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Title:
SUPPORT DOLLIE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2022/120430
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A dollie (10) for supporting an object (20), the dollie comprising: a holder (30) adapted to support the object above a support surface (40) such that the object rests on or in, or is secured to, the holder; and a mobile structure (50) that supports the holder above the support surface, wherein: the mobile structure comprises a peripheral body (60) and a wheel set (70) comprising a plurality of wheels (71); each wheel (71a-c,i-iii) of the wheel set is spaced radially from an inner-point (31) of the holder and is spaced about the peripheral body from each other adjacent wheel of the wheel set; and the wheel set includes three or more multiple-directional wheels (71a-c).

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Inventors:
MCKINNON PETER (AU)
Application Number:
PCT/AU2021/051472
Publication Date:
June 16, 2022
Filing Date:
December 09, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ROTACASTER WHEEL PTY LTD (AU)
International Classes:
B62B5/00; A47G7/04; B60B19/00; B62B3/10
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DREW, David (AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
28

The claims:

1. A dollie for supporting an object, the do Hie comprising: a holder adapted to support the object above a support surface such that the object rests on or in, or is secured to, the holder; and a mobile structure that supports the holder above the support surface, wherein: the mobile structure comprises an outer peripheral body and a wheel set comprising a plurality of wheels; each wheel of the wheel sets is spaced radially from an inner-point of the holder and is spaced about the peripheral body from each other adjacent wheel of the wheel set; each wheel has a fixed main axis of rotation oriented transverse to a radial line extending from a centre-point of the holder; and the wheel set includes three or more multiple-directional wheels.

2. The dollie as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the multiple-directional wheels are omniwheels that are aligned to rotate in planes extending radially from the centrepoint.

3. The dollie as claimed in Claim 2, wherein the radially aligned wheels in the wheel set are omniwheels.

4. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the holder includes a peripheral support corresponding in shape, configuration or footprint to the peripheral body.

5. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein a combination of the peripheral support and the peripheral body structure support the mobile structure and are adapted to support the object.

6. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the holder is a circular structure that defines a central hole sized and shaped to receive a lower portion of the object.

7. The dollie as claimed in Claim 6, wherein the central hole is defined by a part- cylindrical or frusto-conical inner-facing wall.

8. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the mobile structure includes a wheel support frame that is housed in a cavity defined by inner and outer walls of the holder.

9. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein an upper annular plate forms an upper surface of the holder.

10. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 1 and 3 - 9, wherein the wheels in the wheel set are omnidirectional wheels with a main axis that is fixed relative to the centre point.

11. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the wheel set includes 5 or 6 multiple-directional wheels with a main axis that is fixed relative to the centre point and includes no standard, non-multiple-directional wheel types.

12. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 1 and 3 - 9, wherein the wheel set includes a combination of different type wheels and/or rollers.

13. The dollie as claimed in Claim 12, wherein the wheel set includes 3 multipledirectional wheels and 3 standard wheels.

14. The dollie as claimed in Claim 13, wherein the standard wheels are undersized compared to the omni wheels so that the standard wheels only come into contact with a ground surface when traversing a gap or change in level.

AMENDED CLAIMS received by the International Bureau on 13 May 2022 (13.05.2022)

The claims:

1. A dollie for supporting an object, the dollie comprising: a holder adapted to support the object above a support surface such that the object rests on or in, or is secured to, the holder; and a mobile structure that supports the holder above the support surface, wherein: the mobile structure comprises an outer peripheral body and a wheel set comprising a plurality of wheels; each wheel of the wheel set is spaced radially from an inner-point of the holder and is spaced about the peripheral body from each other adjacent wheel of the wheel set; each wheel has a fixed main axis of rotation oriented transverse to a radial line extending from a centre-point of the holder; and the plurality of wheels of the wheel set includes three or more omni- wheels; and each of the omniwheels are aligned in fixed orientation to rotate about their main axes.

2. The dollie as claimed in Claim 1 , wherein the main axis of each wheel is aligned substantially perpendicular to the radial line r extending from the centre point X of the dollie.

3. The dollie as claimed in Claim 1 or 2, wherein the peripheral body is part of the holder and integrated with the mobile structure that includes a wheel supporting structure having a wheel support frame housed in a cavity defined by inner and outer walls of the holder, together with the support surface of the holder.

4. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the support surface is a peripheral support that corresponds in shape, configuration or footprint to the peripheral body.

30

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) The dollie as claimed in Claim 3 or 4, wherein the holder includes an array of internal ribs that form a reinforcing web. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the holder is a circular structure that defines a central hole sized and shaped to receive a lower portion of the object. The dollie as claimed in Claim 6, wherein the central hole is defined by a part- cylindrical or frusto-conical inner-facing wall. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the mobile structure includes a wheel support frame that is housed in a cavity defined by inner and outer walls of the holder. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 5 to 8, wherein the reinforcing web comprises radially aligned ribs and a double race of radially spaced circumferential ribs. The dollie as claimed in Claim 9, wherein the radially aligned ribs terminate at their radially inner and outer ends in a butted join with a vertical slot that does not extend through the inner or outer walls. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 5 to 10, wherein the holder includes circumferential ribs that extend between a wheel support frame comprised of a set of wheel support frames corresponding to the wheels of the wheel set in number, each wheel support frame being identical and comprising a pair of spaced and opposed axle cradles, each pair of axle cradles being circumferentially located and equispaced around the peripheral body. The dollie as claimed in any one of the previous claims, wherein the plurality of wheels of the wheel set includes 5 or 6 omniwheels and does not include any non-multiple-directional wheel types. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 1 - 11, wherein the plurality of wheels of the wheel set includes omni wheels and 3 standard wheels. The dollie as claimed in Claim 13, wherein the standard wheels are undersized compared to the omni wheels so that the standard wheels only come into contact

31

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) with a ground surface when traversing a gap or change in level. The dollie as claimed in any one of Claims 11 to 14, wherein the wheel support frame further includes buttresses that form a supporting structure for each axle cradle, each buttress including a pair of posts, including an inner post and an outer post, that each comprise mirrored L- shaped structures that have an inner or outer arm, that is substantially radially aligned relative to the holder and join to form a cradle base of the axle cradle at their respective lower ends, whereby, with the wheels on the support surface, the cradle base supports an end of the main axle against vertical displacement in an upward direction, and a deflectable detent traps the main axle in the cradle and resists vertical displacement thereof in a downward direction.

32

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19)

Description:
SUPPORT DOLLIE

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to a support dollie or trolley, in the form of a platform with wheels, for supporting a supported item. More particularly, this invention relates to a moveable support dollie for supporting technical equipment in commercial or industrial applications, medical devices and equipment in hospital and other medical environments, and portable plants in greenhouse, domestic and horticultural settings. Still more particularly, this invention relates to a moveable support dollie for supporting pot plants.

BACKGROUND ART

The following references to and descriptions of prior proposals or products are not intended to be, and are not to be construed as, statements or admissions of common general knowledge in the art. In particular, the following prior art discussion should not be assumed to relate to what is commonly or well known by the person skilled in the art, but to assist in the inventive process undertaken by the inventor(s) and in the understanding of the invention.

Support dollies may be useful in a number of applications, particularly in environments in which heavy or awkward items are advantageously made mobile. Such items may be permanently supported for periodic movement across relatively flat and/or smooth manmade surfaces.

Without affecting the generality of the applications to which the invention may lend itself, one particular application of this invention relates to the mobile support of potted plants. Plants and their pots are often a source of pride and enjoyment, enhancing and beautifying our living environments, some are even a work of art. Their owners can and do spend a substantial amount of time and money procuring and caring for them.

Potted plants (plants) invariably have to move whether frequently or infrequently for a range of reasons, such as protection from or better exposure to the elements, cleaning or maintain the area under or around them, watering and fertilising, or simply for relocation to a more preferred location. However, pot plants can be heavy, moving them may involve bending down and lifting, which may expose the carrier to back or other musculoskeletal strain or injury.

In the case of plant dollies, most commercially available models use swivel castors with a platform construction that lacks durability and has poor load-bearing properties. The generic swivel offset and mounting of a castor creates a limitation to both the functionality and aesthetics of the dollie as well as potential durability.

The fundamental function of a support dollie is to make it easy to move the supported item across a range of surfaces without having to lift and carry them each time.

Ideally, if possible, this needs to be accomplished without:

1. requiring a large amount of effort to move and/or control its direction (needs to be manoeuvrable and controllable);

2. easily tipping over or stopping on minor obstructions or holes (load stability and the ability to traverse over gaps and minor changes in the surface); and/or

3. rolling away on minor inclines or in the wind - a function that may require the application of a brake or wheel stop in prior art dollies (to prevent roll-away).

The swivel offset of the castor and its inherent lead-follow relationship introduces a number of challenges in regard to the above requirements. While this gives the swivel castor its greatest advantage, it's fluidity, this is also its greatest weakness for the following reasons:

1. Directional control: while this is not an issue on small loads, as loads increase, directional control tends to require greater levels of force to maintain or change the direction of the platform's momentum which can be difficult on low heavy supported items, such as plants/pots, as it may require a user to bend, push and twist). In addition, the reactivity of the swivel to any obstruction can introduce unwanted directional changes requiring more input for correction of the misdirection or undesirable tipping of the supported item.

2. Stability: the lead-follow relationship of the swivel caster means there is a dynamic relationship between the centre of load and the wheelbase. When pushing, the centre of load moves slightly forward, increasing the risk of it tipping over (forward) if it encounters an obstruction. This can be catastrophic if the load is a heavy ceramic or otherwise breakable item. Also, the additional height required for a swivel caster mount over its wheel size, adds to this risk.

3. Roll-away: while many man-made surfaces such as concrete pavement, cement slab, tiled and linoleum surfaces, and other synthetic surfaces, including most balconies, decks, patios and/or gardens, may have cross falls, inclines or pitch of 2 degrees or less, swivel castors (with their fluidity) respond to the smallest of inclines unless braked. The problem here is that if the brakes are only on one or a couple of the swivel casters, then depending on the direction that the dollie is moved relative to the castor with the brake, it may not be accessible to the user i.e. the brake actuator may end up inaccessibly under the dollie supporting a weight too great for the operator to manually shift whilst braked, requiring some thought and manipulation to access and deactivate it.

Irrespective of the cost, and a particularly galling issue for users, is the relatively short life-span of most commercially available plant dollies.

Having spent considerable time and effort to procure a dollie, mount a heavy or awkward item onto it and move it into place, it is quite frustrating if in a matter of months it simply will no longer move due to either corrosion or a collapsed caster, or to have a caster collapse as the user is in the process of moving it, along with the risk of damaging the supported item, such as an expensive pot and/or plant.

This comes down not only to the quality of materials, components and the environment in which they are used, but also the generic cantilever design and mount fixings of swivel casters, which have been found by the Applicant to place additional forces on the wheel and fixings compared to a fixed wheel due to the inherent vertically and axially offset load relative to the ground-contacting position of the caster wheel.

Corrosion can also be a major cause of failure and while many dollie platforms and wheels do use non-corrosive materials (resin-based plastics) they invariably include key (critical or essential) metal components that are subject to corrosion, which can be especially problematic in coastal, acidic (and other chemically corrosive) or high moisture environments.

In terms of aesthetics, casters may not be the most attractive design element of a support dollie, yet often are quite visually obvious and difficult to obscure in a recess due to the wide swing and large sweep inherent in their operation. Also, there is the need to provide clearance to allow a swivel caster to freely rotate about its swept radius and to accommodate the height of a caster by raising the platform height which further adds to their unwanted visibility and diminishes their appeal.

Recent innovations include using a skirted or enclosed design style to hide the casters. However, this necessitates that the vertical axle and mount of the caster be moved inward toward the centre to clear the skirt, resulting in a smaller wheelbase, larger platform overhang and a less stable wheel base. This further reduces load stability and increases the risk of the dollie overturning when moving.

With specific reference to the plant dollie application, to date, the plant trolley/dolly market offering has been limited to the use of swivel castors (casters- USA) and since irrespective of the quality of the swivel castor used, their inherent and generic swivel offset design with a lead follow relationship with the platform, has substantial shortcomings to the functionality, durability and aesthetics. With the quality of caster unable to overcome many of these shortcomings, it has also led to the commoditisation of these products based primarily on cost.

Within the market there is little in the way of a product consistent with the beauty and care required of a many customers' investment in their plants and pots. Not only do the existing ones, not look great under that beautiful pot, they often don't last or overturn easily when moving, or simply collapse under the load.

People spend a lot of money on their plants and pots and are often a source of pride and enjoyment.

However, potted plants (plants) have to move to varying extents for a range of reasons such as protection from or better exposure to the elements, cleaning or maintain the arear under or around them, watering and fertilising, or simply relocation to a more preferred location.

For those with many plants and a constant need to move them, hand trolleys (hand trucks) with garden or mini-pallets are often the best option, however, most households have a limited number of pots and the go to option for good reason tends to be a plant Dollie (dolly).

To date, the market offering has been limited to the use of swivel castors (casters- USA) and due to the fact that irrespective of the quality of the swivel castor used, the generic swivel offset and mounts of a castor introduces limitation to the functionality, durability and aesthetics of these dollies.

Subsequently given these limitations and the absence of a viable alternative, cost often becomes the primary decision driver, resulting in manufacturers using low cost, low- quality castors, further compounding the performance of these dollies.

Despite customer demand for a plant trolley to move potted plants safely and consistently, many quality and specialist retailers do not to stock incumbent offerings, possibly due to this commoditisation and the prior absence of one consistent with the quality of their pots and plant offering, customer disappointment and returns due to failure.

An object of the present invention is to ameliorate one or more of the aforementioned disadvantages of the prior art and in the inventive arrangement to at least provide a useful alternative thereto.

STATEMENT OF INVENTION

The invention according to one or more aspects may be as defined in the independent claims. Some optional and/or preferred features of the invention are defined in the dependent claims.

Accordingly, in one aspect of the invention there is provided:

A dollie for supporting an object, the dollie comprising: a holder adapted to support the object above a support surface such that the object rests on or in, or is secured to, the holder; and a mobile structure that supports the holder above the support surface, wherein: the mobile structure comprises an outer peripheral body and a wheel set comprising a plurality of wheels; each wheel of the wheel sets is spaced radially from an inner-point of the holder and is spaced about the peripheral body from each other adjacent wheel of the wheel set; each wheel has a main axis of rotation oriented transverse to a radial line extending from a centre-point of the holder; and the wheel set includes three or more multiple-directional wheels.

Preferably, the dollie includes a wheel base with only omni-directional wheels that are radially arranged so that the planes in whichthe main wheel rotates about the main axis is in a radial plane extending from the centre point. In another preferred embodiment, the wheel base includes a combination of omni-wheels and slightly smaller fixed wheels with a fixed orientation to one another, preferably also oriented such that their main axes are aligned transverse to a radial plane extending from the centre point.

Preferably, the support dollie does not include a swivel castor or fixed castor mounts. Instead, the omni wheels can be mounted in any vertical orientation and arrangement while still maintaining multi-directional capability. This reduces the overall height of the platform required to house the omniwheels relative to an equivalent arrangement using caster wheels.

Preferably, the support dollie wheel set does not include one or more caster wheels.

ADVANTAGES

The inventive wheel base provides distinct advantages with regard to function, durability, aesthetics, life cycle, complexity of manufacture and environmental aspects.

In particular, the inventive support dollie or wheeled platform addresses one or more of the following issues: i) Load stability both when stationary and during movement; ii) Directional control; iii) Capability and consistency to traverse gaps or obstructions with minor changes in levels without refusal or getting stuck resulting, to prevent, for example, overturning; iv) Aesthetics; v) Life cycle durability, robustness and reduction in environmental impact, as well as ease of manufacture.

With regard to directional control, it has been found by the Applicant in testing of omniwheels installed on dollies for trial purposes, that because omni wheels use a fixed orientation they respond directly to the force applied.

In relation to stability, it has been found by the Applicant that the omniwheel has greater stability compared to a caster because an omni wheel has a fixed relationship with the centre of load. Furthermore, it does not need a swivel or fixed caster mount, thereby allowing for a lower platform height for the equivalent omniwheel compared to a corresponding caster, and reduces the risk of tipping. In addition, the multiple fixed wheel orientations allow the support dollie of the invention to traverse gaps and ridges more easily than a caster wheel-supported dollie, without refusals or tipping compared to similar-sized swivels.

As to aesthetics, the support dollie preferably provides a plinth-like appearance using a simple structure. The support dollie may have a generallyt circular, toroidal or doughnut in shape, with the support dollie may have a clean deep face comprising a substantially cylindrical outer wall. The fixed orientation of the omni wheels allows them to be statically located immediately adjacent to the perimeter of the dollie, unlike their prior art caster counter-parts. This may have the effect of optimising the width of the wheelbase, in that the ground-contacting position of the omniwheel relative to a centrepoint of a frame or housing of platform or structure of the support dollie remains consistent, irrespective of the direction that the support dollie may be moved. The layout of the support dollie platform and structure allows the dollie to complement (rather than detract from) the visual impact of the supported item, such as a potted plant. The support dollie may appear to be more like an extension, plinth or solid base to the supported item, such as a pot, rather than looking like a distinct and separate and unaesthetic element, allowing the supported item, such as a potted plant, to remain a feature, but also substantially improves load stability and diminishes the risk of overturning.

The support dollie of the invention is preferably adapted to not roll-away without the application of force on inclines/cross-falls that are less than 6 degrees, which is well beyond most pedestrian surfaces other than ramps. This is achieved due to the fixed radially oriented wheel configuration and removes the need for a brake in most situations. The omniwheels of the invention are aligned to rotate in planes extending radially from the centre-point. The result is reliable, easy, quick movement and placement while removing the risk of having forgotten to apply or actuate a brake. The inventive arrangement also mitigates the risk of damage to an actuated brake where the user has forgotten to release same prior to any attempt to move the support dollie. In high wind environments, or on inclines above 6°, blocks or wedged door stops can be readily accessed and used for added security to immobilise the support dollie.

With regard to the potential for corrosion, support dollies in industrial and horticultural applications, such as regarding pot plants and their supports, are regularly exposed to high amounts of water spray and other potentially corrosive elements. Accordingly, the support dollie may be made almost entirely of non-corrosive (resin based) materials. The metal components may be limited to stainless steel axles and/or pins for the wheels.

As to environmental aspects, the support dollie may exhibit an extended life-span compared to competitors’ products and can reduce the environmental impact/footprint with less waste going to landfill over time. The support dollie can be manufactured using a substantial proportion of recyclable material.

Further advantages of the inventive arrangement include:

Load Capacity:

Another issue is the number and breadth of points of ground contact made by the wheels that affects the load distribution over the platform, and ultimately, the load capacity of the dollie. As no ground or pedestrian surface is perfectly flat, irrespective of the number of wheels used, theoretically you can only depend on three (3) wheels sharing the load at any one point in time, in a manner that is similar in principle to a tripod support. That is why even four (4) wheeled platform load capacities are determined by multiplying the load capacity of the wheel type used, by three. The fourth wheel simply provides balance support.

In practice, the flexibility of the platform may provide some further distribution of load across the total number of wheels, providing some advantage.

Therefore, in the first embodiment of the inventive support dollie, a minimum of three only omni wheels are relied upon for the total distribution of load, thereby removing the need for a fourth multi-directional wheel. In a second embodiment, however, an additional three omni wheels are provided between the initial three omniwheels (for a total of 6 evenly circumferentially and radially spaced omniwheels) while maintaining the original layout/configuration of the initial three. The minor flexibility or deflection of the structure under load provides a relatively good distribution of the total load.

However, for the purposes of clarity, any number of wheels above three can be used with a variable level of advantage regarding load distribution and load stability.

Load Stability & Ability to Consistently and Safely Traverse Obstructions

Load Stability is largely dependent on the number of wheels used and their relativity to the centre of gravity of the load. That is why office chairs do not have four swivel casters, they generally have a minimum of 5.

Advantageously, in a preferred form of the invention, a total of six wheels is included in the wheel set. This provides flexibility in manufacture with regard to the use of the same platform body to accommodate multiple different wheel configurations of different embodiments. This may cater for a plurality of different load capacities (and price points), yet still provide six wheels in each preferred form of the invention for load stability. For example, a 50 kg load capacity model of the inventive support dollie has three omni wheels and three standard (not omniwheels) roller wheels, while the 90 kg load capacity model has six exclusively omni wheels.

In the first embodiment, while not essential for load distribution; for load stability and the capability to traverse gaps and obstruction without getting stuck or tipping over, three slightly smaller fixed standard roller wheels can be used in the same location of the second set of omni wheels used in the second embodiment as mentioned above.

As the fixed main axis standard roller wheel is slightly smaller (48mm versus the 50mm diameter of an omni wheel in the preferred embodiments) than the omni wheels, in normal operation within the maximum recommended load, they generally do not come into contact with the ground or running surface, and so do not impede movement despite their possibly transverse (to the direction of travel) orientation, except under two circumstances.

Firstly, when the platform encounters an obstruction such as a gap or change in level (i.e. floor joints, etc.), normally this causes a refusal or rapid deceleration in momentum/movement. In this case, one of the fixed standard roller may assist in stopping the platform from tilting, and while it may cause a minor directional change or rotation due to its orientation when it strikes the surface, it enables the platform to traverse the obstruction without refusal and mitigates the risk of the support dollie tipping over.

The three fixed rollers subsequently serve a three-fold purpose,

1. To provide the load stability of a six wheeled wheelbase while only using three multi-directional wheels

2. To ensure the platform can traverse an obstruction without refusal and/or tipping.

3. To provide additional static load capacity beyond the max. recommended load that can be inadvertently applied due impact, watering or underestimating the weight without failure of the product.

Housing of the wheels within a low-profile structure with a low outer edge or lip, such as the plinth-like holder structure, also provides some protection from overturning as the edge of the platform structure contacts the ground much earlier than most platforms mounted above a swivel castor. This may have the effect of restricting the dollies’ potential tilt angle and its propensity to tip over under the same force or momentum. This feature also assists in tilting and loading a pot or load onto the dolly without it rolling or flipping out from under it.

Centre of Load:

The centre of load also plays a big part in the above. The fixed nature of the omni wheel and rollers wheels ensure there is a static/fixed relationship between the load/or centre of gravity of the load and the wheelbase providing greater load stability with more predictable and intuitive movement than with swivel casters.

The lead/follow and rotational movement of a swivel castor about its fixing point, creates a shifting/dynamic relationship between the load/load platform/centre of gravity and the wheelbase. Further, because of this lead/follow relationship the centre of load is moved forward of the centre of the wheelbase in the direction of travel placing a greater load on the forward placed wheels. This often results in refusal or rapid deceleration of the platform when encountering an obstruction when using a similar number of wheels, whereas the proposed wheelbase can glide across, as it allows the forward wheels and load to cantilever off the rearward wheels. This is particularly true of the six wheel arrangements and their relationship to the centre of load.

Wheel Orientation:

In a 6 wheel configuration, the fixed orientation of the omni wheels and the ability to orient them in a pattern in which they are opposed to one another allows them to be set up in a radial orientation and configuration. This contributes substantially to the advantages regarding the ability to safely and consistently traverse obstructions. While the overall combination overcomes the inherent shortcomings of swivel castors, the 6 wheel configuration also overcomes a particular shortcoming of an omni wheel, which is the limitation of the smaller outer rollers to negotiate an obstruction when approached laterally or sideways, due to the small diameter of the outer roller by relying on the rotation of the omniwheel about its main axis. The wheels of the wheel set are aligned in a radial orientation with their main axes aligned circumferentially or tangentially relative to a circular holder housing in which they are mounted. This ensures that a risk of failure to roll over an obstruction due to the size limitations of the minor peripheral rollers of the omniwheels is addressed. In contrast, if a leading wheel of the wheel set (the front-most wheel in the direction of travel) was orientated in a circumferential or tangential arrangement the small peripheral rollers would fail to clear the obstruction at times.

Another consideration is that while swivel caster wheels will generally approach an obstruction in line with the direction of travel, the centre of load of the supported item borne on the platform will generally be forward of the centre of the wheel base or closer to the balance point, thereby risking a refusal (i.e., a failure to proceed beyond the obstruction).

In contrast, advantageously, the centre of load will be in the centre of the wheel base of the support dollie of the invention. The radially arranged/oriented wheels ensure that the wheels approach an obstruction in line or at an angle that utilises the primary diameter of the (omni or standard) wheels to negotiate an obstruction. Advantageously, the use of six wheels minimises the risk of refusal and facilitates traversal of obstructions by presenting the leading wheel(s) front on (with their main axis transversely aligned to the direction of travel) to glide over a gap or obstruction.

There are preferably no non-stainless steel metal components used in the construction of the support dollie. Preferably, there are no nails, screws, bolts or nuts used in the construction of the support dollie. However, stainless steel axles, cotter pins and the like may be included.

ALTERNATIVES and PREFERMENTS

Surface

The support surface may be the ground, a floor, or a platform, etc. Ideally, the support surface is substantially flat and/or smooth to permit a rollable structure to traverse across it. Item

Whilst the shape, form and size of the platform could change, it is the wheel base arrangement/configuration enabled by the inclusion in the wheel set of omniwheels (such omnidirectional wheels or omniwheels inherently having a fixed main axis) that provide particular advantages according to the invention. A non-exhaustive list of examples of supported items include: i) Technical, commercial, retail, industrial and office equipment in commercial or industrial applications, such as monitors, line- control equipment, furniture, such as office chairs, mobile furniture, retail stands and displays, hotel laundry and retail clothing trolleys and frames, general purpose dollies, etc.; ii) Medical devices and equipment, such as devices for measuring biometric, heart and other medical indications, and medical equipment such as intra-venous drips that benefit from portability to accompany ambulant patients, in hospital and other medical environments; iii) artistic items such as sculptures; and iv) Portable plants in greenhouse, domestic and horticultural settings, for example potted plants, seedling and sapling boxes, etc.

The object may be an artistic display, such as a sculpture, and/or a plant, including a pot plant. A plant or pot plant may receive watering, which may make the weight of the object variable. Reference to weights of objects herein refers to the object at its heaviest in a range of possible weights where the variable is the amount of water stored in the plant or pot plant. The plant may, over time, accumulate mass as part of the natural growing process.

Dollie

The dollie may be a mobile support structure adapted to hold the object on a long time and/or permanent basis. The dollie is preferably adapted to support an object weighing up to 100kg. The dollie may be adapted to support an object weighing up to 50kg. Use of a larger wheel in a larger base increases the load capacity e.g. the 90mm wheel could be used in a larger version.

Holder

The holder comprises one or more points of support to support the object in place. The holder may include a peripheral support. The peripheral support may correspond in shape, configuration or footprint to the peripheral body. The peripheral support and the peripheral body may be integrally formed. The peripheral support and the peripheral body may be unitarily formed. The peripheral support and the peripheral body may be the same structure. The combined peripheral support and peripheral body structure may support the mobile structure and be adapted to support the object.

The holder may be a circular structure. The holder may be toroidal in shape. The holder may be doughnut/donut shaped. The holder may define a central hole. The central hole may be sized and shaped to receive a lower portion of the object. The central hole may be defined by a part-cylindrical or frusto-conical inner-facing wall. Extending across the central hole may be a horizontal plate, web of straps, radially or inward extending spokes or arms protruding upwardly and/or inwardly to provide one or more points of support. Preferably, the one or more points of support is provided by a flat upper surface of the holder. The upper surface may have a flat non-slip mat adhered thereto to provide a non-slip surface for resting the object thereon.

The holder may be made using an injection moulding method. The holder may be made from suitable strong structural plastics. The outer panels comprising the inner and outer walls, and the top flat (or upper annular) plate are preferably unitarily formed of a single piece of plastic. Alternatively, the inner and outer walls may be separately made from metal or other rigid and hard-wearing sheet or plate material. The inner and outer walls may be made of Aluminium/SS sheeting. The top (upper annular) plate may be made from metal plate material.

Peripheral Body and Mobile Structure

The peripheral body may be formed as part of the holder. The peripheral body may be integrated with the mobile structure and may include a wheel supporting structure. The wheel supporting structure may have a wheel support frame. The wheel support frame may be housed in a cavity. The cavity may be defined by inner and outer walls of the holder, together with an upper annular plate forming the upper surface of the holder.

The wheel set may include one or more multiple-directional wheels. The wheel set may include a plurality of multiple-directional wheels. The wheel may include a single type of wheel. The single type of wheel may be a multiple-directional wheel. The wheel set may include at least 3, and preferably 5 or 6, multiple-directional wheels and no standard, non-multiple-directional wheel types. Such an arrangement is configured to support relative large loads between 20 - 120kg, preferably 30 - 90kg. The wheel set may include a combination of different type wheels and/or rollers. The wheel set may include 3 multiple-directional wheels and 3 standard wheels. The standard wheels are preferably undersized compared to the multi-directional wheels (specifically an omni wheel. For example, the omniwheel may have a diameter of 50mm, whereas the standard wheel is slightly smaller, at 48mm, whereby to depend slightly above an even floor or ground surface. This is so the standard wheels only come into contact with the surface when traversing a gap or change in level, for example to avoid tipping. Such an arrangement is configured to support relatively moderate loads between 2 - 60kg, preferably 10 - 50kg, and most preferably anything load up to 5 Okg. Preferably, the wheels are equi-spaced about the peripheral body.

The wheels may be radially aligned so that the respective main axle of each wheel is aligned parallel with a nominal tangential line radially spaced from the centre and intersecting the subject wheel. Preferably, the main axis of each wheel is normal to a nominal radial line extending from the centre of the dollie. The rolling direction of the front-most and leading wheel may be aligned/oriented radially to the centre of the platform, or at least include a direction vector so aligned. The main axis of each wheel may be aligned substantially normal to a radial line extending from the centre of the dollie.

Preferably the maximum diameter of each of the multiple-directional wheels is identical within acceptable tolerances. The standard wheels may have a smaller maximum diameter than the multiple-directional wheels. Preferably the maximum diameter of each of the standard wheels is identical to each other standard wheel within acceptable tolerances. The difference in maximum diameter of each of the wheels may be between 2 - 5% of the maximum diameter of the multiple-directional wheels. In one preferred arrangement, the maximum diameter of the multiple-directional wheels is 50mm and the maximum diameter of the standard wheels is 48mm. The wheel sizes of the omnidirectional, and/or standard, wheels, may vary depending on the application, including load and terrain requirements. The mobile structure is adapted to permit movement of the support dollie in any traverse direction across the support surface. The mobile structure is preferably adapted to rollably traverse small obstacles, such as gaps in concrete, tiles and timber decking, carpet strips or edges.

Wheels

Each of the wheels may include a main axis being the axis of a corresponding main axle. Preferably, the main axis of each wheel is aligned tangentially and at right angles to a nominal line extending through the inner point. The inner point may be a centrepoint of the dollie where the holder is substantially round or circular. In such an arrangement, the main wheel body of each wheel is oriented in radial alignment with the nominal radial line of the dollie.

The rolling resistance of the wheel about the main axis of an multiple-directional wheel may be between 5% - 99% of an averaged lateral rolling resistance of the peripheral rollers of the multiple-directional wheel. The rolling resistance of the multipledirectional wheel may be substantially less than the averaged rolling resistance of the peripheral rollers of the multiple-directional wheel.

By providing a plurality of multiple-directional wheels spaced about the peripheral body and consistently oriented to align with the inner point, the rollers of at least one multiple-directional wheel in the wheel set will offer increased rolling resistance in the direction parallel to the main axis. Therefore, the mobile structure will not roll easily on a gentle slope, for example with a 1:20 or less gradient.

The wheel set is adapted to provide at least 3 points of surface support contact corresponding to the inclusion of 3 or more wheels in the wheel set.

It will be appreciated that any of the features described herein can be used in any combination, and that the invention as described in respect of the second aspect may have the specific features referred to above in respect of the invention as described in respect of the first aspect. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention may be better understood from the following non-limiting description of preferred embodiments, in which:

Figure 1 is a top plan view of a dollie according to a first embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 is a bottom isometric view of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 3 is a top isometric view of a peripheral body and a peripheral support of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 4 is a isometric view of the top and side of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 5 is a top isometric view of a circular mat of the peripheral support and a wheel set of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 6 is a top isometric view of the wheel set shown in Fig. 5;

Figure 7 is an isometric view of the underside of the peripheral body of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 8a is a plan view of the underside of the peripheral body shown in Fig. 7;

Figure 8b is a plan view of the underside of the peripheral body according to an alternative square-shaped deck;

Figure 8c is a plan view of the footprint of the peripheral body according to an another square-shaped deck and wheel;

Figure 9 is an isometric view of a multiple-directional wheel of the wheel set shown in Fig. 6;

Figure 10 is an end elevation of the multiple-directional wheel shown in Fig. 9;

Figure 11 is a sectional view of the multiple-directional wheel shown in Fig. 10;

Figure 12 is an end elevation of a standard wheel shown in Fig. 6;

Figure 13 is an isometric view of a standard wheel shown in Fig. 12;

Figure 14 is a sectional view of the standard wheel shown in Fig. 13; Figure 15 is a cut away side elevation of the dollie shown in Fig. 1;

Figure 16 is an isometric view of the underside of the dollie shown in Fig. 1

Figure 17a is an exploded view of the holder and a combination wheel set according to the first embodiment;

Figure 17b is an exploded view of the holder and a omni-directional wheel, wheel set according to a fourth embodiment;

Figure 18a is an underneath view of the support dollie according to the first embodiment; and

Figure 18b is an underneath view of the support dollie according to the fourth embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Preferred features of the present invention will now be described with particular reference to the accompanying drawings. However, it is to be understood that the features illustrated in and described with reference to the drawings are not to be construed as limiting on the scope of the invention. In describing the various embodiments of the invention, like features will be referred to using like references, with references for features of each embodiment generally preceded by 1, 2, 3, or followed by a Roman numeric sequence, such as i, ii, iii, etc. or an alphabetical sequence such as a, b, c, relative to the corresponding feature of the first embodiment. For example, a feature 10 of the first embodiment may represented as 110, 210, 310, (or nlO), or 10a, 10b, 10c, (or lOx) or lOi, lOii, lOiii, (or lOr) etc. in second, third and fourth embodiments, respectively.

The reference numbers for the features shown in the drawings are provided in the table below: Referring to Figs. 1 - 18b, there is shown a dollie 10 for supporting an object 20, the dollie comprising: a holder 30 adapted to support the object above a support surface 40 such that the object rests on or in, or is secured to, the holder; and a mobile structure 50 that supports the holder above the support surface, wherein: the mobile structure comprises a peripheral body 60 and a wheel set 70 comprising a plurality of wheels 71 ; each wheel 7 la-c,i-iii of the wheel set is spaced radially from an inner-point 31 of the holder and is spaced about the peripheral body from each other adjacent wheel of the wheel set; and the wheel set includes three or more multiple-directional wheels 71a-c.

Support Surface

Depending on the application, the support surface is typically the ground, a floor, or a platform, etc.

Object to be Supported

Depending on the application, the object may be an artistic display, such as a sculpture, and/or a plant, including a pot plant. In the embodiment shown in Figure 1, the object is a pot plant. The dollie is intended for objects that are relatively heavy and pose a problem for the average person to lift. The object may be at least 5 kg in weight, and the dollie may be configured and rated for different sized and weighted objects. In the present example, the pot plant weighs 7kg and the dollie is rated to support a variable loads, including loads of up to 50 kg where a wheel set of 3 omniwheels 71a-c is provided, and up to 90 kg where, for example, a wheel set of 6 omniwheels 71a-c is provided. The object may be substantially cylindrical and may have a slight conical shape wherein the base 22 is narrower than the mouth 24.

Support Dollie

The dollie is a mobile support structure adapted to hold the object on a long time and/or permanent basis.

Holder

The holder shown in all but Figs. 8b-c is a circular structure, being substantially toroidal or doughnut/donut in shape, having a cylindrical inner wall 35, a cylindrical outer wall 36 and the upper surface being flat. The holder defines a central hole 37 within which lies the virtual inner point 31. The central hole may be defined by a part-cylindrical or frusto-conical inner-facing wall. The holder may also be square or rectangular. Common sizes of pots in plan are 450mmx450mm, 350mmx800mm and 450mmxl000mm, whereby a square or rectangular platform may be the most appropriate support shape, although there are many variations in pot plant size and shape.

In the present application, the base of the object will be sufficiently broad to extend across the central hole, such that the object rests securely on the mat, held in place by the objects own weight.

The holder comprises one or more points of support 32 to support the object in place. The holder includes a peripheral support surface in the form of a non-slip mat being a flexible circular plate adhered to a correspondingly circular upper surface 34 of the holder. The peripheral support corresponds in shape and configuration to the peripheral body. The peripheral support and the peripheral body are integrally formed as part of the same structure. The combined peripheral support and peripheral body structure support the mobile structure and is adapted to support the object.

The holder is made using an injection moulding method. The holder may be made from suitable strong structural plastics. The outer panels comprising the inner and outer walls, and the top flat plate are preferably unitarily formed of a single piece of plastic. Advantageously, the dollie is made from a number of recyclable plastic materials. Preferably, the support is made from a single moulded/die cast unit.

Peripheral Body and Mobile Structure

Referring to Figs. 8a and 16, an array of internal ribs 63,64 form a reinforcing web 61. The reinforcing web is integral with a wheel support frame. The reinforcing web comprises radially aligned ribs 63 and a double race of radially spaced circumferential ribs 64. Alternative embodiments are shown in Figs. 8 b - c that show a dollie 10b,c with a square or rectangular deck 39b,c and a peripheral body 60b that is annular, as in the first embodiment, or is a square shaped platform 39c that is square or rectangular in plan and has a square or rectangular central hole 62c. With the peripherally and radially spaced wheels 71, and alignment of the wheels 71 radially from the centre of the dollie 10,10b,c, irrespective of the shape of the peripheral body 60, 60b, c or the upper platform 38, 39b, c, the dollie 10, 10b, c performs satisfactorily to maintain stability under and iun support of the load.

The peripheral body is, in the first embodiment shown, formed as part of the holder. The peripheral body is integrated with the mobile structure and includes the wheel supporting structure in the form of the wheel support frame housed in an annular cavity 62 defined by the inner wall 35, the outer wall 39 and an upper annular plate 38 forming the upper surface of the holder. The wheel set includes 3 multiple-directional wheels 71a-c and 3 standard wheels 7 li-iii. The wheels are circumferentially equispaced about the peripheral body. The standard wheels may be optionally omitted, such that the mobile structure comprises only multiple-directional wheels and no standard wheels. In the case of a circular peripheral body 60, 3 or more omni wheels 71a-c may be included in the wheelset 70. Preferably, the wheelset 70 comprises a combination of 3 or more omni wheels 71a-c and a complement of standard wheels 71— iii, the number depending size, load and the surface area of the platform 34 to be accommodated. The preferred wheelset 70 configurations in this embodiment are 1. 3 omniwheels 71a-c; 2. 3 omniwheels 71a-c and a complement of 3 standard wheels 7 li-iii or 3. 6 x omniwheels 71-a-c.

The circumferential ribs extend between a set of wheel support frames 51 corresponding to the wheels of the wheel set in number. Each wheel support frame is advantageously identical, there being no difference between wheel support frames of the multipledirectional wheels and the standard wheels. Each wheel support frame comprises a pair of spaced and opposed axle cradles, each coacting with an adjacent delectable detent 53 that is adapted to deflect to traps an end of an axle in the corresponding cradle. Each pair of axle cradles is circumferentially located and equispaced around the peripheral body.

The radial ribs terminate at their radially inner and outer ends 65a, b in a butted join with vertical slot 66 that do not extend through the inner or outer walls 35,39. Alternatively, where the reinforcing web 61 and wheel support frame 51 are integrally or unitarily formed with the inner and outer walls 35,39 from one moulded or cast piece, the joins 67 are moulded or cast unitary or integrally formed joins.

The wheel support frame further includes buttresses 54 that form a supporting structure for the axle cradle and the deflectable detent. Each buttress includes a pair of posts, including an inner post 55a and an outer post 55b that are respectively supported by substantially radially aligned inner and outer struts 56a, b that extend substantially normally from the respective inner and outer posts to the inner and outer walls 35,39. The strut ends join with the inner and outer walls 35,39 in a maimer identical to the radial rib to wall joins 67. The inner and outer posts each comprise mirrored L-shaped structures that each have an inner or outer arm 57a, b, that is substantially radially aligned relative to the holder. The inner and outer arms join to form a cradle base 58 of the axle cradle at their respective lower ends. If the dollie is seen as oriented with the wheels on the support surface, the cradle base supports an end of the main axle against vertical displacement in an upward direction, and the deflectable detent traps the main axle in the cradle and resists vertical displacement thereof in a downward direction.

The mobile structure is adapted to permit movement of the support dollie in any direction across the support surface. The wheel set is capable of rollably traversing small obstacles, such as carpet strips or edges.

Wheels

The multiple-directional wheels are capable of rotation about their main axes 74, as well as their respective peripheral rollers 77 enabling transverse directional D travel having a vector component T1,T2 in a direction D substantially at right angles to the main axis 75 of one of the standard wheels as shown in Fig. 2. The standard wheels 7 li-iii do not contact a flat and smooth floor or ground surface, but only make contact when traversing obstructions or gaps. The platform 34 can move in all directions/vectors with minor variations in the degree of effort required, depending on the sum of the vector components transverse to the main axes 74.

However, advantageously, each of the standard wheels 71i-iii are raised slightly above support surface contact as shown by the gap 72 represented in Fig. 1. In the same drawing one of the peripheral rollers of the diagonally opposed multiple-directional wheel 71b is shown making ground-contact with the support surface. This can be achieved by either raising the height of the standard wheel axes or providing standard wheels with a slightly smaller maximum diameter. In the present embodiment, the maximum diameter of the standard wheels is 48mm and the maximum diameter of the multiple-directional wheels is 50mm. Under normal loads of 5 - 50kg (the mass of the object in this example), the standard wheel gap is sufficient to ensure that at least two of the standard wheels for which their rolling direction is transverse to direction D do not provide significant frictional resistance to the rolling of the wheel set in direction D. The standard wheels 71i-iii can also offer some load support to avoid long term creep/deflection of the omni wheels 71a-c if overloaded.

The main axis of each of the multiple-directional and standard wheels is aligned tangentially around the peripheral body and is at right angles to a nominal radial line L extending through the centre-point X of the substantially round or circular dollie. The main wheel body 78a, i of each wheel is oriented in radial alignment with the nominal radial line of the dollie.

The rolling resistance of each multiple-directional wheel may be between 5% - 99% of an averaged lateral rolling resistance of the peripheral rollers of the multiple-directional wheel. The rolling resistance of the multiple-directional wheel may be substantially less than the averaged rolling resistance of the peripheral rollers of the multiple-directional wheel. By orientating the multiple directional wheels 71a-c radially, a higher level of inertia may need to be overcome to commence movement, thereby avoiding the dollie 10 rolling away without the need for a braking mechanism. It also provides more consistent and intuitive force to create movement in all directions (contrary to that of a swivel castor dollie).

By providing a plurality of multiple-directional wheels spaced about the peripheral body and consistently oriented to align with the inner point, the rollers of at least one multiple-directional wheel in the wheel set will offer increased rolling resistance in the direction parallel to the main axis. Therefore, the mobile structure will not roll easily on a gentle slope, for example with a -1 : 12 (-4.76% or -8.3%) or less gradient.

The wheel set is adapted to provide at least 3 points of surface support contact corresponding to the inclusion of 3 or more wheels in the wheel set.

In Figures 17a - 18b, there is shown the holder and wheel set combinations of the first and fourth embodiments.

In the fourth embodiment shown in Figs. 17b and 18b, the wheel set comprises a set of six identical 50mm diameter omnidirectional wheels aligned such that their main wheel body rotates in a plain and adapted to travel in a direction that is radially aligned relative to a centre point x of the holder.

In Figs. 18a-b, the holder is identical for each of the first and fourth embodiments, and comprises 6 tight-fitting housing cavities adapted to each house a respective standard roller (48mm in diameter) or omniwheel (50mm in diameter).

The wheels in each case are circumferentially equally spaced and the underside of the holder is strengthened between each wheel cavity with multiple rows of circumferentially aligned ribs and a single central radial rib. Small recesses either side of the wheel cavity are provided to secure each respective end of each main wheel axle. The radial depth of the holder body (defined inwardly and outwardly by respective inner and outer cynlindrical walls) is large enough to envelop an outermost and an innermost extent of each wheel main body, so that each wheel may be wholly contained within a footprint of the corresponding cavity.

DEFINITIONS and QUALIFICATIONS

The multiple-directional wheels as described in this specification may each include a plurality of peripheral rollers supported by a wheel frame. A suitable multipledirectional wheel is described in the international publication No. WO20916109867. The multiple-directional wheel may have multiple adjacent and circumferentially offset races of peripheral rollers, such that, for each multiple-directional wheel, effective support surface-engaging contact is made by at least one peripheral roller of the multiple-directional wheel. The multiple-directional wheel preferably have 3 - 8, more preferably 3 - 5, and most preferably 4, peripheral rollers in each race of rollers. The multiple-directional wheel may be a so-called omni-wheel.

Standard wheels as described in this specification include single body wheels with a single rotational axis and are not multiple-directional wheels. One or more of the standard wheels may be substituted with caster wheels having a substantially upright or a vertical pivot. The standard wheels 7 li-iii may be used instead of omniwheels 71a- c for cost reduction reasons and as a stability aid during movement. If cost is not a factor, a preferable wheelset 70 would have with 5 or 6 omniwheels 71a-c only.

Providing 3 omniwheels 71 a-c gives the dollie 10 excellent uniform distribution of load and stability on uneven surfaces, and caters for the required load capacity and consistent mobility.

The additional 3 low cost fixed standard wheels 7 li-iii allows for good traversing performance over gaps etc. whilst reducing the risk of refusal or rapid deceleration (and thus tipping over) when moving.

3 omni wheels 71a-c provide a stable wheelset 70. However, given the variability in the shape of pots 20, the base 22 ideally extends beyond the pot and when moving there is still a risk of the pot tipping over if an obstruction resulting in refusal or rapid deceleration is encountered. The additional standard wheels 7 li-iii and the orientation of the wheels 71 overcome this. When the wheels 71a-c are aligned tangentially, the rollers 77 can encounter an obstruction directly parallel to the roller 77 whereas this cannot occur when the wheels 71 are radially aligned. Further, the additional wheels 7 li-iii allow the encountering wheel 71 to cantilever and float across a gap.

Throughout the specification and claims the word “comprise” and its derivatives are intended to have an inclusive rather than exclusive meaning unless the contrary is expressly stated or the context requires otherwise. That is, the word “comprise” and its derivatives will be taken to indicate the inclusion of not only the listed components, steps or features that it directly references, but also other components, steps or features not specifically listed, unless the contrary is expressly stated or the context requires otherwise.

In the present specification, terms such as “apparatus”, “means”, “device” and “member” may refer to singular or plural items and are terms intended to refer to a set of properties, functions or characteristics performed by one or more items or components having one or more parts. It is envisaged that where an “apparatus”, “means”, “device” or “member” or similar term is described as being a unitary object, then a functionally equivalent object having multiple components is considered to fall within the scope of the term, and similarly, where an “apparatus”, “assembly”, “means”, “device” or “member” is described as having multiple components, a functionally equivalent but unitary object is also considered to fall within the scope of the term, unless the contrary is expressly stated or the context requires otherwise. In the present specification, the phrase “and/or” refers to severally or any combination of the features. For example, the phrase “feature 1, feature 2 and/or feature 3” includes within its scope any one of the following combinations: Feature 1 or feature 2 or feature 3; feature 1 and feature 2 or feature 3; feature 1 or feature 2 and feature 3; feature 1 and feature 3 or feature 2; feature 1 and feature 2 and feature 3.

Orientational terms used in the specification and claims such as vertical, horizontal, top, bottom, upper and lower are to be interpreted as relational and are based on the premise that the component, item, article, apparatus, device or instrument will usually be considered in a particular orientation, typically with the non-slip mat uppermost.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that many modifications and variations may be made to the methods of the invention described herein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.