Title:
SYSTEM FOR MODULAR CONSTRUCTION
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for construction whereby a virtually unlimited number of structural configurations relating to vastly different applications can be assembled using relatively few different structural members. Structural members are sized and slotted according to a standardized system. Because structural members are sized and slotted according to the standardized system, the vast majority of structural members are interchangeable and inter-connectable with other structural members to allow for scaling and expansion of structural assemblies while maintaining consistent spacing. This wide range of interchangeability and consistently spaced inter-connectibility overcomes conventional restraints which have, historically, limited design flexibility and the resulting utility of conventionally constructed items.



Inventors:
Culp, Stephen A. (MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, US)
Application Number:
09/307229
Publication Date:
11/08/2001
Filing Date:
05/07/1999
Assignee:
Wm. Brook Lafferty
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/180, 211/135
International Classes:
A47B47/04; (IPC1-7): A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070095769Bathroom caddyMay, 2007Jenkins
20040173551Supporting frame with adjustable connecting jointsSeptember, 2004Wu
20080099420Rotatable Stand with Adjustable TightnessMay, 2008Shiue
20070181513Programmable automatic dispenserAugust, 2007Ward
20050279720Construction template for barrel racksDecember, 2005Blincoe
20090009940DISPLAY HAVING A STORAGE SPACE FOR A REMOTE CONTROLJanuary, 2009Liou et al.
20060118503Shelving standards and assembliesJune, 2006Patton
20080116156Sectional shelfMay, 2008Park
20060243685Toothbrush holder & housingNovember, 2006Monroig
20070056920Lift caddyMarch, 2007Fleming
20090314731Storage rackDecember, 2009Hsu



Primary Examiner:
NOVOSAD, JENNIFER ELEANORE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TROUTMAN SANDERS LLP (600 PEACHTREE STREET NE SUITE 5200, ATLANTA, GA, 303082216)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A system for construction comprising a plurality of structural members each having two equal length parallel lengthwise sides and two equal length parallel widthwise sides, the lengthwise sides and widthwise sides having an equal thickness and defining by the equal thickness a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other, each of the plurality of structural members defining by a first slot edge and a second slot edge each perpendicular to at least one widthwise side and extending a predetermined length from the at least one widthwise side in a direction parallel to the lengthwise sides and terminating at a slot end of the structural member, or by the first and the second slot edges each perpendicular to at least one lengthwise side and extending a predetermined length from the at least one lengthwise side in a direction parallel to the widthwise sides and terminating at a slot end of the structural member, at least one slot, whereby if the structural member defines more than one slot on the respective lengthwise or widthwise side, the structural member defines a first slot of the more than one slots at a predetermined distance X from a first adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side, and defines any subsequent slot at a whole-number multiple of the predetermined distance X from the first defined slot.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members has a plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of at least one widthwise side.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members defines, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from the first adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

5. The system of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of dowel structural members each having a plurality of dowels, each of the plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of at least one widthwise side; and a surface structural member having a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other and defining, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from the first adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

7. A system for construction comprising a plurality of structural members each having two equal length parallel lengthwise sides and two equal length parallel widthwise sides, the lengthwise sides and widthwise sides having an equal thickness and defining by the equal thickness a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other, at least one of the plurality of structural members defining by a first slot edge, a second slot edge, and a slot end a first defined slot, the first defined slot having a center line parallel to a respective lengthwise side or widthwise side, the linear distance between the center line of the first defined slot and the respective lengthwise side or widthwise side being a predetermined distance X.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein at least one structural member of the plurality of structural members defines at least one subsequent defined slot, any subsequent defined slots being centered at a whole-number multiples of the predetermined distance X from the center line of the first defined slot.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the subsequent slots are defined by the same lengthwise or widthwise sides as the first defined slot.

10. The system of claim 7 wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members has a plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of at least one widthwise or lengthwise side.

11. The system of claim 7, wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members defines, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

12. The system of claim 10, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from the first adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

13. The system of claim 7, further comprising a plurality of dowel structural members each having a plurality of dowels, each of the plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of either widthwise side; and a surface structural member having a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other and defining, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from the first adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

15. A system for construction comprising a plurality of structural members each having at least three sides, each of the at least three sides having an equal thickness and defining by the equal thickness a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other, at least one of the plurality of structural members defining through the equal thickness by a first slot edge, a second slot edge, and a slot end a first defined slot, the first defined slot being centered on a center line parallel to an adjacent side of the at least three sides, the linear distance between the center line of the first defined slot and the respective adjacent side being a predetermined distance X.

16. The system of claim 15, wherein at least one structural member of the plurality of structural members defines at least one subsequent defined slot, any subsequent defined slots being centered at a whole-number multiples of the predetermined distance X from the center line of the first defined slot.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the subsequent slots are defined by the same adjacent side as the first defined slot.

18. The system of claim 15 wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members has a plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of at least one side.

19. The system of claim 15, wherein at least one of the plurality of structural members defines, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

20. The system of claim 18, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from an adjacent side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

21. The system of claim 15, further comprising a plurality of dowel structural members each having a plurality of dowels, each of the plurality of dowels extending from the thickness of any one of the at least three sides; and a surface structural member having a first planar side and a second planar side, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other and defining, within the first planar side or the second planar side, a plurality of dowel holes for receiving each of the plurality of dowels.

22. The system of claim 21, wherein the first planar side or the second planar side defines, at the predetermined distance X from the adjacent side, at least one of the plurality of dowel holes.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to construction. More particularly, the present invention relates to systems for construction which allow easy assembly and disassembly with minimal reliance on tools or fasteners. Even more particularly, the present invention relates to a modular construction system whereby the universal spacing of slots within structural members affords virtually unlimited options for constructing easily scalable and widely adaptable items having high structural integrity.

BACKGROUND

[0002] As the economy booms, construction and consumption of durable goods is approaching record levels. Many so-called “durable” consumer goods require substantial time and effort in assembly, only to be later deemed obsolete because of expiration of the original intended purpose for the goods. In many different industries, interest is increasing toward construction systems featuring improved versatility, adaptability and reusability. The furniture industry is a notable example.

[0003] Bulky, factory-assembled furniture often fails to meet the needs of today's fast paced and mobile culture. Accordingly, efforts have persisted to develop articles of furniture which can be easily transported, then assembled by an individual with no mechanical aptitude whatsoever. Ideally, assembly could be accomplished in a minimum amount of time with a minimum number of tools. As the need for the assembled item in a particular location ends, the furniture could then easily be disassembled, transported and reconstructed at a different location as the same or different item.

[0004] Efforts in this regard pre-date the Roosevelt administration. Through the years, a central theme has been the utilization of slotted structural members interconnecting with other slotted structural members to provide a stable article of furniture without a need for fasteners, tools and the like. A historical example of this theme is found in U.S. Pat. No. 1,903,631 to Morrison, entitled “Collapsible Table.” Later examples are found in U.S. Pat. No. 2,481,671 to John et al. (Children's table) and U.S. Pat. No. 3,300,245 to Rumble, entitled “Picnic Table.” Though each of these articles represent advances over conventional furniture construction, the finished articles are useful only for a narrowly defined purpose and the individual structural components are useless outside the intended application. Specifically, Morrison's Collapsible Table would make a lousy bookshelf and Rumble's Picnic Table could only be converted to a wine rack after the extensive work of a carpenter and her saw.

[0005] More versatile designs pre-date the Carter administration. Notably, systems of standardized structural elements have been designed to fit together in any one of several predetermined arrangements to provide a range of furniture construction options. A historical example of this is found in U.S. Pat. No. 3,812,977 to Glassman, entitled “Storage Assembly.” Glassman's assembly utilizes rectangular, hinged members having interrelated dimensions to create “an indefinite number of possible geometric configurations.” Although the number of possible geometric configurations taught by Glassman may truly be indefinite, the number of useful geometric configurations is limited to less than a dozen varieties of storage cubicles. Glassman's structure could not be configured to make a functional drafting table or water cooler stand, nor could Glassman's basic structure be “scaled” using standard sized structural members to create larger structures.

[0006] Accordingly, the need remains for a construction system incorporating key aspects of compactness and ease of assembly demonstrated by the above-referenced systems, while providing configuration options far exceeding a single configuration or even a group of related configurations.

[0007] An additional need exists for a construction system which satisfies the previously stated need with relatively few different components.

[0008] Yet another need exists for a system satisfying previously stated needs, which can be readily changed from a configuration for use in one application to a second configuration for use in a totally different application using the same components.

[0009] A further need exists for a system having a predefined scalability such that structural components of one dimension can be seamlessly replaced by or interconnected with structural components of other dimensions.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] The present invention provides a system for construction whereby a virtually unlimited number of configurations relating to vastly different applications can be assembled using a relatively few different structural members. Succinctly stated, structural members are sized and slotted according to a standardized system. Because all structural members are sized and slotted according to the same standardized system, each structural member is interchangeable with every other structural member. This unlimited interchangeability overcomes conventional restraints which have, historically, limited the flexibility of construction systems.

[0011] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, using construction of furniture items as an example, the system for construction comprises a plurality of structural members. Most often, these member may be substantially square or substantially rectangular, although they may also embody other shapes. Referring to the most common square and rectangular shapes for illustrative purposes, each structural member has a lengthwise (long) side and a widthwise (short) side. Structural members may have slots on a lengthwise side, a widthwise side, or both.

[0012] Importantly, if a structural member has a first slot, the center line of the first slot is located a predetermined distance X from an adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side (if the slot is on a lengthwise side, the predetermined distance X is measured from the adjacent widthwise side, and vice versa). If the structural member has additional slots, the center line of each additional slot is located at any whole-number multiple of the predetermined distance X from the center line of the first slot. For each embodiment, the last slot on a particular side is also centered a predetermined distance X from the other adjacent lengthwise or widthwise side.

[0013] Optionally, slotted or unslotted structural members may accommodate dowel sections on either or both sides, spaced consistent with the system defined herein, which, when interconnecting structural members, provide a flush, virtually non-visible and potentially multi-directional interconnection.

[0014] Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a modular furniture system incorporating qualities of compactness and ease of assembly while providing configuration options far exceeding a single configuration or even a group of related configurations.

[0015] It another object of the present invention to provide a furniture system which satisfies the foregoing object with relatively few different components.

[0016] Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a system satisfying previously stated objects which can be readily changed from a configuration for use in one application to a second configuration for use in a totally different application using the same components.

[0017] A further object of the present invention is to provide a system having a predefined scalability such that structural components of one dimension can be seamlessly replaced by or interconnected with structural components of other dimensions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] FIG. 1a depicts a representative lengthwise slotted structural member in accordance with the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 1b depicts a perspective view of a representative lengthwise slotted structural member in accordance with the present invention.

[0020] FIG. 2 depicts a representative widthwise slotted structural member in accordance with the present invention.

[0021] FIG. 3 depicts a second representative widthwise slotted structural member in accordance with the present invention.

[0022] FIG. 4 depicts a selection of representative lengthwise slotted structural members in accordance with the present invention.

[0023] FIG. 5 depicts a selection of representative lengthwise slotted structural members being adapted for dowel implementation in accordance with the present invention.

[0024] FIG. 6 depicts an exemplary assembly of two lengthwise slotted structural members in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0025] FIG. 7 depicts an exemplary assembly of one lengthwise slotted structural member and one widthwise slotted structural member in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0026] FIG. 8 depicts an exemplary assembly of structural members in accordance with the present invention.

[0027] FIG. 9 depicts an exemplary structural assembly derived from two subassemblies.

[0028] FIG. 10 depicts an exemplary assembly of structural members in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0029] The invention is not to be limited by what has been particularly shown and described, except as indicated by the appended claims.

[0030] Referring now to FIG. 1A, a structural element 10 is shown. Structural element 10 comprises two equal length lengthwise sides 12, 14 and two equal length widthwise sides 16, 18. The respective lengthwise sides 12, 14 and widthwise sides 16, 18 define a first planar side 19 and a second planar side 20 (not shown), the planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other. Additionally, structural member 10 defines a first slot 21 and a second slot 23 along its lengthwise side 12. More particularly, the respective first and second slots 21, 23 are defined by a first slot edge 22, a second slot edge 24, and a slot end 26. Because each of the slots defined by structural member 10 are defined along a lengthwise side 12, a center line of each slot is generally parallel to the widthwise sides (edges) 16, 18 of structural member 10.

[0031] Importantly, first slot 21 is centered a predetermined distance X 28 from adjacent widthwise side 18. The relationship of other slots, including second slot 23, to the first slot 21 on structural member 10 is critical and will be later explained in detail with reference to a later figure. Additionally, it is critical to here note that the overall lengths of slotted sides of all members is, similarly, a whole-number multiple of the predetermined distance X, as well. For example, the overall length of the lengthwise (slotted) side 12 is 4X.

[0032] FIG. 1B is a tilted perspective view of structural member 10, illustrating thickness 30 between first planar side 19 and second planar side 20.

[0033] Referring now to FIG. 2, structural member 100 depicts a configuration in which slots are positioned on at least one widthwise side. More specifically, structural member 100 comprises two equal length parallel lengthwise sides 112, 114 and two equal length parallel widthwise sides 116, 118. The respective lengthwise sides 112, 114 and widthwise sides 116, 118 have a thickness and define a first planar side 119 and a second planar side 120, the respective planar sides being in parallel planar disposition with respect to each other.

[0034] As depicted in representative structural member 100, a first slot 121 is defined within widthwise side 118 by a first slot edge 122, a second slot edge 124 and a slot end 126. Similarly a second slot 123 is defined along widthwise side 116 of structural member 100 by a first slot edge 122, a second slot edge 124 and a slot end 126.

[0035] Referring to first slot 121, it is important to note that first slot 121 is centered a predetermined distance X 128 from the lengthwise side 114 along widthwise side 118.

[0036] It is here noted that structural member 10, depicted in FIGS. 1A and 1B, and structural member 100, depicted in FIG. 2, are merely representative of the possible configuration of various structural members. In other words, structural member 10 could be extended along lengthwise sides 12, 14 or widthwise sides 16, 18 for an indefinite distance, limited only by practicality. In such configurations, it is understood that structural members may define additional slots. Similarly, structural member 110 may be extended along either lengthwise sides 112, 114 or widthwise sides 116, 118. However, as later described, the system specifically provides for interconnection between structural members as an alternative to lengthwise or widthwise extensions.

[0037] FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment in which the widthwise slotted sides and lengthwise sides of a structural member are elongated. Structural member 200 comprises two equal length parallel lengthwise sides 210, 220, and two equal length parallel widthwise sides 230, 240. As can be seen, structural member 200 includes first slot 232, second slot 234, third slot 242, and fourth slot 244. Importantly, first slot 232 is centered a predetermined distance X 250 from first lengthwise side 210. Second slot 234 is positioned a predetermined distance 3X 260 from the same first lengthwise side 210. Importantly, the relationship of the first slot and second slot to the second lengthwise side 220 is noted. Specifically, first slot 232 is centered a predetermined distance 3X from second lengthwise side 220 and second slot 234 is positioned a predetermined distance X from the same second lengthwise side 220. Again, as with previously referenced structural members 10 and 100, structural member 200 is merely an example of a configuration of the present invention intended the show the spacing relationship of slots within various structural members. As with all structural members utilized in the present invention, the lengthwise sides and widthwise sides may vary without restriction, so long as the spacing relationship between slots and their respective first and last lengthwise or widthwise sides, as defined herein, remains as described in reference to FIG. 4, below.

[0038] Turning now to FIG. 4, representative lengthwise slotted structural members embodying the fundamental principle of the present invention are depicted. More particularly, structural members 410, 420, 430, 440, 450 and 460 each have slots located at positions which are whole-number multiples of a predetermined distance X from a widthwise side 400 (and, as previously described, another whole number multiple X from the opposite widthwise side). As previously described with reference to other figures, predetermined distance X is a distance between a first widthwise side 400 and the center of a first slot. Again, as previously discussed, distances between slots are measured between center lines of the respective slots.

[0039] In the representative examples depicted in FIG. 4, for instance, structural member 410 defines one slot at a predetermined distance X (“1X”) from a first widthwise side 400. Structural member 420 defines slots at positions 1X and 3X. Structural member 430 defines slots at positions 1X, 2X and 3X, while structural member 440 defines slots at positions 1X, 3X and 5X. Structural member 450 defines slots at positions 1X and 5X, while structural member 460 defines slots at positions 1X, 2X and 5X. As previously described and shown with reference to other figures, the overall length of structural members is also a whole number multiple of the predetermined distance X, and slot centers are all a whole number multiple X from opposing sides. It should be understood that these representative structural members are merely representations of a few of the many slotting combinations possible in keeping with the spirit and scope of the present invention. Similarly, while the structural members depicted in FIG. 4 depict defined slots on a single lengthwise side, it will be understood and appreciated that slots could be defined on both lengthwise sides and/or on one or both widthwise sides, provided the spacing system described herein is applied.

[0040] FIG. 5 depicts an optional embodiment of the present invention in which dowel sections are used to facilitate vertical, horizontal and diagonal interconnection between certain structural members, preferably on both ends of a particular structural member. More specifically, FIG. 5 depicts structural members 510, 530, 540, 560 and 570, each defining dowel receiving holes on a second widthwise side, as well as the first widthwise side. Although each of the aforementioned structural members depicts a dowel section already inserted into or otherwise carried by the second widthwise side of the respective structural member, it will be understood and appreciated that, for illustrative purposes, this represents an intermediate step in the modular construction process in which this embodiment is implemented, the intermediate step being the insertion of a dowel section into a respective directly corresponding dowel receiving hole.

[0041] Surface structural members 520 and 550 illustrate required positioning of dowel holes in order to maintain conformity with the critical aspect of the present invention. More specifically, with reference to surface structural member 520, first dowel holes 525 are centered a predetermined distance X from the first adjacent widthwise side 500. Similarly, second dowel holes 527 are centered a predetermined distance 3X from the first adjacent widthwise side 500.

[0042] The same principle holds true in surface structural member 550, in which first dowel holes 555 are positioned a predetermined distance X from the first widthwise side, while second dowel holes 557 are positioned a predetermined distance 5X from the first adjacent lengthwise side 500 and a predetermined distance X from the opposing lengthwise end. As previously stated, dowel holes may be positioned in any variety of locations and in any number, so long as the positioning conforms to the previously stated principles which embody the inventive aspect of the present invention.

[0043] FIG. 6 depicts a preferred system of assembly of structural members in a preferred embodiment of the present invention. More specifically, FIG. 6 depicts two lengthwise slotted structural members 10, 10′, interconnected via press-fit of respective first slots 21, 21′ (not shown). Importantly, for structural members such as 10 and 10 to be successfully interconnected in a sufficiently rigidly structure 600, tolerances for slots such as 21 and 21′, as well as thicknesses 30 of other structural members, must be carefully specified and closely monitored during production processes.

[0044] FIG. 7 depicts a representative structural assembly 700 comprising a lengthwise slotted structural member 10 and a widthwise slotted structural member 100. The two respective structural members 10, 100 are interconnected in a well known manner at first slots 21 and 121 (not shown). Again, this is merely a representative example of the interconnection of different structural members to create a larger structural member in accordance with the present invention.

[0045] More elaborate examples of construction options available in accordance with the present invention are depicted in FIGS. 8 and 9. Referring now to FIG. 8, structural assembly 800 is comprised of previously referenced interconnected structural members. More specifically, two lengthwise slotted members 560, two lengthwise slotted members 530 and two lengthwise slotted members 510 are interconnected to provide a versatile structure with a vast array of possible applications.

[0046] FIG. 9 depicts an example of the assembly of one large structure from two smaller structures. More particularly, structure 800 is interconnected with an identical structure 900 (illustrated in a rotated orientation) to form superstructure 910. It is here noted that the scalability of the individual structural members previously described allows interconnection of two different structures without altering the symmetry and proportions of the superstructure 910. This feature is especially advantageous with assembling large structures from a series of smaller structures in a situation when system stability is desired.

[0047] FIG. 10 depicts a similarly versatile structure 1000, comprising six lengthwise slotted structural members 530 and a widthwise slotted structural member 200.

[0048] Critically, it should be understood and appreciated that because of the standardized slot spacing system of the present invention and the ability to interconnect structural members within the system in such a way as to provide consistent spacing, a virtually unlimited number of structures can be created from relatively few different structural members, limited only by imagination. It is specifically intended that the scope of the present invention not be limited by the preceding discussion of a limited number of embodiments of the present invention, such as in a furniture application, but by the limits set forth in the appended claims.





 
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