Title:
Lay-in skin and method for partition panels
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A partition panel and method for open office space and the like which includes a rigid skin shaped to cover at least a portion of a face of the panel and including a connector flange which extends along an upper edge of the skin and has a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab. A connector bracket is connected with the panel and extends across the face thereof in a generally horizontal orientation. At least one connector clip is supported on the connector bracket and includes a resiliently flexible finger to detachably, yet positively, support the skin on the frame in a hanging fashion. The tab is inserted behind the finger and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by the finger to mount the skin in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally while the skin remains attached to the frame.



Inventors:
Hoekstra, Joshua W. (Hudsonville, MI, US)
Hand, Richard S. (Pensacola, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/992501
Publication Date:
05/18/2006
Filing Date:
11/18/2004
Assignee:
Steelcase Development Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F10/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TRIGGS, ANDREW J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PRICE HENEVELD LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A partition panel for open office space and the like, comprising: a frame having opposite faces thereof disposed in a normally generally vertical orientation; a rigid skin shaped to cover at least a portion of one of said faces of said frame, and including a connector flange extending along an upper edge of said skin, having a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab; a connector bracket connected with said frame, and shaped to extend across said one face of said frame in a generally horizontal orientation; and at least one connector clip supported on said connector bracket, and including a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in said connector channel in said skin to detachably, yet positively, support said skin on said frame in a hanging fashion, and wherein said tab on said connector flange is inserted behind said finger and is resiliently drawn toward said frame by said finger to securely, yet detachably, mount said skin on said frame in a manner which permits said skin to be shifted horizontally along said one face of said frame while said skin remains attached to said frame.

2. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said connector bracket includes a notch disposed behind said finger and shaped to receive said tab therein to horizontally locate said skin at a preselected installed position on said frame.

3. A partition panel as set forth in claim 2, wherein: said finger biases said tab into said notch to positively, yet releasably, locate said skin in said installed position.

4. A partition panel as set forth in claim 3, wherein: said bracket includes inclined ramp portions disposed on opposite sides of said notch to guide said tab into said notch.

5. A partition panel as set forth in claim 4, wherein: said skin is configured for detachable connection with said frame by first positioning said connector flange on said clip for hanging support at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from said installed position, and then sliding said skin generally horizontally from said pre-installed position until said tab snaps into said notch, thereby creating an audible indication that said skin has been properly located in said installed position.

6. A partition panel as set forth in claim 5, wherein: said finger extends generally vertically.

7. A partition panel as set forth in claim 6, wherein: said connector flange has an inverted generally U-shaped configuration.

8. A partition panel as set forth in claim 7, wherein: said skin includes a plurality of said tabs disposed in a laterally spaced apart relationship along said connector channel.

9. A partition panel as set forth in claim 8, including: a plurality of said clips disposed in a laterally spaced apart relationship along said connector bracket in vertical alignment with said tabs when said skin is in said installed position.

10. A partition panel as set forth in claim 9, wherein: said skin includes a generally imperforate face disposed a spaced apart distance from said frame to define a utility channel therebetween within which utilities are routed generally horizontally along said one face of said frame.

11. A partition panel as set forth in claim 10, wherein: said skin includes open ends extending along opposite sides thereof to permit utilities to be routed through said utility channel.

12. A partition panel as set forth in claim 11, wherein: said connector clips each include a pair of resiliently flexible wings extending generally horizontally with outwardly turned free ends which engage said tabs to permit said skin to be shifted horizontally along said one face of said frame while said skin remains attached to said frame.

13. A partition panel as set forth in claim 12, wherein: said connector bracket includes pockets in which said connector clips are frictionally retained.

14. A partition panel as set forth in claim 13, wherein: said connector flange defines an upper connector flange and said connector channel defines an upper connector channel; and said skin includes a lower connector flange extending along a lower edge of said skin and having a generally U-shaped configuration which opens upwardly to define a lower connector channel.

15. A partition panel as set forth in claim 14, including: a first connector strip received and retained in said lower channel.

16. A partition panel as set forth in claim 15, wherein: said connector bracket defines an upper connector bracket; and including a lower connector bracket connected with said frame in a vertically spaced apart relationship with said upper connector bracket, and shaped to extend across said one face of said frame in a generally horizontal orientation.

17. A partition panel as set forth in claim 16, including: a second connector strip supported on said lower connector bracket.

18. A partition panel as set forth in claim 17, wherein: one of said first and second connector strips includes a female snap retainer and said other of said first and second connector strips includes a male snap retainer shaped for reception in said female snap retainer to detachably connect said skin to said frame in a manner which permits said skin to be shifted horizontally along said one face of said frame while said skin remains attached to said frame.

19. A partition panel as set forth in claim 18, including: threaded fasteners attaching said upper and lower connector brackets to said frame.

20. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said skin is configured for detachable connection with said frame by first positioning said connector flange on said clip for hanging support at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from an installed position, and then sliding said skin generally horizontally from said pre-installed position until said tab snaps into place behind said finger, thereby creating an audible indication that said skin has been properly located in said installed position.

21. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said finger extends generally vertically.

22. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said connector flange has an inverted generally U-shaped configuration.

23. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said skin includes a plurality of said tabs disposed in a laterally spaced apart relationship along said connector channel.

24. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, including: a plurality of said clips disposed in a laterally spaced apart relationship along said connector bracket.

25. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said skin includes a generally imperforate face disposed a spaced apart distance from said frame to define a utility channel therebetween within which utilities are routed generally horizontally along said one face of said frame.

26. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said skin includes open ends extending along opposite sides thereof to permit utilities to be routed therethrough.

27. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said connector clips each include a pair of resiliently flexible wings extending generally horizontally with outwardly turned free ends which engage said tab to permit said skin to be shifted horizontally along said one face of said frame while said skin remains attached to said frame.

28. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said connector bracket includes a pocket in which said connector clip is frictionally retained.

29. A partition panel as set forth in claim 1, wherein: said connector flange defines an upper connector flange and said connector channel defines an upper connector channel; said skin includes a lower connector flange extending along a lower edge of said skin and having a generally U-shaped configuration which opens upwardly to define a lower connector channel; and a first connector strip is received and retained in said lower channel.

30. 30-49. (canceled)

50. An apparatus for detachably mounting a cover skin on a partition panel of the type having a frame with opposite faces, comprising: a connector bracket shaped to extend across one of the faces of the frame in a generally horizontal orientation; a fastener for attaching said connector bracket with the frame; and at least one connector clip supported on said connector bracket, and including a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for engaging a downwardly turned upper connector channel portion of an associated cover skin which is inserted behind said finger and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by said finger to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along the one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

51. An apparatus as set forth in claim 50, wherein: said connector bracket includes a notch disposed behind said finger and shaped to receive a tab portion of the cover skin therein to horizontally locate the cover skin at a preselected installed position on the frame.

52. An apparatus as set forth in claim 51, wherein: said finger biases said tab into said notch to positively, yet releasably, locate the cover skin in said installed position.

53. An apparatus as set forth in claim 52, wherein: said bracket includes inclined ramp portions disposed on opposite sides of said notch to guide the tab portion of the cover skin into said notch.

54. An apparatus as set forth in claim 53, wherein: said finger extends generally vertically; and said connector clip includes a pair of resiliently flexible wings extending generally horizontally with outwardly turned free ends shaped to engage the connector channel portion of the cover skin to permit the cover skin to be shifted horizontally along the one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

55. In a method for partitioning open office space and the like into individual workstations by detachably interconnecting panels of the type having frames and covering skins in a side-by-side relationship, the improvement comprising: forming a connector flange along an upper edge of at least one of the skins to define a downwardly opening connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab; providing at least one connector clip having a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in the connector channel of the one skin; operably connecting the connector clip to one of the frames, and positioning the connector clip adjacent a face portion thereof such that the finger extends in a generally vertical orientation to engage the tab on the one skin when the skin is horizontally located at a preselected installed position on the one frame; positioning the connector channel portion of the one skin over the clip for hanging support of the one skin on the one frame at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from the installed position; and sliding the one skin generally horizontally across the one frame from the pre-installed position to the installed position, thereby inserting the tab behind the finger and resiliently drawing the one skin against the one frame to securely, yet detachably, support the one skin on the one frame.

56. A method as set forth in claim 55, wherein: said connecting step comprises: providing a connector bracket shaped to extend across the face of the one frame; mounting the connector clip on the connector bracket; and fastening the connector bracket to the face of the frame.

57. A method as forth in claim 55, including: forming a notch in the connector bracket behind the finger with a shape to receive the tab therein to horizontally locate the one skin at the installed position on the one frame.

58. A method as set forth in claim 57, including: positioning the finger relative to the one frame to cause the finger to bias the tab into the notch to positively, yet releasably, locate the one skin in the installed position.

59. A method as set forth in claim 57, including: positioning the finger relative to the tab such that during said sliding step, the tab snaps into the notch to create an audible indication that the skin has been properly located in the installed position.

60. A method as set forth in claim 59, including: positioning the finger relative to the tab such that the connector clip detachably mounts the one skin on the one frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along the face of the one frame while the one skin remains attached to the one frame.

61. A method as set forth in claim 55, including: positioning the finger relative to the tab such that the connector clip detachably mounts the one skin on the one frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along the face of the one frame while the one skin remains attached to the one frame.

62. A connector clip for detachably mounting cover skins on partition panel frames, comprising: a base portion having a predetermined width shaped for reception in an associated socket to operably connect said connector clip with an associated one of the partition panel frames; a resiliently flexible finger portion extending generally vertically upwardly from said base portion, and including an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in a connector channel portion of an associated one of the cover skins to detachably, yet positively, support the one cover skin on the one frame in a hanging fashion, and for engagement with a depending tab portion of the one cover skin to resiliently draw the same toward the one frame; and first and second resiliently flexible wing portions extending generally horizontally in opposite directions from said finger, and including outwardly turned free ends configured to engage the tab to permit the one cover skin to be shifted horizontally along the one frame while the one cover skin remains attached to the one frame.

63. A partition for open office space and the like, comprising: first and second panel frames interconnected in a side-by-side relationship, and each including a pair of vertical posts spaced laterally apart; at least one horizontal member interconnecting said posts; and a connector bracket; a first skin detachably connected with said connector bracket on said first panel frame, and covering at least a portion of said first panel frame; a second skin detachably connected with said connector bracket on said second panel frame, and covering at least a portion of said second panel frame; a cable manager supported on said second panel frame and configured to route electrical cables between at least said second panel frame and said portion of said second skin; and a connector slidably attaching said second skin to said second panel frame such that when said first skin is removed from said first panel frame, said second skin can be shifted horizontally along said second panel frame into at least a portion of the space previously occupied by said first skin to access the electrical cables supported in said cable manager on said second panel frame.

64. A partition panel as set forth in claim 63, wherein: said connector bracket on said second panel frame extends across an associated face of said second panel frame in a generally horizontal orientation.

65. A partition panel as set forth in claim 64, wherein: said connector bracket on said first panel frame extends across an associated face of said first panel frame in a generally horizontal orientation, and is aligned with said connector bracket on said second panel frame.

66. A partition panel as set forth in claim 65, wherein: said connector includes a clip supported on said connector bracket of said second panel frame, and having a resiliently flexible finger which engages said second skin to securely, yet detachably, mount said second skin on said second panel frame in a manner which permits said second skin to be shifted horizontally along the face of said second panel frame while said second skin remains attached to said second panel frame.

67. A partition panel as set forth in claim 66, wherein: said clip is configured to slidably engage said connector bracket on said first panel frame when said second skin is shifted horizontally.

68. A partition panel as set forth in claim 67, wherein: said connector bracket on said second panel frame includes a notch disposed behind said finger and shaped to receive a tab portion of said second skin therein to horizontally locate said second skin at a preselected installed position on said second panel frame.

69. A partition panel as set forth in claim 68, wherein: said finger biases said tab into said notch to positively, yet releasably, locate said second skin in said installed position.

70. A partition panel as set forth in claim 69, wherein: said connector bracket on said second panel frame includes inclined ramp portions disposed on opposite sides of said notch to guide said tab portion of said second skin into said notch.

71. A partition panel as set forth in claim 70, wherein: said finger extends generally vertically; and said clip includes a pair of resiliently flexible wings extending generally horizontally with outwardly turned free ends shaped to engage a connector channel portion of said second skin to permit said second skin to be shifted horizontally along the one face of said second panel frame while said second skin remains attached to said second panel frame.

72. A partition panel as set forth in claim 71, wherein: said second skin includes a connector flange extending along an upper edge of said second skin, having a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel with said tab extending downwardly from said connector channel.

73. A partition panel as set forth in claim 72, wherein: said finger on said clip includes an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in said connector channel to detachably, yet positively, support said second skin on said second panel frame in a hanging configuration.

74. A partition panel as set forth in claim 73, wherein: said second skin is configured for detachable connection with said second panel frame by first positioning said connector flange on said clip for hanging support at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from said installed position, and then sliding said second skin generally horizontally from said pre-installed position until said tab snaps into said notch, thereby creating an audible indication that said second skin has been properly located in said installed position.

75. In a reconfigurable partition system having first and second panel frames interconnected in a side-by-side relationship, and each including a pair of vertical posts spaced laterally apart, at least one horizontal member interconnecting said posts, the improvement of a skin mounting arrangement, comprising: a first connector bracket operably connected with said first panel frame; a second connector bracket operably connected with said second panel frame; a first skin detachably connected with said first connector bracket, and covering at least a portion of said first panel frame; a second skin detachably connected with said second connector bracket, and covering at least a portion of said second panel frame; a cable manager supported on said second panel frame and configured to route electrical cables between at least said second panel frame and said portion of said second skin; and a connector slidably attaching said second skin to said second panel frame such that when said first skin is removed from said first panel frame, said second skin can be shifted horizontally along said second connector bracket into at least a portion of the space previously occupied by said first skin to access the electrical cables supported in said cable manager on said second panel frame.

76. A partition panel as set forth in claim 75, wherein: said second connector bracket extends across an associated face of said second panel frame in a generally horizontal orientation; and said first connector bracket extends across an associated face of said first panel frame in a generally horizontal orientation, and is aligned with said second connector bracket.

77. A partition panel as set forth in claim 76, wherein: said connector includes a clip supported on said second connector bracket, and having a resiliently flexible finger which engages said second skin to securely, yet detachably, mount said second skin on said second panel frame in a manner which permits said second skin to be shifted horizontally along the face of said second panel frame while said second skin remains attached to said second panel frame; and said clip is configured to slidably engage said first connector bracket when said second skin is shifted horizontally.

78. A partition panel as set forth in claim 77, wherein: said second skin includes a connector flange extending along an upper edge of said second skin, having a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel with a tab extending downwardly from said connector channel.

79. A partition panel as set forth in claim 78, wherein: said second connector bracket includes a notch disposed behind said finger and shaped to receive said tab of said second skin therein to horizontally locate said second skin at a preselected installed position on said second panel frame; said finger biases said tab into said notch to positively, yet releasably, locate said second skin in said installed position; and said second connector bracket includes inclined ramp portions disposed on opposite sides of said notch to guide said tab of said second skin into said notch.

80. A partition panel as set forth in claim 79, wherein: said second skin is configured for detachable connection with said second panel frame by first positioning said connector flange on said clip for hanging support at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from said installed position, and then sliding said second skin generally horizontally from said pre-installed position until said tab snaps into said notch, thereby creating an audible indication that said second skin has been properly located in said installed position.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to furnishings for open office spaces and the like, and in particular to a partition construction and method having removable covers or skins adapted to provide access to internally routed utilities even when the covers are partially covered or blocked by furniture components or the like in front of the covers.

Office partitions are often provided with utilities, such as electrical power, data cables, telecommunication lines, and the like, which are routed through the interiors of the partitions. It is advantageous to equip such partitions with covers that are removable, so that the utilities therein can be easily accessed to permit convenient routing and rerouting of wires, conduits, etc. and to permit addition of new utilities. However, removable covers often become unremovable or “trapped” on their respective partitions by furniture components or the like positioned in front of the removable covers. Such furniture components may be freestanding or attached to the partitions, and can include shelves, worksurfaces, cabinets, book binders, file carriers, attached or freestanding furniture, computer equipment, “off-module” partitions, and the like. These blocking furniture components, and other similar obstructions, cause the job of accessing the utilities to be very time consuming for the installers or repairmen, and very disruptive for the office worker because of the myriad of items that must be removed and replaced. These problems are particularly noticeable when the furniture component trapping the cover is heavy and/or semi-permanently attached, since moving such items requires substantial time and effort before the partition cover can be removed.

For example, the above-noted problems occur when a partition is attached “off-module” to a second partition or “spine”, between the vertical side edges of the spine partition. Typically, the vertical side edge of the “off-module” partition abuts the cover or face of the spine partition, making it impossible to pull off and remove the cover of the spine partition until the “off-module” partition is first disconnected. However, disconnection of the “off-module” partition can be relatively difficult, inconvenient, and disruptive in an office environment, since binder bins, shelves, storage units, cabinets, and other furniture components are often attached to the partitions. The net result is that a major undertaking is required by an installer or repairman to remove and then replace the “off-module” partition, so as to access the interior of the spine partition.

Another problem associated with many prior partition designs is that customers have different utility needs, resulting in requests for a myriad of different utility outlet arrangements, particularly along the beltway and base areas of the partition system. It is not economically feasible to custom build custom partitions for every different possible arrangement that users may desire. Further, “too many” special/different parts for different arrangements lead to errors in filling out purchase orders, errors in shipping, installation errors and other related difficulties. Even if an installation is successful and properly set up, work requirements typically change, such that more or fewer outlets, jacks, and the like are often needed. In an attempt to quickly satisfy their needs, office workers may externally route wires as needed in and around the work area from existing outlets and jacks. This results in tangled wires, an unsightly mess, and a potential safety hazard.

One solution proposed to alleviate those problems noted above is disclosed in the Dykstra et al. U.S. Pat. No. 5,826,385 in the name of Steelcase Development Corporation, assignee of the present application, which discloses a partition construction with novel removable covers. While the Dykstra et al. patent does disclose a cover panel or skin that is slidably supported on the partition frame to facilitate access to interior mounted utilities, the cover panel or skin is preferably constructed from a flexible or semiflexible material, so that it can be elastically deformed during removal and/or replacement.

Accordingly, a furniture construction solving the aforementioned problems is desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the present invention is to provide a partition panel for open office space and the like which includes a frame having opposite faces thereof disposed in a normally generally vertical orientation. A rigid skin is shaped to cover at least a portion of one of the faces of the frame, and includes a connector flange which extends along an upper edge of the skin and has a downwardly opening configuration and defines a connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab. A connector bracket is connected with the frame and shaped to extend across the one face of the frame in a generally horizontal orientation. At least one connector clip is supported on the connector bracket, and includes a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in the connector channel in the skin to detachably, yet positively, support the skin on the frame in a hanging fashion. The tab on the connector flange is inserted behind the finger, and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by the finger to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along the one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide an improved skin mounting arrangement for a reconfigurable partition system of the type having a plurality of panels detachably interconnected in a side-by-side relationship to divide open office space and the like into individual workstations, wherein the panels have at least one frame with opposite faces disposed in a normally generally vertical orientation. At least one rigid skin is shaped to cover at least a portion of one of the faces of the frame, and includes a connector flange which extends along an upper edge of the skin and has a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab. At least one connector clip is operably supported by the frame, and includes a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in the connector channel of the skin to detachably, yet positively, support the skin on the frame in a hanging fashion. The tab on the connector flange is inserted behind the finger and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by the finger to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

Yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a skin mounting arrangement for partition panels and the like of the type having a panel frame with opposite faces, wherein a rigid skin is shaped to cover at least a portion of one of the faces of an associated panel frame. The rigid skin includes a connector flange which extends along an upper edge of the skin, and has a downwardly opening configuration which defines a connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab. A connector bracket is shaped to extend across one face of the frame in a generally horizontal orientation and is attached to the panel frame by a fastener. At least one connector clip is supported on the connector bracket, and includes a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in the connector channel in the skin to detachably, yet positively, support the skin on the frame in a hanging fashion. The tab on the connector flange is inserted behind the finger and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by the finger to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for detachably mounting a cover skin on a partition panel of the type having a frame with opposite faces, which includes a connector bracket shaped to extend across one of the faces of the frame in a generally horizontal orientation. Also included is a fastener for attaching the connector bracket with the frame, and at least one connector clip supported on the connector bracket, which includes a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for engaging a downwardly turned upper connector channel portion of an associated cover skin. The upper connector channel is inserted behind the finger, and is resiliently drawn toward the frame by the finger to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along one face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

Yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for partitioning open office space and the like into individual workstations by detachably interconnecting panels of the type having frames and covering skins in a side-by-side relationship. The method includes forming a connector flange along an upper edge of at least one of the skins to define a downwardly opening connector channel with at least one downwardly extending tab, providing at least one connector clip having a resiliently flexible finger with an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in the connector channel of the one skin; operably connecting the connector clip to one of the frames and positioning the connector clip adjacent a face portion thereof such that the finger extends in a generally vertical orientation to engage the tab on the one skin when the skin is horizontally located at a preselected installed position on the one frame, positioning the connector channel portion of the one skin over the clip for hanging support of the one skin on the one frame at a pre-installed position laterally spaced apart from the installed position, and sliding the one skin generally horizontally across the one frame from the pre-installed position to the installed position, thereby inserting the tab behind the finger and resiliently drawing the one skin against the one frame to securely, yet detachably, support the one skin on the one frame.

Still another aspect of the present invention is to provide a connector clip for detachably mounting cover skins on partition panel frames, which includes a base portion having a predetermined width shaped for reception in an associated socket to operably connect said connector clip with an associated one of the partition panel frames. A resiliently flexible finger portion extends generally vertically upwardly from the base portion, and includes an outwardly turned free end shaped for reception in a connector channel portion of an associated one of the cover skins to detachably, yet positively, support the one cover skin on the one frame in a hanging fashion, and for engagement with a depending tab portion of the one cover skin to resiliently draw the same toward the one frame. The connector clip also includes first and second resiliently flexible wing portions which extend generally horizontally in opposite directions from the finger, and include outwardly turned free ends configured to engage the tab to permit the one cover skin to be shifted horizontally along the one frame while the one cover skin remains attached to the one frame.

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art by reference to the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a partition arrangement embodying the present invention, configured to form a plurality of individual office spaces;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of one of the office spaces shown in FIG. 1, formed by a main run of “spine wall” partitions, having one “off-module” partition and one “on-module” partition attached to the spine wall partitions;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of an on-module partition connected to a spine wall partition with an upper connecting bracket, a lower connecting bracket and a covering skin exploded therefrom;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of an on-module partition connected to a spine wall partition with alternate embodiments of the covering skin and connecting brackets exploded therefrom;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the upper connecting bracket of FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a clip according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged, fragmentary perspective view of a clip receptor portion of the upper connecting bracket of FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged, fragmentary perspective view of the clip of FIG. 6 installed within the receptor of FIG. 7;

FIGS. 9 and 10 are enlarged, fragmentary perspective views of another embodiment of the clip receptor portion of the upper connecting bracket of FIG. 5;

FIG. 11 is a fragmentary perspective view of the upper and lower connecting brackets installed on a partition frame and a rear side of one embodiment of the covering skin exploded therefrom;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the lower connecting bracket of FIG. 3;

FIG. 13 is an enlarged, fragmentary perspective view of one end of the lower connecting bracket of FIG. 12 installed on a partition frame;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a bottom clip in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15 is a partial sectional side view of the bottom clip of FIG. 14 installed within the covering skin, taken along line XV-XV of FIG. 11;

FIG. 16 is an enlarged exploded partial sectional side view of the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip, taken along the line XVI-XVI of FIG. 8, with a partial sectional side view of the covering skin of FIG. 11 exploded from the associated partition frame;

FIG. 17 is an enlarged partial sectional side view of the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip of FIG. 16 installed on the partition frame with the covering skin exploded therefrom;

FIG. 18 is an enlarged partial sectional side view of the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip of FIG. 17 with the covering skin partially installed and temporarily suspended thereon;

FIG. 18A is an enlarged partial sectional side view of the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip of FIG. 18 with the covering skin in a pre-installed position being shifted laterally to an installed position;

FIG. 19 is an enlarged partial sectional side view of the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip of FIG. 18 with the covering skin in a fully installed position thereon;

FIG. 19A is a fragmentary front elevational view of the covering skin in the fully installed position on the frame with portions thereof broken away to view the upper bracket, clip receptor and clip;

FIG. 20 is perspective view of a spine wall partition connected to an on-module partition with the covering skin being positioned for installation on the spine wall partition;

FIG. 21 is perspective view of the partition system of FIG. 20 with the covering skin partially installed and temporarily suspended on the spine wall partition; and

FIG. 22 is perspective view of the partition system of FIG. 20 with the covering skin installed on the spine wall.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For purposes of the description herein, the terms “upper,” “lower,” “right,” “left,” “rear,” “front,” vertical, “horizontal” and derivatives thereof shall relate to the invention as oriented in FIG. 1 with a person facing the partition panel of interest. However, it is to be understood that the invention may assume various alternative orientations, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification, are simply exemplary embodiments of the inventive concepts defined in the appended claims. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise.

A partition construction 2 embodying the present invention is shown in an office environment in FIG. 1. Nonetheless, it is specifically contemplated that the present invention can be successfully used in other similar environments, especially where a removable cover or skin is likely to be “trapped” on a partition or wall by a furniture component or other obstruction positioned in front of or attached to the partition. Such conditions can and do occur in commercial and/or industrial environments, domestic sites and in other locations where furniture may be used. As discussed above, the term “trapped” is used herein to describe a situation wherein a removable cover or skin covering a partition frame cannot be removed in a direction generally perpendicular to a front of the partition frame due to a furniture component or other obstruction that physically occupies the space immediately in front of and adjacent the partition frame. Thus, the furniture component interferes with and/or prevents the cover panel from being lifted off of the front of the partition, thereby trapping the cover on the partition frame.

An exemplary partition system that can be used with the present cover system is disclosed in detail in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/367,249, entitled Customizable Partition System, filed Feb. 14, 2003 and assigned to the Steelcase Development Corporation, the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. In this partition system, as described below, the partition frames are configured to support other partition frames perpendicularly thereto in any one of a plurality of different intermediate “off-module” locations between their vertical side edges. Advantageously, this allows the partition frames to be selectively configured and reconfigured into different office arrangements, where the offices have different sizes, shapes, and numbers of workstations, using the same partition frames and partition covers. For example, FIG. 1 shows an office arrangement wherein four perpendicular partitions 12 and 14 are attached to one side of a main run of partitions 10 to form three workspaces or offices 5, and three additional perpendicular partitions 12 and 14 are attached to the other side to form two larger workspaces or offices 5. It is to be understood that any or each of the workspaces on either side can be selectively made larger or smaller, and can be made to have different sizes and shapes, merely by selective rearrangement and reattachment of the existing partitions 12 and 14. Notably, in the partition arrangement shown in FIG. 1, several of the perpendicular partitions 14 are in “off-module” locations where they interfere with removing the rigid skins or covers 22 and/or 23 from the faces 6 of main run partitions 10. Thus, removable covers 22 and/or 23 on the main run of partitions 10 cannot be pulled perpendicularly off of the face of the main run of “spine wall” partitions 10. The present cover system solves this problem by allowing skins or covers 22 and/or 23 to slide horizontally or laterally along the face 6 of the main run of the partitions 10 to an unobstructed location, so that they can be readily removed. Thus, covers 22 and/or 23 that would otherwise be “trapped” by “off-module” partitions 14 can be removed or shifted to access the partition interior, even while the perpendicular “off-module” partitions 14 are still attached to the main run of “spine wall” partitions 10.

It is further contemplated that the present cover system can be used to cover a permanent architectural wall, a demountable architectural wall, or other space dividing wall structures where there is a need to access an interior of the wall, but where items may block removal of the covers.

In the example illustrated in FIG. 11, a partition construction 2 embodying the present invention includes a rigid skin or cover 23 shaped to cover at least a portion of a face 6 of an associated partition panel 10, 12, 14, and includes a connector flange 26 which extends along an upper edge 27 of the skin 23 and has a downwardly opening configuration defining a connector channel 31 with at least one downwardly extending tab 28. A connector bracket 40 is connected with the panel 10, 12, 14, and extends across the face 6 thereof in a generally horizontal orientation. At least one connector clip 50 is supported on connector bracket 40, and includes a resiliently flexible finger 63 to detachably, yet positively, support skin 23 on the frame 15 of partition panel 10, 12, 14 in a hanging fashion. The tab 28 on skin 23 is inserted behind finger 63 and is resiliently drawn toward frame 15 by the finger to mount the skin 22 and/or 23 in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally while the skin remains attached to the frame.

With reference to FIG. 1, partition construction 2 includes a main run of partitions 10 (herein referred to as a “spine wall”), and a plurality of perpendicularly attached partitions 12 and 14 (herein referred to as “fin walls”). In addition, “fin wall” partitions 12 and 14 can be subdivided into “on-module” partitions 12, which are interconnected to “spine wall” partitions 10 at the ends thereof, and “off-module” partitions 14 which are interconnected to “spine wall” partitions 10 intermediate the ends thereof. The panels or partitions 10, 12, and 14 may have identical partition frames 15, or the frames may be different. For example, it is contemplated that the partitions 10 making up the “spine wall” will have a high degree of utility carrying capability, while the “fin wall” partitions 12, 14 may have a lesser utility carrying capability, depending upon the functional requirements of the customer. It is also contemplated that the same covers 22 and/or 23 can be used on the partitions of the “spine wall” 10 and the “fin walls” 12 and 14, although this need not be the case.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, partitions 10, 12, and 14 include one or more lay-in skins 22 and/or lay-in technology skins 23. Skins 22 and 23 are similar in design and function, the difference being that lay-in technology skins 23 include one or more apertures or openings 24 (FIG. 3) wherein utility outlets 3, such as electrical and/or communication receptacles 3, may be mounted. On the other hand, lay-in skin 22 does not include these apertures and/or openings, but does permit utilities to be routed between the panel frame and the skin 22. Since the design, function and manner of operation of skins 22, 23 are similar, lay-in technology skin 23 will be described in more detail herein, and it is to be understood that unless specified to the contrary, the following discussion also relates to lay-in skin 22. Additionally, the preferred embodiment utilizes skins 22, 23, which are rigid, wherein a unique clip and bracket assembly permits the aforementioned skins to be shifted horizontally, for example out from under the adjacent end of an “off-module” panel 14.

As best illustrated in FIG. 3, an “on-module” partition 12 is illustrated connected to “spine wall” partition 10, whereon removable skin 23 has not yet been installed. As mentioned previously, partitions 10, 12, and 14 do not require a similar frame construction. However, a similar frame construction 15 will be described herein for each partition for simplicity. Frame 15 includes vertical end portions or posts 16 rigidly secured by upper and lower horizontal frame members 20. One or more horizontal intermediate members, beams or skin rails 17 are vertically repositionable and releasably connected in a generally horizontal orientation between posts 16. A plurality of wire managing and/or mounting brackets 18 may also be vertically disposed within frame 15, between horizontal members 20 and/or 17 and intermediate end posts 16. Brackets 18 support and/or route electrical and communication wires 4, as well as provide support for electrical/communication outlets 3 disposed therebetween. Electrical/communication wires 4 are provided to supply electricity, telephony, network information, and the like to electrical/communication outlets 3 disposed at various locations along wall partitions 10, 12, and/or 14.

Disposed horizontally along frame 15 are an upper bracket 40 (FIG. 3) and a lower bracket 80 for supporting lay-in technology skin 23. Upper and lower brackets 40 and 80, respectively, as well as skin 23 attached thereto, are variable in length as the specific requirements dictate. For example, brackets 40, 80 and skins 22, 23 will typically be provided in lengths of 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 48 and 60 inches. These lengths correspond in size to the typical widths in which frames 15 are supplied, and generally correspond to a length which is somewhat less than the distance between the two vertical end posts 16 of frame 15, thereby allowing skins 22, 23 to cover the entire width of the various partition frames. However, with respect to FIG. 4, an alternate embodiment is illustrated wherein brackets 40 and 80 do not extend the entire width of the partition. For example, a pair of 24 inch brackets 40 and 80 can be used on a 48 inch panel frame 15, thereby dividing the frame into two corresponding halves. This configuration allows skins 22, 23 to be installed which do not extend the entire width of the partition, as illustrated by the reference numerals 22′ and 23′ in FIGS. 1, 2 and 4. Alternatively, any length of bracket can be used in combination with a corresponding length of a covering skin, thereby offering a partition system having maximum configurability.

With respect to FIG. 5, the top lay-in or upper bracket 40 includes three slotted receptors or pockets 41, 42 and 43. Receptors 41 and 43 are disposed near opposite ends of upper bracket 40, and receptor 42 is disposed intermediate receptors 41 and 43. Each receptor 41-43 is shaped to receive and retain therein a uniquely shaped clip 50 (discussed below). It is to be understood that upper bracket 40 may include more than three receptors or less than three, as the specific requirements dictate. Disposed along upper bracket 40 are a plurality of horizontally oriented apertures 74 which, when upper bracket 40 is positioned correctly on frame 15, align with apertures 72 in frame 15 (FIGS. 3 and 4), and receive therethrough fasteners 73, thereby detachably supporting bracket 40 on frame 15. Each receptor 41-43, and the associated clip 50 disposed therein, is similar in configuration and operation. Since receptors 41-43 are designed to receive and retain clips 50, the receptors and their associated clips will be described concurrently for convenience.

As best illustrated in FIGS. 6-8, each clip 50 includes a generally rectangular base 51, having a bottom portion or edge 65 shaped to be closely received within an associated socket or slot 46 of receptor 41, disposed along a lower flange portion 69 of upper bracket 40. Clip base 51 includes a pair of diagonally oriented slots 53 disposed intermediate opposite side edges 54 of base 51, thereby defining forwardly protruding tabs 52, which are adapted to be frictionally received within a laterally extending band portion 55 of receptor 41 disposed on upper bracket 40. Clip 50 is at least partially retained within band 55 by forwardly protruding tabs 52. When inserted into band 55, tabs 52 will frictionally engage the inside surface 67 of band 55, thereby frictionally retaining clip 50 within band 55, as well as biasing clip 50 rearwardly toward the outer surface 58 of upper bracket 40. In addition to tabs 52 retaining clip 50 within receptor 41, the upper portion of each clip 50 includes a pair of outwardly extending arms 56 with inwardly turned ends 57. When clip 50 is installed and properly seated within receptor 41 in the manner illustrated in FIG. 8, ends 57 will reside within an elongate window 61 disposed immediately above band 55. In this configuration, clip 50 is horizontally and vertically located and positively retained within window 61 by having ends 57 residing within window 61, and more particularly against an upper edge 68 thereof. Each clip 50 also includes an inwardly protruding, resiliently flexible tab 59 with a free end 60 which again resides within window 61 and against edge 68 to positively retain clip 50 within receptor 41. The uppermost end of clip 50 includes a pair of laterally extending, outwardly turned resilient side wings 62, and a resiliently flexible, vertically extending finger 63 with an outwardly turned free end. The free ends of wings 62 and finger 63 are bent forwardly, so as to assist with the insertion and/or interaction of an upper flanged portion 26 and tabs 28 of rigid panel skin 22, 23 by facilitating their movement behind clips 50, as described in greater detail below.

With reference to FIGS. 6-8, clip 50 is inserted and retained within first receptor 41 of top lay-in bracket 40 in the following manner. The bottom edge 65 of rectangular base 51 is inserted through laterally extending band 55 in the space or pocket between surface 58 of bracket 40 and the inside surface 67 of laterally extending band 55 (opposite top surface 66 of laterally extending band 55), into and through slot 46, wherein the lower portion 65 of rectangular base 51 is retained. As bottom edge 65 is inserted downwardly toward slot 46, forwardly protruding tabs 52 frictionally engage the inside edge 67 of band 55 to frictionally retain and rearwardly bias clip 50. Additionally, side edges 54 may come into contact with the edges of laterally extending band 55, thereby frictionally retaining base 51 within laterally extending band 55.

As base 51 is inserted within laterally extending band 55, the inwardly turned ends 57 of outwardly extending arms 56 snap into window 61, and reside just below edge 68, thereby positively retaining clip 50 both horizontally and vertically. Moreover, the free end 60 of inwardly protruding tab 59 deflects as clip 50 is being inserted into receptor 41, such that when free end 60 reaches edge 68, the inwardly biased protruding tab 59, and more specifically free end 60, will return to its original configuration, thereby positively retaining free end 60 against edge 68 for additional retention of clip 50 within the receptor 41.

As noted above, receptors 41-43 are similar in configuration and operation, such that the above-described installation of clip 50 within receptor 41 applies to receptors 41-43, with the clips 50 installed therein being substantially identical. An upper portion 64 of each of the clips 50 is canted or bent rearwardly toward the adjacent surface of panel frame 15, such that when installed in upper bracket 40, upper portion 64 is disposed behind the outer surface 58 of upper bracket 40 to resiliently draw skin tabs 28 firmly against frame 15, as described in detail herein.

Upper bracket 40 also includes a pair of upwardly extending tabs or inclined ramp portions 47 disposed directly above receptor 41, which define a slot or notch 48 therebetween. This configuration assists in positively locating skins 22, 23 on panel frame 15, and in creating an audible “snap” or “click” sound when skin 22, 23 is optimally positioned on its associated frame 15, in the manner described in detail below. Upper bracket 40 also includes a pair of notches 75 (FIG. 5) along the upper interior edge thereof disposed directly above receptors 42 and 43, respectively. Notches 48 and 75 receive therein the upper portions 64 of associated clips 50.

With reference to FIGS. 3, 5 and 11, top or upper lay-in bracket 40 is installed on the frame 15 of partition 10, 12, and/or 14 by aligning apertures 74, disposed along the length of bracket 40, with apertures 72, disposed along a length of horizontal frame members 20 and/or skin rails 17. Typically, bracket 40 will extend the entire width of the panel, as shown in FIG. 3. However, bracket 40 is available in varying lengths as described previously, thereby allowing differing lengths of skins 22 and/or 23 to be attached to the frame depending upon the user's requirements (FIG. 4). For example, a pair of 24 inch brackets 40 and 80 can be used on a 48 inch panel frame 15, thereby dividing the panel into two corresponding halves. Alternatively, a 12 inch bracket can be used with a 36 inch bracket, thereby dividing the panel into non-equal length segments. Of course, any combination of bracket sizes may be used as the specific requirements dictate. Upper bracket 40 can be installed on partition frame 10, 12, 14 at a variety of different vertical locations to accommodate different partition requirements.

With reference to FIG. 12, a lower or bottom lay-in bracket 80 is illustrated, and includes opposite ends 81, protrusions or male snap retainers 83 and horizontally oriented fastener apertures 86. Bottom lay-in bracket 80 is installed on an associated frame 15 in a manner similar to that discussed above with regard to top lay-in bracket 40. Namely, apertures 86 align with apertures 72 in horizontal frame member 20 and/or skin rail 17, and fasteners 73 are inserted therethrough to securely, yet detachably, retain bracket 80 on frame 15. Bottom bracket 80 also includes a pair of inwardly turned hooks or tabs 84 disposed near ends 81. As illustrated in FIG. 13, when bracket 80 is installed, tabs 84 will protrude into slots 85, disposed on the end posts 16 of frame 15 just above skin rail 17, and thereby prevent skin rail 17 from being inadvertently removed from between end posts 16. This is accomplished by preventing skin rail 17 from being moved upwardly and disengaging the clips (not shown) which hold skin rail 17 to end posts 16. By preventing skin rail 17 from being moved upwardly, the skin rail cannot be disengaged from end posts 16 without first removing bracket 80.

FIG. 11 illustrates an embodiment of the lay-in technology skin 23 of the present invention which includes an aperture 24 for receiving utility outlets, such as electrical/communication outlets 3. Lay-in skin 22 is similar to lay-in technology skin 23, expect for aperture 24. Skins 22 and 23 include an upper flanged portion or connector flange 26 which defines a downwardly opening U-shaped connector channel 31 with tabs 28 for receiving clips 50 when skins 22, 23 are installed on partition frame 15. An inside edge 27 of connector flange 26 is spaced from and disposed opposite front face 36, thereby defining a utility channel 37 in which utility wires 4 are routed. Inside edge 27 carries downwardly extending tabs 28 with intermediate portions 29 therebetween, which are disposed outwardly from a recessed flanged portion 44. This makes it possible for a covering 45, such as fabric or the like, to be installed on skins 22 or 23, without having the covering interfere with the installation of the skins (see generally FIGS. 16-22). Skins 22 and 23 also have an upwardly opening lower flanged portion or lower connector flange 32 disposed along a bottom edge 33, which includes a pair of clip receptors 34, each including inwardly turned tabs 35 for receiving and horizontally retaining therein a bottom clip or connector strip 90. A slot 110 is disposed on each end of clip receptors 34, thereby subdividing lower flanged portion 32 into clip receptor portions 34. Tabs 111 are disposed adjacent each end of the clip receptors 34. Tabs 111 are inwardly bent to prevent clips 90 from moving transversely.

As best illustrated in FIG. 14, bottom clip 90 includes a generally longitudinally extending C-shaped channel or female snap retainer 93 and a leg portion 96 which includes an angled leg 99. Disposed along the bottom of leg portion 96 is a tab 97 which runs continuously along a bottom edge 98 of clip 90. Clips 90 are installed within clip receptors 34 in the manner illustrated in FIG. 15, and as described in more detail below.

With respect to FIG. 11, the method of installation of skin 22 and/or 23 on partition frame 15 is illustrated. Top lay-in bracket 40 is installed on an associated partition frame 15 in the previously described manner, wherein apertures 74 of bracket 40 are collinearly aligned with apertures 72 on frame 15. Threaded fasteners 73 are inserted through apertures 72 and 74, thereby securely fastening bracket 40 to frame 15. Clips 50 may be installed in receptors 41-43 prior to this assembly or afterwards, in the manner previously described. Bottom lay-in bracket 80 is installed on panel frame 15 in the manner previously described, and in a similar fashion to bracket 40.

The skins 22, 23 are prepared for installation by installing bottom clips 90 into clip receptors 34 disposed along bottom flange 32. As best illustrated by FIG. 15, leg 96 of clip 90 is inserted into a lower connector channel 38 such that C-channel 93 is disposed outwardly therefrom. Clips 90 are retained within receptors 34 through inwardly turned flanges 35 residing over tabs 97, thereby preventing clips 90 from vertical movement. Additionally, angled legs 99 provide a forward bias to clips 90 to ensure that tabs 97 remain so positioned against tabs 35. As discussed previously, clips 90 are prevented from transverse or lateral movement by inwardly turned tabs 111.

As shown in FIG. 11, each rigid skin 22, 23 includes a downwardly turned top flange 26 with tabs 28. Tabs 28 are shaped to be closely received behind the fingers 63 of clips 50 when skin 22, 23 is installed on top lay-in bracket 40. Notches 30 are disposed on either side of each tab 28 and are sized and spaced along upper flange 26, such that clips 50, disposed within receptors 41-43, can reside within notches 30 when the upper flange of the lay-in skin is correctly positioned in the pre-installed position shown in FIGS. 18 and 21. More particularly, the top fingers 63 of clips 50 generally align with notches 30, thereby positioning the tabs 28 F of skin 22, 23 adjacent side wings 62. In this position, when skins 22, 23 are shifted or moved laterally, tabs 28 will be moved behind the upper portions 64 of clips 50 to resiliently draw the skin 22, 23 against the associated partition frame 15, as described below (see generally FIGS. 18-22).

With upper and lower brackets 40 and 80 installed on panel frame 15, and bottom clips 90 installed on skins 22, 23, the skins are detachably mounted on their associated panel frame 15 in the following manner. In the example shown in FIGS. 17 and 20, the installer grasps one of the skins 22, 23 by the opposite side edges, positions the connector channel 31 of the skin immediately above the fingers 63 of clips 50 in the manner illustrated in FIGS. 18 and 21, and then lowers the skin slightly, so that the skin is abuttingly supported in a hanging or suspended manner on the fingers 63 of the clips 50 on upper bracket 40. The skin 22, 23 is preferably held at a slight angle, as shown in FIGS. 20 and 21, so as to mount the upper portion of the skin to panel frame 15 first, before mounting the lower portion of the skin. In the example shown in FIG. 18, an inside portion 39 of connector flange 26 resides on and is temporarily supported by the fingers 63 of clips 50. In this manner, the installation sequence of covering skin 22, 23 can be continued without the installer having to support the weight of the skin. Preferably, when skin 22, 23 is initially hung by its upper connector channel 31 on the fingers 63 of clips 50, the skin is located laterally off center of its desired, finally installed position on panel frame 15. This permits the installer wide latitude in supporting the skin on the upper bracket 40, since he is not required to precisely align tabs 28 with clips 50 in the pre-installed position shown in FIGS. 20 and 21. The skin 22, 23 is then shifted horizontally or laterally either to the right or to the left from the pre-installed position to center the skin on the associated panel frame at the preselected installed position, as shown in FIGS. 19 and 22. The downwardly extending tabs 28 on connector channel 31 engage the angled side wings 62 of clips 50 as the skin is shifted laterally, so as to facilitate easy horizontal movement of the skin on the panel frame. As shown in FIGS. 19, 19A and 22, the skin 22, 23 is shifted laterally to locate each of the tabs 28 directly behind the upper portions 64 of clips 50, such that the clips resiliently draw the skin to the frame to securely, yet detachably, mount the skin on the frame in a manner which permits the skin to be shifted horizontally along the face of the frame while the skin remains attached to the frame.

As best illustrated in FIGS. 18-19A, the upwardly extending ramps 47 on the receptor 41 of upper bracket 40 serve to positively locate the skin 22, 23 on its associated panel frame 15 in an accurately centered, fully installed position. Furthermore, the interaction of the tab 28 snapping into the notch 48 between upwardly extending ramps 47 creates an audible indication that the skin 22, 23 has been properly located in its installed, centered position on the panel frame 15. More specifically, as skin 22, 23 is shifted horizontally from the pre-installed position shown in FIG. 18, tab 28 engages the angled or inclined outer edge of an adjacent one of the ramps 47, thereby shifting the tab, along with clip 50, outwardly in the manner illustrated in FIG. 18A. As tab 28 passes into alignment with notch 48, clip 50 resiliently urges the tab into the notch in an abrupt fashion, so as to create a distinctive snapping or clicking sound as tab 28 engages the outside surface of the panel frame 15. This clicking or snapping sound provides an audible indication to the installer that the skin 22, 23 is correctly located in its fully installed, centered position on its associated panel frame 15. As best illustrated in FIG. 19, when skins 22, 23 are in the fully installed position, clips 50 are deflected slightly outwardly to apply a resilient biasing force on tabs 28, which draws the skins firmly against the frames 15. In the illustrated embodiment of the present invention, upper bracket 40 has only one receptor 41 with upwardly extending ramps 47 and an associated notch 48 to create the audible snapping sound. However, it is to be understood that upper bracket 40 may be equipped with two or more upwardly extending sets of ramps to further enhance the positive retention of the skin in its centered condition on the panel frame, and enhance the audible clicking or snapping sound.

As described previously and illustrated in FIGS. 20-22, either before or after horizontal shifting of skin 22, 23 to the fully installed position, bottom flange 32 is installed on bottom bracket 80 via bottom clip 90 by rotating skin 22 toward bracket 80, and then pressing lower flanged portion 32 of skin 22, more particularly clip 90, against bracket 80 for retention thereon (FIG. 21). Clip 90 is retained on bottom bracket 80 via protrusions or male snap retainers 83 (FIG. 11) disposed along a lower flange 82 of bracket 80, such that when protrusions 83 are engaged into or with C-channel 93, protrusions 83 reside within channel 93 and are retained therein by a tab 94. As illustrated in FIG. 15, protrusions 83 work in conjunction with tabbed portion 94 of clip 90 to positively retain lower flange 32 of skins 22 or 23 to bracket 80. Additionally, the longitudinal configuration of C-channel 93 permits skins 22, 23 to be shifted in a horizontal direction, without being removed from lower bracket 80. Therefore, receptors 41-43, with clips 50 installed therein, and bottom clip 90 allow skins 22, 23 to be shifted horizontally and provide for the removal and/or installation of the skins without requiring a high degree of clearance in front of the panel. For example when skins 22, 23 are installed behind the off-module panel 14 illustrated in FIG. 2, skins 22, 23 can be installed or removed from behind the off-module panel simply by horizontally sliding the skin along the “spine wall” 10. This configuration does not require the “off-module” panel 14 to be removed to allow access to the skin. This is accomplished because skins 22, 23 can be horizontally moved within the clearance between spine wall 10 and off-module wall 14, thereby allowing skins 22, 23 to be shifted horizontally, allowing tabs 28 to either be engaged or disengaged with clips 50, to permit skins 22, 23 to be installed on or removed from partition 10 without having to remove the off-module partition 14. Of course, skins 22, 23 work equally well on partitions 12, 14.

As noted above, in the preferred embodiment of the present invention, one receptor 41 is utilized to create the audible snap during installation of covering skins 22 and/or 23. With reference to FIGS. 9 and 10, the other two receptors 42 and 43 are similar in configuration to receptor 41, except for the ramps 47 and notch 48 of receptor 41, which create the audible snap upon installation of covering skins 22 and/or 23. Reference numeral 42 (FIG. 9) generally designates the second receptor and includes a slot 46 disposed within a flange 69 along a bottom edge 70 of upper bracket 40 and clip 50 is disposed therein as described previously. However, in addition to clip 50 being installed and retained within band 55 and slot 46, the upper portion of clip 50 is installed and retained within a notch 75 disposed along a rear portion of a flange 76 of bracket 40. With respect to FIG. 10, the reference numeral 43 generally designates the third receptor, which is similar in configuration to receptor 42. Although the illustrated embodiment utilizes two receptors 42-43 which do not create the audible sound, more or less may be used, either in conjunction with receptor 41 or alone.

In the foregoing description it will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art that modifications may be made to the invention without departing from the concepts disclosed herein. Such modifications are to be considered as included in the following claims, unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise.