Title:
Retractable Hanging Apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retractable hanging apparatus that includes an engagement structure, such as a bar, upon which an article is hung or secured, with the engagement structure being suspended by one or more lines that are attached to a roller assembly rotatably mounted between two brackets. The roller assembly may be mounted to brackets alone or disposed inside a housing structure. The line or lines are secured to a roller assembly so that the article may be lowered to a particular height or may be elevated as desired. A braking system for preventing sudden retraction of the lines also is described.



Inventors:
Cameron, Richard P. (Marana, AZ, US)
Pagnucco, Stephen A. (Tucson, AZ, US)
Gratzer, Douglas J. (Tucson, AZ, US)
Application Number:
11/625549
Publication Date:
05/24/2007
Filing Date:
01/22/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F5/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
QUARLES & BRADY LLP (TUC) (TUCSON, AZ, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A retractable hanging apparatus, comprising: a pair of mounting bracket means, a roller assembly mounted for rotation about a longitudinal axis on said pair of mounting bracket means and a means for rotating said roller assembly, at least one line connected at a first end in spooling arrangement with said roller assembly; and an engagement means disposed at a second end of said at least one line, wherein said engagement means is adapted to releaseably engage an article while maintaining said article free from contact with any other structural component of said apparatus.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said means for rotating comprises a rotary motor coupled with said roller assembly and being adapted for rotation of the roller assembly about a longitudinal axis on said pair of mounting bracket means.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said means for rotating comprises a spring-biased roller assembly disposed within said roller assembly and mounted for rotation about a longitudinal axis on said pair of mounting bracket means.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said engagement means is selected from the group consisting of a clamp, hanger, hoop, bar, or bag.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said mounting bracket means are disposed within a housing that at least partially conceals the roller assembly.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said at least one line extends through an aperture in said housing.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein alignment pads are disposed in contact with said at least one line.

8. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein alignment pads are disposed in contact with said at least one line.

9. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein said housing further includes cushions disposed thereon such that said engagement means is contacted while in a fully retracted position.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said roller assembly further includes a brake on an outer surface of a pin flange, the brake comprising: an arm having one or more protrusions at a first end and a hole at a second end, wherein said arm is pivotally attached to said outer surface at the hole and is held in an unengaged position by a magnet; and a surface disposed upon a bracket means, wherein centrifugal force swings the arm free of the magnet such that the protrusions frictionally engage the surface, thereby braking radial acceleration of the roller assembly.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein said surface is compliant plastic or rubber.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said roller assembly further includes an area of varying radius in spooling arrangement with said at least one line such that changing spring tension is at least partially offset thereby.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein said area of varying radius comprises a conical area having a thread or groove disposed thereupon to engage said at least one line in contact therewith.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said means for engagement comprises an adjustable tension hanging bar having a rotatable inner rod nested within a hollow outer rod, said inner rod further having at least one groove within which said at least one line is disposed in spooling arrangement therewith, and a locking mechanism that prevents rotation of the inner rod in a locked position and allows for rotation of the inner rod in an unlocked position.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein said means for engagement comprises an adjustable tension hanging rod having an opening through which said at least one line passes, and at least one spool disposed within said hanging bar upon which at least one line is wound.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to, and is a continuation-in-part of, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/895,531, filed on Jul. 21, 2004.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates in general to the field of lifting mechanisms and more particularly to an apparatus that includes one or more lines that are connected to a spring-biased roller assembly and is especially useful for hanging items such as clothing and the like.

2. Description of the Related Art

The general concept of a “retractable hanger” has been used for many years, mainly for indoor closet and vehicle applications. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,315,357 by Johnston describes a retractable garment hanger assembly (for an automobile) that pulls down via “lines” from its mount when it is urged to do so by a user or by hanging clothing upon a bar portion of the structure. When the downward force is removed, the “bar” then retracts into the mounting member.

However, the lines holding the bar on Johnston's invention are constantly urged upward due to a biasing spring. Thus, when the weight being hung upon the bar is removed, a sudden “snapping” action can occur, which potentially can result in a user being pinched or otherwise injured.

Spring-biased roller assemblies (similar to those used in common “roller blinds” for windows) have also been used to provide or hang shower curtains. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,122,559 discloses a retractable shower screen unit. The unit basically includes a roller blind of woven glass fiber material housed in an elongate extruded plastics material casing. Two freely rotatable water absorbent sponge rollers are also housed in the casing and the screen passes therebetween.

While the aforementioned inventions have provided suitable function for their intended purpose, none are believed to provide an apparatus that can hang a variety of articles and that does not “snap” to a retracted position unexpectedly. Therefore, in view of the above, it would be desirable to have a retractable hanging apparatus that is simple and durable, that can be used with a variety of lines, and that can be secured to a ceiling or housed out-of-sight in a sub-ceiling.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a method of hanging articles and a retractable hanging apparatus that mounts to a wall or ceiling. The structure of the hanger includes an engagement means (for example, a bar) upon which an article (e.g., clothing) is hung or secured. The engagement means is suspended by one or more “lines” that are attached to a roller assembly that is mounted between two bracket means alone or bracket means disposed inside a housing structure. The line or lines are secured to the roller assembly so that the article may be lowered to a particular height or may be elevated as desired.

In one embodiment of the invention, the apparatus includes a locking or braking system for a spring-biased roller assembly that reduces the tendency for the assembly to unexpectedly “snap” to a retracted position. Also, the invention preferably includes alignment pads disposed to frictionally engage the line or lines attached to the roller assembly in order to keep the winding motion orderly (i.e., in a particular place on the roller) and to prevent line entanglement with other roller assembly components. Furthermore, some embodiments of the invention include a constant-tension spring-biased roller assembly, “break-away” lines for releasing the engagement means if too much force is applied, or an adjustable-tension hanging bar.

In another embodiment, the engagement means includes hangers, hoops, clamps, bars and other structures (such as a hamper or bag) useful for securing or hanging an article to the invention. Thus, depending upon the engagement means utilized, a variety of items may be displayed, hung, or raised, such as, but not limited to, clothing, signage, decorations, and the like.

In yet another embodiment of the invention, the roller assembly includes a braking mechanism that includes an arm having one or more protrusions at a first end and a hole at a second end, wherein said arm to pivotally attached to said end at the hole and is held in a unengaged position by a magnet disposed upon the end of the roller assembly; and a cog arrangement disposed upon the bracket, wherein centrifugal force swings the arm free of the magnet such that the protrusions engage a cog of the cog arrangement disposed upon the bracket, thereby braking radial acceleration of the roller assembly.

In still another embodiment of the invention, the roller assembly is powered by a rotary motor.

Thus, in view of the disclosure herein, a new and improved retractable hanging apparatus is provided. Moreover, a new and improved article-hanging method is provided. The method involves providing a retractable hanging apparatus that includes a pair of mounting bracket means, a roller assembly mounted for rotation about a longitudinal axis on the pair of mounting brackets means, at least one line connected in spooling arrangement with the roller assembly, and an engagement means for engaging an article disposed at the second end of the line; hanging or securing the article to the engagement means of the apparatus; and raising the article by applying either a manual or motorized pulling force to the line or engagement means.

Various other purposes and advantages of the invention will become clear from its description in the specification that follows. Therefore, to the accomplishment of the objectives described above, this invention includes the features hereinafter fully described in the detailed description of the preferred embodiments, and particularly pointed out in the claims. However, such description discloses only some of the various ways in which the invention may be practiced.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of a first embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a front elevational and partially exploded view of a second embodiment.

FIG. 3 is a schematic top-view of the housing component of FIG. 2 (shown with the roller assembly removed) and a cover.

FIG. 4 is a front elevational, partially exploded view of a spring-biased roller assembly of the invention.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged, side elevational view of a braking mechanism of the invention taken from the direction indicated by arrow 5 in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 illustrates the braking mechanism of FIG. 5 in both an unengaged and engaged (shown in phantom line) position.

FIG. 7. is a front elevational view of a third embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 8-11 illustrate alternative engagement means according to the invention.

FIG. 12 illustrates a perspective and an exploded view of an engagement means from a fourth embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a front elevational view of a fifth embodiment of the invention showing a magnified detail of the components indicated by arrows Z.

FIGS. 14A and 14B are front elevational views of an adjustable engagement means of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The invention relates to a retractable hanging apparatus that mounts to a wall or ceiling. The structure of the hanger includes an engagement means (for example, a bar) upon which an article (e.g., clothing) is hung or secured. The engagement means is suspended by one or more “lines” that are attached to a spring-biased roller assembly that is mounted between two bracket means alone or bracket means disposed inside a housing structure. The “lines” are secured to a roller assembly so that the article may be lowered to a particular height or may, through a short but gentle pull of the engagement means or activation of a motor, be elevated as desired.

Turning to FIG. 1, a front elevational view of a first embodiment of the invention is shown. The retractable hanging apparatus 2 features an engagement means (in this case, bar 4) that is suspended by lines 6. Lines 6 are wound around a motorized roller assembly (see FIG. 2) and contained within a housing 8. In this embodiment, the invention functions in that user may secure or suspend an article (not shown) from bar 4 and then locate the article to a desired height by actuating the motorized roller assembly through a wired switch or remote control (not shown). Alternatively, the roller assembly can be a spring-biased roller assembly as depicted in FIG. 4., and, hence, would function through the application of a manual pulling force by the user.

Thus, as indicated by arrow A and the illustrated phantom lines, the position of bar 4 is easily lowered. Conversely, the bar 4 may be raised through reversing the direction of the motorized roller assembly. Depending upon the line material (e.g., monofilament line, nylon rope, cables, twine, or fibers) and rating of the roller assembly utilized (e.g., light or heavy duty), a user may hang items that comprise a large range of weight.

A partially exploded view of a second embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 2. Here, bar 10 is suspended by lines 12 that are attached to and wound around a motorized roller assembly 14 that is electrically connected to power source 17. Roller assembly 14 may be disposed within housing 16 as indicated by arrows B by placing pin 18 and tab 20 into appropriate mounting brackets or slots within housing 16 (see FIG. 3). Of course, the roller assembly 14 may also simply be mounted between two suitable brackets directly to a ceiling or wall without the housing 16, if desired. While not limited to any particular shape or material, the housing 16 is preferably manufactured in the form of a box out of lightweight plastic or wood. However, metal or other lightweight material may also be used.

As indicated by arrows C, a cover 22 may be disposed atop the housing 16. The cover 22 preferably features alignment pads 24, the purpose of which is to keep lines 12 in place upon the roller 14 such that entanglement with pin 18 or tab 20 is prevented. However, the alignment pads 24 may be disposed upon a surface of the interior of the housing other than the cover or upon the ceiling itself if a housing is not used (not shown). Also preferably, cushions 26 are disposed at the bottom of housing 16 where each line 12 passes through so that noise may be minimized upon full retraction of bar 10.

FIG. 3 illustrates in top view the housing component 16 and the cover 22 of FIG. 2 (shown with the roller assembly removed). In this view, the apertures 30 through which lines 12 pass and mounting brackets 32 are more clearly seen. Moreover, mounting slots 23 disposed within cover 22 may be used to mount the housing 16 to a wall or ceiling.

Turning to FIG. 4, a partially exploded view of a roller assembly of the invention is shown. The roller assembly 36 is a spring-biased roller assembly of the type commonly used in window roller blinds. Thus, the roller assembly 36 includes a pin flange 38 at a first end and a lockable bearing flange 40 at the second end. The bearing flange 40 has a spring 42 (e.g., a tension, torsion, or compression spring) connected to its inner end and a tab 44 disposed upon it outer end. As would be known to one skilled in the art, the winding of the spring 42 produces the rotational force needed to move the assembly 36 (and retract anything attached thereto).

FIG. 5 is an enlarged, side elevational view of a braking mechanism of the invention taken from the direction indicated by arrow 5 in FIG. 4. An arm 48 having a one or more protrusions (in this case, teeth 50) is attached to by pivot 52 to the outer surface 54 of pin flange 56. Although not shown in the figures, the protrusion also may be a tab, serration, or squared end (such that a corner engages another surface). Magnet 58 keeps arm 48 in an unengaged position during normal “down pull” rotation of the roller bar assembly.

Thus, FIG. 6 illustrates how the braking mechanism of FIG. 5 engages (shown in phantom line) the surface 60 (which may be, for example, compliant plastic or rubber) is provided within a bracket 62. As indicated by arrow D, the arm 48 is released by magnet 58 and swings out during abrupt rotation, such as during the accidental release of the bar. In other words, the pivotable arm 48 is engaged by the magnet 58 unless rotational force (caused by the actuating rotation of the roller) causes the arm to swing out and engage surface 60 to thereby provide a braking action for the roller assembly. As one skilled in the art would understand, magnets can be attached to the roller through conventional means (e.g., glue), and the strength of the magnet needed such that the arm disengages the magnet during rotation in a particular direction is available from standard tables or may be routinely derived.

Many “industrial ceilings,” such as those found in a retail shopping establishment, contain sub-ceilings that conceal a crawl space. Thus, the invention may be installed out of view by locating it within a sub-ceiling as shown in FIG. 7. The apparatus 70 is installed above a sub-ceiling 72 such that single line 74 protrudes therefrom and attaches to bar 76.

Turning to FIGS. 8-11, several alternative engagement means are illustrated. Thus, depending upon the ultimate needs of a user, clamps 78, hoops 80, hangers 82, or a bag 84 may be employed in lieu of a bar or similar structure.

FIG. 12 illustrates a perspective and an exploded view of an engagement means from a fourth embodiment of the invention. An adjustable-tension hanging bar 90 has a rotatable inner rod 92 nested within a hollow outer rod 94, with the inner rod 92 further having at least one groove 96 within which at least one line 97 is disposed in spooling arrangement therewith and connected to a roller assembly (as shown on other embodiments), and a locking mechanism, such as cotter pin 98 disposed within an opening in the end of rod 92. Activation of the locking mechanism 98 prevents rotation of the inner rod, while removal of pin 98 allows for rotation of the inner rod 92. The rotation of the inner rod 92 allows a user to increase or decrease the initial tension of the line 97, which has the additional effect in spring-biased roller assembly embodiments of increasing or decreasing the tension of the spring.

Turning to FIG. 13, wherein like numbers represent like components found in other embodiments, a front elevational view of a fifth embodiment of the invention having a magnified detail of the top, side, and perspective views of the components 21A and 21B (indicated by arrows Z and X) is shown. The spring-biased roller assembly 14S of this embodiment further includes areas of varying radius, such as conical areas 21A and 21B. Conical areas 21A and 21B are disposed in contact with line 12 such that changing spring tension is at least partially offset thereby. Preferably, conical areas 21A and 21B having a thread or groove 100 disposed thereupon (shown in magnified detail by arrow X) to engage line 12 in contact therewith (and thereby prevent slippage).

FIGS. 14A and 14B illustrate an adjustable engagement means of the invention in which tension in the return spring of the spring-biased roller assembly may be adjusted by changing the length of line wound upon a spool. As shown in FIGS. 14A and 14B, roller assembly 100 contains spools 101 and 102 disposed within rod 103. Spools 101 and 102 are used to anchor the lines 105A and 105B that pass through openings 104 and into the hollow hanging rod 103. By increasing or decreasing the total length of line by winding the line around each spool, the height of rod 103, as well line tension, may be adjusted. After adjusting line length, the spools are concealed inside the hanging rod 103 as shown in FIG. 14B.

Various changes in the details and components that have been described may be made by those skilled in the art within the principles and scope of the invention herein described in the specification and defined in the appended claims. Therefore, while the present invention has been shown and described herein in what is believed to be the most practical and preferred embodiments, it is recognized that departures can be made therefrom within the scope of the invention, which is not to be limited to the details disclosed herein but is to be accorded the full scope of the claims so as to embrace any and all equivalent processes and products.