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This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent application No. 60/532,794 filed Dec. 23, 2003.
The present invention is directed to the field of structures that are added to the top surface of boats. Generally the structures are located over the “bridge deck” area of the boat, typically encompassing the operator station of the boat. These structures are used to support a cover to provide shade and weather protection over the operator's station as well as to support antennas and other items. These structures with covers are known generally in the art as “hardtops.”
The available “hardtops” or boat covers are fabricated from a cored fiberglass part molded with an inner and outer skin. The fabrication of available hardtops may be performed in a permanent mold, where an inner and outer shell are bonded together. At the higher price end of the recreational boat aftermarket, a temporary mold is made, and the hardtop is laminated with a balsa or synthetic core material between two layers of fiberglass. The hard top is then mounted on and supported by a welded metal structure usually aluminum. This type of construction is extremely labor intensive and as a result a hardtop for a small 25-26 foot boat will sell for $5-6,000 going up to $30,000 for boats in the 50-60 foot range. However, despite the cost, the appearance of this type of construction is the most sought after in the boat aftermarket.
A significant trend in structures on boats today is away from canvas or fabric tops to permanent hardtops. For the past 25 years or so hardtops have been manufactured in one of two ways. Before that they were typically wood, or wood covered with fiberglass.
Another method is a fiberglass panel or sheet of fiberglass supported by a structure of standard aluminum extrusion profiles. One of the difficulties with this construction is finishing the edge in a manner that looks professionally fabricated and not “homemade”. Among the prior methods were the use of moldings of various types including using a square or rectangular extrusion on the perimeter and a “j” molding to clamp the fiberglass to the top and “trim” the edge. The advantage to this method is that it is relatively easy to make a wide variety of shapes and sizes without expensive molds or tooling. As a result, it is used widely but almost exclusively in the aftermarket.
The profiles of the present invention allow construction of hardtops with the ease of the second method and the look of the first. The resulting top is typically ⅓ to ½ the weight of cored glass tops, and about ⅓ to ½ the cost of manufacture.
FIG. 1 illustrates a typical installation of a boat with a top installed over the operating station.
FIG. 2 A, B, C illustrate one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 A, B, C illustrate a second embodiment of the present invention.
The present invention will now be described in terms of its presently preferred embodiments. Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many obvious modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention.
FIG. 1 illustrates a typical installation of the hardtop of the present invention as well as the available devices. FIG. 1 illustrates a boat 12 with an operator station 12 located generally amid ship on the deck 16 of the boat 12. A metal or other supporting structure 14 is attached to the deck 16 of the boat 12. The metal or other supporting structure 14 is generally juxtaposed with the windshield/windscreen and operator station 12. The hardtop 18 of the present invention is rigidly attached to the top of the structure 14. The structure is normally fabricated from aluminum.
As can be seen from FIG. 1, the hardtop 18 is generally rectangular in shape. The hardtop 18 of the present invention is manufactured by building an aluminum frame 14 the perimeter of which utilizes the extrusion profiles including a notch 22 illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3 extruded from aluminum. A single or double panel of fiberglass 20 or other material is then bonded and fastened to the aluminum frame. The profiles of the two embodiments of the present invention are illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3. From the profiles illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, the tooling for the extrusion of the hardtop 18 is developed. The hardtop 18 of the present invention is installed on the metal structure 14 in the same manner as prior boat covering structures are attached.
Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many obvious modifications may be made to the presently preferred embodiment just described without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention as set froth in the appended claim.