Title:
Hub lock for playard
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A playard including a frame and a hub. The frame includes first and second legs configured to move between a stowed position and a deployed position. The hub includes a hub body, at least one locking arm operably coupled to the hub body, and a user interface. Each locking arm includes a socket and is configured to releasably couple to a leg when in the deployed position. An end of the leg extends through a passage in the hub body so that an outer surface of the end of the leg is captured within the socket. The legs are coupled to the hub body by a ring that is captured by at least one retention member in a snap fit engagement. The user interface is configured to release the locking arms and includes a strap with a pleat to prohibit the strap from passing through the aperture.



Inventors:
Longenecker, Michael L. (Ephrata, PA, US)
Covill, Jason D. (Nottingham, NH, US)
Application Number:
09/969161
Publication Date:
04/03/2003
Filing Date:
10/03/2001
Assignee:
LONGENECKER MICHAEL L.
COVILL JASON D.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47D13/06; (IPC1-7): A47D13/00; A47C7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SANTOS, ROBERT G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A playard comprising: a frame including a leg configured to move between a stowed position and a deployed position; a hub including a hub body and at least one locking arm coupled to the hub body, each locking arm including a socket configured to releasably capture an end of the first leg when in the deployed position.

2. The playard of claim 1 wherein the socket is defined by an upper wall, a lower wall, and a pair of side walls, the upper and lower walls being configured to inhibit pivotal movement of the leg, and the pair of side walls being configured to inhibit lateral movement thereof.

3. The playard of claim 1 wherein the hub includes two locking arms configured to releasably capture two opposed legs.

4. The playard of claim 3 wherein the locking arms are biased away from each other.

5. The playard of claim 4, further including a user interface coupled to the locking arms and operable to pivot the locking arms towards each other to release the opposed legs.

6. The playard of claim 5 wherein the user interface includes a strap and a cord.

7. The playard of claim 6 wherein the cord includes a loop coupled to the locking arms and orientated generally perpendicular to the locking arms so that movement of the strap away from the hub reduces the loop and pivots the locking arms toward one another.

8. The playard of claim 4 wherein the locking arms each include a pair of alternating flanges.

9. The playard of claim 2 wherein the hub includes a ring configured to engage the legs, the ring being releasably coupled to a plurality of retention members on the hub body.

10. The playard of claim 2 wherein the locking arms are pivotably coupled to the hub body.

11. A playard comprising: a frame including a plurality of legs; a ring configured to engage ends of the plurality of legs; and a hub, wherein the ring is coupled to the hub by at least one retention member.

12. The playard of claim 11 wherein the ring includes a gap for engaging the plurality of legs.

13. The playard of claim 12 wherein the at least one retention member includes a ramped surface and a notch configured to secure the ring in a snap fit engagement.

14. The playard of claim 11 wherein the ring is removable from the hub.

15. The playard of claim 11 wherein the retention members are integrally molded with the hub.

16. A playard comprising: a frame including legs configured to move between a deployed position and a stowed position; a floor panel coupled to the frame and including an aperture; a hub releasably coupled to the legs; a user interface configured to release the legs to allow them to move from the deployed position to the stowed position, the user interface including a strap connected to a cord extending through the aperture and coupled to the hub, the strap includes a pleat to prohibit the strap from passing through the aperture.

17. The playard of claim 16 wherein the pleat includes a pair of folds at an end of the strap.

18. The playard of claim 17 wherein the cord is connected to the pleat of the strap.

19. The playard of claim 16 wherein the pleat has a thickness greater than a width of the aperture.

20. The playard of claim 16 wherein the aperture is a slit in the floor panel.

21. A method of assembling a frame system for a playard, the method comprising: providing a plurality of legs, a ring and a hub including a plurality of retention members; coupling the plurality of legs to the ring; pressing the ring into engagement with the retention members.

22. The method of claim 21 wherein the ring is pressed into a snap fit engagement with the retention members.

23. The method of claim 21 further including inserting the plurality of legs through a plurality of passages.

24. The method of claim 21 further including flexing the retention members by sliding the ring across ramped surfaces on the plurality of retention members.

25. A method of erecting a playard comprising: providing a frame and a hub, the frame having a pair of legs and the hub having a pair of locking arms; pivoting the pair of legs toward a generally horizontal position; capturing ends of the legs within the locking arms.

26. The method of claim 25 wherein the locking arms each include a socket configured to receive the ends of the legs.

27. The method of claim 25 further including biasing the locking arms towards the ends of the legs.

28. The method of claim 27 wherein capturing the ends of the legs includes pivoting the locking arms until the ends of the legs are pivoted past the edge of the socket.

29. A hub for a collapsing apparatus including a first and second frame members configured to move between a stowed position and a deployed position, the hub comprising: a hub body including a pair of passages configured to receive the first and second frame members; a first locking arm operably coupled to the hub body and including a socket, the first locking arm being configured to releasably couple to the first frame member when in the deployed position wherein an end of the first frame member extends through the passage so that an outer surface of the first frame member is captured within the socket.

30. The hub of claim 29 wherein the hub includes a second locking arm configured to releasably couple to the second frame member.

31. The hub of claim 29 wherein the socket is defined by a first wall, which is configured to inhibit pivotal movement of the first frame member, and a second wall configured to inhibit lateral movement of the first frame member.

32. The hub of claim 31 wherein the first and second locking arms are biased away from each other.

33. The hub of claim 32, further including a user interface coupled to the first and second locking arms and operable to pivot the first and second locking arms towards each other to release the first and second frame members.

34. The hub of claim 33 wherein the user interface includes a strap and a cord coupled to the strap, the cord includes a loop coupled to first and second locking arms and orientated generally perpendicular to the first and second locking arms so that movement of the strap away from hub reduces the loop and pivots first and second locking arms.

35. The hub of claim 31 wherein the hub includes a ring configured to engage the first and second frame members, and configured to releasably couple to a plurality of retention members on the hub body.

36. A hub for a collapsing apparatus including a pair of frame members configured to move between a stowed position and a deployed position, the hub comprising: a hub body configured to receive the frame members; first and second locking arms coupled to the hub body and configured to releasably couple the frame members when in the deployed position, each of the locking arms including a first and second flange extending therefrom.

37. The hub of claim 36 wherein the first and second flanges of the first locking arm are configured to mesh with the first and second flanges of the second locking arms.

38. The hub of claim 37 wherein the first flange projects in a different direction than the second flange.

39. The hub of claim 38 wherein the first flange projects slightly downward and the second flange projects slightly upward.

40. The hub of claim 39 wherein the first flange of the first locking arm overlaps the second flange of the second locking arm, and the first flange of the second locking arm overlaps the second flange of the first locking arm.

41. The hub of claim 37 wherein the meshing of the first and second flanges of the first and second locking arms acts as a hinge to provide a bearing surface and a biasing engagement between the first and second locking arm.

42. The hub of claim 36 wherein the first and second locking arms are biased away from each other.

43. The playard of claim 1 wherein the end of the first leg is a spun end.

44. The playard of claim 11, wherein the ends of the plurality of legs are spun ends.

45. The playard of claim 16 wherein the legs each have a spun end.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to a playard. More specifically, this invention relates to a hub lock for a playard with releasable legs.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Folding playards are generally known as a standard item in parenting and baby caregiving. Such known playards enable a baby or toddler to play within a controlled and protected space without requiring continual attention by a responsible adult. Known playards typically include a frame system and a plurality of flexible panels to provide an enclosure. The frame system typically includes legs coupled to a hub, and is configured to be foldable into a small space for easy storage and transport.

[0003] However, such known playards have several disadvantages. For example, the hubs of known playards have a complex design with numerous parts, which increases material and labor costs, overall weight of the playard, and create manufacturing difficulties. Also, the known hubs can be difficult to use (e.g., erected and/or collapsed).

[0004] Accordingly, it would be advantageous to provide a hub for a playard that can be efficiently manufactured, quickly and easily erected and collapsed, and the like. To provide an inexpensive, reliable, and widely adaptable hub for a playard or other foldable products that avoids the above-referenced and other problems would represent a significant advance in the art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] A primary feature of the present invention is to provide an easy-to-manufacture, easy-to-use, and aesthetically-pleasing playard that overcomes the above-noted disadvantages.

[0006] Another feature of the present invention is to provide a hub for a playard that can be quickly and easily erected and collapsed, configured and reconfigured, and the like.

[0007] Another feature of the present invention is to provide a hub that is lightweight and provides suitable strength and rigidity for a playard.

[0008] Another feature of the present invention is to provide a hub that reduces manufacturing, shipping, and assembly costs, and is simpler in design and easier to use.

[0009] Another feature of the present invention is to provide a hub that is made of fewer components, and otherwise reduces manufacturing, shipping, and assembly costs.

[0010] How these and other advantages and features of the present invention are accomplished (individually, collectively, or in various subcombinations) will be described in the following detailed description of the preferred and other exemplary embodiments, taken in conjunction with the FIGURE. Generally, however, they are accomplished in a playard including a frame and a hub. The frame includes at least first and second legs configured to move between a stowed position and a deployed position. The hub includes a hub body and first and second locking arms operably coupled to the hub body. The locking arms include a socket configured to releasably capture the ends of the legs when in the deployed position.

[0011] These and other advantages and features of the present invention may also be accomplished in a playard including a frame and a hub. The frame includes a plurality of legs. The hub is configured to selectively engage ends of certain ones of the legs. The hub includes at least one retention member and the legs are coupled to the hub by being captured by the retention member in a snap fit engagement.

[0012] These and other advantages and features of the present invention may also be accomplished in a playard including a frame, a floor panel, and a user interface. The frame includes legs configured to pivot between a deployed position and a stowed position. The floor panel is coupled to the frame and includes an aperture. The hub is releasably coupled to the ends of certain ones of legs. The user interface is configured to release the legs to move from the deployed position to the stowed position, and includes a strap connected to a cord extending through the aperture and coupled to the hub. The strap includes a pleat to prohibit the strap from passing through the aperture.

[0013] These and other advantages and features of the present invention may also be accomplished in a method of assembling a frame system for a playard including providing a frame including a plurality of legs, a ring configured to engage ends of the plurality of legs, and a hub including one or more retention members. The ring and legs assembly is coupled to the hub by a one or more retention members in a snap fit engagement.

[0014] These and other advantages and features of the present invention may also be accomplished in a method of erecting a playard including providing a frame and a hub, the frame having a pair of legs and the hub having a pair of locking arms, pivoting a pair of legs toward a generally horizontal position, and capturing ends of the legs within the spring loaded locking arms.

[0015] These and other advantages and features of the present invention may also be accomplished in a hub for a collapsing apparatus including first and second legs configured to pivot between a stowed position and a deployed position. The hub includes a hub body and locking arms. The locking arms are operably coupled to the hub body and each includes a socket. The locking arms are configured to releasably capture legs when they are in the deployed position.

[0016] The present invention further relates to various features and combinations of features shown and described in the disclosed embodiments. Other ways in which the objects and features of the disclosed embodiments are accomplished will be described in the following specification or will become apparent to those skilled in the art after they have read this specification. Such other ways are deemed to fall within the scope of the disclosed embodiments if they fall within the scope of the claims which follow.

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0017] FIG. 1 is a fragmentary top perspective view of a playard according to a preferred embodiment.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a top perspective view of a playard shown without side and bottom panels.

[0019] FIG. 3 is a fragmentary top perspective view of a hub with a plurality of legs according to a preferred embodiment.

[0020] FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of the hub of FIG. 3.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of the hub of FIG. 3.

[0022] FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the hub of FIG. 3.

[0023] FIG. 7 is a fragmentary sectional view of the hub of FIG. 6 with the legs shown in an engaged position and taken along the line 7-7.

[0024] FIG. 8 is a fragmentary sectional view of the hub of FIG. 7 with the legs shown in a partially disengaged position.

[0025] FIG. 9 is a fragmentary sectional view of the hub of FIG. 7 with the legs shown in a disengaged position.

[0026] FIG. 10 is an exploded view of a locking arm subassembly for the hub.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED AND OTHER EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0027] FIGS. 1 and 2 shows a perspective view of a foldable playard 10 according to a preferred embodiment in its fully erected state. Playard 10 includes a support structure or frame system, and an enclosure generally defined by a plurality of panels. The frame system includes an upper frame assembly 12, a lower frame assembly 14, and a hub 32. A plurality of corner members 16 connect the upper and the lower frame assemblies 12, 14. The enclosure is defined by a plurality of side panels 15 and a floor panel 17 coupled to upper and lower frame assemblies 12, 14.

[0028] Upper frame assembly 12 includes four side rail units 18. Each side rail unit 18 generally comprises a medial rail lock 26 and a pair of substantially rigid rails 24 (which can be covered by laterally extending tubular sleeves 20). Side rail units 18 are connected to four upper corner connectors 22. (Preferably, the four side rail units 18 are substantially identical, and the upper corner connectors 22 are substantially identical.) Rails 24 may be made from any of a variety of suitable materials, and is preferably a steel tube. The lengths of the respective rails 24 can be made to accommodate any size square or rectangular configuration of playard 10.

[0029] Corner connectors 22 may be molded, for example, from an injection molded polymeric plastic materials such as ABS, polypropylene, nylon, etc. Each pair of adjacent corner connectors 22 is configured to support one of the side rail units 18 at the upper portion of the playard frame. Specifically, an end of each rail 24 is received within one of the upper corner connectors 22, and is pivotably coupled thereto by a rivet pin or the like extending through aligned openings in the respective upper corner connecting member and the rail end portion. An opposite end portion of each rail 24 extends to and is pivotably coupled to rail lock 26 by a rivet or the like extending through aligned openings in rail lock 26. Each of rail locks 26 houses a latch mechanism for latching rails 24 in a substantially in-line configuration when the playard is erected.

[0030] Lower frame assembly 14 includes four lower corner connectors 28, preferably in the form of support feet, and hub leg members 30, 31, which are pivotally coupled to hub 32. One end of each of the hub legs 30 is pivotably coupled to one of the lower corner connector 28, and the other end of each of hub legs 30 is pivotally coupled to hub 32. According to a preferred embodiment, secondary support legs 33 are included to provide additional support.

[0031] Each of corner members 16 is connected to one of lower corner connector 28 and one of upper corner connector 22. Corner members 16 are spaced apart and upstanding in a substantially parallel configuration when the playard is erected. Hub legs 30 are oriented substantially horizontally in a horizontal plane and side rails 24 are oriented substantially in-line so as to spread corner members 16 in this configuration.

[0032] Referring to FIGS. 3-9, hub 32 includes a hub body 34, a pair of locking arms 36 disposed in a cavity 38 of hub body 34, and a user interface 40.

[0033] Hub body 34 is preferably generally hexagonal in shape, although any other suitable configurations can be used. Hub body 34 is configured to provide support for hub legs 30, 31, 33, and floor panel 17, and includes an upper portion 42, and a lower portion 44. Upper portion 42 of the hub body 34 includes six leg receiving passages 46 (in which an end portion of each of hub legs 30, 31 and each of support legs 33 is pivotally attached) and a plurality of retention ring members 48 (to which a ring 50 engages hub 32 to secure hub legs and support legs). Ring 50 is shown having a circular shape with a gap to facilitate loading of hub legs 30, 31, 33. According to alternative embodiments, ring 50 may be any of a variety of shapes and configurations (e.g., hexagonal, square, rectangular, elliptical, etc.) and may be solid, broken (with or without a “gap”), and the like.

[0034] Passages 46 are dimensioned to accommodate the end portions of the hub legs 30, 31, 33 such that the hub legs can be pivoted (collapsed) from a substantially co-planar spread-out configuration where hub legs 30, 31, 33 diverge outwardly from hub 32 (FIGS. 3 and 7) to a compact non-coplanar configuration where hub legs 30, 31, 33 are positioned substantially parallel (FIG. 9). Referring to FIGS. 4 and 7-9, each passage 46 is defined by a pair of opposed side walls 52, an upper wall 56, and a lower wall 57. Side walls 52 extend between an outer perimeter of hub body 34 to the walls that define cavity 38, and include co-linearly aligned slots 54, respectively, for receiving ring 50. Alternatively, opposed side walls 52 can be made to slightly converge to frictionally engage the end portion of hub leg 30 and assist in maintaining hub legs 30 in the horizontal position when desired.

[0035] Referring to FIGS. 3 and 6, passages 46 are spaced apart by six triangular-shaped wells 60. Side walls 52 having slot 54 are disposed between adjacent wells 60 and passages 46. Wells 60 each include a ring retention member 48 configured to releasably engage ring 50. Each ring retention member 48 includes a ramped surface 62 and a notch 64. According to a preferred embodiment, ring 50 includes a pair of spaced apart ends (defining a gap) so that ends of legs 30, 31, 33 are insertable or mountable thereon. During assembly, ring 50 is located or inserted in apertures 66 in each of hub legs 30 and support legs 34. This assembly of ring 50 and legs 30, 31, 33 is then pressed into engagement with ring retention members 48. As ring 50 is pressed into upper portion 42 of hub 32, ring retention members 48 flex as ring 50 slides along ramped surface 62. After ring 50 passes the bottom edge of ramped surface 62, ring retention members 48 snap back into their non-flexed position (or a substantially non-flexed position) so that ring 50 is captured between notches 64 and slots 54.

[0036] Referring to FIGS. 4 and 10, a pair of locking arms 36 are generally “L”-shaped (inverted) and are configured to releasably engage the ends of a pair of opposing hub legs 30. Locking arms 36 include a generally upright portion 70 and a pair of alternating flanges 72, 74 extending generally perpendicular from upright portion 70. According to a particularly preferred embodiment, locking arms are identical components wherein flange 72 projects in a different direction than flange 74. According to a particularly preferred embodiment, flange 72 projects slightly downward and flange 74 projects slightly upward. As such, flanges 72 and 74 of the two opposing locking arms 36 can interlock or fit together. When locking arms 36 are aligned and inserted into cavity 38, the interface of flanges 72, 74 acts as a hinge and provides a bearing surface and a biasing engagement for each other. According to an alternative embodiment, the pair of locking arms 36 are formed (e.g., molded) as an internal one-piece component. A spring 76 is located between upright portions 70 and configured to bias locking arms 36 away from each other and against the interior wall of cavity 38. Ends of spring 76 are coupled to projections 78 extending from upright portions 70.

[0037] Locking arms 36 are located in a narrowed portion 80 of cavity 38, which assists in aligning and positioning locking arms 36 during assembly and during use. Bores 87 in lower portion 44 of hub body 34 align with bores 82 in locking arms 36 whereby a fastener 81 is used to pivotally couple locking arms 36 to hub body 34. (According to exemplary embodiments, fastener 81 can be a variety of retaining devices, such as pins, rivets, dowels, screws, bolts, etc.)

[0038] Upright portion 70 includes a recess or socket 84 and a lug 86. Socket 84 is defined by a pair of side walls, an upper wall, and lug 86, and is configured to receive an end of hub leg 30 when the frame is in the erected or deployed position. (Socket 84 may be a through bore, be a partially blind bore (as shown in the FIGURES), or be a blind bore (e.g., a recess having sides and a bottom wall).) Hub legs 30 are coupled to hub body 34 by engagement of ring 50 with retention members 48. Pivotal movement of hub legs 30 about ring 50 is limited by passages 46 of hub body 34 and sockets 84 of locking arms 36. More particularly, hub legs 30 are inhibited from rotating past a generally horizontal position by upper wall and lower wall 57. Alternatively, hub body 34 and locking arms 36 may be designed to provide any of a variety of movement or rotational angles for the hub legs 30. Hub legs 30 are held in place (or “locked”) by the releasable capture of locking arms 36 by sockets 84. Lateral movement of hub legs 30 on ring 50 is inhibited by side walls 52.

[0039] Leg 31, 33 (which are not shown to releasably engage locking arms 36) are coupled to hub body 34 by engagement of ring 50 with retention members 48. Pivotal movement of hub legs 31, 33 about ring 50 is limited by passages 46 of hub body 34 and sockets 84 of locking arms 36. More particularly, hub legs 31, 33 are inhibited from rotating past a generally horizontal position by upper wall and a rib 89. Lateral movement of hub legs 31, 33 on ring 50 is inhibited by side walls 52.

[0040] Referring to FIG. 10, user interface 40 includes a strap 90 and a cord 92 connected to an end of strap 90. According to a preferred embodiment, strap 90 includes a pleat 94 (i.e., material folded upon itself and sewn in place) at its outside end, and a pleat 96 at the end connected to cord 92. According to a preferred embodiment, pleat 96 can be sized (e.g., based on the number of folds) so that strap 90 is not inadvertently pulled through an aperture 98 in floor panel 17. Cord 92 wraps around lugs 86 of locking members 36. According to a particularly preferred embodiment, pleat 96 includes a pair of folds such that the end of strap 90 that connects to cord 92 has a width of three strap material thicknesses. Pleat 96 may be joined by adhesive, sewing, permanent crease, and the like.

[0041] User interface 40 is configured to provide an inward force to lugs 86 of locking arms 48 by applying tension to cord 92, thereby pivoting locking arms 48 about axes defined by fasteners 81. Outer surfaces 100 of locking arms 48 are biased against walls that define cavity 38. Coupling of cord 92 to lugs 86 is configured to transfer a first tension force in cord 92 (caused by the user pulling strap 90 upward) to a second tension force in cord 92 that is generally parallel with spring 76 and generally perpendicular to upright portions 70 and axes defined by fasteners 81. As such, the second tension force overcomes the biasing force of spring 76 and pivots locking arms 36 toward each other.

[0042] Referring to FIGS. 7-9, to collapse or fold playard 10, the user grips strap 90 of user interface 40 and pulls it away from hub 32 (i.e., generally upwardly when playard 10 is in the use or erected position and positioned on the ground or on a floor). As the user pulls strap 90, cord 92 applies an inwardly directed force to lugs 86 such that locking members 36 pivot about the rivets. Because the weight of playard 10 biases ends of hub legs 30 (which are coupled to lower connectors 28) downward, hub legs 30 pivot about ring 50 when outer surfaces 100 of upright portion 70 pivot past the ends of hub legs 30 (see FIGS. 7 and 8). Further lifting of strap 90 allows upper frame assembly 12 and lower frame assembly 14 to collapse or fold (see FIG. 9).

[0043] To erect or unfold playard 10, the user pivots hub legs 30 in opposite directions until the ends of hub legs 30 pivot past the edges of sockets 84 and snap into place, which can be signaled by an audible click or snap. Locking arms 36 slide past the ends of hub legs 30 and are biased against the walls of cavity 38 by spring 76.

[0044] In another aspect of the invention, as can be seen in FIGS. 4, 7, 8, and 9, the ends 37 of the hub legs 30, 31, 33 preferably are spun down to substantially close the ends of the legs 30, 31, 33. The spun ends 37 of the hub legs 30, 31, 33 form unitary reinforced end portions and provide increased rigidity and strength as compared to, for example, an open-ended tubular leg. In addition, the spun ends 37 of hub legs 31 present a smooth profile for contact with the locking arms 36, as compared, for example, to a raw cut end of a tubular leg. Thus, repeated engagement and disengagement of the hub legs 31 relative to the locking arms 36 in the present invention causes minimal wear on the locking arms 36.

[0045] It is also important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the frame system for a playard as shown in the preferred and other exemplary embodiments are illustrative only. Although only a few embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail in this disclosure, those skilled in the art who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible (e.g., variations in sizes, dimensions, structures, shapes and proportions of the various elements, values of parameters, mounting arrangements, materials, colors, orientations, etc.) without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited in the claims. For example, the particular materials used to construct the exemplary embodiments are also illustrative. For example, while injection molded polypropylene is the preferred method and material for making the hub and locking arms, other materials can be used, including other thermoplastic resins such as polypropylene, other polyethylenes, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (“ABS”), polyurethane nylon, any of a variety of homopolymer plastics, copolymer plastics, plastics with special additives, filled plastics, etc. Also, other molding operations may be used to form these components, such as blow molding, rotational molding, etc. Also, legs may have any of a variety of configurations and orientations. Further, the hub may have any of a variety of applications where an apparatus is to be foldable or collapsible, including home, office, and commercial applications, in addition to the children equipment illustrated herein. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims. The order or sequence of any process or method steps may be varied or re-sequenced according to alternative embodiments. In the claims, any means-plus-function clause is intended to cover the structures described herein as performing the recited function and not only structural equivalents but also equivalent structures. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and/or omissions may be made in the design, operating conditions and arrangement of the preferred and other exemplary embodiments without departing from the spirit of the present invention as expressed in the appended claims.





 
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