Title:
INTEGRAL CONNECTORS IN TUBULAR BEAMS FOR BUILDING STRUCTURES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Tubular beams for building frames include laser-cut ends to form highly-accurate integrally-formed tab connectors for connecting the beams together and to other building beams. The tab connectors are integrally formed of continuous and contiguous material of the metal beam and are spaced apart to closely engage a second beam for secure and reliable and stress-distributed connection. The tab connectors can be formed and/or bent to define a pocket oriented at a desired angle for receiving a mating beam, such as for supporting a roof truss at a desired pitch. Fasteners extend through holes in the tabs and into or through the second beam for securing the beams together. The tab connectors can be cut to many different shapes, formed to any orientation, and made to accurately mate with corresponding structure of the mating second beam, regardless of the angle and size of the two beams.



Inventors:
Porter, William H. (Saugatuck, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/685279
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
03/13/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/16
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PAINTER, BRANON C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PRICE HENEVELD LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:

1. A building frame suitable to meet building code requirements for human occupancy, comprising: a structural tubular metal beam including a plurality of walls, with two or more of the walls opposing each other and each including a tab connector extending therefrom, each tab connector being formed from continuous and contiguous material of the respective wall from which the tab connector extends and each tab connector being bent to extend parallel a common direction and to define a pocket therebetween that extends at an acute angle to a longitudinal axis of the tubular metal beam; a mating beam having opposing side surfaces, the tab connectors being configured to closely engage the opposing side surfaces of the mating beam, each tab connector including a pattern of holes for fasteners, and the material of the structural beam and the tab connectors being sufficiently thick and strong to form a structural joint as part of the building frame meeting building code requirements for human occupancy.

2. The building frame defined in claim 1, including at least one second tab connector extending from a remaining one of the walls, the second tab connector including a pattern of holes for fasteners.

3. The building frame defined in claim 1, wherein the tab connectors each comprise a flange with parallel linear edges.

4. The building frame defined in claim 1, wherein the tab connectors each include a plurality of flanges having a first width and supported by a necked area of reduced width.

5. The building frame defined in claim 1, wherein the remaining walls include support flanges extending therefrom and being configured to engage and support the mating beam in the pocket.

6. A structural juncture for use in a constructed building frame, comprising: a first tubular metal beam defining a first longitudinal direction and having an end, opposing first and second walls, and opposing third and fourth walls forming a tube with the first and second walls; a second beam defining a second longitudinal direction having opposing first and second surfaces forming a first dimension and having opposing third and fourth surfaces forming a second dimension; a pair of tab connectors formed inboard of the end of at least one of the first and second walls and being integrally formed of continuous and contiguous material of the metal beam; the pair of tab connectors being bent outward from the associated one wall and being spaced apart the first dimension, the second beam being positioned between the pair of tab connectors; and a plurality of fasteners extending through holes in the pair of tab connectors and into the second beam for securing the second beam to the first beam.

7. The structural juncture defined in claim 6, including a second pair of tab connectors formed in a second of the first and second walls and being integrally formed of continuous and contiguous material of the metal beam; the second pair of tab connectors being bent outward from the associated second wall and being spaced apart the first dimension, the second beam being positioned between the second pair of tab connectors and secured thereto by the fasteners.

8. The structural juncture defined in claim 7, wherein the first-mentioned pair of tab connectors and the second pair of tab connectors align to hold the second beam so that the second longitudinal direction extends perpendicular to the first longitudinal direction.

9. The structural juncture defined in claim 7, wherein the first-mentioned pair of tab connectors and the second pair of tab connectors align to hold the second beam so that the second longitudinal direction extends at an acute angle to the first longitudinal direction.

10. The structural juncture defined in claim 7, including a third pair of tab connectors formed in at least one of the third and fourth walls for holding an end of a third beam abuttingly against sides of the first beam.

11. The structural juncture defined in claim 6, wherein the third and fourth walls each include an integral plate-attachment flange formed by a C-shaped cut made into the third and fourth walls, the flange including holes for receiving fasteners that extend through the flange into the second beam.

12. A structural juncture for use in a constructed building frame, comprising: a first tubular metal beam defining a first longitudinal direction and having an end, opposing first and second walls, and opposing third and fourth walls forming a tube with the first and second walls; a second beam defining a second longitudinal direction having opposing first and second surfaces forming a first dimension and having opposing third and fourth surfaces forming a second dimension; a tab connector extending from the first wall and formed integrally of continuous and contiguous material of the first wall by first and second oppositely-facing non-linear cuts made into an end of the first wall but without similar cuts made into the second wall opposing the first wall, the tab connector including holes suitable for securing the second beam to the first beam to form the junction suitable for use in constructing a building frame.

Description:

This application claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of provisional application Ser. No. 60/785,705, filed on Mar. 24, 2006, entitled LASER-CUT CONNECTORS IN TUBULAR BEAMS FOR BUILDING STRUCTURES, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to tubular beams suitable for use in constructing building frames, and more particularly relates to tubular steel beams having integrally-formed laser-cut connectors accurately cut for connecting the beams together and for connecting to other building structural members to form a building frame. However, the present invention is not believed to be limited to only laser cutting nor to only building structural members.

Constructing building frames of tubes, beams, and angle iron has been around for some time. Most all junctures for building beams require a welded piece or pieces to make the juncture. The traditional way of cutting steel has been with a saw that cuts in one plane, and that starts cutting from a side or end location on the beam. After cutting, a plate with holes is welded to the end of the cut tube for attachment to another beam, such as with threaded fasteners. Notably the plate with holes must be accurately located on the associated beam, and also the welding must be high quality, since it is important that the assembled/connected beam arrangement not over-stress the welds or over-stress the junctions. This is necessary to avoid stress fractures around the welds and junction failures over time, given normal cyclical loading and environmental stress (i.e., wind, etc.) on building structures. Also, it is noted that welding is a secondary operation that is expensive, time-consuming, manually-intensive, and that requires significant quality assurance to insure that quality long-lasting welds are made.

It is essential in construction of frames for building that the junctures be drawn together and not just slip fit. Thus, as noted above, it is important that the assembled/connected beam arrangement not stress the juncture unacceptably . . . since welds and weld-adjacent beam walls can develop stress cracks and fail over time. It is difficult to form highly accurate joints using traditional saw cutting operations, since saw blades tend to wander and wear, making them difficult to control with high accuracy. Other factors also affect inconsistent cutting, such as the need to repeatedly loosen and re-fixture a tubular beam for successive cuts. All of this leads to inconsistent cut locations and higher-than-desired tolerances, which in turn leads to additional concerns about juncture stresses and integrity of junctures in an assembled/connected beam arrangement of building structures.

Recently, cutting systems such as lasers, plasma arcs, water jets, and other cutting systems have been developed. However, corresponding connector designs for tubular beams have not yet been proposed that are useful for building structures and building frames.

Thus, a method having the aforementioned advantages and solving the aforementioned problems is desired.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

The present invention focuses on different junctures for use in a building frame constructed by bolting beams together, where the junctures comprise tabs integrally formed from the material of a structural tubular metal beam and extending from an end of the tubular metal beam. By the present invention, separate brackets do not need to be welded to the beam ends. Thus, the present invention saves considerable cost by reducing separate components, by reducing manpower, by reducing secondary operations, and by making for a more efficient and repeatable assembly. The tabs are structural and can be made suitable for use in connecting the metal beam to building frame members in various arrangements and at various angles to construct different building frames, even where beams extend at acute angles to each other. The tabs are formed from the continuous and contiguous material of the tubular metal beam, such that separate welding and separate brackets are not required. Yet the tabs are arranged and configured to withstand the structural and functional requirements of beam junctures of building frames.

In order to manufacture the beam ends, the tabs must be accurately and precisely cut. Further, the cuts must be made by cutting through a first wall of the tubular metal beam without cutting into a second wall spaced behind the first wall. Thus, traditional cutting by saws will not work. It is contemplated that computer controlled laser cutting equipment will work best for the present invention, though other means of cutting a single wall thickness (without cutting a second wall spaced behind the first) will work. It is noted that the present beams are structural tubular steel beams suitable for constructing buildings of substantial size and capacity, including permanent buildings suitable for residential living.

In one aspect of the present invention, a building frame is provided suitable to meet building code requirements for human occupancy. The building frame includes a structural tubular metal beam including a plurality of walls, with two or more of the walls opposing each other and each including a tab connector extending therefrom. Each tab connector is formed from continuous and contiguous material of the respective wall from which the tab connector extends and each tab connector being bent to extend parallel a common direction and to define a pocket therebetween that extends at an acute angle to a longitudinal axis of the tubular metal beam. A mating beam is provided having opposing side surfaces. The tab connectors are configured to closely engage the opposing side surfaces of the mating beam, each tab connector including a pattern of holes for fasteners, and the material of the structural beam and the tab connectors being sufficiently thick and strong to form a structural joint as part of the building frame meeting building code requirements for human occupancy.

In another aspect of the present invention, a structural juncture for use in a constructed building frame is provided including a first tubular metal beam defining a first longitudinal direction and having an end, opposing first and second walls, and opposing third and fourth walls forming a tube with the first and second walls. A second beam defines a second longitudinal direction having opposing first and second surfaces forming a first dimension and having opposing third and fourth surfaces forming a second dimension. A pair of tab connectors are formed inboard of the end of at least one of the first and second walls. The tab connectors are integrally formed of continuous and contiguous material of the metal beam. The pair of tab connectors are bent outward from the associated one wall and are spaced apart the first dimension, with the second beam being positioned between the pair of tab connectors. A plurality of fasteners extend through holes in the pair of tab connectors and into the second beam for securing the second beam to the first beam.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a structural juncture for use in a constructed building frame includes a first tubular metal beam defining a first longitudinal direction and having an end, opposing first and second walls, and opposing third and fourth walls forming a tube with the first and second walls, and further includes a second beam defining a second longitudinal direction having opposing first and second surfaces forming a first dimension and having opposing third and fourth surfaces forming a second dimension. A tab connector extends from the first wall and is formed integrally of continuous and contiguous material of the first wall by first and second oppositely-facing non-linear cuts made into an end of the first wall but without similar cuts made into the second wall opposing the first wall. The tab connector includes holes suitable for securing the second beam to the first beam to form the junction suitable for use in constructing a building frame.

In another aspect of the present invention, methods of computer-assisted cutting structural tubular steel beams suitable for buildings are provided related to all of the above, where a cutter makes a non-linear cut along a single first thickness of metal and does not cut through a second thickness of metal spaced behind the first thickness of metal . . . such as laser cutting. The concave cuts form tabs from the integral material of the tubular metal beam, which tabs are deformed and bent to a desired orientation and position for engaging and attachment to a second beam.

An object of the present invention is to use modern cutting systems, such as lasers, plasma arcs, water jets and other cutting systems, to cut tubular beams quickly and accurately in a wide variety of designs suitable for building frames constructed for human occupancy. When computers are coupled to these cutting machines and systems, much less costly systems can be made by cutting tabs with holes and bending the tabs in positions to align with a matching part . . . such that very-accurately-made matching parts can constructed for bolting and mechanically fastening together without the need for welding.

These and other aspects, objects, and features of the present invention will be understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art upon studying the following specification, claims, and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1-3 are related perspective views, FIG. 1 showing a first laser cut metal tube with integral tabs, FIG. 2 showing the integral tabs bent to form a first-type connection, and FIG. 3 showing the integral tabs connected to a wood beam or truss member.

FIGS. 4-6 are related perspective views, FIG. 4 showing a second laser cut metal tube with integral tabs, FIG. 5 showing the integral tabs bent to form a second-type connection, and FIG. 6 showing the integral tabs connected to a wood beam or truss member.

FIGS. 7-9 are related perspective views, FIG. 7 showing a third laser cut metal tube with integral tabs, FIG. 8 showing the integral tabs bent to form a third-type connection, and FIG. 9 showing the integral tabs connected to a second metal beam.

FIGS. 10-11 are front and side views of a fourth laser cut metal tube with integral tabs, FIG. 10 showing a cut on the front wall (and to avoid confusion does not show a similar cut on the rear wall) and FIG. 11 showing a side wall.

FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 10 but with the tabs bent outward to a perpendicular position.

FIG. 13 is a view similar to FIG. 12, but with a wood truss beam extending at an angle between the bent tabs and a horizontal connector beam perpendicularly connected between the columns of adjacent trusses.

FIG. 14 is a fragmentary side view, partially in cross section, of a roof-to-side-wall assembled connection in a building construction

FIG. 15 is a face view of a bent of an exemplary building constructed using the present structural beams and joints.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Tubular metal beams (typically steel beams) for building frames, building structures, and outdoor shelter constructions of the present disclosure include highly-accurate integrally-formed laser-cut connectors (also called “tabs” herein) for connecting the beams together. The tubular metal beams have tab connectors extending from the end of opposing walls, or formed integrally near ends of the walls. The tab connectors are integrally formed of continuous and contiguous material of the metal beam itself, thus saving considerable cost and secondary processing. The tab connectors are spaced apart and oriented to closely engage a second beam for secure, reliable and stress-distributed connection, which is important in building structures. Fasteners extend through holes in the tabs and into and/or through the second beam for securing the second beam to the first beam. Where the beam is a wood product (such as glulam, timber, cut wood, or other wood product), lag screws, through bolts, pins, and the like can be used. By using a laser cutter (or similar highly accurate cutter that can cut a single wall without cutting completely through a “back wall” behind the wall being cut), the tab connectors can be cut to any shape, formed to any orientation, and made to accurately mate with corresponding structure of the mating second beam, regardless of the angle and size of the two beams and without regard to the cut that will (or may not) be made in the “back wall.”

The present disclosure focuses on different junctures for use in a building frame constructed by bolting or mechanically fastening beams together, where the junctures comprise tab connectors integrally formed from the material of a structural tubular metal beam and extending from an end of the tubular metal beam. By the present constructions, separate brackets do not need to be welded to the beam ends. Thus, the present constructions save considerable cost by reducing separate components, by reducing manpower, by reducing secondary operations, and by making for a more efficient and repeatable assembly. The tab connectors are structural and can be made suitable for use in connecting the metal beam to building frame members in various arrangements and at various angles to construct different building frames, even where beams extend at acute angles to each other. The tab connectors are formed from the continuous and contiguous material of the tubular metal beam, such that separate welding and separate brackets are not required. Yet the tabs are arranged and configured to withstand the structural and functional requirements of beam junctures in the harsh outdoor environment of building frames. Further, the tab connectors are very accurately formed, such that they closely engage opposing sides of the mating beam . . . thus reducing sloppiness and unacceptable looseness in the connection due to tolerances and clearances normally found in such connections and joints.

In order to manufacture the beam ends, the tab connectors must be accurately and precisely cut. This is not an easy task, given traditional cutting methods and equipment and ways of handling the heavy structural beams for buildings. Further, the cuts must be made by cutting through a first wall of the tubular metal beam without cutting into a second wall spaced behind the first wall. Thus, traditional cutting by saws will not work. Advantageously, using modern cutting systems, such as lasers, plasma arcs, water jets and other cutting systems, single walls of tubes can be cut and pieced in a wide variety of designs as required. When computers are coupled to these cutting machines and systems, much less costly systems can be made by cutting tab connectors with holes and bending the tabs in positions to align with a matching part . . . such that very-accurately-made matching parts can be constructed for bolting together without the need for welding. It is contemplated that computer controlled laser cutting equipment will work best for the present invention, though other means of cutting a single wall thickness (without cutting a second wall spaced behind the first) will work. It is noted that the present beams are structural tubular steel beams suitable for constructing buildings of substantial size and capacity, including permanent buildings suitable for residential living.

FIGS. 1-3 are related perspective views of a first system. FIG. 1 shows a second laser cut metal tubular beam 50 well suited and adapted for use as a building column. The beam 50 includes opposing integral tab connectors 51 and 52 (also called “tabs” herein) useful for forming a junction of the metal tube to a wood beam or truss member. FIG. 2 shows the integral tab connectors 51 and 52 bent to form top and bottom sides of a pocket 54′ oriented at an acute angle to a longitudinal direction of the tubular beam 50. For example, where the beam 50 is used as a building column, the angle of pocket 54′ can be at a desired pitch angle for a roof beam (see roof truss member 55). Flange supports 53 and 54 define sides of the pocket 54′ and can assist in stabilizing the juncture. The illustrated tab connectors 51 and 52 are rectangular-shaped flanges with linear parallel side edges. However, the tab connectors can be other shapes, such as the one described below. FIG. 3 shows a beam truss member 55 (which can be a glulam beam, cut lumbar, other wood product beam, or other beam material) extended into the pocket 54′ and connected by suitable fasteners such as lag bolts 56 (or nails, pins, through bolts, or the like). The fasteners are extended through holes in the tabs 51 and 52 into the truss member 55. Notably, the illustrated truss member 55 extends at an acute angle to the longitudinal direction of the tubular beam 50. In this arrangement, the tubular beam 50 forms a structural column of the building structure, while the beam member 55 forms a roof-supporting truss structure.

FIGS. 4-6 are related perspective views of a second system. FIG. 4 shows a second laser cut metal tubular beam 60 with four integral tab connectors 61, two each being formed in opposing walls 62 and 63. FIG. 5 shows the integral tab connectors 61 bent to form a second-type connection. Specifically, the laser cuts and bent tabs 61 define a “through pocket” 64′ through the opposing walls 62 and 63. FIG. 6 shows a wood beam or truss member 64 positioned in the pocket of tube 60, and including threaded fasteners 66 extended through holes in the tabs 61 for securement. Notably, the pocket 64′ can be formed at any angle “A” to the longitudinal directions of the two beams 60 and 64 to achieve a desired roof pitch, for example.

FIGS. 7-9 are related perspective views of a third system. FIG. 7 shows a third laser cut metal tubular beam 70 with integral tab connectors 71 laser cut into opposing walls 72 and 73.

FIG. 8 shows the integral tab connectors 71 bent outwardly to form a third-connection arrangement. FIG. 9 shows the tube 70 abutting a second metal beam 74, with the integral tab connectors 71 abuttingly connected to a side of the second metal beam 74. Notably, the beams 70 and 74 can be oriented at any angle “B” to a vertical plane and at any angle to a horizontal plane “C” and at any rotational position relative to each other, based on a designed shape and orientation of the cuts on the ends of the beams 70 and 74.

FIGS. 10-11 are orthogonal side views of a tubular beam 101 laser cut to form a fourth connection. The beam 101 includes opposing walls 102 and 103, and additional opposing walls 104 and 105. Notably, FIG. 10 shows the nearest wall 102 laser cut to form the tab connectors 106, but prior to bending the tab connectors 106 outwardly (as shown in FIGS. 12-13). In FIG. 10, the back wall 103 is not yet cut to include the tab connectors (107). This is done to more clearly illustrate the shape of the tab connectors 106 prior to bending. The tab connectors 106 (and 107) include a plurality of spaced apart flanges, each having a fastener hole and each including a width. The flanges are connected to their base wall by a necked portion of reduced width. This helps distribute stress and reduces unacceptable concentrations of stress on the flange, allowing the flange to flex to closely engage the mating surface on the mating beam, but without unacceptably weakening the tab connector nor subjecting it to long term fatigue failure. FIG. 11 illustrates a shape of the tab connector 109 prior to outward bending. The walls 102 and 103 are each laser cut to form a plurality of tabs 106 and 107, respectively (see FIGS. 12 and 13). Notably, the tabs 107 are shifted vertically from the position of tabs 106 so that they correspond to a desired pitch of the truss member 108 being supported. The rectangular shaped tab 109 is laser cut into the side wall 104 and a second similar tab connector can be cut into the opposing wall 105 if desired (see FIGS. 11-12). The tab connector 109 is bent outwardly to support a top beam plate for a building wall, where the beam plate 109′ extends between adjacent trusses or “bents” of the building as shown in FIG. 13 and 15. Optionally, the tab connector 109 is not bent outward . . . such as if it is used on a bent positioned at an end of the building frame where a building side wall will be constructed tight against the column 101. Further, the connector 109 can be used to connect to the beam 108 if desired.

FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view of a building structure 120, showing what is commonly referred to in the industry as a “bent.” The joint construction shown in FIG. 14 is generally located at numbers 121. A cross beam 122 can be optionally attached to a top of the columns 101 if desired and if structurally necessary for a particular building construction. Floor beams 123 are also connected between columns 101, and the entire building structure 120 is supported on a foundation 124 using known principles of conventional foundations. The building structure 120 can be finished using traditional construction material, or more preferably are finished using structural insulated panels (SIPs panels, known in the prior art), including side panels 125, roof panels 126, and floor forming panels 127.

It is to be understood that variations and modifications can be made on the aforementioned structure without departing from the concepts of the present invention, and further it is to be understood that such concepts are intended to be covered by the following claims unless these claims by their language expressly state otherwise.