Title:
Building units for construction
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A kit of building units for constructing a desired article comprising a plurality of connectors of elongate shape and a plurality of primary spherical units of identical size, each of the spherical units has a radius R and is provided with a plurality of openings, each of the openings leading to an elongate and substantially straight channel passing through or extending towards the center of the spherical unit, wherein the openings and channels are arranged such that a plurality of the spherical units are connectable together in a crystallographic configuration selected from the group consisting of hexagonal close-pack, face center cubic, body center cubic, simple cubic and diamond structure by the elongate connectors to form the desired article.



Inventors:
Yau, Kwok Fung John (New Territories, HK)
Application Number:
11/303400
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
12/16/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H12/00; A47B47/00; A63H33/10; A63H; E04B; F16B; G09B
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Primary Examiner:
WENDELL, MARK R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHERNOFF, VILHAUER, MCCLUNG & STENZEL, LLP (Portland, OR, US)
Claims:
1. 1-18. (canceled)

19. A kit of building units for constructing a desired article selected from a group of articles including an article of furniture, a household article and an architectural construction, comprising a plurality of connectors of elongate shape and a plurality of primary spherical units of identical size and shape, each of the spherical units has a radius R and is provided with at least six openings, each of the openings leading to an elongate and substantially straight channel passing through or extending towards the center of the spherical unit, wherein the openings and the channels are arranged such that a plurality of the spherical units are connectable together in a crystallographic configuration selected from the group consisting of hexagonal close-pack, face center cubic, body center cubic, simple cubic and diamond structure by the elongate connectors to form the desired article, and wherein any said spherical unit of said desired article is in contact with adjacent or surrounding spherical units when said spherical units are assembled to form said desired article.

20. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 adapted to construct an article of furniture, a household article or an architectural construction.

21. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein each of said primary spherical units comprises at least twelve openings.

22. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein the elongate and substantially straight channel passes through the center of the spherical unit.

23. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein said elongate connectors are of identical size.

24. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein the channels are internally threaded for engagement with the connectors.

25. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein the connectors are externally threaded.

26. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein ends of the connectors are drivenable within the channels by Ellen keys of suitable size.

27. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein ends of the connectors are engageable within the channels by snap-fitting.

28. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein the length of the connectors is less than the diameter of the spherical unit.

29. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein each of the spherical units is provided with twenty-six said openings and/or thirteen channels.

30. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein each of the spherical units is provided with twelve said openings and channels.

31. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 wherein the radius R of the spherical unit is from 10 mm to 30 mm.

32. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 19 comprising one or more auxiliary spherical units for strengthening the structure of the article constructed from the building units.

33. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 29 wherein the auxiliary spherical units are identical in size.

34. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 29 wherein the radius of the auxiliary spherical units is about 0.73R, 0.41R, 0.22R or 0.15R.

35. A kit of building units as claimed in claim 29 wherein the auxiliary spherical units are connectable to and/or located at gaps between the primary spherical units.

36. An article of furniture, a household article or an architectural construction, made from a kit of building units as claimed in claim 19.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is concerned with building units, or building blocks, for construction of a structure or an article. The present invention is also concerned with a structure or an article made of a kit of such building units.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Virtually all man-made physical or structural products (including smaller articles for use in a household and larger architectural constructions such as a high-rise building) are constructed by assembling a plurality of smaller components. Conventionally, these components are normally different in size, shape and material. One of the disadvantages of using these components in that many different types of these components are required to construct a relatively simple product (e.g. a chair). For each component type, a mould of some sort is often required before it can be manufactured industrially, and the cost for manufacturing one mould for each component type is often rather very high. Another disadvantage of using products made of these components is that once the assembled products are no longer needed by the users, recycling them is very difficult because many of the component types are often not, or at least not easily, recyclable or reusable. Thus, using products made from such components is not environmental friendly.

The present invention seeks to address these advantages or at least to provide an alternative to the public.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the present invention there is provided a kit of building units for constructing a desired article selected from a group of articles including an article of furniture, a household article and an architectural construction, the kit comprises a plurality of connectors of elongate shape and a plurality of primary spherical units of identical size and shape, each of the spherical units has a radius R and is provided with at least six openings, each of the openings leading to an elongate and substantially straight channel passing through or extending towards the center of the spherical unit, wherein the openings and the channels are arranged such that a plurality of the spherical units are connectable together in a crystallographic configuration selected from the group consisting of hexagonal close-pack (HCP), face center cubic (FCC), body center cubic (BCC), simple cubic (SC) and diamond structure (DS) by the elongate connectors at the openings to form the desired article, and wherein any said spherical unit of said desired article is in contact with adjacent or surrounding spherical units when said spherical units are assembled to form said desired article. Preferably, the kit of building units may be adapted to construct an article of furniture, a household article or an architectural construction. Suitably, each of said primary spherical units may comprise at least twelve openings.

Preferably, the elongate and substantially straight channel may pass through the center of the spherical unit. There are a number of advantages of using spherical units with a through channel. Among other advantages, the fabrication and/or application of such spherical units is easier, and the channel may be formed, for example, by drilling through the units. Alternatively, the units may be molded with the through channel. Further, instead of using a plurality of connectors of one length, fewer but longer connectors may be used to connect the units together in a row.

It is to be noted that the term “construction” used hereinafter refers to construction of any structure or article without limitation to the nature or size thereof.

Preferably, the elongate connectors may be of identical size. The advantage of using connectors of identical size is that only one connector type is needed and fabrication thereof is thus more cost effective and practicable.

Suitably, the channels may be internally threaded for engagement with the connectors. The connectors may be provided with external threads for complementing with the threads of the channels. Ends of the connectors may be configured such that they are drivenable within the channels by Ellen keys of suitable size. It is to be noted that the ends of the connectors and the channels may alternatively be configured such that ends of the connectors may be snap-fitted within the channels. This is achieved by fabricating the connectors with a diameter which is very slightly larger than the diameter of the channels such that once the connectors are pushed in the channels, they are snap-fitted and secured therein.

Advantageously, the length of the connector may be less than the diameter of the spherical units such that when connecting two units together each half of the connector can be fully fitted within each of the two adjacent units.

Each of the spherical units may preferably provided with twenty such openings and/or channels at suitable locations. The provision of twenty such openings is normally sufficient to allow the spherical units be assembled to form articles of most desirable crystallographic configurations. However, spherical units provided with twelve such openings and channels at suitable locations are still satisfactory. In principle, spherical units used for forming articles in body center cubic configurations may be provided with six such openings, with four of them located on and equally spaced at the “equator” of each of the units and each one of them located on each of the north and south poles.

Preferably, the radius (R) of the spherical units may be from 10 mm to 30 mm. Spherical units with a dimension in this range may often be optimal for constructing household articles and enjoyable articles. Experiments have shown that spherical units that have a radius in this range are most versatile in building a variety of articles. The use of spherical units that are too large would result in not being able to assemble and form a finished article close the desired dimension. On the other hand, if the spherical units were too small, then many spherical units would be required before the finished articles could be built from the units and this would be very ineffective. Experiments have shown that most household products made with spherical units that have a radius from about 15 mm to 25 mm are most suitable to human ergonomics. Further experiments have shown that the width of a household article and the radius of spherical units used to assemble the article should preferably have a ratio in the range of 1:50 to 1:25.

Suitably, the kit may comprise one or more auxiliary spherical units for strengthening the structure of the article constructed from the building units. The auxiliary units may be placed in the gaps between the primary spherical units. The auxiliary spherical units may be identical in size for similar reason as the primary spherical units. The radius of the auxiliary spherical units may preferably be about 0.73R, 0.41R, 0.22R or 0.15R. Such auxiliary spherical units would be able to close the gaps and strengthen the structure of the article satisfactorily. In particular, the auxiliary spherical units may be connectable to and/or located at gaps between the primary spherical units.

The article constructed from the units and the connectors may be used to construct any physical objects (e.g. article of furniture or any household article). According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided an article of furniture, a household article or an architectural construction, made from a kit of building units as described above.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Some embodiments of the present invention will now be described by way of example and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:—

FIG. 1 is a schematic view showing the cross section of a structure made by a kit of two building units: in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a building unit;

FIG. 3 shows a schematic end view and a schematic side view of a connector;

FIGS. 4a and 4b are schematic views showing a structure made of four spherical units in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 5a and 5b are schematic views showing a structure made of five spherical units according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Several embodiments of a kit of building units or a structure made of such a kit in accordance with the present invention are described below.

Firstly referring to FIG. 1, there is shown a structure 1 made of a kit of building units comprising two spherical units 2, 4 and a connector 6. The spherical units 2, 4 are identical in size and are connected together by the connector 6. Each spherical unit 2, 4 is provided with a number of openings 8 on its surface. Each opening 8 leads to an elongate and generally straight channel 10 passing through the center 11 of the spherical unit 2, 4. Each channel 10 is internally threaded. The connector 6 is elongate and generally straight in shape. The connector 6 is provided with external threads engageable with the internal threads of the channels. Although not shown in FIG. 1, the openings 8 and the channels 10 are arranged such that a plurality of the spherical units 2, 4 are connectable together in a crystallographic configuration selected from the group consisting of hexagonal close-pack, face center cubic, body center cubic, simple cubic and diamond structure by the elongate connectors to form the desired structure or article 1. It is to be noted that a person skilled in the art of mechanical and/or civil engineering and crystallographic would understand the teaching in this description. In this embodiment, there are sufficient such openings 8 at and channels 10 in the units 2, 4 such that they may be connected in at least one of these configurations. However, in principle, an embodiment can be designed such that only sufficient number of the openings 8 and the channels 10 be provided at respective locations to allow the units 2, 4 to be connected together in one, but not any, of the configurations. Such embodiment however may not be desirable to the extent that they can only be connected in one of these configurations and are thus less versatile.

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a spherical unit 12 of another embodiment of a kit of building units in accordance with the present invention. Similar to the spherical units 2, 4 in FIG. 1, this spherical unit 12 is likewise provided with a number of openings 14 and channels (not shown) allowing it to be connectable to other such spherical units by connectors. In particular, the unit 12 is provided with twenty-six openings and thirteen channels.

FIG. 3 shows an end view and a side view of the connector 6 for connecting the spherical units 2, 4, 12 in FIG. 1 or 2. It can be understood that both ends of the connector are provided with a hexagonal recess 16. With the recesses 16, the connector 6 is easily drivenable to the channel 10 of the spherical units 2, 4, 12 by an Ellen key of suitable size. The connector 6 may also be driven to the channel 10 simply by hand.

FIGS. 4a and 4b show an embodiment of a structure 18 made in accordance with the present invention. The structure 18 comprises three primary spherical units 20, 22, 24 connected together by three connectors (not shown). The primary spherical units 20, 22, 24 have a radius R, and are generally similar to the spherical units 2, 4 in FIG. 1 and the spherical unit 12 in FIG. 2 in that they are provided with the openings and the channels at particular locations such that they are connectable (or connected) together at least in a triangular configuration or hexagonal close-pack (HCP) configuration as shown in these figures. The structure 18 is also provided with an auxiliary spherical unit 26 arranged in the gap between the three primary spherical units 20, 22, 24. It is envisaged that a surface made of a layer of the primary spherical units 20, 22, 24 will have a number of gaps between them. The provision of such an auxiliary unit 26 in the gaps can reduce the size of the gaps and provide a more continuous surface. It is to be noted that the diameter of the auxiliary unit 26 should be about 0.15R in order to tightly fit in the gap. The auxiliary unit 26 may be connected to the primary spherical units 20, 22, 24 by connectors of different sizes similar to the way the primary spherical units 20, 22, 24 are connected together.

FIGS. 5a and 5b show an embodiment of a structure 28 in accordance with the present invention. The structure comprises four primary spherical units 30, 32, 34, 36 with each unit being similar to the units 2, 4, 12 in FIG. 1 or 2. The units 30, 32, 34, 36 have a radius R′, and they are arranged in hexagonal close-pack configuration. An auxiliary spherical unit 38 similar to the auxiliary unit 26 in FIG. 4 is however arranged in the gap between the four units. The auxiliary unit 38 has a radius of about 0.22R′. The auxiliary unit 38 may be secured in the gap in a similar manner as the auxiliary unit 26 of FIG. 4a.

On the assumption that each primary spherical unit symbolizes the earth, the locations of openings thereof may be represented by coordinates used by geologists to identify locations on the earth. Primary spherical units that are connectable in simple cubic configuration (SC), face center cubic (FCC), hexagonal close-pack (HCP), body center cubic (BCC) and diamond structure (DS) have openings at at least one of the following respective locations.

    • SC: E 0°, N 0°; E 180°, N 0°; W 90°, N 54.74°: E 90°, S 54.74°; E 90°, N 35.26°; W 90°, S 35.26°
    • FCC: E 0°, N 0°; E 180°, N 0°; E 60°, N 0°; W 120°, N 0°; E 120°, N 0°; W 60°, N 0°; E 30°, N 54.74°; W 150°, S 54.74°; E 150°, N 54.74°; W 30°, S 54.740; W 90°, N 54.74°; E 90°, S 54.74°
    • HCP: E 0°, N 0°; E 180°, N 0°; E 60°, N 0°; W 120°, N 0°; E 120°, N 0°; W 60°, N 0°; E 30°, N 54.74°; E 30°, S 54.74°; E 150°, N 54.74°; E 150°, S 54.74°; W 90°, N 54.74°; W 90°, S 54.74°
    • BCC: E 0°, N 90°; E 0°, S 90°; E 30°, N 19.47°; W 150°, S 19.47°; E 150°, N 19.47°; W 30°, S 19.47°; W 90°, N 19.47°; E 90°, S 19.47°
    • DS: E 0°, N 90°; W 150°, S 19.47°; W 30°, S 19.47°; E 90°, S 19.47°

It is to be noted that structures or articles made of a kit in accordance with the present invention may have a number of unused openings on its surface. It is envisaged that plugs of suitable size may be used to close these openings.

It is envisaged that structures or articles made of a kit in accordance with the present invention may be disassembled relatively easily without damage to the spherical units and the connectors therefrom, and the disassembled units and connectors may be used to build other suitable structures. Thus, structures or kits made in accordance with the present invention are environmental friendly because the units and connectors are recyclable and reusable.