Title:
Enclosure system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular enclosure system comprising a plurality of detachably interconnected wall panels, each comprising a rectangular frame that includes upper and lower transverse beams and spaced apart side-forming elements attached to the upper and lower transverse beams where each of the side-forming elements comprise a coupling device for detachably interconnecting the frame to a similar side-forming element of an adjacent wall panel frame with at least one locking spline in sliding engagement with each inter panel coupling in the system for securing adjacent wall panels together.



Inventors:
Kvols, Kevin (Steamboat Springs, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/359936
Publication Date:
08/23/2007
Filing Date:
02/23/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B43/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SPAHN, GAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hanes & Bartels LLC (COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An enclosure system comprising, a plurality of detachably interconnected wall panels, each comprising, a rectangular frame including, upper and lower transverse beams, spaced apart side-forming elements attached to the upper and lower transverse beams, each of said elements comprising coupling means for detachably interconnecting the frame to an adjacent wall panel, and a locking spline in sliding engagement with the coupling means for securing adjacent wall panels together.

2. The enclosure system of claim 1 and further including, a floor having means for receiving each of the wall panels, and a top secured to the upper transverse beams and adapted to cover the enclosure formed by the interconnected wall panels.

3. The enclosure system of claim 1 where each of the side-forming elements comprise, spaced apart legs and an irregularly contoured bulkhead interconnecting the legs.

4. The enclosure system of claim 3 and further including, a first channel disposed between the legs having a planar bottom surface.

5. The enclosure system of claim 4 where at least a portion of the bulkhead is parallel with the planar bottom surface of the first channel.

6. The enclosure system of claim 4 where at least a portion of the bulkhead is disposed at an angle to the planar bottom surface of the first channel.

7. The enclosure system of claim 3 and further including, a second channel disposed in the coupling means, said second channel having parallel sides defined by a portion of one leg of the coupling means included in a first frame and a portion of one leg of the coupling means included in a second adjoining frame, said second channel having, a bottom surface comprising a portion of the bulkhead of the coupling means included in the first frame, and coplanar grooves in the parallel sides, a spline plate slidably disposed in the coplanar grooves of the second channel, and screw means threadingly engaged with the spline plate and adapted for contact with the bottom surface of the second channel.

8. An enclosure system comprising, a plurality of detachably interconnected wall-forming panels, a floor underlying the wall-forming panels, coupling means for interconnecting the panels, said coupling means each including first and second elongated members that form the respective sides of adjacent panels each of which elongated members include a bulkhead adapted to interlock with the bulkhead of the other elongated member, and locking means engaging the bulkhead of at least one of the elongated members for securing said members together.

9. The system of claim 8 where at least a portion of each bulkhead is perpendicular to the plane of panels adjacent to the panel containing the bulkhead.

10. The system of claim 8, where at least a portion of each bulkhead is disposed at an angle to the plane of at least one of the panels adjacent to the panel containing the bulkhead.

11. The system of claim 8 where at least one of the panels has a closable opening therein.

12. The system of claim 8 where the floor includes channel means in which the panels are seated.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to modular construction of an enclosure, the concept of which can be employed to create partitions, storage containers or rapidly erected habitable buildings.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In recent years there has been extensive development of storage complexes where variably sized enclosures are rented on a short or long term basis for storing goods and equipment. Typically the renter must transport the items to be stored to a storage facility and remove them when the rental term is ended. The storage units are usually constructed as one story structures with ground level doors, requiring substantial ground area.

More recently an improved concept has been developed where a “pod” or container is delivered to the renter at his/her home or place of business and at that location the pod is packed with the renter's goods. The pod is then transported to a storage facility, such as a warehouse, where numerous pods may be stacked vertically, one upon another, to conserve floor space. A renter's pod is redelivered to him/her when the goods are called for or the rental term is ended. To implement such a system empty pods must be distributed to the warehousing facility and often moved from one facility to another. Such transportation and storage of empty pods is uneconomical because of the large volume of space that is consumed by an empty pod.

In addition to modular storage containers that are structurally sturdy enough to be stacked, there is a continuing need for easily interconnected rigid panels that can adapted for a variety of uses from office partitions to personnel housing units.

Accordingly, it is the primary object of the present invention to provide a framing and interconnecting system for modular panels that will facilitate quick and easy assembly and erection of a unit that, when assembled, will possess the structural strength to serve the unit's purpose.

A second object of the invention is to provide modular panels for an enclosure that are transportable and storable as a plurality of stacked flat panels, thus saving space and associated transportation and storage costs.

Other and further objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent upon a reading of the following description of a preferred form of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is an enclosure system comprising a plurality of detachably interconnected wall-forming panels. Each panel includes a frame having top and bottom members that are interconnected by side forming couplers. The couplers act to interconnect two or more panels. Each coupler includes first and second elongated members that form the respective sides of adjacent panels, each of which elongated members include a bulkhead adapted to interlock with the bulkhead of the other elongated member. A friction lock spline engages a portion of the bulkhead of one of the elongated members and a portion of the other elongated member for securing said members together.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective exploded view of a container of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an end view of an interconnecting pair of panel frame side members adapted for in-line or co-planar interconnection of two panel frames.

FIG. 2a is a fragmentary perspective view showing the bracket implemented interconnection between one side frame member and the top horizontal beam of the panel frame. A similar bracket interconnects the side frame member with a bottom horizontal beam of the panel frame.

FIG. 3 is a fragmentary top view of an in-line connection between two adjoining panel frame members illustrating the interconnection between the pair of frame members shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary perspective view of the interconnecting frame members of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary top view of a right angle connection between two adjoining panel frame members.

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary perspective view of the interconnecting elements shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a fragmentary top view of a 45 degree connection between two adjoining panel frame members.

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary perspective view of the interconnection elements shown in FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of a friction locking spline.

FIG. 10 is a bottom perspective view of a friction locking spline.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

According to the present invention, modular enclosures ranging from storage containers to habitable buildings are constructed from a number of panels interconnected by a novel coupling system whose mating components require minimal time and effort to interconnect and lock together. A preferred form of the invention will be described in the context of a simple hexahedron that could be used as a storage container.

FIG. 1 depicts an enclosure 2 of the present invention whose exemplary dimensions may be 9′×4′×5′. In such an arrangement the container would have side walls 3 and 4, each comprising three co-planar interconnected 3′×5′ panels 5. The back side of the container comprises one 5′×4′ panel 9 interconnected to the rearmost side panels 5. The front end of the container is constructed similarly to the rear panel 9 except that it is open for access to the interior of the enclosure. To close the front opening and secure the contents of the container a roll door 10 is provided at the inside of the top horizontal structural element of the opening. Other closure devices can be used, for example, in a larger structure the front of the enclosure could be a solid wall having a hinged door or a garage type door. The panels making up the side walls and the ends of the container are seated along their bottom edges in a channel 10 that is secured to a single piece floor member 12. A top member 14, is attached with traditional fastening means to the upper horizontal beam elements 21 of the side and end panels.

Each of the panels 5 comprises a rigid rectangular frame 6 with an attached wall-forming cover 7. A panel frame includes spaced apart mutually parallel sides, each of which comprises one half of a mating pair of coupling members 20. The two frame sides are interconnected at their upper and lower ends by respective horizontal top and bottom beams 21 and 24.

As will become clear from the subsequent description, the individual wall panels 5 and 9, the front opening frame and roll door, the floor 12 and the top cover member 14 may, when not assembled into a container or other type of enclosure, be laid flat and stacked, thus minimizing storage and transportation space.

The coupling members 20 that form the sides of the frames 6 are of three basic types: straight 20s (FIGS. 2, 3 and 4), right angle 20r (FIGS. 5 and 6) and 45 degree angle 20a (FIGS. 7 and 8). The 45 degree coupling member is not required in the rectangular enclosure illustrated in FIG. 1. Because all three types of coupling members have common elements, those elements may be referred to in the following description by a common reference numeral 20 even though they may have different configurations in the three different angular types of coupling members.

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 illustrate the straight, or in line, coupling member 20s that interconnects co-planar panels 5. As with each of the other angular types of coupling members 20, the straight version is constructed from a pair of matched extruded elements that are mated and locked together. Each element of the pair includes two elongated spaced apart legs 22 and 23, the end portions of which abut the terminal ends of top and bottom transverse frame beams 21 and 24. Disposed between each pair of legs 22 and 23 is a U shaped channel 25 whose opposing sides are provided with grooves 26. Each pair of opposing grooves 26 is adapted to receive the lateral edges of the base of a U shaped bracket 29. The brackets 29 attach the coupling member to the abutting beams 21 and 22. FIG. 2a is illustrative of the bracket 29 that attaches the top end of a coupling member 20 to the terminal end of top beam member 21. The attachment between the lower bean member 24 and the lower end of the coupling member 20 is similar to that shown in FIG. 2a.

As seen in FIG. 2a, the upper and lower transverse frame beams 21 and 24 are constructed of extruded metal having upper and lower channels 31 and 32. Each of the channels is provided with opposing grooves 33 in the respective sides of each channel. The base portion of each of the U shaped brackets 29 is secured within the coupling member channel 25 by screws or similar fasteners while the extending sides of the U shaped brackets 29 are sized and adapted to be inserted into the grooves 33 of the channels 31 and 32 of the transverse beams 21 and 24. The bracket sides are secured within the channels 31 and 32 by screws or similar fasteners.

Referring again to FIGS. 2, 3 and 4, it is seen that in contraposition to the channel 25 of each of the coupling elements 20 an irregularly contoured bulkhead 28 interconnects the legs 22 and 23. The irregular contours of the bulkheads 28 in each mating element engage one another to unify the elements into an assembled coupling member 20 when they are locked together by a spline 40, as more fully explained below.

When the two cooperating elements of the in-line version of the coupling member 20s are interconnected the bulkhead projections 31 of one element nest into a groove 33 of the other element to stabilize the interconnection of the two elements. Similar to the bulkheads of the in-line version shown in FIGS. 2,3 and 4, the bulkheads of the right angle version, shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 and the 45 degree version, shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, all contain contours and projections that are seated within bulkhead grooves or troughs for stabilizing purposes.

In each angular version of the coupling member 20 the bulkheads of the paired coupling elements are locked together by a spline 40. As seen in FIGS. 3-8, the spline 40 comprises a flat rigid plate positioned in co-planer grooves 42 on each side of a channel 44 that is defined by the parallel sides of opposing legs 23 of the two mating elements of a coupling member 20 together with the flat portion 49 of the bulkhead 28 of one of the coupling member elements. The spline 40 (FIGS. 9 and 10) is provided with at least two threaded holes 47 that receive screws 48. Turning of the screws 48 forces the distal end of the screws against the flat portion 49 of the bulkhead of one of the elements while at the same time forcing the spline plate 40 in the opposite direction against the sides of the channel grooves 42. These opposing forces between the two mating elements of a coupling member 20 create frictional forces between those elements that are sufficient to effectively lock them together. Preferably a spline plate is equal in length to the coupling member 20. Locking a coupling member's elements together in this manner results in quick and effective interconnection of the panels to which the respective elements of the coupling members are a part. Disconnecting the elements and thus detaching the panels, one from another, is accomplished by the mere act of loosening the screws 48 to eliminate the frictional contact between the two coupling member elements.

By selectively sizing the transverse frame beams 21 and 24 and the coupling members 20 that comprise the frame 6 of each panel an infinite variety of enclosures may be developed. The enclosures may be made large enough to form emergency or very low cost housing units. In such a case the panel coverings 7 can easily be provided with windows, doors and insulation, if necessary. The primary advantages of the structure of the present invention are its ability to be transported or stored in a flat low volume configuration, its fast and efficient assembly, the simple locking mechanism, its overall strength and its ability to withstand the pressures of being stacked with similar enclosures.