Title:
Quick fence
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular fence panel and assembly. The modular fence panel has upper and lower channels. Each channel has through apertures that are equally spaced apart on the channel. Each aperture has a locking cap inserted therein for engaging the vertical picket. The locking cap, once inserted into the aperture, locks itself to the aperture. The picket, which has a spring clip inside, locks itself to the locking cap after the picket is inserted into the aperture on the channel. The spring clip prevents the picket from being removed from the channel. During assembly, the channels are first connected to vertical posts at both ends, through a pivoting connector, and then the pickets are inserted through the aligned apertures on the channels. The pivoting connector allows movements in both vertical and horizontal directions to accommodate different requirements for the fence assembly.



Inventors:
Ko, Tun-jen (Arcadia, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/881566
Publication Date:
12/29/2005
Filing Date:
06/29/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/14; E04H17/16; (IPC1-7): E04H17/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KENNEDY, JOSHUA T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Walker IP Law (New Taipei City, TW)
Claims:
1. A modular fence panel, comprising: lower and upper channels, each channel having a plurality of equally spaced apart through apertures along the length of each channel, said through apertures on said lower channel and said upper channel being aligned; a locking cap inserted into each of said through apertures on said lower and upper channels, said locking cap comprising: a sloped lock, disposed to irreversibly engage the inside of said through aperture upon insertion into said aperture of said channels; a receptacle on the outside surface of said locking cap; a plurality of vertically disposed hollow pickets arranged in mutually parallel relationship there-between, each of said pickets extending through said locking cap in said through aperture on said channel, each of said picket comprising: a spring clip longitudinally inserted into the inside of each picket at a predetermined location such that said spring clip locks into said receptacle on said upper channel.

2. The modular fence panel of claim 1, further comprising: a pair of vertical posts at both ends of said upper and lower channels; a connector, disposed to join the ends of each of said channels to said posts.

3. The modular fence panel of claim 2, wherein said connector is a pivoting connector, comprising: an open bracket, disposed to releasably engage each of said channel, said open bracket allowing vertical adjustment of each of said channel; a bracket, disposed to releasably engage said vertical post; a hinge, disposed to join said open bracket to said bracket, said hinge allowing horizontal adjustment of each of said channel.

4. The modular fence panel of claim 3, wherein said bracket is a closed bracket.

5. A modular fence assembly, comprising: a plurality of horizontal channels arranged in mutually parallel relationship, each of said channels having a plurality of through apertures positioned along the length of said channel, each through aperture on a first channel being aligned to a corresponding through aperture on a second channel; a locking cap within each through aperture, said locking cap being disposed to lock itself onto said channel upon insertion of said locking cap into said aperture, said locking cap also having a receptacle; a plurality of vertical hollow pickets arranged in a mutually parallel relationship, each of said pickets extending through said locking cap in said through aperture on each channel; a spring clip in each picket, said spring clip disposed to lock itself to said receptacle of said locking cap on a first channel upon insertion of said picket into said through aperture; a pair of vertical posts, each vertical post being removably connected to one end of said channels; a connector connecting each of said vertical posts and one end of said channel, said connector being controllably moveable in both horizontal and vertical directions.

6. The modular fence assembly of claim 5, wherein each of said locking cap is a four-sided plastic hollow structure which fits snugly into said through aperture.

7. The modular fence assembly of claim 5, wherein said connector comprises an open bracket and a closed bracket, joined by a hinge, said open bracket having a slot on each side to provide vertical movement of said channel, said hinge providing horizontal movement between said open and closed brackets.

8. The modular fence assembly of claim 5, wherein said spring clip in said picket is a V-shaped spring.

9. The modular fence assembly of claim 5, wherein said spring clip in said picket is a flattened V-shape spring.

10. A modular fence assembly, comprising: a plurality of horizontal channels, each of said channels having a plurality of equally spaced-apart apertures along the length of each channel; locking means for locking to each of said aperture on the channels; a plurality of vertical pickets, each picket having clip means within said picket for locking said picket to said locking means on at least one of said channels upon inserting said picket through said locking means.

11. A modular fence assembly of claim 10, further comprising: a pair of vertical posts; a plurality of connectors for connecting one end of each channel to one of said vertical posts.

12. A modular fence assembly of claim 11, wherein each of said connectors comprises: a horizontal bracket for engaging one of said vertical post and said channel in a horizontally adjustable position; a vertical bracket for engaging the other one of said vertical post and said channel in a vertically adjustable position.

13. A modular fence assembly of claim 10, wherein said locking cap means comprises: a cap with four sidewalls, surrounding a hollow through space; a one-way lock on one sidewall for allowing said locking cap to slide into said aperture and preventing said locking cap from being removed; a receptacle on one sidewall for engaging said clip means from said picket.

14. A method of assembling a modular fence panel, comprising: providing upper and lower channels, preparing equally spaced apart apertures on each channel; inserting a locking cap into each aperture, said locking cap locking itself to said channel upon insertion; providing a vertical picket; inserting a spring clip into said hollow picket in a position to be engaged to said upper channel; inserting said picket into said upper and lower channel such that said spring clip locks itself to said locking cap upon insertion.

15. The method of claim 14, before said vertical picket is inserted into said channels, the method comprising: preparing a vertical post for each end of said channels; connecting said channel to said posting using a connector, said connector allowing vertical adjustment and horizontal adjustment between said post and said channel.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to the field of fences and more particularly relates to modular fence panels and assemblies that can be quickly assembled.

ART BACKGROUND

Wrought iron fences are well known in the home, gardening and commercial field. In addition to serving as a security barrier for an owner's property, the fences can be used as protective fencing around swimming pools and gardens. The conventional wrought iron fences are formed by welding metal rods to upper and lower rails to form panels. Panels are joined by welding or bolting to upright posts.

While the fences are sturdy for their intended purposes, they still present some problems. One problem is that the welded areas are susceptible to rusting, even with a painted cover, or with galvanized components. Rusting, or oxidation, eventually causes the welded area to lose its structural integrity. Also, as more and more homeowners take up doing their own home improvements, stores such as Home Depot would like to carry fences that are modular, and can be easily assembled by their customers without requiring any welding. Their rationale is two-fold: The modularity of the fence panels allows the stores to minimize the different sizes of panels they have to carry. Also, the ease of assembly allows the stores to reach a broader customer base, such as those homeowners who do their projects on weekends.

To form a complete barrier assembly, conventional fence panels need to be joined to the vertical posts at both ends. However, such assembly is quite limiting, because it typically is achieved by using a straight connector between the panel and the post. Such straight connector offers very little, if any, range of movement or adjustment between the post and the fence panel.

Therefore, it is desirable to provide a picket fence panel and assembly that is quick to assemble at the job site, without requiring any welding. It is also desirable to provide a picket fence panel and components that can provide a variety of height and angular arrangements for the users based on the requirements of the location.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A modular fence panel and assembly is disclosed. The modular fence panel has upper and lower channels. Each channel has through apertures that are equally spaced apart on the channel. Each aperture has a locking cap inserted therein for engaging the vertical picket. The locking cap, once inserted into the aperture, locks itself to the aperture. The picket, which has a spring clip inside, locks itself to the locking cap after the picket is inserted into the aperture on the channel. The spring clip prevents the picket from being removed from the channel. During assembly, the channels are first connected to vertical posts at both ends, through a pivoting connector. The pivoting connector allows movements in both vertical and horizontal directions to accommodate different requirements for the fence assembly. With the channels in place and apertures aligned, the pickets are then inserted through the aligned apertures on the channels.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a simplified diagram of an exemplary modular picket fence panel 10 in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a simplified diagram of an exemplary modular picket fence panel 10 to be connected to the vertical posts 20 by connectors 22 in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 3(a) is a simplified diagram showing a locking cap 32 to be inserted into the through aperture 15 on the channel 14. FIGS. 3(b)-(d) show an exemplary locking cap in perspective, front and side plan views, respectively.

FIG. 4(a) is a simplified diagram showing a vertical picket 12 being inserted into the locking cap 32 in the aperture 15 of the channel 14. FIGS. 4(b) and (c) show a V-shaped spring clip and a flattened V-shaped spring clip, respectively.

FIG. 5(a) shows a pivoting connector 22, which can engage the vertical post 20 in different orientations. FIG. 5(b) shows the pivoting connector 22 in more detail.

FIG. 6 further illustrates the pivoting connector 22.

FIG. 7 is a simplified diagram showing the fence panels 10 being connected to the post 20 through the use of the pivoting connector 22.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A modular fence panel and fence assembly is disclosed. Although specific embodiments of the present invention is described with reference to the drawings, it should be understood that such embodiments are merely illustrative of but a small number of the many possible specific embodiments which can represent applications of the teaching of the present invention. Various changes and modifications obvious to one skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains are deemed to be within the spirit, scope and contemplation of the present invention as further defined in the appended claims.

Briefly described, the present invention is a modular picket fence panel, which can be easily assembled without the use of welding, screws, rivets or fasteners. In one embodiment of the present invention, the modular picket fence panel 10 may be assembled with a pair of horizontal upper channel 14 and horizontal lower channel 16, and several vertical, and spaced-apart pickets 12 as shown in FIG. 1. The modular picket fence panel 10 are attached to vertical end posts 20 at both ends, by using connectors such as the pivoting connectors 22, as shown in FIG. 2. As can be understood, multiple modular picket fences with their end posts 20 can be assembled into different arrangements according to the requirements, such as the shape and elevation, of the landscape or territory, as illustrated in FIG. 7. Preferably, the channels 14, 16 are first connected to the end posts 20, 22 and then each picket 12 is inserted through the aligned apertures on the channels 14, 16. As such, a user need not have the panel 10 already assembled and transported to the job site, which may require the use of a full-size pickup truck. In the unassembled state, the whole set of components, i.e. pickets, channels, posts and connectors, can be easily carried by a consumer's sedan or small pickup truck.

Referring to FIG. 1, a modular picket fence panel 10 in a basic embodiment is shown. The upper channel 14 and lower channel 16 are preferably identical. This feature makes it easy to manufacture and align, since the dimensions and specifications are the same. Each of the upper channel 14 and lower channel 16 has several apertures 15, 17, which are longitudinally equally spaced apart, for receiving the pickets 12. The pickets 12 are preferably made of solid steel-based material, hot-dip galvanized in zinc, with baked powder coating. The pickets 12 preferably have a four-sided cross section. The apertures 15, 17, are of the shape and size compatible with the cross-sectional shape and size of the pickets 12, such that the pickets may be inserted through the apertures 15, 17, preferably through a locking cap 32, as further illustrated in FIGS. 3(a)-(d). Both ends of the upper and lower channels also have apertures 13, 19 on the side of the channel and located at opposite ends, which are for engaging the channels to the posts 20.

It should be noted that the pickets may have a cross-sectional shape that is other than the typical four-sided shape. More specifically, the pickets may have a round, or oval, cross section, while the aperture 15 on the channel is also of a round shape. Alternately, a four-sided picket may work with a round aperture, provided that the locking cap 32 acts as an interface with a four-sided interior for the picket, and a round external shape for the aperture. With the use of the locking cap, the shapes of the pickets can take on any shape, and so can the aperture 15 on the channel. As such, more flexibility is offered to the manufactures and more selection is provided to the customers.

Since both the basic structures of the upper channel and lower channel are identical, only the upper channel 14 is further described herein below for illustrative purposes. Referring to FIGS. 3(a)-(d), a lock cap 32 is shown to be ready for insertion and placement into the aperture 15 on the channel 14. The locking cap 32 is preferably made of reinforced nylon material, with two sloped one-way locks 33 on opposite sidewalls and at least one aperture 34 on the sidewall (two apertures are shown in fathom lines in FIG. 3(d)). The top rim of the locking cap 32 has a projection 35, or flange, which serves as a stopper for the locking cap 32, so that the locking cap 32 cannot be pushed further, as the projection 35 will abut the top channel surface. The sloped one-way locks 33 are sized such that they can be slightly compressed inward as the locking cap 32 is inserted into the aperture 15 on the channel. After the locking cap 32 is fully inserted into the aperture 15, the sloped one-way locks 33, due to their inherent elasticity, spring back to their normal position, thus preventing the locking cap 32 from being removed from the aperture. The aperture 34, or receptacle, on the locking cap 32 is for engaging the picket 12 to the locking cap 32, as will be described below.

FIG. 4(a) shows the picket 12 ready to be inserted into the aperture 15 of the channel 14 through the locking cap 32, which is already in the aperture 15. To ensure that the picket 12 is locked in position after insertion, a spring clip 42 is used, as further illustrated in FIG. 4(b) and (c). The spring clip 42, which is preferably a V-shaped clip or a flattened V-shaped clip as shown in FIG. 4(b) and (c), respectively, is placed inside the picket 12 at a position where the picket 12 intersects the upper channel 15. The flattened V-shaped clip, due to its increased width at the flattened segment, offers a better fit to the inside of the hollow picket 12. A better fit thus contributes to more stability of the spring clip inside the picket 12. The picket 12 preferably does not need to use a spring clip 42 at its lower end to lock to the lower channel, so that the insertion of the picket can be done much faster, and simpler, from the upper channel to the lower channel. The button 43 on the spring clip 42, when compressed by the user during insertion of the picket into the locking cap, will spring back to its normal position to engage the receptacle 34 of the locking cap 32. Once engaged, the strength of the spring clip 42 keeps the picket 12 in position, preventing its movement in both directions. Also, since the receptacle 34 of the locking cap 32 is inside the channel, there is no access possible to the button 43 from the outside. As such, the picket 12, once inserted and the button locked to the receptacle 34, cannot be removed from the channels.

Reference is now to FIGS. 5 and 6. After the modular fence panel 12 is assembled, it can be connected to vertical posts, which are fixed to the ground. A vertical post 20 may use a conventional straight connector for a level or right-angled arrangement. However, such conventional straight connector is quite limited. Alternately, a pivoting connector 22 in accordance with the present invention can be used for an elevated or angled arrangement to engage the modular fence panel 12, as shown in FIG. 5(a) and (b). The pivoting connector 22 has a closed bracket 54 to embrace the post 20 and a open, U-shaped bracket 50 to engage the channel of the fence. The hinge 56 between the closed bracket 54 and the open bracket 50 allows the connector 22 to pivot in the horizontal direction, or X-axis. The slot 57 on the open bracket 50 allows the channel to adjust in the vertical direction, or Y-axis. In contrast to the conventional straight connector, the two-degree of movement allows the users to accommodate various elevation or shape requirements of the fence assembly.

To fully take advantage of the fact that the pickets are secured only to one, e.g. upper, channel, the fence assembly in accordance with the present invention may be assembled in a drastically different way from the conventional method. Since only the upper channel is secured to the pickets through the use of the locking caps, while the lower channel is not, a consumer can easily first connect both channels to the vertical posts at their two ends. Then, with the channels in place, the consumer can easily insert one picket at a time through the apertures on each channel. In contrast, a conventional fence is assembled by inserting the pickets first through the channels, which are then connected to the posts. The versatility now offered by the present invention allows the fences to be easily transported in their un-assembled component condition, instead of being transported as the assembled panels to the job site.

FIG. 7 shows two fence panels 10, connecting to the post 20 through the pivoting connector 22. As can be appreciated, the angle between the panels 10 may be changed by the hinge 56 and their respective elevation may be changed by the slots 57. As previously noted, however, the order in which the whole fence assemblies are assembled preferably begins with connecting the channels to the posts. The pickets are then inserted though the aligned channels.

The present invention has been described in a considerable detail in order to comply with the patent laws by providing full public disclosure of at least one of its forms. However, such detailed description is not intended in any way to limit the broad features or principles of the present invention, or the scope of the patent to be granted. Therefore, the invention is to be limited only by the scope of the appended claims.