Title:
Flexible tile wall system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A wall system comprising a flexible frame and modular tile assemblies. The flexible frame includes a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel vertical posts and a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel support members mounted with the vertical posts and pivotally connected to each other. The modular tile assemblies are removably mounted with the frame along the vertical posts and the support members.



Inventors:
Peter, Daniel W. (Portland, OR, US)
Simonian, Michael A. (Francisco, CA, US)
Beck, Robert L. (Zeeland, MI, US)
Dral, Joel (Zeeland, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/852582
Publication Date:
01/13/2005
Filing Date:
05/24/2004
Assignee:
PETER DANIEL W.
SIMONIAN MICHAEL A.
BECK ROBERT L.
DRAL JOEL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B2/74; (IPC1-7): E04B2/82
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MAI, LANNA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Crowell/BGL (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A wall system comprising: a flexible frame including a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel vertical posts and a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel support members mounted with said vertical posts and pivotally connected to each other; and modular tile assemblies removably mounted with said frame on said vertical posts and said support members.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein said posts have mounting openings and said support members have pass-through openings, and wherein said frame further comprises a plurality of pins, said pins disposed in said mounting and pass-through openings so as to mount said support members with said vertical posts.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein said mounting openings are disposed along a vertical centerline of said posts and said pass-through openings are disposed along a vertical centerline of said support members.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of said posts has a threaded stud attached at one end therof, and wherein said frame further comprises a support leg removably attached to said threaded stud, said support leg adapted to support said frame on a floor in a spaced apart relationship with said floor.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein at least one of said posts has a threaded stud attached at one end therof, said threaded stud positioned in a hole of a ceiling portion and engaging a threaded nut so as to secure said frame to said ceiling portion.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein a support member includes a plurality of integral cross-shaped configurations joined at opposite vertical ends thereof in a linear arrangement.

7. The system of claim 6 wherein said frame includes a plurality of hinges attached to opposite horizontal ends of said cross-shaped configurations, wherein said hinges pivotally connect adjoining support members.

8. The system of claim 2 wherein each of said tile assemblies comprises an outer tile element and an inner tile element.

9. The system of claim 8 wherein said outer tile element has a generally rounded square periphery and a convex face.

10. The system of claim 9 wherein said outer tile element is made of plastic.

11. The system of claim 8 wherein said outer tile element comprises a cross brace having at least one locator opening shaped to receive and securely hold one of said pins so as to removably mount said outer tile element on one of said posts.

12. The system of claim 11 wherein said locator opening is slotted.

13. The system of claim 8 wherein said inner tile element has a generally rounded square periphery and a generally planar face.

14. The system of claim 13 wherein said inner tile element is made of plastic.

15. The system of claim 8 wherein said inner tile element comprises a mounting flange having at least one locator opening shaped to receive and securely hold one of said pins so as to removably mount said inner tile element on one of said support members that is mounted with one of said posts.

16. The system of claim 15 wherein said locator opening is slotted.

17. The system of claim 8 wherein said inner tile element comprises a face having an exterior surface covered by a decorative membrane.

18. The system of claim 8 wherein said inner tile element comprises a flexible cross-shaped brace having a pair of generally perpendicular horizontal and vertical arms and a customizable tile frame, each of said horizontal and vertical arms having an inwardly curved lip at each end thereof, wherein said tile frame is securely received in said brace.

19. The system of claim 18 wherein said vertical arm has at least one locator opening shaped to receive and securely hold one of said pins.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of the filing date pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/475,122, filed May 30, 2003, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field

The present invention generally relates to a wall system and in particular to a wall system for use in a work environment. More particularly, the present invention relates to a wall system having a flexible frame and tiles mounted therewith.

2. Background Information

Typically, wall panel systems are used to divide office space into separate workspaces. For example, Herman Miller, Inc., the assignee of the present application, manufactures and sells two such work space management systems: the ACTION OFFICES® system and the ETHOSPACE® system. Those systems commonly include rigid wall panels having an internal frame made from roll-formed or extruded material with a sheet of wall board or comparable material adhesively attached to the side of the metal frame. Each side of the wall panel usually is covered with a fabric that is either bonded to the frame, or attached with an elastic band, so as to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance to the user.

Adjacent wall panels in those systems typically are connected to one another with a variety of connector assemblies. For example, wall panels placed end-to-end commonly are connected to each other, while wall panels oriented perpendicular to each other in a two-way, three-way or four-way configuration typically are connected to a corner post located at the junction of the intersecting panels.

BRIEF SUMMARY

In one aspect of the invention, a wall system comprising a flexible frame and modular tile assemblies is provided. The flexible frame includes a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel vertical posts and a plurality of spaced apart, generally parallel support members mounted with the vertical posts and pivotally connected to each other. The modular tile assemblies are removably mounted with the frame on the vertical posts and the support members

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view the flexible tile wall system;

FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of the flexible tile wall system;

FIG. 3 is a front partial perspective view of the flexible tile wall system;

FIG. 4 is a rear partial perspective view of the flexible tile wall system;

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of the frame;

FIG. 6 is a partial top view of the flexible tile wall system;

FIG. 7 is an exploded view of the vertical post secured to a ceiling portion;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the flexible tile wall system showing alternative structures mounted with the frame;

FIG. 9 is a front perspective view of the outer tile element;

FIG. 10 is a rear perspective view of the outer tile element;

FIG. 11 is a rear plan view of the outer tile element;

FIG. 12 is a side view of the outer tile element;

FIG. 13 is a front perspective view of the inner tile element;

FIG. 14 is a rear perspective view of the inner tile element;

FIG. 15 is a rear plan view of the inner tile element;

FIG. 16 is a side view of the inner tile element;

FIG. 17 is an exploded view of an alternative embodiment of the tile assembly;

FIG. 18 is a side view of the alternative embodiment of the tile assembly joined together;

FIG. 19 is an exploded view of an alternative embodiment of the outer tile element;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the flexible tile wall system showing images projected thereon; and

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the flexible tile wall system showing partial mounting of tile assemblies.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings, FIGS. 1 and 2 show a flexible tile wall system 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The wall system 10 includes a flexible structural frame 12 and modular tile assemblies 14 adapted for mounting therewith.

The frame 12 includes a plurality of spaced apart and generally parallel vertical posts 16 and a plurality of spaced apart and generally parallel support members 18. The support members 18 are mounted with the vertical posts 16 and are interconnected to each other as described in detail further below.

Referring to FIGS. 3-6, the vertical posts 16 are generally hollow and rigid and have a rectangular cross-section. Each vertical post 16 includes a pair of substantially flat front and rear walls 20, 22 and a pair of side walls 24. The side walls 24 extend laterally between the front wall 20 and rear wall 22. Preferably, the vertical posts 16 are made of gauge steel sheet metal and are roll formed. However, it should be understood that other materials, such as plastic could also be used. Each vertical post 16 includes a pair of top and bottom end portions 26. Each end portion 26 includes a base 30 that is coupled to the vertical post 16, for example by threading a threaded portion of base 30 into a threaded opening formed by the walls of the vertical post 16. Alternatively, the base 30 is formed integrally with the walls of a vertical post 16. Each end portion 26 also includes a threaded stud 32 that is fixedly attached to the base 30, for example by a weld, and extends outwardly from the base.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the frame 12 is supported on and spaced apart from a floor by a support leg 34 attached to each vertical post 16. Preferably, the support leg 34 has a threaded opening that is shaped to receive and threadably engage the threaded stud 32 extending from the bottom end portion 26 of a vertical post 16. The support leg 34 can be removably attached to the vertical post 16 by rotating it relative to the threaded stud 32.

Referring to FIG. 7, the frame 12 is secured to a ceiling portion 40 using ceiling support plates 42, which are removably attached to the vertical posts 16 as described below. A receiving hole 44 is positioned through the ceiling portion 40 and is shaped to receive the threaded stud 32 without play. A threaded washer 46 engages the lower portion of the threaded stud 32 at the base 30. The threaded stud 32 is received in the receiving hole 44 until the threaded washer 46 engages the ceiling portion 40, whereby the threaded washer provides a contact surface for the ceiling portion so as to prevent lateral movement. A ceiling support plate 42 is positioned over the ceiling portion 40. The plate 42 defines a securing hole 48 that is adapted to receive the upper portion of the threaded stud 32, which extends upwardly through the receiving hole 44 in the ceiling portion 40. A nut 50 threadably engages the upper portion of the threaded stud 32 until the ceiling portion 40 is secured between the ceiling support plate 42 and the threaded washer 46. It should be understood that alternative embodiments, such as reusable adhesive materials or VELCRO® brand fasteners, straps or tapes, could be used to secure the frame 12 to a ceiling portion 40.

As shown in FIG. 5, a plurality of spaced apart mounting openings 52 are positioned through each vertical post 16 along its vertical centerline. In this way, a uniform appearance is provided from post to post when the support members 18 and tile assemblies 14 are mounted with the vertical posts, as described further below. Each opening 52 is configured to receive a pin 54 without play for mounting the support members 18 with the vertical posts 16 as described further below. The pin 54 includes a pair of circular head portions 56 connected by a cylindrical body 58. The head portions 56 are dimensioned to have a diameter greater than the body 58. The pin 54 is preferably made of steel, although it should be understood that other materials, including other types of metal, plastic or wood, would also work. It should also be understood that the term “pin” as used herein is meant to include a dowel, bolt, peg, rivet or similar mechanical fastener. Moreover, the term “opening” as used herein is meant to include a hole, recess, bore, hollow, notch or similar passage shaped to receive the body of a pin without play.

Each support member 18 includes a plurality of cross-shaped configurations 60 that are joined end-to-end in a linear arrangement. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the cross-shaped configurations 60 of a support member 18 may be integrally formed or may be separately joined together to form a support member 18. A plurality of spaced apart pass-through openings 62 are formed through each support member 18 along its vertical centerline and are shaped to receive the body of the pins 54 without play. The pass-through openings 62 are spaced apart at the same distance as the mounting openings 52 of a vertical post 16. The pass-through openings 62 are provided to mount the support member 18 with a vertical post 16 such that there is equal overhang of the support member 18 on each side of the vertical post 16. When a support member 18 is positioned over the front wall 20 of a vertical post 16 such that the pass-through openings 62 of the support member 18 are aligned with the mounting openings 52 of the vertical post, each mounting and pass-through opening pair receives a pin 54 to center the support member 18 on the vertical post 16.

As shown in FIGS. 3-6, each cross-shaped configuration 60 has a pair of arm portions 64 extending outwardly in opposite directions from the vertical centerline of the support member 18. When the support members 18 are installed on the vertical posts 16, the arm portions 64 of adjoining support members 18 are positioned end-to-end. Linking members 66 are attached to the ends of the arm portions 64 of the support members 18 for hingedly connecting adjoining support members 18 together. Preferably, the linking members 66 are a living hinge made of a flexible plastic, such as polypropylene and polyethylene. The linking members 66 can be adhesively bonded to the arm portions 64. Alternatively, the linking members 66 can be mechanically fastened to the arm portions 64, for example, by using rivets or screws. However, it should be understood by one skilled in the art that other linking members 66, such as mechanical hinges, could be used. When the linking members 66 are attached to the arm portions 64, adjoining support members 18 are interconnected together and can pivot about the vertical centerline of the linking members 66 connecting the adjoining support members 18. In this way, the frame 12 can be flexed and positioned in various geometric configurations to divide a workspace into multiple areas, as shown in FIG. 8.

As shown in FIGS. 1-2, a plurality of modular tile assemblies 14 is mounted with the frame 12 for visual and/or acoustical privacy. Each tile assembly 14 includes an outer tile element 70 and an inner tile element 100. Referring to FIGS. 9-12, the outer tile element 70 has a generally rounded square periphery in frontal view. It should be understood that alternative oblong tile designs, including curved, rectangular and circular, are also possible. The face 72 of the outer tile element 70 has a convex profile in rear view, for example a generally paraboloid profile, such that the edges 74 of the element define an outwardly facing recess 76. Preferably, the outer tile element is molded of fire-rated or non-combustible plastic. However, it should be understood that other materials, such as wood or aluminum, could also be used. The recess 76 of the outer tile element 70 receives a cross brace 78 for mounting the element with a vertical post 16. Preferably, the cross brace 78 is integrally molded with the outer tile element 70. Alternatively, the cross brace 78 is molded separately and is attached to the interior surface by an adhesive or is press-fit into an interference fit within the edges 74 of the outer tile element 70. The cross brace 78 includes integral horizontal and vertical cross members 80 and 82. The vertical cross member 82 includes a pair of generally parallel vertical side walls 84 that extend in the recess 76 between opposite edges 74 of the outer tile element 70. The horizontal cross member 80 includes two pairs of generally parallel horizontal side walls 86 that extend into the recess 76 from the horizontal cross member to the other opposite edges 74 of the outer tile element 70.

A mounting surface 88 connects the vertical side walls 84 of the vertical cross member 82. The mounting surface 88 extends substantially in the same plane as the edges 74 of the outer tile element 70 or slightly below. A pair of locator openings 90 is formed in the mounting surface along the vertical centerline of the outer tile element 70. The locator openings 90 are spaced apart at the same distance as the mounting openings 52 of the vertical posts 16. The locator openings 90 are slotted along the vertical direction to receive and securely hold the pins 54 for mounting the outer tile element 70 with the rear wall 22 of a vertical post 16. It should be understood that the shape and configuration of the outer tile element 70 as described above is meant to be illustrative, rather than limiting, and that other fastening means, such as press-fit rubber plugs, may be used to removably mount the outer tile element 70 with the vertical posts 16.

Referring to FIGS. 13-16, the periphery of the inner tile element 100 also has a generally rounded square periphery and is dimensioned substantially the same as the outer tile element 70 to provide visual symmetry. Preferably, the inner tile element 100 is molded of plastic. However, it should be understood that other materials, such as wood or composites, could also be used.

The inner tile element 100 includes a generally planar face 102. The face 102 has a ribbed exterior surface 104 that is intended for viewing. A series of concentric indentations 106 are formed on the exterior surface 104 of the face 102 to provide sound attenuation. The inner tile element 100 also includes an inwardly facing rim 108 that extends perpendicularly from the face 102 and runs around the perimeter of the inner tile element 100. The rim 108 forms a recessed cavity 110 for receiving a mounting flange 112. Preferably, the mounting flange 112 is molded in the recessed cavity 110. The mounting flange 112 is generally a rectangular shape with a pair of notched vertical edges 114 configured to receive ribs 116 formed by the indentations 106. A support surface 118 connects the vertical edges 114 of the mounting flange 112. The support surface 118 extends substantially in the same plane as the edge of the rim 108 or slightly below. A pair of locator openings 120 is formed in the support surface 118 along the vertical centerline of the inner tile element 100. The locator openings 120 are spaced apart at the same distance as the mounting openings 52 of the vertical posts 16. The locator openings 120 are slotted along the vertical direction to receive and securely hold the pins 54 for mounting the outer tile element 70 with the rear wall 22 of a vertical post 16.

As shown in FIGS. 1-4 and 6, the interior surfaces of the outer and inner tile elements 70 and 100 are concealed from view when the tile assemblies 14 are arranged on the frame 12. In particular, support members 18 are mounted with the front walls 20 of vertical posts 16 using the pins 54 received in the mounting openings 52 and pass-through openings 62. Each outer tile element 70 is positioned substantially flush with a rear wall 22 of a vertical post 16 such that the locator openings 90 are aligned with the mounting openings 52 of a cross-shaped configuration 60 of the vertical post. Each locator opening 90 includes a circular region 92 connected to an upwardly extending slot 94. The circular region 92 is dimensioned to closely receive the head 56 of a pin. The slot 94 is dimensioned to closely receive the body 58 of a pin in the lateral or horizontal direction without play so as to locate the outer tile elements 70 on the vertical posts 16. In operation, a pin 54 is received in the circular region 92 of a locator opening 90. The outer tile element is then slid downwardly such that the body 58 of the pin is received in the slot 94 and the head 56 of the pin is securely engaged by the slot.

The inner tile elements 100 are located on the support members 18 and mounted with the front walls 20 of the vertical posts 16 using locator openings 120 having a circular region 122 connected to an upwardly extending slot 124 and the pins 54 in a similar manner as described above. Moreover, the outer and inner tile elements 70 and 100 are removed from the frame 12 by sliding the elements upward until the locator openings 90 and 120 receive the head portions 56 of the pins 54, such that the tiles can be removed from the frame 12. In this way, the outer and inner tile elements 70 and 100 form interchangeable tile assemblies that allow the wall system 10 to be easily reconfigured.

Although the mounting openings 52 are shown as being located along the centerline of each vertical post 16, it should be understood that the openings could be located off the center line in a linear or a nonlinear vertical configuration and still function to mount the support member 18 and the tiles with the vertical post 16. Also, it should be understood that the locator openings of the outer and inner tile elements 70 and 100 could assume other shapes, including for example a triangular shape, so long as they receive and securely hold the pins 54. Moreover, it should be understood that one or more locator openings, and preferably more than one, can be used to locate, the outer tile element 70 on the rear wall 22 of a vertical post 16, and that the disclosure of two locator openings is meant to be illustrative, rather than limiting.

The wall system 10 is highly flexible and sub-architectural such that it may be suited or adapted to a wide variety of functional purposes, including space division, association with other areas and objects, and communication of information, according to preferred and other alternative embodiments.

In one embodiment, the exterior surface of the inner tile element 100 is covered by an exterior membrane 126 that is intended for viewing. The exterior membrane 126 may be constructed from various materials having different graphics display, corporate logos, messaging text, colors and patterns. The exterior membrane 126 may be attached to the outer tile element exterior surface by an adhesive, such as a hot-melt thermoplastic or thermoset adhesive.

Referring to FIGS. 17-18, an alternative construction of the modular tile assembly 130 includes a flexible cross-shaped brace 132 having a pair of perpendicular horizontal and vertical arms 134 and 136. Preferably, the brace 132 is made of injection molded plastic. However, it should be understood that machine formed plastic or other materials, including metal and wood, would also work. The vertical arm 136 has a generally convex shape and a pair of inwardly curving ends. Preferably, a first connector 140 having a cylindrical shape is connected at one end and a second connector 142 having a semi-cylindrical shape is connected at the opposite end of the vertical arm 136. The second connector 142 of a vertical arm 136 is adapted to receive the first connector 140 of another vertical arm for pivotally connecting a pair of adjoining tile assemblies 130 in a vertical direction, so as to a form a free standing partition of tile assemblies 130. The vertical arm 136 may also be mounted to a vertical post 16 in a manner similar to that described above for the support members 18. For example, the vertical arm may have a pair of holes formed therethrough along its vertical centerline. The holes are spaced apart at the same distance as the mounting openings 52 of the vertical posts 16 and are adapted to receive and securely hold the pins 54 for mounting the brace 132 to the front wall 20 of a vertical post 16.

Likewise, the horizontal arm 134 has a generally convex shape and a pair of inwardly curving ends. Preferably, a first connector 144 having a cylindrical shape is connected at one end and a second connector 146 having a semi-cylindrical shape is connected at the opposite end of the horizontal arm 134. The second connector 146 of a horizontal arm 134 is adapted to receive the first connector 144 of another horizontal for pivotally connecting adjoining tile assemblies 130 in the horizontal direction.

The tile assembly 130 also includes an outer tile element 150 and an inner tile element 152. The outer tile element 150 has a generally rounded square periphery and a generally convex shape. Again, it should be understood that alternative oblong tile designs, including curved, rectangular and circular, are also possible. Preferably, the outer tile element 150 is made of lightweight molded plywood. However, it should be understood that other materials, such as plastic, could also be used. The outer tile element 150 is removably mounted with the brace 132 over its outer surface. Alternatively, the outer tile element is removably mounted with the rear wall 22 of a vertical post 16 over the outer surface of the brace 132. For example, the outer tile element 150 may have locator openings that are spaced apart at the same distance as the holes of the cross brace 130 and are slotted along the vertical direction to receive and securely hold the pins 54. However, it should be understood that other attaching means, including reusable adhesive materials or VELCRO® brand fasteners, straps or tapes, may be fixed to the outer tile element 150 and the brace 132 for detachably securing the outer tile element to the brace.

The inner tile element 152 has a generally rounded square periphery and a generally concave shape. The inner tile element may be constructed from a variety of layers of different material. Some exemplary embodiments of the inner tile element 152 include a felt layer over a foam sound baffle layer, a molded rubber faux grass layer, a pressure-formed birch or cedar plywood layer, a spiral bamboo layer, an opaque or mirrored vacuum-formed styrene layer, and a die-cut and resin-coated molded recycled paper fiber layer. The inner tile element 152 may be removably attached to the brace 132 using strips of reusable adhesive material or VELCRO® brand fasteners, straps or tapes. Alternatively, the inner tile element 152 may have locator openings that are spaced apart at the same distance as the holes of the cross brace 130 and are slotted along the vertical direction to receive and securely hold the pins 54, so as to securely couple the inner tile element 152 and the brace 132.

In another embodiment, the inner tile element 152 includes a sheer mesh tile 154 with a snap-on image tile 158, as shown in FIG. 19. The sheer mesh tile 154 is detachably secured to the inner surface of the brace 132. For example, the brace 132 is flexed such that the sheer mesh tile 154 is inserted between the connectors 140, 142, 144 and 146. When the brace 132 is released, the connectors hold the outer frame 156 of the sheer mesh tile 154 in place over the brace 132. The snap-on image tile 158 includes a frame 160 shaped in the form of a U channel. The frame 160 of the snap-on image tile 158 is dimensioned to receive the outer frame 156 of the sheer mesh tile 154 in a close fit. In this way, the snap-on image tile 158 is removably attached to the sheer mesh tile 154. Various decorative and informational inserts 162 may be fitted between the lower and upper frame members 142, 144, including inserts having different graphics display, corporate logos, messaging text, colors and patterns.

In yet another embodiment, the wall system 10 includes the flexible structural frame 12, the modular tile assemblies 14 and a variety of structures 150 adapted for mounting with the frame, as shown in FIG. 8. The structures 150 may be functional devices, including electronic display screens, speakers and passive or active sound attenuations devices. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the structures 150 may be provided with various brackets or flanges having locator openings that receive the pins 54 for mounting the structures with the vertical posts 16 as described above. The tile assemblies 14 and structures 150 may be arranged on the frame 12 in a wide variety of combinations.

In yet another embodiment, the tile assemblies 14 and 130 of a wall system 10 may receive and display images projected from one or more sources, as shown in FIG. 20. Individual tile assemblies can display separate images or a plurality of tile assemblies may a projections screen for displaying a larger image. Alternatively, the tile assemblies of a wall system 10 may be mounted or removed in various combinations of inner and outer tile elements, so as to provide different configurations for the wall system 10 having partial coverage of tile assemblies, as shown in FIG. 21.

It is important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the flexible wall system in the exemplary embodiments is illustrative only. Although only a few exemplary 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 in the exemplary embodiments (such as variations in sizes, structures, shapes and proportions of the various elements, values of parameters, mounting arrangements, use of materials, orientations, colors, combinations of shapes, etc.) without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the invention. It is therefore intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, that are intended to define the spirit and scope of this invention.