Title:
Wall panel with corner-connected open frame
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An upright space-dividing wall panel with a rigid interior frame, and a cover attached to the frame for covering the interior thereof. The frame includes a first pair of horizontal rails defining top and bottom sides, and a second pair of upright rails defining right and left sides. Corner members are disposed at the frame corners, with each corner member being rigidly joined between adjacent ends of the horizontal and upright rails. The corner member is a one-piece L-shaped member having a box-shaped corner block and horizontal and vertical leg parts cantilevered outwardly from respective transverse side faces of the corner block. Each side face defines a shoulder which surrounds the respective leg part. The leg parts are each telescoped into one end of a respective rail with a fixed engagement so that the rail abuts the respective shoulder.



Inventors:
Yu, Shawn (Hudsonville, MI, US)
Tuttle, Robert L. (Saugatuck, MI, US)
Gingrich, Bryan R. (Holland, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/282936
Publication Date:
06/07/2007
Filing Date:
11/18/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04C2/52
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FERENCE, JAMES M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FLYNN, THIEL, BOUTELL & TANIS, P.C. (KALAMAZOO, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An upright space-dividing wall panel, comprising: a rigid interior frame having a ring-shaped rectangular configuration; said frame including a plurality of elongate rails including a first pair of substantially horizontal rails of identical cross section defining top and bottom sides of the frame and a second pair of upright rails of identical cross section defining right and left sides of the frame; said frame including a plurality of identical corner members disposed respectively at the corners of the frame, each said corner member being rigidly joined between an adjacent end of one said horizontal rail and an adjacent end of one said upright rail; said corner member comprising a monolithic one-pieced L-shaped member including a substantially box-shaped corner block and horizontal and vertical leg parts cantilevered outwardly from respective first and second transverse side faces of said corner block, each of said first and second side faces defining thereon a shoulder where the respective leg part joins to the corner block; said horizontal leg part being telescoped into one end of one said horizontal rail so that a free end of said horizontal rail abuts the respective shoulder, and said vertical leg part being telescoped into one end of one said upright rail so that a free end of said upright rail abuts the respective shoulder; said corner block having a recess formed therein and opening outwardly through third and fourth side faces thereof which are respectively parallel with said first and second side faces; and said corner member also having an upright opening extending vertically through said fourth side face into and through said corner block and into said vertical leg part.

2. A wall panel according to claim 1, wherein said upright opening is internally threaded over at least a portion of the length thereof.

3. A wall panel according to claim 2, wherein a support foot is mounted on each corner member at each lower corner of said frame for supportive engagement with a floor, said support foot having an upright threaded shaft which is threadably engaged within the threaded portion of the upright opening of the respective corner member.

4. A wall panel according to claim 3, including an upright extender panel mounted on top of and projecting upwardly from said interior frame, said extender panel including a connector block mounted on top of the corner block at each upper corner of said interior frame, a threaded fastener extending downwardly through the connector block and threadably engaged within the upright opening of the respective corner member for fixedly connecting the corner block thereto, and an inverted U-shaped extender frame positioned above said interior frame and having downwardly protruding vertical legs telescoped over and fixed to said connector blocks.

5. A wall panel according to claim 2, including an upright extender panel mounted on top of and projecting upwardly from said interior frame, said extender panel including a connector block mounted on top of the corner block at each upper corner of said interior frame, a threaded fastener extending downwardly through the connector block and threadably engaged within the threaded opening of the respective corner member for fixedly connecting the corner block thereto, and an inverted U-shaped extender frame positioned above said interior frame and having downwardly protruding vertical legs telescoped over and fixed to said connector blocks.

6. A wall panel according to claim 1, wherein said horizontal and vertical leg parts of each said corner member have a plurality of deformable ribs projecting outwardly from side surfaces thereof for creating a snug gripping engagement with the respective rail when telescoped therein.

7. A wall panel according to claim 1, wherein the horizontal and vertical leg parts of each corner member have a plurality of depressions formed therein, and said rails where they telescope over said leg parts are deformed into the depressions to create a mechanical interlock.

8. A wall panel according to claim 1, wherein the recess formed in said corner block opens inwardly from an outer transversely-extending corner edge for accommodating a panel connector therein, said recess opening through said third and fourth side faces of said corner block which are respectively parallel to said first and second side faces.

9. A wall panel according to claim 8, wherein said recess includes a blind opening which is spaced inwardly from said third side face and which projects vertically away from said fourth side face and terminates at a closed end.

10. A wall panel according to claim 9, wherein said recess includes a blocklike recess portion which opens outwardly through said fourth side face and which extends sidewardly from said blind opening and opens outwardly through said third side face, said recess portion being of lesser vertical depth than said blind opening.

11. A wall panel according to claim 10, wherein said upright opening is positioned horizontally between said blind opening and said first side face.

12. A wall panel according to claim 1, wherein each said frame rail comprises an elongate hollow tube of generally rectangular cross section defined by spaced parallel side walls joined transversely by inner and outer edge walls, the outer edge wall having a channel-shaped groove formed inwardly thereof and extending generally along the lengthwise-extending centerline thereof, said outer edge wall having a generally hat-shaped cross section.

13. A wall panel according to claim 12, wherein each said side rail has a vertically elongate row of spaced slots formed in each said side wall closely adjacent the outer edge wall, and the hat-shaped cross section of said outer edge wall functioning as a light blocker between the slots formed in the spaced side walls.

14. An upright space-dividing wall system comprising: a pair of upright wall panels connected in edge-to-edge horizontally aligned relation; each said wall panel including a rigid ring-shaped inner frame defined by substantially horizontal top and bottom rails, right and left upright side rails, and a corner member at each corner of said frame and rigidly joined to adjacent ends of said horizontal and upright rails; each said corner member having a recess formed therein which opens both vertically and horizontally through respective exterior horizontal and vertical side faces of the corner member; said recess including a blind opening which is spaced inwardly from the exterior vertical side face of the corner member and which projects vertically away from the exterior horizontal side face and terminates at a closed end; a panel-to-panel connector for rigidly joining adjacent upper corner members of said pair of panels together; said panel-to-panel connector including a rigid one-piece connecting member having a horizontally elongate top bridge part which at opposite ends is rigidly joined to first and second downwardly cantilevered leg parts, said first leg part having a length which substantially corresponds to the depth of the blind opening and which is of greater length than said second leg part; whereby said panel-to-panel connector occupies the recesses defined in the adjacent upper corner members of the pair of panels with said bridge part extending sidewardly between the corner members and the leg parts being seated in the respective blind openings.

15. A wall panel system according to claim 14, wherein the panel-to-panel connector includes a rotatable actuator shaft supported on and projecting vertically downwardly from the bridge part for disposition between adjacent and opposed upright edges of the pair of panels, and a clamping block threadably engaged on said shaft on a lower end thereof, said clamping block having opposite end portions positioned for engagement within openings formed in the adjacent upright frame rails.

16. A wall panel system according to claim 14, wherein the top and bottom rails are of identical tubular cross section and are reversely vertically oriented; wherein the right and left upright rails are of identical tubular cross section and are reversely horizontally oriented; and wherein the corner members provided at each corner of the frame are identical one-piece members.

17. A wall panel system according to claim 16, wherein the one-piece corner member is L-shaped and includes horizontal and vertical leg parts cantilevered outwardly from transverse sides of a box-shaped corner block.

18. A wall panel system according to claim 17, wherein each said corner member has an upright opening extending vertically through said corner block and said vertical leg part, said upright opening being spaced from and independent of said recess.

19. A wall panel system according to claim 18, wherein a floor-engaging support glide is mounted on the corner member at each lower corner of the frame, said glide including an upwardly protruding support stem which projects into and is stationarily engaged in the respective upright opening.

20. A wall panel system according to claim 17, wherein an extender panel frame mounts on top of said inner frame and projects upwardly therefrom, and a fastening arrangement for rigidly coupling said extender frame to the corner members provided at the upper corners of the inner frame, said fastening arrangement including an elongate fastener which projects downwardly into the upright opening formed in the respective corner member.

21. An upright space-dividing wall panel arrangement including an upright rigid frame having a cover panel attached thereto for at least partially enclosing the frame, said upright rigid frame comprising: first and second elongate rail members disposed in sidewardly spaced but parallel relationship, and first and second elongate rail arrangements disposed in sidewardly spaced but parallel relationship, said first and second rail members extending substantially perpendicularly between said first and second rail arrangements with ends of said first and second rail members being rigidly joined to said first and second rail arrangements at connection points which define corners of an upright rigid frame having a ring-shaped rectangular configuration; each of said first and second rail arrangements including third and fourth elongate rail members positioned in lengthwise aligned relationship with said third rail member defining one side of said frame and extending between two of said corners where the respective rail arrangement joins to said first and second rail members, and said fourth rail member being rigidly connected at the corner where said second and third rail members are joined, said fourth rail member projecting outwardly away from said latter corner in lengthwise aligned relationship with the respective third rail member; each said corner as defined at one end of said second rail member being defined by a one-piece three-way connector having a generally T-shaped configuration, said three-way connector including a box-shaped junction block having first and second leg parts cantilevered outwardly in generally aligned relationship from opposite sides thereof, and also having a third leg part cantilevered outwardly from a further side thereof so that said third leg part protrudes generally perpendicularly with respect to said first and second leg parts, said junction block defining thereon an outwardly facing shoulder which is defined on the respective side face from which the respective leg part protrudes, said first and second leg parts being telescoped into hollow interiors of said third and fourth rail members so that the end of the respective rail members abut the respective shoulder, the third rail part being telescoped into a hollow interior of said second rail member so that the end of the second rail member abuts the respective shoulder, said leg parts being fixedly and securely engaged within the respective rail member to create a rigid connection therewith, said junction block being exposed when said leg parts are rigidly secured within the respective rail members; and each said corner as defined by the connection between said first rail member and the other end of said third rail member including a one-piece connector which also includes a box-shaped junction block having at least two leg parts cantilevered outwardly from adjacent sides thereof in generally perpendicular relationship so that said leg parts are telescoped into and fixedly secured to the respective adjacent ends of the first and third rail members, the junction box of said last-mentioned connector also being exposed when the leg parts are secured to the respective rail members.

22. A wall panel according to claim 21, wherein said first and second rail arrangements are oriented vertically and include a fifth elongate rail member which is disposed in lengthwise alignment with said third and fourth rail members and is positioned so that the third rail member is interposed between said fourth and fifth rail members, said fifth rail member having one end thereof rigidly joined to the corner defined by adjacent ends of said first and third rail members, and the connector defining said latter corner being a three-way T-shaped connector having a third leg part which is cantilevered outwardly from the respective junction block in lengthwise alignment with the respective first leg members so that the third leg member is telescopically engaged with and rigidly joined to the adjacent end of said fifth rail member so that the latter protrudes in aligned relationship with the third rail member.

23. A wall panel according to claim 22, wherein said cover extends over the ring-shaped frame defined by said first, second and third rail members, and wherein an open region is defined below said second rail member and sidewardly between said fourth rail members.

24. A wall panel according to claim 22, wherein said cover extends only over the interior of the ring-shaped frame defined by said first, second and third rail members, and wherein open regions are defined both upwardly above and downwardly below said frame and sidewardly between the fourth rail members and the fifth rail members.

25. A wall panel according to claim 21, wherein the first and second rail arrangements are oriented generally vertically, wherein the connectors which define the corners between the adjacent ends of the first and third rail members have solely an L-shaped configuration for rigid engagement with solely the adjacent ends of the first and third rail members, wherein the fourth rail members are positioned vertically below the third rail members and protrude downwardly, and floor engaging supports joined to and carried by the lower ends of said fourth rail members.

26. A wall panel according to claim 21, wherein the frame arrangement includes a fifth elongate rail which is sidewardly spaced from and extends parallel with said first and second rail members, said fifth rail member extending perpendicularly between said fourth rail members and being rigidly joined to the other ends of said fourth rail members to define corners of a second rectangular ring-shaped frame which is positioned directly sidewardly adjacent the first-mentioned ring-shaped frame, said first-mentioned and second ring-shaped frame sharing a common side as defined by said second rail member, and the corners defined at the adjacent ends of said fourth and fifth rail members being defined by connectors which are identical to the connectors which define the corners between said first and third rail members.

27. A wall panel according to claim 26, wherein the connector which defines the corner between the first and third rail members and between the fourth and fifth rail members is defined by a one-piece L-shaped member having solely two leg parts cantilevered outwardly in perpendicular relationship from the respective junction block.

28. A wall panel according to claim 27, wherein the frame is oriented so that the first, second and fifth rail members protrude vertically, and the first and second rail arrangements protrude generally horizontally so that the frame is disposed in an upright orientation, and wherein each of the connectors associated with corners of the frame which are defined by the lowermost one of said first and second rail arrangements each has a opening extending vertically thereof, and a threaded shaft of a foot support is engaged within the respective opening.

29. An upright space-dividing wall panel, comprising: a rigid interior frame having a ring-shaped rectangular configuration; a cover arrangement attached to said frame for substantially covering the interior opening defined within said frame; said frame including a plurality of elongate hollow rails of identical cross section including a first pair of substantially horizontal rails defining top and bottom sides of the frame and a second pair of upright rails defining right and left sides of the frame; said frame including a plurality of identical corner members disposed respectively at the corners of the frame, each said corner member being rigidly joined between an adjacent end of one said horizontal rail and an adjacent end of one said upright rail; said corner member comprising a monolithic one-piece L-shaped member including a substantially box-shaped corner block and horizontal and vertical leg parts cantilevered outwardly from respective first and second transverse side faces of said corner block, each of said first and second side faces defining thereon a shoulder which surrounds the respective leg part where it joins to the corner block; said corner block also including a pair of substantially parallel third side faces which are defined on opposite sides of the corner block and extend transversely relative to said first and second side faces, said third side faces being generally vertically oriented; said horizontal leg part being telescoped into one end of one said horizontal rail so that a free end of said horizontal rail abuts the respective shoulder, and said vertical leg part being telescoped into one end of one said upright rail so that a free end of said upright rail abuts the respective shoulder, each said leg part being fixedly secured to the respective rail when the corner part is telescopically engaged therein; and each said rail having a pair of generally parallel side surfaces which are disposed on opposite sides of the respective rail and are substantially vertically oriented, said side surfaces being substantially vertically coplanar with the third side faces defined on the corner block when the rails are engaged over the respective leg parts and abutted against the respective shoulders.

30. A wall system according to claim 29, wherein each said leg part is fixedly secured by means of a press fit.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to an interior space-dividing wall panel arrangement and, more specifically, to improvements with respect to construction of individual wall panels and of connectors for joining such panels in series.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Space-dividing wall panel systems are frequently utilized in offices and the like to divide large open regions into a plurality of smaller workspaces or the like. Such wall panel systems typically comprise a plurality of prefabricated upright panels which are appropriately joined to define a desired spatial configuration. The individual panels are typically joined either directly edge-to-edge, or through separate upright posts. The individual wall panels themselves are typically factory preassembled, and conventionally employ an interior rigid frame which is frequently an open rectangular arrangement having vertical and horizontal edge rails joined, typically by welding, to define a rigid structure. These frames typically permit side covers or decorative pads to be mounted on both sides thereof to provide the finished appearance of the wall panel. While systems employing prefabricated wall panels of this latter type are widely utilized and do provide a desirable construction, nevertheless the requirement that the individual panels be factory prefabricated and assembled does impose restrictions with respect to the size and make-up of the individual panels, and can create difficulties when an unusual spatial requirement is encountered, particularly when the system is being installed at the job site.

A significant and restrictive disadvantage of conventional wall panel systems, as briefly discussed above, is the requirement of employing a “hot” assembly process for rigidly forming the interior frame. This typically involves securing the adjacent frame rail ends, at the frame corners, by welding. The use of a “hot” process for forming the frame, however, normally prevents use of frame rails having a pre-finished surface treatment such a painting or the like. Any surface treatment hence has to be carried out after the frame has been formed, and this necessarily increases cost and reduces manufacturing efficiency.

Other known wall systems have been proposed wherein the individual wall panel is defined by a plurality of prefabricated modules or components which are assembled at the job site. While this construction provides increased flexibility with respect to modifying or adapting the wall system during assembly thereof at the job site, nevertheless many of these known systems have either required an undesirably large number of prefabricated parts or components, or have required an assembly technique which has been time consuming and complex. Further, such constructions also frequently lack the desired strength and rigidity which is believed necessary for such wall systems, particularly if the wall system is intended to be of a load-bearing type, namely a system permitting loads such as shelves and overhead storage devices, as well as work surfaces, to be mounted on the individual wall panels.

It is an object of this invention to provide an improved upright wall construction and specifically an improved wall panel which utilizes an open frame construction defined by a minimal number of prefabricated parts, and which permits assembly of the panel frame so as to provide a high degree of flexibility with respect to not only the size of the panel, but also the adaptability of the panel to connect to adjacent panels, including panels of different height, as well as adaptability of the wall panel to mount upward extensions on the upper edge thereof.

The improved wall system of this invention, as aforesaid, is also highly adaptable for permitting the individual wall panels to be easily and efficiently assembled at the factory, or alternatively assembled at the job site.

The improved wall system of this invention, as aforesaid, is also highly desirable in that it enables use of a “cold” process for assembling the frame corners (that is, it does not require welding or other “hot” assembly techniques), thereby facilitating either factory or job-site assembly, and enabling the frame to be assembled using rails which are appropriately surface treated (e.g. painted) prior to assembly of the frame.

Other objects and purposes of the invention will be apparent to persons familiar with constructions of this general type upon reading the following specification and inspecting the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view illustrating an upright wall system according to the present invention, the system being formed by a serially-joined pair of wall panels for purposes of illustration.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an assembled open frame used for constructing the wall panel of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing the back side of a typical cover pad or tile of the type usable for attachment to opposite sides of the panel frame.

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of the open panel frame shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4A is a cross-sectional view of the frame rail as taken generally along line 4A-4A in FIG. 4.

FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view showing the corner connector for the open frame, and its cooperation with one end of an adjacent frame rail.

FIG. 6 illustrates the corner connector and frame rail of FIG. 5 in an assembled condition.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of solely the corner connector shown in FIGS. 5-6.

FIG. 8 is a top view of the corner connector shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 8A is a central sectional elevational view taken through the corner connector of FIG. 7.

FIG. 8B is an end elevational view of the corner connector shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view showing the serial connection of several wall panel frames, two such frames being of the same height, and one such frame being of lesser height.

FIG. 10 is an enlarged fragmentary perspective view showing the serial connection of two adjacent frames of the same height.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a separate connector assembly which is utilized for joining two adjacent frames in aligned relationship, such as for joining the upper corners of adjacent frames as illustrated by FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a side elevational view of the connector assembly shown in FIG. 11.

FIGS. 13-15 are fragmentary sectional views showing the manner in which adjacent upper corners of two frames are joined by the connector assembly of FIGS. 11-12, wherein FIG. 13 shows the initial assembly wherein the frame corners are at different elevations, FIG. 14 shows an intermediate position in the assembly process, and FIG. 15 shows the adjacent frames in a rigidly joined and assembled condition.

FIG. 16 is a fragmentary perspective view showing the lower end of a vertical frame rail and its cooperation with a mounting bracket which enables a vertical frame rail of an adjacent panel frame to be joined thereto.

FIG. 17 is a view similar to FIG. 16 but illustrates a lower corner of the open frame having the mounting bracket joined to the upright frame rail adjacent a lower end thereof.

FIG. 18 is an enlarged, fragmentary sectional view illustrating two adjacent frame rails and the cooperation of the mounting bracket therebetween for permitting adjacent frames to be serially joined.

FIG. 19 is a fragmentary perspective view illustrating how an upper corner of one open frame can be joined, using the connector assembly of FIGS. 11-12, to the upright frame rail of an adjacent open panel frame of greater height.

FIG. 20 is an enlarged, fragmentary sectional view showing the connection of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view illustrating a pair of open panel frames joined in right-angled relationship to one another through an intermediate corner post.

FIG. 22 is a fragmentary, exploded perspective view illustrating the manner in which a top corner of the open panel frame is joined to the upper end of the corner post utilizing the connector assembly.

FIG. 23 is a fragmentary elevational view showing one side or face of the corner post utilized in the construction of FIG. 21, it being recognized that any or all sides of the corner post can be similarly constructed depending upon the number of panels which are to be joined to the corner post.

FIG. 23A is a cross-sectional view of the corner post as taken generally along line 23A-23A in FIG. 23.

FIG. 24 illustrates a plurality of open panel frames joined in a generally T-shaped configuration through an intermediate upright post, and further illustrates the manner in which a lower-height open panel frame can be joined to the upright post at an intermediate location along the height thereof by means of the connector assembly.

FIG. 25 is an exploded perspective view illustrating an open panel frame and its ability to mount an extension panel on the upper edge thereof.

FIGS. 26 and 27 are exploded fragmentary views which illustrate, in greater detail, the manner in which the extension panel is joined to the upper edge of the open frame.

FIG. 28 is an exploded perspective view showing a first variation of the corner connector and its cooperation with a frame rail, and FIG. 29 shows the connector and frame rail of Frame 28 in an assembled condition.

FIG. 30 is an exploded perspective view showing a second variation of the corner connector and its cooperation with a frame rail, and FIG. 31 shows the corner connector and frame rail of FIG. 30 in an assembled condition.

FIG. 32 is an exploded perspective view of a third variation of the corner connector and its cooperation with a frame rail, and FIG. 33 shows the corner connector and frame rail of FIG. 32 in an assembled condition.

FIG. 34 is an exploded perspective view showing the open panel frame and its cooperation with an attachment for a top extension, such as a screen, along the upper edge thereof.

FIG. 35 is an enlarged fragmentary view illustrating the connection of a screen or partition-accommodating top rail to the upper edge of the open frame.

FIG. 35A is a view illustrating the cross section of the top rail shown in FIGS. 34-35.

FIG. 36 is an exploded perspective view illustrating a modified construction for a rigid open panel frame according to the present invention.

FIG. 37 is an exploded perspective view of the modified corner member and panel connector as used in association with the panel frame of FIG. 36.

FIG. 38 is a side elevational view, partially in cross section, of the corner member and panel connector shown in FIG. 37.

FIG. 39 is an exploded perspective view showing the modified corner member when used in a lower corner of a panel frame.

FIG. 40 is an exploded perspective view illustrating the corner member and its cooperation with a connector which enables a top extension panel to be mounted on the panel frame.

FIG. 41 is a fragmentary perspective view which illustrates the manner in which this variation enables a lower-height panel frame to be serially coupled to a higher-height panel frame.

FIG. 42 is a perspective view of a further modification of an assembled open frame for a wall panel according to the present invention.

FIG. 43 is an enlarged perspective view of solely a three-way connector as utilized in the construction of the modified open frame shown in FIG. 42.

FIG. 44 is a perspective view of a still further modification of an assembled open frame for a panel according to the present invention, which frame is used for forming an open base panel or partition.

FIG. 44A is a fragmentary view showing a variation of the FIG. 44 modification.

FIG. 45 is a perspective view of another modification of an assembled open frame for forming a panel which is part of a space dividing wall and which can be provided with both upper and lower open regions.

Certain terminology will be used in the following description for convenience in reference only, and will not be limiting. For example, the words “upwardly”, “downwardly”, “rightwardly” and “leftwardly” will refer to directions in the drawings to which reference is made. These same words will also be used in reference to the normal directional orientations of the wall panel when in its normal upright position. The words “inwardly” and “outwardly” will refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the wall panel and of designated parts associated therewith. Said terminology will include the words specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof, and words of similar import.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, there is illustrated an upright wall system 10 which includes a plurality of interconnected upright wall panels, only two such panels 11 and 11′ connected edge-to-edge in serially aligned relationship being illustrated in FIG. 1. The panels are of the type which are typically disposed in supportive engagement with a floor so as to project upwardly therefrom, with the height of the panel being less than floor-to-ceiling height, whereby the upper edge of the individual panel is spaced downwardly from the ceiling.

The primary structure of the upright panel 11 is defined by an interior frame 12 (FIG. 2) which constitutes an open or hollow ring-shaped structure which, when viewed from the side, preferably has a rectangular profile. The frame 12 in turn is typically enclosed by means of side covers or pads 13 (FIGS. 1 and 3) which attach to opposite sides of the frame 12 for substantially totally covering the respective side. The side cover 13 may be of a size and shape so that a single side cover covers the entire side of the frame or, as illustrated by FIG. 1, a plurality of smaller such covers may be provided and attached to the frame in generally vertically stacked relationship so as to cover the frame side. The cover pads or tiles 13 are typically provided with hooks or spring catches associated with the back side thereof, as illustrated by FIG. 3, which hooks or spring catches cooperate with openings 20 formed in the edge rails of the frame so as to permit the side covers or pads to be detachably mounted thereon.

In the illustrated arrangement, the sides of the wall panel may also be provided with one or more horizontally elongate rails 14 extending lengthwise across the panel member. The rails 14 are provided to accommodate appropriate clamps or fasteners therein so as to permit various objects, such as worksurfaces, shelves or other related user objects or hardware, to be at least partially supportingly mounted on the upright wall panel. In the illustrated embodiment the rail 14 is fixedly associated with and extends along the lengthwise upper edge of each cover panel 13 so that the rail 14 is disposed between each vertically adjacent pair of cover tiles 13, with the uppermost rail 14 being disposed directly below a removable top cover of the panel.

The rigid interior frame 12 is defined primarily by substantially parallel top and bottom rails 15 and 16, respectively, which are vertically spaced and extend generally horizontally. Opposite ends of the top and bottom rails 15-16 in turn are rigidly interconnected by a pair of generally parallel and vertically projecting edge or side rails 17. These side rails 17 are preferably each provided, in the exposed side surfaces thereof, with a vertically extending row of vertically spaced slots 19 which are preferably disposed closely adjacent the outer upright edge of the side rail. The slots 19 are conventionally provided so as to permit support hooks or brackets associated with components such as overhead storage units, shelves, worksurfaces and the like, to be mounted on the upright wall panel in load bearing relationship therewith.

In the construction of the interior frame 12 according to the present invention, all of the frame rails 15-17 are preferably of identical cross section, namely a substantially hollow rectangular cross section as illustrated by FIG. 4A. However, the side wall 30 of this construction which defines the outer panel edge on the respective rail, such as the upper side wall associated with the top rail 15, is provided with a channel-shaped groove 18 extending longitudinally throughout the length of the respective rail. This groove is depressed inwardly in the respective rail side wall 30 so that the bottom wall of the groove, designated 18A in FIG. 4A, is offset inwardly from side portions of the respective rail side wall 30. This channel-shaped groove 18 is positioned symmetrically between opposite sides of the respective rail and hence extends lengthwise generally along the longitudinal center plane thereof. The outer side wall 30 of the rail hence has a hat-shaped cross section. This configuration of the side wall 30 also creates a light block in that it prevents direct light flow interiorly across the side rails between the slots 19 formed on opposite sides thereof.

With the frame rails constructed as described above, the top and bottom frame rails 15 and 16 are identical except for their being reversely oriented in the assembled frame, that is, the channel 18 in the top rail 15 is associated with the upper side of the rail, whereas the channel 18 in the lower rail 16 is associated with the lower side thereof. The side rails 17 are also identical in cross section to the rails 15-16, except that the side rails are provided with the row of slots 19 extending vertically along each of the side walls thereof, and are also preferably provided with a vertically spaced series of windows or openings 20 so as to accommodate the hooks or fasteners associated with the removable cover pads 13. The two side rails 17 themselves, however, are identical except for their being reversely oriented due to their disposition adjacent opposite sides of the wall panel.

Since assembly of the frame 12 of this invention basically involves a “cold” or non-heated assembly process, as is apparent from the following description, all of the frame rails 15-17 can have an appropriate surface treatment, i.e. painting, applied thereto prior to being assembled into the frame. This enables surface treatment of the rails to be carried out in a significantly more efficient manner.

As illustrated by FIG. 4, each of the rails 15-17 is defined by an elongate hollow metal tube which is open at opposite ends, with the tubes defining all of the rails 15-17 having identical transverse cross sections. To rigidly join the rails 15-17 together, the frame 12 includes four identical corner members 22, the two upper corner members being vertically inverted relative to the two lower corner members.

As illustrated by FIGS. 5-6, each corner member 22 includes a generally six-sided corner block 23 which has a box-shaped configuration which corresponds to or closely approximates a cube. A single horizontal leg part 24 is cantilevered horizontally outwardly a predetermined extent from one side of the corner block 23, and a single vertical leg part 25 is cantilevered vertically outwardly from another side of the corner block 23. These leg parts 24-25 are identical with respect to their cross section and length, and project in perpendicular relationship to one another due to their extending outwardly from perpendicularly-adjacent sides of the corner block 23. Each of the cantilevered leg parts 24 and 25 has a cross section which is slightly smaller than the cross section of the corner block 23 so that, where the respective leg part joins to the corner block 23, there is defined a surrounding shoulder or stop surface 26.

Each of the cantilevered leg parts 24-25, on the side face thereof which faces in the opposite direction from the other cantilevered leg part, has a channel-like groove 27 formed therein and extending lengthwise therealong. The groove 27 causes the respective side surface of the leg part 24-25 to have a configuration which is compatible with the hat-shaped profile defined by the side surface of the rail which defines the outer peripheral edge of the panel frame so that the rail 15-17 can slidably telescope over the respective leg part 24, 25 to a position where the free end of the rail abuts the respective shoulder 26, as illustrated by FIG. 6. The cooperating channels 18 and 27 as associated with the respective rails and corner members hence permit the rails and corner members to respectively engage and interfit solely in a single, and hence, proper directional orientation. The interfit or engagement of the leg parts 24 and 25 with the frame rails, such as the rail 15 illustrated in FIGS. 5-6, creates a fixed engagement between the corner member and the rail. This engagement may be accomplished using numerous techniques such as, for example, a pressure-fit such as an interference fit, or use of a suitable adhesive for creating a fixed securement between the corner member and rails. Alternately, various mechanical fastening connections can be utilized for creating a fixed coupling of these parts, as explained hereinafter.

As illustrated by FIGS. 5-8B, each corner member 22 has complex-shaped recess 31 which opens inwardly from the exterior vertical end face. This recess 31 extends vertically along both the corner block 23 and the vertical leg part 25. This recess 31 is provided so as to accommodate therein a panel-to-panel connector as described hereinafter.

The recess 31 in particular includes a first recess part 32 which extends vertically along the exterior side face 36 of the corner block 23, and a second recess part 33 which extends vertically along the exterior vertical face of the vertical leg part 25. The first recess part 32, where it communicates with the exposed horizontal side face 35 of the corner block 23, includes a block-shaped opening 34 which protrudes vertically inwardly from the mutually perpendicular side faces 35 and 36. The opening 34 at its inner end (the lower end in FIGS. 8A and 8B) communicates with a partial cylindrical bore 37 which extends in the vertical direction and opens sidewardly through the side face 36. The partial cylindrical bore 37 in turn coaxially communicates with a further partial cylindrical bore 39 which is of smaller diameter and which extends vertically along the remainder of the side face 36 and effectively terminates at the shoulder 26. A shoulder 38 is defined where the partial cylindrical bores 37 and 39 join.

The recess part 32 associated with the corner block 23 also has a blind or closed-end opening or bore 41 which communicates with and protrudes vertically away from (downwardly in FIG. 8A) the bottom of the block-shaped opening 34. The blind opening 41 protrudes vertically away from the opening 34 and terminates in a bottom wall 44 which is normally disposed at an elevation located between the shoulders 26 and 38 defined on the corner block 23. The blind opening 41 has a cross section which is elongated in the transverse dimension of the corner block, but which has a narrow width in the lengthwise or longitudinal direction (i.e., the direction which extends along the cantilevered leg part), with this narrow width of the blind opening 41 being defined generally between opposed back and front walls 42 and 43, respectively. The walls 42-43 preferably deviate slightly from parallelism by defining a slight converging sloped relationship therebetween as they project vertically toward the bottom wall 44. The back wall 42 also normally defines the vertical rear wall of the block-shaped opening 34.

Considering now the recess part 33 associated with the vertical leg part 25, this recess part 33 opens inwardly from the base wall 29 of the channel-shaped groove 27, and terminates in a bottom wall 48. The recess, when viewed from the exterior side of the leg part, has a generally T-shaped configuration which extends vertically between vertically spaced shoulders 46 and 47. The T-shaped configuration of the recess part 33 has a head portion 33A extending transversely across the width of the base wall 29, and a leg portion 33B thereof projecting therefrom generally along a longitudinally extending centerline so as to terminate at the end shoulder 47. This latter shoulder 47 is spaced vertically a small distance from the free end 49 of the vertical leg part 25.

Considering now the panel-to-panel connector 50 which cooperates between the recess arrangements 31 of adjacent corner members 22, and referring initially to FIGS. 11-12, this connector 50 includes an activating or clamping block 51 which has a stepped opening 52 extending vertically through the central part thereof. The opening 52 rotatably accommodates one end of an elongate actuator shaft or fastener 53, the latter having an enlarged head 54 which seats in the upper bore of the stepped opening 52. This enlarged head 54 in the illustrated embodiment has a hex opening for accommodating a conventional hexagonal wrench, although it will be appreciated that the head 54 can be provided with any other type of tool-accommodating slot or recess.

The activating block 51 has a generally cylindrical hub 55 which protrudes vertically from the underside thereof so as to provide an extension for the stepped bore 52 and hence provide additional rotative support for the activating shaft 53.

Activating block 51 also has a pair of plate-like blades or keys 56 and 57 cantilevered in generally parallel relationship in a direction away from the top surface 60 of the activating block, with the blades 56 and 57 being disposed generally on opposite sides of the activating shaft 53. The blade 56 preferably has a length which significantly exceeds the length of the other blade 57 so that blade 56 can effectively occupy and closely fit into the blind opening 41 associated with the corner block 22 when the panel-to-panel connector 50 is properly seated thereon. To assist in effecting proper and snug seating of the activating block 51 on the corner members 22, the opposite sides of the blades, such as indicated by the opposite sides 58 of the blade 56, are preferably sloped inwardly at a small angle as they protrude toward the free end. The width of each blade hence converges slightly toward the free end so as to facilitate engagement of the blade within the opening 41 while creating a snug engagement therewith.

The activating shaft 53, over a substantial extent of the length thereof opposite the enlarged head 54, is threaded as indicated at 59. A blocklike stop or slide 61 is rotatably threaded onto the threaded shaft 59 from the free end thereof. A clamping block 62 having a threaded opening extending vertically through a central part thereof is also disposed in rotatable threaded engagement with the threaded shaft 59. The clamping block 62 is positioned axially inwardly of the slide or stop 61, and in plan view has a wide end 63 and a narrow or nose end 64 which are disposed on substantially diametrically opposite sides of the threaded shaft 59.

The panel-to-panel connector 50 is sized and shaped so as to cooperate with the recess arrangements 31 associated with a pair of opposed corner members 22, typically a pair of upper corner members associated with a pair of adjacent panels as illustrated by FIG. 10. The connector 50 assists in assembling horizontally adjacent panels together in vertical alignment, as illustrated by FIGS. 13-15.

More specifically, the activating block 51 is sized so as to be accommodated within the blocklike openings or recesses 34 defined in a pair of adjacent corner members 22, whereby the blades 56 and 57 protrude into the blind openings 41 associated with the respective corner members. The cylindrical hub 55 of the activating block is adapted to be accommodated within the partial cylindrical bore 37 to hence seat on the shoulder 38, with the activating shaft 53 being accommodated by the opposed partial cylindrical bores 39 defined in the opposed corner members. The clamping block 62 as threaded onto the lower end of the activating shaft 53 cooperates with the opposed recesses 33 defined in the opposed pair of corner members. More specifically, the wide end 63 is fitted into the upper recess portion 33A of the T-shaped recess so as to seat against the top shoulder 46 thereof, whereas the narrower nose end 64 of the clamping block fits within the narrow recess part 33B on the opposed corner member 22. By manually rotating the shaft 53, as by engaging a tool with the head 54 thereof, the activating block 51 is initially seated into the recess associated with the lowermost corner member 22 as illustrated in FIGS. 13-14, and is also vertically seated against the opposed upwardly-displaced corner member 22. Continued rotation of the activating shaft 53, however, due to the clamping block 62 being seated against the shoulder 46 of the rightward corner member 22, and due to the activating block 51 being seated against the shoulder 38 associated with the opposed leftward corner member 22, causes the leftward corner member and its frame to be displaced downwardly until the activating block 51 and clamping block 62 are properly seated both top and bottom on both of the opposed corner members 22, thereby ensuring that the sidewardly adjacent corner members 22 are not only fixedly joined but also properly vertically aligned as illustrated in FIG. 15.

To facilitate connection of horizontally adjacent aligned panels in the vicinity of the lower corners thereof, the present invention provides a different type of connector for this purpose. Specifically, as illustrated by FIGS. 16-18, there is provided a panel-to-panel connector 66 which is provided for cooperation directly between opposed side rails 17 of adjacent panel frames. The connector 66 mounts on one of the side rails 17 in the manner illustrated by FIG. 17, typically in the vicinity of a lower corner of the panel frame. The connector 66 is configured to permit the frames of adjacent panels to be engaged solely by relative vertical sliding engagement of the frame on one panel into engagement with the connector 66 secured to the adjacent panel frame.

More specifically, the connector 66 is formed as a one-piece connector member, such as a molded or machined one-piece monolithic structure, having a rear part 67 which is adapted to be inserted through a window-like opening 21 formed through the base wall 18A of the side rail 17, whereby the connector 66 effectively seats within the channel or groove 18 which extends vertically along the side rail. The protruding rear part 67 at its upper extremity has a transverse narrow slot or groove 68 formed therein and opening downwardly from an upper surface 69 thereof. This rear part 67 at its lower extremity is defined by a narrow transverse shoulder 71 which is vertically aligned downwardly from the groove 68, and this shoulder 71 terminates at a rear corner surface 72 which is tapered upwardly as it projects rearwardly. The groove 68 and its cooperation with the shoulder 71 and its rear tapered surface 72 enables the rear part 67 to be inserted through the window-like opening 21 by initially angling the connector 66 so as to effect insertion of the upper edge of the window-like opening, as defined by the base wall 18A, into the slot or groove 68. The connector 66 is then being reversely swung back into its proper orientation so as to effect seating of the lower shoulder 71 on the lower edge of the window-like opening 21.

With the rear connector part 67 seated in the window-like opening 21 as described above, the connector 66 has a securing or mounting flange 73 which protrudes downwardly and abuts against the front face of the base wall 18A. An opening 74 extends through this mounting flange 73 and aligns with a threaded opening 75 formed through the base wall 18A. A suitable threaded fastener such as a screw 76 is then inserted through the opening 74 and engaged with the opening 75 to fixedly secure the connector 66 on the upright side rail 17 as illustrated by FIGS. 17 and 18.

As so mounted, the connector 66 has an outwardly protruding front part 77 which defines therein an upwardly opening groove or channel 78 extending transversely thereacross. The groove 78 on the front side thereof is defined by an upwardly protruding leg 79, and the bottom of the groove is defined by a wall 81 which is generally horizontally aligned with the bottom of the rear groove 68. This front groove 78 accommodates therein the base wall 18A of the opposed side rail 17 as associated with the adjacent panel frame, whereby the front connector part 77 projects through a similar window 21 defined in the base wall of the opposed side rail so that, when the base wall 18A of the opposite side rail seats against the bottom wall 81, the adjacent side rails 17 will be pulled closely together in the desired positional relationship, and will be maintained at the same elevational position.

The front part 77 of the connector 66 has a tapered lower wall 82 which slopes downwardly as it protrudes toward the rear portion 67 so as to provide sufficient clearance under the wall 82 so that the leftwardmost side rail 17 can be vertically raised and then moved horizontally toward the connector to enable passage of the front portion 77 through the opening 21, with the leftwardmost rail 17 then being vertically lowered to insert the base wall 18A thereof into seating engagement with the bottom 81 of the channel 78.

Once the pair of opposed side rails 17 have been properly engaged and coupled together at the desired elevation as shown by FIG. 18, then the panel-to-panel connector 50 can be properly seated, if necessary, as described above. Alternatively, the final seating of the raised side rail 17 into the connector 66 can be accomplished simultaneous with the seating of the panel-to-panel connector 50 in accordance with the sequence of operations illustrated by FIGS. 13-15 as described above.

While the panel-to-panel connector 50 can be used to connect adjacent upper corners of two adjacent panels having substantially the same height or elevation, as described above and as illustrated by FIGS. 13-15, this panel-to-panel connector 50 can also be used for joining an upper corner of one panel to an intermediate height location of an adjacent panel, as illustrated by the panels 11 and 11″ in FIG. 9. The connection of the upper corner of the lower-height panel 11″ to an intermediate height location of the adjacent higher panel 11 is illustrated in greater detail in FIGS. 19 and 20.

More specifically, as illustrated by FIG. 20, the upright side rail 17 of the higher panel 11 is provided with a pair of vertically-spaced window-like openings 21 formed through the base wall 18A thereof. These window-like openings are positioned so as to be at an elevation in close proximity to the height of the lower panel 11″, and the upper and lower window-like openings 21 are positioned so as to respectively cooperate with the activating block 51 and the clamping block 62 as associated with the connector 50.

As illustrated by the engaged position shown by FIG. 20, the activating block 51 is positioned to extend through the upper window-like opening 21, and simultaneously the clamping block 62 is positioned to project through the lowermost opening 21. The activating block 51 and clamping block 62 cooperate with the recesses formed in the opposed corner member 22 in the same manner as previously described. By rotating the activating shaft 53 to effect vertical drawing of the activating block 51 and clamping block 62 toward one another, the activating block 51 is drawn downwardly into engagement with the lower edge of its opening 21, and at the same time the panel-to-panel connector is properly seated on the corner member 22, thereby ensuring that the panel 11″ is not only fixedly joined to the upright 17 of the adjacent higher panel 11, but that the lower-height panel 11″ is also at the desired elevation so that the adjacent panels 11 and 11″ will be properly vertically aligned at the adjacent lower corners thereof.

While the panel-to-panel connectors 50 and 67 as described above permit two adjacent panels of same or dissimilar heights to be directly fixedly joined in horizontally aligned relationship, these connectors also cooperate between a panel and an upright post, such as a corner post, to enable panels to be joined in angled relationship to one another, such as in right-angled relationship to one another.

Referring to FIGS. 21-23A, there is illustrated two panels 11 and 11′ of similar height and joined in right-angled relationship to one another through an upright corner post 91. The corner post 91 in the illustrated embodiment is defined by an elongate hollow tubular element having a generally square cross section defined by a plurality of side walls 94. Each of these side walls has a channel-like groove 92 extending lengthwise generally along the upright centerline of the side wall. The groove 92, which defines a base wall 95 which is spaced inwardly from the respective side wall, has a configuration which substantially identically corresponds to the channels 18 formed lengthwise along the exterior sides of the frame rails 15-17. Each of the channels 92 also has a plurality of generally rectangular window-like openings 93 (designated 93b-93e in FIG. 23) formed through the base wall 95 at selected intervals spaced vertically therealong. The number and location of the windows 93 are selected to correspond to the heights of the different height panels which are provided for possible connection therewith. A partial window 93a also opens downwardly from the upper edge of the base wall 95.

A first panel 11′ can be connected to one side of the post 91 through use of the connector 50 which cooperates between the upper corner of the panel 11′ and the upper edge of the post 91, and the panel connector 67 which can be secured to the side wall of the post 91 adjacent a lower end thereof for cooperation with an upright 17 of the panel 11′ in the same manner as previously described.

Similarly, a second panel 11 can be coupled to another side of the post 91 in the same manner so as to permit the two panels 11 and 11′ to be serially joined in perpendicular relationship to one another through the corner post 91.

The post 91 and its cooperation with the panels by means of the connectors 50 and 67 also enables the panels to be oriented in three-way or four-way connections, namely one panel being joined to each side of the post. Such three-way connection is illustrated in FIG. 24. In this illustrated connection, however, the one panel 11″ is connected to the post in not only perpendicular relationship to the other panels 11 and 11′, but the panel 11″ is also of lesser height. This panel 11″, however, again connects to a side of the post 91 using the same connectors 50 and 67, except that in this instance the connector 50 associated with the lower-height panel 11″ engages a pair of window-like openings 93 which are provided on the post at a lower elevation therealong, such as indicated by the openings 93c and 93d in FIG. 23.

The corner member 22, as illustrated by FIGS. 7-8B, also has an opening 84 which extends vertically therethrough. This opening 84 is disposed generally on the central vertical plane of the corner member and extends vertically through both the corner block 23 and the leg part 25 so that opposite ends of the opening 84 terminate at the upper surface 35 and the lower surface 49. The opening 84 has, over an elongated vertical extent thereof, an internally threaded portion 85 which is adapted for engagement with the threaded shank 86 (FIG. 4) of a conventional glide or support foot 87. Depending upon the vertical orientation of the panel frame, the corner members 22 which are oriented so as to define the lower corners of the panel frame can have the shanks 86 of glides 87 threaded upwardly into the threaded openings 85 associated with the lower corner members 22 so as to provide for adjustable-height supportive engagement with a floor.

The improved panel frame construction of the present invention, as described above, also facilitates the mounting thereon of a top extension panel. For example, as shown by FIGS. 25-27, there is illustrated a top extension panel 111 which includes a top extension frame 113 defined by a top rail 113 and a pair of upright side rails 114, the latter being rigidly joined by a pair of corner members 22. The top rail 113 is identical to the top rail 15 identified above, and the side rails 114 are identical to the side rails 17 described above except they are of shorter vertical extent. The extension frame 112 hence has a generally inverted U-shaped configuration in that the side rails 114 are fixed to but cantilevered downwardly from opposite ends of the top rail 113 through the intermediate corner members 22.

The height of the extension frame 112 is selected so as to permit a standard-sized cover tile or panel to be releasably mounted on each side thereof, such as a cover tile corresponding to the tile 13 illustrated in FIG. 3.

To secure the panel extension frame 112 to the rigid panel frame 12, a pair of generally box-shaped coupling blocks 116 are provided, each having an opening 117 extending vertically therethrough for accommodating an elongate threaded fastener or screw 118. Each block 116 is adapted to be seated on the upper surface of the respective corner block 23 so that opening 117 through the coupling block is aligned with the threaded opening 84-85 which extends vertically through the corner member. The fastener 118 is then extended through the opening 117 so as to be threadably engaged with the threaded opening 85 defined in the corner member 22 so as to fixedly secure the corner member in upwardly projecting relationship substantially as illustrated by FIG. 27.

The corner block 116, when secured to the corner member 22 as illustrated by FIG. 27, has an exterior rectangular cross section which generally corresponds to the interior of the side rail 114 so that the latter can be snugly slidably inserted downwardly over the connector block 116 until the lower free end of the side rail 114 effectively abuts the upper surface of the corner block 23. When so positioned, a securing screw 119, such as a set screw, is then inserted through an opening in the inner side wall of the side rail 114 and is threaded into an aligned threaded opening 120 formed in the coupling block to effect fixed securement of the extension frame 112 to the upper corners of the panel frame 12. The extension frame 112 hence effectively creates a coplanar upward extension of the frame 12. When so assembled, the extension frame 112 can then have cover pads or tiles releasably attached to opposite sides thereof.

Considering now FIGS. 28-33, there are illustrated alternate construction arrangements for connecting the corner member 22 to the panel frame rails 15-17.

More specifically, a first alternate construction is illustrated by FIGS. 28-29, in which corner members 22A are provided with deformable ribs 96 associated with some, and preferably all, side surfaces of the horizontal and vertical leg parts 24 and 25, respectively. The small but outwardly protruding ribs 96 are disposed in sidewardly spaced but parallel relationship, and are elongated generally in the lengthwise direction of the leg parts, which direction corresponds to the direction of insertion of the respective leg part into the respective frame rail. The ribs 96 are sized so as to permit a resilient or plastic deformation thereof during slidable insertion of the leg part into the respective frame rail, whereby the assembly of the frame rail to the corner member hence creates a fixed connection between the corner member and the frame rail which resembles an interference fit. This connection, while it can be assembled at the factory, can also be assembled at the job site.

Another alternate construction for connecting the corner member 22B to the frame rail, such as rail 15, is illustrated by FIGS. 30-31. In this construction, opposite side surfaces of each leg part 24 and 25 has a pair of large but shallow recesses 97 formed therein. After the frame rail is slidably and snugly inserted over the respective leg part, such as over the leg part 24 in FIGS. 30-31, then opposite side walls of the frame rail are mechanically or physically deformed, such as to create the deformations 98 which protrude into and create a mechanical interlock with the respective recesses 97, thereby fixedly joining the corner member 22B to the respective frame rails.

With the mechanical interlock illustrated by FIGS. 30-31, which mechanical interlock is created in a factory assembly, the interlock is preferably created by a magnetic deformation technique which, after positioning of the rails around the leg parts of the corner member, creates an appropriate magnetic field which effectively deforms or draws the side walls of the side rails inwardly so as to occupy the depressions 97, and thereby create the desired mechanical interlock between the rail and corner member. With this arrangement, the corner member must be constructed of a magnetizable material, and the rail is similarly of magnetizable material, typically steel. Such magnetic deformation as a mechanical connection technique is known.

Lastly, referring to FIGS. 32-33, there is illustrated another alternate technique for mechanically joining the corner member 22C and the respective rails, such as the frame rail 15. Under this technique each of the leg parts 24, 25 has one or more notches 101 formed along each of the corner edges thereof. After the rail is slidably inserted over and hence snugly fitted around the leg part, then the corners of the rail are deformed by a suitable deforming tool so as to create corner notches 101 in the rails which are deformed inwardly into the notches 99 formed in the leg parts, thereby creating a mechanical securement of the corner member to the respective rails.

The mechanical interlock techniques illustrated by the arrangements of FIGS. 30-31 and 32-33 are preferably assembled in a factory environment, preferably utilizing substantially automated tooling so as to provide for efficient and economical assembly of the panel frames.

Referring now to FIGS. 34-35A, there is illustrated an alternate construction for creating a top panel extension on the panel assembly of the present invention. Specifically, as illustrated by FIG. 34, the top extension panel 111′ in this embodiment comprises a special top rail 121 which has a length corresponding to the length of the frame 12, and is adapted to be stationarily supported on top of the top rail 15. The top rail 121 associated with the extension panel 111′, as illustrated by FIG. 35A, has a main base wall 127 which is generally horizontally oriented and which, adjacent opposite edges, cooperates with a pair of downwardly protruding L-shaped walls 128 to define a pair of parallel channels 126 which extend lengthwise along opposite sides of the top rail and which open outwardly toward opposite sides of the panel. These walls 127 and 128 also cooperate to define therebetween a rather large downwardly-opening channel 123 which is sized so as to nestingly receive therein the top rail 15 of the panel frame 12. When the rail 15 is nested upwardly into the channel 123, the channels 126 extend lengthwise along opposite sides of the panel 12 and open sidewardly so as to permit accessories or other devices to be engaged or secured therein. For example, referencing FIG. 35A, an overhead accessory or unit 131, as indicated by dotted lines, can be mounted adjacent the upper edge of the panel. For this purpose the accessory 131 can be provided with brackets 132 fixed thereto, which brackets project downwardly and inwardly for engagement within the channels 126. The accessory 131 may assume many different forms and configurations, and for example may comprise an open shelf, a storage unit, a light, etc. The side channel 126 can also be used for mounting an accessory or auxiliary unit adjacent one side of the panel, which accessory can be provided with suitable fasteners or brackets which engage solely one or both of the channels 126, or alternatively the panel may be provided with an additional side channel secured to the frame at a lower elevation so that the accessory engages and is supported on a pair of vertically spaced such channels 126.

The top rail 121 also has an upwardly protruding wall arrangement 129 which, in the top wall thereof, has a downwardly depressed channel 125 extending lengthwise thereof. This channel 125 is sized to snugly receive therein a lower lengthwise-extending edge of a flat plate-like screen or panel 122 so that the screen can protrude upwardly therefrom.

To secure the top mounting rail 121 to the frame 12, the top rail 121 adjacent each end thereof has an opening extending vertically through the horizontal walls thereof, including the base wall 127 and the bottom wall of the channel 125. This opening aligns with the threaded opening 84, 85 associated with the corner member 22. A threaded fastener such as a screw 124 extends through the openings in the top rail 121 and threadably engages the threaded opening 84-85 so as to fixedly secure the top rail 121, adjacent each end thereof, to a respective one of the corner members 22.

Referring now to FIGS. 36-41, there is illustrated a variation of the wall panel construction according to the present invention. In this variation the parts thereof which correspond to parts identified above are identified by the same reference numerals with “200” added thereto.

In this variation of the invention, the wall panel frame 212 is constructed generally similar to the panel frame 12 described above, with variations relating primarily to the specific construction of the corner members 222 which unite the frame, and the connectors which enable a panel frame to be joined to either an adjacent panel frame, a post or an extender panel, as described hereinafter.

The rigid but open panel frame 212 illustrated by FIG. 36 is again generally of an upright rectangular configuration, and is defined by generally parallel and horizontally extending top and bottom rails 215 and 216, respectively, which are joined by parallel and vertically extending side rails 217. These rails 215-217 are substantially identical to the rails 15-17 described above.

Each of the four corners of the frame 212 is defined by a monolithic one-piece corner member 222 which telescopically engages and rigidly couples to the adjacent ends of each perpendicular pair of frame rails. This corner member 222, as illustrated by FIGS. 37-38, again includes a generally cube-shaped corner block 223 which is rigidly joined to a horizontally cantilevered leg part 224 protruding from one vertical side face of the corner block, and a further vertical leg part 225 which is cantilevered from another side face of the corner block. This configuration corresponds generally to the corner member 22 described above, and hence is provided with generally the same constructional features associated therewith for permitting joinder to the adjacent ends of the rails, substantially as described above with respect to FIGS. 1-35.

The corner block 223 associated with the corner member 222 has a recess 141 formed therein, the latter opening vertically through the exposed horizontal side face 142 of the corner block, and also opening horizontally through the exposed vertical side face 143 of the corner block. This recess 141 includes a blocklike portion 144 which, as it opens horizontally inwardly from the side face 143, terminates at a rear wall 146. The recess 141 also includes a blind opening 147 which, adjacent the rear wall 146, projects downwardly from the bottom wall 145 of the recess 144. This blind opening 147, in the illustrated embodiment, has a transverse width which is greater than the transverse width of the recess 141, but the horizontal width of this opening 147 in the longitudinal (i.e. horizontal) direction of the panel member is significantly smaller.

The corner block 223 also has an opening 148 which, at a location spaced vertically from the recess 144, opens horizontally inwardly from the side face 143 so as to communicate with the blind opening 147 at a location spaced more closely adjacent but spaced vertically from the closed end of the latter opening, as illustrated by FIG. 38. This latter opening 149 accommodates therein a fastener, such as a screw.

The recess 141 as provided adjacent the outer corner of the block 223 cooperates with one end of a panel-to-panel connector 151 (FIGS. 37 and 38) defined primarily by a one-piece member which is adapted for engagement with the corner block 223 of at least one panel frame so as to couple the panel frame to either an adjacent panel frame or a corner post.

The connector 151 has a main blocklike body 152 which is horizontally elongate, and defines on one of the upper and lower surfaces (the upper surface in FIG. 38) a flat surface 153 which is substantially coplanar with the side surface 142 of the block 223 when the connector 151 is properly engaged therewith. The main body 152, at one end thereof, is provided with a downwardly-cantilevered protrusion or part 156, and a similar downwardly-cantilevered protrusion or part 157 is associated with the other end of the main body 152. These parts 156 and 157 protrude from the main body in the same direction and in generally parallel relation, but the protruding length of the part 156 is substantially greater than the protruding length of the part 157. These parts 156, 157 have a blade-like or plate-like cross section which is sized so as to enable them to be slidably inserted into the blind opening 147, with the longer part 156 being of a length which enables it to be inserted throughout substantially the full vertical extent of the opening 147. The blade 156 has an opening 158 therethrough, the latter being positioned so as to align with the corner block opening 148 so that a fastener, such as the screw 149 shown in FIG. 39, can be inserted into the aligned openings 148 and 158 to fixedly couple the connector 151 to the respective corner member 222.

As illustrated by FIG. 37, the protrusion 156 can be provided with a slot 159 extending therein, which slot can be provided with a suitable plate spring 159A, or similar device, to assist in snugly retaining the protrusion 156 within the opening 147.

When the panel connector 151 is seated within the recess 141 so that the longer protruding part 156 is seated within the blind opening 147, the main body 152 is seated within the recess 144 so as to be substantially flush with the block side surface 142, and the main body part 152 protrudes outwardly beyond the block side surface 143 so that, when the upper adjacent corner blocks of two panels are disposed directly adjacent in horizontally aligned relation, the protruding part 157 can be relatively moved downwardly into the blind opening 147 of an adjacent corner block due to relative vertical movement between the two adjacent panel frames. The corner block 222, in addition to its use at the upper corners of the panel frame, is also used at the lower corners of the panel frame as depicted in FIGS. 36 and 39. In this latter usage, the corner block is reversely vertically oriented so that the vertical leg part 225 protrudes upwardly, whereupon the corner recess 141 associated with the block 223 hence opens downwardly. In this situation, a panel connector 151 can still be slidably inserted vertically upwardly into the recess 141 so that the longer protruding part 156 seats in the blind opening 147, with the threaded fastener 149 then being used to fixedly secure the connector 151 to the corner block 223. Since the body part 152 and its shorter protruding part 157 protrudes outwardly beyond the end of the side face 143, this enables a lower corner block of an adjacent panel frame to be vertically seated downwardly for engagement with the upwardly-protruding shorter protruding part 157.

Referencing FIG. 36, for example, if it is desired to horizontally serially join the panel frames 212 and 212′, then the panel connector 151 can be rigidly joined to the lower corner block 222 of the panel frame 212 by inserting the long protrusion 156 upwardly into the blind opening of the lower corner block and securing it by the fastener 149, whereby the short protrusion 157 is exposed. Another panel connector 151 can be secured in the same manner to the upper corner block of the other panel frame 212′ so that the short leg 157 thereof is exposed and projects downwardly. The panel frame 212′ can then be positioned directly adjacent but in a slightly raised elevation relative to the panel frame 212, whereupon vertical lowering of the panel frame 212′ results in the short leg 157 mounted on the upper corner of the frame 212′ being inserted into the blind opening 147 on the upper corner block of the frame 212, and simultaneously the upwardly protruding short leg part 157 which is fixed to the lower corner of frame 212 is inserted into the blind opening formed in the lower corner block of the frame 212′. This hence provides a rigid and fixed securement of the two panel frames in horizontally aligned relationship, and at the same time the panel-to-panel connectors 151 ensure that the adjacent panel frames 212 and 212′ are properly horizontally aligned along the upper and lower edges thereof.

The corner member 222 associated with the rigid open frame 212 has a first opening 161 extending vertically thereof throughout the vertical extent of both the corner block 223 and the vertical leg part 225. This opening 161 is typically cylindrical and, if desired, can be internally threaded. The opening 161 is disposed so that it is positioned generally along the lengthwise upright central plane of the corner member, which in turn also defines the lengthwise upright central plane of the panel frame. The openings 161 as associated with the corner members 222 associated with the lower corners of the panel frame 212 are provided so as to accommodate therein the upwardly protruding stem or shaft 286 as associated with a conventional foot or glide which is used for supporting the panel on a support surface such as a floor.

The corner member 222 also has a further opening 163 which extends vertically throughout the entire vertical extent of the corner member, namely vertically through both the corner block 223 and the vertical leg part 225. This opening 163 extends vertically in generally parallel but sidewardly displaced relationship to the opening 161, and in fact the opening 163 is preferably disposed sidewardly between the through opening 161 and the blind opening 147. The opening 163, as illustrated, preferably has a rectangular cross section which is elongate transversely of the corner block so as to vertically slidably accommodate therein a connector 166 (FIG. 40) which is formed as an elongate blade-like or plate-like member.

The connector 166 has a cross section which closely conforms to the cross section of the opening 163 so that the connector can be vertically slidably inserted into the opening 163. A pair of recesses or openings 167 are formed in the side faces of the connector 166 adjacent opposite ends thereof so that, when the connector 166 is slidably inserted downwardly into the corner member 222 as illustrated by FIG. 40, the lowermost opening or recess 167 will align with a further opening 168 (FIG. 38) which opens transversely inwardly of the leg part 225 in communication with the opening 163. A suitable fastener or set screw 169 can then be inserted through the opening 168 into the opening or recess 167 to fixedly join the connector 166 to the corner member 222.

The connector 166, as illustrated in FIG. 36, is associated and connected to each of the upper corner blocks 222 associated with the panel frame 212 so as to permit a top extension panel 171 to be mounted thereon. This top extension panel 171, in this construction, is defined by a rigid but open rectangular frame 172 constructed generally the same as the open rigid frame 212. That is, the frame 172 is defined by top and bottom rails 215 and 216, respectively, joined through four identical corner members 222 to the upright side frame rails 217′. The latter frame rails 217′ correspond to the frame rails 217 except for being of shorter vertical extent.

To mount the top extension panel frame 172 on the panel frame 212, the upper portions of the elongate plate-like connectors 166 are slidably inserted upwardly into the through openings 163 associated with the lower corner members 222 on the extension panel frame 172, and are then fixed to the lower corner members by the threaded fasteners 174 which project through openings formed in the side frame rails 217′, the latter openings aligning with the openings 167 and 168 so as to effectively fixedly join the upper end of the connector 166 to the lower corner of the top extension panel frame 172. The downwardly protruding connectors 166 are then inserted downwardly into the openings 163 in the upper corner members 222 of the panel frame 212, whereby the extension frame seats on the top of the panel frame 212. Additional screws 169 are inserted to lock the connectors 166 to the panel frame 212.

With this variation of the invention, a lower-height panel frame 212 as illustrated in FIG. 41 can be horizontally serially joined to an edge of a higher panel frame 212″. In this situation, the connector 151 is coupled to the upper corner block 222 of the shorter panel frame 212 as illustrated, and the outwardly and downwardly-protruding shorter leg 157 is then inserted through one of the windowlike openings 221 formed in the channel base wall of the adjacent side rail 217 on the higher panel frame 212″.

The same arrangement illustrated by FIG. 41 can also be used for coupling an edge of the panel to an upright post, which post will be provided with the same constructional details as illustrated in FIG. 23, as described above, so as to enable the connector 151 to be engaged therewith.

In the improved wall panel construction of the present invention, the rigid open frame is defined primarily by only three different components, the first being the elongate hollow metal rail which defines both the top and bottom rails 15 and 16, the second being the elongate hollow rail which defines the right and left side rails 17, and the third being the corner member 22 which is positioned at and defines each corner of the panel frame for connecting adjacent ends of the perpendicularly-intersecting vertical and horizontal rails. In addition, the horizontal and vertical rails are each preferably of identical cross section and hence can be identically manufactured, with the vertical side rails being additionally subjected to processing steps which result in formation of the side slots 19, side windows 20 and edge windows 21 therein. This hence permits simplified manufacturing of the components, and simplified inventorying and shipment of parts since a large number of different and/or complex parts is not required. In addition, the configuration of the hollow rails, which are preferably formed of metal such as aluminum or steel, enables these rails to be readily cut to length at the job site to permit customization of the panel size, either with respect to width or height.

In addition, the configuration of the corner members 22 and their mode of assembly with the horizontal and vertical frame rails, namely the sliding telescopic engagement of the rail ends with the leg parts of the corner members, also greatly facilitates assembly of the panel frames at the job site if desired since the leg parts of the corner members can be easily secured to the rails through use of an intermediate adhesive, or through use of the deformable ribs provided on the leg parts, thereby facilitating job-site assembly. Further, even the use of a mechanical interlock, such as depicted by FIGS. 30-33, can be assembled at the job site by initially sliding the rails over the leg parts of the corner member, and then utilizing an appropriate manually-activated crimping tool for effecting deformation of the rail so as to interlock it to the leg part of the corner member.

The corner member 22 is preferably formed as a monolithic, solid, one-piece construction so that the leg parts and the corner block are of an integral and uniform construction throughout and, except for the openings formed vertically therethrough, are generally solid so as to possess the strength and rigidity necessary to impart desired strength and rigidity to the assembled open frame. These corner members can be formed of a synthetic material, such as by being molded of a plastics material, or they can be suitably formed of metal such as aluminum or steel. In addition, the leg parts including specifically both the horizontal and vertical leg parts are preferably provided with identical cross sections which are compatible with the identical and substantially rectangular interior openings defined within the horizontal and vertical rails so that the leg parts can hence be slidably but snugly engaged into the ends of the rails so as to create a fixed securement therewith using any suitable securement technique, including the techniques disclosed herein.

In addition, the hat-shaped profile defined by the outer edge wall of each horizontal and vertical frame rail, and its cooperation with the corresponding hat-shaped profile defined by the exterior side surfaces on the horizontal and vertical leg parts, ensures that all of the rails are properly oriented during assembly of the frame.

The corner members and specifically the provision of the box-shaped or cube-shaped corner block, and its joinder to the outwardly-cantilevered leg parts which are of slightly smaller cross section, also results in the formation of an endless shoulder surrounding the leg part where it joins to the corner block. This shoulder cooperates with the free end of the frame rail, when it is telescoped over the respective leg part, to provide the assembled frame with structural and dimensional stability. At the same time, this shoulder and specifically the configuration of the box-shaped corner block is such that it is compatible with the cross section of the frame rail to hence provide substantial surface continuity where the frame rails and corner block join together at the corners of the frame, such hence providing improved cooperations with respect to mounting of cover pads on opposite sides of the rigid frame, particularly where adjacent wall panels serially join together since there normally exists a narrow vertically-extending access slot at the junction for providing access to the hanger-accommodating slots 19.

In addition to the simplicity of the structure and assembly techniques associated with the panel frame as discussed above, the panel frames and specifically the corner members associated with the frames also provide increased simplicity with respect to enabling an upright panel to be joined to an adjacent panel, either of the same or of different height, or to an upright post. Such connection can be easily carried out using either one or two types of panel connectors, with the one type of panel connector cooperating specifically with a recess or opening provided in the corner block so as to permit at least an upper corner of one panel frame to be rigidly serially interconnected to either an adjacent panel or an adjacent upright post. These same corner blocks, whether disposed at upper corners or lower corners of the frame, also have an opening structure associated therewith so that they are able to accommodate stems associated with support feet or glides, or in the alternative they can accommodate a connector which enables an upward panel extender frame to be mounted on the top of the main frame so as to provide increased height. The corner members hence provide these capabilities at all corners of the panel, thereby greatly facilitating subsequent assembly of the wall system at the job site, or alternatively facilitating the tear-down and reassembly of the wall system in a new orientation.

The main components utilized for forming the rigid open frame described above, namely the frame rails 15-17 and the corner members 22, can also be utilized as main building blocks for forming other rigid open frame configurations, and several alternate configurations are illustrated in FIGS. 42, 44 and 45 as described hereinafter. These alternate frame configurations, however, also utilize a three-way connector to permit adjacent ends of three frame rails to be rigidly joined in a generally T-shaped configuration, thereby providing increased flexibility with respect to the resulting shape or configuration of the assembled frame.

Referring to FIG. 42, there is illustrated an assembled open rectangular frame 312 which, similar to the frames previously discussed, is adapted to have suitable covers or tiles secured to opposite sides thereof to define a finished upright wall panel. The assembled frame 312 utilizes horizontal top and bottom rails 315 and 316 and upright side or edge rails 317, with these rails being joined at the same corners by L-shaped corner connectors 322. The corner connector 322 as well as the frame rails 315, 316 and 317 are identical to the corner connector 22 and frame rails 15, 16 and 17 as described above. The modified frame 312, however, is intended to be of increased horizontal span or length, such as for example from six to eight feet, and for this purpose the upper and lower horizontals of the frame are respectively defined by a pair of aligned top horizontal rails 315 and by a pair of aligned bottom horizontal rails 316. The extended frame is also provided with an intermediate upright 331 which is substantially identical to the uprights 317 and extends parallel therewith but is disposed substantially midway therebetween. The intermediate upright 331 has its ends terminating generally adjacent the opposed innermost ends of the aligned top horizontal rails 315 and bottom horizontal rails 316. To rigidly connect the aligned top horizontal rails 315 and the adjacent end of the intermediate upright 331, a three-way connector 332 (FIG. 43) is provided. An identical three-way connector 332 also rigidly connects the adjacent ends of the aligned bottom horizontal rails 316 and the adjacent lower end of the intermediate upright 331.

The three-way connector 332 (FIG. 43) has a generally T-shaped configuration, and is herein referred to as a T connector. This T connector includes a generally cube-shaped junction block 333 with substantially identical leg parts 334 and 335 cantilevered outwardly from adjacent perpendicular sides thereof. The block 333 and its cooperation with the leg parts 334 and 335 is substantially identical to the corner member 22 as herein described. The T connector 332, however, has a third leg part 336 which is cantilevered outwardly from a third side of the block 333 so that the leg parts 334 and 336 are aligned but project outwardly in opposite directions from opposite sides of the junction block. The leg part 336 is identical in cross section to the leg parts 334 and 335.

The T connector 332, when used to rigidly join the upper end of the intermediate upright 331 and the adjacent free ends of the aligned top horizontal rails 315, is oriented so that the aligned leg parts 334 and 336 are telescoped into the adjacent free ends of the aligned top rails 315, and the remaining leg part 335 is telescoped into the upper end of the intermediate upright rail 331. All of these rails 315 and 331 snugly telescope over the respective leg parts until they abut against the shoulder which is defined by the respective side surface of the block 333, which shoulder surrounds the outwardly cantilevered leg part. The telescopic engagement of the leg parts into the frame rails is preferably carried out in a manner so as to create a secure rigid fit, and for this purpose is preferably achieved by means of a press-fit. The leg parts can be provided with any of the connection features associated with the corner member 22 as herein described.

The T connector 332, as shown in FIG. 43, is preferably provided with a first opening 337 which extends centrally through the block 333 and then downwardly through the leg part 335. The opening 337 can be suitably internally threaded so as to accommodate a glide stem, such as the threaded stem associated with the centermost glide 86 illustrated in FIG. 42. T connector 332 is also preferably provided with a further opening 338 extending lengthwise thereof from the free end of leg part 336 through the free end of leg part 334. This opening 338, which perpendicularly intersects the opening 333, is also preferably internally threaded and is adapted for accommodating a threaded glide as discussed hereinafter.

It will be appreciated that the T connector 332 will normally be constructed so as to be dimensionally the same as the corner member 22, and constructed of the same material.

Referring now to FIG. 44, there is illustrated a further modification of a rigid open frame 312′, which frame is configured to form an open base panel or partition. The frame 312′ has upright frame rails 317 joined to the horizontal top rail 315 through corner members 22. The frame also has a lower horizontal frame rail 316 which is rigidly interconnected to lower ends of the upright frame rails 317, although in this configuration the connection of the bottom horizontal rail 316 to the upright frame rails 317 is accomplished by using T connectors 332. The T connectors 332 are oriented so that the aligned leg parts 334 and 336 are oriented vertically, whereby the leg 335 is fixedly telescoped into the adjacent end of the horizontal rail 316, and one of the legs 334 or 336 is telescoped into the lower end of the upright rail 317. The remaining one of the aligned legs 334 and 336 projects downwardly and is telescopically engaged within the upper end of a further upright rail 317A which is identical to the rail 317 but is of shorter vertical extent. This latter rail 317A projects vertically downwardly through a shorter distance, and has a suitable connection at the lower end so as to provide engagement with the stem of a conventional glide 86. The T connectors 332 hence enable the bottom horizontal rail 316 to be spaced upwardly a significant distance above the floor, thereby defining an open space between the floor and the bottom rail 316 for use in those situations where such space is deemed either necessary or desirable for purposes such as aesthetics air flow and the like. With this frame 312′, side covers can be attached to opposite sides of the frame so as to enclose only the region extending vertically between the top and bottom rails 315 and 316, thereby leaving the space below the bottom rail 316 open.

Referring to FIG. 44A, there is illustrated a variation of the frame 312′ shown in FIG. 44. In this variation the lower upright frame 317A is not provided, but rather one of the vertically oriented leg parts associated with the T connector 332, such as the leg 336, is allowed to project downwardly below the lower horizontal rail 316. The threaded stem of a conventional glide 86 is then threaded upwardly into the opening 338. With this arrangement, the projecting leg part 336 combined with the glide 86 hence function to space the lower horizontal rail 316 upwardly a significant distance above the floor to provide an adequate open base space below the bottom rail 316.

A still further variation of an open frame constructed utilizing the rails and connectors of this invention is illustrated in FIG. 45. The frame arrangement 312″ of FIG. 45 is generally H shaped so as to define a space dividing wall having open regions at both the top and bottom thereof.

More specifically, the frame 312″ of FIG. 45 includes a pair of generally parallel upright rail arrangements 317 which are normally of greater height, typically a height so as to extend substantially between a ceiling and a floor. The pair of upright rail arrangements 317 are rigidly joined by top and bottom horizontal rails 315 and 316, with the top rail 315 being spaced downwardly a substantial distance from the upper ends of the upright rail arrangements 317, and the bottom rail 316 being spaced upwardly a substantial distance from the lower free ends of the upright rail arrangements 317. The opposite ends of the horizontal rails 315 and 316 are rigidly joined to the upright rail arrangements 317 by T connectors 332 which cooperate in a manner similar to the T connectors described above relative to FIG. 44.

More specifically, each side rail arrangement 317 includes a lower side rail 317A, an intermediate side rail 317B, and an upper side rail 317C. These are all identical and are aligned, and the adjacent aligned ends of the side rails 317C and 317B are telescopically engaged over the aligned legs 334 and 336 of the T connector 332, with the remaining leg 335 being telescopically engaged within the adjacent end of the top rail 315. In a similar manner the adjacent ends of the side rails 317B and 317A, as well as the adjacent end of the bottom horizontal rail 316, are rigidly joined by a further T connector 332.

With the frame arrangement 312″ illustrated by FIG. 45, suitable side covers are preferably secured to opposite sides of the frame so as to enclose solely the rectangular open interior defined vertically between the frame rails 315-316 and horizontally between the parallel side frames 317B. An open region is defined above the top frame rail 315, and a further open region is defined below the bottom frame rail 316. The resulting wall arrangement can hence function as a partial space dividing wall or privacy screen over a vertical extent which is spaced both significantly downwardly from the ceiling and significantly upwardly from the floor. The upper ends of the uprights 317 will typically be attached to the ceiling utilizing conventional fasteners or connectors.

When constructing frames which employ the T connector 332, either with or without the corner connector 22 or 222, the protruding legs associated with these connectors preferably create a press and hence rigid fit when telescopically engaged with the respective rail, thereby resulting in a frame having desired strength and rigidity when assembled. While these desired properties are more repeatedly achieved when the components are factory assembly, it will nevertheless be appreciated that these components permit assembly at the job site when necessary or desirable, particularly in situations where some of the frame rails must be cut to length in order to provide a frame which properly fits available space.

Although a particular preferred embodiment of the invention has been disclosed in detail for illustrative purposes, it will be recognized that variations or modifications of the disclosed apparatus, including the rearrangement of parts, lie within the scope of the present invention.