Title:
Panel wall system, parts thereof and method of installation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A thin panel wall assembly with support members having channels and narrow slot-like openings for receiving spacers and connectors such as brackets. Both the channels and the spacers have T-shaped sectional configurations. Once spacers are inserted at the top of the support members, the connectors are inserted. The connectors are then supported by the spacers and, depending upon the length of the spacers, the vertical distance from a supporting floor to the connectors is also determined. Multiple spacers and connectors may be inserted into the support members. The connectors include widened rear portions which are entrapped by the support members and prevents the connectors from falling out of the support members.



Inventors:
Lindeen, Steve Virgil (Wapello, IA, US)
Hill, Robert R. (Muscatine, IA, US)
Mills, Mervin Douglas (Nichols, IA, US)
Donaldson, Larry (Mount Pleasant, IA, US)
Abusada, Sammy E. (Iowa City, IA, US)
Wright, Travis E. (Morning Sun, IA, US)
Traver, Martin J. (Wheatland, IA, US)
Proctor, Benjamin J. (Wapello, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/050978
Publication Date:
08/17/2006
Filing Date:
02/04/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B2/00
View Patent Images:
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20100236173System of Wall FacingsSeptember, 2010Pacha et al.
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Primary Examiner:
CAJILIG, CHRISTINE T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
1. A panel wall system comprising: a vertically disposed panel, said panel including two spaced apart vertically oriented support members, each support member having an elongated channel formed therein; a plurality of spacers, each of said spacers being structured and dimensioned to be positioned within the channels of said support members; and a plurality of panel wall system connectors for being disposed in the channels, each of said plurality of connectors including a widened mounting portion, said mounting protion for being entrapped in a corresponding channel.

2. The system of claim 1 wherein: said connector is formed of material having a generally constant thickness; and said widened mounting portion is formed by configuring said material.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein: said connector is formed of a sheet of metal.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein: said connector mounting portion includes protrusions.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein: said connector mounting portion includes alternately bent tabs.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein: each of said spacers are formed to a predetermined length.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein: each of said spacers is structured to be severed at any predetermined length.

8. The system of claim 2 wherein: each of said spacers is structured to be severed at any predetermined length.

9. The system of claim 1 wherein: said spacers support said connectors in a vertical direction and said support members restrain said connectors from rotating out of the channels.

10. The system of claim 9 wherein: said spacer is an extruded T-shaped element.

11. The system of claim 3 wherein: said spacer is an extruded T-shaped element.

12. A panel wall system connector comprising: a support structure adapted to be connected to a vertically oriented support member having a channel, said support structure having a widened mounting portion to be received in the channel of the vertically oriented support member for abutting engagement with the support member.

13. The connector of claim 12 wherein: said support structure is formed of material having a generally constant thickness; and said widened mounting portion is formed by configuring said material.

14. The connector of claim 12 wherein: said support structure is formed of sheet metal; and said widened mounting portion is formed from said sheet metal.

15. The connector of claim 12 wherein: said support structure includes a front portion integral with said mounting portion, said front portion extending outwardly from the channel of the support member.

16. The connector of claim 15 wherein: said widened mounting portion includes protrusions.

17. The attachment of claim 15 wherein: said widened mounting portion includes alternately bent tabs.

18. A panel wall system specer comprising: an elongated T-shaped element, said being structured and dimensioned to be received in a channel of a vertically overted support member of the panel wall.

19. The spacer of claim 18 wherein: said T-shaped element is severable.

20. A method for installing a panel wall system comprising the steps of: providing a plurality of panel systems including support members, each support member having an elongated channel; providing a plurality of spacer elements for mounting in the channels; providing a plurality of panel wall system connectors, each having a widened mounting portion being received within the channels and for engaging the spacers; inserting a spacer into a channel of a support member; and inserting a connector into the channel of the support member, said connector engaging and being supported by the spacer.

21. The method of claim 20 including the steps of: inserting a second spacer in the channel of the support member to engage the already inserted connector; and inserting a second panel wall system connector in the channel of the support member, the second connector engaging and being supported by the second spacer.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not applicable.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a panel wall system, parts thereof and to a method of installation of the system, and more particularly to a panel wall system having panels with support members, spacers which are positionable in the support members and connectors, such as brackets, which are supported by the spacers. The present invention also relates to the method of installing connectors to the panels.

2. Description of the Related Art

Panel wall systems are widely used and typically include panel assemblies having metal frames with bottom, top and side frame members, and tiles of fabric covered wood, plastic, fiberglass or metal supported by the frame. The side frame members may contain elongated end channels into which connectors are placed to align and connect two adjoining panel assemblies. The side frame members also contain a series of slots facing outwardly to receive hook portions of brackets, shelves, cabinets and the like. Typically, the panel assemblies are between two and three inches in depth resulting in sufficient space to receive the hook portions of various items which are usually supported by the panel assemblies.

More recently, thin panel assemblies of only one inch or less in depth have been adopted. These save space and are less costly and they have a more elegant appearance. However, forming slots in the thin panel assemblies are not aesthetically appealing and there may not be sufficient space for the hook portions of hangable items.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

What is described here is a panel wall system including a vertically disposed thin panel, the thin panel including two spaced apart vertically oriented support members with each support member having an elongated channel formed therein. A plurality of spacers are also part of the system where each of the spacers are structured and dimensioned to be positioned within the channels of the support members. Also included is a plurality of panel wall system connectors for being disposed in the channels, each of the connectors including a widened mounting portion to be entrapped in a corresponding channel.

What is also described here is the connectors alone and the spacers alone. In addition, a method for installing the panel wall system is described including the steps of providing a plurality of panel systems including support members where each support member has an elongated channel, a plurality of spacers, and a plurality of connectors where each attachment has a widened mounting portion for mounting within a channel and for engaging a spacer, then inserting the spacers into the channels of the support members and thereafter inserting the connectors into the channels of the support members where the connectors engage and are supported by the spacers.

There are a number of advantages, features and objects achieved with the present invention which are believed not to be available in earlier related devices. For example, one advantage is that the present invention provides a panel wall system with a more elegant and simple appearance. Another advantage of the present invention is to provide a panel wall system that uses smaller and lighter elements. Other objects of the present invention are that the panel wall system disclosed here is simply constructed, strong and easy to install.

A complete understanding of the present invention and other objects, advantages and features thereof will be gained from a consideration of the present specification which provides a written description of the invention, and of the manner and process of making and using the invention, set forth in such full, clear, concise, and exact terms as to enable any person skilled in the art to which it pertains, or with which it is most nearly connected, to make and use the same in compliance with Title 35 U.S.C. section 112 (first paragraph). Furthermore, the following description of preferred embodiments of the invention read in conjunction with the accompanying drawing provided herein represent examples of the invention in compliance with Title 35 U.S.C. section 112 (first paragraph), but the invention itself is defined in the Claims section attached hereto.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a panel wall system example including panel assemblies, cabinets, storage shelves and work surfaces.

FIG. 2 is a partial isometric view of a prior art panel system illustrating the mounting of a storage shelf.

FIG. 3 is a partial isometric view of a prior art panel system illustrating the mounting of bracket attachments.

FIG. 4 is an isometric view of a thin panel assembly.

FIG. 5 is a plan sectional view of a support member and a portion of a thin panel.

FIG. 6 is an isometric view of the spacer.

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of a bracket attachment.

FIG. 8 is a rear elevation view of the bracket attachment.

FIG. 9 is a side elevation view of the bracket attachment.

FIG. 10 is an isometric view of a three dimensional coordinates set.

FIG. 11 is an isometric view of another embodiment of a bracket attachment.

FIG. 12 is a rear elevation view of the bracket attachment shown in FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 is a side elevation view of the bracket attachment shown in FIGS. 11 and 12.

FIG. 14 is an isometric view of a portion of still another embodiment of a bracket attachment.

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of a portion of a fourth embodiment of a bracket attachment.

FIG. 16 is an isometric view of a fifth embodiment of a bracket attachment.

FIG. 17 is a rear elevation view of the bracket attachment shown in FIG. 16.

FIG. 18 is a partially exploded isometric view and a blow-up view of the thin panel assembly and an installing spacer.

FIG. 19 is a partially exploded isometric view and a blow-up view of the thin panel assembly and an installing bracket attachment.

FIG. 20 is a partially exploded isometric view of a portion of the thin panel system and two installed bracket attachments mounted on spacers.

FIG. 21 is a partially exploded isometric view of a portion of the thin panel and several installed attachments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

While the present invention is open to various modifications and alternative constructions, the preferred embodiments illustrating the best mode contemplated by the inventors of carrying out their invention are shown in the various figures of the drawing and will be described herein in detail, pursuant to Title 35 U.S.C. section 112 (first paragraph). It is understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the particular embodiments, forms or examples which are disclosed herein. To the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalent structures and methods, and alternative constructions falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as expressed in the appended Claims section attached hereto, pursuant to Title 35 U.S.C. section 112 (second paragraph).

A panel wall system 10 is shown in FIG. 1, in the form of a what is often called a Manager's Station. This system is an example only and it should be understood that other sizes, shapes and configurations may be used. The panel wall system may include ten decorative panel assemblies of four different widths and a glass panel assembly 12. Generally the panel assemblies may have a vertical height of about sixty eight inches and four panel assemblies 14, 16, 18, 20 may have a width of thirty six inches, two panel assemblies 22, 24 may have a narrower width of thirty inches and three panel assemblies may have wider dimensions, one panel assembly 26 at forty two inches and two panel assemblies 28, 30 at sixty inches. The panel assemblies may be formed with other widths, heights and depths and panel assemblies of different heights may be combined. Also, panel assemblies may be stacked on one another. Again by way of example, mounted to the panel assemblies are two cabinets 32, 34, two storage shelves 38, 40 and several work surfaces 42, 44, 46, 48. Other office items may be supported or “hung” in a similar manner, such as a countertop or a paper management system, again by way of example.

Each panel assembly may include a frame constructed of a top frame member, a bottom frame member and two side frame members. An example of such a panel assembly is disclosed in a patent application, Publication No. US 2003/0213193 A1, which application is incorporated herein in full by reference. Mounted to the frame are tiles which may comprise fabric covering a wood or composite backing and a central core. Other materials and constructions may also used. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, prior art side frame members 50, 52 of a panel assembly 53 include a series of slots 54, 56 to receive hooks 58 of supported items, such as a shelf 60, FIG. 2, or two brackets 62, 64, FIG. 3. The brackets may be used to mount a work surface 66 shown in phantom line. Generally, the brackets and the shelf are installed by positioning the hooks in alignment with the slots, moving the brackets or the shelf rearwardly into the slots and then moving the brackets or the shelf downwardly to lock the hooks in the slots. The hooks are generally the same widths or thickness as the materials of the brackets or the end panels of the shelf, such that the hooks are able to be received by the slots. Typically, the depth of penetration of a hook into the support in which a series of slots is formed, is about 0.375 inches and the depth dimension of the prior art panel assemblies, such as the panel assembly 53, is between two and three inches.

More recently, thin panel assemblies 70, FIG. 4, have been developed to provide a more elegant, trim appearance and to save space. These may also be formed of a frame 72 and a panel 74. However, the thin panel assemblies are only about an inch or less in depth and the side frame or vertically oriented support members 80 are smaller in dimension to give a more elegant, light looking appearance. The panel may be made of fabric covered particle board or any other convenient and suitable materials.

Referring to FIG. 5, the vertically oriented support or side frame member 80 includes a central chamber 82, three channels 84, 86, 88 with each channel having a narrow opening 90, 92, 94. The support member also includes two panel receiving walls 96, 98, two backing walls 100, 102, a transverse wall 104 and two curved side walls 106, 108. Each channel includes a large interior space 110, 112, 114 in communication with the narrow openings 90, 92, 94. Each channel opening has a central axis 122, 124, 126. Each channel opening is also defined by opposing arm wall portions, such as arm wall portions 130, 132 for the channel opening 90, arm wall portions 134, 136 for the channel opening 92 and arm wall portions 138, 140 for the channel opening 94. Two of the channels 84, 86 are positioned back to back so that the channel openings 90, 92 face in opposite directions and the central axes 122, 124 are generally perpendicular to the panel facing surfaces 142, 144. The third opening 94 is positioned generally perpendicular to the other two slot openings 90, 92 and the central axis 126 is generally parallel to the panel facing surfaces 142, 144.

The third channel 88 of the support member 80 is useful for receiving a generally H-shaped connector (not shown) to align and connect adjoining thin panel assemblies. The first and second channels 84, 86 are useful for mounting panel wall system connectors in the form of brackets, cabinets, shelves and other office equipment typically hung on panel wall systems. The side walls 106, 108 and the panel receiving walls 96, 98 present a generally smooth, elegant appearance interrupted only by the trim and neat channel openings 90, 92, 94 thereby giving the panel assemblies and the wall of which they are a part an improved overall look. It is noted that there are no series of slots in the support members. The frame may be formed of any suitable material, such as aluminum, and painted or otherwise colored to improve appearance, as desired. The depth of the support 80 from the outer surface of the panel receiving wall 96 to the outer surface of the panel receiving wall 98 is about one inch. This depth is insufficient to handle the hooks of attachment devices described in relation to FIGS. 2 and 3. Hence, a new structural arrangement is desirable.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 18, a spacer 150 is shown in detail. The spacer 150 is an elongated element having a generalized T-shape with a base portion 152 and two extending arm portions 154, 156. The outer configuration of the spacer is very similar to the configuration of the channels 84, 86, 88 and the dimensions of the spacer are generally slightly less than the dimensions of the channels such that the spacer may be easily and conveniently inserted into upper end portions of the channels. Thereafter, the spacers fall or slide downwardly into the channels. This insertion step is graphically illustrated in FIG. 18.

The spacer may be made of any convenient material, such as PVC, in standard sizes and/or spacers may be formed from long extrusions that are easily cut and severed so as to adjust the length of the spacer as desired. The spacers have sufficient compression strength when confined in the channels of the support members to hold brackets, cabinets, shelves and the like or even multiple brackets, shelves, cabinets or combinations of these and other hanging items.

A preferred embodiment of a panel wall system connector in the form of a bracket 160 is shown in detail in FIGS. 7-9. The bracket includes a support portion 160 extending in a first or generally horizontal direction, outwardly or away from the panel assembly as shown in FIGS. 20 and 21, a web-like middle portion 164 and a mounting portion 166 extending in a second or generally vertical direction. For descriptive purposes a three dimensional coordinate set is shown in FIG. 10 illustrating mutually perpendicular x, y and z axes. The x-axis is parallel to the first direction, the y-axis is parallel to the second direction and the z-axis is perpendicular to each of the x and y axes. The bracket may be formed from a sheet of any suitable metal, such as steel. The sheet may be bent to form a flange 168 in the support portion 162 with three fastener receiving holes 170, 172, 174, and a hand grip opening 176 may be formed in the middle portion 164.

The mounting portion 166 of the bracket includes a rear edge 178 extending in the “y” or vertical direction. Adjacent the rear edge 178 may be a vertical series of protrusions 180 which extend laterally outward or in the “z” direction, perpendicular to both the “x” and “y” directions from the sides of the bracket. The protrusions may extend about 0.054 inches alternately to each side of the bracket which may have a width of about 0.072 inches, such that the width of the bracket at the protrusions is more than twice the width of the remaining mounting portion. It may now be appreciated that when the bracket is inserted at the top of the channel 84, FIG. 5, of the support member 80 and dropped or slid downwardly, the bracket becomes entrapped because the protrusions are located in the internal space 110 of the channel and the total width of the bracket is greater than the slot opening 90. The portion of the bracket adjacent and to the front of the protrusions, in the region of a phantom line 182, extends through the narrow channel opening 90. Thus, there is an abutment between the arm wall portions 130, 132 of the support member 80 and the protrusions 180 of the bracket 160 causing the bracket to be entrapped and preventing the bracket from pivoting or rotating out of the channel. The bottom of the bracket may include a horizontal lower edge 190 for abutting and being supported by a spacer inserted into the channel before the bracket is inserted, and the top of the bracket may include a horizontal upper edge 192 to engage a spacer inserted into the channel after the bracket is inserted. By cutting or forming the spacer to a predetermined length before insertion into the support member, the vertical location of the bracket may be decided. In this way, the bracket is supported vertically by the spacer and is restrained from rotating or tipping out of the channel by the arm wall portions of the support member.

The protrusions may be created by a forming operation using a forming die. Other suitable forming methods may be used. Should the bracket be molded, the protrusions or other widening structure may be formed when the bracket is formed.

Another embodiment of an attachment in the form of a bracket is illustrated in FIGS. 11-13. There a bracket 200 is shown and is essentially identical with the bracket 160 except that instead of a series of alternating protrusions extending from the sides, the bracket 200 forms a widened mounting portion 201 by a series of spaced tabs 202 extending rearwardly, each tab having oppositely bent end portions 204, 206. The bent tabs serve the same function as the protrusions, namely, that of increasing the width of the rear mounting portion of the bracket so that when the bracket 200 is inserted into a channel of a support member and dropped or slid downwardly, the bracket is captured by the support member. It should be understood that other configurations may be used to create a widened mounting portion so as to entrap the bracket or other type connector in the channel of a support member. For example, the bracket may be bent along the y-axis so as to create a widening, or additional material may be fastened or adhered to the bracket or small fasteners may be inserted. It should also be understood that the brackets and spacers may be easily removed from the support members simply by pushing them to the top of the support members and out of the channels.

Referring to FIGS. 14 and 15, two additional bracket embodiments 210, 212 are illustrated. In the FIG. 14 embodiment, the bracket 210 includes a “wavy” or undulating mounting portion 213 for increasing lateral width, along the z-axis, so as to cause the bracket to be captured by the support member when inserted into the channel of the support member. The bracket 212 is similar to the bracket 200 illustrated in FIGS. 11-13 in that there are a series of tabs or projections 214 at the mounting portion of the bracket having oppositely bent end portions 215, 216 for increasing the lateral width of the rear of the bracket.

An additional embodiment of a bracket 217 is illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17. This embodiment has alternating half circle projections 218 that increase the width at the rear or mounting portion of the bracket. The rear portion of the bracket with the projections is received by the channel of a support member and the projections come into engagement with the arm wall portions of the support member to prevent the bracket from falling out of the channel through the channel opening.

It should be understood that the forming of structural devices to from the widened mounting portion may be applied to any connector, attachment element, device or item. For example, in FIG. 18, attachment devices include a cantilever bracket 220, a countertop bracket 222 and a paper management connector 224. In FIG. 2, another connector is shown in the form of a storage shelf 60. It should also be understood that any material roll, curl, volute, scallop, twist, crimp, projection, protrusion and the like configuration may be used to increase lateral width of a sheet metal item.

In operation, reference is made to FIGS. 18-21 where thin panel assemblies are illustrated including the support member 80 attached to a panel 74. Installation of spacers and attachment elements begin with specifically sized spacers or spacers cut or severed to lengths that provide the vertical height desired for connector items such as brackets (and connected work surfaces), shelves, and cabinets to be hung on the panel wall assemblies. Insertion of the spacer 150 is shown in FIG. 18 where the spacer is placed or dropped into the channel 84 so as to rest at the lower portion 230, FIG. 20, of the support member 80. The next step is to insert a connector item such as the bracket 220 (which is similar to the brackets 160, 200, 210, 212, 217) into the support member channel as shown in FIG. 19. The inserted bracket 220, FIG. 20, slides downwardly and will be supported vertically by the spacer 150, and will be supported against falling out of the support member by the arm wall portions 130, 132 defining the channel opening 90 of the channel 84. Once the bracket 220 is lowered into the support member 80, another spacer 232, FIG. 21, may be inserted to space and support another connector device in the form of the paper management connector 224. Also as shown in FIG. 21, a third spacer 234 may be inserted to space and support a third connector item such as the countertop bracket 222. Thereafter, a top cap 236 may be placed over the support member and attached thereto by a screw 238.

The above specification describes in detail several preferred embodiments of the present invention. Other examples, embodiments, modifications and variations will, under both the literal claim language and the doctrine of equivalents, come within the scope of the invention defined by the appended claims. For example, there are many configurations to use for increasing lateral width of a sheet metal attachment item. These are all considered equivalent structures and will also come within the literal language of the claims. Still other alternatives will also be equivalent as will many new technologies. There is no desire or intention here to limit in any way the application of the doctrine of equivalents nor to limit or restrict the scope of the invention.