Title:
Canopy tensioning device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A canopy tensioning device to facilitate the tensioning and loosening of a canopy onto a frame. The canopy tensioning device may include an elongated body with a drive mechanism disposed at least partially inside the elongated body. Actuating the drive mechanism moves an engagement member longitudinally along the elongated body. The engagement member is connected to the canopy through the opening in the elongated body such that moving the engagement member in one direction tensions the canopy onto the frame and moving the engagement member in another direction loosens the canopy.



Inventors:
Zanot, Christopher (Carrollton, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/376930
Publication Date:
02/08/2007
Filing Date:
03/16/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
135/121
International Classes:
E04H15/64
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP - East Coast (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
1. A canopy tensioning device, comprising: (a) an elongated body, the elongated body comprising an opening disposed along at least part of a length of the elongated body; (b) a drive mechanism at least partially disposed in an interior portion of the elongated body along at least part of the length of the elongated body; and (c) an engagement member for at least indirectly engaging a canopy through the opening in the elongated body; wherein the engagement member is associated with the drive mechanism in a moveable manner; wherein actuating the drive mechanism in a first direction moves the engagement member towards a distal end of the elongated body; and wherein actuating the drive mechanism in a second direction moves the engagement member towards a proximal end of the elongated body.

2. The canopy tensioning device of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the engagement member extends through the opening in the elongated body.

3. The canopy tensioning device of claim 2, wherein the portion of the engagement member extending through the opening comprises a hook.

4. The canopy tensioning device of claim 2, wherein the drive mechanism comprises a threaded rod; and wherein actuating the drive mechanism comprises causing the rotation of the threaded rod.

5. The canopy tensioning device of claim 4, wherein a portion of the engagement member that is associated with the drive mechanism comprises a threaded aperture.

6. The canopy tensioning device of claim 4, further comprising a cap disposed over an end of the drive mechanism and secured to the elongated body in a removable manner.

7. The canopy tensioning device of claim 6, wherein the cap is disposed over the end of the drive mechanism and secured to the elongated body by a tamper resistant fastener.

8. The canopy tensioning device of claim 7, wherein the tamper resistant fastener interacts with the end of the drive mechanism to secure the cap to the elongated body in the removable manner.

9. The canopy tensioning device of claim 6, wherein the cap further comprises a drainage port.

10. The canopy tensioning device of claim 9, wherein the cap and the elongated body are configured such that securing the cap to the elongated body in the removable manner positions the drainage port proximate a lower portion of the canopy tensioning device.

11. The canopy tensioning device of claim 10, wherein the cap includes a locator pin that interacts with the opening in the elongated body to position the drainage port proximate a lower portion of the canopy tensioning device when the cap is secured to the elongated body in the removable manner.

12. The canopy tensioning device of claim 4, wherein the elongated body further comprises a pair of plates, each plate comprising an aperture for receiving portions of the drive mechanism.

13. The canopy tensioning device of claim 12, wherein the plates of the elongated body receive at least a portion of the drive mechanism in a removable manner.

14. The canopy tensioning device of claim 4, wherein the threaded rod further comprises a nut located proximate an end of the threaded rod; wherein the nut facilitates rotating the threaded rod.

15. A canopy structure, comprising: (a) a canopy; (b) at least two substantially horizontal members supporting the canopy; wherein at least one of the substantially horizontal members comprises at least one canopy tensioning device, the canopy tensioning device comprising: (i) an elongated body, the elongated body comprising an opening disposed along at least part of a length of the elongated body; (ii) a drive mechanism at least partially disposed in an interior portion of the elongated body along at least part of the length of the elongated body; and (iii) an engagement member for at least indirectly engaging the canopy through the opening in the elongated body; wherein the engagement member is associated with the drive mechanism in a moveable manner; wherein actuating the drive mechanism in a first direction facilitates tensioning the canopy; and wherein actuating the drive mechanism in a second direction facilitates loosening the canopy; and (c) at least one substantially vertical support supporting at least one of the substantially horizontal members.

16. The canopy structure of claim 15, wherein at least a portion of the engagement member extends through the opening in the elongated body.

17. The canopy structure of claim 15, wherein the drive mechanism comprises a threaded rod; and wherein actuating the drive mechanism comprises rotating the threaded rod.

18. The canopy structure of claim 15, wherein the canopy tensioning device further comprises a cap disposed over an end of the drive mechanism and secured to the elongated body in a removable manner.

19. The canopy structure of claim 15, wherein the canopy tensioning device further comprises a drainage port.

20. The canopy structure of claim 15, wherein the elongated body receives at least a portion of the drive mechanism in a removable manner.

21. A canopy, comprising: (a) fabric; (b) a plurality of tubes supporting the fabric; and (c) at least one fabric tensioning mechanism, comprising: (i) a tube extension for telescoping attachment to one of the tubes, (ii) a threaded rod rotatably secured within the tube extension, and (iii) a hook threaded onto the rod, projecting through a longitudinal slot in the tube extension, and attached to the fabric so that rotation of the rod slides the hook within the slot to increase or decrease tension on the fabric.

22. The canopy of claim 21, wherein the threaded rod is centered within the tube extension.

23. A canopy fabric tensioning mechanism, comprising: (a) a tube; (b) a threaded rod rotatably secured within the tube extension; and (c) a hook threaded onto the rod and projecting through a longitudinal slot in the tube for attachment to the fabric so that rotation of the rod slides the hook within the slot to increase or decrease tension on the fabric.

24. A canopy tensioning device, comprising: (a) an elongated body, the elongated body comprising an opening disposed along at least part of a length of the elongated body; (b) an engagement member for at least indirectly engaging a canopy through the opening in the elongated body; (c) a drive mechanism; wherein actuating the drive mechanism moves the engagement member along the opening in the elongated body; and (d) a flexible cover disposed substantially over the opening; wherein the flexible cover comprises a slot through which the engagement member at least indirectly engages the canopy.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This document claims the benefit of U.S. Ser. No. 60/704,851, entitled “Canopy Tensioning Device” and filed Aug. 2, 2005, the contents of which are hereby incorporated in their entirety by this reference.

RELATED FIELDS

Embodiments of the present invention relate to systems, devices and methods for tensioning and loosening canopies.

BACKGROUND

Canopies provide shade and at least some protection from the elements. In some applications, the canopy, such as a fabric panel or other flexible material, is stretched over a support structure, such as a frame. Structures on the frame interact with a cable encircling the canopy's perimeter to secure and stretch the canopy over the frame. In the past, however, it has proven difficult to stretch the canopy onto the frame.

One known method uses turnbuckles or “come-alongs” to tighten the cable around hooks on the frame, thus securing the canopy to the frame. The use of turnbuckles and come-alongs in these applications is undesirable, however, because they are relatively difficult and time consuming to install, remove and adjust. Ease of removal is particularly important, as it is occasionally necessary to remove the canopy during high winds or heavy snow accumulation. Ease of adjustment is also important because the fabric of the canopy may tend to stretch over time, potentially loosening the canopy.

Other known canopy structures include telescoping devices that can be extended to tension the canopy onto the frame and shortened to loosen the canopy. Each telescoping structure includes a sleeve mounted in a sliding fashion on an end of a horizontal rafter of the frame, such that the sleeve can be telescoped in and out to tension or loosen the canopy. These “telescoping” structures are described further in U.S. Pat. No. 6,814,094, entitled “Canopy Fabric Tensioning Apparatus” and issued Nov. 9, 2004 to Shade Systems, Inc., as well as U.S. Pat. No. 6,874,518, entitled “Fabric Covered Structure and Method of Assembly of Such Structure” and issued Apr. 5, 2005 to William H. Porter, the entire contents of both of which are herein incorporated by this reference.

There are drawbacks associated with these telescoping structures. The telescoping structures are relatively complex and heavy, requiring a large sleeve mounted on the frame, and are also relatively expensive and time consuming to replace and repair. Because the sleeve is mounted to the frame in a sliding fashion, it must have fairly exact tolerances and may be susceptible to binding due to corrosion, rust, dirt or other debris becoming trapped between the sleeve and the rafter. Additionally, the telescoping structures may also be less aesthetically pleasing, as they include parts that may otherwise break up the “clean lines” of the canopy's frame.

SUMMARY

Canopy tensioning devices of the present invention may overcome some or all of the above described difficulties. One or more canopy tensioning devices of the present invention may be incorporated into a canopy frame to facilitate the quick and easy installation and removal of the canopy.

The canopy tensioning devices of this invention may secure to the rafters or other portions of the frame and may include a moveable engagement member that engages the canopy. A drive mechanism at least partially disposed inside the device may be actuated to move the engagement member towards either the distal or proximal ends of the device. Moving the engagement member in one direction facilitates tensioning the canopy on the frame, while moving the engagement member in the other direction facilitates loosening the canopy.

In some embodiments, the engagement member extends through and travels in a longitudinal slot formed in the body of the canopy tensioning device. The portion of the engagement member extending out of the slot may be hook shaped or otherwise formed to interact with and hold the canopy or connectors associated with the canopy.

In some embodiments, the drive mechanism includes a threaded rod that may be rotated in one direction to move the engagement member toward the proximal end of the device, and in the other direction to move the engagement member toward the distal end, depending on the threaded rod's direction of rotation. A removable cap may be included for limiting access to, and unauthorized use of, the drive mechanism. The removable cap may be secured with a tamper resistant fastener.

In some embodiments, the canopy tensioning device includes drainage ports for lessening the possibility that water or other debris will collect in the interior of the device.

These embodiments, and other aspects of the present invention, may be understood further by reference to the drawings and the description of those drawings provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a canopy tensioning device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 shows a cross section of the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 shows the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 1 with the drive mechanism removed.

FIG. 4 shows the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 1 with the cap removed.

FIG. 5 shows the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 1 in relation to a portion of a column and rafter of a canopy frame.

FIG. 6 shows the drive mechanism of the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 shows a canopy tensioning device according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 8 shows the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 7 in relation to a rafter of a canopy frame.

FIG. 9 shows a canopy tensioning device according to another embodiment of the present invention in relation to a canopy.

FIG. 10 shows the canopy tensioning device of FIG. 9 connected to a canopy.

FIG. 11 shows a cover for use with a canopy tensioning device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 12 shows a bottom view of the cover of FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 shows the cover of FIG. 11 installed in a canopy tensioning device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of a canopy tensioning device 10 of the present invention. The canopy tensioning device 10 shown includes an elongated body 12 with a proximal end 14 and a distal end 16. An engagement member 18 extends through a slot 20 (shown best in FIG. 4). The slot extends longitudinally towards the proximal and distal ends 14 and 16, along the top of the elongated body 12. Actuating a drive mechanism 22 (shown best in FIG. 2) of the canopy tensioning device 10 in one direction moves the engagement member 18 in the slot 20 towards the proximal end 14 of the elongated body 12, whereas actuating the drive mechanism 22 in the opposite direction moves the engagement member 18 towards the distal end 16. As discussed in further detail below, when one or more of the canopy tensioning devices 10 shown in FIG. 1 are incorporated into a canopy frame, moving one or more of the engagement members 18 towards the distal ends 16 of the devices 10 will tension the canopy. Conversely, moving one or more of the engagement members 18 towards the proximal ends 14 of devices 10 will loosen the canopy.

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the canopy tensioning device 10 shown in FIG. 1, and shows some of the internal components of device 10. As shown in FIG. 2, the elongated body 12 is a substantially hollow tube with the drive mechanism 22 laterally extending between the proximal and distal ends 14 and 16. In the embodiment shown, drive mechanism 22 includes a treaded rod 24 positioned inside elongated body 12 in a manner that allows the rotation of threaded rod 24 about its longitudinal axis. The threads of rod 24 may be machine threads, acme threads, or any other type of standard or non-standard threads. An internally threaded coupling 26 of the engagement member 18 secures the engagement member 18 to the threaded rod 24. The internal threads of the coupling 26 correspond to and interact with the threads of rod 24 such that rotating threaded rod 24 moves the engagement member 18. Since portions of engagement member 18 extend through slot 20, the sides of slot 20 limit the ability of engagement member 18 to rotate as threaded rod 24 rotates. Thus, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, rotating threaded rod 24 in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction will move engagement member 18 along the threaded rod 24 towards either the distal end 16 or the proximal end 14 of the elongated body 12, depending on the direction of rotation. Conversely, if threaded rod 24 is not rotated, engagement member 18 will tend to maintain its position on rod 24, even if a substantial amount of force is applied to engagement member 18 (such as the pulling force exerted on engagement member 18 when it is tensioning a canopy).

As shown in FIG. 2, a pair of plates 28 extend across the interior of elongated body 12 and include apertures for receiving the threaded rod 24 in a manner that allows it to rotate. The plates 28 shown in FIG. 2 are positioned towards the proximate and distal ends 14 and 16 of elongated body 12 such that they do not limit the movement of engagement member 18. The plate 28 proximate the distal end 16 of elongated body 12 may form a gap between the bottom of plate 28 and the interior of elongated body 12, for reasons discussed further below. Although plates 28 facilitate positioning threaded rod 24 inside elongated body 12, preferably, plates 28 do not substantially hinder the rotation of threaded rod 24 about its longitudinal axis.

The drive mechanism 22 shown in FIG. 3 also includes a secondary plate 30, which secures to the distal plate 28 to position and retain the threaded rod 24 in the apertures of plates 28. The secondary plate 30 is associated with the threaded rod 24 such that it does not substantially impede the rotation of threaded rod 24. As shown in FIG. 6, a retaining collar 60 fixedly secured to the threaded rod 24 on one side of secondary plate 30 (but not fixedly secured to secondary plate 30) and a fixed nut or enlarged head portion 32 on the other side of secondary plate 30 secure secondary plate 30 to threaded rod 24, yet do not substantially impede the rotation of threaded rod 24 with respect to secondary plate 30. In some embodiments, the drive mechanism 22 includes a thrust bearing or other bearing surface (such as a washer or the like) between the head 32 and the secondary plate 30. Although not necessary in all embodiments, such a bearing surface may facilitate the smooth operation of the drive mechanism, even though the tensioned canopy is subjecting portions of the drive mechanism to a relatively large pulling force generally directed towards the proximate end of the device 10. In other embodiments, other structures or methods may be used to secure threaded rod 24 to secondary plate 30 in a rotatable fashion.

Screws or other suitable attachment mechanisms may secure secondary plate 30 to plate 28 in a removable manner such that the drive mechanism 22 can be removed from canopy tensioning device 10 for maintenance, cleaning, lubrication, replacement, or other purposes. In other embodiments, secondary plate 30, and thus drive mechanism 22, is permanently installed into device 10. In such embodiments, distal plate 28 may be unnecessary as secondary plate 30 may be directly secured to interior portions of elongated body 12. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, secondary plate 30, like the distal plate 28, may form a gap between the bottom of secondary plate 30 and the interior wall of elongated body 12, for reasons discussed below.

The drive mechanism shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 includes a fixed nut or head 32 at its distal end. A wrench, air wrench, power drill or other tool with an appropriately sized socket may engage nut 32 such that actuation of the tool rotates nut 32 and threaded rod 24 in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. In other embodiments, nut 32 is unnecessary and drive mechanism includes other conventional or un-conventional structures for facilitating the rotation of threaded rod 24 via hand and/or power tools.

FIG. 4 shows the end of threaded rod 24 (inside nut 32) penetrated by a threaded hole 34. Hole 34 may receive a screw or bolt 36 or other fastener for securing a cap 38 to the distal end 16 of elongated body 12. The fastener 36 may be a tamper resistant bolt or may be a conventional fastener. Some suitable tamper resistant bolts 36 may include uncommonly shaped features such that standard tools may not be able to engage bolt 36. For example, the bolt 36 shown in the Figures includes an “alien wrench style” hole in the bolt's head, however, an upstanding post (not shown) in the center of the hole prevents a standard alien wrench from engaging the bolt head. Rather, only an alien wrench (not shown) that includes an appropriately shaped hole to receive the upstanding post can engage the tamper resistant bolt shown in the Figures to remove cap 38. Thus, cap 38, when installed, may deter unauthorized access to nut 32 and may deter unauthorized persons from actuating drive mechanism 22 to tighten or loosen the canopy. In other embodiments, one or more tamper resistant bolts or other fastener(s) may interact with portions of canopy tensioning device 10 other than nut 32, such as secondary plate 30, to secure cap 38 to elongated body 12. In still other embodiments, tamper resistant bolt is either unnecessary or is replaced with a lock or another suitable device for preventing unauthorized removal of cap 38.

Like plate 28 and secondary plate 30, the cap 38 shown in FIG. 4 forms a gap 40. The gaps in distal plate 28, secondary plate 30 and cap 38 may facilitate the removal of water or other debris from canopy tensioning device 10, such that it does not collect in the interior portions 26 of elongated body 12. For instance, since the canopy tensioning device 10 shown in the Figures slopes downwardly towards its distal end 16 when installed, gravity may cause water or other debris in the interior of elongated body 12 to flow down, through the gaps in distal plate 28, secondary plate 30 and cap 38, and out of canopy tensioning device 10.

FIG. 4 shows that cap 38 includes a pin 42 extending from its top edge, which may facilitate aligning gap 40 proximate a lower portion of the elongated body 12 when cap 38 is installed. The pin 42 shown interacts with slot 28 such that cap 38 may only be installed with gap 40 oriented towards a lower portion of cap 38. In other embodiments, pin 42 is unnecessary and canopy tensioning device 10 includes other features or structures for ensuring proper positioning of the gap in cap 38 or cap 38 is simply aligned by eye during installation.

Other structures may also be incorporated into canopy tensioning device 10 to reduce or prevent water, debris and/or other undesirables (including insects seeking a suitable nest) from entering the interior of device 10. Such structures may be in addition to or in lieu of the gaps in distal plate 28, secondary plate 30 and cover 38. For example, FIGS. 11-13 show a cover 62 disposed over the slot 20 for at least partially deterring water, debris and/or other undesirables from entering the interior of device 10. In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 11-13, the cover 62 is a gasket formed from a flexible material (such as neoprene) and includes a slit 64 through which the engagement member 18 may travel. As shown in FIG. 11, cover 62 includes relief points 66 to relieve tension in the material as engagement member 18 approaches the ends of slit 64. As shown in FIG. 12, cover 62 may also include one or more bosses 68 to facilitate locating cover 62 over the slot 20, although bosses 68 are not necessary in all embodiments. The cover 62 may be secured to the canopy tensioning device by permanent adhesive or any other type of mechanical or chemical fastener. Other structures or methods, including flexible and inflexible materials, may also be employed to deter water, debris and/or other undesirables from entering the interior of device 10. For example, in alternative embodiments, a plate secured to engagement member 18 may substantially cover slot 20 and may move with engagement member 18 such that slot 20 is substantially covered regardless of the position of engagement member 18. In other embodiments, it is unnecessary to cover or otherwise block slot 20.

FIG. 5 shows an exploded view of a canopy tensioning device 10 in relation to a rafter 44 and vertical column 46 of a canopy support structure frame. The canopy tensioning device 10 shown in FIG. 5 includes a portion of reduced diameter at its proximate end 14 of an appropriate size to be inserted securely into a hollow end of rafter 44. The canopy tensioning device 10 shown in FIG. 5 also includes an appropriately sized hollow vertical cylindrical body 48 for securely receiving the cylindrical body of vertical support 46. If desired, canopy tensioning device 10 may be further secured to vertical support 46 and rafter 44 using bolts, screws or other conventional or unconventional mechanisms in either a permanent or removable manner.

FIGS. 7 and 8 show a canopy tensioning device 10 in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, canopy tensioning device 10 does not include a vertical body 48 nor is it directly connected to a vertical column 46. Rather, canopy tensioning device 10 is only supported by rafter 44. Rafter 44 may be supported by a central vertical support (such as in an “umbrella style” canopy frame), or the rafters may be connected to other structures.

One or more canopy tensioning devices 10, when incorporated into a frame for a canopy, may be used to tension and secure a canopy to the frame. In some preferred embodiments, such as some embodiments used with square or rectangular canopies, four canopy tensioning devices are positioned at the four corners of the canopy frame. In other embodiments, which may or may not involve square or rectangular canopies, each distal end of a rafter includes a canopy tensioning device 10. In other embodiments, other numbers and locations of canopy tensioning devices 10 are included in the canopy frame.

FIGS. 9 and 10 show a canopy tensioning device 10 tensioning a canopy 50 onto a frame. The canopy tensioning device 10 shown interacts with canopy 50 via hook 52. The hook 52 shown is part of the engagement member 18 and extends through slot 20. Thus, canopy 50 can be tensioned onto the frame by hooking the engagement members 18 of the canopy tensioning devices 10 through apertures or other structures associated with canopy 50 and actuating drive mechanisms 22 such that the engagement members 18 move distally on the canopy tensioning devices 10.

The components of the canopy tensioning devices 10 embodiments described above may be made from conventional or unconventional materials and in conventional or unconventional manners. For instance elongated body 12 may be formed from tubular steel and other components (such as the hook 52 of engagement member 18 and plates 28) may be formed from laser cut steel. Permanent joints between components (such as between plates 28 and elongated body 12) may be formed by welding. Corrosion prone components may be painted with a baked-on powder coating or may be plated with materials that resist corrosion. Moveable components may be coated with waterproof grease or other lubricants to facilitate smooth operation.

The embodiments described above and shown in the Figures are only some of the possible embodiments of the present invention, and are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention, which is set forth in the below claims. Changes, additions, deletions and modifications may be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the scope or spirit of the present invention.

For example, canopy tensioning devices may use drive mechanisms other than the drive mechanism 22 shown in the Figures. In one alternate embodiment, the canopy tensioning device may include a ratcheting mechanism for moving the engagement mechanism towards the distal and proximal ends of the elongated body. In other embodiments, the drive mechanism could employ cable(s) and pulley(s) to adjust the position of the engagement member. In still other embodiments, other mechanical or non-mechanical structures may be used as a drive mechanism. Such drive mechanisms may be either removably installed (such as in the manner discussed above) or may be installed in canopy tensioning device in a permanent fashion.

Although the Figures generally show the drive mechanism of the canopy tensioning device positioned along a central axis of the interior of the device, other locations are also possible. For example, in some alternative embodiments, the drive mechanism may be offset from the central axis such that it is closer to the slot or other opening in the elongated body. Moving the drive mechanism closer to the slot may facilitate the use of a shorter engagement member, which could potentially reduce the moment of pulling force acting on the engagement member when it is tensioning a canopy.

Additionally, although the Figures show the adjustment mechanism being accessed at a distal end of canopy tensioning device 10, other locations for actuating a drive mechanism are also possible. For example, in some alternative embodiments, the drive mechanism may be actuated using a crank (which may or may not include deterrents for unauthorized use) or other mechanisms located in one of the canopy's vertical supports. Such a crank or other mechanism may be mechanically connected to the drive mechanism by a system of cables and pulleys or a system of axels and gears (including bevel gears to account for angled connections).