Title:
Panel barriers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A panel barrier panel system is provided which employs aesthetically pleasing panels which tend to be brittle, but is able to meet or exceed building codes. The system employs a frame having a vertical member, a horizontal member and connectors extending from members. These connectors employ upper and lower supports for a panel. The lower supports employ protrusion to interact with a lower edge of the panel, to support the weight of the panel, with the upper supports sandwiching the panel for stabilizing it. Since these supports do not rely upon friction and pressure to support and secure the panel, they are less apt to crush or fracture the panels. Connectors are made to be flexible to absorb shock and stress, thereby further protecting the panels.



Inventors:
Mcgregor, Robert Roy (Scranton, PA, US)
Application Number:
10/983427
Publication Date:
05/11/2006
Filing Date:
11/08/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H17/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FERGUSON, MICHAEL P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lawrence P. Zale (Scott Township, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A panel barrier system comprising: a) a support frame having at least one vertical member and a horizontal member; b) a panel having a lower edge and a side edge; and c) at least one support for having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel and the side edge of the panel such that the protrusions hold most of the weight of the panel.

2. The panel barrier system of claim 1 wherein the panels are made from a material selected from the following: glass, ceramic, ceramic and glass composite, stone, brick, concrete, and materials which fracture when drilled.

3. The panel barrier system of claim 1 wherein the panels are decorative panels made from an aesthetically pleasing material.

4. The panel barrier system of claim 1 wherein the panels have a higher coefficient of light transmission in lower lighting settings than in higher lighting settings.

5. The panel barrier system of claim 1 wherein the panels are made from a material which may be certified as “bullet proof”.

6. The panel barrier system of claim 1 wherein the panel has a shape selected from the group consisting of: triangular, oval, rectangular, regular geometric, and irregular geometric.

7. A barrier system capable of resisting applied forces comprising: a) a support frame having at least one vertical member and a horizontal member, b) a protective panel capable of shielding people or objects behind it, having a lower edge and a side edge, c) at least one support for having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel and the side edge of the panel such that the protrusions carry most of the weight of the panels, and d) at least one connector, connecting the support to the frame, the connectors having the ability to flex to withstand forces placed upon the system and protects the panels from fracturing.

8. The panel barrier system of claim 7 wherein there are a plurality of vertical members on each side of a panel.

9. The panel barrier system of claim 7 wherein: the frame includes a horizontal member supported by the at least one vertical member.

10. The panel barrier system of claim 7 wherein the horizontal member is a handrail and the system is used as a railing on a stairway.

11. The panel barrier system of claim 7 wherein the system is modular, is constructed in sections, is transported in sections, and assembled by connecting the sections to each other at an assembly location.

12. The panel panel barrier system of claim 7 wherein the at least one vertical support member is constructed from annealed metal to add to the strength of the vertical support.

13. A support for supporting and securing a panel having a lower edge and a side edge, comprising: a) an upper support having inner surfaces capable of pressing against and stabilizing the pressure sensitive panel, b) a lower support having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel such that the protrusions carry most of the weight of the panel, the lower support also having a substantially vertical surface for mating with and stabilizing the side edge of the panel.

14. The support of claim 13 wherein the protrusions are shaped to mate with the lower edge of the panel.

15. The support of claim 13 wherein the lower support is comprised of a lower outer support and a lower inner support which interact to create an inner clearance which receives the pressure sensitive panel, and interact to press upon and sandwich the panel, but are designed to have at least a minimum clearance between them thereby holding the panel with a desired force.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to panel structures such as railings and gates, and more particularly to novel ways of constructing panel structures.

2. Description of the Related Art

In the prior art, numerous types of railings, gates and fences (collectively referred to as “barriers”) have been used to enclose or divide areas or protect persons or animals from falling off of elevated structures such as stairs, balconies or platforms.

There barriers have been structures where a frame surrounds and secures panels forming the structure. These may be held in place by a number of different fastening methods including pressure clamps. These exert pressure on the flat surfaces of the panel such that the panel is secured and suspended by clamps. Since the clamps also suspend the panel, it should be fairly tight to insure that the panel does not slip downward. The pressure required to suspend a panel generally increases with increased weight. Therefore, a panel made of ceramic or glass would require a great deal of pressure to suspend.

Prior art pressure clips tend to place glass and other brittle materials under such pressure that it does not take much to cause the material to crack or fracture. Since there are building codes which require barriers to withstand certain forces without fracture before they could be used on a building, many of these systems will not meet or exceed the code making them unusable as they are designed for the uses listed above.

Also, in these times of terrorist attacks, there is the need for a secure room or secure areas in newer buildings. Since glass and ceramic have significant protective qualities and aesthetic qualities, they are well-suited for form and function designs. As described above, drilling holes in this type of material, or cutting notches causes weakened points.

Currently there is a need for a barrier system constructed of panel materials that is resilient enough to meet the standards of the building codes, and may also act as a protective shield protecting people, animals and/or objects.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A panel barrier system used for railings, fences and gates is disclosed which has a support frame having at least one vertical member and a horizontal member, a panel having a lower edge and a side edge, at least one support for having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel and the side edge of the panel, such that the protrusions hold most of the weight of the panel.

The invention may also be described as a railing, fence, or gate (a “barrier system”) capable of resisting applied forces. The system includes a support frame having at least one vertical member and a horizontal member, a protective panel capable of shielding people or objects behind it, having a lower edge and a side edge, at least one support for having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel and the side edge of the panel such that the protrusions carry most of the weight of the panels, and at least one connector, connecting the support to the frame, the connectors having the ability to flex to withstand forces placed upon the system.

Another embodiment of the present invention is a support system for supporting and securing a panel having a lower edge and a side edge. The supports include an upper support having inner surfaces capable of pressing against and stabilizing the pressure sensitive panel, and at least one lower support having at least one protrusion for supporting the lower edge of the panel. The protrusions are designed to carry most of the weight of the panel. The lower support also has a substantially vertical surface for mating with and stabilizing the side edge of the panel.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide a barrier system constructed of panel materials that is resilient enough to meet the standards of the building codes.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a railing system which is capable of using more aesthetic panel materials while still meeting building codes.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a support system which supports and stabilizes materials while providing reduced stress force as compared to prior art support means.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a means of securing heavy panels without the necessity of modifying the panel.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a means of securing brittle panels without the necessity of modifying the panel.

It is another object of the present invention to provide support for brittle materials while reducing stress force on the material as compared to prior art devices.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A complete understanding of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the accompanying drawings, when considered in conjunction with the subsequent detailed description, in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view showing several sections of a barrier system according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged side elevational view of one section of the barrier system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged side elevational view of the interface between two sections of the barrier system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a partial cut-away front elevational view of one embodiment of a support system according to the present invention as viewed from line IV-IV of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of an outside lower support according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of one embodiment of a vertical member according to the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the panel barrier system according to the present invention.

For purposes of brevity and clarity, like components and elements of the apparatus of this invention will bear the same designations or numbering throughout the figures.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

This invention relates to a system for holding and securing materials without the need for drilling holes in the material or cutting notches in the material. The present invention holds the material with reduced pressure as compared to the prior art.

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view showing several sections 150, 160, 170 of a panel barrier system 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention. Each section in this embodiment has a frame 110 having at least one vertical member 111 and a horizontal member 113.

A panel 140, which may be made of various materials, is supported and stabilized within the frame 110. A plurality of connectors 115 are attached to the vertical members 111 and extend generally horizontally.

Each connector is attached to either an upper support 120, or a lower support 130. Lower supports 130 are designed to provide vertical member and hold the weight of the panels 140, while stabilizing panels 140 from moving in other directions. Upper supports 120 may also support the weight of panel 140; however their main purpose is to stabilize the upper section of panel 140.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged side elevational view of a section 150 of the barrier system of FIG. 1. Frame 110 includes at least one vertical member 111 which is fixed to a floor by base plates 117. This embodiment shows two screw holes in base plates 117.

Lower supports 130 support the weight of panel 140 at the lower section of panel 140. The weight is transmitted through connectors 115 to vertical members 111.

Similarly, upper supports 120 support the weight of panel 140 at the upper section of panel 140. The weight is transmitted through connectors 115 to vertical members 111.

It can be seen in this embodiment that each of the supports has a securing means, such as a screw or bolt, through the support.

Even though this embodiment shows a very standard rectangular shape, other shapes and number of supports may be used. For example, panel 140 may be oval, triangular, or other shape.

Also, there may be only one support, or several supports on each side of panel 140. If there is only a single support, a lower support 130 must be used.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged side elevational view of the interface between two sections 150, 160 of barrier system of FIG. 1. Panels 140, which appear here to be a glazed or glass material are being supported and stabilized by two upper supports 120 and two lower supports 130. Note that the lower supports attach to panel 140 at its corners.

The weights on vertical member 111 from section 150 can be counteracted by weights from another section 160.

Connectors 115 are shown as horizontal rigid bars here, however, alternate embodiments may employ connectors 115 that are made of a durable, flexible material, such as a durable plastic, which may flex with forces to permit panels 140 from fracturing. Connectors may be attached to vertical member 111 in a spring loaded fashion in an alternative embodiment to allow the frame 110 to flex and absorb forces, again protecting panels 140 from fracturing.

It should also be noted that horizontal member 113 is connected to all subsequent vertical members 111, thereby causing each of the vertical member 111 to share any applied forces.

FIG. 4 is a partial cut-away front elevational view of one embodiment of a lower support 120 according to the present invention as viewed from line IV-IV of FIG. 3. The lower support 130 has an outer lower support and an inner lower support 133 which interact with each other to clamp panel 140 between them. In this embodiment at least one of the lower supports 131, 133 has a weight bearing lip 135 which extends around the lower edge of panel 140 to support its weight. Since lips 135 support the weight of panel 140; there is no need for a great deal of pressure on panel 140. In an alternative embodiment, each lower support may have a lip to support the weight of panel 140. A fastening device 143, such as a screw, bolt, pin or clip, pulls the two lower supports together such that faces 139, 141 press against panel 140, stabilizing it. Supports 131, 133 may be milled such that when held tightly together, there is a minimum clearance between faces 139 and 141 to insure that panel 140 is not crushed.

Even though lower supports 131, 133 are designed as two separate parts, these may be implemented as a single part having an opening to receive panel 140 which expands and contracts upon loosening and tightening fastening device 143, respectively.

In the present embodiment, upper support 120 has an outer portion 121 and an inner portion 123. These portions are held together to sandwich panel 140. These are mainly for stabilization of the upper section of panel 140.

In alternative embodiments, upper supports 120 could be similar to lower supports 130, with their bottom sections on top (flipped upside down). This embodiment is shown in phantom in FIG. 4. This embodiment would allow upper supports 120 to attach to the top and side surfaces of panel 140 just as lower supports 130 do. In this embodiment, there would be additional resistance to motion in a direction marked by arrow B of FIG. 3.

Also, since these supports do not require cutting or drilling of panel 140, there are no latent weak points which may fracture when receiving a force.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of an outer lower support 131 (and upper outer support of the alternate embodiment, if flipped over) according to one embodiment of the present invention. Lower support 130 is shown here with an oval shaped body. Any body shape is allowable as long as it encloses a portion of the side and bottom edges of panel 140. Lip 135 and a vertical face 147 are shaped to mate with panel 140. Since panel 140 is rectangular in this embodiment, lip 135 and vertical face 147 are flat surfaces which meet at a 90 degree angle. Lip 135 does not necessarily have to match the shape of panel 140; however, this will give the most even force per square inch weight distribution and provide the most efficient results. Vertical face 147 resists motion of panel 140 in a direction marked by the arrow A in FIG. 3. Similarly, lip 135 resists motion of panel 140 in a direction marked by arrow C of FIG. 3.

Screw holes 149 are shown which receive corresponding portions of fastening device 143.

FIG. 6 is a side elevational view of one embodiment of a vertical member according to the present invention. As noted before, it is intended to be fastened to the floor using a base plate 117. These vertical members are shown with a generally cylindrical shape; however, other shapes may be employed.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the panel barrier system according to the present invention. Here several sections, 150, 160 and 170 are shown as they would appear in actual use.

Since there is a great deal of stress at the base of the vertical members, it is envisioned that other embodiments may employ multiple vertical members per side of a panel, or have vertical members with thickened tube walls toward the bottom. Other embodiments may have additional supports which support the lower portion, or employ a vertical member which had a larger diameter toward the bottom.

Having thus described the invention, what is desired to be protected by Letters Patent is presented in the subsequently appended claims.