Title:
Torsion spring mount for suspended ceiling panels
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides an improved frame clip arranged and constructed to be easily field-mounted and/or reconfigured on a panel frame such as those used to form suspended ceilings. By allowing the installation of the frame clips to be deferred until the panels are being installed, the frame clip permits the panels to be shipped without frame clips and/or attachment hardware, such as torsion springs, installed, thereby reducing the likelihood of shipping damage.



Inventors:
Johnson, Michael W. (Columbus, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/639326
Publication Date:
02/17/2005
Filing Date:
08/12/2003
Assignee:
JOHNSON MICHAEL W.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B9/00; (IPC1-7): E04B2/00; E04B5/00; E04B9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
A, PHI DIEU TRAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Owens, Corning (2790 COLUMBUS ROAD, GRANVILLE, OH, 43023, US)
Claims:
1. A frame clip comprising: a main body, the main body having a top surface, a bottom surface, a first length and a first width, wherein the main body generally defines a first plane that is substantially parallel to the top surface; an insert having a upper surface, a lower surface, a second length and a second width, wherein the insert defines a second plane parallel to the upper surface, the second plane also being parallel to and spaced apart from the first plane; a neck, the neck connecting a forward portion of the main body to a rear portion of the insert, the neck having a third length and a third width, the neck generally defining a third plane that is inclined with respect to the first plane; and a hook having a forward portion and a rear portion, the rear portion of the hook being attached to the main body and the forward portion terminating in the vicinity of the first plane, wherein the hook extends above and in a generally perpendicular orientation relative to the first plane.

2. A frame clip according to claim 1, further comprising: an opening provided in the main body, the opening being located in a rearward portion of the main body.

3. A frame clip according to claim 2, wherein: the opening is generally centered along a longitudinal axis of the main body.

4. A frame clip according to claim 3, wherein: the opening is centered about a midpoint of the width of the main body.

5. A frame clip according to claim 1, further comprising: a recess, the recess located along one edge of the main body adjacent the forward portion of the hook, the recess providing a minimum separation distance between the forward portion of the hook and the main body.

6. A frame clip according to claim 5, wherein: the recess has a generally arcuate profile.

7. A frame clip according to claim 5, wherein: the recess has a depth that is less than one half the width of the main body.

8. A frame clip according to claim 7, wherein: the recess has a depth that is less than one third the width of the main body.

9. A panel assembly comprising: a frame clip including a main body, the main body having a top surface, a bottom surface, a first length and a first width, wherein the main body generally defines a first plane that is substantially parallel to the top surface; an insert having a upper surface, a lower surface, a second length and a second width, wherein the insert defines a second plane parallel to the upper surface, the second plane also being parallel to and spaced apart from the first plane; a neck, the neck connecting a forward portion of the main body to a rear portion of the insert, the neck having a third length and a third width, the third width being less than the first and second widths, the neck generally defining a third plane that is inclined with respect to the first plane; and a hook having a forward portion and a rear portion with the rear portion of the hook being attached to the main body and the forward portion terminating in the vicinity of the first plane, wherein the hook extends above and in a generally perpendicular orientation relative to the first plane; a frame including a channel, the channel having an inner periphery, inner shoulder surfaces, outer shoulder surfaces, a rear wall, a longitudinal opening and a longitudinal channel axis, the open channel being arranged and configured to receive the frame clip insert, an outer periphery of the frame clip insert generally corresponding to the inner periphery of the open channel when the second plane is generally perpendicular to a channel axis.

10. A panel assembly according to claim 9, further comprising: a groove, the groove being provided on the rear wall of the channel and generally centered below the longitudinal opening.

11. A panel assembly according to claim 9, wherein: the insert is positioned within the channel and the frame clip is rotated about an axis to a degree sufficient bring a portion of the upper surface of the insert in contact with the inner shoulder surfaces of the channel and bring a portion of the lower surface of the main body in contact with the outer shoulder surfaces of the channel.

12. A panel assembly according to claim 11, further comprising: a fastener extending through the main body of the frame clip to fix the position of the frame clip relative to the channel.

13. A panel assembly according to claim 12, wherein: a forward portion of the fastener extends into the rear wall of the channel.

14. A panel assembly according to claim 12, further comprising: a torsion spring having a wound body and extended legs, wherein the hook passes through the wound body.

15. A panel assembly according to claim 14, wherein: the forward portion of the hook is positioned closely adjacent to or in contact with one of the outer shoulder surfaces.

16. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 14 comprising: placing the insert through the longitudinal opening and into the channel; rotating the frame clip generally about the longitudinal axis of the main body so that the insert is retained within the channel by the inner shoulder surfaces; placing the wound body of the torsion spring on the hook; rotating the frame clip to align the longitudinal axis of the main body with the longitudinal channel axis in a generally parallel orientation; fastening the frame clip to the frame, whereby the forward end of the hook cooperates with one of the outer shoulder surfaces to define a substantially enclosed space.

17. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 14 wherein: fastening the frame clip to the frame includes passing a fastener through a fastener opening provided in the main body of the frame clip and into the channel.

18. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 17, wherein: the fastener extends though the back wall of the channel.

19. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 18, wherein: the fastener is a self-drilling screw.

20. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 17, wherein: the fastener extends into and cooperates with a nut provided in the channel to fasten the frame clip to the frame.

21. A method of manufacturing a panel assembly according to claim 20, wherein: the nut is arranged and configured to be inserted through the longitudinal opening in a first position and retained within the channel in a second position, wherein rotation of the nut within the channel is limited to no more than about 180°.

22. A suspended panel frame system comprising: a plurality of panel assemblies according to claim 14; a grid arranged and configured to receive the plurality of panel assemblies, the grid including grid clips arranged and configured to receive the extended legs of a plurality of torsion spring, the grid clips and the extended legs cooperating to provide a removable friction fit sufficient to maintain the panel assemblies in contact with corresponding grid surfaces.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention is directed toward the field of suspended ceiling systems, particularly to torsion spring attachment systems, and more particularly to a clip and frame assembly for torsion spring attachment.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Suspended acoustical ceiling systems are frequently used to mask functional systems such as plumbing, electrical wiring, telecommunications wiring and the like. There are two basic types of suspended acoustical ceiling systems: lay-in panel systems, in which the ceiling tiles are lifted into and rest on a metal grid suspension system with no physical attachment; and frame panel systems in which each of the tiles is surrounded by a rigid frame that is, in turn, connected securely to a metal grid.

FIG. 1 depicts a typical suspended ceiling system 100 of the frame panel type comprising plurality of ceiling panels 102 that are supported by and removably attached to a suspended grid 104. Torsion springs 112 are attached to each panel 102 and provide a removable means for holding the panel securely against a foot portion 104a of the grid 104. As illustrated in FIG. 1, one panel, panel 102a, is depicted in an open and partially disconnected orientation in which two of the torsion springs 112a have been partially disengaged from the corresponding grid clips 106, allowing the panel 102a to be lowered relative to the grid 104, and the other two torsion springs 112 have been completely disconnected from their corresponding grid clips (not shown), allowing the panel to be rotated away from the grid to provide access to the space above the suspended ceiling. The torsion springs 112 are typically attached to the individual panels using a series of panel clips 110 (not shown) that are attached to the metal frame 108 at appropriate points around the edge of the metal frame.

FIG. 2 illustrates in more detail the construction and configuration of the various mechanical elements in a conventional frame type panel system according to FIG. 1. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the support grid may be formed from a plurality of T-bars 250, each of which may include a foot flange 253, a web 251 and a bead portion 254. Grid clips 230 may be provided on or attached to the bead 254 using a releasable fastener, such as screw 240. As illustrated, each grid clip 230 includes a U-shaped channel 232 and an opposed pair of projecting flanges 234 in which a slot 236 is provided.

The arms 218 of the torsional springs 214 are arranged and configured to fit into the slot 236 and provide a frictional fit sufficient to hold the panel 200 in place against the foot flange 253 when the panel is in the installed position. The arms 218 of the torsional spring 214 may also be provided with retaining feet 220 or other structures that are arranged and configured to rest against an upper surface of the projecting flange 234 for suspending the panel when lowered into a disengaged position below the grid. The arms 218 of the torsional spring 214 may also be arranged and configured so that they may be manually deflected to release the engagement between the retaining feet 220 and the projecting flange 234 and allow the panel or one side of the panel to be completely detached from the grid.

Each framed panel 200 includes a frame 226 formed around the outer edge of the tile 228. The framed panel 200 may include an optional cover 210 of fabric or other suitable materials. A frame clip 212 fits onto a flange provided on the frame 226 and provides a raised hook portion that is configured fit through the wound portion 216 of the torsional spring 214 and thereby suspend the panel from the torsional spring.

To fit the framed panel 200 against the T-bars 250, the arms 218 of the torsion spring 214 are pushed up through the slot 236 resulting in the arms 218 spreading out in a v-shape. Consequently, the frame 226 (or the fabric 210) will bear against the foot portion 253 of the T-bar. To assist in aligning adjacent panels, an optional alignment clip 290 can be attached to the T-bar 250.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention provide an improved frame clip arranged and configured to be easily field-mounted and/or easily reconfigured on a panel frame. The ease with which the frame clip may be attached to a panel frame without contacting the panel tile allows the panels to be shipped without frame clips and/or torsion springs, thereby simplifying the packaging and reducing the likelihood of shipping damage resulting from projecting edges.

The improved frame clip also provides a locking function for securing the wound portion of a torsion spring or other attachment means to a panel frame as the frame clip is secured. This locking function simplifies panel installation and removal by ensuring that the torsion springs are not dislodged as a result of panel movement and reducing the likelihood that a panel will drop unexpectedly while being handled.

The improved frame clip may be attached to the panel frame using a variety of fastening means. For example, the channel wall of the panel frame may be provided with a groove or other indents centered opposite the channel opening to aid in the attachment of the frame clip using self-drilling fasteners. Similarly, the receiving portion of the panel frame can be provided with holes for self-tapping fasteners or may contain a nut or other element for receiving the forward portion of a fastener. The panel frame may also be provided with notches, detents or other positioning indicia to improve the ability of an installer to position the frame clip accurately and repeatedly.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings are intended to depict exemplary embodiments of the invention to aid those of ordinary skill in the art in understanding the present invention and should not be interpreted in such as manner as to limit the scope of the present invention to the illustrated embodiments. Similarly, the accompanying drawings are not, unless explicitly noted, drawn to scale and should not be interpreted in a manner that limits the size, spacing or relative dimensions of the illustrated mechanical elements.

FIG. 1 is a three-quarter perspective drawing of a conventional suspended ceiling system utilizing torsion spring attachments;

FIG. 2 is a more detailed view of a conventional torsion spring attachment system suitable for use in the suspended ceiling system illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIGS. 3A-C are plan, side and front views of a frame clip according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 provides a three-quarter view of a panel frame according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 5A-D are a sequence of views illustrating the insertion and mounting of a frame clip as illustrated in FIGS. 3A-C into a corresponding panel frame according generally to FIG. 4;

FIGS. 6A-C are views illustrating exemplary embodiments of frame clips utilizing various exemplary hook configurations;

FIGS. 7A-C are views illustrating exemplary combinations of frame clip inserts and corresponding panel frame channel configurations;

FIG. 8 illustrates the mechanical relationship of certain structural elements of a frame clip according generally to FIG. 3A when installed in a panel frame generally according to FIG. 4 to form an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 illustrates a range of motion for a captive torsion spring attached to a panel frame using a frame clip according to an exemplary embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 10A and 10B provide a plan view of the action of a parallelogram nut suitable for use in combination with a frame clip and frame according to exemplary embodiments of the present invention; and

FIGS. 11A and 11B provide a side view of a parallelogram nut according to FIGS. 10A and 10B being used in combination with an exemplary frame clip, frame and fastener in accord with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

As illustrated in FIGS. 3A-C, an exemplary frame clip 10 according to the present invention includes a main body 12 that includes a top surface 14, a bottom surface 16, a first length 18 and a first width 20 and is generally planar. The frame clip 10 also includes an insert 22 that has an upper surface 24, a lower surface 26, a second length 28 and a second width 30 and, like the main body, is generally planar but is offset from the main body 12 by an offset depth 32 and an offset length 34. The frame clip 10 also includes a neck 36 that connects the main body 12 and the insert 22 and maintains their relative parallel and spaced apart orientation. The frame clip 10 also defines a longitudinal axis and may be generally symmetrical about the axis.

The frame clip 10 also includes a hook 38 extending above the main body 12 that includes a free forward portion 40 and is attached to the main body of the frame clip at a rear portion 42. The hook 38 is typically oriented in a plane generally perpendicular to both the plane defined by the main body 12 and the longitudinal axis of the frame clip 10, but depending on the particular application, other orientations may be utilized. The forward portion 40 of the hook may extend downwardly to a point generally adjacent a plane defined by the bottom surface 16 of the main body 12 or by an upper surface of a frame to which the frame clip is attached.

The forward portion 40 of the hook 38 is also set apart from the main body by a distance sufficient to allow the wound portion 44 of a torsion spring 46 to be placed on the hook without interference from the main body 12. Depending on the location of the forward portion 40 of the hook 38, a notch or recess 48 may be provided at a corresponding edge in the main body 12 of the frame clip 10 to ensure sufficient spacing is available. The frame clip 10 may also include one or more openings 65 arranged on one or both sides of the hook 38 through which a fastener may be inserted to secure the frame clip to a panel frame.

As illustrated in FIG. 4, the frame clip 10 is arranged and configured to be used with a corresponding frame 52. The frame 52 may be constructed of a metal, such as aluminum or an alloy, or a polymeric material that may include reinforcing materials. The frame may be formed by extrusion, pultrusion, machining or casting depending on the material(s) used and the intended application, but a conventional aluminum extrusion will generally be satisfactory. The frame 52 includes a channel 54 into which the insert 22 will fit, the channel having an inner periphery, inner shoulder surfaces 56, outer shoulder surfaces 58, a rear wall 60, a longitudinal opening 62 and a longitudinal channel axis. The frame 52 may also include a groove, notch or other structures on the rear wall 60 of the channel 52 to improve the ease with which self-tapping or self-drilling fasteners may be inserted into the rear wall. The frame 52 will also typically be provided with another channel, slot or projections 68 arranged and configured to receive and support a ceiling tile or similar object within a completed panel frame.

FIGS. 5A-D illustrate a method of attaching a frame clip 10 to a corresponding frame 52. As illustrated in FIG. 5A, the thickness of the frame clip 10 is smaller than the opening 62 into the channel 54 provided in the frame 52, thereby allowing the frame clip to be appropriately oriented with the insert 22 positioned in the channel. As illustrated in FIG. 5B, the frame clip 10 can then be rotated generally about a longitudinal axis so that the insert 22, which is preferably configured to have an outer periphery generally corresponding to, but slightly smaller than, at least portions of the inner periphery of the channel 54 will be held in the channel. Similarly, the neck 36 of the frame clip 10 is typically configured to have a maximum width slightly smaller than the width of opening 62 so that the frame clip can be rotated without binding on the sides of the opening. As illustrated in FIG. 5B, the insert 22 is configured to be wider than the opening 62 into the channel so that when the plane of the frame clip 10 is substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal channel axis, attempting to remove the frame clip from the channel causes the insert to contact the inner shoulder surfaces 56 of the frame 52 and thereby tend to retain the insert within the channel.

As illustrated in FIG. 5C, a torsion spring 46 can then be slipped over the free forward portion 40 of the hook 38 provided on the frame clip 10. As illustrated in FIG. 5D, the frame clip 10 can then be rotated about a transverse axis positioned near or extending through the neck 36 portion. The repositioning of the frame clip 10 typically establishes contact between the bottom surface 16 of the main body 12 and the outer shoulder surfaces 58 of the frame 52 as well as between the upper surface of the insert 24 and the inner shoulder surfaces. The forward portion 40 of the hook 38 will also be moved adjacent a portion of the frame 52 to secure the torsion spring on the hook 38 as the frame clip is rotated to its installed position. Once the frame clip 10 is appropriately positioned, a fastener such as a screw 64 can be attached to the frame through a portion of the frame clip. One or more holes 65 or thinned portions may be provided in the main body 12 of the frame clip to assist in the insertion of an appropriate fastener.

As illustrated in the FIGS. 6A-C, the hook 38 may be positioned in a number of orientations relative to the main body 12 of the frame clip 10. A preferred embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 6A in which the hook 38 is provided generally within the periphery of the main body 12 with a notch or recess being provided in the main body to ensure sufficient clearance to allow a torsion spring or other structure to be placed on the hook. As illustrated in FIGS. 6B and 6C, however, the forward portion 40 of the hook 38 can be extended well away from the main body 12, provided there is other structure, such as a portion of the frame 52 that can interact with the forward portion of the hook to close the opening or at least decrease the width of the opening sufficiently to prevent a structure on the hook from being removed from the hook while the frame clip 10 is in its fully installed position.

As illustrated in FIGS. 7A-C, both the channel 54 provided in the frame 52 and the insert 22 of the frame clip 10 can assume a wide range of configurations. Further, although, as illustrated, the outer periphery of insert 22 and the inner periphery of the channel 54 are similar, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that a wide range of shapes may be used successfully. Each of the range of configurations will, however, include an insert that is wider than the opening 62 and will contact the inner shoulder surfaces 56 of the channel if an attempt is made to remove the frame clip 10 without first rotating the frame clip to a position in which the upper surface of the insert is generally aligned with the longitudinal channel axis.

As illustrated in FIG. 8, when installed the frame clip 10 will be positioned securely on the frame 52 to hold a torsion spring 46 or other connecting apparatus that will allow the panel, including a supported tile 70, to be attached to a suspended grid. Typically a series of frame clips 10 will be located on the frame 52 with four or more sections of frame used to encompass and/or support the edges of a tile 70, panel or other structural element. The use of frame clips 10 according to the present invention located along the sides of the frame sections allows the corners of the frames to be reinforced more strongly and may reduce or eliminate the need for gussets or other external reinforcing structures. This allows the basic panel frames to be assembled and shipped in a manner that reduces the likelihood of damage resulting from protruding structures and allows the installers to quickly install and position the necessary frame clips and supporting structures in the field.

As illustrated in FIGS. 10A-B, a preferred means of attaching an exemplary frame clip to the frame utilizes a nut 72 arranged and configured to allow insertion of the nut into the channel 54 through the opening 62 in one orientation and, by rotating the nut within the channel, to hold the nut within the channel and stop its rotation so that a fastener, such as a screw, can be tightened against the nut. As illustrated in FIGS. 11A-B, the use of such a nut 72, allows the combination of a frame clip 10, fastener 64 and nut 72 sub-assembly 74. With the nut 72 oriented appropriately, the sub-assembly 74 can then be inserted into the channel 54 as generally illustrated in FIGS. 5A-D. Once the sub-assembly 74 is in place on the frame 52, rotating the fastener 64 will cause the nut 72 to rotate and lock into the channel 54 and additional rotation of the fastener will cause the nut and the frame clip 10 to be securely attached to the shoulder portions of the channel. Although the illustrated nut 72 has a generally parallelogram shape, other configurations that allow the insertion of the nut through the channel opening and will contact the periphery of the channel when rotated to provide a “locking” function may be used in this manner. A self tapping screw may be used to secure the clip 10 to frame 52 without the use of nut 72.

The dimensions of the frame clip 10 may also be adjusted to provide an offset depth 32 that is slightly smaller than the thickness of the shoulder portions of the channel 54. When the offset depth 32 is adjusted in this manner, some deformation of the main body 12, insert 22 and/or of the neck 36 will occur as the frame clip 10 is being fastened to the frame 52 and provide a “locking” effect that will assist in maintaining the position of the frame clip as the fastener is rotated into a fully seated position. Similarly, the upper surface 24 of the insert 22 and/or the lower surface 16 of the main body 12 may be provided with projections or tabs that are configured to mate with corresponding detents or recesses in the frame 52 to help maintain the position of the frame clip 10 relative to the frame while the fastener 64 is being inserted and seated.

Those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that the present invention may be embodied in forms other than those specifically illustrated and described herein departing from the spirit and essential characteristics of the invention. The exemplary embodiments of the invention described in detail above and illustrated in the accompanying figures are intended to aid in the understanding of the invention but should not be interpreted as unduly limiting the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims. All changes which come within the meaning and equivalency of the claims are to be embraced.