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United States Patent Application 20170224106
Kind Code A1
Sabounjian; Azad ;   et al. August 10, 2017

SHELVING CONNECTOR

Abstract

An improved sleeve for a shelving unit having an annular collar wedge the sleeve against a post, wherein the sleeve has one of a retaining wall encircling the bottom of the sleeve or a retaining latch extending from a bottom of the sleeve, both to position and retain the collar during assembly and to support the collar during use.


Inventors: Sabounjian; Azad; (Irvine, CA) ; Sabounjian; Sam; (Irvine, CA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Pro-Mart Industries, Inc.

Irvine

CA

US
Assignee: Pro-Mart Industries, Inc.
Irvine
CA

Family ID: 1000002455654
Appl. No.: 15/418589
Filed: January 27, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62292141Feb 5, 2016

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A47B 57/545 20130101; A47B 47/024 20130101; A47B 96/021 20130101
International Class: A47B 57/54 20060101 A47B057/54; A47B 47/02 20060101 A47B047/02; A47B 96/02 20060101 A47B096/02

Claims



1. A sleeve for a wedging sleeve and collar shelving connection on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post, the collar having an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use, the sleeve comprising: an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface that is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve, the sleeve having an inner surface forming an inner passage surrounding a short length of the post during use with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and configured to mate with one of the grooves in the post during use, the sleeve having first and second, interconnecting parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis, each sleeve part having a retaining wall around a majority of the periphery of the bottom of each sleeve part, the retaining wall offset radially outward from the bottom of the sleeve part a distance of a few millimeters or less with the distance being about a thickness of a bottom of the collar that is mating with the sleeve part during use.

2. The shelving connection of claim 1 wherein the sleeve has a frusto-conical outer surface and a generally cylindrical inner passage.

3. A sleeve for a wedging sleeve and collar shelving connection on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post, the collar having an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use, the sleeve comprising: an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface that is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve, the sleeve having an inner surface forming an inner passage surrounding a short length of the post during use with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and configured to mate with one of the grooves in the post during use, the sleeve having first and second, interconnecting parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis, each sleeve part having a flange extending radially outward a distance less than a few millimeters from the bottom of the sleeve part, the distance being about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use, the flange having a retaining member extending from an outward end of the bottom flange generally parallel to the longitudinal axis a distance along the longitudinal axis of less than about 2/3 a height of the sleeve, a void space between the retaining member and the sleeve which void space extends from the bottom flange to the top of the retaining member and along a circumferential length of the flange.

4. The sleeve of claim 3, wherein the sleeve has a frusto-conical outer surface and a generally cylindrical inner passage.

5. The sleeve of claim 4, wherein the flange on each sleeve part extends along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part and more than an arc of about .degree.5, the flange not being located at one of the two opposing sides of the sleeve part and having a height of about 1/3 or less of the length of the sleeve along the longitudinal axis.

6. The sleeve of claim 4, wherein the flange and retaining member extend along one of the opposing sides of the sleeve part and each retaining member extends along an arc of about .degree.5 to about 10.degree..

7. A shelving connection for holding two shelves to a common sleeve at the same location along a length of that post, the post having an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post, the shelving connection comprising: an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface that is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve, the sleeve having an inner surface forming a passage surrounding a short length of the post with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and mating with one of the grooves in the post, the sleeve having first and second, interconnecting parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis, the sleeve parts being clamped to the post and surrounding a short length of the post at a location of a shelf; a first shelf having a first collar part connected to a corner of the shelf, the first collar part having a tapered body with two opposing sides with a first flange extending outward from each side and extending along a length of each side generally parallel to the longitudinal axis, each of the first flanges on the collar part of the first shelf being spaced apart about 180.degree. or slightly less from the other first flange of the collar part of the first shelf, the tapered body of the first shelf defining a portion of a tapered interior passage configured to engage about half or slightly less of one side of the sleeve with a smaller passage at a top of that tapered body and a larger passage at a bottom of that tapered body; a second shelf having a first collar part connected to a corner of the second shelf, the first collar part on the second shelf also having two opposing sides with a first flange extending outward from each side and extending along a length of each side generally parallel to the longitudinal axis during use, each of the first flanges on the first collar part of the second shelf being spaced apart about 180.degree. or slightly less from the other first flange of the collar part of the second shelf, the tapered body of the first collar part on the second shelf defining a portion of a tapered interior passage configured to engage about half or slightly less of one side of the sleeve with a smaller passage at a top of that tapered body and a larger passage at a bottom of that tapered body; wherein the first collar part of the first and second shelf are each connected to opposing sides of the sleeve with a substantial portion of the first flanges on the first shelf being immediately adjacent a substantial portion of the first flanges on the second shelf; and a retaining coupler having two parallel legs connected by a connecting member adjacent an upper end of the legs, each leg comprising a separate, elongated member having a U-shaped cross-section with opposing sides spaced a distance apart sufficient to fit over and contact the immediately adjacent flanges and sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating laterally when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf, the retaining coupler having no connection between a lower end of the two legs along a substantial length of the legs.

8. The shelving connection of claim 7 wherein the sleeve has a frusto-conical outer surface and the collar has a frusto-conical interior passage.

9. The shelving connection of claim 8, each sleeve part has a retaining wall around a majority of the periphery of the bottom of each sleeve part, the retaining wall offset from the bottom of the sleeve a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use, the retaining wall not extending to each opposing side of the sleeve so the first and second flanges do not abut against a top of the retaining wall.

10. The shelving connection of claim 8 wherein each sleeve part has a retaining member offset from the bottom of the sleeve a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use, the extending along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part and more than an arc of about .degree.5, each retaining member located intermediate the two opposing sides of the sleeve part and having a height along the longitudinal axis of less than about 1/3 a height of the sleeve.

11. The shelving connection of claim 8 wherein each sleeve part has a retaining member extending along each opposing side of the sleeve part and offset from the bottom of the sleeve a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use, each retaining member extending along an arc of about .degree.5 to about 10.degree. and having a height generally parallel to and extending along the longitudinal axis that is less than about 2/3 a height of the sleeve.

12. A connector for releasably fastening an outer, tapered collar to an inner, tapered sleeve on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post, the collar having an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use, the connection comprising: the sleeve of claim 2, an annular collar having first and second separable and interlocking collar parts defining a tapered interior passage that is smaller at the top and larger at the bottom and configured to surround a length of the sleeve during use and mate with the tapered outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve against the post as the collar moves downward relative to the sleeve along the longitudinal axis during use, the first collar part comprising first and second opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a first, male flange extending in a direction outward from each first side and extending along a length of each first side, each male flange having a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less.

13. The connector of claim 12, wherein the second collar part further comprises a female channel extending outward from each of two opposing sides of the second collar part and extending along a length of the second collar part measured along the longitudinal axis, each female channel having a C-shaped cross-section and configured to slidably receive one of the male flanges during use, each female channel extending along opposing sides of a different one of the male flanges during use.

14. The connector of claim 12 wherein the sleeve has a frusto-conical outer surface and the collar has a frusto-conical interior passage.

15. The connector of claim 12, wherein each first male flange extends outward from a frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended slot extending along that juncture and opening onto a top end of the first collar part, and wherein the second collar part comprises two opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a second flange extending in a direction outward from each opposing side of the second collar part and further extending along a length of each opposing side of the second collar part, the second flange having a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less, the second flange extending outward from the frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended clot extending along that juncture and opening onto a bottom end of the second collar part which has a larger diameter than a top end of that second collar part, the slots of the first and second collar part and the configurations of the first and second flanges allowing each collar part to enter the slots of the other collar part to interlock the collar parts during use with each flange of the first collar part immediately adjacent a different flange of the second collar part.

16. The connector of claim 12, further comprising: a retaining coupler having two parallel legs connected by a connecting member adjacent an upper end of the legs, each leg comprising a separate, elongated member having a U-shaped cross-section with opposing sides spaced a distance apart sufficient to fit over and contact the immediately adjacent flanges and sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating laterally when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf, the retaining coupler having no connection between a lower end of the two legs along a substantial length of the legs.

17. A connector for releasably fastening an outer, tapered collar to an inner, tapered sleeve on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post, the collar having an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use, the connection comprising: the sleeve of claim 4, an annular collar having first and second separable and interlocking collar parts defining a tapered interior passage that is smaller at the top and larger at the bottom and configured to surround a length of the sleeve during use and mate with the tapered outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve against the post as the collar moves downward relative to the sleeve along the longitudinal axis during use, the first collar part comprising first and second opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a first, male flange extending in a direction outward from each first side and extending along a length of each first side, each male flange having a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less.

18. The connector of claim 17, wherein the second collar part further comprises a female channel extending outward from each of two opposing sides of the second collar part and extending along a length of the second collar part measured along the longitudinal axis, each female channel having a C-shaped cross-section and configured to slidably receive one of the male flanges during use, each female channel extending along opposing sides of a different one of the male flanges during use.

19. The connection of claim 17 wherein the sleeve has a frusto-conical outer surface and the collar has a frusto-conical interior passage.

20. The connection of claim 17, wherein each first male flange extends outward from a frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended slot extending along that juncture and opening onto a top end of the first collar part, and wherein the second collar part comprises two opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a second flange extending in a direction outward from each opposing side of the second collar part and further extending along a length of each opposing side of the second collar part, the second flange having a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less, the second flange extending outward from the frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended clot extending along that juncture and opening onto a bottom end of the second collar part which has a larger diameter than a top end of that second collar part, the slots of the first and second collar part and the configurations of the first and second flanges allowing each collar part to enter the slots of the other collar part to interlock the collar parts during use with each flange of the first collar part immediately adjacent a different flange of the second collar part.

21. The connection of claim 17, further comprising: a retaining coupler having two parallel legs connected by a connecting member adjacent an upper end of the legs, each leg comprising a separate, elongated member having a U-shaped cross-section with opposing sides spaced a distance apart sufficient to fit over and contact the immediately adjacent flanges and sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating laterally when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf, the retaining coupler having no connection between a lower end of the two legs along a substantial length of the legs.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. .sctn.119(e) to Provisional Patent Application No. 62/292,141 filed Feb. 5, 2016, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

[0002] The present invention relates generally to a support structure that can be used to support shelving on posts. More particularly, the present invention relates to a support assembly for use in, for example, a knock-down shelving system to adjustably support shelves.

[0003] Current knock-down shelving systems include a plurality of support posts for supporting one or more shelves at corner support assemblies. These shelving systems have a sleeve or wedge member and an encircling collar both adapted to be secured to a generally cylindrical support post having a circular cross-section. The sleeve has an inner surface that is configured to embrace the support post and has an outer surface that is wedge shaped usually taking the form of a frusto-conical shape with a narrower diameter at the top and a larger diameter at the bottom. The collar has an outer surface that is secured to a shelf. The collar has an internal wedge surface formed to mate with the frusto-conical wedge surface of the sleeve but either inclined in the opposing direction or having a smaller upper opening which does not allow passage of the sleeve on the post. Thus, when the sleeve embraces the post and the collar embraces the sleeve, axial loading of the collar in one direction causes the collar's inward facing wedge surface to mate with the outward facing wedge surface on the sleeve, thereby urging the sleeve toward the post. Since the collar is of one piece and encircles the post it is restrained from radial expansion and has a fixed diameter, and since relative movement of the inclined surfaces of the sleeve and the collar want to increase in diameter as they move relative to one another in axially opposing directions, the non-expandable outer collar forces the sleeve inward and clamps the sleeve against the post and wedges the collar and sleeve into place on the post.

[0004] Such shelving systems are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,424,111 and 3,523,508, which use a plurality of cylindrical support posts each formed with a series of equally spaced, annular grooves on its outer surface. A basic shelving system includes four such posts to support one or more formed-wire shelves, with each shelf having a frusto-conically-shaped collar at each corner for receiving a support post. A two-piece interlocking sleeve fits around the support post. The sleeve has a circumferential rib on its interior surface for engaging one of the grooves on the support post and has a frusto-conically-shaped outer surface, which is widest at the bottom, designed to complement the shape of the shelf collars. The support posts fitted with sleeves are received in the collars of each shelf to assemble the shelving system. When assembled, the weight of the shelf and any items placed on the shelf pushes downward on the collar and sleeve, creating a radially-inwardly directed wedging force between the collars and sleeves, which brings the sleeves into tight contact with the posts. Similar wedging concepts are used in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,811,670; 4,946,350; 5,271,337; 5,279,231 and 6,113,042. Some of these devices use over-center cams to ensure the collars are locked in place.

[0005] Further, the above described collars have a fixed diameter and because they encircle the post the must pass along the length of the post until they reach the sleeve with which they wedge against the post. That requires assembling the shelving from the bottom up or the top down since the collars cannot be positioned between two previously installed shelves. Further, a shelf cannot be inserted between pre-installed shelves since the collars cannot slide over previously installed sleeves or collars. Because the collars in these prior art connectors were tubular they had to be slid axially over one end of the post in order to mate with the sleeve and wedge the parts in place. To address this difficulty collars which encircles less than a full 360 degrees were developed, with some collars having open vertical slots like U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,302,284 and 6,257,426, and other collars mating with sleeves or other parts along generally vertical axes, as described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,068,143 and 4,656,952. But the open slotted collars provide a weaker connection than unslotted collars because the slot weakens the collar and sufficient weight on the shelf and collar may spread or splay the unconnected parts of the collar apart in the circumferential direction, releasing the support and reducing the clamping force on the sleeve. Making the collars to mate with shaped sleeves also required more expensive manufacturers and stronger sleeves. The collars using vertical joints to interconnect mating collar parts require precise alignment of the vertical joints making them difficult to align and assemble.

[0006] Still other connectors placed brackets on the outer, metal collars with the shelving rods engaging the brackets, as shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,015,052 and 6,253,687. These collars required assembling the shelving from the bottom up since the collars cannot be positioned between two previously installed shelves. Further, a shelf cannot be inserted between pre-installed shelves since the collars cannot slide over previously installed sleeves or collars. Because the collars in these prior art connectors were tubular they had to be slid axially over one end of the post in order to mate with the sleeve and wedge the parts in place.

[0007] Two-part collars allow the connectors to be located at selected locations along the post without sliding the collars from the top of the post to the desired position. Such collars are shown in U.S. Pat. No. 8,887,647 to Sabounjian. These collar parts each have interlocking fingers made of metal to restrain separation of the collars. But the collar interconnections are difficult to make accurately and may be imperfectly mated by the user, resulting in inconsistent clamping pressure urging the inner sleeve against the post, which can in turn cause variations in the strength of the connection between the connector and the post. There is thus a need for an improved and more consistent shelving connector.

[0008] Two-part collars were also developed that use different interlocking mechanisms and also have slots in the collars so the slots can fit over and rest against saddles or supports on the inner sleeve that extend outward from the sleeve, with the saddles or supports extending axially along a length of the sleeve and collar to provide a localized area of support for the collar. Thus, the collars urge the sleeves inward against the post and also rest on protrusions, tabs or saddles extending outward from the sleeve. These collar parts are shown in Published application 2015/0289044 to Sabounjian. But these collar and sleeve parts are difficult to make consistently and difficult to connect consistently as the collars may abut the inner sleeves at various locations which results in uneven loading of the collar and uneven loading of the inner sleeve, causing variation in the load-carrying capability, light variations in the location of the shelf, and slight downward movement of the connectors as the load on the shelf increases. Also, the shear strength of the localized and outward extending protrusions is limited by the strength of the sleeve material, which is commonly a plastic material of relatively low strength compared to metal. The result is that the collar does not consistently rest against the outwardly extending protrusions, saddles or tabs so the load capacity of the connection may vary. There is thus a need for a connector having a sleeve and collar that may be made more consistently and provide a more consistent connection and more consistent load-carrying capacity.

[0009] Despite the use of these above-described shelving systems, a need exists for an improved connector and shelving system, especially one easier to assemble and more flexible in its assembly while achieving more consistent connections and more consistent load capacities. There is thus a need for an improved shelving connector that may be installed without having to slide the connector along the entire length of the post to the desired shelving position and that may be easily installed while carrying a predicted load.

BRIEF SUMMARY

[0010] A connector is provided for connecting to a post having grooves at intervals along a length of the post. The connector has an annular sleeve with two interlocking halves releasably joined together to form an inner passage conforming to the shape of the post with at least one rib extending from the sleeve to selectively engage one of the grooves in the post. The sleeve has a tapered outer surface with a smaller top and larger bottom and is preferably frusto-conical in shape. The sleeve surrounds a portion of the post during use with either a retaining wall or s extending from the bottom of the sleeve to position, retain or support a mating collar during use.

[0011] The annular collar has two interlocking halves with an interior passage configured to conform to the outer surface of the sleeve and is also preferably frusto-conical in shape. The collar part that is connected to the item to be connected to the post, such as a shelf, preferably has a first collar with two elongated flanges or ears extending outward from two opposing sides of the collar part. For a shelf with four corners a first collar part is at each corner, with each collar part having half of a frusto-conical body with two flanges extending radially outward from each of two sides of that body. The outwardly extending flanges or ears allow two different shelves to have the first collar part abut a different half of the same sleeve with the flanges of the collar parts on two different shelves being immediately adjacent each other. A connecting member interlocks the flanges by having two of the immediately adjacent ears or flanges (each connected to a different shelf) fit into the channel formed by a leg with a C-shaped cross-section sized to receive the flanges. The top portions of two such parallel legs are connected so a user can slide the two legs of the connecting member over a pair of flanges on each of the two opposing sides of the collar part or to remove the legs from the flanges.

[0012] The collar parts with the outwardly extending flanges may also interlock by various connections when they connect to a corner post or a sleeve to which no other shelf connects, including interlocking connections using a male flange or ear extending along the side of one collar part entering a female channel on the corresponding side of the other collar part. Alternatively, the juncture of each outwardly extending flange with the collar body may be partially slotted with the slots on the two collar parts passing through each other so the first collar part fits into the slots of the second collar part and vice versa.

[0013] A retaining wall or may also be provided on the sleeve to guide and/or retain the collar on the sleeve during assembly and use. The retaining wall and s extend upward from a flange extending outward (preferably radially outward) from a bottom edge of each sleeve part, with the retaining flange extending upward parallel to the axis and offset from the sleeve surface to form a void volume between the bottom, offsetting flange and the top of the retaining member that extends along the circumferential length of that bottom flange. The retaining member is offset from the outer surface of the sleeve and there is a void space between the facing sides of the and the radially adjacent part of the sleeve, with the void space extending from the outwardly extending flange to the top of the. Since the retaining member preferably extends parallel to the axis and the outer surface of the sleeve is slanted or tapered the void volume is tapered in cross section being larger at the top and smaller at the bottom and curving around the surface of the sleeve for the circumferential or peripheral length of the retaining member.

[0014] A first collar part fastened to a shelf or other item fits over half the sleeve and fits into that offset of the so that the bottom edge of the first collar part fits into at least part of that void volume with the taper of the outer surface of the sleeve cooperating with the taper of the first collar part to wedge the sleeve against the post and hold them to the post and support the first collar part and shelf. The retaining member keeps the mating collar part in position during assembly and can free up a user's hand during assembly. A second collar part may have its bottom edge fit into the void volume formed by the on the second sleeve part with the first and second collar parts interlocking to prevent lateral or radial separation of the collar parts, while downward movement of the collar parts relative to the sleeve and post wedge the sleeve against the post and secure the sleeve and collar in a selected position on the post.

[0015] There is thus provided an improved sleeve for a wedging sleeve and collar connection on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post. The collar has an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use. The connection is preferably for a shelf connected to a first collar part. The improved sleeve includes an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface around the periphery of the sleeve which tapered surface is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve. The sleeve also has an inner surface forming an inner passage surrounding a short length of the post during use with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and configured to mate with one of the grooves in the post during use. The sleeve also has first and second interconnecting parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis. In this embodiment each sleeve part has a retaining wall around a majority of the periphery of the bottom of each sleeve part where the retaining wall is offset radially outward from the bottom of the sleeve part a distance of a few millimeters or less with the distance being about a thickness of a bottom of the collar that is mating with the sleeve part during use. In further variations this sleeve advantageously has a frusto-conical outer surface and a generally cylindrical inner passage in order to engage a cylindrical post with grooves in it.

[0016] In another embodiment, the sleeve comprises an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface that is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve and extends around a periphery of the sleeve and along a substantial length of the sleeve. The sleeve also has an inner surface forming an inner passage surrounding a short length of the post during use with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and configured to mate with one of the grooves in the post during use. The sleeve has first and second, interconnecting parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis. In this embodiment each sleeve part has a bottom flange extending radially outward a distance less than a few millimeters from the bottom of the sleeve part, the distance being about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use. The flange has a retaining member extending from an outward end of the bottom flange generally parallel to the longitudinal axis a distance along the longitudinal axis of less than about 2/3 a height of the sleeve. The height of the sleeve and retaining member are both measured relative to a bottom of the sleeve. The retaining member is not connected to the sleeve along a length of the retaining member as a void space is formed between the sleeve and the retaining member. The void space extends from the bottom flange to the top of the retaining member and along a circumferential length of the flange.

[0017] In further variations of this embodiment the sleeve also has a frusto-conical outer surface and a generally cylindrical inner passage. Further, the flange on each sleeve part advantageously extends along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part and more than an arc of about .degree.5 and this flange is not located at one of the two opposing sides of the sleeve part and it has a height of about 1/3 or less of the length of the sleeve along the longitudinal axis. The height is measured relative to a bottom of the sleeve. In this embodiment, the flange and advantageously extend along one of the opposing sides of the sleeve part and each retaining member extends along an arc of about .degree.5 to about 10.degree.. Moreover, the flange and retaining member advantageously extend along both of the opposing sides of the sleeve part so that when the two sleeve parts are interconnected there are two abutting retaining flanges on two opposing sides of the annular sleeve.

[0018] There is also provided a shelving connection for holding two shelves to a common post and sleeve at the same location along a length of that post. The post has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post. The shelving connection includes an annular sleeve having a tapered outer surface that is smaller at a top and larger at a bottom of the sleeve. The sleeve has an inner surface forming a passage surrounding a short length of the post with at least one rib extending from the inner surface of the sleeve and mating with one of the grooves in the post. The sleeve also has first and second interconnecting sleeve parts with each sleeve part having two opposing sides each extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis. The sleeve parts are clamped to the post and surround a short length of the post at a location of a shelf.

[0019] The shelving connection also includes a first shelf having a first collar part connected to a corner of the shelf. The first collar part has a tapered body with two opposing sides with a first flange extending outward from each side and extending along a length of each side generally parallel to the longitudinal axis. Each of the first flanges on the collar part of the first shelf is spaced apart about 180.degree. or slightly less from the other first flange of the collar part of the first shelf. The tapered body of the first shelf defines a portion of a tapered interior passage configured to engage about half or slightly less of one side of the sleeve with a smaller passage at a top of that tapered body and a larger passage at a bottom of that tapered body.

[0020] The shelving connection also includes a second shelf having a first collar part connected to a corner of the second shelf. The first collar part on the second shelf also has two opposing sides with a first flange extending outward from each side and extending along a length of each side generally parallel to the longitudinal axis during use. Each of the first flanges on the first collar part of the second shelf is spaced apart about 180.degree. or slightly less from the other first flange of the collar part of the second shelf. The tapered body of the first collar part on the second shelf defines a portion of a tapered interior passage configured to engage about half or slightly less of one side of the sleeve with a smaller passage at a top of that tapered body and a larger passage at a bottom of that tapered body.

[0021] The shelving connection has the first collar part of the first and second shelf each connected to opposing sides of the sleeve with a substantial portion of the first flanges on the first shelf being immediately adjacent a substantial portion of the first flanges on the second shelf. Further, the shelving connection has a retaining coupler with two parallel legs connected by a connecting member adjacent an upper end of the legs. Each leg comprising a separate, elongated member having a U-shaped cross-section with opposing sides spaced a distance apart sufficient to fit over and contact the immediately adjacent flanges and sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating laterally when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf. The retaining coupler has no connection between a lower end of the two legs along a substantial length of the legs so that it can fit over various shelving connections to the first collar on at least one of the first or second shelf.

[0022] In further variations, the shelving connection preferably has a frusto-conical outer surface and the collar has a frusto-conical interior passage to mate with a cylindrical post. In one alternative variation, each sleeve part has a retaining wall around a majority of the periphery of the bottom of each sleeve, with the retaining wall offset from the bottom of the sleeve a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use. The retaining wall does not extend to each opposing side of the sleeve so the first and second flanges do not abut against a top of the retaining wall during use. In another alternative variation, the shelving connection may have each sleeve part include a retaining member offset from the bottom of the sleeve a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use. This retaining member extends along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part and more than an arc of about 5.degree., with each retaining member located intermediate the two opposing sides of the sleeve part and having a height along the longitudinal axis of less than about 1/3 a height of the sleeve. In a further variation, the shelving connection has each sleeve part with a retaining member extending along each opposing side of the sleeve part and offset from the bottom of the sleeve part a distance of about a thickness of a bottom of the collar part that is mating with the sleeve part during use, each retaining member extending along an arc of about .degree.5 to about 10.degree. and having a height generally parallel to and extending along the longitudinal axis that is less than about 2/3 a height of the sleeve.

[0023] There is also provided a connector for releasably fastening an outer, tapered collar to an inner, tapered sleeve on a post that has an outer surface with grooves at intervals along a length of the post and with a longitudinal axis extending along the length of the post. The outer, tapered collar has an annular configuration that mates with the outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve inward against the post as the collar moves downward along the axis relative to the sleeve during use. This connector includes any of the sleeves described herein, along with an annular collar having first and second separable and interlocking collar parts defining a tapered interior passage that is smaller at the top and larger at the bottom and configured to surround a length of the sleeve during use and mate with the tapered outer surface of the sleeve to wedge the sleeve against the post as the collar moves downward relative to the sleeve along the longitudinal axis during use. The first collar part includes first and second opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a first, male flange extending in a direction outward from each first side and extending along a length of each first side. Each male flange has a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less. The length is measured from the bottom of the sleeve.

[0024] In further variations, this connector has a second collar part that includes a female channel extending outward from each of two opposing sides of the second collar part and extending along a length of the second collar part measured along the longitudinal axis. Each female channel has a C-shaped cross-section and is configured to slidably receive one of the male flanges during use. Each female channel extends along opposing sides of a different one of the male flanges during use. In one preferred variation, the connector has a sleeve with a frusto-conical outer surface and the collar has a frusto-conical interior passage.

[0025] In another preferred variation, the connector has each first male flange extending outward from a frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended slot extending along that juncture and opening onto a top end of the first collar part. Further, the second collar part includes two opposing sides extending along a portion of the longitudinal axis and a second flange extending in a direction outward from each opposing side of the second collar part and further extending along a length of each opposing side of the second collar part. The second flange advantageously has a length along the longitudinal axis about the same as the height of the sleeve or up to about 1/3 less. The second flange preferably extends outward from the frusto-conical body along a juncture with a closed ended clot extending along that juncture and opening onto a bottom end of the second collar part which has a larger diameter than a top end of that second collar part. The slots of the first and second collar part and the configurations of the first and second flanges allowing each collar part to enter the slots of the other collar part to interlock the collar parts during use with each flange of the first collar part immediately adjacent a different flange of the second collar part. In a still further variation of this connector, the connector may include a retaining coupler having two parallel legs connected by a connecting member adjacent an upper end of the legs. Each leg may include a separate, elongated member having a U-shaped cross-section with opposing sides spaced a distance apart sufficient to fit over and contact the immediately adjacent flanges and sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating laterally when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf. The retaining coupler has no connection between a lower end of each of the two legs along a substantial length of the legs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0026] These and other advantages and features of the invention will be better appreciated in view of the following drawings and descriptions in which like numbers refer to like parts throughout, and in which:

[0027] FIG. 1a is an exploded perspective view of two collar parts joined together above two sleeve parts joined together to form a two-part collar and two-part sleeve of a shelving connector where each sleeve part has a retaining member in the middle of the sleeve part;

[0028] FIG. 1b is an exploded perspective view of a first part of the collar of FIG. 1a on the sleeve of FIG. 1a and the second collar part above the sleeve;

[0029] FIG. 1c is a perspective view of the first and second parts of the collar of FIG. 1a on the joined first and second parts of the sleeve of FIG. 1a;

[0030] FIG. 2a is an exploded view of a first end of a shelf with each corner of the shelf having the first part of a collar as in FIG. 1a fastened to the shelf and with each collar on a sleeve and with two second collar parts connected by an end frame;

[0031] FIG. 2b is an exploded view of a first end of a shelf with each corner of the shelf having the first part of a collar as in FIG. 1a fastened to the shelf and with each collar on a sleeve;

[0032] FIG. 3a is the top view of a rectangular shelf having four corners with each corner having the first part of the collar of FIG. 1a connected to the corner;

[0033] FIG. 3b is a side view of the shelf of FIG. 3a;

[0034] FIG. 3c is a perspective view of a shelving assembly having six shelves as in FIG. 3a connected to six poles with one of the poles located at the corners of each shelf to engage a sleeve of the shelving connector of FIGS. 1a-1c with the collars holding the sleeves and shelves in position on the posts and shelving assembly;

[0035] FIG. 4a is a top perspective view of the two-part sleeve of FIGS. 1a-1c;

[0036] FIG. 4b is a left side view of the two-part sleeve of FIG. 4e;

[0037] FIG. 4c is a bottom perspective view of the two-part sleeve of FIGS. 4a;

[0038] FIG. 4d is a top view of the two-part sleeve of FIG. 4e;

[0039] FIG. 4e is a front view of the two-part sleeve of FIG. 4a with the opposing side being a mirror image thereof;

[0040] FIG. 4f is a bottom view of the two-part sleeve of FIG. 4f;

[0041] FIG. 4g is a top perspective view of the two-part sleeve of FIGS. 1a-1c rotated from the view of FIG. 4a;

[0042] FIG. 4h is a right side view of the two-part sleeve of FIG. 4e;

[0043] FIG. 4i is a bottom perspective view of the two-part sleeve of FIGS. 4g;

[0044] FIG. 5a is a perspective view of the exterior of a first part of the sleeve of FIGS. 1a-1c;

[0045] FIG. 5b is a left side view of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5d;

[0046] FIG. 5c is a top view of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5d;

[0047] FIG. 5d is a side view of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5a with the opposing side being a mirror image thereof;

[0048] FIG. 5e is a bottom view of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5e;

[0049] FIG. 5f is a perspective view of the interior of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5a;

[0050] FIG. 5g is a right side view of the first part of the sleeve of FIG. 5d;

[0051] FIG. 6a is a perspective view of the exterior of the first part of the collar of FIGS. 1a-1c;

[0052] FIG. 6b is a left side view of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6d;

[0053] FIG. 6c is a top view of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6d;

[0054] FIG. 6d is a side view of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6a with the opposing side being a mirror image thereof;

[0055] FIG. 6e is a bottom view of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6d;

[0056] FIG. 6f is a perspective view of the interior of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6a;

[0057] FIG. 6g is a right side view of the first part of the collar of FIG. 6d;

[0058] FIG. 7a is a perspective view of the inside of the second part of the collar of FIGS. 1a-1c;

[0059] FIG. 7b is a left side view of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7d;

[0060] FIG. 7c is a top view of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7d;

[0061] FIG. 7d is a side view of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7a with the opposing side being a mirror image thereof;

[0062] FIG. 7e is a bottom view of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7d;

[0063] FIG. 7f is a perspective view of the outside of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7a;

[0064] FIG. 7g is a right side view of the second part of the collar of FIG. 7d;

[0065] FIG. 8a is a perspective view of the mated first and second collar parts on mated first and second sleeve parts;

[0066] FIG. 8b is a left side view of the mated collar and sleeve parts of FIG. 8d;

[0067] FIG. 8c is a top view of the mated collar and sleeve parts of FIG. 8d;

[0068] FIG. 8d is a front view of the mated collar and sleeve parts of FIG. 8a;

[0069] FIG. 8e is a bottom view of the mated collar and sleeve parts of FIG. 8d;

[0070] FIG. 8f is a perspective view of the mated first and second sleeve parts of FIG. 8a rotated about 90 degrees;

[0071] FIG. 8g is a right side view of the mated first and second sleeve parts of FIG. 8d;

[0072] FIG. 9a is an exploded perspective view of a further embodiment showing the mated first and second collar parts above mated first and second sleeve parts where the sleeve parts have an elongated retaining member at each edge of the sleeve part;

[0073] FIG. 9b is an exploded perspective view showing a first collar part of FIG. 9a on the mated sleeve parts;

[0074] FIG. 9c is an exploded perspective view showing mated first and second collar parts on mated first and second sleeve parts;

[0075] FIG. 10a is a perspective view of the inside of a first sleeve part of FIGS. 9a-9b;

[0076] FIG. 10b is a left side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10d;

[0077] FIG. 10c is a top view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10d;

[0078] FIG. 10d is a side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10a,

[0079] FIG. 10e is a bottom view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10d;

[0080] FIG. 10f is a perspective view of the outside of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10a;

[0081] FIG. 10g is a right side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 10d;

[0082] FIG. 11a is an exploded perspective view of a further embodiment showing mated first and second collar parts above mated first and second sleeve parts, where the sleeve parts have an encircling wall extending in an outward direction and around the bottom edge of each sleeve part;

[0083] FIG. 11b is an exploded perspective view showing a first collar part of FIG. 9a on the mated sleeve parts;

[0084] FIG. 11c is an exploded perspective view showing mated first and second collar parts on mated first and second sleeve parts;

[0085] FIG. 12a is a perspective view of the inside of a first sleeve part of FIGS. 11a-11c;

[0086] FIG. 12b is a left side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12d;

[0087] FIG. 12c is a top view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12d;

[0088] FIG. 12d is a side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12a,

[0089] FIG. 12e is a bottom view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12d;

[0090] FIG. 12f is a perspective view of the outside of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12a;

[0091] FIG. 12g is a right side view of the first sleeve part of FIG. 12d;

[0092] FIG. 13a is an upper perspective view of the corner connection of a shelf with a left front post of the shelving assembly of FIG. 3c;

[0093] FIG. 13b is a front view of the corner connection of a shelf with a left, front post of the shelving assembly of FIG. 3c;

[0094] FIG. 13c is a front view of the of connection of two shelves with the front, middle post of the shelving assembly of FIG. 3c;

[0095] FIG. 13d is an upper perspective view of a corner connection of a shelf with a right, front post of the shelving assembly of FIG. 3c;

[0096] FIG. 14a is an upper perspective view of a corner connection of a shelf using the shelving connector of FIGS. 11-12;

[0097] FIG. 14b is a front view of the corner connection of a shelf with a post using the shelving connector of FIGS. 11-12;

[0098] FIG. 14c is a front view of the of connection of two shelves to a common, single post and sleeve using post of the shelving assembly of FIGS. 11-12;

[0099] FIG. 14d is an upper perspective view of a corner connection of a shelf with a post using the shelving assembly of FIGS. 11-12;

[0100] FIG. 15a is a rear perspective view of a retaining coupler;

[0101] FIG. 15b is a top view of the retaining coupler of FIGS. 15a and 15e;

[0102] FIG. 15c is a front perspective view of the retaining coupler of FIG. 15a;

[0103] FIG. 15d is a back side view of the retaining coupler of FIG. 15e and FIG. 15a;

[0104] FIG. 15e is a side view of the retaining coupler of FIGS. 15a;

[0105] FIG. 15f is a front view of the retaining coupler of FIGS. 15a and 15e;

[0106] FIG. 15g is a bottom view of the retaining coupler of FIG. 15e;

[0107] FIG. 16a is a front view of the collars of FIGS. 6-9 and 14c and sleeves of FIGS. 11-12 on a common sleeve joining two shelves with the retaining coupler of FIG. 15;

[0108] FIG. 16b is a front view of the collars and sleeves of FIGS. 4-8 and 13c on a common sleeve joining two sleeves with the retaining coupler of FIG. 15;

[0109] FIG. 17a is an exploded perspective view of the sleeve of FIGS. 11-12 used with a collar having interlocking, slotted flanges having the slot open downward;

[0110] FIG. 17b is a perspective view of the assembled collar and sleeve of FIG. 17a;

[0111] FIG. 17c is an exploded perspective view of the sleeve of FIGS. 1 and 4-8 used with a collar having interlocking, slotted flanges;

[0112] FIG. 17d is a perspective view of the assembled collar and sleeve of FIG. 17c;

[0113] FIG. 18a is a perspective view of the inside of a collar part having interlocking, slotted flanges;

[0114] FIG. 18b is a top view of the collar part of FIGS. 18a and 18e;

[0115] FIG. 18c is a perspective view of the outside of the collar part of FIG. 18a;

[0116] FIG. 18d is left side view of the collar part of FIG. 18e showing the inside of the collar part;

[0117] FIG. 18e is a side view of the collar part of FIG. 18a;

[0118] FIG. 18f is a right side view of the collar part of FIG. 18e showing the outside of the collar part;

[0119] FIG. 18g is a bottom view of the collar part of FIG. 18e;

[0120] FIG. 19a is a perspective view of a collar part having slotted flanges showing the outside of the collar part with the slot opening upward;

[0121] FIG. 19b is a top view of the collar part of FIG. 19a and FIG. 19e;

[0122] FIG. 19c is a perspective view of the collar part of FIG. 19a showing the inside of the collar part;

[0123] FIG. 19d is a left side view of the collar part of FIG. 19e showing the front of the collar part;

[0124] FIG. 19e is a side view of the collar part of FIG. 19a;

[0125] FIG. 19f is a right side view of the collar part of FIG. 19e, showing the inside of the collar part;

[0126] FIG. 19g is a bottom view of the collar part of FIG. 19e;

[0127] FIG. 20a is an upper perspective view of a corner connection of a shelf using the sleeve and collar of FIGS. 9-10;

[0128] FIG. 20b is a top view of the corner connection of FIGS. 20a and 20e;

[0129] FIG. 20c is an upper perspective view of the corner connection of FIG. 20a from a different angle;

[0130] FIG. 20d is a left side view of the corner connection of FIG. 20e;

[0131] FIG. 20e is a side view of the corner connection of FIG. 20a;

[0132] FIG. 20f is a right side view of the corner connection of FIG. 20e;

[0133] FIG. 20g is a bottom perspective view of the corner connection of FIG. 20a;

[0134] FIG. 20h is a bottom view of the corner connection of FIG. 20e;

[0135] FIG. 20i is a bottom perspective view of the corner connection of FIG. 20c;

[0136] FIG. 21a is a perspective view of a shelf with the sleeve of FIG. 9 and the interlocking slotted collar of FIGS. 18-19;

[0137] FIG. 21b is a perspective view of a shelf with the sleeve of FIG. 9 and the interlocking slotted collar of FIGS. 18-19 with two of the second collar parts connected by an end frame;

[0138] FIG. 22a is a side view of a post of a shelving assembly having two shelves directly opposite each other connected to the post using a sleeve of FIGS. 12 and 17c, and two first parts of an interlocking, slotted collar of FIGS. 17c and 19;

[0139] FIG. 22b is a side view of the post of FIG. 22a with the flanges on each of the first collar parts connected by the retaining connector of FIG. 15;

[0140] FIG. 22b a side view of a post of a shelving assembly having two shelves directly opposite each other connected to the post using a sleeve of FIGS. 14, 5, 12 and 17a and two first parts of an interlocking, slotted collar of FIGS. 17c and 19.

[0141] FIG. 23a is a perspective view showing the front of an alternative embodiment of retaining coupler;

[0142] FIG. 23b is a perspective view showing the back of the retaining coupler of FIG. 23a

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0143] Referring to FIGS. 1-8 and 13 and the subparts of those figures, a connector of the present invention is described as used in a knock-down shelving system and other assemblies in which a connector releasably fastens to a post. The connector is preferably used in a shelving system that generally includes a plurality of support posts 12 which may have various cross-sectional shapes such as square or oval, but that are preferably cylindrical, that is, that are generally circular in radial cross-section. In the illustrated embodiment of FIGS. 3a to 3c, four such posts 12 are arranged to support one or more shelves 14 at corner assemblies thereof. The shelves 14 are typically wire frame shelves having corners connected to first collar parts 16a of the connectors 10 to form shelving assemblies which are located at various elevations on the post 12 to form the desired shelving assemblies. The shelves 14 are typically welded to first collar parts 16 if the shelves and collars are of metal, but various connecting methods may be used including mechanical fasteners and interlocking parts. If the shelves and collar parts are of plastics, the parts may be integrals molded at the same time, or the collar parts 16 may be bonded to the shelf 14 by adhesives, ultrasonic bonding or other methods. The shelves 14 are preferably in a plane orthogonal to the longitudinal axis 18.

[0144] As used herein the relative terms above and below, upper and lower, top and bottom are with respect to the relative positions along the longitudinal axis 18 of a post 12, which is typically in the vertical direction. The relative terms inward and outward, inner and outer are the relative directions toward and away from that axis 18 when the parts are orientated in the assembled position. These terms are provided with respect to the normal horizontal orientation of shelves and the vertical orientation of posts as shown in the attached figures in which the direction of gravity is down. The orientation of the shelving unit may change and if so the orientation of the actual unit may be transposed to correspond with the orientation of the figures for easier and consistent understanding.

[0145] The collars 16 have first and second parts 16a, 16b respectively, that are configured to interlock as best seen in FIGS. 1a to 1c. The annular collar 16 compresses sleeve 20 inward toward post 12 and are believed to wedge the sleeve against the post to form a friction lock with the post. The tapered collar 16 thus nests over a substantial portion of the outer surface of sleeve 20 with the relative tapers of the collar and sleeve creating an interference as the collar moves downward along the axis 18. As used herein, that substantial portion is over half and preferably over about 90%. Preferably the first collar part 16a is connected to the shelving unit 14 while the second collar part 16b is used to interlock the two collar parts against radial expansion and separation and thus further lock the sleeves 20 and shelves in place on the posts 12. The sleeves 20 are preferably formed of two interlocking parts, first and second parts 20a, 20b, respectively, so the sleeves can be clamped onto the post laterally at or near a desired location. The sleeve parts 20a, 20b are preferably split sleeve halves 20a, 20b which are preferably axially symmetric images of each other as seen in FIGS. 4-5 and their subparts. The sleeve halves 20a, 20b each have an interior surface 22 and opposing exterior surface 24. The interior surface 22 is sized and configured to conform to about half of the outer surface of post 12. In the preferred embodiment post 12 is cylindrical so inner surface 22 is about half of a cylindrical with a diameter about the same as or slightly smaller than the outer diameter of post 12. Inward facing sleeve surface 22 surrounds about half the circumference of post 12, and preferably slightly less than half along a short length of the post. As used herein, "surround" refers to extending around the lateral periphery of a short length of the post and likely also extending around the accompanying periphery of a sleeve fastened to the post and extending along a short length of the post as discussed herein. This is distinguished from surrounding or enclosing all six sides of a part in three dimensions, whether the part is a collar, sleeve or post. As used herein the reference to a "short length" refers to the length of the sleeve 20 or collar 16 relative to the length of the post 12. The collars 16 and sleeves 20 extend along axis 18 distances of 1-3 inches for shelves 14 that are designed to hold a few hundred pounds, whereas the post 12 extends for 60-80 inches. Thus, the short length is usually measured in inches, typically a few inches and commonly less than 5 inches. Outer surface 24 is slightly tapered and for a cylindrical post 12, the sleeve and collar are typically segments of a cone, narrower in diameter at the top and larger in diameter at the bottom so that the outer surface of sleeve 20 is frusto-conical. A slight taper of about 1-5 degrees is believed suitable, with about 2-3 degrees taper being preferred.

[0146] The sleeve halves 20a, 20b each have two opposing, first and second sides shown in the figures as generally vertical sides. The interior side or face 22 faces the post 12 and is cylindrical when the post 12 is circular in cross-section. The exterior side or face 24 faces away from the post and is tapered outward being narrower at its top and larger at its bottom. The arc subtended by each first and second side is preferably slightly less than 180.degree. so the sleeve halves may be squeezed toward each other by the collar parts 16a, 16b and squeezed tightly against the post 12 during use.

[0147] Each sleeve part or half 20a, 20b is configured to engage the outer surface of post 12. Each sleeve part typically has an inwardly extending rib 26a sized and configured to mate with a corresponding groove 26b (FIGS. 6, 7, 9) in the outer surface of post 12. While one rib 26a is shown, more ribs can be used, but preferably few in number and most preferably 2 or 3 ribs. If the sleeve halves have more than one rib 26a the ribs are spaced apart along a length parallel to axis 18 at regular intervals which correspond to the distance between grooves 26b in the posts 12. The mating ribs 26a and grooves 26b are preferably semicircular in cross-section, but other cross-sectional shapes can be used. The ribs 26 are small, usually measured in hundredths or thousandths of an inch in axial length and radial length.

[0148] Each sleeve part 20a, 20b preferably has at least one bottom flange 30 extending outward from a bottom portion of the sleeve part and extending outward from the respective sleeve parts 20a, 20b sides from which the bottom flange 30 extends, so there are first and second bottom flanges 30, one on each sleeve half. The bottom flanges preferably extend in a direction radially outward relative to the post 12 and post axis 18 during use when the inner face 22 is generally vertical and parallel to the outer surface of the post 12. The bottom flanges 30 preferably extend radially outward a distance D1 about 2-3 mm, but the distance will vary depending on the thickness of the bottom of the mating collar part 16a, 16b as will become apparent later. The bottom flanges 30 preferably extend peripherally around or circumferentially around a portion of the outer periphery or circumference of the sleeve, but that peripheral or circumferential distance will vary with the load capacity to be carried, the materials and other factors as will become apparent later. In the depicted embodiment the bottom flanges 30 advantageously have a thickness along axis 18 of a few millimeters, but that distance will vary as described later. The bottom flanges 30 are preferably integrally molded with the remainder of sleeve part 20a, 20b, so as to form a single-piece, injection molded part of unitary construction and material.

[0149] Extending upward from the outer periphery of the bottom flanges are retaining members, which extend upward along the length of the sleeve 20 and generally parallel to the post 12 and its axis 18 to form a retaining member 32. The outer end of the bottom flanges 30 and the outer facing and inward facing surfaces of retaining members 32 are preferably slightly curved and more preferably are generally concentric with the inner surface 22 of sleeve part 20a, 20b which are preferably curved. The retaining members 32, are preferably inclined relative to the outer surface 24 of the sleeve parts 20a, 20b, and are generally parallel with the outer surface of post 12 and axis 18. In the depicted embodiment each retaining member 32 subtends an arc of about 20-30.degree.. The bottom flanges 30 offset the retaining members 32 from the outer surface 24 of the sleeve parts 20a, 20b. Other than the bottom flange 30, there is no saddle, protrusion or support connecting the retaining members 32 to the sleeve 20 along the axial length of the retaining members 32. Instead, the bottom flanges 30 form an offset from the sleeve 20 with a void space 33 or gap separating the upwardly extending retaining members 32 from the adjacent side of the sleeve parts 20a, 20b so that the axial length of the retaining member 32 is cantilevered from the outwardly extending bottom flange 30. This is best seen in FIGS. 4b, 4h and 5d. The thickness of retaining members 32 in the radial direction is preferably a constant thickness and because the outer surface 24 of sleeve 20 tapers, the upper end of the retaining members 32 is further from the adjacent outer surface 24 than is the bottom end of the retaining members 32 at the flange. Thus, the void space 33 separating the retaining member 32 from the facing outer surface 24 of sleeve 20 extends the length of the retaining member 32 from its upper end to the bottom flange 30, and that void space 33 is radially larger at the upper end of the member 32 than at the bottom flange 30. The bottom flange 30 and retaining members 32 form an L shape in cross section as indicated in the side views of FIGS. 4b, 4h and 5d. The retaining members 32 may extend upward a distance of about 1/5 to 2/3 of the height of the sleeve 20 measured parallel to along axis 18 (FIGS. 9-10). Advantageously though, the retaining members 32 extend along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part from which they extend and preferably extend along more than an arc of about .degree.5, each retaining member located intermediate the two opposing sides of the sleeve part and having a retaining member having a height along the longitudinal axis 18 of less than about 1/3, as shown in FIGS. 1-5.

[0150] The retaining members 32 could be less than about 1/3 the axial height of sleeve 20 and making them shorter helps reduce molding costs and position the interlocked collar 16 after substantial engagement with the sleeve 20. The retaining members 32 each preferably span a small arc of about 5-20 degrees, and preferably the height of the retaining member 32 is about 1 to about 2 times the circumferential width of the. That ratio is believed to keep the s shorter and easier to mold, while guiding and retaining the bottom end of each interlocking collar part 16a, 16b during assembly.

[0151] The bottom flange 30 and retaining member 32 are located between the vertical edges or sides of each sleeve, and preferably, but optionally located at the middle of each first and second sleeve 20a, 20b, about half way between the free edges of each sleeve. If more than one bottom flange 30 and retaining member 32 is formed on each sleeve 20a, 20b, they are preferably located so that when the sleeve parts 20a, 20b are assembled to surround a short length of the post then the bottom flanges 30 and retaining members 32 are symmetrically located about the axis 18 and preferably equally spaced about the axis 18 and still have the above proportions. By locating the retaining members 32 at the middle of each sleeve, many interlocking collar mechanisms will automatically require that the juncture of first and second collar parts 16a, 16b be located near or at the juncture of the sleeve parts 20a, 20b when the parts are mated for use. As best seen in FIGS. 1, and 8 (and their subparts), the vertical juncture of sleeves 20a, 20b occurs at or near the vertical juncture of the collar parts 16a, 16b. But different locations of the s relative to the sides of the sleeves 20a, 20b may be used.

[0152] Referring to FIGS. 4-5 and their subparts, extending tangentially from the one side of sleeve half 20a is a locking tab 34. The locking tab 34 is shown as rectangular in cross-sectional shape with a bottom edge of the locking tab 34 adjacent the top surface of the bottom flange 30, but the shape may vary. The locking tab 34 is thus at about the middle of one substantially straight side of the sleeve 20a, 20b. On the opposing substantially straight side of the sleeve 20 (sleeve parts 20a, 20b) is a locking recess 36 configured to receive the locking tab 34. The depicted locking recess 36 is thus rectangular in shape to receive the rectangular locking tab 34, and the locking recess 36 has a bottom adjacent the outwardly extending bottom flange 30. The recess 36 is preferably a closed end slot in the outer surface of the sleeve half 20a or 20b sized to receive the locking tab 34.

[0153] Referring to FIGS. 4a-4i, the other sleeve half 20b is a mirror image of sleeve half 20a and has a locking tab 34 and locking recess 36 on the opposite sides as does the sleeve half 20a. Because the mating sleeve half 20b is axially symmetric with sleeve half 20a, a detailed description is not provided of the common parts. When the first and second sleeve parts or sleeve halves 20a, 20b are put together the interior wall 22 of the sleeve surrounds a short length of the post during use, and when the sleeve 20 is frusto-conical and engages a cylindrical post the sleeve defines a generally cylindrical passage to encircle and abut post 12 during use, and the two locking tabs 34 mate with the locking recesses 36 to hold the parts together. While rectangular tabs 34 and rectangular sockets or recesses 36 are described, various interlocking projections and recesses may be used to interlock the parts while providing smooth cylindrical surface on the inside sleeve surface 22 and a smooth exterior surface on sleeve surface 24.

[0154] The locking tabs 34 and mating locking recesses 36 are preferably configured to form a snap-fit or friction fit to releasably hold the sleeve halves 20a, 20b together. The locking tabs 34 may extend tangential from the curve of sleeve 20, but preferably the tabs curve about axis 18 with the same curvature as either of the sleeves 20a, 20b and the recesses 36 may be configured with a conforming curvature. The locking tabs and recesses 34, 36 prevent relative movement of the sleeve halves 20a, 20b along the direction of the longitudinal axis 18. In the depicted embodiment, the locking tabs 34 have a cross section about 2 mm thick by about 10 mm high and extend from the substantially straight side of the sleeve halves 20a, 20b a distance of about 4 mm. The locking recesses are preferably slightly deeper than the length of the locking tabs 34, with a depth of about 5 mm believed suitable when the locking tab 34 extends about 4 mm from the straight side of the sleeve. The dimensions will vary with the post 12 and the load to be carried.

[0155] Referring to FIGS. 1-2, when the first and second sleeve parts 20a, 20b fit together the interior surface 22 defines an interior passage surrounding a short length of the post and abutting post 12, and preferably form a cylindrical passage sized to encircle and abut against post 12, with the outer surface forming a tapered surface, preferably a frusto-conical surface with bottom flanges 30 and retaining members 32 on opposing sides of the sleeve 20. The interlocking locking tabs 34 and recesses 36 hold the sleeve halves together and restrain slippage along the generally vertical sides and axis 18. The retaining members 32 extend upward along the length of the sleeve 20 but spaced apart from the outer surface of the adjacent sleeve parts. For a post 12 having a diameter of about 25 mm, with sleeve 20 made of ABS, for a shelf having a load capacity of about 100 pounds, the s extends upward a distance of about 25-20 mm and each is spaced about 2-6 mm from the adjacent outer surface 24 of the sleeve 20, with the void space 33 selected to snugly receive the thickness of the mating collar part 16a, 16b.

[0156] The collar parts 16a, 16b may be interlocked by various means, with FIGS. 1-3 and 6-3 showing an interlocking achieved by a vertical male flange 50 or ear 50 along extending each opposing edge of first collar part 16a fitting into a female vertical channel 52 extending alone each opposing edge of the second collar part 16b. The male flange 50 is formed by bending the tapered, frusto-conical wall generally radially outward along inclined juncture 49 between the collar part 16a and male flange 50. The juncture 49 is inclined along the surface of the first collar part 16a at the same inclination or taper as the first collar part 16a. Each male flange has two opposing sides 51a, 51b and a distal edge that is preferably generally parallel to axis 18 during use. The female channel 52 has spaced apart and generally parallel sides 54a, 54b, with a distal edge 56 joining the sides 54a, 54b. The sides 54a, 54b and edge 56 define a generally U-shaped channel sized to receive the male flange 50. A female channel 52 extends from each side of the second collar part 16b along a juncture 53 where side 54a joins the collar part 16b. The juncture 53 has the same inclination or taper as the second collar part 16b.

[0157] Referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and 6-8 and their subparts, the first and second collar parts 16a, 16b are configured to mate with the sleeves 20 and squeeze them against the posts 12 as well as fitting into the void space 33 between the retaining members 32 and the adjacent outer surface 24 of the sleeve 20. The bottom of each collar part 16a, 16b may rest against the upper surface of outwardly extending bottom flange 30 when the collar is initially installed on the sleeve 20, but preferably does not abut the outward extending bottom flange 30 until a substantial load of 50 to 100 pounds is placed on the shelf to which one of the collar parts 16a, 16b is connected. Thus, the collar parts 16a, 16b wedge against the outer surface 24 of sleeves 20 to position the collars 16 and shelf 14 at a location slightly above that when the bottom of the collar parts 16 abut the bottom flanges 30. As more weight is placed on a shelf 14 the tapered collar 16 may slip downward over the tapered sleeve 20 and further compress the sleeve 20 toward the post 12 to more tightly grip the post.

[0158] The depicted collar parts 16a, 16b have a frusto-conical wall, or at least an inside that has a tapered, frusto-conical shape that is smaller in diameter at the top and larger at the bottom. The inclination of the frusto-conical wall is preferably about the same as that of the outer surface 24 of the sleeve 20, or slightly more. Each collar part 16a, 16b has substantially straight sides preferably extending along a slightly conical surface and encircling longitudinal axis 18 edges. The opposing sides of each collar part 16 may subtend an arc of about 180.degree. or slightly less. Each collar part 16a, 16b has a lower bottom edge that is preferably continuous between opposing sides of the collar part, and in substantially the same plane.

[0159] The collar 16 preferably has first collar part 16a connected to a shelf 14 (FIGS. 2-3), with second part 16b connected to a locking end frame 44 (FIGS. 2a) having a collar part 16b on each end but not connected directly to a shelf 14. The end frame 44 allows two collar parts 16b to be connected and mated with the first collar parts 16a to lock the collar parts together and to wedge the sleeves 20 against the posts 12 on which the sleeves are mounted. Alternatively, referring to FIG. 2b, the second collar part 16b may have a manipulation tab 46 extending in a direction outward from each second collar part, 16b a distance sufficient to allow a user to push on the manipulation tab 46 to install the collar part, or to pull upward on the manipulation tab to release it from the mating sleeve 20, or to otherwise manipulate the collar part using the tab 46. Thus, the second collar part 16b may be separate, without any connecting frame 44, so each collar 16 may be separately locked in position. In actual use a user may also strike the manipulation tab with a tool such as a hammer to install or tighten the collar part, or to loosen or unfasten the collar part. The manipulation tab 46 may take diverse forms and is shown as a wire connected to the outer surface of the collar part 16b at two, spaced apart locations and extending outward a distance sufficient to manually grasp the tab with fingers and manipulate the collar part. The manipulating tab 46 is advantageously configured so as not to have sharp edges or protrusions as would snag clothing or cut a person's hands. The above description has first collar part 16a connected to the shelf 14 but the shelf could be connected to the second collar part 16b, with the first collar part connected to end frame 44 or having manipulating tab 46

[0160] As illustrated in FIGS. 1b-1c and 2-3, the sleeve parts 16a, 16b are connected to post 12 (not shown) at a desired location and then a shelf 14 having a first collar part 16a connected to each corner of the shelf is positioned so each collar part 16a is slightly above the sleeve whereupon the shelf and collar parts are moved downward and mated with the sleeve. Then, the second collar part 16b is mated with the first collar part to interlock the collars and compress the sleeve against the post 12 as in FIGS. 1b-1c.

[0161] In more detail, the two sleeve halves 20a, 20b may be snapped around a vertical post 12 with the locking tabs 34 mating with the locking recesses 30 to hold the first and second sleeve parts together around the post. The interlocked sleeve parts 16a, 16b are as shown in FIG. 1a (post not shown). The sleeve halves 20a, 20b are located along the length of post 12 so the rib or ribs 26a in the sleeve mate with a corresponding groove 26b in the post at the height or location to which it is desired to fasten the shelf 14. All corners of the shelf 14 are preferably at substantially the same height in order to avoid twisting one or more of the connections. As needed, the sleeve 20 is rotated around the axis of post 12 so each bottom flange 30 extends along a direction that will not hit a post during use. Angles about 45 degrees to the edges of a rectangular shelf 14 are preferred. That angle bisects the angle of each edge of a rectangular shelf 14. A shelf 14 with a first collar part 16a at each corner is then mated with the sleeve 20 until the half collar parts 16a wedge against the sleeves 20, or until the bottom of the collar part 16a hits one of the outwardly extending bottom flanges 30. The bottom portion of the first collar part 16a fits into the void space 33 with the outer surface 24 of sleeve 20 and the retaining member 32 guiding the collar part 16a onto the sleeve and toward the outwardly extending bottom flange 30. The other corners of the shelf 14 are similarly attached to other posts 12.

[0162] A second collar part 16b is then mated with each of the first collar parts by positioning the second collar part 16b above the selected sleeve 20 and first collar part 16a, and moving the second collar part 16 downward so the male flange 50 on the first collar part 16a slide into the female channel 54 in the second collar part to interlock the collar parts. The interlocking of the male flange 50 and female channel 52 prevent radial separation of the collar parts and compress the sleeve 20 against the post 12. The second collar parts 16b may be attached separately, preferably by manipulating the collar parts with a manipulating tab 46 on the collar part 16b, or two second collar parts 16b may be connected to opposing ends of end frame 44 so two collars are not only separately connected, but tied to each other to help restrain adjacent posts 12 from splaying at the location of the end frame. The shelf 14 could have second collar parts 16b connected at each corner of the shelf instead of the first collar parts 14a, in which case the locking would be achieved by adding the first collar part 16a either separately to the corners, or by using a connecting end frame 44 having a first collar part on each end of the end frame.

[0163] The parts may be removed and the shelves taken off the posts 12 by reversing the order of above described steps. Thus, a user may pull upward on the collar part 16a, 16b using manipulating tab 46, or pull upward on the locking bar or end frame 44, or pull upward on a shelf 14 to disengage the male flanges 50 from the female channel 52 on each collar 16 at each corner of a shelf. Once all collar parts 16a, 16b are removed from a sleeve 20, the sleeve halves 20a, 20b may be pulled apart and removed from the post. Optionally, one or more sleeves 20 may be removed as they become accessible.

[0164] As the weight on the shelf 14 increases the gripping forces on the collar parts 16a, 16b and sleeve 20 increase because the inclined generally conical surfaces of the collar part 16a, 16b are trying to move downward over the inclined, generally conical surface of sleeve 20, and the smaller diameter of the upper portion of collar 16 wedges against the larger diameter of the lower portion of the sleeve 20. The bottom radial flanges 30 abut the bottom of the collar parts 16a, 16b during maximum loads and do not allow the collar 16 to pass unless the bottom flanges 30 are sheared off or the collar parts deform to slide over the flanges, or some combination thereof. The bottom flanges 30 thus provide part of the load carrying capability of the connection formed by sleeves 20 and collars 16, although preferably only during maximum loading so as to allow the collar to move slightly downward as the load increases toward maximum rated capacity or possibly event toward maximum design capacity.

[0165] By eliminating the outwardly extending saddles or protrusions of the prior art, all of the force the shelf 14 exerts on one connector goes to wedge the outer collar 16 against the inner sleeve 20 and post 12, with the force being exerted in a more uniform manner as the force is more uniformly distributed around the circumference or periphery of the collar 16 onto the sleeve 20 and post 12. The frusto-conical shaped inner surface of collar parts 16a, 16b thus mate with the correspondingly shaped frusto-conical outer surface of sleeve 20 to urge the sleeve against the post 12 during use. The mating parts of the collar parts 16a, 16b and sleeve halves 20a, 20b advantageously have the same slope or a slight interference fit, with slopes of about 2-10 degrees and with 2-5 degrees being preferred suitable and interference fits formed by slopes of 1-3 degrees difference in slope and these fits are used herein to define the preferred mating of these parts. The retaining member 32 helps retain the collar part 16a, 16b in position during installation. Because the void space 33 allows the collar 16 to approach and contact the outward extending bottom flanges 30 the retaining member 32 guides the collar more securely than in the prior art. The members 32 also restrain radial outward movement of the bottom portion of collar parts 16a, 16b.

[0166] Moreover, as seen in FIGS. 4b, 4h and 5d, the void space 33 is tapered and is smaller in the radial direction adjacent the outwardly extending bottom flange 30 and larger at the top end of the retaining member 32. It is believed advantageous that the void space 33 at the outward extending bottom flange 30 is slightly smaller than the thickness of the collar part 16a. 16b that is forced toward the bottom flange 30 during use. The bottom edge of the collar parts 16a, 16b thus preferably, but optionally, wedges into the bottom of the void space 33 adjacent the outwardly extending bottom flange 30 and the bottom portion of the retaining member 32. It is believed advantageous that at least a slight interference fit is achieved at least immediately adjacent to the bottom flange 30 between the collar 16 and the retaining member 32 and sleeve 20, and that the interference fit begins about 2-3 mm before the top of the outward extending flange 32 and increase toward the bottom of the engagement length when collar 16 abuts outwardly extending flange 32. It is also believed that the retaining member 32 helps restrain movement of the bottom edge of the collar 16 in an outward direction, especially during maximum loads.

[0167] It is believed that one benefit of the retaining member 32 is to control or limit the position of the bottom edge of collar parts 16a, 16b at the middle of each collar part and help keep that middle edge from moving radially inward or outward. Because the male flange 50 does not always fit perfectly within the female channel 52 the mating of the flanges 50 and channels 52 on each pair of collar parts 16a, 16b may cause deformation of the collar, which the retaining member helps control by controlling the position of the bottom periphery of each collar part and by controlling the radial movement at that middle location. By restraining the location of the middle portion of the bottom edge of the collar part 16a, 16b it is believed that a tighter connection is achieved between the mating flanges 50 and channels 52. By locating the bottom flange 30 and retaining member 32 in the middle of the collar part 16a, 16b it is believed that the shape of the bottom of the conical collar 16 is maintained as the interlocking flanges 50 and channels 52 are opposite each other and the restraining members 32 are opposite each other, restraining the generally circular periphery of the collar 16 at four equally spaced locations. Retaining the circular shape at the bottom of the collar is believed to help prevent undesirable deformation of the collar, to help ensure engagement of the flanges 50 and channels 52, and to provide a more secure connection with the post 12 during heavy loading. The slight interference fit between the collar 16 and retaining member 32 is also believed to help secure the collar in position and restrains movement of the collar as would loosen the connection.

[0168] Because the sleeves 20a, 20b may be snapped onto the post 12 at any suitable location and the collar need not pass along the length of the post in order to connect to the sleeve 20, the shelves 14 may be connected in any order to the posts 12. No bottom-up assembly is required. Shelves may be inserted between two adjacent shelves without removing the upper shelves. The ease of assembly is believed to be superior to prior art designs. The slight interference fit is optional.

[0169] The collars 16 are preferably split collars having first and second parts 16a, 16b each of which do not extend more than 180.degree. around the circumference of the posts 12 and preferably extend about 178-179.5.degree. around the circumference of the post. But the collar parts 16 could extend further and enclose a majority of the circumference of the post 12 and sleeve 20, particularly for collar parts connected to shelves 14 where only one shelf connects to one sleeve. If so, the other collar part 16 engaging the other pair of abutting bottom flanges 30 would have a correspondingly smaller circumferential size so as to avoid the sides of the collar parts 16a, 16b overlapping or otherwise preventing a tight clamp to the post 12. Smaller sized collar parts 16b are believed suitable for collar parts on the end frames 44 or single collars 16 not connected to a shelf or an end frame but used to lock the free pair of abutting bottom flanges 30 and keep them from splaying and tightening the connection to the post.

[0170] The collar parts 16a, 16b preferably surround or extend around about half or slightly less than half of the circumference of sleeve 20, or about 180.degree. or slightly less, along a short length of the post but along a substantial length of the sleeve 20 and preferably the full axial length of sleeve 20. The use of a collar part encircling about 185.degree.-270.degree. of the circumference of the post 12 and sleeve 20 is believed possible, with the other locking collar part encircling the remaining portion of the 360.degree. circumference of the post and sleeve. If the collar part 16a, 16b encircles, extends around or surrounds much more than about 185.degree.-190.degree. of the circumference, then the collar part may no longer be flexible enough to allow opposing sides of the collar part to spread apart to fit around the post 12 and sleeve 20 laterally from the side of the post, and may require the collar part to be positioned by sliding it axially from one end of the post along the length of the post 12 and axis 18 (which is not desirable). If the collar part 16a, 16b encircles more than 180.degree. of the post and the same sleeve then two identical collar parts cannot abut opposing sides of the same sleeve on the same post at the same location along a length of the post and clamp the same sleeve 20 against the post sufficiently to hold the sleeve, collar and connected shelf in place on that common post.

[0171] The connector 10 can be used in various other types of support systems, such as cabinets, closets, rolling carts, rolling racks, posts with outwardly extending arms and the like, with the described shelving system being only one example of use for the connector 10. Moreover, the connector 10 can be used in conjunction with many shelf configurations and is not limited to use with a corner of a shelf 14, or for that matter, a corner of any supported part.

[0172] The sleeves 20a, 20b may be made of a suitable plastic. ABS, polyethylene and polyurethane plastics are believed suitable. The sleeves are preferably molded as a single piece of material to form an integrally molded part. The posts 12, collar parts 16a, 16b and shelves 14 are preferably made of metal, but one or more of them may be made of a sufficiently strong plastic material. Depending on the weight which each shelf 14 or shelving unit is designed to support, the dimensions of parts and material used will vary.

[0173] A simplified shelving unit would include four corner posts 12, at least one and preferably more shelves 14 with collar parts 16 of any type as described herein at each location on the shelf (generally corners) where the shelf is to connect to the post 12. For a rectangular shelf 14 with four collar parts 16a, 16b, one at each corner to connect to four posts, two end frames 44 would be needed for each shelf, or four single collar parts 16a, 16b for each shelf. A shelving kit may be provided that preferably includes those parts and more preferably includes two, three, four, five or six shelves 14 with corresponding numbers of collar parts 16a, 16b on each shelf, and twice the number of end frame connectors 44 as there are shelves (or four times the number of single collar parts 16a, 16b), and four times the number of sleeves 20 as there are shelves.

[0174] A kit may include the above combination of parts and combinations thereof. Thus, a simple shelving kit may have two shelves 14, which if rectangular in shape have a collar part 16a of any type described herein at each corner of the shelf. The kit would further include eight sleeves 20 and eight collar parts 16b of any type described herein that are either separated, or with pairs of collar parts 16b joined to form end frames 44. Each additional rectangular shelf added to the kit would preferably include four collar parts 16a, four collar parts 16b and four sleeves 20. If two shelving units are joined horizontally together by having two shelves 14 with two collar parts 16a at one end fasten to the same sleeves 20 each on two corresponding posts 12, then the number of end frames 44 may be reduced by half, as may the number of single piece collars that surround or encircle a short length of the post and sleeve, if such single piece collars are used instead of end frames 44 or individual collar parts 16b.

[0175] While it is believed desirable to have an interference at the bottom of the void volume 33 between the collar 16 and v 32, that is believed optional. On the other than, a large clearance fit is believed undesirable. Thus a clearance of less than about 0.5 mm is believed desirable. The offset will vary with the materials of which the parts and shelves are made, and the load to be carried on the shelves and posts. Likewise, the dimensions of the sleeves and parts thereof will vary with the materials and loads to be carried by the parts.

[0176] Referring to FIGS. 9-10 and their subparts, a variation is shown in which the axial length of the retaining members 32 is about 2/3 the height of the sleeve 20 and each sleeve part 20a, 20b has two retaining members 32, one on each opposing edge or side of the sleeve part 20a, 20b. This increased axial length of the retaining members 32 is believed useful when the relative interlocking fit between the collar parts 16a, 16b is loose and the longer retaining members 32 help restrict radially outward movement of the collar parts and guide the collar onto the general conical shape of the sleeve 20 so that the bottom edge of the collar seats against the bottom flange 30. The retaining member 32 extends along less than a majority of a circumference of the sleeve part and preferably more than an arc of about .degree.5.

[0177] Moreover, the location of the outwardly extending flanges and associated axially extending retaining members 32 is changed so that each of the two opposing edges of the first sleeve part 20a have a retaining member 32 and each of the two opposing edges of the second sleeve part 20b have a retaining member 32, with each retaining member of each sleeve placed immediately adjacent to and preferably abutting a different retaining member of the other sleeve during use.

[0178] Additionally, the sleeves 20a, 20b have an outwardly extending bottom flange 30 extending between the bottom flanges 30, and preferably not extending in an outward direction as much as the bottom flange 30. Advantageously, the bottom flange 30 extends outward a distance about the same as the thickness of the collar 16 or slightly more, so as to form a ledge against which the bottom of the collar 16 may rest during use and especially during maximum loading. The bottom flange 30 may extend radially outward the same distance as bottom flange 30 for ease of manufacturing. The bottom flange 30 may be used with the sleeves 20 and collars 16 of FIGS. 1-8 and 13.

[0179] The bottom flange 30 provides an outward extending ledge at the bottom of the sleeve 20 which requires more axial force to shear off the combination of the lips and flanges, than just to shear off the bottom flanges 30 by themselves. The use of two bottom flanges 30 on each sleeve allows more variation in the molding of the sleeves as the circumferential length of the bottom flanges 30 may vary, with an included angle of 5-10.degree. believed suitable for each bottom flange 30 for a total included angle of about 10-20.degree.. The bottom flange 30 and multiple bottom flanges 30 thus provide a means to increase and vary the axial load carrying capacity of the shelving connection by increasing the force required for the collar 16 to pass by the sleeve 20. The bottom flange 30 may be used on the embodiment of FIGS. 1-8 and 13.

[0180] Further, by locating the retaining members 32 on each of two opposing sides the bottom flanges 30 are located at the junction of the first and second sleeve parts 20a, 20b. The retaining members 32 may interfere with the interlocking of some collar parts 16a, 16b. Thus, as seen in FIGS. 9-10, the interlocking flanges 50 and channels 52 of collar parts 16a, 16b is offset about 90.degree. from the pairs retaining members 32 of sleeve parts 20a, 20b. This contrasts with the embodiment of FIGS. 1-8 and 13, where the juncture of two abutting retaining members 32 may be located to coincide with the juncture of the two interlocking collar parts 16a, 16b.

[0181] The collars 16a, 16b of FIGS. 9-10 are shown with collar 16b having a manipulating handle 46. But either of the collars 6a, 16b could have a manipulating handle. Likewise, either of the collars 16a, 16b could be fastened to the end frame 44 as shown in FIG. 2a, with the other of the collars 16a, 16b being connected to a shelf 14 as shown in FIGS. 2-3.

[0182] Referring to FIGS. 11-12 and 14 and their subparts, a further variation is shown in which the sleeve parts 20a, 20b have an upwardly extending retaining wall 38 extending upward from the outward edge or periphery of bottom flange 30 that extends outward from the bottom of each sleeve part 20a, 20b. Advantageously, as best seen in FIGS. 11a, 11b, 12a, 12c, 12d and 12f, the bottom flange 30 extends outward, preferably radially outward, around the entire periphery of each sleeve part 20a, 20b. The retaining wall 38 extends upward, preferably axially upward parallel to axis 18 and post 18, from the outer edge of the bottom flange 30. The bottom flange 30 thus offsets the retaining wall 38 from the bottom of the tapered outer surface 24 of each collar part 16a, 16b. Depending on the interlocking mechanism used to interlock the collar parts 16a, 16b, the retaining wall 38 may stop short of each opposing side or opposing edge of the sleeve part 20a, 20b so as to leave a gap 40 for any interlocking collar mechanism that extends outward beyond the wall 38, such as outwardly extending channels 52 and flanges 50, as shown in FIGS. 11a-11c. Alternatively, the retaining wall 38 may extend the full periphery of bottom flange 30 with an intermediate gap 40 between the ends of the flange and preferably between the two opposing sides of the sleeve part 20a, 20b. Thus, the retaining wall 38 and gap 40 are selected so the first and second flanges do not abut against a top of the retaining wall, even though the retaining wall 38 extends over a majority of the periphery of each sleeve part 20a, 20b. The sleeve parts 20a, 20b are symmetric so mating two sleeve parts 20a, 20b should result in two gaps 40 located 180.degree. apart, or diametrically opposite each other when the sleeve parts 20a, 20b are mated or interlocked to form sleeve 20 that encircles the post 12 (FIG. 3). The sleeve 20 may be rotated as needed to make the gap 40 coincide with the flange 50 or channel 52 connected to the shelf 14.

[0183] The bottom flange 30 extends outward a distance about the radial thickness of the bottom of collar parts 16a, 16b or slightly greater. The retaining wall 38 may have a height or length parallel to axis 18 that is about half of the length of the sleeve 20, but is preferably shorter and more preferably is very short compared to the axial height of the sleeve 2, advantageously about 1 to 5 times the thickness of the collar parts 16a 16b at the bottom of the collar or about 1 to 6 times the width of the bottom flange 30. A height of about 1-3 mm is believed suitable for plastic sleeves used with shelves 14 to hold 100-200 pounds. The retaining walls 38 are preferably square in cross-section (with rounded corners) but need not be so. When shelves are loaded the collars 16 sometimes slide slightly downward on the posts 12 relative to the sleeves 20, and under heavy load at or near the maximum rated load capacity of the shelves, the collars 16 may move further downward. When the weight on each collar meets or exceeds the rated maximum load capacity then the collars typically move further downward. The retaining wall 38 is preferably high enough that the bottom edge of the collar parts 16a, 16b are below the upper edge of the retaining wall 38 at the maximum rated load capacity of the collar and sleeve connection and preferably contacting the bottom flange 30 at that maximum rated load capacity.

[0184] As the collar 16 slides downward the bottom flange 30 provides extra resistance to axial motion. The bottom flange 30 thus provides resistance to axial movement of the collar 16 past the flange as the bottom of the collar will contact the flange as the shelf and collar move downward relative to the sleeve. Thus, the bottom flange 30 resists downward motion of the collar relative to the sleeve, forcing the collar 16 to shear off the bottom flange 30 or deform over the bottom flange 30 and wall 38, or both. The retaining wall 38 is believed to provide resistance to non-circular deformation of the bottom of the collar 16 thus helping to maintain the collar bottom in its circular shape. The retaining wall 38 is also believed to resist outward motion or deformation of the collar past the retaining wall, helping to maintain the circular shape of the bottom of the collar parts 16a, 16b when the collar contacts the wall. The outwardly extending bottom flange 30 also provides a stiffening structure around the periphery of the bottom of the sleeve parts 20a, 20b to reduce deformation of that part of the sleeve 20a, 20b. The retaining wall 38 cooperates with the bottom flange 30 to provide an L-shaped cross-section that further stiffens the bottom of the sleeves 20a, 20b at periphery of the sleeves, especially against radial deformation.

[0185] The bottom flange 30 and retaining wall 38 extend from side-to-side on each sleeve part 20a, 20b, with a gap 40 in the wall as needed for those interlocking collars that extend into the location of the wall. The depicted embodiment has the wall 38 end shortly before the gap 40. The depicted gap 40 occurs on opposing sides of the sleeve 20a, 20b, but may be located anywhere between the sides or edges of the sleeves with the sleeve rotated on the post 12 to align with the first collar occur part 16a on the shelf.

[0186] In use, the first collar part 16a, having male flange 50 is preferably fastened to the shelf 14 and the second collar part 16b is slid downward onto the sleeve 20 on a post 12 to interlock the collar parts and compress the sleeve against the post 12. Preferably, the collar parts rest on the bottom flange 30 during use, but may be offset slightly above that flange until the shelf 14 to which the connector is connected is loaded to its rated load capacity at which maximum load capability the collar abuts the bottom flange 30 to further resist relative movement of the collar and sleeve. If the shelf 14 is connected to the second collar part 16b that contains the female channel 52, the assembly sequence is the same except that after the second collar part 16b connects the shelf 14 to the post, then the first collar part is moved along axis 18 to slide the male flange 50 into the female channel 52.

[0187] The collars of FIGS. 1, 6-9, 11 and 17-19 do not show the collars connected to shelves 14. Such connections are known and showing such connections makes the drawings more complex and makes it more difficult to see the construction of the collars and assembled collars and sleeves. FIGS. 2-3, 13-14, 16 and 20-22 show the collars 16 connected to shelves 14 and the remaining collars are connected at similar locations in a similar manner as will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art depending on the configuration of the shelf, collar and post. Connections using welding, melting, adhesives, mechanical connections and mechanical fasteners are all believed suitable to connect the shelves 14 to collar parts 16. As mentioned earlier, the manipulating handle 46 may be connected to either collar part 16a, 16b. The handle 46 may be omitted entirely in any embodiments of this application. For single shelf units either collar part 16a, 16b may be connected to the shelf 14 as in FIGS. 2-3, with the other collar part used to interlock the collar to the sleeves 20a, 20b. For multiple, joined shelving units as in FIG. 2c, only the first collar part 16a is joined to the shelves as discussed regarding FIGS. 16 and 22. Likewise the collar part that is not connected to the shelf 14 may be an individual, mating collar part 16a, 16b, or two collar parts may be connected to end frame 44 as in FIG. 2a.

[0188] For a shelving rack with four posts 12 and shelves 14 vertically aligned on the posts, the shelf may have either collar part 16a, 16b on each of its four corners. Representative corner connector assemblies are shown in FIGS. 13a, 13b and 13d, and 14a, 14b and 14d for shelves 14 with the flanged collar part 16a connected to the shelf. For shelving assemblies having two shelves 14 connected to one, common sleeve 20 on the same post 12 as in FIG. 3c, the shelves should be connected to first collar part 16a at each corner or each location where a collar part 16 is used. That allows the same collar part to be used on all four corners of a rectangular shelf 14.

[0189] Referring to FIGS. 3c, 13c, 14c, 15 and 23 (and their subparts), a middle post or post 12 and sleeve 20 common to two shelves 14 has two flanges 50 abutting each other, with the flanges 50 of each collar part 16a located 180.degree. apart or slightly less so both collar parts can fit around one post. The taper of each collar part 16a mating with the sleeve parts 20a, 20b on the post are sufficient to hold the sleeve and collar and shelf in position. If the shelf 14 had the channel collar part 16b on the two corners seeking to share a common sleeve as in FIG. 16 then both collar parts would not fit. A shelf could be made with one set of male flanges 50 of collar parts 16a on one end of the shelf and another set of channels 52 of collar parts 16b on the opposing end, with the channels 52 fitting over the flanges (or vice versa), but that makes it hard to keep track of parts and difficult for the user to orientate the shelves and assemble the shelves.

[0190] Referring to FIGS. 15-16 and 23 and their subparts, a retaining coupler 80 is provided to couple or connect the immediately adjacent male flanges 50 (or ears) of FIGS. 13c, 14c (and flanges 60, 70 of FIG. 23 as discussed later) and is sufficiently strong to restrain those flanges from separating when a predetermined load is applied to the shelf. The predetermined load is typically either the advertised load capacity of the shelf, or the maximum design load of the shelf. Less desirably, it may be the actual failure load capacity as demonstrated by testing. The retaining coupler is described later as the connection uses first and second shelves each having two first collar parts 16a (or 16a'' as discussed later) with each first collar part connected to an opposing side of the same sleeve 20 on a post 12. This allows a shelf 14 with four corners to have a first collar part 16a at each corner which provides for simpler manufacture and easier assembly. Thus, a first shelf with a first collar part 16a connects to one side of a sleeve 20, and a second shelf with a first collar part 16a connects to the opposing side of the same sleeve. Each first collar part 16a extends around about 180.degree. or slightly less of the sleeve so they both can fit on the sleeve and compress the sleeve against the post. The flanges 50 of each collar part 16a are facing each other and immediately adjacent each other and preferably abutting each other. Each leg 84 of the coupler 80 slides over one pair of facing flanges 50 on one side of the collars to hold the pair of flanges together and restrain lateral separation.

[0191] The retaining coupler 80 has two elongated legs 82a, 82b joined by a connecting member 84 that connects an upper end of each leg 82a, 82b. The legs 82a, 82b are separate parts configured to be placed on opposing sides of a plane through a side rail of the shelf 14 and preferably joined only by connecting member 84. Advantageously, the legs 82 and connecting member 84 are a single piece, integrally formed part having a U-shaped cross section with opposing sides 86 of the "U" being spaced apart a distance to fit over two contacting male flanges 50 or ears 50 as shown in FIGS. 15-16 and 22. The term U-shaped cross-section is given a broad meaning as used herein to include C-shaped cross-sections and L-shaped sections with one side 86 longer than the other side, and other similar shapes with opposing sides 86 joined together to form the leg 82 with the sides holding the immediately adjacent flanges together during use. But the connecting member 84 could be of different configuration than legs 82a, 82b as seen in FIG. 23, which has a wire or rod connecting two parallel legs 82a, 82b.

[0192] A snug fit or tight fit between the legs 82a, 82b and the immediately adjacent flanges 50 is preferred and a slight interference fit is possible but less desirable because of the difficulty in installing and/or removing the retaining coupler 80. Thus, the spacing between two opposing sides 86 of a leg 82 is preferably about twice the thickness of two flanges 50, assuming the flanges 50 of the two adjoining collars 16a are the same thickness. As seen in FIG. 15, the retaining coupler 80 may be bent from a U-shaped channel member with the two legs 82a, 82b being parallel with the U-shaped channel of each leg opening toward each other, and with the connecting member extending out of the plain through the parallel legs 82a, 82b a distance sufficient so a user can grab the connecting member with their fingers to install and remove the retaining coupler from the flanges 50 of two coupler parts 16a. Alternatively, a differently configured part may be formed separately and connected to the legs 82a, 82b as by welding, molding, melting, adhesives or other fastening means as in FIG. 23. In the depicted embodiment the connecting member 84 is bent almost perpendicular to the plane through the legs 82a, 82b and extends about 35 mm or an inch and a half from the legs.

[0193] The legs 82a, 82b are preferably long enough to engage the full length of two adjacent and preferably abutting flanges 50 of two first collar parts 16a connected to a post 12 and sleeve 20. But the length of the legs 82a, 82b could be shorter, although preferably the legs 62 are long enough to extend over a substantial length of the two immediately adjacent flanges 50 (or 64, 74 as discussed later). As used herein, a substantial length of the immediately adjacent flanges refers to an engagement length of at least half and preferably over 90%. Further, the flanges 50 on the first collar parts 16a connected to each of a first shelf 14 and a second shelf 14, are each connected to opposing sides of the sleeve with a substantial portion of the first flanges on the first shelf being immediately adjacent a substantial portion of the first flanges on the second shelf. Preferably, when the shelves 14 are at their design load capacity, the flanges 50 are fully aligned from the top to the bottom of each flange, with a leg 84 holding the flanges together and resisting separation in the lateral direction, generally orthogonal to the axis 18. The flanges 50 and legs 84 may move parallel to axis 18.

[0194] In use, a sleeve 20 is placed on a post at a desired location. The ends of two shelves 14 each having a male collar part 16a are placed on that sleeve 20 so the two flanges 50 on opposing sides of each collar part 16a contact a flange on the other collar part other or are immediately adjacent to together, to achieve the collar configuration generally shown in FIG. 13c or 14c. The taper on the collar parts 16a is believed sufficient to hold the sleeve 20 to the post and to support the weight of the shelves 14. The two adjoining collars have pairs of flanges 50 on each side of the collar and a user may then push the each of the legs 82a, 82b over a different pair of flanges 50 so as to connect the flanges of two different collar parts 16a, and thus connect the two collars 16a and lock them together. The user may place his or her hand below the sleeve 20 when inserting the legs 82 of the retaining coupler over the flanges 50 to ensure no downward movement of the sleeve but that is not believed necessary. The connecting member 84 may be used to manually manipulate or position the retaining coupler 80. To disassemble the shelf, the user may lift up on the connecting member 84 and pull it off of the flanges 50, whereupon each shelf 14 and its collar parts 16a may be removed from the common sleeve 20 on post 12. If designed to be sufficiently strong, the connecting member 84 may be hit with a hammer to install or remove the coupler 80. The legs 82 preferably, but optionally have an open bottom so the legs can slide along a length of the flanges during installation, but a closed end on the legs 82 could be used if the legs 82 are fit onto the flanges laterally or by rotation and removed laterally or by rotation of the retaining coupler 80.

[0195] Because the retaining coupler 80 locks two flanges together on each opposing side of the sleeve 20 and post 12, the retaining coupler may be referred to as a locking collar. The locking collar 80 has two legs 82a, 82b, each of which engages and holds together two flanges of two adjacent collar parts 16a, so the locking collar 80 holds together two pairs of flanges of two different collars 16a, each leg holding two flanges together. The locking collar 80 has the legs 66 made of sufficiently strong and sufficiently thick material to maintain the flanges 50 in position and restrain the flanges from moving apart from each other in a direction orthogonal to the face of the flanges 50. The flanges 50 may slide along the length of a leg 82 as that is needed for installation and removal of the locking collar 80. Metal locking collars 80 are preferred but plastic ones are believed suitable. Locking collars with sides 86 having a thickness of about 2 mm ( 5/64 inch) and overlapping about 5 mm (about 13/64 inch) with the flanges 50, are believed when made of metal, preferably steel.

[0196] In FIGS. 15b and 15d, the sides 86 are straight and of uniform width in the direction orthogonal to the length as seen in the Figures. The flanges 50 are preferably trapezoidal as best seen in FIGS. 1 and 6b. The edge of each side 86 on one leg that faces the other leg thus does not abut a substantial length of the juncture 49 of the flange 50 with the tapered, conical body of the collar part 16a.

[0197] A more detailed description of the interlocking flange and collar follows. The flange 50 extends along a substantial axial length of each side or distal edge of the collar part 16a on which it is located, joining the typically curved exterior body of the collar part 16a along juncture 49. The flange 50 preferably extends along more than half that length, and preferably extends more than 80% of that length and more preferably extends about the full length of the (vertical) side or distal edge of the collar on which the flange is located. The flange 50 thus preferably extends outward from the side of the semicircular body portion of the collar part, with the juncture 49 located at the transition between the flange and the curved body part. The flange 50 preferably extends radially outward relative to the longitudinal axis 18 during use so the flange 50 is parallel with the axis 18. The flange 50 is preferably short in the outward direction, preferably about 2-10 times the thickness of the flange and more preferably about 2-5 times the thickness of the flange. As used herein, the outward direction means away from the longitudinal axis 18 when the parts are in their use configuration.

[0198] Each outwardly extending flange 50 has two opposing side faces 51a, 51b joined by an outward facing distal edge 51c. The edge 51c is generally aligned with the post axis 18 during use, but may be slightly inclined relative to that axis, usually with the upper end closer to the axis than the lower end during use. The front face 51a faces a direction toward the main portion of the mating collar part while the rear face 51b faces away from the mating collar part. As the distal edges of the collar parts 16a are preferably aligned with the axis 18 during use, the flange 50 generally extends vertically relative to the floor during use when the shelves 14 are horizontal. Thus, the first collar 16a has two flanges 50, one extending along each of the opposing distal ends of the collar and forming juncture 49 with the collar.

[0199] The male flange 50 is received in a female channel 52 configured to enclose the sides and distal edge of the flange 50. The female channel 52 is connected to the second collar part, 16b. The depicted channel 52 has a cross-sectional shape that has a "U" shaped cross section with two outwardly aligned and preferably parallel sides 54a, 54b joined by a distal edge 56. The first side 54a extends outward from the collar part 16 with the second side 54b extending inward and with the distal edge 56 joining the outward edges of those sides. The sides 54a, 54b with end 56 form a channel having a U-shaped cross section with an elongated opening facing the axis 18 with the channel having open ends at the top and bottom of the collar part. The bottom of the channel is open. The body forming channel 52 preferably extends radially outward relative to axis 18 when the parts are assembled for use so as to place the faces 54a, 54b general parallel with the male flange 50 so as to enclose the flange.

[0200] The channel 52 preferably has spaced apart sides 54a, 54b forming a narrow slot or groove within which the male flange 50 is enclosed during use. The channel side 54a is located toward the mating collar part while the channel side 54b is located away from the mating collar part and closer to the main body of the collar part from which it extends. The inside surfaces of the sides 54a, 54b face each other. Each channel side 54a extends from an opposing, distal circumferential end of the collar part, and forms juncture 53 where it joins that collar part. The channel side 54a preferably extends radially outward from a side of a semi-circular collar part, with juncture 53 extending along the transition from the curved body portion of the collar part and the side 54a. The channel 52 has to receive the flange 50 so the sides 54a, 54b extend outward more than the flange 50. Thus the sides 54 extend in the outward direction, a few millimeters more than the flange 50. The sides 54a, 54b allow the male flange 50 to pass closely between them are thus spaced apart a distance greater than the thickness of the flange 50, but preferably close enough to form a snug fit and preferably with no gap greater than a few mm. Thus, the female channel 52 extends outward from each of two opposing sides of a collar part and extends along a substantial length of that second collar part measured along the longitudinal axis 16. Each female channel 52 has an open bottom configured to slidably receive one of the male flanges 50 during use, with each female channel 52 extending along opposing sides 54a, 54b of a different one of the male flanges during use. The second collar part 16b' is preferably formed of a single piece of material, such as metal bent to the desired shape or molded plastic. The channel 52 preferably form a U-shaped cross-section to as to enclosed opposing sides of the male flange 50 and restrain relative movement of the flange and channel in the lateral plane or direction.

[0201] In use, the first collar part 16a, having male flange 50 is preferably fastened to the shelf 14 and the second collar part 16b is slid downward onto the sleeve 20 on a post 12 to interlock the collar parts and compress the sleeve against the post 12. Preferably, the collar parts rest on the bottom flange 30 during use, but may be offset slightly above that flange until the shelf 14 to which the connector is connected is loaded to its rated load capacity. If the shelf 14 is connected to the second collar part 16b that contains the female channel 52, the assembly sequence is the same except that after the second collar part 16b connects the shelf 14 to the post, then the first collar part is moved along axis 18 to slide the male flange 50 into the female channel 52.

[0202] Placing the male flange 50 in the female channel 52 interlocks the collars 16a to both clamp the sleeve parts 20 against the post 12, and to further inhibit separation of the sleeve parts and collar parts. Preferably, when the male flange 50 is received in the female channel formed by opposing sides 54a, 54b, the face 51b of the male flange 50 contacts the inner face of side 54a. It is useful to have the face 51b of the male flange 50 contact the inner face of the side 54a of channel 52 as that can hold the parts together and preferably urge the parts together, but the parts must easily and removably interconnect. Thus, while the side 54a is preferably parallel to the male flange 50, the side 54b need not be parallel to that flange and may be slightly curved or inclined to form a slight interference fit as the male flange 50 fits into the channel 52.

[0203] The flange 50 preferably contacts the sides 54a, 54b of the channel 52 to prevent relative movement of the parts from moving laterally apart along an axis perpendicular to the faces of the flange 50 and sides 54. The contact between the outward facing edges 51c, 56 of the flange 50 and channel 52 prevents the relative movement of the parts along the radial direction of the flange 50 and sides 54. Combinations of those contacting parts inhibit relative separation of the collar parts 16a and sleeve parts 20a, 20b along intervening directions. The retaining members 32, sleeves 20 and post 12 keep the parts from moving in the plane orthogonal to axis 18. The ribs and grooves 26a, 16b on the pole and collar restrain movement along the pole 12 and its axis 18.

[0204] Because the flange 50 and channel 52 can each extend the axial length of the respective collar parts 16a, an increased length of the interlocking parts that resist separation is achieved. Because the flange 50 has the same thickness as the collar the flange forms a strong and stiff resistance to separation of the interlocked collar parts and the sleeve parts held inside the collar parts. Because the sides 54a, 54b and distal end 56 of channel 52 preferably have the same thickness as the collar from which the sides and end extend they form a strong and stiff resistance to separation of the interlocked collar parts and the sleeve parts held together by the interlocked collar parts.

[0205] The flange 50 and channel 52 preferably extend for about the same axial distance relative to axis 18 during use of the parts, and are aligned to mate and contact each other during use. But one could be shorter or the other could be longer, so for example, the male flange 50 may extend less than the full length of the first collar part measured along axis 18 during use, while the female channel 52 may extend the full length of the second collar part, or the female channel 52 may extend less than the axial length of the first collar part. The relative lengths could be reversed. Thus, for example, the male flange 50 could extend from the top of the collar part 16a' toward the bottom, but end before the bottom of the collar part, preferably between about 60-90% of the length of the first collar part, while the female channel 52 may extend the full length of the second collar part 16b' or extend about 60-90% of the length of the second collar part, from the top of the second collar part toward its bottom. The collars 16 preferably extend the full length of the sleeve 20 measured either along axis 18 or along the tapered surface of the sleeve parts 16a, 16b, but the collars 16 may be slightly shorter, preferably less than 5% shorter.

[0206] The collar parts 16a have inclined sides to form a frusto-conical passage through the joined collar parts which passage extends along axis 18 during use, with each collar part extending about half way around that axis during use. Referring to FIGS. 6a-6g and 7a-e, the collar parts 16a, 16b preferably each have a uniform thickness between the interior and exterior surfaces of the collar so the outside surface curving around axis 18 has a frusto-conical shape parallel to that of the inside surface. The male flange 50 preferably has a distal edge 51c that is preferably parallel to the axis 18 while the juncture with the curved body of the part is inclined parallel to the frusto-conical surface which causes the flange 50 to have a trapezoidal shape with the distal edge 51c and juncture with the curved portion being non-parallel, while the top side of the flange 50 is slightly longer than the bottom side an parallel to that bottom side. The same applies to the channel 52, which can have a distal edge 56 parallel to the axis 18 while side 51a joins the curved portion of part 16a along an inclined juncture parallel to the inclined, frusto-conical surface, resulting in sides 54a, 54b having a trapezoidal shape with a top side slightly longer than the bottom side but parallel.

[0207] The collars 16 having different interlocking mechanisms, including the interlocking mechanisms shown herein, and interlocking mechanisms not shown, including those of U.S. Pat. No. 8,887,647, the complete contents of which are both incorporated herein by reference.

[0208] FIG. 20-21 show interlocking, slotted collars 16'' having first and second collar parts 16a'', 16b'', respectively, with slotted flanges that interlock and that mate with the above described sleeves 20 of FIGS. 1-8 and 10-12. The first collar part 16a'' has a frusto-conical body with flanges 60, 70 extending outward from each side or distal edge of the collar part 16a'', where flange 60 includes part 64 and flange 70 includes part 74, with parts 64, 74 being separated from the curved portion of the collar body by slots 62, 72, respectively. The frusto-conical body part 16'' has a larger diameter lower edge and a smaller diameter upper edge when its two parts are joined by interlocking them together. In this further embodiment the flanges 60, 70 extend outward, preferably radially outward, from each side or distal edge of the collar part 16a''. The flanges 60, 70 extend along a length of each side or distal edge of the collar part 16a'', preferably along substantially the full axial length of the side or distal edge with juncture 59 extending along the transition between the curved and preferably semi-circular body portion of the collar part and the outwardly extending flanges 60, 70.

[0209] The lip 31 and retaining wall 38 of the sleeve 20 shown herein may be used with sleeves having other configurations, including sleeves configured as in U.S. Publication No. 2015/0289644, the complete contents of which are incorporated herein by reference. The lip 31 corresponds to bottom flange 30 except the lip 31 lacks the retaining member 32 or short wall 38 associated with bottom flange 30. Optionally, as shown in broken lines in FIGS. 18-19, a first, closed ended slot may extend into the bottom portion of the collar part 16a'' and open onto the lower end of the collar part 16a''. The first, closed ended slot, if present, is preferably centered between the two flanges 50 and extends along axis 18 during use, with the first, closed ended slot configured to fit over support tabs or saddles extending outward from sleeves as described in published Patent Application No. 2015/0289644. A rectangular, closed ended slot is shown by the broken lines, as a rectangular support tab extends outward from each side of the sleeve 20a, 20b to connect to the retaining member 32 along a length of the member 32 parallel to axis 18, thus occupying the void volume in the preferred embodiment. The first, closed ended slot is preferably configured to fit over an outwardly extending support tab or saddle on each of two adjacent and abutting sleeves and may lock the mating sleeve parts together and interlock the mating sleeve parts with the first collar portion 16a'' during use of this optional sleeve. The shape of the first, closed ended slot need not be rectangular. A similar slot may optionally be formed in the second collar part 16b'' as shown in broken lines on FIG. 19, and configured to mate with a corresponding support tab or saddle extending outward from the mating sleeve part as described in that published patent application and as described later.

[0210] Each flange 60 has two opposing sides or faces 61a, 61b and a distal edge 61c. The side 61a is on the same side of the collar part 16a'' as the interior of the collar part and side 61b is on the same side of the collar part 16a'' as exterior side. A closed-end slot 62 extends along a length of the normal juncture 59 of the flange 60 to the side of distal edge of the collar part 16a'' to which the flange 60 is connected. In the depicted orientation the slot 62 extends upwardly. The slot 62 preferably extends about half the axial length of the collar part 16a'', but may extend shorter or longer, preferably varying within about 15% of the length of the collar part 16a''.

[0211] The slot 62 separates a portion of the flange 60 from the collar part 16a'' to form a free end 64 on the flange 60, with the base of the flange 60 being connected to the collar part 16a''. Because the collar part 16a'' is frusto-conical the slot 62 is preferably inclined at the same angle as the inner surface of the collar part 16a'', resulting in the two slots 62 on each collar part 16a'' being slightly inclined toward each other (FIGS. 18d, 18f), and slightly further inclined toward the longitudinal axis 18 during use. The slot 62 may be slightly wider at the open top end of the slot, so the sides forming the slot 62 are further apart at the top opening of the slot and closer together at the closed bottom end of the slot 62. The distal edges 61c of flange 60 are preferably inclined at the same angle as the taper of the collar part 16a'' and slot 62.

[0212] Each collar part 16a'' thus has a bottom portion 66 and a top portion 68 each with a frusto-conical inner surface and preferably a parallel frusto-conical exterior surface. An outwardly extending flange 60 extends outward from each diametrically opposing side of the base portion 66 along a juncture 69 between the flange 60 and the curved, preferably semi-circular body portion of the collar part. The flanges 64 extend past the location of the longitudinal axis centerline 18 during use and thus the faces 61b about 180.degree. apart while the faces 61a are more than 180.degree. apart. The slot 62 extends from the top toward the bottom of the collar part 16a'' to separate the top flange 64 from the upper portion 68. In particular the slot 62 aligns with the juncture 59 of the outwardly extending flange 60 and separates part of that flange from the curved body portion of the collar par 16a'' to form flange 64, while the juncture 59 connects the bottom of the flange to the collar part.

[0213] The first collar portion 16a'' with upward slots 62 is connected to a shelf 14 and during use is orientated so the larger diameter of the conical shape of the collar portion 16a'' is downward and the smaller diameter is at the top during use so as to mate with and wedge sleeve 20 against post 12 during use.

[0214] Referring to FIGS. 19a-19g, the second collar portion 16b'' has a frusto-conical body with an ear or flange 70 extending outward from each side or distal edge of the collar part 16b''. The frusto-conical body has a larger diameter lower edge and a smaller diameter upper edge so that when it interlocks with first collar portion 16a'' the conical shape is larger at the lower end and smaller at the upper end. A flange 70 extends outward, preferably radially outward, from each side or distal edge of the collar part 16b''. The flange 70 extends along a length of each side or distal edge of the collar part 16b'', preferably along substantially the full axial length of the side or distal edge forming the juncture 69 with the curved and preferably semi-circular body portion of the collar part. Each flange 70 has two opposing sides or faces 71a, 71b and a distal edge 71c. The side 71a is on the same side of the collar part 16b'' as the interior of the collar part and side 71b is on the same side of the collar part 16b'' as exterior side. In particular the slot 72 aligns with the juncture 69 of the outwardly extending flange 70 and separates the free end 74 from the curved body portion of the collar part 16b' while the attached portion of juncture 69 connects the flanges free end 74 to the body part. The flange 70 includes its free end 74, just as the flange 60 includes its free end 64.

[0215] A closed-end slot 72 extends along a length of the normal juncture 69 of the flange 70 to the side of distal edge of the collar part 16b'' to which the flange 70 is connected. In the depicted orientation the slot 72 extends downward. The slot 72 preferably extends about half the axial length of the collar part 16b'', but may extend shorter or longer, preferably varying within about 15% of the length of the collar part 16b''.

[0216] The slot 72 separates a portion of the flange 70 from the collar part 16b'' to form a free end 74 on the flange 70, with the base of the flange 70 being connected to the collar part 16b''. Because the second collar part 16b'' is frusto-conical the slot 72 is preferably inclined at the same angle as the inner surface of the collar part 16b'', resulting in the two slots 72 on each collar part 16b'' being slightly inclined toward each other (FIGS. 21c, 21e), and slightly further inclined toward the longitudinal axis 18 during use. The slot 72 may be slightly wider at the open end of the slot, so the sides forming the slot 72 are further apart at the opening of the slot and closer together at the closed end of the slot 72. The distal edges 71c of flange 70 are preferably inclined at the same angle as the taper of the collar part 16b'' and slot 72.

[0217] Each collar part 16b'' thus has a bottom portion 78 and a top portion 76 each with a frusto-conical inner surface and preferably a parallel frusto-conical exterior surface. An outwardly extending flange 70 extends outward from each diametrically opposing side of the top portion 76 along juncture 69. The flanges 74 extend past the location of the longitudinal axis centerline 18 during use and thus the faces 71a are about 180.degree. apart while the faces 71b are more than 180.degree. apart. The slot 72 extends from the top 76 toward the bottom 78 of the collar part 16b'' to separate the flange 74 from the bottom portion 78 while the remaining portion of juncture 69 connects the flange 74 to the body part.

[0218] As indicated above and as shown in broken lines in FIG. 19, a second ended slot may optionally extends into the bottom portion of the collar and opens onto the bottom end of the collar part 16b''. The second, closed ended slot is shown as having a rectangular shape by the broken lines, as a rectangular support tab preferably (but optionally) may extend outward from each edge of the sleeve 20a, 20b to connect to the retaining member 32 along a length of the member 32 parallel to axis 18. But the particular shape of the second, closed ended slot will vary with the shape of the support. The second, closed ended slot, if present, is preferably centered between the two flanges 70 and extends along axis 18 during use. The second, closed ended slot is configured to fit over an outwardly extending support tab or saddle on the mating sleeves and may lock the mating sleeve parts together and to interlock the mating sleeve parts with the first collar portion 16a'' during use of this optional sleeve.

[0219] The second collar portion 16b'' may be used independently, or a different collar portion 16b'' may be connected to each opposing end of end frame 44 to interlock a pair of first collar portions 16a as shown in FIG. 21b. The second collar part 16b'' is orientated so the larger diameter of the conical shape of the collar portion 16b'' is downward and the smaller diameter is at the top during use so as to mate with and wedge sleeve 20 against post 12 during use and to interlock with the first collar part 16a'' to form a frusto-conical structure encircling a split sleeve 20 to clamp it against the post 12 during use.

[0220] Referring primarily to FIGS. 17 and 20-21, in use a sleeve 20 is positioned on a post 12. The first collar part 16a'' connected to a shelf 14 is positioned above the sleeve 20 and moved along the post 12 and axis 18 to fit over the sleeve and to hold the sleeve parts 20a, 20b together and to support the collar part and shelf on the sleeve. That allows the user to not have to hold the shelf during installation, and this advantage applies to all of the collar parts described herein where the collar is sized to mate with the corresponding sleeve. The second collar part 16b'' is then positioned above the first collar part 16a'' and moved downward so the slots 62, 72 pass through each other and over the junctures 69, 59 of the other part and interlock the flanges 60, 70. The juncture 59 of the base portion 66 and a different flange 60 fits into each of the slots 72 and the juncture 69 of the top portion 76 and a different flange 70 fits into each of the slots 62. Each flange 70 abuts a different flange 60, with a free end 74 facing and preferably abutting against the portion of flange 60 joined to base portion 66, and with free end 64 facing and preferably abutting against the portion of flange 70 joined to top portion 76. Advantageously, the mated collar and sleeve parts 16, 20 are slightly above the bottom flange 30 or lip 31 when the shelf and connected collar parts 16a'', 16b'' are under load, with the collar parts contacting the bottom flange 30 or lip 31 under maximum rated load.

[0221] The free ends 64, 74 are cantilevered from the respective collar parts 16a'' and 16b'' and when the slots 62, 72 are interlocked by relative movement along axis 18, the free ends engage the flange on the other collar part to prevent lateral separation of the collar parts. Depending on the length of the slots 62, 72 and flanges 60, 70 different engagement lengths can be achieved. Preferably the slots 62, 72 extend about half the length of flanges 60, 70 and the slots are wide enough to allow insertion of the mating collar part into the respective slots in each collar part. Thus, the juncture of base portion 66 and flange 60 fits into slot 72 and slot 72 is configured to snugly receive the juncture of base portion 66 and flange 60. Likewise, the juncture of top portion 7 and flange 70 fits into slot 62 and slot 62 is configured to receive the juncture of top portion 76 and flange 70. The flanges 60 extend upward and slots 62 open upward, with flanges 70 extending downward and slots 72 opening downward, so the junctures of the parts may interlock with the slots.

[0222] The joinder of collar part 16a'' to shelf 14 cooperate with flanges 60, 70 to prevents rotation of the collar parts about axis 18 during use as flanges 60, 70 abut to restrain rotation about axis 18 during use as well as to prevent lateral movement during use. The flanges 60, 70 and flange 50 and channel 52 abut each other and when connected to sleeve 20 and post 18, restrain rotation in the plane orthogonal to the axis 18 during use, and provide means for restraining rotation about an axis in the plane orthogonal to the axis 18 during use. The interlocking of first and second collar parts 16a, 16b by the flanges 15 mating with the U-shaped channel 52, and the interlocking of the collar parts by flanges 60 and 70 and interlocking slots 62, 72, provide interlocking collar means for interlocking the collar parts and preventing lateral separation of those interlocked collar parts, in a plane transverse to axis 18 of post 12 during use.

[0223] As seen in FIGS. 17a-17b the interlocking, slotted collar parts 16a'' and 16b'' may be used with the sleeve 20 of FIG. 12. FIGS. 17c-17d show the interlocking, slotted collar parts 16a'', 16b'' used with the short retaining member 32 (shown at the middle of the sleeve parts). FIGS. 20-21 show the interlocking, slotted collar parts 16a'', 16b'' used with the longer retaining member 32 (shown at the ends of sleeve parts). FIG. 20 shows various views of the collar parts 16a'' and 16b'' connected to a shelf using the sleeves of FIG. 10, but any of the sleeves may be used and will result in similar configurations of the collar parts to that as shown in FIG. 20.

[0224] The configuration and use of the retaining connector 84 to connect and restrain lateral movement of the flanges 60, 70 of the collar parts 16a'' and 16b'' is the same as described regarding flanges 50 of collar parts 16a, 16b, and is not repeated in detail. The interlocking flanges 60, 70 are substantially parallel and immediately adjacent each other when interlocked and typically contact each other at the end of slots 62, 72 when interlocked, with the facing portions of the flanges contacting each other, as seen in FIGS. 17b and 17d. The legs 84 extend along a substantial length of the flanges 60, 70 (including their free ends 64, 74).

[0225] In use, a sleeve 20 is placed on a common post at a desired location. The ends of two shelves 14 each having a male collar part 16a are placed on that sleeve 20 so the two flanges 50 on opposing sides of each collar part 16a contact a flange on the other collar part other or are immediately adjacent each other, to achieve the collar configuration generally shown in FIG. 13c or 14c. The taper on the collar parts 16a is believed sufficient to hold the sleeve 20 to the post and to support the weight of the shelves 14. The two adjoining collars have pairs of flanges 50 on each side of the collar and a user may then push the each of the legs 82a, 82b over a different pair of flanges 50 so as to connect the flanges of two different collar parts 16a, and thus connect the two collars 16a and lock them together. The user may place his or her hand below the sleeve 20 when inserting the legs 82 of the retaining coupler over the flanges 50 to ensure no downward movement of the sleeve but that is not believed necessary. The connecting member 84 may be used to manually manipulate or position the retaining coupler 80. To disassemble the shelf, the user may lift up on the connecting member 84 and pull it off of the flanges 50, whereupon each shelf 14 and its collar parts 16a may be removed from the common sleeve 20 and post 12. If designed to be sufficiently strong, the connecting member 84 may be hit with a hammer to install or remove the coupler 80. The legs 82 preferably, but optionally have an open bottom so the legs can slide along a length of the flanges during installation, but a closed end on the legs 82 could be used if the legs 82 are fit onto the flanges laterally or by rotation and removed laterally or by rotation of the retaining coupler 80.

[0226] Further, while FIG. 20 shows a single shelving unit the shelves 14 may be connected to form shelving assemblies as in FIG. 3c, where collars on the ends of two different shelves 14 connect to the same common sleeve 20 at directly opposing sides of that sleeve and post, larger shelving assemblies can be assembled by joining two first collar parts 16a'' to the same sleeve 20. FIG. 22 shows two first collar parts 16a'' connected to shelves 14 with the flanges 64 immediately adjacent each other and preferably abutting each other on opposing sides of the same post 12. The relative difference in tapers on the outside of the sleeves and inside of the collar parts 16a'' is sufficient to hold the shelf in position even when loads are placed on the shelf, as is preferably the case for all embodiments disclosed herein. Further increase in holding capacity may be achieved by clamping the adjacent or abutting flanges together using the connecting member 80 shown in FIGS. 22b, 22c, each of which figure shows a different sleeve 20.

[0227] A kit may include the above combination of parts and combinations thereof. Thus, a simple shelving kit may have at least two shelves 14, which if rectangular in shape have an interlocking collar part 16a, 16a'' of any type described herein at each corner of the shelf. The kit would further include eight sleeves 20 and eight interlocking collar parts 16b, 16b'' of any mating type described herein that are either separated, or with pairs of collar parts 16b or 16b'' joined to form end frames 44. Each additional rectangular shelf added to the kit would preferably include four interlocking collar parts 16a, 16a'', four interlocking collar parts 16b, 16b'' and four sleeves 20. If two shelving units are joined horizontally together by having two shelves 14 with two collar parts 16a or 16a'' at one end fastening to the same sleeve 20 on the same post 12, then the number of end frames 44 may be reduced by half, as may the number of single piece collars that surround or encircle a short length of the post on which the sleeve is located, if such single piece collars are used instead of end frames 44 or individual collar parts 16b or 16b''.

[0228] If two shelving units are joined horizontally together then the end of the shelf sharing posts 12 in common with another shelf preferably has collar parts configured to abut each other and optionally to be interlocked by retaining coupler 80. Thus, each shelf in may have four first interconnecting collar parts 16a or 16a'' of the same type and orientation, with the collar parts 16a, 16a'' on the inner posts and common sleeves 12 abutting each other and preferably interlocked by retaining coupler 80. The collar parts 16a, 16a'' on the outer posts are held to the posts by mating second collar parts 16b, 16b'' of the same type used on the shelf 14.

[0229] The collar parts 16a, 16a'' and 16b, 16b'' are preferably made of sheet metal that is of substantially uniform thickness and then cut and bent to the desired shape and typically connected to metal shelves 14 by molten metal joining techniques such welding, soldering, brazing etc. The collar parts could be made of suitably strong molded plastics and connected to shelves 14 by adhesives or suitable mechanical connections, or the parts could be integrally molded with plastic shelves, formed at the same time and as a unitary part with the plastic shelves. The post 12 is preferably cylindrical in shape with a circular cross-section, but need not be so, as the sleeve 20 and collar 16 may surround or extend around a short length of the post on which the sleeve is located and have relative outer and internal tapers selected to wedge inward against posts 12 having various shaped cross-sections, including rectangular (e.g., square) and oval cross-sections.

[0230] The above description shows a shelf 14 connected to one of the first or second collar parts 16, 16'' but various items may be connected to one of the collar parts in a manner the same as or similar to the described connection of the shelves to the collar parts. Thus, the connection described is not limited for use with shelves. For example, the rods connected to the first collar part 16 or 16'' could be connected to an item other than a shelf, and could form a connecting arm for use with various devices connected to post 12 at selective locations along the length of the post.

[0231] The above description is given by way of example, and not limitation. Given the above disclosure, one skilled in the art could devise variations that are within the scope and spirit of the invention. Further, the various features of this invention can be used alone, or in varying combinations with each other and are not intended to be limited to the specific combination described herein.

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