CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
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This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Non-Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 13/589,766, filed Aug. 20, 2012, which is a continuation of U.S. Non-Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 13/160,720, filed Jun. 15, 2011, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,245,455, which is a continuation of U.S. Non-Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 12/174,850, filed Jul. 17, 2008, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,966,755, which claims priority as a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/957,473, filed on Oct. 4, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,874,107, the entirety of which are each expressly hereby incorporated by reference herein.
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OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention pertains to portable shelters, and more particularly to hard side shelters that convert into different sizes for transportation and use.
2. Description of the Related Art
It is a well known practice to ship goods in International Standards Organization (ISO) containers. Such containers are very large, having nominal exterior dimensions of 19 feet 10½ inches long, eight feet wide, and eight feet high. The containers have fixed floors, roofs, and ends. Access to the container interior is through folding doors on both sides. The doors are locked closed by locking bars that engage tabs in the container floor and roof. The containers include an end bar and rails under the floor that are part of known pallet handling systems.
In theory, ISO containers could be used as hard side shelters for persons and equipment. However, despite their large size, they nevertheless are too small for some shelter purposes. For example, there is a need for shelters that are suitable for repairing large motor vehicle tires in the field. As is known, maintaining the tires of motor vehicles is mandatory for successful operation of the vehicles. A particularly difficult problem associated with tire maintenance concerns military trucks. Those trucks often operate off-road, in rough terrain, and far from repair facilities. A tire failure could jeopardize not only the truck crew in hostile areas, but even the success of the mission of which the truck is a part.
Repairing military truck tires is a difficult task. The tires and their rims and wheels are very heavy, so they require mechanical assistance to handle them. Failures associated with heavy truck tires are varied and severe, so a wide variety of large and heavy repair equipment has to be available. Finally, it is vital that the repair equipment either be located close to where the tire damage occurs, or be able to quickly reach the location of the damaged truck. That means that the repair equipment must be able to travel with the trucks to remote and rugged places. Because of the size of the tire repair equipment and the working room required around them, conventional ISO containers are not suitable as tire repair workshops.
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OF THE INVENTION
In accordance with the present invention, a hard side shelter is provided that converts between a transport mode and a deployed mode. This is accomplished by apparatus that includes a center section, and two side sections that selectively fold into and out of the center section.
The center section is preferably constructed with an envelope that is the size and shape of a conventional International Standards Organization (ISO) cargo container. When in the transport mode, the side sections fold into the center section such that the entire hard side shelter has the envelope of an ISO container. When in the transport mode, the convertible hard side shelter can be stacked, handled, and transported in the same way as ISO containers. When in the deployed mode, the side sections unfold from the sides of the center section to greatly increase the interior space available for personnel and equipment.
The center section is comprised of a sturdy frame having horizontal beams and vertical corner posts. The corner posts define vertical side planes and vertical end planes of the center section. The center section has a rigid roof and a rigid floor. At least one end of the center section has an opening and an end door. The second center section end may also have an opening and an end door, or the second end may be permanently closed. If the second end is permanently closed, the center section may include an end bar on the closed end and floor channels that enable the convertible hard side shelter to be handled by a conventional pallet handling system.
The center section end door may be a single end door or a double end door which can be vertical or horizontal double doors. The single end door is composed of a top door hinged to the frame near the roof and a bottom door hinged to the frame near the floor. The top and bottom doors pivot about respective horizontal axes. When the single end door is open, the top and bottom doors are generally horizontal and parallel to the center section roof and floor, respectively. When the single end door is closed, the top and bottom doors are vertical and lie in the associated center section end plane. The double end door is composed of the top and bottom doors hinged near the roof and floor, respectively, plus a pair of outer doors that are hinged to associated corner posts for pivoting about respective vertical axes. When the double end door is open, the top and bottom doors are horizontal and generally parallel to the center section roof and floor, respectively, and the outer doors are generally parallel to the side section side planes. When the double end door is closed, the top and bottom doors are vertical and lie generally in the associated center section end plane, and the two outer doors are also generally in the center section end plane and lie adjacent and outside of the top and bottom doors.
Each side section is comprised of a rigid floor, and a number of relatively turnable panels. In the preferred embodiment, the side section panels include a pair of larger end panels, to accommodate for the same width of the fold down rigid floor, a pair of smaller middle panels, and a door assembly. The side section floor is rotatably connected to the center section. Each end panel is turnably mounted along one edge thereof to a center section corner post. A second edge of each end panel is turnably mounted to a first edge of a middle panel. Second edges of the middle panels are turnably mounted to opposite edges of the door assembly. According to one aspect of the invention, the door assembly is comprised of first and second door frames. The first door frame contains one or more side doors that swing about respective vertical axes. The second door frame has a filler panel. The two door frames are attachable to and detachable from each other. Each of the end and middle panels and the door assembly has at least one locking door.
When the convertible hard side shelter is in the deployed mode, the side sections are outside of vertical side planes of the center section. Each side section floor is rotated to be generally coplanar with the center section floor. Each end panel is parallel to the center section end planes. The middle panels, as well as the door assembly, are perpendicular to the end panels. The locking bars engage the side section floors to lock the side sections rigidly to the center section. A cover extends from the center section roof to the top edges of the end and middle panels and the door assembly. Thus, each side section is a space bounded by the side section floor, two end panels, two middle panels, the door assembly, and the cover. The side sections are open to the interior of the center section. To maintain cleanliness inside the convertible hard side shelter from outside contaminants, the joints between the end panels and the center section corner posts, and the joints between the end and middle panels, are covered with flexible seals. When the convertible hard side shelter is in the deployed mode, personnel and equipment can enter and leave through the side section doors.
To convert the hard side shelter from the deployed mode to the transport mode, the covers are removed from over the side sections and allowed to hang vertically generally in the center section side planes. One edge of each side section door assembly is disconnected from the associated middle panel. If the door assembly has two door frames, the door frames are detached from each other instead of from a middle panel. The locking bars of the end and middle panels and the door assemblies are disengaged from the side section floors. The door assemblies are turned away from the center section such that they are not over the side section floors. Each side section floor is rotated to be parallel to and proximate a respective center section side plane. One or more winches may be used to assist rotating the side section floors. The winches are received in ISO locks in the center section corner posts. Slide locks or the like engage the center section frame to retain the side section floors vertical.
The door assemblies are then turned toward the center section and flat against the respective adjacent middle panels. The end and middle panels are turned to lie generally within a center section side plane and alongside the associated side section floor. The end and middle panels thus form the sides of the hard side shelter when it is in the transport mode. The locking bars on the end and middle panels then engage the center section frame to lock the end and middle panels to the center section frame. The result is a rigid hard side shelter having the envelope of an ISO cargo container. The convertible hard side shelter is then ready for handling and shipping in the same manner as an ISO container.
It is an important feature of the invention that the convertible hard side shelter is equipped with any of a wide variety of tools and machinery suitable to carry out particular desired tasks. For example, the convertible hard side shelter may be used as an office, kitchen, or medical station. A particularly important use for the convertible hard side shelter is as a tire maintenance workshop for heavy duty trucks. In that case, such items as an engine-driven generator, welding machine, air compressor, and tire repair tools are incorporated into the convertible hard side shelter. To assist moving such heavy items as the engine-generator set, the floor and bottom end door may have rails fixed to them. The engine-generator set is supported on a wheeled cart that rolls along the rails to locate the engine-generator set outside of the center section. Other tools and machinery may be arranged to fit entirely within the center section for transporting purposes and to be movable into the side sections when the hard side shelter is converted into the deployed mode.
In the preferred embodiment, a wall panel is built into the cart that supports the engine-generator set. The wall panel has peripheral seals that match the opening of the center section at the end door. When the cart is outside of the center section, the wall panel covers and seals the center section end opening. In that way, noise, dirt, and fumes associated with the outside environment and the engine-generator set are blocked from reaching inside the convertible hard side shelter.
The method and apparatus of the invention, using a center section that is based on a conventional ISO cargo container, thus enables a hard side shelter to be set up in the field. The convertible hard side shelter is convertible between a transport mode suitable for transporting, and a deployed mode suitable for a variety of functions such as a fully equipped tire maintenance workshop.
Other advantages, benefits, and features of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading the detailed description of the invention and studying the drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the front end and road side of the convertible hard side shelter in the transport mode;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the back end and curb side of the convertible hard side shelter in the transport mode;
FIG. 3 is a broken view of the curb side of the convertible hard side shelter in the transport mode;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the front end of the convertible hard side shelter with the road side section in the deployed mode and the curb side section in a partially deployed mode;
FIG. 5 is a view similar to FIG. 4 but showing the back end of the convertible hard side shelter;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the convertible hard side shelter in the fully deployed mode;
FIG. 7 is a broken top view of the convertible hard side shelter in the transport mode;
FIG. 8 is a broken top view of the convertible hard side shelter in the deployed mode;
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the bottom of the convertible hard side shelter in the partially deployed mode;
FIG. 10 is a top view of the convertible hard side shelter showing it in the transport mode and equipped to function as a tire maintenance workshop;