the reference materials organized, those engaged in the completion of large research projects or in presentations requiring access to a large volume of reference material often use what is euphemistically called a "pile system." In a pile system, like references are stacked together in the space around the user. Those who have used a pile system for organizing materials or references well understand its drawbacks. To overcome such drawbacks, there is a need in the art for a system and method to group materials or references needed neatly and efficiently during the short amount of time that a set of references is needed for completion of a research project or presentation.

[0013] In recent years, improved binding techniques and continuing efforts to reduce costs have resulted in larger books and manuals being published with soft covers. For example, the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) is now published in paperback. However, because of the size and weight of the paperbound version of the MPEP, it will not stand vertically on its own. These who refer to the MPEP on a regular basis must lay the MPEP flat,

either on a desk top or on the floor. Alternatively, the MPEP may be leaned against a vertical surface until its paper cover loses its rigidity or the binding stretches so that the MPEP will no longer stand when leaned against a vertical surface. Similarly, other groups of unbound documents or documents with soft covers, that will not stand on their own, must be laid flat taking up either desk space or floor space. In small offices other books or documents are then laid on top of documents that will not stand upright on their own. The practice of making stacks of documents leads to an untidy appearance in an office or even worse masks the location of important reference material from the user.

[0014] Accordingly, there remains a need in the art for a system and method for the arrangement and storage of generally flat, vertically oriented objects in an upright manner, particularly for those generally flat, vertically oriented objects that will not stand on their own.

SUMMARY

[0015] The disclosed system and method for the arrangement and storage of generally flat, vertically oriented objects in an upright manner enables the management, organization and alignment of generally flat, vertically oriented objects, particularly those generally flat, vertically oriented objects that will not stand upright on their own. In addition, the disclosed system and method provides safety, as objects stored in the alignment device of the disclosed system and method will not fall in the event of a ground shock. Further, the disclosed system and method preserves books by allowing them to stand in an upright manner so that the bindings are not stretched or distorted.

[0016] The disclosed system and method includes an alignment device having: a frame, an axle connected to the frame, a plurality of fingers coupled to and extending outwardly from the axle for independent rotation thereabout, and a weight affixed to the frame to provide stability. A generally flat, vertically oriented object occupies a space in the alignment device by causing the fingers to rotate around the axle thereby displacing the rotatable fingers which contact the generally flat, vertically oriented object from an extended position to a retracted or substantially vertical position. When the generally flat, vertically oriented object is removed from the alignment device, the rotatable fingers move around the axle in an opposite direction as they fall from the retracted or substantially vertical position into an extended position. This movement of only those rotatable fingers which were displaced by the object being removed restricts movement of the adjacent generally flat, vertically oriented objects into the space vacated when the object is removed from the alignment device and preserves the vacated space until the object is returned.

[0017] The disclosed invention therefore introduces the concept of storing books or other generally flat, vertically oriented objects on a shelf or on some other substantially horizontal surface by employing rotatable fingers to retain objects upright in certain spaces and keep objects out of vacated or empty spaces. The use of rotatable fingers allows generally flat, vertically oriented objects to be stored and accessed without reorganizing or damaging the objects.

[0018] The disclosed alignment device includes a weight attached to the frame to provide stability. The weight provides a countermoment to the turn-over moment from the weight of the plurality of rotatable fingers when extending outwardly from the stationary axle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

[0019] For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the following descriptions of the embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing Figures wherein: [0020] FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of the alignment system and method of the present invention without any objects loaded therein;

[0021] FIGURE 2 is a perspective view similar to Figure 1 including three manuals loaded therein;

[0022] FIGURE 3 is a perspective view similar to Figure 2 wherein the middle object has been removed; /

[0023] FIGURE 4 is a side elevational view of the alignment device with objects loaded therein as shown in Figure 3; and

[0024] FIGURE 5 is an expanded perspective view illustrating the construction of the alignment system and method.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

[0025] As may best be seen in Figure 1 and Figure 5, the alignment device 100 embodying of the system and method of the present invention includes four parts. In the center of the alignment device 100 is a frame assembly 20 which includes an axle 25 attached to the frame assembly 20 by a web 22. While the axle 25 shown in the preferred embodiment is stationary, those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that a rotating axle may be used without detracting from the operability of the alignment device 100. Rotatably mounted on the

stationary axle 25 are a plurality of extendable fingers 30. An end cap 50 on either end of the stationery axle 25 retains the plurality of extendable fingers 30 thereon. Affixed to the back of the frame assembly 20 is a weight 40 which provides a moment that counters the moment from the weight of the plurality of extendable fingers 30 and keeps the alignment device 100 from turning over when the plurality of extendable fingers 30 are in their extended position. Optionally, a ring 60 may be placed in the mid portion of the stationary axle 25. It has been found that the ring 60 may be needed when the alignment device 100 has an extended length.

[0026] By reference to Figure 2, three generally flat, vertically oriented objects are placed in an upright orientation into the alignment device 100. Each of the three generally flat, vertically oriented objects first encounters the front edge 34 of one or more of the rotatable fingers 32. By pushing the generally flat, vertically oriented object into the alignment device 100 only those individual fingers 32 which contact the generally flat, vertically oriented object rotate about the stationary axle 25 until they are in a retracted or substantially vertical position. The fingers 32 which have not been moved rest alongside the generally flat, vertically oriented object and prevent the object from tipping laterally or sideways over, irrespective of the size of the base of the generally flat, vertically oriented object. In addition, the alignment device 100 of the present invention will allow generally flat, vertically oriented objects which cannot stand in a vertical position on their own to be stored in an upright position. For example, it is well known that phone books for large cities will not stand upright on their own because of their soft cover. Similarly, many small pamphlets will not stand upright on their own because of the small footprint of their base.

[0027] In Figure 3, the middle of the three substantially vertically oriented objects shown in Figure 2 has been moved yet the other objects remain standing. In the space formerly occupied by the middle book, the weight of the rotatable fingers 32 formerly moved into a retracted or substantially vertical position has caused them to fall forward into the space vacated by the removed object. The objects stored on either side of the vacated space remain in their vertical position as they are now supported by those rotatable fingers 32 which have moved around the stationary axle 25. In addition, the space vacated by the removed object remains ready for reinsertion of the removed object once it has been used.

[0028] When the time comes to replace the middle object into the alignment device 100, the user simply places the object into the space formerly occupied by the object and pushes it so that the rotatable fingers 32 move back to a substantially vertical position. There is no need to hold up the other objects while the middle object is returned to the position it formerly occupied.

[0029] Those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that a variety of different generally flat, vertically oriented objects may be stored upright in the alignment device 100 of the present invention irrespective of their size or mass. For example, a large atlas could be stored next to a CD, a DVD or a small paperback book or pamphlet.

[0030] A still better understanding of the system and method of the present invention may be had by reference to Figures 4 and 5. Therein it may be seen that the alignment device 100 of the present invention is built around a stationary axle 25 connected to the frame assembly 20 by a web 22.

[0031] In each finger 32 which surrounds the stationary axle 25 is an opening 33. The opening 33 is surrounded by a boss 36 formed at the proximal end 35 of each of the plurality of extendable fingers 30. The opening 33 is formed so that each finger 32 will freely rotate about the stationary axle 25 yet be supported thereby so as to not twist with respect to the stationary axle 25. The boss 36 on each rotatable finger 32 is positioned so that each finger 32 will freely move with respect to the adjacent rotatable finger 32. Similarly, each rotatable finger 32 is formed to not bind or be caught by an adjacent rotatable finger 32. The downward travel of each finger 32 is limited by contact of the proximal end of each finger 32 with the frame assembly 20. [0032] At the distal end 38 of each rotatable finger 32 is a substantially straight surface 34 which encounters the substantially vertically oriented object as it slides into the alignment device 100. At the bottom of the substantially straight surface is a curved or arcuate surface 37. The curved or arcuate surface 37 allows each rotatable finger 32 to slide freely over objects as they are inserted into the alignment device 100.

[0033] Between the proximal end 35 and the distal end 38 of each rotatable finger 32, the body 39 of each rotatable finger 32 has sufficient mass to allow it to rotate around the stationary axle 25 from a substantially vertical position to an extended position each time an object is removed from the alignment device 100.

[0034] Behind the frame assembly 20 is a counterweight 40. The counterweight 40 is sized to prevent the frame assembly 20 from turning over. Specifically, if the bottom 23 of the frame assembly 20 were considered to be a fulcrum, the moment arm formed by the combined weight of the plurality of the rotatable fingers 30 with respect to the fulcrum in their extended

position is exceeded by the moment arm of the counterweight 40 with respect to the fulcrum. Because the counterweight 40 has a flat surface 43 on its bottom, the frame assembly 20 will not turn over even when the plurality of fingers 30 are in a substantially vertical position.

[0035] The plurality of fingers 30, each of which is designated 32, is coupled to the stationary axle 25, wherein each of the rotatable fingers 32 may independently rotate around the stationary axle 25. Each of the rotatable fingers 32 is substantially equal in length and width in the preferred embodiment. Those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the fingers may differ in length and width without affecting the operability of the invention.

[0036] When an object is placed into the alignment device 100 by sliding the object against one or more rotatable fingers 32, a space is defined between the rotatable fingers 32 which remain in an extended position. That is, the area or volume occupied by the object when it is stored in the alignment device 100 defines a space. An advantage of the present invention is the preservation of this space when the object is removed. That is, removal of the object from the alignment device 100 permits the rotatable fingers 32 to rotate towards the extended position. This feature is particularly helpful when reshelving objects that are not particularly well marked among other objects that are not particularly well marked.

[0037] In the preferred embodiment, the rotatable fingers 32, when extended, are at an approximate 45° angle to the horizontal. Those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that an acute angle from about 15° to about 80° from the horizontal for extension of each finger 32 will not affect the operation of the device 100. The rotatable fingers 32 preserve the space by preventing adjacent objects from falling or twisting sideways into an adjacent space.

[0038] Test results have revealed that objects which would normally fall off a shelf during an event such as an earthquake will remain on the shelf if stored in an alignment device 100 according to the system and method of the present invention. Accordingly, the system and method will provide an added measure of safety for those who live in earthquake-prone regions. [0039] A particular advantage of the present invention is the retention of objects in the stored position when an adjacent object is removed from a row of objects stored in the alignment device 100. For example, in response to gravity, the rotatable fingers 32 return to their extended position when an object (not shown) is removed from the device, the rotatable fingers 32 helping to support the remaining objects in an upright manner, thereby tending to prevent the remaining objects from falling or twisting sideways - which twisting could actually distort or destroy an object such as a rare book. It is also an advantage of the present invention that the rotatable fingers 32 return to the extended position in response to gravity, thereby eliminating the need for other elements forcing the return of the rotatable fingers 32 to the extended position (e.g., springs). [0040] Those of ordinary skill in the art to which the disclosed invention pertains will understand its utility in medical, educational, scientific, laboratory and library environments. Still others will see the utility of the disclosed invention in business furniture or in residential furniture wherein an alignment device 100 may be placed on each shelf in a set of bookshelves. Yet others will understand the utility of the disclosed invention with large sets of reference materials such as encyclopedia or the large sets of catalogues typically found in after-market auto parts stores.

[0041] Although the present invention has been described in detail, those skilled in the art should understand that they can make various changes, substitutions and alterations herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention system and method of the present.

Such changes, substitutions and alterations shall fall within the scope and meaning of the appended claims.