Title:
Mating hinge for a portable structure
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates generally to a device and method to secure spherical rod ends that are used to support a portable structure, such as a tent. These improved interconnection means, which are generally hinges, are adapted to allow limited movement of the rods by way of a ball and socket type connection, thereby facilitating installation of the portable structure.



Inventors:
Fulcher, Robert A. (Grand Junction, CO, US)
Beavers, Allan E. (Grand Junction, CO, US)
Application Number:
10/988056
Publication Date:
05/12/2005
Filing Date:
11/12/2004
Assignee:
FULCHER ROBERT A.
BEAVERS ALLAN E.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/00; E04H15/32; E04H15/48; F16B7/00; F16C11/00; (IPC1-7): A47C7/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
AMIRI, NAHID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sheridan Ross PC (Denver, CO, US)
Claims:
1. A support rod interconnection system adapted for use with a flexible portable structure, the support rods having spherical ball ends interconnected thereto, comprising: a first hinge of a generally rectangular shape, comprising: a socket having a surface for engagement with a spherical ball end, an upper opening providing access to said socket, said upper opening having a dimension being equal to or greater than the diameter of the spherical ball end, a side opening providing access to said socket, said side opening having a dimension being less than the diameter of the spherical ball end; a second hinge of a generally rectangular shape for interconnection with said first hinge, comprising: a socket having a surface for engagement with a spherical ball end, an upper opening providing access to said socket, said upper opening having a dimension equal to or greater than the diameter of the spherical ball end, a side opening providing access to said socket, said side opening having a dimension less than the diameter of the spherical ball end; and wherein said first hinge is adapted to receive and rotatably secure the ball ends of at least two rods and said second hinge is adapted to receive and rotatably secure the ball ends of at least two rods, all rods having opposite ends being secured to a wall of the portable structure to form a semi ridged structure.

2. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, further comprising a pad interconnected to said second hinge, said pad having a cover that generally obstructs said upper opening of said socket of said second hinge, thereby preventing removal of the rods situated therein.

3. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, wherein said first hinge and said second hinge are constructed from at least one of a plastic, a metal, and a teflon.

4. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, wherein said first hinge includes at least two recesses to facilitate insertion of the rods into said second hinge.

5. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, wherein said first hinge includes a mating protrusion for engagement into a recess integrated into said second hinge.

6. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, wherein said first hinge includes a second hinge mating surface located a distance below the top surface thereof.

7. The support rod interconnection system of claim 1, wherein said surface situated in said socket of each of said first hinge and said second hinge is located at least about fifty percent below the top surface thereof.

8. A support assembly for a portable structure, comprising: a first hinge device with an aperture that has a seating surface positioned therein; a second hinge device with an aperture that has a seating surface positioned therein, said second hinge device interconnected to said first hinge device; a first support rod, having a first end and a second end, said first end having a generally spherical shape that is operably interconnected to said first aperture, wherein said first end is in contact with said seating surface of said first aperture and free to rotate; a second support rod, having a first and a second end, said first end having a generally spherical shape that is operably interconnected to said second hinge, wherein said first end is in contact with said seating surface of said first aperture and free to rotate; wherein said first support rod and said second support rod are oriented at a predetermined angle to form a portion of a stable skeletal structure adapted to support the portable structure.

9. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said means for interconnecting said first hinge device to said second hinge device is a selectively removable fastener.

10. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said aperture of said first hinge and said aperture of said second hinge have a tapered geometric profile, wherein the diameter thereof reduces from a length that allows said first ends of said first support rod and said second support rod to enter thereto, but be seated on a smaller diameter.

11. The support assembly of claim 8, further comprising a pad interconnected to said second hinge device, said pad having a cover that generally obstructs said aperture of said second hinge, thereby preventing removal of the support rods situated therein.

12. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said first hinge device and said second hinge device are constructed from at least one of a plastic, a metal, and a teflon.

13. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said first hinge device includes at least two recesses to facilitate insertion of the rods into said second hinge device.

14. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said first hinge device includes a mating protrusion for engagement into a recess integrated into said second hinge device.

15. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said first hinge device includes a second hinge device mating surface located a distance below the top surface thereof.

16. The support assembly of claim 8, wherein said seating surface situated in said aperture of said first hinge device and said second hinge device is located at least about fifty percent below the top surface thereof.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/519,538, filed Nov. 12, 2003, which is incorporated by reference in it entirety herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to portable support structures such as tents. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention is a hinge that is adapted for interconnection to support rods of portable tents.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Portable tents are generally constructed of a fabric material supported by a plurality of support structures, such as rods or poles. Devices and methods for connecting a plurality of rods are well known. However, there are many drawbacks to traditional support connection devices. More specifically, these devises are often difficult to install, are too heavy, are brittle, etc. In addition, many devices used to connect a plurality of rods tend to become dislodged from side walls of the tent, thus not providing sufficient lateral support. Thus, there is a long felt need in the field of portable support structure construction to provide a device and method that facilitates quick and efficient erection of the structure, and which is durable enough to be used in severe wind and inclement weather.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is thus one aspect of the present invention to provide a hinge adapted to receive and support polls or rods that are used as the primary support of a portable tent structure. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention is provided with a plurality of hinge members, each hinge member having a plurality of apertures that are adapted to receive and seat the end of a support rod. Generally, portable structures are constructed from an assemblage of fabric walls that are supported by a skeleton-like support structure. This support structure often includes a plurality of interconnected rods, or poles, that provide locations thereon to interconnect to the fabric walls. In one embodiment of the present invention, the rods include spherical ends that are adapted to interconnect with the corners of the fabric walls and a center hub system to stretch the fabric and provide a wall that is capable of withstanding shear loads. More specifically, the rods are interconnected to a wall-centered hub, or node, thus defining a crossed configuration wherein the opposite ends of the rods are interconnected to corners of the fabric wall to create a taut wall. The rods are interconnected to each other in one embodiment of the present invention by hinge members that are adapted to receive and secure the rod's spherical ends. Thus, by attaching a plurality of fabric walls, a three-dimensional structure is formed, wherein the roof thereof is supported by rods that interconnect the rod ends at the corners of the fabric walls.

It is another aspect of the present invention to provide a hinge assembly that is easily installed, thus decreasing the time it takes to erect the portable structure. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention employs hinge members that receive at least two rod ends, wherein a second similar hinge is interconnected thereto. In addition, a cap member is interconnected to the hinge members, wherein the rod's spherical ends are prevented from becoming disconnected from the hinge. The hinges employ seating locations for the rod ends that allow the rods to angulate, thus facilitating installation. The other ends of the rods are interconnected to the corners of the wall with fabric sleeves or other means. Finally, the hinge members are moved into place, generally in the center of the fabric wall, and the hinge assembly is interconnected to the wall, for example with a bolt. Upon interconnection, the rods bow slightly thus stressing the fabric and creating a taut wall.

It is yet another aspect of the present invention to provide a hinge system that is made of common materials, and is thus less expensive to manufacture. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention is constructed of cast or machined material, such as aluminum. In addition, the rods of one embodiment of the invention are constructed of fiberglass wherein the spherical end pieces are interconnected with glue, for example.

Thus, it is an aspect of the present invention to provide a support rod interconnection system for use with a portable structure, the support rods having spherical ball ends interconnected thereto, comprising:

a first hinge of a generally rectangular shape, comprising:

    • a socket having a surface for engagement with a spherical ball end,
    • an upper opening providing access to said socket, said upper opening begin equal to or greater than the diameter of the spherical ball end,
    • a side opening providing access to said socket, said side opening being less than the diameter of the spherical ball end;

a second hinge of a generally rectangular shape for interconnection with said first hinge, comprising:

    • a socket having a surface for engagement with a spherical ball end,
    • an upper opening providing access to said socket, said upper opening being equal to or greater than the diameter of the spherical ball end,
    • a side opening providing access to said socket, said side opening being less than the diameter of the spherical ball end; and

wherein said first hinge is adapted to receive and rotatably secure the ball ends of at least two rods and said second hinge is adapted to receive and rotatably secure the ball ends of at least two rods, all rods having opposite ends being secured to a wall of the portable structure to form a semi ridged structure.

The Summary of the Invention is neither intended nor should it be construed as being representative of the full extent and scope of the present invention. The present invention is set forth in various levels of detail in the Summary of the Invention as well as in the attached drawings and the Detailed Description of the Invention and no limitation as to the scope of the present invention is intended by either the inclusion or non-inclusion of elements, components, etc. in this Summary of the Invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention and together with the general description of the invention given above and the detailed description of the drawings given below, serve to explain the principles of these inventions.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a tent that employs one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a top elevation view of a hinge of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a left-cross section view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a top plan view of another embodiment of the hinge of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a front elevation view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 9 is a left cross-sectional view of the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 10 is a top plan view of two interconnected hinges of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a top plan view of two padded interconnected hinges with rods emanating therefrom;

FIG. 12 is a front elevation view of a pad of one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view showing the hinges of one embodiment of the present invention interconnected to a tent;

FIG. 14 is an exploded perspective view showing the hinges interconnected to a tent; and

FIG. 15 is a front elevation view of one embodiment of the present invention interconnected to a tent.

To assist in the understanding of the present invention the following list of components and associated numbering found in the drawings is provided herein:

#Component
 2Rod
 4First hinge
 6Second hinge
 8Socket
10Ball seat
12Ball end
14Tent
16Bolt
20Wall
22ARubber washer
22BWasher
24ACap nut
24BLock nut
26Tent fabric
28Upper openings
30Rubber grommet
32Pad
34Side opening
36Stop
38Second hinge contact surface
40Mating protrusion
42Countersink aperture
44Cover
48Aperture
50Recess
52Bowed rod
54Wall corner
56End position of rod

It should be understood that the drawings are not necessarily to scale. In certain instances, details that are not necessary for an understanding of the invention or that render other details difficult to perceive may have been omitted. It should be understood, of course, that the invention is not necessarily limited to the particular embodiments illustrated herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring now to FIGS. 1-15, one embodiment of the present invention is shown that is adapted to receive and support a plurality of portable structure support rods 2. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention comprises a combination of a first hinge 4, and a second hinge 6, each hinge including a plurality of sockets 8. The sockets 8 may vary in diameter, such that a generally spherical ball seat 10 is provided, wherein spherical endpoints 12 of the support rods 2 are rotatably secured. Support rods 2 are generally fabricated of a flexible material with an interconnected end ball 12. Preferably, the ball end 12 is constructed of a metallic material, but other materials known in the art may be used such as rubber, fiberglass, plastic, etc. The hinge mechanism is interconnected to the inside of a portable structure 14, such as a tent, by a bolt 16, wherein the bolt 16 is threaded through the first hinge 4, the second hinge 6, and the fabric wall 20. A plurality of washers 22 and nuts 24 are then used to secure the system together to prevent separation of the tent fabric 26 from the hinge assembly. Generally, hinge assemblies of one embodiment of the present invention are incorporated onto each wall 20 and the roof of a tent 14.

In order to construct a tent 14 or other structure, a user initially selects rods 2 of proper length. The rod 2 is threaded through an upper opening 28 on the top surface of the hinge. The ball end 12 of the rod 2 is then rotatably secured in the socket 8 by the ball seat 10. Once seated, the rod 2 cannot be pulled from the hinge and is able to rotate axially or tilt at an angle with respect to the top and side surfaces of the hinge. Next, a second rod with a spherical end 12 is placed in a second socket 8 of the hinge. After both mating hinges are operably interconnected to their respective rods they are interconnected. The other ends of the rods are attached to the four corners of the tent wall 20. The hinges are pushed into place adjacent to the wall 20, thereby deflecting the rods and stretching the tent wall 20 and imparting rigidity thereto. Once the tent walls 20 are in place, the bolt 16 is threaded through a rubber washer 22A on the outside of the tent fabric 26, through a rubber grommet 30 that is incorporated in the tent fabric 26, and then through the hinge. A rubber pad 32 is interconnected to the bolt 16 with a washer 22B, a lock nut 24B, and a cap nut 24A. The cap nut 24A and the rubber pad 32 will protect individuals inside the tent 14 from injury from contact with a sharp fastener, for example.

It is important to note that the arrangement of the hinge and rubber pad 32 prevent the spherical ends 12 from becoming dislodged from the sockets 8 of the hinges. More specifically, one embodiment of the present invention is assembled wherein the second hinge 6 prevents the spherical ends 12 of the rods 2 of the first hinge 4 from being displaced from the sockets 8 of the first hinge 4 because it partially closes the upper opening 28 that provides access to the socket 8. The pad 32 performs the same function with respect to the second hinge 6. This feature makes the system easy to install because the user does not have to be concerned with the spherical ends 12 becoming dislodged during installation.

It is important to note that the system as shown herein may be constructed to accommodate any number of rods 12. More specifically, a hinge with more than two sockets may be provided such that a plurality of rods may be interconnected to a single hinge. Alternatively, one skilled in the art will appreciate that any number of hinges may be interconnected to accommodate a plurality of rods.

Referring now to FIG. 1, one embodiment of the present invention is shown interconnected to a flexible support structure, such as a tent 14. In this example, a tent 14 is comprised of at least three walls 20 and a roof section. The walls 20 are supported by at least four rods 2 that intersect at a node at about the center of each wall 20. Each rod 2 also interconnects with a corner of the wall 20 wherein a second node is formed. These semi-rigid structures are used commonly in the utility repair industry where portable structures are required to provide protection from the elements.

Referring now to FIGS. 2-5, one embodiment of a first hinge 4 is shown. More specifically, a first hinge 4 of one embodiment of the present invention is shown that includes a generally rectangular body with at least two sockets 8 machined therein. The sockets include a ledge, or ball seat 10, machined therein for receipt of the ball end of the rod. The rods are threaded through the upper openings 28 that provide access to the sockets 8. Once the ball end of the rod contacts the ball seat 10, it is transitionally fixed. The user then rotates the rod upwards until it comes in contact with the body of the hinge 4. Side openings 34 are provided in the ends of the first hinge 4 wherein the width thereof is less than the diameter of the end ball. Once the user rotates the rod upwards in a position adjacent to a stop 36 provided on the hinge, the side opening 34 will prevent motion of the ball out of the first hinge 4. A second hinge contact surface 38 is also provided, which will be described in further detail below. Further, a mating protrusion 40 is provided on the upper surface of the first hinge 4 that is designed for engagement into a countersink aperture of the second hinge 6, which will be described in further detail below.

Referring now to FIGS. 6-9, a second hinge 6 is shown that is similar to the first hinge described above. The second hinge 6 includes an aperture with a countersink 42 for engagement with the mating protrusion of the first hinge. This interface allows the two hinges to rotate and provides a more robust node.

Referring now to FIGS. 10-12, the engagement of a first hinge 4 and a second hinge 6 is shown. Here, the second hinge 6 rests on a second hinge contact surface 38 of the first hinge 4 to form a cross. The mating protrusion of the first hinge 4 is engaged in the countersunk aperture of the second hinge 6. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the contact surface 38 and mating protrusion are not necessarily required, and devices which omit these features are within the scope of the invention. The second hinge contact surface 38 gives the entire system a smaller profile, thus less obstructive to the user. The protrusion and countersunk interconnection also allows the mating hinges to selectively rotate. The mating protrusion also provides an alignment means to ensure that the hinges are placed in the proper location.

With specific reference now to FIG. 11, the pad 32 may be added to the system such that the user is protected from engagements with the interconnected hinges. As also shown herein, the pad 32 includes two covers 44 that generally obstruct the upper openings of the sockets of the second hinge 6, thus preventing the ball ends 12 being removed therefrom. In addition, the pad 32 and the second hinge 6 substantially cover the upper openings that provide access to the sockets of the first hinge 4, also preventing the ball ends 12 from being removed from the sockets. Thus, once the system is fully assembled, the ball ends 12 are trapped within the sockets, wherein they are free to rotate but cannot be removed therefrom.

Referring now to FIG. 13, a perspective view showing one embodiment of the present invention interconnected to a plurality of rods 2 that support a tent is shown. More specifically, the hinges are interconnected to the inside of a tent that includes a plurality of walls 20, each with a hole therethrough. In operation, the user would initially interconnect the rods 2 to the first hinge 4 such that the ball becomes seated within the ball seat. The rods would then be rotated outwardly. Next, the same process would be performed with respect to the second hinge 6, wherein the rods are threaded through the apertures of the sockets and the rotated outwardly. The other ends of the rods would then be interconnected to the corners of the wall 20 via sleeves, for example. The second hinge 6 would be interconnected to the first hinge 4 and pushed towards the tent wall 20, thereby splaying the rods 2 outwardly. The deployed rods 2 tend to stretch the fabric of the tent such that a taut surface is provided. Finally, a plurality of bolts, washers, grommets, etc. would be threaded through the apertures of the hinges and the tent fabric to securely affix the hinge to the tent wall.

While various embodiment of the present invention have been described in detail, it is apparent that modifications and adaptations of those embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. However, it is to be expressly understood that such modifications adaptations are within the scope and spirit of the present invention, as set forth in the following claims.