Title:
Sliding Panel Assemblies and Connectors
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A slidable panel assembly has a multi-component perimeter frame. The perimeter frame houses a sheet-type or panel-type structure therein. Each of the outwardly facing edge surfaces of the perimeter frame has a channel extending thereinto. The leading and trailing portions of the perimeter edge channels, adjacent the perimeter corners, define a step change in channel depth with respect to the remainder of the edge channel.



Inventors:
Keller, Adam J. (Neenah, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/560255
Publication Date:
05/31/2007
Filing Date:
11/15/2006
Assignee:
Adam's Specialty Products, LLC (Neenah, WI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B2/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MANSEN, MICHAEL R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Northwind IP Law, S.C. (APPLETON, WI, US)
Claims:
Having thus described the invention, what is claimed is:

1. A panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses said sheet and defines an inner frame perimeter and an outer frame perimeter, said inner frame perimeter communicating with said outer sheet perimeter; (i) at least part of the inner frame perimeter defining an elongate channel extending thereinto; and (ii) at least part of the outer frame perimeter defining an elongate channel extending thereinto; said outer frame perimeter channel defines a channel depth which varies along at least a portion of the length of said channel and correspondingly defines a channel depth variation portion, whereby said outer frame perimeter channel has a first channel depth dimension at a first locus along its length and a second channel depth dimension at a second locus along its length.

2. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein such channel depth variation is a step-change discontinuity.

3. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein such channel depth variation is a continuous, non-step, change in magnitude.

4. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said first channel depth dimension is defined at a medial portion along the channel length and is of relatively greater magnitude than the magnitude of said second channel depth dimension.

5. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said first channel depth dimension is defined at a medial portion along the channel length and is of relatively lesser magnitude than the magnitude of said second channel depth dimension.

6. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein such channel depth variation portion is located generally adjacent and end of said outer frame perimeter channel.

7. A panel assembly as in claim 1, said channel defining first and second channel such channel depth variation portions along the channel length, such first and second depth variation locations generally adjacent respective ones of first and second ends of said outer frame perimeter channel.

8. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said panel assembly defines a slidable door member of an animal housing enclosure.

9. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said panel assembly defines a slidable floor member of an animal housing enclosure.

10. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said panel assembly defines a slidable door member of a display case.

11. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said panel assembly defines a slidable floor member of a display case.

12. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said generally planar sheet defines a continuous surface.

13. A panel assembly as in claim 1 wherein said generally planar sheet defines a discontinuous surface.

14. A panel assembly as in claim 13 wherein said generally planar sheet defines a mesh surface.

15. A panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses said sheet and defines an inner frame perimeter and an outer frame perimeter, said inner frame perimeter communicating with said outer sheet perimeter; and (c) an elongate channel which extends into said frame inner perimeter; said elongate channel including a bottom wall, first and second sidewalls extending outwardly therefrom, and at least one elongate rib extending inwardly away from one of said first and second channel sidewalls.

16. A panel assembly as in claim 15 wherein said elongate rib is a portion of a channel lining member, said channel lining member housed within said elongate channel.

17. A panel assembly as in claim 15 wherein said elongate rib extends generally angularly downwardly from said channel sidewall, into said channel, whereby the angle between said channel sidewall and said rib is an acute angle.

18. A panel assembly as in claim 15, said channel including first and second elongate rib members which extend in directions which generally converge toward each other.

19. A panel assembly as in claim 15 wherein said elongate rib members are made of a resiliently flexible material.

20. A panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses said sheet and includes (i) a first elongate member and a second elongate member which extend generally perpendicularly away from each other; (ii) a corner member joining said first and second elongate members which has first and second outer edges, each of said first and second outer edges having a channel extending thereinto, said channels opening into each other defining a generally L-shaped void.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Non-Provisional Application, claiming priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/737,589, filed Nov. 16, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates generally to enclosures and other structures which include one or more slidable panel. Exemplary of such enclosures and other structures include various structures which have e.g. doors, windows, floors, drawers, shelves, and/or other structures which can include one or more slidable panels, such as various dwellings, other buildings such as garages, sheds, and commercial buildings, and/or other constructions. Other such enclosures and other structures include animal housing enclosures, taxidermy display cases, other display cases, electronic component housing cases, and/or others.

Such enclosures and structures already frequently implement various slidable panels, such as slidable doors, windows, floors, drawers, shelves, and/or other structures. However, some of the slidable panels currently used are relatively expensive, while others have only a relatively short use life.

In addition, use characteristics of some slidable panels deteriorate over time and/or between different implementations. For example, some relatively large and heavy slidable doors on animal housing enclosures are relatively difficult, for some users, to operate, due at least in part to the coefficient of friction defined between various slidingly interfacing components.

Accordingly, it might prove desirable to provide slidable panel assemblies which realize a relatively low coefficient of friction between various slidingly interfacing components.

It might prove desirable to provide slidable panel assemblies which utilize at least some various common components regardless of the end-use implementation.

In other words, it might prove desirable to provide slidable panel assembles with at least partially modular design characteristics, whereby the complexity of inventory methodology and logistics performed by ones of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and/or others, can be relatively decreased.

It might also prove desirable to provide slidable panel assemblies which are relatively easily assembled by end users, or others.

SUMMARY

This invention provides a slidable panel assembly which has a multi-component perimeter frame. The perimeter frame houses a sheet-type or panel-type structure therein. Each of the outwardly facing edge surfaces of the perimeter frame has a channel extending thereinto. The leading and trailing portions of the perimeter edge channels, adjacent the perimeter corners, define a step change in channel depth with respect to the remainder of the edge channel.

In a first family of embodiments, the invention comprehends a panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses the sheet and defines an inner frame perimeter and an outer frame perimeter, the inner frame perimeter communicating with the outer sheet perimeter; (i) at least part of the inner frame perimeter defining an elongate channel extending thereinto; and (ii) at least part of the outer frame perimeter defining an elongate channel extending thereinto; the outer frame perimeter channel defines a channel depth which varies along at least a portion of the length of the channel and correspondingly defines a channel depth variation portion, whereby the outer frame perimeter channel has a first channel depth dimension at a first locus along its length and a second channel depth dimension at a second locus along its length.

In some embodiments, such channel depth variation is a step-change discontinuity.

In some embodiments, such channel depth variation is a continuous, non-step, change in magnitude.

In some embodiments, the first channel depth dimension is defined at a medial portion along the channel length and is of relatively greater magnitude than the magnitude of the second channel depth dimension.

In some embodiments, the first channel depth dimension is defined at a medial portion along the channel length and is of relatively lesser magnitude than the magnitude of the second channel depth dimension.

In some embodiments, such channel depth variation portion is located generally adjacent an end of the outer frame perimeter channel.

In some embodiments, the channel defining first and second channel such channel depth variation portions along the channel length, such first and second depth variation locations generally adjacent respective ones of first and second ends of the outer frame perimeter channel.

In some embodiments, the panel assembly defines a slidable door member of an animal housing enclosure.

In some embodiments, the panel assembly defines a slidable floor member of an animal housing enclosure.

In some embodiments, the panel assembly defines a slidable door member of a display case.

In some embodiments, the panel assembly defines a slidable floor member of a display case.

In some embodiments, the generally planar sheet defines a continuous surface.

In some embodiments, the generally planar sheet defines a discontinuous surface.

In some embodiments, the generally planar sheet defines a mesh surface.

In a second family of embodiments, the invention comprehends a panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses the sheet and defines an inner frame perimeter and an outer frame perimeter, the inner frame perimeter communicating with the outer sheet perimeter; and (c) an elongate channel which extends into the frame inner perimeter; the elongate channel including a bottom wall, first and second sidewalls extending outwardly therefrom, and at least one elongate rib extending inwardly away from one of the first and second channel sidewalls.

In some embodiments, the elongate rib is a portion of a channel lining member, the channel lining member housed within the elongate channel.

In some embodiments, the elongate rib extends generally angularly downwardly from the channel sidewall, into the channel, whereby the angle between the channel sidewall and the rib is an acute angle.

In some embodiments, the channel including first and second elongate rib members which extend in directions which generally converge toward each other.

In some embodiments, the elongate rib members are made of a resiliently flexible material.

In a third family of embodiments, the invention comprehends a panel assembly, comprising: (a) a generally planar sheet which defines an outer sheet perimeter; and (b) a frame which houses the sheet and includes (i) a first elongate member and a second elongate member which extend generally perpendicularly away from each other; (ii) a corner member joining the first and second elongate members which has first and second outer edges, each of the first and second outer edges having a channel extending thereinto, the channels opening into each other defining a generally L-shaped void.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A shows a pictorial view of a first embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 1B shows a front elevation view of a second embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 1C shows a pictorial view of a third embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a pictorial view of a fourth embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a pictorial view of a fifth embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 4A shows a pictorial view of a sixth embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 4B shows a pictorial view of a seventh embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 5 shows a pictorial view of an eighth embodiment of structures which utilize sliding panel assemblies of the invention.

FIG. 6 shows a front elevation view of a sliding panel assembly of the invention.

FIG. 7 shows an elevation view of a sectioned portion of the sliding panel of FIG. 6, sectioned at the dashed section line FIG. 7-FIG. 7.

FIG. 8 shows an enlarged elevation view of a portion of the sliding panel of FIG. 7, indicated at the dashed box FIG. 8 in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 shows a pictorial view of portions of first and second sliding panel assemblies sitting upon portions of respective first and second guiderails.

FIG. 10A shows a front elevation view of enlarged portions of first and second sliding panel assemblies and first and second guiderails of FIG. 9, indicated at the dashed box labeled FIG. 10A.

FIG. 10B shows an end view profile of an elongate member of a slidable panel assembly of the invention.

FIG. 11A shows a pictorial view of a first embodiment of channel adapters of the invention.

FIG. 11B shows an end view profile of the channel adapter of FIG. 11A.

FIG. 11C shows a pictorial view of a variant of the channel adapter of FIG. 11A.

FIG. 11D shows an end view profile of a variant of the channel adapter of FIG. 11C.

FIG. 12 shows a close-up partial front elevation view of the overlapping relationship between parts of a slidable panel assembly and parts of enclosure frame components, indicated in FIG. 1B by the dashed circle labeled FIG. 12.

FIG. 13 shows a pictorial view of a portion of a portion of a slidable panel assembly, adjacent a corner member.

FIG. 14 shows a first pictorial view of a corner member of the invention.

FIG. 15 shows a second pictorial view of the corner member of FIG. 14, viewed generally from the other side of the corner member.

FIG. 16A shows a pictorial view of a slidable panel assembly, slidable housed between lateral hangers which are in turn mounted to enclosure frame members.

FIG. 16B shows a close-up, pictorial view of a corner of the slidable panel assembly of FIG. 16A.

FIG. 16C shows a cross-sectional view of the slidable panel assembly corner of FIG. 16B, taken at line 16C.

The invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction or the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments or of being practiced or carried out in other various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the terminology and phraseology employed herein is for purpose of description and illustration and should not be regarded as limiting. Like reference numerals are used to indicate like components.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, and 5 show various, non-limiting, implementations of sliding panel assemblies and connectors of the invention, as used in various e.g. enclosures and other structures. It is understood that sliding panel assemblies and connectors of the invention are applicable to the illustrated and other suitable embodiments in which sliding panel structures are utilized.

In other words, enclosure 1 includes e.g. display case 10A (FIG. 1A), animal enclosures 10A, 10B (FIGS. 1B and 1C, respectively), display case 10D (FIG. 2), shower 10E (FIG. 3), and display cases 10F, 10G (FIGS. 4A and 4B, respectively), building 10H (FIG. 5), and/or other enclosures or other structures which includes at least one slidable panel.

Common to the various enclosures structures are a plurality of sidewalls, a floor structure and a top wall structure. The walls and floors are made of various suitable sheet material(s) e.g. sheet “S”. The particular material(s) are selected based on the intended use environment of the enclosure.

Referring now to FIG. 1A, enclosure 1 includes display case 10A and stand 15. Display case 10A sits atop and is fixedly, optionally removably, mounted to stand 15. As illustrated, stand 15 includes a plurality of legs which extend downwardly from, for example, the lower surface of display case 10A. In other embodiments, stand 15 is a single, unitary structure such as a pedestal, a platform, or another unitary base structure which functions to elevate display case 10A with respect to e.g. the ground or floor.

In some embodiments, enclosure 1 is generally devoid of stand 15, whereby display case 10A sits directly upon the upper surface of a floor, the ground, or other suitable support substrate. In yet other embodiments, enclosure 1 is generally devoid of stand 15 and display case 10A is hung upon, for example a wall, or suspended from, for example, a ceiling. Those skilled in the art are well aware of suitable mounting and suspension hardware, fasteners, and/or other devices suitable to hang display case 10A from a wall, suspend display case 10A from a ceiling, and/or otherwise mount display case 10A do a desired mounting substrate. Such suitable hardware, fasteners, and/or other devices include, but are not limited to, various screws, bolts, nails, brackets, wires, cables, and/or others.

Referring now to FIG. 2 and to alternative display cases, in some embodiments, one or more slidable panel assemblies are located on the top wall of enclosure structure 1, such as in the embodiment illustrated as display case 10D. Mounting slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B on the top wall of enclosure 1 is desirable when, for example, the user does not want any visually conspicuous obstructions e.g. wire mesh, the interface between corresponding slidable panel assemblies, or other visual obstructions in ones of the outer perimeter walls 25, 30, 35, 40.

Exemplary of suitable implementations of display case 10D are showcasing or displaying taxidermy mounts or other trophies, and/or showcasing or displaying various memorabilia or collectables, as desired. In other embodiments, display case 10D defines a generally liquid tight enclosure, whereby the display case 10D is suitable for use as e.g. an aquarium.

Referring now to FIGS. 4A and 4B and the display cases illustrated therein, in some embodiments, enclosure 1, includes a plurality of horizontally slidable members, such as slidable panel assemblies 20, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E. Such embodiments are desirable when the user seeks to display numerous relatively small display items, e.g. relatively small taxidermy mounts, various collectables, items of memorabilia, and/or other relatively small display items. Suitable relatively small display items also includes various electronic components, such as, for example, home theater or stereo components or other electronic components, whereby display cases 10F, 10G generally serve as electronic component cabinets or electronic component racks, with slidable shelves.

Display case 10F, illustrated in FIG. 4A, includes a plurality of horizontally slidable members, e.g. various ones of slidable panel assemblies 20, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E, and vertically slidable members, namely slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B. The horizontally slidable members generally define slidable shelves, whilst the vertically slidable members generally define slidable doors. As illustrated, slidable panel assemblies 20, 10B, 10C, 100D, and 100E slidingly actuate outwardly away from slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, since the slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B provide a mechanical barrier which prevents forward-direction sliding movement.

However, as desired, display case 10F includes pivotably openable door members which do not provide a mechanical barrier which prevents forward-direction sliding movement of slidable panel assemblies 20, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E, whereby the user can slide the panel assemblies forwards or rearward, as desired.

Display case 10G, illustrated in FIG. 4B is generally the same as that of display case 10F of FIG. 4A. However, display case 10G differs from 10F in that case 10G is devoid of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B.

Regarding other embodiments of enclosures, FIGS. 1B and 1C generally illustrate animal cages or other animal housing enclosures. The enclosure of FIG. 1B includes e.g. wire mesh walls as opposed to the clear acrylic sheets “S” FIG. 1A. As desired, the animal housing enclosure includes clear sidewalls similar to those of FIG. 1A. The enclosure of FIG. 1C includes both mesh and solid, clear, sidewalls.

Referring now to FIG. 3, in some embodiments, enclosure 1 is a shower, exemplarily illustrated as shower enclosure 10E. Shower enclosure 10E includes bath tub “BT,” a plurality of sidewalls which are defined by interior walls of the dwelling in which shower enclosure 10E is installed, various plumbing fixtures, and slidable panel assemblies 100A, 10B.

In embodiments of shower enclosure 10E, slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B include sheet “S” which is made of e.g. tempered safety glass, or other sheet material suitably safe for use in a shower/bathroom environment.

Referring now to FIG. 5, in some embodiments, the slidable panel assemblies are components of windows, patio doors, storm doors, screen doors, or other such building materials. Building 10H is exemplary of an enclosure implementing such a device, illustrated as a window. In other words, in some embodiments, slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, or others, define slidable components of e.g. a window. In such embodiments, the sheet “S” is made from suitable material e.g. glass, insulating glass, low-e glass, safety glass, acrylic, and/or other suitable window component material.

Various enclosure piece-parts and assemblies are described herein specifically referring to different types of enclosures. However, it is well understood that the discussion with respect to one type of enclosure is equally applicable to the various other types of enclosures as well. In other words, the discussion of display cases is equally applicable to animal housing enclosure structures, etcetera.

Display case 10A is a generally enclosed structure suitable for housing, displaying, and or otherwise containing, various structures and/or other articles or subject matter which a user desires to confine and/or display.

Exemplary of such display suitable subject matter includes, but is not limited to, taxidermy mounts or other taxidermy displays. When used to house taxidermy display subject matter, display case 10A is adapted and configured to suitably house such subject matter. As one example, when an embodiment of display case 10A houses a relatively small taxidermy mounts such as e.g. fish, water fowl or other game birds, relatively small mammals, reptiles, and/or other wildlife, the display case 10A is relatively smaller in terms of dimensions and/or constitution than when an embodiment of display case 10A houses a relatively large taxidermy mount such as e.g. full body mounts of large mammals e.g. canines, felines, deer, bear, and/or others.

Other exemplary subject matter includes various collectables, such as, for example, articles of memorabilia, figurines, historical and other artifacts, oddities, collections of various ilk, documents, and/or others, e.g. anything a user wishes to display which suitably fits in enclosure 1.

Display case10A includes various enclosure surfaces and/or structures e.g. bottom wall 20, first and second side walls 25, 30, back wall 35, front wall 40, and top wall 45.

The assemblage of the bottom wall 20, first and second side walls 25, 30, back wall 35, front wall 40, and top wall 45, in combination, generally defines an enclosure body, which houses the e.g. showcased or display articles.

Bottom wall 20 is a generally polygonal, rigid, panel which lies in a plane which is generally parallel to the ground. The bottom wall is fixedly or removably, slidably removably or otherwise, mounted to various other components of the case. Side walls 25 and 30 extend upwardly from opposite lateral perimeter edges of bottom wall 20. Back wall 35 and front wall 40 extend upwardly from opposite e.g. back and front perimeter edges of bottom wall 20.

The end, edge, surfaces of sidewalls 25 and 30, which extend vertically, communicate with and are connected to corresponding end, edge, surfaces, which extend vertically, of back wall 35 and front wall 40. Accordingly, in the complete assemblage of display case 10A, first and second side walls 25, 30, back wall 35, front wall 40, in combination, generally define an outer perimeter wall thereof.

Top wall 45 is a generally polygonal panel which lies in a plane that is generally parallel to the ground and bottom wall 20. Top wall 45 has a perimeter shape which corresponds to the perimeter shape of bottom wall 20, whereby the upper edge surfaces of first and second side walls 25, 30, and back and front walls 35, 40 interface top wall 45, adjacent respective outer edges of the top wall. In other words, first and second side walls 25, 30, and back and front walls 35, 40, span between and connect bottom wall 20 and top wall 45, adjacent their respective outer perimeters.

One or more of the various walls or panels of enclosure 1, namely one or more of bottom wall 20, first and second side walls 25, 30, back wall 35, front wall 40, and top wall 45 includes at least one slidable panel or member.

As one example, as illustrated in FIG. 1A front wall 40 includes first and second slidable panel assemblies 100A and 100B. However, it if fully contemplated that in some embodiments, only one slidable panel is utilized. In some embodiments, more than two slidable panels are utilized.

In some embodiments, more than one of the walls includes one or more sliding panel. In one such embodiment, back wall 35 includes slidable panel assembly 100A and a fixed panel portion, and front wall 40 includes slidable panel assembly 100B and a fixed panel portion. In some embodiments, front wall 40 includes first and second slidable panel assemblies 100A, 10B, and back wall 35 includes at least one sliding panel, optionally back wall 35 includes at least two sliding panels. In some embodiments, one of sidewalls 25 and 30 includes at least one sliding panel. In some embodiments, both of sidewalls 25 and 30 include at least one sliding panel.

Enclosure 1 includes a frame structure which generally defines the skeletal and load bearing structure of the enclosure. The frame structure includes various frame members, such as frame member 60 (FIG. 10A). Various ones of the frame members 60 include at least one rail-type structure, e.g. rail “R” which is adapted and configured to support and slidingly interface with and/or guide various ones of the slidable panel assemblies.

Referring now to FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C, 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 5, 6, and 7, each of panels assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E includes an panel perimeter frame assembly and a panel sheet. Namely, each panels assembly 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E includes e.g. panel frame “FR” and sheet “S.” In general, panel frame “FR” generally envelopes at least a portion of the outer perimeter of sheet “S.” In other words, sheet “S” is mounted in, or otherwise connected to, frame “FR” and generally covers the void which is otherwise defined by the panel frame “FR” inner perimeter.

Ones of panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E will be referred to, collectively or separately, as panel assembly 100. Accordingly, when referred to as panel assembly 100, it is understood that the reference is to one or more of panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, and 100E, or other suitable panel assemblies.

The particular materials of which the respective panels are made are selected so as to be suitable for it intended use environment and it particular use application. As one example, embodiments of enclosures 1 which are housed indoors, in relatively low humidity environments, wherein enclosures 1 serve primarily aesthetic functions e.g. housing and displaying collectables, taxidermy mounts, or other display items, various components of panel frame “FR” are made of wooden materials which include, but are not limited to, various of the hardwoods e.g. ash, cherry, maple, oak, pecan, teak, rosewood, walnut, mahogany and poplar, various of the softwoods e.g. cedar, cypress, fir, pine and redwood, and/or others.

In some embodiments, panel frame “FR” is a combination of e.g. wooden and metallic materials. In such embodiments, frame “FR” includes, for example, metallic extrusions which primarily provide the structural integrity of the panel frame, and outwardly facing wooden millwork, or other wooden products, attached to the metallic extrusions which provide a relatively aesthetically pleasing appearance.

As desired, various components of panel frame “FR” are made of various metallic materials and/or non-metallic and non-wooden materials. Suitable metallic materials include, but are not limited to, e.g. aluminum, anodized aluminum, steel, stainless steel, titanium, magnesium, brass, and their respective alloys. Because of the relatively light weight and relatively high strength, a preferred material for certain components of panel frame “FR” is extruded aluminum. Some components of panel frame “FR” are made at least partially from other non-metallic materials, such as various polymeric materials, which are molded, extruded, or otherwise formed.

In embodiments in which panel assembly 100 defines a generally rectangular perimeter, each frame “FR,” includes two corresponding pairs and thus four generally elongate members, and a corner member 140 adjacent each corner. Namely, frame “FR” includes elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, which collectively define the major portion of the panel assembly perimeter, and which are each connected at respective ends to a respective corner member 140.

Each of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 is a generally elongate, rigid member, which generally defines an “H-shaped” profile (FIGS. 9, 10A, 10B, and 13). To arrive at the H-shaped profile, each of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 includes first and second elongate, flat, flange portions “FL” and an elongate connecting portion.

Various portions of ones of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 are illustrated in FIG. 10B with respect to elongate member 132. In some embodiments, elongate members 120, 122, 130 are analogs of elongate member 132, whereby the illustration of elongate member 132 is equally applicable as a representative illustration of elongate members 120, 122, and 130.

The first and second flange portions “FL” are generally parallel to each other and spaced from each other. The connecting portion “CP” extends between, along the length of, and connects the first and second flange portions “FL.”

Namely, the connecting portion “CP” extends perpendicularly between and connects the first and second flange portions “FL,” along a medial portion thereof and along a major portion of the length thereof. Thus, the width dimension of the connecting portion corresponds in magnitude to the magnitude of the distance between the first and second flange portions.

Stated another way, connecting portion “CP” is generally defined between two channels which extend into the elongate member 132, toward each other, namely channels or voids 132A and 132B. The channels/voids 132A, 132B, define various receiving structures, which correspond to the particular end use of the device. For example, referring to FIG. 10B, channel 132B includes a depression “D” which extends into the connecting portion “CP.” Also, a screw boss, an elongate bore, and/or other receiving structure, adapted and configured to receive hardware such as a bolt or screw therein, namely screw boss “SB” extends from depression “D”, relatively further into connecting portion “CP”.

Thus, connecting portion “CP” generally defines a bottom wall of each of two oppositely facing channels. Accordingly, as mentioned above, each of the various elongate members such as 120, 122 has an outwardly facing channel opening, e.g. openings 220A and 222A respectively, and an inwardly facing channel opening, e.g. openings 220B and 222B respective. Inwardly facing openings 220B and 222B are indicated with a dashed line in FIG. 13.

Likewise, each of elongate members 130, 132 has an outwardly facing opening, e.g. openings 230A and 232A which open into channels 130A, 132A, respectively, and an inwardly facing opening, e.g. openings 230B and 232B which extend into channels 130B, 132B, respectively. Inwardly facing openings 230B and 232B are indicated with a dashed line in FIG. 13.

Ones of elongate members 120, 122, 130 and 132 extend from respective ones of corner members 140. In particular, in each of elongate members 120, 122, 130 and 132, the ends are each connected to respective ones of corner members 140, whereby the length of each elongate member extends between such first and second corner member 140.

The respective pairs or elongate members, namely (i) elongate members 120, 122, and (ii) elongate members 130, 132, extend in directions which are generally perpendicular to each other. The elongate members 120 and 122 extend generally parallel to each other and are spaced from each other. Elongate members 130 and 132 extend generally parallel to each other and are spaced from each other. And elongate members 120, 122 are generally perpendicular to elongate members 130, 132.

Accordingly, referring now to FIGS. 6, 7, and 8, in a given slidable panel assembly 100, respective ends of elongate members 120 and 130 are connected to each other by a first corner member 140; respective ends of elongate members 130 and 122 are connected to each other by a second corner member 140; respective ends of elongate members 122 and 132 are connected to each other by a third corner member 140; and respective ends of elongate members 132 and 120 are connected to each other by a fourth corner member 140.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1B, 3, 4A, and 12, in the entire assemblage slidable panel assembly 100, parts of ones of the elongate members 120, 122 and 130, 132, extend over, and overlie, portions of corresponding other parts of enclosure 1.

Referring now to FIG. 13, ones of outwardly facing channels 220A, 222A, 230A, and 232A, of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 respectively, are adapted and configured to slide across, partially envelope, laterally sandwich, corresponding structure, extend over, or overlie, for example, an elongate projection or rail e.g. rail “R” (FIG. 10A) on the enclosure structure 1.

Correspondingly, ones of channels 220A, 222A, 230A, and 232A, at least to some extent, provide lateral or other guidance or tracking functionality to slidable panel 100 during use. Also, it should be noted that in some embodiments, the channels of the sliding panels do not directly contact the rails “R.” Rather, portions of corner member 140 provide the load bearing and sliding interface between the slidable panel 100 and the respective rail “R.” Such orientation is illustrated by clearance 132C which is the void space between the channel bottom surface and the rail “R”.

Channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B receive and hold sheet “S” therein. In other words, the corresponding flange portions which define the outer walls of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B lie on opposite sides of and thus sandwich or otherwise restrain, outer perimeter surfaces of sheet “S.” This interfacing relationship and interaction between the inwardly facing surfaces of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B and the outwardly facing surfaces adjacent the perimeter edges of sheet “S” enable the channels to effectively frame-in, restrain, and/or otherwise hold, sheet “S” within the remainder of sliding panel assembly 100.

Thus, while ones of channels 220A, 222A, 230A and 232A are adapted and configured to interface with other components and portions of enclosure 1 to realize a holding yet slidable relationship between slidable panel 100 and enclosure 1, ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B are adapted and configured to suitably hold sheet “S”.

Channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B are adapted and configured to suitably hold portions of sheet “S” therein. Accordingly, the magnitude of the width dimension of the channel opening corresponds to the magnitude of the e.g. thickness dimension of sheet “S,” whereby the outer edges of sheet “S” are insertable into ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B.

In some embodiments, the magnitude of the sheet “S” thickness dimension is less than desired in relationship to the magnitude of the opening width dimension of ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B, whereby sheet “S” is housed rather loosely in the channel(s). In such embodiments, as desired, a user uses channel adapter 300 (FIGS. 11A, 11B, 11C, 11D) to relatively reduce the effective size of the channel opening.

Referring now to FIGS. 11A and 11B, channel adapter 300 includes adapter bottom wall 305, first and second adapter sidewalls 310, 315, and first and second adapter ribs 320, 322. Adapter bottom wall 305 is a generally planar member with first and second sides. First adapter sidewall 310 extends generally perpendicularly upwardly away from the upper surface of the first bottom wall side, adjacent the outer edge thereof. Second adapter sidewall 315 extends generally perpendicularly upwardly away from the upper surface of the second bottom wall side, adjacent the outer edge thereof.

Accordingly, first and second sidewalls 310 and 315 are generally parallel to each other, and each extends upwardly from a respective outer portion of the upper surface of adapter bottom wall 305.

First rib 320 extends along the length of the inwardly facing surface of the upper portion of sidewall 310. First rib 320 extends generally angularly downwardly, generally toward the inwardly facing surface of sidewall 315. In other words, first rib 320 appears to be a barbed projection, pointing in the general direction of sidewall 315, when viewed in front elevation.

Second rib 322 extends generally angularly downwardly, generally toward the inwardly facing surface of sidewall 310. In other words, second rib 322 appears to be a barbed projection, pointing in the general direction of sidewall 310, when viewed in front elevation.

Each of first and second ribs 320, 322, are adapted and configured to relatively easily deflect inwardly and downwardly, e.g. arcuately downwardly, toward bottom wall 305. And each of first and second ribs 320, 322, are adapted and configured to generally resist deflection outwardly and upwardly, generally away from bottom wall 305

The size of the space or void between first and second ribs 320, 322 corresponds to the thickness dimension of the sheet “S” to be utilized in with channel adapter 300. Channel adapter 300 is adapted and configured to hold, optionally resiliently hold, a sheet “S” therein, whereby first and second ribs 320, 322 frictionally engage respective surfaces of such sheet “S.”

Due at least in part to the material of channel adapter 300, the dimensional, positional, deflection, and/or other characteristics of ones of first and second ribs 320, 322, channel adapter 300 is adapted and configured to enable a user to e.g. suitably easily insert sheet “S” into the adapter 300, whilst the adapter relatively resists removal of sheet “S” therefrom.

The outer dimensions of channel adapter 300, such as the distance between the outwardly facing surfaces of sidewalls 310 and 315, correspond in magnitude to the opening dimension(s) of ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B. In otherwords, channel adapter 300 fits in, preferably fits snugly in, ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B, as desired.

As one example, ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B define an opening dimension of about 0.3 inch, optionally about 0.28 inch. Correspondingly, channel adapter 300 defines an outer width dimension of less than about 0.3 inch, optionally less than about 0.28 inch, e.g. 0.27 inch.

FIGS. 11C and 11D illustrate alternative embodiments of channel adapter 300. The channel adapters 300 of FIGS. 11C and 11D are the analogous to those of FIGS. 11A and 11B, yet first include an additional rib extending from each sidewall. In other words, the embodiments of FIGS. 11A and 11B have a pair of ribs extending inwardly from each sidewall, toward each other.

Accordingly, a user can select from a wide variety of suitable materials for sheet “S,” wherein the various sheets “S” define a wide variety of corresponding thickness dimensions. In other words, if a user determines that sheet “S” will be held in a non-desirably loosely manner in ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B, then the user can use channel adapter 300 in combination with sheet “S” so that the holding relationship is effectuated between the interface of the ones of channels 220B, 222B, 230B and 232B interfacing with and holding one or more channel adapters 300, which in turn interfaces with and holds sheet “S.”

Sheet “S” is selected from a variety of suitable materials, which include, but are not limited to, e.g. wire mesh materials, clear, opaque, or other acrylic materials, glass materials, tempered and/or other safety glass materials, wooden materials, polymeric materials, and/or other suitable sheet materials which provide, at least in part, the desired enclosure characteristics and aesthetic characteristics which correspond to the particular intended use of enclosure 1.

Corner member 140 is preferably made from polymeric material(s) and, in general, is a piece of connecting hardware which appears square in profile when viewed from above.

Corner member 140 includes first and second corner walls 405, 410, respectively.

Corner walls 405, 410 are laterally spaced from each other and lie on planes which are generally parallel to each other.

Visible in FIG. 13, corner member 140 has a generally “L-shaped” cavity, namely cavity “C” which extends thereinto. The lateral sides of cavity “C” are generally defined by portions of the inwardly facing surfaces of corner walls 405 and 410.

First slot 442 is adjacent a first outer side surface of corner member 140 and in the complete assemblage of panel assembly 100, provides a passage between the respective ones of channels 220A, 222A, 230A, 232A, and cavity “C.” Second slot 444 is adjacent a second outer side surface of corner member 140, and provides a passage between respective other ones of channel 220A, 222A, 230A, 232A, and cavity “C.”

Slots 442 and 444 are “less deep” than are the respective, adjacent, outer channels 220A, 222A, 230A, 232A. Accordingly, in some embodiments, the corner members 140, and not the elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, actually sit on, slide upon, and interface with, the frame of cage, e.g. rail “R.”

In other words, slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, in general, only interface with the rail which they ride upon, rail “R” or others, through corner members 140, i.e. at the leading and trailing ends of the panel assembly.

Thus, elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 are assembled to respective corner members 140, each corner member 140 defines a step, or other protrusion(s) such as gradual straight line or arcuate ramps which generally define continuous, non-step-type protrusions. The protrusion can be adjacent the end of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, and extends generally perpendicularly upwardly from e.g. the end of the bottom channel surface of channels 220A, 222A, 230A, 232A.

Corner members 140 are preferably made of a polymeric material, whereby a relatively low coefficient of friction is realized between the corner members and the “rail” which they ride upon, which enables the doors to slide relatively easily, as desired.

Bolts “B” extend through corner member 140 and threadedly insert into e.g. corresponding threaded or unthreaded structures, for example screw bosses or screw boss “SB” or other corresponding structure in respective ones of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, thereby mechanically attaching the elongate member to the corner member 140.

Cavity “C” is adapted and configured to enable a user to assemble the elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 to corner member 140 by way of bolts “B.” Cavity “C” further enables a user to later access bolts “B” in the complete assemblage of the slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E.

FIG. 14 shows corner member 140, of FIG. 13, rotated approximately 180 degrees and devoid of other cooperating structures, to show the sides which interface respective ones of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132. As visible in FIG. 14, corner member 140 includes first and second mounting structures which enable bolts “B” to secure elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 thereto. Namely, corner member 140 includes bolt receiving bore 446 and bolt receiving slot 448.

Bolt receiving bore 446 has a through bore, visible in FIG. 14, and a counter-bore portion, visible in FIG. 13 and also illustrated in FIG. 15. The counter bore of bolt receiving bore 446 provides a shoulder which interfaces the forward facing portion of the head of bolt “B” and enables the end surface of bolt “B” to sit flush or sub-flush into the corner member 140.

Bolt receiving slot 448, similar to counter-bore portion of bore 446, provides a shoulder-type structure which interfaces the forward facing portion of the head of bolt “B.” In addition, bolt receiving slot 448 enables a user to partially secure a bolt to ones of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, and then slide into and thereby engage the corner member 140 with the bolt.

Referring specifically to FIG. 1C, various slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, within a single enclosure 1, namely animal housing enclose 10C, can serve different functions.

As one example, in some embodiments, ones of slidable panel assemblies 100A and 100B function as door-type structures, permitting entrance into and egress from enclosure 1. As another example, in some embodiments, ones of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E function as floor-type structures. Exemplary of such floor-type structures is bottom wall 20, illustrated in FIG. 1C, or other ones of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E.

The user selects, for example, different sheet materials for sheet “S” based at least in part on the particular enclosure component that the respective slidable panel assembly defines. Accordingly, referring again to the embodiment of FIG. 1C, slidable panels assemblies 100A and 100B, as door-type structures, include e.g. a sheet “S” made from a clear acrylic material.

Regarding floor-type structures in animal housing enclosures 10C, it is understood that the floor is adapted and configured, e.g. suitably strong and durable, to support the load provided by the body weight of the animal housed therein. Also in such embodiments, sheet “S” is preferably made from a wire mesh material. The mesh material permits fecal material, urine, and or other excrement to pass therethrough. The excreta, which pass through floor 20, are ultimately captured in a tray below the floor.

Floor 20 includes, as desired, a single slidable panel assembly, or a panel assembly which includes a plurality of adjacent slidable panels. In multiple floor panel embodiments, the facing edges of the separate panels are supported by e.g. a common floor support member such as a bracket or receiver, e.g. various L-shaped brackets, T-shaped brackets, channel brackets, or otherwise.

Embodiments which utilize various slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E in a horizontal position, for example, as floor 20 (FIG. 1C) or various shelves (FIGS. 4A, 4B), the slidable panel assembly is suitably supported by ones of various receiving structures. Suitable receiving structures support the load provided by the slidable panel assembly 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E and articles thereupon, as enable the slidable panel assembly to e.g. sliding interface therewith.

In some embodiments, the slidable floor or shelf, defined by ones of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, is slidably actuatable with respect to the remainder of enclosure 1, yet generally resists removal therefrom. In such embodiments, the slidable panel assembly 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E is mounted to enclosure 1 by way of, for example, ball bearing roller slides, or other suitable well-known slide-type mounting hardware.

In some embodiments, the slidable floor or shelf, defined by ones of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, is slidably actuatable with respect to the remainder of enclosure 1, and is readily removal therefrom. In such embodiments, the panel assembly is mounted to the reminder of enclosure 1 by way of, for example, various bracket mechanisms which permit slidable movement of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E. Exemplary of suitable bracket mechanisms include lateral hangers “LH” which are illustrated in FIGS. 16A, 16B, and 16C.

Each of lateral hangers “LH” has a lower support rail which extends along the length of elongate member 20 and faces the other respective lateral hanger “LH.” An uppermost portion of lateral hangers “LH” connects the hanger to the remainder of enclosure 1, by way of, for example, a snap-lock interface with a cooperating component of enclosure 1 (FIG. 16C).

Accordingly, when a user inserts e.g. floor 20 into animal enclosure 10C, the support rails of hangers “LH” insert into and interface with the outwardly facing channels of corner members 140 and respective ones of channels 220A, 222A, 230A, 232A.

In other words, the upwardly facing surface of each support rail hanger “LH” slidingly interfaces with and supports the lower facing surface of the upper flange, which defines the uppermost portion of the outwardly facing channel of the respective elongate member 120, 122, 130, and 132 and/or corner member 140.

To assemble slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, the user first gathers the various components e.g. elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132, corner members 140, bolts “B,” and/or other suitable hardware. The user next aligns bolt receiving bore 446 with the threaded receiving structure of the respective elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132. Then, the user inserts a bolt “B” through bolt receiving bore 446 and tightens it into the receiving structure, such as screw boss “SB”, securing the respective elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 against a first side of the corner member 140.

Next, the user partially tightens a bolt “B” into a corresponding receiving structure, such as screw boss “SB” in another one of elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132. Then, the user engages a second side of corner member 140 with the partially tightened bolt by sliding the bolt receiving slot 448 over the partially tightened bolt. Finally, the user tightens such bolt, thereby securing such other elongate members 120, 122, 130, and 132 to the corner member 140. These processes are repeated, as needed, so as to arrive at the complete assemblage of slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E.

Appropriate metallic materials for components of enclosure 1 include, but are not limited to, anodized aluminum, aluminum, steel, stainless steel, titanium, magnesium, brass, and their respective alloys. Common industry methods of forming such metallic materials include casting, forging, shearing, bending, machining, riveting, welding, powdered metal processing, extruding and others.

Non-metallic materials suitable for components of enclosure 1, e.g. corner members 140 and others, are various polymeric compounds, such as for example and without limitation, various of the polyolefins, such as a variety of the polyethylenes, e.g. high density polyethylene, or polypropylenes. There can also be mentioned as examples such polymers as polyvinyl chloride and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride copolymers, various of the polyamides, polycarbonates, and others.

For any polymeric material employed in structures of the invention, any conventional additive package can be included such as, for example and without limitation, slip agents, anti-block agents, release agents, anti-oxidants, fillers, and plasticizers, to control e.g. processing of the polymeric material as well as to stabilize and/or otherwise control the properties of the finished processed product, also to control hardness, bending resistance, and the like.

Common industry methods of forming such polymeric compounds will suffice to form non-metallic components of enclosure 1. Exemplary, but not limiting, of such processes are the various commonly-known plastics converting processes.

Enclosure 1 is preferably manufactured as individual components, and the individual components assembled as sub-assemblies, including but not limited to, the enclosure frame, stand 15, slidable panel assemblies 100A, 100B, 100C, 100D, 100E, and/or others. Each of the aforementioned sub-assemblies is then assembled to respective other ones of the sub-assemblies, to develop enclosure 1.

Those skilled in the art will now see that certain modifications can be made to the apparatus and methods herein disclosed with respect to the illustrated embodiments, without departing from the spirit of the instant invention. And while the invention has been described above with respect to the preferred embodiments, it will be understood that the invention is adapted to numerous rearrangements, modifications, and alterations, and all such arrangements, modifications, and alterations are intended to be within the scope of the appended claims.

To the extent the following claims use means plus function language, it is not meant to include there, or in the instant specification, anything not structurally equivalent to what is shown in the embodiments disclosed in the specification.