Title:
Toy construction block and method of manufacturing same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy construction block for releasable connection to another toy construction block is disclosed. The toy construction block is made from a resilient material and has a first face having alternating ribs defining alternating channels therebetween. The ribs and the channels of the toy construction block are cooperatively adapted to snap to the ribs and channels of the other toy construction block to releasably secure the toy construction block to the other toy construction block.



Inventors:
Ladner, Dominik E. (Mississauga, CA)
Kong, Johnson Z. A. (Toronto, CA)
Application Number:
10/326102
Publication Date:
06/24/2004
Filing Date:
12/23/2002
Assignee:
LADNER DOMINIK E.
KONG JOHNSON Z. A.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H33/08; (IPC1-7): A63H33/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FRANCIS, FAYE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BERESKIN & PARR LLP/S.E.N.C.R.L., s.r.l. (TORONTO, ON, CA)
Claims:
1. A toy construction block for releasable connection to another toy construction block, said toy construction block comprising: a first face comprising a rib connected thereto, said first face defining a channel therein, said rib and said channel being cooperatively adapted to snap to said rib and said channel defined in said another toy construction block to releasably secure said toy construction block to said another toy construction block; wherein said toy construction block is made from a resilient material.

2. The toy construction block of claim 1, wherein said rib comprises a plurality of ribs and said channel comprises a plurality of channels.

3. The toy construction block of claim 2, wherein each of said plurality of channels alternates with each of said plurality of ribs, wherein each pair of said plurality of ribs define one of said plurality of channels therebetween.

4. The toy construction block of claim 3, wherein each rib comprises: a) a neck connected to said first surface; and b) a head connected to said neck.

5. The toy construction block of claim 4, wherein each channel comprises a throat portion communicating with a receiving portion, said receiving portion being positioned interiorly of said throat portion, wherein said throat portion is narrower than said receiving portion and said head.

6. The toy construction block of claim 5, wherein said head is adapted to be pushed through said throat portion into said receiving portion, said receiving portion of each channel is adapted to snugly receive said head, said throat portion being adapted to releasably secure said head of said rib in said channel.

7. The toy construction block of claim 6, wherein said head and said throat portion are adapted to deform when said head passes through said throat portion.

8. The toy construction block of claim 7, wherein said head compresses and said throat portion widens when said head passes through said throat portion.

9. The toy construction block of claim 7, wherein said head defines at least one curved section, said curved section having a convex shape, said curved section being adapted to guide said head through said throat portion.

10. The toy construction block of claim 9, wherein said at least one curved section comprises two opposing curved sections, each of said curved sections being adapted to contact a side of said throat portion.

11. The toy construction block of claim 9, wherein said throat portion of a corresponding channel defines another two of said opposing curved sections, said another two of said opposing curved sections being adapted to guide said head into said throat portion.

12. The toy construction block of claim 11, wherein each rib and each channel have a substantially identical shape.

13. The toy construction block of claim 3, further comprising a second face, said second face defining said plurality of ribs and said plurality of channels.

14. The toy construction block of claim 13, further comprising a pair of half-ribs connected to said second face and a pair of opposing planar side faces, each of said pair of half-ribs being positioned proximate to one of said pair of side faces.

15. The toy construction block of claim 14, wherein each of said pair of half-ribs define a side surface, said side surface being coplanar with one of said pair of side faces.

16. The toy construction block of claim 15, wherein one of said pair of half-ribs from said toy construction block and one of said pair of half-ribs from said another toy construction block are co-operatively adapted to be joined along said side surface and secured in said channel of a third construction block, thereby securing said toy construction block, said another toy construction block, and said third toy construction block.

17. The toy construction block of claim 16, wherein said first face and said second face are in opposing relation.

18. The toy construction block of claim 17, wherein said plurality of ribs defined in said first face comprises an even number of ribs.

19. The toy construction block of clam 18, wherein said plurality of channels defined in said first face comprises a center channel.

20. A method of manufacturing a toy construction block from a substrate made from a resilient material, said toy construction block having a first face and a second face, said method comprising: a) cutting said substrate along a first path, said first path defining said first face of a first block and said first face of a second block, wherein said first path defines a plurality of first ribs and first channels in said first face of said first and second blocks, wherein each of said ribs in said first block defines a channel in said second block and each of said channels in said first block defines a rib in said second block; and b) cutting said substrate along a second path spaced apart from said first path, said second path defining said second face of said second block and said second face of a third block, wherein said second path defines a plurality of second ribs and second channels in said second face of said second and third blocks, wherein each of said ribs in said second block defines a channel in said third block and each of said channels in said second block defines a rib in said third block.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein said first ribs and said first channels have a substantially identical first shape.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein said second ribs and said second channels have a substantially identical second shape.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein said first shape is different from said second shape.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein said first face and said second face are cooperatively adapted for snug engagement therebetween.

25. The method of claim 24, further comprising cutting said substrate transversely between said first and second path to form a first side face of said second block and a first half-rib on said second face of said second block.

26. The method of claim 25, further comprising cutting said substrate transversely between said first and second path to form a second side face of said second block and a second half-rib on said second face of said second block.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein said first path and said second path are substantially parallel.

28. The method of claim 20, further comprising repeating steps (a) and (b).

29. The method of claim 28, wherein said first path and said second path are cut in an alternating arrangement.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The invention relates to toys, and in particular, to toy construction blocks.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] There are a number toy construction blocks and kits known in the art. U.S. Pat. No. 3,701,214 discloses one example of a toy construction kit. However, the pieces disclosed in the '214 Patent are two-dimensional pieces that cannot be stacked into a free-standing structure, such as a wall, without being secured to a flat horizontal base plate for stability. In addition, the pieces disclosed in the '214 Patent are connected to one another by sliding or fitting a protrusion into a channel. The pieces are disadvantageous in that they cannot be snapped together and pulled apart for convenient assembly and disassembly, respectively.

[0003] U.S. Pat. No. 5,212,842 discloses another example of a toy construction kit. Again, the pieces disclosed in the '842 Patent are two-dimensional pieces which cannot be stacked into a free-standing structure and cannot be connected by snapping two pieces together.

[0004] U.S. Pat. No. 5,273,477 discloses another example of a toy construction kit. The pieces disclosed in the '477 Patent are two-dimensional pieces which cannot be stacked into a free-standing structure and cannot be securely snapped together. In addition, the pieces disclosed in the '477 Patent are inflatable.

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 5,267,863 discloses construction blocks which include a tongue and groove arrangement. This tongue and groove arrangement requires that the groove of one block slide onto the tongue of another block for connection thereof. The blocks are disadvantageous in that they cannot be snapped together and pulled apart for convenient assembly and disassembly, respectively. In addition, the blocks do not provide an even surface which permits the block to rest securely on the ground while another block is securely stacked thereon.

[0006] U.S. Pat. No. 2,472,363 discloses a toy building block which has a dove-tail groove and a dove-tail rib for connection to another block. This tongue and groove arrangement requires that the groove of one block slide onto the tongue of another block for connection thereof. The blocks are disadvantageous in that they cannot be snapped together for easy assembly and disassembly.

[0007] Accordingly, there is a need for an improved toy construction block which provides a convenient means for securing the block to another block by snapping the blocks to one another.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] According to a first aspect of the invention, a toy construction block for releasable connection to another toy construction block is provided. The toy construction block comprises a first face. The firs face comprises a rib connected thereto and a channel defined therein. The rib and the channel are cooperatively adapted to snap to the rib and the channel defined in the other toy construction block to releasably secure the toy construction block to the other construction block. The toy construction block is made from a resilient material.

[0009] Preferably, the rib comprises a plurality of ribs and the channel comprises a plurality of channels. More preferably, each channel alternates with each rib, such that two adjacent ribs define the channel therebetween.

[0010] According to a second aspect of the invention a method of manufacturing a toy construction block from a substrate is provided. The toy construction block has a first and second face. The method comprises:

[0011] (i) cutting the substrate along a first path, the first path defining the first face of a first block and the first face of a second block, wherein the first path defines a plurality of first ribs and first channels in the first face of the first and second blocks, wherein each of the ribs in the first block defines a channel in the second block and each of the channels in the first block defines a rib in the second block; and

[0012] (ii) cutting the substrate along a second path spaced apart from the first path, the second path defining the second face of the second block and the second face of a third block, wherein the second path defines a plurality of second ribs and second channels in the second face of the second and third blocks, wherein each of the ribs in the second block defines a channel in the third block and each of the channels in the second block defines a rib in the third block.

[0013] The toy construction block according to the present invention can be easily connected by children either by snapping the blocks together or by connecting them together by sliding the ribs into the channels. Likewise, the toy construction blocks may be easily disconnected by children by simply pulling the blocks apart. At the same time, the block provides a flat surface on which other blocks may be stacked to form structures such as walls castles, or bridges in which children may play. The soft, resilient material from which the blocks are manufactured provide a fun play environment while allowing for construction of complex three-dimensional structures and being easy to assemble and disassemble

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] The invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying figures, where:

[0015] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a toy construction block according to the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;

[0017] FIG. 3 is an elevation view of a portion of the block of FIG. 1;

[0018] FIG. 4 is an elevation view of two identical blocks prior to connection;

[0019] FIG. 5 is an elevation view of three identical blocks connected to each other;

[0020] FIGS. 6-11 are perspective views of different embodiments of the toy construction block;

[0021] FIGS. 12-15 are perspective views of different structures which may be constructed with the blocks shown in FIGS. 1 and 6-11;

[0022] FIG. 16 is an elevation view of another structure which may be constructed with the block shown in FIG. 1; and

[0023] FIG. 17 is a plan view of a substrate showing a preferred embodiment of a method of manufacturing a toy construction block.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0024] FIGS. 1 and 2 show one embodiment of a toy construction block 10 according to the present invention. The block 10 is made from a resilient material, such as, for example, close-cell polyethylene, which is preferably soft to the touch, inert, and non-toxic. The method of manufacturing the block 10 will be described in more detail below.

[0025] Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the block 10 includes a first face 12 and an opposing second face 14. Ribs 16 and channels 18 are defined in the first face 12, and also in the second face 14. It will be understood by those skilled in the art that ribs 16 and channels 18 may be provided on only one face of the block 10, or more than two faces, and that the faces on which channels and ribs are provided may not be opposing faces. Also, any suitable number of ribs 16 and channels 18 may be provided, although it is preferred that an even number of ribs 16 are provided on the first face 12 for reasons described in detail below.

[0026] Preferably, the ribs 16 and channels 18 are substantially parallel and are of equal height in order to provide a stable planar surface for the brick 10 when it is placed on a flat surface. More preferably, the ribs are arranged such that the space between each pair of ribs 16 defines each channel 18 therebetween, providing an alternating arrangement of channels 16 and ribs 18 having a substantially identical shape.

[0027] As best shown in FIG. 2, each channel 16 on the first face 12 preferably aligns with a rib 16 on the opposing second face 14. The remaining faces of the block 10 may be flat (as shown in FIG. 1) or may also contain channels and/or ribs.

[0028] Referring again to FIGS. 1 and 2, two half-ribs 20 may be provided at each edge of the second face 14. Each of the two half-ribs 20 include a planar side surface 22 which is co-planar with each side face 24 of the block 10.

[0029] Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, each rib 16 may include a head 30 connected a neck 32, which projects from the block 10. Each channel 18 may include a throat portion 34 which communicates with an interior receiving portion 36. The throat portion 34 has at its narrowest point a width a, and the head 30 of the rib 16 has at its widest point a width b. The width of a of the throat portion 34 is narrower than the width b of the head 30 so that the head 30 compresses and the throat portion 34 widens when the head 30 passes though the throat portion 34. The shape of the receiving portion 36 snugly accommodates the head 30 to receive the head 30 therein.

[0030] Referring to FIG. 3, the head 30 includes two convex curved sections 38 to guide the head 30 through the throat portion 34. Due to the alternating arrangement of the ribs 16 and channels 18, the convex curved portions 38 of other ribs 16 also form a part the throat portion 34 of a corresponding channel 18, and also help guide the head 30 through the throat portion 34. Due to the alternating arrangement of the ribs 16 and channels 18, the convex curved sections 38 of the head 30 and the opposing side

[0031] The operation of the invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 4, which shows two identical blocks 10 and 50. The block 10 may be secured to another block 50 by snapping the ribs 16 on the second face 14 of block 10 into the channels 18 on the first face 12 of the other block 50. At the same time, the ribs 16 on the first face 12 of the block 50 snap into the channels 18 on the second face 14 of the block 10.

[0032] As shown in FIG. 3, the width b of the head 30 of the rib 16 is greater than the width a of the throat portion 34, requiring slight force to conveniently snap the rib 16 into the corresponding channel 18. The curved sections 38 of the head 30 and the curved sections 38 of the throat portion 34 of the corresponding channel 18 guide the head 30 of the rib 16 into the receiving portion 36 of the corresponding channel 18. The head 30 compresses and the throat portion 34 widens as the head 30 passes through the throat portion 34 into the receiving portion 36. Once the head 30 enters the receiving portion 36, the throat portion 34 narrows to its original shape, securing the head 30 (which also expands to its original shape) within the receiving portion 36.

[0033] The blocks 10 and 50 may be conveniently disconnected by pulling the blocks apart. The curved section 38 of the throat portion 34 and the curved section 38 of the head 30 allow each rib 16 and each channel 18 to be conveniently disconnected with little force. The throat portion 34 separates and the head 30 compresses to allow the rib 16 to be pulled out of the corresponding channel 18.

[0034] Referring again to FIG. 3, the optimum dimensions for a in the throat portion 34 and b in the head 30 depend on the compressibility of the resilient material from which the blocks are made. If the head is much larger than the throat portion, the neck 32 may collapse or the head 30 may fold under the force required to push the head 30 through the throat portion 34. Alternatively, if the difference between dimensions a and b is too small, the connection between the rib 16 and channel 18 when engaged may not be sufficiently secure. An insecure connection would cause the blocks to disconnect easily, leading to the collapse of a toy structure built using the blocks. Accordingly, for close-cell polyethylene, preferably the dimension a in the throat portion 34 is about 15% smaller than dimension b in the head 30. For a rib or channel having a height of 15.5 mm, the dimension a is preferably 17.5 mm and dimension b is preferably 20.8 mm.

[0035] Although FIG. 4 shows the blocks 10, 50 in a position where all ribs 16 and channels 18 of the blocks engage, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that any number of ribs 16 may engage a corresponding number of channels 18, depending on the configuration of toy structure being built by the user.

[0036] One such example is shown in FIG. 5, which shows three blocks 60, 62, 64 connected in an overlapping or “brick” arrangement, which is particularly useful for structures such as walls or bridges. In this configuration, it is important that two blocks 62, 64 are securely connected to one block 60. For this purpose, it is preferable (but not essential) that the blocks are connected such that the first face 12 of block 60 is connected to the second face 14 of blocks 62 and 64. Because, as described above, the first face 12 has an even number of ribs 16, this provides a center channel 66. Accordingly, the half-ribs 20 of blocks 62, 64 may be placed adjacent to each other to form a single rib and inserted into the center channel 66 when the other ribs 16 and channels 18 are connected as shown in FIG. 5. This arrangement allows each block 62, 62 to engage half of the ribs 16 to optimize the connection between three blocks. If the blocks were to be connected first face to first face, one block would always have a better connection than the other, thereby compromising the stability of a structure constructed in this manner.

[0037] Other blocks may be added in like manner to build any number of toy structures, such as walls, tunnels, or castles, which could be imagined by the user. FIGS. 6-11 show examples of additional embodiments of a toy construction block which may be useful for building various types of toy structures. The various embodiments described in FIGS. 6-11 are intended only as an example, and are not intended to be limiting. Many other configurations of the toy construction block will be apparent to those skilled in the art. FIGS. 12-16 show some examples of structures which may be built using the various toy construction blocks described above

[0038] These toy construction blocks are easy to connect together, provide a connection sufficiently strong for toy structures, while being easy for children to disassemble.

[0039] The method of manufacturing toy construction blocks will now be described with reference to FIG. 17, where like parts are assigned like reference number. The toy construction blocks are made from a substrate 100, which is preferably a sheet of closed cell polyethylene material.

[0040] Referring to FIG. 17, the substrate 100 is cut along a first path 110. The first path 110 is a tortuous path which defines the first face 12 for two opposing blocks 120, 130. The first path 110 defines a number of first ribs and first channels, such that when the blocks are separated,.the ribs and channels of one block 120 form the channels and ribs, respectively, of another block 130. Preferably, the shape of the first channels and first ribs are identical.

[0041] Continuing to refer to FIG. 17, the substrate is then cut along a second path 140. The second path 140 is also a tortuous path which defines the second face 14 for two opposing blocks 120, 160. The second path 140 defines a number of second ribs and second channels, such that when the blocks are separated, the ribs and channels of one block 120 form the channels and ribs, respectively of the other block 160. Preferably, the shape of the second channels and second ribs are identical.

[0042] The substrate 100 may be cut by any suitable means, such as a water jet, hot wire, or hot stamping. However, the cutting wastes some of the material along the first second paths 110, 140, thereby creating some play between two blocks joined along faces created by the same path. In order to provide a more secure fit, the second path 140 may be cut to provide a different size to the second ribs and channels to account for the loss of material in the first path 110. In this manner, two blocks, when joined first face 12 to second face 14, provide a more snug fit than when joined first face 12 to first face 12 or second face 14 to second face 14. The more snug fit permits a child user to build larger structures, which are more stable and less likely to collapse than if connected first face/first face or second face/second face. Preferably, the second ribs and channels cut along the second path 140 have a slightly larger dimension a and a slightly smaller dimension b (shown in FIG. 3). More preferably, dimension a is about 5% larger and dimension b is 4% smaller.

[0043] As shown in FIG. 17, additional first paths 110 and second paths 140 may be cut in an alternating fashion to make additional blocks. The substrate 100 may then be cut transversely at lines 150 between the first path 110 and second path 140 to form the side faces of the blocks and the half ribs 20.

[0044] The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics thereof. The presently disclosed embodiments are therefore to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims rather than the foregoing description, and all changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are therefore intended to be embraced therein.