Title:
Telescopic covering
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retractable covering (10) for areas, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, vehicle or trailer bodies, sheds, and so on, which includes several substantially identical covering elements (12), equipped with rollers or in any case with movable support means on two opposite sides, and pairs of parallel runways along two opposite sides. The front and back rollers of each covering element are laterally offset, and the rails have end portions deflected upwards or downwards, and parallel to each other.

The covering elements are movable from an extended position, in which they cover the area and may be sealed together two by two, to a retracted position in which they overlap each other at least partially and occupy an extremely reduced space, and viceversa.




Inventors:
Ignazio, Sanna (Pirri, IT)
Application Number:
10/179247
Publication Date:
01/02/2003
Filing Date:
06/26/2002
Assignee:
IGNAZIO SANNA
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60J7/02; B60J7/047; B63B17/02; B63B19/18; E04B1/343; E04H3/16; (IPC1-7): E04B1/346; E04B7/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
A, PHI DIEU TRAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NIXON & VANDERHYE, PC (ARLINGTON, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A telescopic covering for areas, including a number of covering elements (12a, b; 112a, b) movable along longitudinal side slide tracks (14,16; 114,116), from an extended position in which they cover the area to a retracted position in which they occupy a reduced amount of space, and viceversa, characterized in that: said slide tracks include an inner runway (33,35; 133,135) and an outer runway (34,36; 134,136), said covering elements include a pair of front feet (21,25) and a pair of back feet (22,26), in engagement with said runways, one of said pairs of front or back feet engaging the outer runways, having a transverse distance which is greater than the overall transversal distance between the other pair of feet, engaging the inner runways, said runways having upstream portions thereof which are sloping and spaced on the same side, so that the covering elements may be arranged next to each other and overlapping in the retracted position:

2. Covering according to claim 1, in which the slide tracks include rails.

3. Covering according to claim 1, characterized in that each covering element includes a covering panel (18,118); legs (20, 22, 24, 25) attached to the panel on each side, and said legs include one foot each running in its respective runway.

4. Covering according to claim 3, characterized in that each element further has an upstream rib (30,120) and a downstream rib (28,128), and one of said ribs has an overall size suitable for it to slide beneath the other rib of an adjacent panel.

5. Covering according to claim 1, in which the elements (12) are identical to each other.

6. Covering according to claim 3, characterized in that it includes sealing means on the elements, in order to have a sealed engagement of adjacent covering elements.

7. Covering according to claim 3, characterized in that the covering elements (212) include a roof portion and extended side portions to form walls, equipped with said slide feet.

8. Covering according to claim 1, characterized in that it includes an actuator device (50) including a movable stem and a star-shaped engaging device that can be rotated into an engaging or a disengaging position, and in that each panel includes at least one stake (44) designed to be engaged by such engaging device.

9. Covering according to claim 1, characterized in that it includes locking devices (61, 62) on the back portion of each covering element, and complementary locking devices (63) on the front portion of each covering panel, to allow for a combined back and forth movement of all the elements together.

10. Covering according to claim 9, characterized in that said locking devices include pairs of tabs (61, 62) attached to a front element, one tab (63) attached to a back element in correspondence with each said pair of tabs of the front element, and steps (64, 66) on the runways for the front wheels and for the back wheels.

Description:
[0001] The invention refers to movable coverings for areas, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, vehicle or trailer bodies, sheds, and so on, which coverings are designed to be extensible, so as to cover or insulate the area and protect it from inclement weather, low temperature etc., and retractable, when the area is to be left uncovered.

[0002] The prior art closest to the invention is represented by retractable coverings comprised of several covering elements of different transversal dimensions, so that each subsequent element can be contained into a preceding element, in a retracted condition. This type of covering requires for each element's overall transversal dimensions to be smaller than the internal free transversal surface of the adjacent element; therefore, the feet of each subsequent element are required to slide in between the feet of the previous adjacent element.

[0003] This involves the need to arrange a number of slide tracks equal to the number of sliding elements of the covering along each longitudinal side of the covering (i.e. along each side parallel to the sliding direction when the elements are extending or retracting).

[0004] When the number of covering elements is significant, these slide tracks—generally in the form of rails—placed side by side, take up a considerable amount of space on the ground; moreover, this limits the use of these coverings to designs where the tracks can be laid on the ground, as it would be unthinkable to install very wide sliding areas on a wall. Another disadvantage is the fact that the transversal dimensions of the smallest covering element must be those of the area to be covered, while the largest covering element, having to contain all the others, may be considerably larger. A further disadvantage is the fact that, when extended, the shape of the covering is necessarily sloping: narrower and lower at one end, wider and taller at the other.

[0005] An aim of the invention is to obviate the disadvantages of traditional coverings described above, and in particular to provide a retractable or telescopic covering which will look substantially homogeneous throughout its longitudinal direction when extended, will require a limited number of tracks, and therefore limited transversal space to install them, regardless of the number of covering elements, and which may be retracted to occupy relatively little space.

[0006] A further aim is to provide a functional covering, which may be manufactured and handled in a cost-effective manner.

[0007] These aims have been achieved by a covering as said in claim 1. Further desirable and useful characteristics of said covering are said in the dependent claims.

[0008] In other words, the new covering includes a fixed structure with a pair of parallel tracks on each longitudinal side, and a number of substantially identical collaborating covering elements. Each covering element includes, on each longitudinal side, a slide foot designed to slide along one such slide track, and a slide foot for the other slide track. At the end thereof, the tracks have stretches slanting upward or downward, parallel to each other and spaced at a distance proportionate to the length of each individual element.

[0009] Power-driven or manual means can be used to move the opening to the extended or retracted condition, and gaskets to seal the elements together.

[0010] The new covering achieves the aims said above, and in particular it can be made to have a same width and shape throughout its entire length, it can include a number of identical covering elements, and it can be designed to cover also very large areas; the space required for the side rails is limited; the covering is easy to handle; it can be designed to run along rails installed on walls and not only on the ground; the investment and maintenance costs it involves are reasonable, and in any case not exceeding those required for traditional retractable coverings. Additionally, as the covering elements are identical to each other, they can be manufactured in series. The size of each individual element depends only on the transversal dimensions of the area to be covered, and in any case would not be larger than the smallest element of the above said prior art covering.

[0011] Further, as the elements of a covering are alike, mass production of same can be provided. Further, the dimensions of each single element is in terms of the cross size of the area to be covered only, and in any case wouldn't be larger that the smallest element of the above said prior art covering.

[0012] Exemplary unrestrictive embodiments of the invention will be described in the following, with reference to the figures attached, where:

[0013] FIG. 1 is a perspective top view, in reduced scale, of a first embodiment of covering according to the invention,

[0014] FIG. 2 is a perspective view similar to the previous one, illustrating the same covering in a retracted position,

[0015] FIG. 3 is a perspective view from above, in larger scale, of an individual element of the covering,

[0016] FIG. 4 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view, in reduced scale but larger than FIG. 2, of the covering in the retracted position,

[0017] FIG. 4a illustrates a detail of the covering's actuator device,

[0018] FIG. 5 is a cut-off front view of the slide feet on one side of a covering element, and their positioning on the tracks,

[0019] FIG. 6 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view of the seal between two consecutive covering elements,

[0020] FIG. 7 is a reduced scale perspective view of a second covering of the invention, in an extended position,

[0021] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the second covering, in a retracted position, drawn in a different scale with respect to the previous figure;

[0022] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of one element of the second covering;

[0023] FIGS. 10, 11, 12 diagrammatically show an example of coupling of a front covering element and a back covering element; in particular, the figures are broken-away longitudinal cross-sectional views of the covering,

[0024] FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a covering element to create, e.g., a shed;

[0025] FIGS. 14 and 15 are respectively a side view of a covering with elements like the one illustrated in FIG. 13, in a retracted position, and a longitudinal cross-sectional view of the same covering in an extended position.

[0026] With reference to the figures, a reference number 10 is used to indicate an overall retractable covering according to the invention; the covering includes a number of substantially identical covering elements 12, and a slide track 14, respectively 16, on each side; each track in this exemplary embodiment is made up of a rail with two runways.

[0027] For ease of understanding, the term longitudinal indicates the direction defined by the tracks; the term transversal indicates the direction perpendicular to the longitudinal direction; right and left indicate the items shown on the right and left of the various figures; “front element” is the foremost or leading element, and “back element” is the rear or trailing element. Additionally, 12 is a covering element described in generic terms; with respect to their position, 12a is the foremost or most downstream covering element, 12b the covering element in second position, and so on, and the components of each element are identified by the letter indicating the element.

[0028] As shown more in detail in FIG. 3, each covering element 12 includes a covering panel 18, and four movement legs, two on each side, referenced 20, 22, 24, 26 respectively. In the embodiment of this figure, the panel 18 is shaped as an arch in front view, but it could also have a different configuration, and its structure is stiffened by a front transverse rib 28 and a back transversal rib 30. In the embodiment of FIG. 3 the front rib 28 protrudes downwards, the back rib 30 protrudes upwards.

[0029] Each movement leg includes a vertical rod and a foot, generally consisting of one or more wheels or rollers, for engaging runways of the respective track 14 or 16. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 to 6, each covering element has the front legs 20, 24 located at a smaller transversal distance than the back legs 22, 26, and inner legs 20,24 have their respective wheels or rollers 21, 25 on the outer side, while the outer back legs 22, 26 have their respective wheels or rollers 23, 27 on the side looking inwards. The wheels may also be installed on the side facing inwards or outwards in inside or outside legs respectively, or even all inside or all outside.

[0030] Each rib will be preferably made of a C section, tightly fastened (welded, wedged, or bolted) onto the respective side of a covering element panel, as shown in greater detail in

[0031] FIG. 6; the section may be equipped with a seal 31. In particular, FIG. 6 illustrates two covering elements 12a (front or downstream element), 12b (back or upstream element), coupled together in the extended position, with the back rib 30a of the front element 12a over the front rib 28b of the back or rear element 12b. The facing end edges of panels 18a of the front element and 18b of the back element are also preferably equipped with collaborating seals 32a, 32b. In the first (front) element 12a the front rib may also be protruding upwards as in the back element.

[0032] The ribs may consist of a trelliswork, box-type structure, or other type of structure.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 3 and in greater detail in FIG. 5, each rail 14, 16, includes two runways, an inner runway 33 and an outer runway 34 for rail 14; an inner runway 35 and an outer runway 36 for rail 16. Each runway can include, for example, an L section or C section as references 37, 38 shown in FIG. 5, both fastened onto a base element 29, and a further support section 39 for the inner runway and 40 for the outer runway. Section 39 will preferably hold roller 25 from below, while section 40 will hold roller 27 from above.

[0034] Rail 14, respectively 16, may also serve as side wall, in which case it can have any vertical extension correlated to the size of the covering element's legs), and may be equipped on the top with a seal 42 for contact with panel 18 of the covering element.

[0035] A maneuvering stake 44 will preferably be attached to one or both the inner legs, e.g. 24, or to another part of the covering element.

[0036] The back ends of rails 14, 16, shown on the right in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, and on the left in FIG. 4, have end portions 33′, 34′, 35′, 36′ of their respective runways sloping downwards, parallel to each other and longitudinally offset, generally for the length of one covering element. The sloping angle may depend on the thickness of the covering element and on the amount of clearance desired between two adjacent elements.

[0037] A fixed housing 46, at the back end of the rails, can be installed to house and protect the covering when in the retracted position.

[0038] An actuator device 50, shown in FIGS. 4 and 4a, may be used to extend and/or retract the retractable covering. Actuator device 50 will preferably include a cylinder-piston assembly 51, attached to a fixed structure at one end; the extensible element of this assembly, for example the stem, will have a rotating crosshead or star shaped head 52, positionable in 4 positions, and is equipped with a maneuvering lever 53. The cross head 52 is designed to engage an element's stakes 44.

[0039] The covering's operation is described below.

[0040] When the covering is in the retracted position, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, the elements' roller feet occupy the rails' sloping end portions, or collecting portions; in particular, proximal covering element 12z has its feet 27z, 25z in the lower position, particularly the back or upstream feet (only 27z is visible) on the outer sloping ends 34′ and 36′, and its front or downstream feet (only 25z is visible) on the inner sloping ends 33′ and 35′. The covering element immediately downstream of 12z, referenced 12v, is positioned with its covering panel 18v overlapping the covering panel 18z of element 12z, and with its front and back legs on the sloping portions and ramps, adjacent to the back and front legs respectively of element 12z, and therefore at a higher level. This is made possible by the fact that the back and front legs of each covering element are at a different transversal distance—in particular, the distance between the back legs is greater, so that they can reach past the front legs of the other elements—and by the fact that the front ribs protrude downwards, or rather do not protrude upwards.

[0041] To extend the covering from its retracted position shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, it is possible to operate manually, pushing or pulling the covering elements towards the right in FIG. 4. However, it is preferable to use the actuator 50 with a crosshead 52, which is rotated by means of lever 53, so as to act by push or pull force on a stake 44 with which it is engaged. The head is engaged first with stake 44a of covering element 12a downstream, and subsequently with stake 44b of adjacent covering element 12b immediately upstream of 12a, and so forth.

[0042] Each covering element is slid with its feet in rails 14, 16, to the desired position, where, if desired, it can be blocked in place with means not shown, as said means are in the reach of a person skilled in the art.

[0043] The covering's extended position is shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 6 shows the particular of the sealing between adjacent covering panels in the extended position. In particular, the sealing between a downstream panel 18a and the panel immediately upstream 18b is ensured by contact between the end seals 32a, 32b inside the casing formed by the ribs 30a of the downstream element and 28b of the upstream element, and by engagement of sheet seal 31 onto panel 18b.

[0044] FIGS. 7, 8, 9 show a variant of the covering of the invention, referenced 110. The elements of covering 110 corresponding to those of covering 10 are indicated with the same reference numbers increased by 100, and will not be described in detail unless strictly necessary.

[0045] Covering 110 includes a number of covering elements 112, one of which is illustrated in FIG. 9, and which are indicated with 112a, 112b etc., starting from the downstream end of the covering.

[0046] Element 112 includes a covering panel 118 with a stiffening rib on the downstream side, indicated with 128, protruding upwards, and a stiffening rib 130 on the upstream side, protruding downwards or in any case at a lower level than rib 128. The transversal distance between front legs 120, 124 of the element is greater than the maximum transversal distance between back legs 122, 126. The element legs on the left side in FIG. 9 run on a rail 114, element front foot 121 engages on an outer runway 134, and back foot 123 engages on an inner runway 133. The legs on the right side of the same figure run on a rail 116, which is engaged by the front foot (not visible) on an outer runway 136 and by the back foot (not visible) on an inner runway 135.

[0047] The runways of each rail 114, 116 have their upstream end portions, referenced 133′, 134′, 135′, 136′ respectively, deflected upwards, parallel and distanced.

[0048] A fixed casing over the upstream sloping ends of the rails is indicated by 146.

[0049] In the extended position, the covering 110 has each front rib of an upstream element overlapping the back rib of the adjacent downstream element.

[0050] In the retracted position, as shown in FIG. 8, the covering has its elements 112 arranged with their pannels one below the other, with the most upstream panel 118z in the highest position and the most downstream panel 118a in the lowest position, with the inner back feet 123, 127 on portions 133′, 135′ and the front feet on outer portions 134′, 136′.

[0051] Covering 110 can be operated manually or by means of an actuator, as described above for covering 10.

[0052] When in the extended position, covering elements 12 can be left loose, or preferably locked to each other, to facilitate the extraction/retraction of all the elements together. With reference to FIGS. 10, 11, 12, the following is a description of an automatic fastening/unfastening system for a covering as shown in FIGS. 1 to 6. Possible solutions are exemplified by, but not limited to, the description below.

[0053] At least in some points of its transversal length, the back rib 30a of front element 12a is equipped with tabs 61, 62, protruding downwards; tab 61 is slightly shorter than tab 62. At a location corresponding to tabs 61, 62, the front rib 28b of back element 12b is equipped with one or more tabs 63 extending upwards. The runways for the front rollers (only 35, 35′ is visible) and back rollers (only 36, is visible) are equipped with a means to temporarily stop the covering element during movement; such means may be, for example, trough 64 on runways 33, 35 for the front wheels, and said runways have a specially shaped profile 66 on the runways for the front wheels, including a step at the end of each sloping ramp 33′, 35′. When the front wheels of front element 12a being extracted reach troughs 64, the element stops temporarily; at this point covering element 12b engages step 66, locates its front rib 28b beneath the back rib 30a of element 12a, and advancing further past step or profile 66, places itself with the front rollers at the level of rear rollers of the first covering element, and inserts its tab 63 between tabs 61, 62 of element 12a. With each subsequent movement, towards the right in FIGS. 10 to 12, elements 12a and 12b will advance together.

[0054] Retraction of the covering elements will also take place at first with the elements moving together.

[0055] During retraction, the sequence for unlocking the elements will be the reverse of the one described for their extraction.

[0056] The tabs could be arranged differently, for example there could be a single central tab on the back rib of the front element, and two side tabs on the front rib of the back element.

[0057] It should be noted that, although the examples describe rails for sliding of the roller feet of the covering elements, it is not necessary for such feet to roll on special rails, but they could also run on any adequately smooth surface, provided that the sloping collecting portions are provided.

[0058] With reference to FIGS. 13, 14 and 15, an embodiment of the covering, referenced 210, will be described in the following; said embodiment is particularly suitable to create sheds and temporary buildings in general. The special shape of an individual covering element 212 is shown in FIG. 13. The element includes a panel 218 with the top extended to form a part of the roof, and the sides extended to form parts of a preferably slightly sloping wall 218′, ending in feet 220, 222, 224, 226, with or without rollers. Reference 229 is an upstream rib, reference 230 is a downstream rib; the same description as the one provided for other embodiments applies to these ribs. In its extended position, covering 210 appears as shown in FIG. 15: as can be seen, this covering forms not only a portion of roof to cover an area, but also side walls, so that it can be used to make sheds for construction sites and the like.

[0059] FIG. 14 also shows a possible variant of slide tracks for a structure's feet. In this case, the slide tracks include rail end parts 233′ and 234′ respectively, hinged in 241, 242 respectively, so that they can be rotated at an angle a to house the covering in the retracted or compact position, as shown in FIG. 14, or they can be lowered to a position in line with the remaining part of the slide tracks, FIG. 15, when the covering is extended.

[0060] Any variations or modifications to the descriptions above, in the reach of a person skilled in the art, will fall within the scope of this invention as defined in the claims attached hereto.