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Publication numberUS20080277391 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/745,064
Publication date13 Nov 2008
Filing date7 May 2007
Priority date7 May 2007
Publication number11745064, 745064, US 2008/0277391 A1, US 2008/277391 A1, US 20080277391 A1, US 20080277391A1, US 2008277391 A1, US 2008277391A1, US-A1-20080277391, US-A1-2008277391, US2008/0277391A1, US2008/277391A1, US20080277391 A1, US20080277391A1, US2008277391 A1, US2008277391A1
InventorsTerry M. Ciccaglione
Original AssigneeInternational Business Machines Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Mobile, Robotic Crate
US 20080277391 A1
Abstract
Disclosed are a mobile robotic, packaging create and a method of moving a cargo item using that packaging crate. The mobile packaging crate comprises a crate body for holding a given item, a self-propelled driving assembly secured to the crate body for moving the crate body, and an operating module connected to the driving assembly for operating the driving assembly to move the crate body. This operating module may include a processor unit to control operation of the driving assembly in a pre-defined manner. For instance, the processor unit may be programmed to operate the driving assembly to move the packaging crate along a predefined path from a first location to a second location.
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Claims(20)
1. A mobile robotic, packaging crate, comprising:
a crate body for holding a given item;
a self-propelled driving assembly secured to the crate body for moving the crate body; and
an operating module connected to the driving assembly for operating the driving assembly to move the crate body.
2. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 1, wherein the operating module includes a processor unit to control operation of the driving assembly in a pre-defined manner.
3. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 2, wherein the processor unit is programmed to operate the driving assembly to move the crate along a predefined path from a first location to a second location.
4. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 1, wherein:
the operating module includes a receiver unit to receive commands from a remote operator to operate the driving assembly; and
a control unit to operate the driving assembly in accordance with said commands.
5. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 1, further comprising a GPS signal generator unit to generate and to transmit a signal to enable the location of the packaging crate to be tracked using the Global Positioning System.
6. A mobile packaging crate according to claim 1, wherein the crate body includes a panel section supported by the crate body for movement to a ramp position to engage a support surface and to form a ramp between the crate body and the support surface.
7. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 6, wherein the crate body supports the panel section for pivotal movement between a closed position and the ramp position.
8. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 7, wherein as the panel section moves from the closed position to the ramp position, an access opening is opened in the crate body for providing access to an interior of the crate body to allow the given item to be moved into and removed from the interior of the crate.
9. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 1, wherein the driving assembly is located beneath the crate body.
10. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 8, wherein the driving assembly includes:
a first sub-assembly located beneath a first side of the crate body; and
a second sub-assembly located beneath a second side of the crate.
11. A mobile robotic, packaging crate according to claim 10, wherein:
the first sub-assembly includes:
i) a first set of drive wheels,
ii) a first tread mounted on the first set of drive wheels for movement around said first set of drive wheels; and
the second sub-assembly includes:
i) a second set of drive wheels, and
ii) a second tread mounted on the second set of drive wheels for movement around said second set of drive wheels.
12. A method for moving a cargo item, comprising the steps of:
loading the cargo item into a crate including a self-propelled driving assembly; and
operating said driving assembly to move the crate and the cargo item.
13. A method according to claim 12, wherein the crate includes a programmable processor unit, and the operating step includes the steps of:
programming the processor unit to operate the driving assembly to move the crate along a defined path from a first location to a second location; and
using the processor unit to operate the driving assembly to move the crate along said defined path.
14. A method according to claim 12, wherein the crate includes a receiver and a control unit, and wherein the operating step includes the steps of:
transmitting commands to the receiver for operating the driving assembly; and
the control unit then operating the driving unit in accordance with said commands.
15. A method according to claim 12, wherein the crate includes a GPS signal generator, and the method comprises the further steps of:
using the GPS signal generator to generate a signal to enable the location of the crate to be tracked using GPS; and
tracking movement of the cargo item, by using the GPS, to an end purchaser.
16. A method according to claim 12, wherein the crate includes a movable panel section, and the loading step includes the steps of using said panel section as a ramp to load the cargo item into and to remove the cargo item from the crate.
17. A method according to claim 16, wherein the movable panel section is pivotally connected to the crate, and the using step includes the step of pivoting the movable panel section from a closed position to a ramp position, wherein the panel section forms a ramp leading to the interior of the crate.
18. A method according to claim 12, wherein the crate includes a programmable processor unit and a control unit, and wherein the operating step includes the steps of:
programming the processor unit with a given program;
the processor unit operating the driving assembly, according to said given program, to move the crate onto a mobile carrier;
using the fork mobile carrier to move the crate from a first location to a second location; and
transmitting remote commands to the control unit to remove the driving assembly from the mobile carrier to a third location.
19. A method according to claim 18, wherein the mobile carrier is a tractor/trailer.
20. A method according to claim 18, wherein the mobile carrier is a forklift truck.
Description
    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0002]
    The present invention, generally, relates to packaging crates, and more specifically, to a self-propelled robotic crate. Even more specifically, the preferred embodiment of the invention relates to a robotic crate well suited for transporting large items such as large-scale computer servers.
  • [0003]
    2. Background Art
  • [0004]
    Currently, when many large items such as large-scale computer servers, are crated for shipment, they are moved using forklifts or pallet jacks. There are a number of problems with these procedures. One important problem is the cost of labor to move the product.
  • [0005]
    Forklift trucks, which are often used to move packaging crates, have several significant limitations. For instances, forklifts generally require wide aisles within which to maneuver to pick up or deposit a load. The use of large fork lift trucks within a confined working space is not wholly satisfactory and may result in damage to the packaging crate or to other goods and equipment in the working space. Also, forklifts are quite heavy themselves and may place significant stress on any surface or platform onto which they are driven. In addition, forklifts have proven to be quite maintenance intensive and costly to operate over their service life.
  • [0006]
    Human labor can be used to package and move large crates. This, however, can become expensive and time consuming and can also result in damage to the crate, the items being packaged, or to other items or equipment in the work area.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0007]
    An object of this invention is to provide an improved crate for large items such as large-scale computer servers.
  • [0008]
    Another object of the present invention is to provide a packaging crate having improved mobility.
  • [0009]
    A further object of the invention is to provide a packaging crate that incorporates a set of robotics into the base of the crate and that will shepherd the product through various modes of distribution to the end customer.
  • [0010]
    These and other objectives are attained with a mobile, robotic packaging crate and a method of moving a cargo item using that packaging crate. The packaging crate comprises a crate for holding a given item, a self-propelled driving assembly secured to the crate for moving the crate, and an operating module connected to the driving assembly for operating the driving assembly to move the crate.
  • [0011]
    This operating module may include a processor unit to control operation of the driving assembly in a pre-defined manner. For instance, the processor unit may be programmed to operate the driving assembly to move the crate along a predefined path from a first location to a second location.
  • [0012]
    The preferred embodiment of the invention, described in detail below, provides a number of important advantages. For example, in this preferred embodiment, the robotics installed in the crate allow the crate not just to be moved to a fork lift truck, but also allows the crated product to be moved off the truck and lets an operator remotely “drive” the crated product to wherever it is needed.
  • [0013]
    Further benefits and advantages of this invention will become apparent from a consideration of the following detailed description, given with reference to the accompanying drawings, which specify and show preferred embodiments of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0014]
    FIG. 1 is a front view of a packaging crate embodying the present invention.
  • [0015]
    FIG. 2 is a side view of the packaging crate of FIG. 1.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 3 is a side view of the crate of FIGS. 1 and 2 and showing a ramp of the crate partially lowered.
  • [0017]
    FIG. 4 is a side view of the crate showing the ramp locked in a lowered position.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an operating module of the packaging crate.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 6 illustrates a computer server being unloaded from the crate.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 7 shows crate and computer server after the server has been unloaded from the crate.
  • [0021]
    FIG. 8 illustrates a computer system that may be used to transmit operating commands to the packaging crate.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
  • [0022]
    FIGS. 1-4 show a robotic, packaging crate 10 embodying the present invention. Generally, this robotic packaging crate 10 comprises a crate body 12, a self-propelled driving assembly 14, and an operating module 16. With the embodiment of the packaging crate shown in FIGS. 1-4, driving assembly 14 includes first and second subassemblies 20 and 22. The first subassembly includes a first set of drive wheels 24 and a tread 26 mounted thereon, and the second subassembly includes a second set of wheels and a tread 30 mounted thereon. Also, with reference to FIG. 5, in this preferred embodiment, operating module 16 includes a processor unit 32, a command signal receiver 34, and a control unit 36; and preferably, the packaging crate further includes a GPS signal generator 40.
  • [0023]
    Generally, with reference again to FIGS. 1-4, crate body 12 is provided for holding a cargo item. While the present invention may be used with a wide range of cargo items, the preferred crate body shown in the Figures is designed to hold large computer servers. These servers may be upwards of seventy-nine and a half inches in height and 3500 lbs in weight. Any suitable crate body may be used in the implementation of the present invention, and, for example, the crate body 12 may be made from wood or metal. Other materials may also be used, though.
  • [0024]
    As shown in FIGS. 1-4, crate body 12 has a box shape and includes generally planar or flat front, back, left, right, top and bottom sides or panels 42, 44, 46, 50, 52 and 54. These sides or panels may be connected together in any appropriate manner. As will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, crate body may have other shapes and sizes.
  • [0025]
    Driving assembly 14 is secured to crate body 14 and is provided for moving the crate body along or over a surface or surface area; and, as shown in FIGS. 1-4, driving assembly 14 is located beneath the crate body and is secured to the bottom panel 54 of the crate body. Any suitable driving assembly may be used in the practice of the instant invention. For instance, as mentioned above, driving assembly may include first and second subassemblies 20 and 22. As illustrated in the Figures, subassembly 20 is located on a first, or right side of crate body 12, and subassembly 22 is located on a second, or left side of the crate body.
  • [0026]
    Subassembly 20 includes a set of drive wheels 24 and a tread 26 mounted on those wheels for movement around those wheels. Similarly, subassembly 22 includes a set drive wheels and a tread 30 mounted on those wheels for movement around those wheels. In these subassemblies 20 and 24, the wheels may be supported and driven in any suitable way, and the treads 26 and 30 may be mounted on those wheels in any suitable manner. Also, the wheels and treads may be made of any suitable materials, such as metal, rubber or plastic. Moreover, each of the treads may be made of one, unitary piece of material, or the treads may be comprised of a series of connected, articulated links.
  • [0027]
    Operating module 16 is connected to the driving assembly 14 to operate that assembly and to move crate 10 around from location to location. As will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, a wide range of specific control mechanisms or devices 36 may be used to connect module 16 to driving assembly 14 so that the module operates that assembly in the desired manner.
  • [0028]
    Also, preferably, module 16 includes a processor unit 32 that is, or can be, programmed to operate the driving assembly 14 in a defined manner. Module 16 itself may be operated in a number of ways. For example, the module may be pre-programmed to operate driving assembly 14 to move crate 10 in a predefined path with little or no human or operator input. Alternatively, the module 16 may be provided with means 34 for receiving operator input to steer or drive the crate in a manner determined by the operator. The robotic packaging crate can be operated so that it moves from one location to another location, or so that it moves onto another mobile carrier, such as a forklift truck or an “air ride” tractor/trailer.
  • [0029]
    Also, the module 16 may be able to operate in both of the above describes modes—that is, in a first mode in which module controls driving assembly 14 to move the crate 10 in a defined manner without input from an operator; and in a second mode, wherein the module receives input from an operator to drive the crate 12 in the manner determined by the operator. Both modes may be used separately, or together.
  • [0030]
    Preferably, the front panel 42 of crate body 12 can serve as a loading/unloading ramp. With particular reference to FIGS. 6 and 7, the front panel includes a section 56 that is supported for movement between a closed position and a ramp position. Preferably, this section 56 of the front panel 42 is pivotally supported for movement between these positions. In the closed position, section 56 is flush, or coplanar, with the rest of the front panel 42. In the ramp position, section 56 extends downwardly forwardly from the front of the main body of the crate, forming a downwardly sloping ramp.
  • [0031]
    In addition, section 56 normally covers an opening 60 in crate body 12, which allows the cargo item to be moved in and out of the crate body. As section 56 moves from the closed position to the ramp position, that opening 60 is uncovered. With reference to FIGS. 6 and 7, a cargo item, such as a large computer server 62, can then be loaded into or removed from the inside of the crate body. More specifically, to unload the server, front ramp 56 is deployed and locked in place, and then the server is rolled or slid down the ramp. Also, preferably, section 56 is comprised of two subsections 56 a and 56 b pivotally connected together. The use of these pivotally connected subsections increases the range of positions into which the ramp section 56 can be moved while loading and unloading an item.
  • [0032]
    FIG. 8 shows a computer system, including a laptop computer 80 that may be employed in the implementation of this invention, and in particular, may be used to transmit operating commands to operating module 16 of packaging crate 10. Laptop computer 80 includes a Processing unit 82, which houses a processor, memory and other system components that implement a general purpose processing system that may execute a computer program product comprising media, for example a floppy disc that may be read by the processing unit through floppy drive. The program product may also be stored on hard disk drives within the processing unit or may be located on a remote system such as a server 84.
  • [0033]
    As shown in FIG. 8, laptop computer 80 is connected to a network 86 such as the Internet; and this connection may be made in any suitable way, including a wireless connection. FIG. 8 also shows a server 84 and a database 90, which may be used in the implementation of this invention. Server 84 represents the Web site servers that may be accessed in the course of the present invention to download information used in the present invention. This information may include, for instance, the specific location of the packaging crate 10 and directions for moving the packaging crate. Computer 80 communicates with packaging crate 10, specifically operating module 16 thereof, in any suitable way. This may be done, for example, via network 86, via another network, such as a LAN or another WAN, or computer 80 may transmit data directly to operating module, and this may be done using a wireless or wired connection.
  • [0034]
    As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, the present invention, or aspects of the invention, can be realized in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software. Any kind of computer/server system(s)—or other apparatus adapted for carrying out the methods described herein—is suited. A typical combination of hardware and software could be a general-purpose computer system with a computer program that, when loaded and executed, carries out the respective methods described herein. Alternatively, a specific use computer, containing specialized hardware for carrying out one or more of the functional tasks of the invention, could be utilized.
  • [0035]
    The present invention, or aspects of the invention, can also be embodied in a computer program product, which comprises all the respective features enabling the implementation of methods or procedures described herein, and which—when loaded in a computer system—is able to carry out these methods. Computer program, software program, program, or software, in the present context mean any expression, in any language, code or notation, of a set of instructions intended to cause a system having an information processing capability to perform a particular function either directly or after either or both of the following: (a) conversion to another language, code or notation; and/or (b) reproduction in a different material form.
  • [0036]
    While it is apparent that the invention herein disclosed is well calculated to fulfill the objects stated above, it will be appreciated that numerous modifications and embodiments may be devised by those skilled in the art, and it is intended that the appended claims cover all such modifications and embodiments as fall within the true spirit and scope of the present invention.
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US9535421 *2 Mar 20153 Jan 2017Savioke, Inc.Mobile delivery robot with interior cargo space
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Classifications
U.S. Classification220/1.5, 901/1
International ClassificationB65D88/00
Cooperative ClassificationB66F9/063
European ClassificationB66F9/06D
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
7 May 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORPORATION, NEW Y
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:CICCAGLIONE, TERRY M;REEL/FRAME:019256/0664
Effective date: 20070504