Title:
Work surface with extendable and retractable storage compartments
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A desk or other piece of furniture having a horizontal work surface and at least one retractable storage compartment. The storage compartment is movable between a retracted or closed position and an extended or opened position. When in the retracted position the horizontal top of the storage compartment is substantially planar with the horizontal work surface. When in the extended position and when moving between the retracted position and the extended position the horizontal top of the storage compartment is substantially parallel to the horizontal work surface. Optionally a wire management system is used to extend one or more electrical cables between the storage compartment and the area below the work surface.



Inventors:
Doane, Thomas A. (Carmel, IN, US)
Hartings Jr., Andrew F. (Jasper, IN, US)
Shaw, Gary D. (Lawrenceville, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/965970
Publication Date:
03/03/2005
Filing Date:
10/15/2004
Assignee:
DOANE THOMAS A.
HARTINGS ANDREW F.
SHAW GARY D.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B17/02; (IPC1-7): A47B17/00; A47B19/00; A47B27/00; A47B81/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20030102783Disk storage caseJune, 2003Hasemi
20050146253Locker pocket organizerJuly, 2005Kepart
20030038564Cabinets for handling toxic or sterile materialsFebruary, 2003Drinkwater
20090039744STORAGE SYSTEM, STORAGE PANEL, AND STORAGE WALLFebruary, 2009Kondo et al.
20040207298Work storage unitOctober, 2004Rodon et al.
20040104647Modular mobile strorage systemJune, 2004Nemec et al.
20030111938Swivel machine compartmentJune, 2003Delorenzo et al.
20090241454OUTDOOR ENCLOSURE LOUVER SYSTEMOctober, 2009Yeh et al.
20090066199Cassette for a towel dispenser and towel dispenser for use of such a cassetteMarch, 2009De Jong et al.
20090284110OVERHEAD STORAGE SYSTEM HAVING TELESCOPIC STORAGE CONTAINERNovember, 2009Mascari
20080246286PIEZO ACTUATED SLIDE LATCHING MECHANISMOctober, 2008Ostrowski



Primary Examiner:
WILKENS, JANET MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
1. A work surface and retractable storage combination, comprising: a horizontal work surface having an area and having at least one opening defined in the area; at least one storage compartment having a horizontal top surface and movable between a retracted position located below said horizontal work surface and an extended position located above said horizontal work surface; a lifting mechanism operable to move said storage compartment between said retracted position and said extended position; wherein said storage compartment top surface is substantially planar with said horizontal work surface when said storage compartment is in said retracted position; wherein said storage compartment passes through said at least one opening in said horizontal work surface when moving between said retracted position and said extended position; and, a flexible conduit having at least two ends, with at least one upper end in communication with said storage compartment and having at least one lower end located below said work surface.

2. The combination of claim 1 wherein said conduit encloses at least one electrical cable.

3. The combination of claim 2 wherein said conduit encloses a plurality of electrical cables.

4. The combination of claim 1 comprising a connector panel mounted in said storage compartment adjacent said at least one upper end of said conduit.

5. The combination of claim 4 wherein said conduit encloses a plurality of electrical cables engaged to said connector panel.

6. The combination of claim 4 further comprising a second connector panel adjacent said at least one lower conduit end.

7. The combination of claim 6, wherein said conduit encloses a plurality of electrical cables operably connected between connector plugs on said first connector panel and corresponding connector plugs on said second connector panel.

8. The combination of claim 5, wherein said lifting mechanism comprises a sliding scissors assembly.

9. The combination of claim 5, wherein said lifting mechanism is powered.

10. The combination of claim 9, wherein said powered lifting mechanism comprises at least one powered lifting column.

11. The combination of claim 1, wherein said storage compartment comprises an inner shell and an outer shell, wherein said inner shell is received within said outer shell in a stored configuration and wherein said inner shell is selectively horizontally adjustable forward of said outer shell.

12. The combination of claim 11, wherein said inner shell is mounted to said outer shell with a horizontal adjustment mechanism.

13. The combination of claim 12, wherein said horizontal adjustment mechanism comprises a scissors arrangement.

14. An article of furniture comprising: a horizontal work surface; at least one base member to support said work surface; at least one storage compartment movable between a retracted position located below said work surface and an extended position located above said work surface; a powered lifting mechanism operable to move said storage compartment between said retracted position and said extended position; wherein said storage compartment is substantially flush with said horizontal work surface when said storage compartment is in said retracted position; wherein said storage compartment raises a portion of said horizontal work surface when moving between said retracted position and said extended position; and, a flexible wire management system extending between said storage compartment and said base member below said work surface.

15. The article of furniture of claim 14, wherein said wire management comprises at least one electrical cable having an upper end in communication with said storage compartment and a lower end terminating below said work surface.

16. The article of furniture of claim 15, comprising a connector panel mounted to said storage compartment and engaged to said upper end of said at least one electrical cable.

17. The article of furniture of claim 16, comprising a second connector panel engaged to said lower end of said electrical cable.

18. The article of furniture of claim 17, wherein said second connector panel is mounted to said at least one base member.

19. The article of furniture of claim 18, wherein said second connector panel is mounted within a compartment in said at least one base member.

20. The article of furniture of claim 18, comprising a plurality of electrical cables extending from a plurality of connectors on said first connector panel to a second corresponding plurality of connectors on said second connector panel.

21. The article of furniture of claim 20, wherein said wire management system comprises a flexible conduit extending from said storage compartment to below said work surface and enclosing said plurality of electrical cables.

22. The article of furniture of claim 21, wherein said plurality of connectors in said first connector each form a male or female connector point and wherein the corresponding connectors in said second panel each form the opposite of the corresponding male or female connector point.

23. The article of furniture of claim 14, wherein said lifting mechanism includes a first scissors arm and a second scissors arm connecting with a pivot point along their length, wherein an upper end of said first scissors arm and a lower end of said second scissors arm are pivotally connected to fixed anchor points on said storage compartment and adjacent said work surface respectively, wherein a lower end of said first scissors arm is pivotally connected to a lower track and slide anchor system adjacent said work surface, and wherein an upper end of said second scissors arm is pivotally connected to an upper track and slide anchor system on said storage compartment.

24. The article of furniture of claim 14 wherein said powering lifting mechanism comprises at least one lifting column.

25. The article of furniture of claim 24 wherein said powering lifting mechanism comprises at least two lifting columns.

26. The article of furniture of claim 25 wherein said at least two lifting columns are mounted to said storage compartment adjacent opposing sides of said storage compartment.

27. The article of furniture of claim 26 wherein each said lifting column includes a lower base and vertical column portion mounted to a frame portion of said piece of furniture, a bracket portion mounted to said storage compartment and said column portion, and an actuator to raise and lower said bracket portion along said vertical column portion.

28. The article of furniture of claim 14, wherein said storage compartment comprises an inner shell and an outer shell, wherein said inner shell is received within said outer shell in a stored configuration and wherein said inner shell is selectively horizontally adjustable forward of said outer shell with a horizontal adjustment mechanism.

29. The article of furniture of claim 28, wherein said horizontal adjustment mechanism comprises a scissors arrangement.

30. A desk, comprising: a horizontal work surface mounted on a desk frame, said work surface having at least one opening and defining an area below said work surface; at least one storage compartment movable between a retracted position below said work surface and an extended position located above said horizontal work surface; a powered scissors lifting mechanism operable to move said storage compartment between said retracted position and said extended position; wherein said scissors lifting mechanism includes a first scissors arm and a second scissors arm connecting with a pivot point along their length, wherein an upper end of said first scissors arm and a lower end of said second scissors arm are pivotally connected to fixed anchor points on said storage compartment and said desk respectively, wherein a lower end of said first scissors arm is pivotally connected to a lower track and slide anchor system on said desk frame, and wherein an upper end of said second scissors arm is pivotally connected to an upper track and slide anchor system on said storage compartment; wherein said storage compartment has a top surface which is substantially planar with said horizontal work surface when said storage compartment is in said retracted position; a first connector panel mounted within said storage compartment with a first plurality of connectors; a second connector panel mounted within said area below said work surface with a second plurality of connectors; a plurality of electrical cables extending from said first plurality of connectors on said first connector panel to corresponding connectors from said second plurality of connectors on said second connector panel; and, a flexible conduit extending between said first connector panel and said second connector panel and enclosing said plurality of electrical cables.

31. The desk of claim 30, wherein said desk frame comprises at least two base portions in said area below said work surface.

32. The desk of claim 31, wherein said second connector panel is mounted within a compartment defined in one of said base portions.

33. The desk of claim 30, comprising a kick panel pivotally mounted below said work surface and oriented in a closed position to conceal at least one of said lifting mechanism or said flexible conduit.

34. The desk of claim 30, wherein said powered scissors lifting mechanism comprises an electric motor and a worm gear configured to selectively extend and retract said lower track and slide anchor system.

35. The article of furniture of claim 30, wherein said storage compartment comprises an inner shell and an outer shell, wherein said inner shell is received within said outer shell in a stored configuration and wherein said inner shell is selectively horizontally adjustable forward of said outer shell with a horizontal adjustment mechanism.

Description:

This application claims priority to and incorporates by reference U.S. application Ser. No. 10/365,144 filed Feb. 12, 2003, and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/356,218 filed Feb. 12, 2002.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to desks and cabinets and more particularly to desks and cabinets having extendable and retractable storage compartments.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many pieces of furniture such as desks, credenzas, cabinets, dressers or counters have workspace surfaces. During normal use, these workspace surfaces can accumulate files, papers, books and other materials and equipment. Over time the accumulation of these materials can interfere with the use of the workspace, making it difficult to find space for new projects and presenting an untidy and disorganized appearance.

For example, a variety of desk designs, particularly computer workstations, have been developed to address the problem of storing work materials and equipment so they are easily accessible when needed while maximizing the amount of available workspace when they are not in use. Desks such as those shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,199,773 to Price, Jr. et al. And U.S. Pat. No. 5,364,177 to Ugalde include computer monitor compartments which allow a CRT monitor to be stored within the desk when not in use thereby increasing the desktop workspace available. One disadvantage of these designs is that the portion of the desktop covering the CRT monitor compartment pivots up at an angle relative to the remaining portion of the desktop when the CRT monitor is moved from the stored position to the viewable position. This forces the user to remove materials from this portion of the desk workspace before moving the CRT monitor to the viewable position to prevent materials from falling off the desktop.

Computer workstations and television stands such as those designed by Summerlift Industries of Stuart, Fla. raise the entire workspace when the stored monitor or television is moved into the viewable position from the stored position. This design prevents the user from accessing and using any portion of the workspace while the video device is in the viewable position. Additionally, these types of storage units frequently lack adequate leg space for a seated user.

Thus there is a need for furniture having a work surface and storage compartments which are retractable so as to allow for use and access to the work surface.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The invention is set forth in the claims below, and the following is not in any way to limit, define or otherwise establish the scope of legal protection. In general terms, the present invention relates to a desk, counter or other piece of furniture having a horizontal work surface with at least one opening therethrough and at least one storage compartment.

One embodiment of the present invention comprises a desk having a horizontal work surface with an opening comprising less than half of the area of the work surface and allowing passage of a storage compartment therethrough. The storage compartment includes a horizontal top surface and is movable between a first, retracted position below said work surface and a second, extended position located above said work surface. The horizontal top surface of the storage compartment is substantially planar with the work surface when the storage compartment is in the retracted position. Certain preferred embodiments of the present invention incorporate a wire management system from the storage compartment to below the work surface.

In a further embodiment of the present invention the piece of furniture includes a horizontal work surface having more than one opening therethrough and more than one storage compartment.

Further objects, embodiments, forms, benefits, aspects, features and advantages of the present invention may be obtained from the description, drawings, and claims provided herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a desk having a storage compartment according to one embodiment of the present invention in the closed position.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the desk shown in FIG. 1 having a storage compartment in the open position.

FIG. 3 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 1 along line A.

FIG. 4 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 1 along line B.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a desk having storage compartments according to another embodiment of the present invention in the closed position.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the desk shown in FIG. 5 having storage compartments in the open position.

FIG. 7 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 5 along line C.

FIG. 8 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 5 along line D.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a desk having storage compartments according to yet another embodiment of the present invention in the closed position.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the desk shown in FIG. 9 having storage compartments in the open position.

FIG. 11 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 9 along line E.

FIG. 12 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 9 along line F.

FIG. 13 is a partial cross sectional view of the desk shown in FIG. 9 along line G.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of an alternate preferred embodiment.

FIG. 15 is a rear view of the embodiment of FIG. 14.

FIG. 16 is a view of a connector panel usable in certain embodiments.

FIG. 17 is a view of a lifting mechanism used in the embodiment of FIG. 15.

FIGS. 18A and 18B are views of a storage compartment and lifting mechanism used in one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of an alternate preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For the purposes of promoting understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is hereby intended and alterations and modifications in the illustrated device, and further applications of the principles of the present invention as illustrated herein being contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.

The present invention provides a piece of furniture having extendable and retractable storage spaces. The present invention may be used with various types of furniture such as desks, counters, credenzas, dressers or bureaus, but is preferably integrated into office equipment such as desks or credenzas. Furniture according to the present invention may be made from a variety of suitable materials having the desired combination of strength, weight and durability such as wood, metal, plastic or stone. The present invention also contemplates the modification of existing furniture to include storage compartments according to the present invention as well as the construction of new furniture.

In certain preferred embodiments, the present invention includes one or more storage compartments which are extendable from a first, recessed or closed position which is hidden in the desk with a flush top, to a second, extended or open position for use. After the use is completed, the compartments can be returned to the closed position. Optionally, the compartments are lockable to provide secure storage of materials when in the closed position. Preferably the storage compartments are vertically moveable from the closed position to an extended position; however, horizontal movement or both vertical and horizontal movement may be incorporated in certain embodiments of the invention. It is sometimes preferable that the top of the storage compartment remains substantially parallel to the work surface of the furniture when moved between the first, closed position and the second, open position. As a further option, certain embodiments incorporate a wire management system between the storage compartment and below the work surface.

FIG. 1 shows a desk 10 having an extendable storage compartment shown generally as 70 according to one embodiment of the present invention. Certain details of the storage compartment 70 have been omitted from FIGS. 1 and 2 to improve clarity. These details have been included in FIGS. 3 and 4. The desk 10 has a work surface 20 supported by a right support 30 and a left support 40. In this particular example, the right support is comprised of an outer panel 35 and an inner panel 37. Between the outer panel and the inner panel is a plurality of sliding drawers as known in the art. Similarly the left support 40 is comprised of an outer panel 45 and an inner panel 47 between which is a plurality of sliding drawers. This is for illustrative purposes only as the present invention also contemplates desks where one or both of the left and right supports are comprised of a panel or legs without drawers. The right support 30, left support 40 and a vertical foot panel 160 (shown in FIG. 4) define the sides of a space 60 which accommodates a user's legs while seated at the desk. Optionally, the right and left supports are connected by a back panel 50 which is substantially perpendicular to the work surface 20 and forms the back of the desk 10.

The work surface 20 includes a cut out portion 73 through which the body of the storage compartment 70 may pass. Preferably the storage compartment includes a top surface 75 which is substantially parallel to the work surface 20 when the storage compartment 70 is in the retracted or closed position as shown in FIG. 1 and when in the extended or opened position as shown in FIG. 2. The storage compartment 70 includes a right side panel 85 and a left side panel 90 connected by a base panel 87 and preferably a back panel 95. Optionally one or both sides of this back panel may be covered with a writing surface such as slate or dry-erase board or with corkboard. Moving the storage compartment from the closed position (FIG. 1) to the opened position (FIG. 2) raises the top of the storage compartment 75 to a distance above the work surface. This allows the user to access the storage area 80 of the compartment 70. In this particular example the storage area is shown including a plurality of horizontal shelves. Other storage devices such as racks, hooks, bins and the like as well as surfaces such as corkboard, pegboard, slate and dry-erase board as well as combinations of storage devices and/or surfaces are also contemplated. Storage compartments are preferably configurable to store a variety of materials and equipment including, but not limited to, desktop computers, laptop computers, monitors, keyboards and other computer peripherals, personal digital assistants and handheld computers, papers, folders, binders, books and other business related materials and supplies.

The cut out portion comprises a portion of the total surface area of the work surface, preferably less than one half of the total work surface area. Restricting the size of the cut out portion relative to the total work surface area allows for use of the majority of the work surface when a storage compartment is in the extended position. Additionally, restriction of the size of the cut out portion allows the work surface to accommodate larger projects which do not have to be disturbed or moved when a storage compartment is moved between the extended position and the retracted position. For example, a cut out portion to accommodate a bookcase-style storage compartment such as that designated as 70 in FIG. 1 is preferably less than one third of the of the total work surface area. In another example, a cut out portion to accommodate a fileholder-style or laptop computer-sized storage compartment such as that designated as 270 in FIG. 5 is preferably less than one quarter of the of the total work surface area. In yet another example, a cut out portion to accommodate a telephone storage compartment such as that designated as 370 in FIG. 5 is preferably less than one eighth of the of the total work surface area.

Movement of storage compartments between the extended and retracted positions may be accomplished by a variety of powered and manual methods. In the example shown in FIG. 1, a pair of pneumatic cylinders 100 assist in raising and lowering the storage compartment as will be described subsequently in greater detail. Other embodiments of the present invention include storage compartments moved using alternative raising and lowering mechanisms such as a rack and pinion, threaded rods and collars, hydraulic cylinders and springs. The mechanisms may be manually operated or may be powered, for example, by an electric motor operated by a remote switch such as that described in greater detail in FIG. 13. Preferably the compartments are raised and lowered at a controlled rate so as not to disturb the objects previously placed on the top surface of the storage compartment or stored in the storage area. This allows the storage compartment to be moved between the extended and retracted positions without first having to remove objects from the top surface of the storage compartments. The storage compartments are also preferably guided by one or more tracks or slide assemblies as are known in the art to ensure proper alignment and leveling of the storage compartments during operation.

FIG. 3 shows a partial cross sectional view of the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 1 along line A. In this particular example, movement of the storage compartment 70 is assisted by a pair of pneumatic cylinders 100 each having a first end 110, a cylinder body 115, a shaft 116 and a second end 120. A greater or lesser number of cylinders may be used as desired depending on the size and weight of the storage compartment and the maximum weight of stored objects. The first end 110 of each cylinder 100 is attached to one side of the storage compartment 85 and 90. The second end 120 of each cylinder 100 is attached to one of two vertical supports 137 and 147. The vertical supports 137 and 147 are attached to a horizontal member 130 connecting the left support 40 and the right support 30 of the desk.

When the storage compartment 70 is moved from the retracted position (FIG. 3) to the extended position (FIG. 2) the compressed gas in the cylinder body 115 exerts a force on the cylinder shaft 116 thereby extending the length of the pneumatic cylinder 100 and biasing the storage compartment upward. When the compartment is moved to the retracted position from the extended position, the gas in the cylinder body 115 resists compression by the cylinder shaft 116 and slows the descent of the storage compartment into the desk. In one embodiment, the cylinders are biased to raise the storage compartment, and downward pressure on the compartment is exerted by the user to overcome the bias. In an alternate embodiment, the cylinders provide a balancing force to the weight of the storage compartment to maintain a neutral rise or fall. In this embodiment, raising or lowering of the storage compartment is accomplished by manually or mechanically applying a minimal directional force to the compartment.

Optionally, the storage compartments may include one or more securing members (FIG. 8) such as latches, hooks, pins, clasps or locks. The securing member(s) preferably prevent unwanted movement of the storage compartment between the retracted and extended positions and/or prevent unauthorized access to the storage compartments. The use of securing members allows the user to securely store valuable and sensitive equipment such as, for example, laptop computers, personal digital assistants and flatscreen computer monitors.

This is but one possible configuration for attachment of the pneumatic cylinders to the desk and the storage compartment. In an alternate embodiment the second end of each cylinder is attached to the horizontal member or to the inside panels of the left and right desk supports. In another embodiment, the first end of each cylinder is attached to the base panel of the storage compartment and the second end of each cylinder is attached to the horizontal member. Further possible combinations and configurations of lift mechanisms and storage compartments will be discussed in greater detail in the following paragraphs.

FIG. 4 shows a partial cross sectional view of the embodiment of the present invention described in FIG. 1 along line B. Movement of this particular embodiment is assisted by a pair of mechanical slides 150. Slides and slide assemblies known in the art for guiding drawers or shelves may be used to ensure the storage compartments remain straight and level while moving between the extended and retracted positions. Other guiding mechanisms such as rack and pinion and rods and collars may also be used. Generally such slides are comprised of two members: an outer rail and an inner slide. The inner slide moves back and forth within the outer rail and may optionally include wheels to further enhance operation. The slides may be made of metal, plastic, wood or other suitable materials. In this example, one member of each slide is attached to the back 95 of the storage compartment 70. The other member of each slide is optionally attached to the back of the desk 50 or to a vertical member (not shown) attached to the horizontal member 130. A vertical foot panel 160 prevents the user's feet and legs from interfering with the operation of the storage compartment while seated at the desk.

FIG. 5 shows a perspective view of a desk 201 according to another embodiment of the present invention. The desk 201 has a work surface 220 supported by a right support 230 and a left support 240. In this particular example, the right support is comprised of an outer panel 235 and an inner panel 237 between which is a plurality of sliding drawers as known in the art. Similarly the left support 240 is comprised of an outer panel 425 and an inner panel 247 between which is a plurality of sliding drawers. The right and left supports are connected by a back panel 250 which together define the sides of a space 260 which accommodates a user's legs while seated at the desk.

The work surface 220 includes a cut out portion 273 through which the body of the storage compartment 270 may pass and a cut out portion 373 through which the body of the storage compartment 370 may pass. Certain details of the storage compartments 270 and 370 have been omitted from FIGS. 5 and 6 to improve clarity. These details have been included in FIGS. 7 and 8. Preferably the storage compartments 270 and 370 include a top surface 275 and 375, respectively, which are substantially parallel to the work surface 220 when the storage compartments 270 and 370 are in the retracted or closed position as shown in FIG. 5. Also preferably the top surfaces 275 and 375 of the storage compartments 270 and 370 are substantially parallel to the work surface 220 when in the extended or opened position as shown in FIG. 6.

The storage compartment 270 includes a first storage tray 282 and a second storage tray 280 at a distance above the first storage tray. The top of the storage compartment 275, the first storage tray 282 and the second storage tray 280 are connected by four vertical supports 281. Moving the storage compartment from the closed position (FIG. 5) to the opened position (FIG. 6) raises the top of the storage compartment 275 to a distance above the work surface 220. This allows the user to access the storage trays 280 and 282 of the compartment 270.

Storage compartment 370 includes a right side panel 385 and a left side panel 390 connected by a storage panel 380 and preferably a back panel 395. Moving the storage compartment 370 from the closed position (FIG. 5) to the opened position (FIG. 6) raises the top of the storage compartment 375 to a distance above the work surface 220. This allows the user to access the storage panel 380 of the compartment 370. Optionally a hinge is included between the back panel 395 and the top of the storage compartment 375 which allows the top of the storage compartment 375 to be moved towards the back of the desk 250 allowing the user unimpeded access to objects placed on the storage panel 380. For example, a user can easily reach the buttons and handset of a telephone placed on such a storage compartment without having to first remove the telephone from the compartment.

Movement of storage compartments between the extended and retracted positions may be accomplished by a variety of powered and manual methods similar to those previously discussed. In the example shown in FIG. 5, pneumatic cylinders assist in raising and lowering the storage compartments as will be described subsequently in greater detail. Preferably the compartments are raised and lowered at a controlled rate so as not to disturb the objects previously placed on the top surface of the storage compartment or stored in the storage area.

FIG. 7 shows a partial cross sectional view of the embodiment of the present invention depicted in FIG. 5 along line C. In this particular example, movement of storage compartment 270 is assisted by a pair of pneumatic cylinders 200 each having a first end 210, a cylinder body 215, a shaft 216 and a second end 220. A greater or lesser number of cylinders may be used as desired depending on the size and weight of the storage compartment and the maximum weight of stored objects. The first end 210 of each cylinder 200 is attached to the second storage tray 280 of the storage compartment 270. The second end 120 of each cylinder 100 is attached to a horizontal support 261 connecting the left support outer panel 245 and the left support inner panel 247. The pneumatic cylinders function as previously described when the storage compartment 270 is moved between the retracted position and the extended position.

Continuing the present example, movement of storage compartment 370 is assisted by a pair of pneumatic cylinders 300 each having a first end 310, a cylinder body 315, a shaft 316 and a second end 320. A greater or lesser number of cylinders may be used as desired depending on the size and weight of the storage compartment and the maximum weight of stored objects. The first end 310 of each cylinder 300 is attached to the storage panel 380 of the storage compartment 370. The second end 320 of each cylinder 300 is attached to a horizontal support 361 connecting the right support outer panel 235 and the right support inner panel 237. The pneumatic cylinders function as previously described when the storage compartment 370 is moved between the retracted position and the extended position. Movement of the storage compartment 370 is assisted by a pair of mechanical slides 350 such as those previously described. In this example, one member of each slide is attached to each of the right side panel 385 and the left side panel 390 of the storage compartment 370. The other member of each slide is attached to one of a vertical member 335 and 337 which are attached optionally to the right support outer panel 235 and the right support inner panel 237 respectively or to the base of the work surface 221.

FIG. 8 shows a partial cross sectional view of the embodiment of the present invention described in FIG. 5 along line D. Movement of storage compartment 270 is assisted by a pair of mechanical slides 250 such as those previously described. In this example, one member of each of the first and second slides is attached to a vertical support 281 of the storage compartment 270. The other member of the first slide is optionally attached to the back of the desk 250 or to a vertical member 460 connecting the left support outer panel 245 and the left support inner panel 247. The other member of the second slide is optionally attached to a vertical member 465 connecting the left support outer panel 245 and the left support inner panel 247 or to a false drawer front 470.

Also shown in FIG. 8 is one example of a securing member which prevents unwanted movement of the storage compartment between the retracted and extended positions. In this example, the securing member, designated generally as 500, includes an activating member 505 in the form of a handle similar to the handles of the desk drawers. Other activating members may be in the form of buttons, pulls, switches and the like. The activating member is operably connected to a rod 510 which is engageable with a catch 520 mounted to storage compartment 270. The rod 510 is biased into engagement with the catch 520 by a spring 530. When the activating member 505 is pulled out, spring 530 is compressed and the rod 510 is disengaged from the catch 520 thereby allowing the storage compartment 270 to be moved into the extended position. To secure the storage compartment 270 in the retracted position, the activating member 505 is released and spring 530 biases the rod 510 into engagement with the latch 520 thereby securing the storage compartment. This is but one example of a securing member and the present invention contemplates the use of other types of securing members including latches, hooks, pins, clasps or locks to prevent unwanted movement of storage compartments and/or to prevent unauthorized access to storage compartments.

FIG. 9 shows a desk 910 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the desk 910 has a work surface 920 having a generally L-shaped configuration. One end of the work surface is supported by a right support 930 having an outer panel 935 and an inner panel 937 between which is a plurality or horizontally sliding drawers. The other end of the work surface is supported by a left support 940 having an outer panel 945 and an inner panel 947 between which is a plurality of horizontally sliding drawers. Additional support for the work surface is provided by back panels 950 and 952 which are substantially perpendicular to the work surface. Optionally, other support members for the work surface may be used as desired to provide additional support to the work surface. The right support 930, the left support 940 and the back panels 950 and 952 define a space 960 which accommodates the user's feet and legs while seated at the desk.

The work surface in this example includes three cut out portions 773, 873 and 973 through which the bodies of storage compartments 770, 870 and 970, respectively, may pass. Certain details of the storage compartments 770, 870 and 970 have been omitted from FIGS. 9 and 10 to improve clarity. These details relative to storage compartment 770 have been included in FIGS. 11 and 12. The storage compartments 770, 870 and 970 each include top surfaces 775, 875 and 975, respectively, which are substantially parallel to the work surface when the storage compartments are in the retracted (FIG. 9) and extended (FIG. 10) positions. Storage compartment 770 includes a right side panel 785 and a left side panel 790 connected by a base panel 787 and a back panel 795. Moving the storage compartment to the extended position (FIG. 10) allows the user to access the storage area 780 of the compartment. Storage compartment 870 includes a right side panel 885 and a left side panel 890 connected by a base panel 887 and a shelf panel 889. Storage compartment 970 includes a right side panel 985 and a left side panel 990 connected by a base panel 987 and a back panel 995.

Movement of the storage compartments between the extended and retracted positions may be accomplished by a variety of methods as previously described. One example of such a method is shown in FIG. 11. This is a partial cross sectional view of a portion of the desk 910 shown in FIG. 9 taken along line E which shows the operation of the storage compartment designated as 770. In this embodiment a pair of pneumatic cylinders 1000 assist in raising and lowering the storage compartments. Each cylinder includes a first end 1110, a second end 1120, a body 1115 and a shaft 1116. Operation of the cylinders has been previously described in greater detail. The first end 1110 of each cylinder is attached to one of the left side panel 790 and the right side panel 785 of the storage compartment. The second end 1120 of each cylinder is attached to one of two vertical supports 1037 and 1047 attached to a horizontal member 1130 connecting the left support 940 and a medial support 1035. Movement of the storage compartment is assisted by a pair of mechanical slides 1150 of the type previously described. One member of each slide is attached to one of each of the two vertical supports 1037 and 1047. The other member of each slide is attached to one of each of two inner side panels 1085 and 1090 of the storage compartment.

As seen in FIG. 12 which is a partial cross sectional view taken along line F, this configuration allows front panel 1185 connecting right side panel 785 and inner side panel 1085 and front panel 1190 connecting left side panel 790 and inner side panel 1090 to conceal the slides and pneumatic cylinders from the user when the storage compartment is in the extended position. Use of front panels to conceal the lift mechanism and slides enhances the aesthetic appeal of the storage compartment as well as protects the lifting mechanism from interference during operation. This configuration also protects the user from injury resulting from accidental contact with the lifting mechanism during operation. Optionally a vertical foot panel 1160 prevents the user's feet and legs from contacting the storage compartment and interfering with its operation.

Another example of a method of moving storage compartments between the extended and retracted positions is shown in FIG. 13. This is a partial cross sectional view of a portion of the desk 910 shown in FIG. 9 taken along line G which shows the operation of the storage compartment designated as 970. In this embodiment a pair of rack and pinion slides powered by an electric motor raise and lower the storage compartment. A multi-toothed rack member 1250 is mounted to each of two inner side panels 1285 and 1290 of the storage compartment 970. A pinion 1252 is operably engaged with one rack member and rotatably mounted to a first vertical support 1237. An electric motor unit 1220 having a motor 1222 and a geared drive shaft 1225 is mounted to a second vertical support 1247 such that the geared drive shaft 1225 is operably engaged with the second rack member 1249. A control cable 1223 operably connects the electric motor 1220 with a remote control unit 1200 mounted to the desk 910 as shown in FIG. 9. This control unit preferably has separate controls to command the motor to raise or lower the storage compartment 970 as desired. Optionally, the control unit further includes a locking mechanism or other security system to prevent unwanted and/or unauthorized raising and lowering of the storage compartment. In this particular example, the controls are a pair of buttons 1210 and 1215. Other controls such as toggle switched, knobs, levers, sliding switches and the like may also be used. The location of the control unit on the desk may also be altered as desired. The motor may be powered by batteries or by an external power source through a power cable (not shown).

When activated, the motor 1220 turns the geared drive shaft 1225 against the rack member 1249 thereby raising the storage compartment 970. Pinion 1252 and rack member 1250 assist in keeping the storage compartment straight and level during the raising and lowering process. Optionally, pinion 1252 may be replaced with a second electric motor (not shown) to provide additional power to raise and lower heavy storage compartments. This is one example of a powered lifting mechanism according to the present invention. The present invention also contemplates powered lifting mechanism using worm gears, threaded rods and collars, chain and gear combinations and belts driven by electric motors.

FIG. 14 shows a further preferred embodiment of the present invention, including desk 2000 representing a piece of furniture with a substantially horizontal work surface 2020. Work surface 2020 is generally mounted, for example, to a frame, base wall or similar support. An extendable storage compartment is shown generally as 2070. The desk 2000 has a work surface 2020 supported by a left base 2030 and a right base 2040. Left base 2030 and/or right base 2040 may define one or more left compartments 2035 and right compartments 2045, generally configured as drawers or cabinets. The right base 2040 and left base 2030, with any compartments, preferably define a space 2060 which accommodates a user's knees and legs while seated at the desk or work surface. Optionally a foot or kick panel 2065 forms the back of the space 2060.

The work surface 2020 includes a cut out portion 2073 through which the body of the storage compartment 2070 may pass. Preferably the storage compartment includes a top surface 2075 which is substantially parallel and flush with the work surface 2020 when the storage compartment is in the retracted or closed position. The storage compartment 2070 typically includes a right side panel 2085 and a left side panel 2090 connected by a base panel 2087 and preferably a back panel 2095. Storage compartment 2070 may optionally include dividers or shelves (not shown). Moving the storage compartment from the closed position to the open position raises the storage compartment 2070 to a distance above the work surface. This allows the user to access the storage area 2080 of the compartment 2070.

In a preferred embodiment, desk 2000 includes a wire management system 2050 in communication between storage compartment 2070 and the area below work surface 2020. Preferably the wire management system 2050 incorporates one or more electrical cables, and is flexible to manage the cables from being tangled, caught, torn or crushed as the storage compartment is extended and retracted.

In one embodiment, shown in a rear profile in FIG. 15 with the desk rear panel removed, the wire management system includes electrical cables in a flexible conduit 2055 having an upper end 2057 in communication with storage compartment 2070 and a lower end 2059 below the level of work surface 2020. In a preferred embodiment, conduit lower end 2059 is in communication with a compartment 2045 below the work surface 2020. The conduit ends are optionally secured to defined openings with grommets or similar mountings.

In one example, conduit 2055 is formed of a non-conductive, crush resistant material. Conduit 2055 is hollow and completely or partially encloses one or more electrical cables. Conduit 2055 preferably has a tubular, split or full cross-section. Wire management system 2050 optionally includes guides (not shown) to minimize movement of the conduit and cables in order to minimize tangling or crushing during extension or retraction of the storage compartment. The electrical cables are preferably enclosed in conduit 2057, but in a different embodiment of the wire management system, the conduit is omitted. The electrical cables may optionally be loose or may be bunched with ties or bands. Wire management system includes at least two ends, but alternately may include additional ends above or below work surface 2020.

Optionally, wire management system 2050 may include an upper connector panel 2077 (FIG. 16), for example, engaged to upper end 2057, and mounted within storage compartment 2070, and a similar lower connector panel, for example, engaged to lower end 2059. Each connector panel preferably includes one or more connector plugs 2048. Electrical cables in the wire management system operably connect corresponding connector plugs 2048 between the connector panels. In one option, a connector plug on one connector panel has a male connector, while the corresponding connector plug on the other connector panel has a female connector. In other options, connectors are in pairs of male or female connectors. Examples of typical connector plugs include 120 volt or 220 volt power plugs; telephone cable plugs; and computer cable plugs or ports for monitors, printers, networks, modems, a keyboard, a mouse, a personal digital assistant and other conventional computer accessories and peripherals. In one preferred embodiment, conduit 2055 incorporates shielding to insulate the cables and/or to minimize interference between the cables and/or external electromagnetic fields.

In some preferred embodiments, lower connector panel 2047 is mounted within a compartment 2045 below work surface 2020. For example, compartment 2045 may be sized to hold a computer CPU, printer or other peripherals. Compartment 2045 may optionally include a lock, an air vent or additional external connectors or openings such as to a power supply, network or telephone line. In an alternate embodiment, lower connector panel 2047 may be mounted on or adjacent kick panel 2065 or other panels in leg space 2060.

Wire management system 2050 is preferably built into a piece of furniture in initial assembly, but optionally can be retrofit to an existing configuration. Variations on wire management system 2050 may be used with any of the embodiments disclosed herein.

A preferred embodiment of a lifting mechanism for desk 2000 is illustrated in FIG. 17. In this embodiment, lifting mechanism 2100 includes a powered, sliding scissors mechanism. Mechanism 2100 includes first scissors arm 2110 and second scissors arm 2112, each arm extending between a mounting on desk 2000 to storage compartment 2070. Each scissors arm may be one piece or alternately can be two or more parallel pieces connected by one or more cross-braces.

First scissors arm 2110 and second scissors arm 2112 are connecting with a pivot point 2115 at a midpoint along their length. The upper end 2120 of first scissors arm 2110 and the lower end of second scissors arm 2212 are pivotally connected to fixed anchor points on storage compartment 2070 and desk 2000 respectively. The lower end 2126 of first scissors arm 2110 is pivotally connected to a lower track and slide anchor system 2130 in desk 2000, and the upper end 2128 of second scissors arm 2212 is pivotally connected to an upper track and slide anchor system 2132 on storage compartment 2070. One example of a track and slide includes a T-rail engaged in a corresponding slot.

In one preferred embodiment, mechanism 2100 has a one-level first and second arm scissors with one pivot point 2115. The one level mechanism preferably optimizes stability and control in raising and retracting the storage compartment. In this embodiment, pivot point 2115 is located below the approximate midpoint of the width of compartment 2070, and each scissors arm has a length, between mounting points, of approximately two-thirds of the storage compartment width. For purposes of example, a storage compartment with a width of 66 inches, is attached to two lifting arms of 41 inches each, between mounting points. In the down position, each scissors arm end is approximately 11 inches from the end of the storage compartment, while one end of each arm slides to approximately 17 inches from the end of the storage compartment in the raised position.

An electric powered motor 2140 is optionally used to extend and retract lower track and slide anchor system 2130, and by extension scissors lift 2100. As one example, motor 2140 may connect to lower track and slide anchor system using a worm gear and collar. Extension of lower track and slide anchor system 2130 causes storage compartment 2070 to retract, and contraction of lower track and slide anchor system 2130 causes storage compartment 2070 to rise. Motor 2140 preferably allows the height of storage compartment 2070 to be infinitely adjustable within an upper and lower range.

In one option, foot or kick panel 2065 conceals at least one of the wire management system and lifting mechanism 2100 in the kick panel's closed orientation. As a further option, kick panel 2065 may be pivotally mounted, for example with a piano hinge, to allow access to one of the wire management system and lifting mechanism 2100 in the kick panel's open orientation. Kick panel 2065 may include a lock to secure it in its closed orientation.

An alternate embodiment of a storage compartment 2070′ is illustrated on lifting mechanism 2100 in FIGS. 18A and 18B. Storage compartment 2070′ is vertically adjustable and optionally also incorporates horizontal movement of the storage area 2080. In this embodiment, storage area 2080 may selectively be horizontally adjusted to a forward location relative to a nested or stored configuration. As one example, storage compartment 2070′ includes an outer shell or box 2072 within which is nested an inner shell or box 2074 which defines storage area 2080. A horizontally adjustable inner shell may optionally be incorporated into various embodiments described herein.

Horizontal adjustment mechanism 2150 preferably allows inner shell 2074 to be advanced and retracted relative to outer shell 2072 continuously within a defined range. Preferably the inner shell can be placed in a defined spot and is held and supported there through friction or a mechanical stop until intentionally moved. The inner shell may be manually adjusted, or optionally may incorporate a powered adjustment mechanism.

One example of a specific horizontal adjustment mechanism 2150 between outer shell 2072 and inner shell 2074 is illustrated in FIG. 18B. In this embodiment, the horizontal adjustment mechanism 2150 incorporates a single level scissors arrangement. The scissors arrangement includes scissors arms 2152 and 2154, mounted to each other at a midpoint pivot 2155. Each scissors arm preferably has an outer shell end, 2151 and 2153 respectively, pivotally mounted to outer shell 2072. The scissors arms preferably each have an inner shell end 2157 and 2158 respectively, mounted to inner shell 2074. In one embodiment, inner shell ends 2157 and 2158 are pivotally mounted to brackets in sliding tracks 2160 defined in a lower panel 2075 of inner shell 2074.

FIG. 19 shows a further preferred embodiment of the present invention, including desk 2200 representing a piece of furniture with a substantially horizontal work surface 2220. An extendable storage compartment is shown generally as 2270. The desk 2200 has a work surface 2220 supported by a left base and a right base. The left base and/or right base may define one or more compartments 2240, generally configured as drawers or cabinets. Optionally a foot or kick panel 2265, shown in a pivotably open position on hinges, forms the back of a foot or knee space. The work surface 2220 includes a portion over the the body of the storage compartment 2270 which raises and lowers. Storage compartment 2270 is similar to those described above. Moving the storage compartment from the closed position to the open position raises the storage compartment 2270 to a distance above the work surface. This allows the user to access the storage area 2280 of the compartment 2270. In the embodiment shown, the work surface portion over storage compartment 2270 has a width approximately equal with the width of work surface 2220, wherein the entire width raises and lowers with storage compartment 2270.

An alternate preferred embodiment of a lifting mechanism 2290 for desk 2200 is illustrated in FIG. 19. In this embodiment, lifting mechanism includes one or more powered lifting units each having a bracket and vertical column portion coupled with an actuator to define a lifting column 2290. In example embodiments, one lifting unit is centrally spaced to balance the storage unit, or two or more lifting units are spaced around the storage unit. The base and vertical column portion of lifting column 2290 rests on a lower frame portion of desk 2200 and brackets on the lifting column mount between lower side panels of storage compartment 2270 and the vertical column portion. Actuation of the lifting columns raises and lowers the brackets and consequently the storage compartment in relation to the base and desk. One commercial example of a suitable lifting column is the Desklift DL1 model manufactured by Linak. In an optional embodiment, the lifting column may have two, three or more tiers with corresponding drive units and receiving sections. The tiers may be arranged to telescope within each other or stacked in series. Preferably the lifting columns are evenly spaced, for example on opposing sides of the storage compartment, and synchronized to evenly support and lift storage compartment 2270 without binding or tilting of the storage compartment.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiment has been shown and described and that all changes, modifications and equivalents that come within the spirit of the inventions disclosed are desired to be protected. The articles “a”, “an”, “said” and “the” are not limited to a singular element, and include one or more such elements.