Title:
Vertical and articulated system to move furniture
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vertical and articulated system to move furniture particularly adapted to be used in systems created for people that cannot move easily such as people with special needs. The furniture of the present invention moves vertically and articulated assuming a position that allows the user to manipulate desired utensils. This movement of both a lower and upper module is obtained through a motorized track system with brakes, jambs and sensors such that the furniture can be returned to the original height by motion of a manual or remote control. The system is generally constructed from a metallic structure with internal mechanisms to execute the movements of lowering, raising and articulating which are set in motion by a manual or remote control. The parts of this structure are one or more aerial modules adequately fixed to a reference structure through articulated arms and a lower module that also can move vertically upward and downward allowing the accessibility to the disabled person to the furniture. The upper module moves out and down, while the lower module moves down. The motion is coordinated so the modules do not collide.



Inventors:
Fuentes, Enrique (Miami, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/784958
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
04/10/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B67/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
TRAN, HANH VAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Cliffor Kraft (Naperville, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A furniture system for persons with restricted movement comprising, in combination, an upper and lower module wherein said upper module is free to move downward and outward while said lower module moves downward, the modules moving so that the upper module does not collide with the lower module.

2. The furniture system of claim 1 wherein said upper module contains a compartment.

3. The furniture system of claim 1 wherein said lower module is a table or shelf.

4. The furniture system of claim 3 wherein said table contains a sink.

5. The furniture system of claim 1 wherein said lower module moves approximately to ground level in a lower position.

6. The furniture system of claim 1 wherein the modules are driven by a motor.

7. The furniture system of claim 1 further comprising a brake system with jambs and sensors that prevents the descent of the upper module to a position that would collide with the lower module or said person.

8. The furniture system of claim 1 further comprising a counterbalance that is disposed to reduce force needed to move said modules.

9. The furniture system of claim 6 further comprising a remote control to control movement of said upper and lower module.

10. A system of furniture comprising: a vertical frame; an upper furniture module; a lower furniture module; a pivot means attached to said vertical frame and disposed to allow said upper furniture module to move downward and outward and said lower furniture module to move downward, said upper and lower furniture modules moving so they do not collide; a counterbalance cooperating with said pivot means and disposed to offset weight of said furniture modules.

11. The system of furniture according to claim 10 wherein said upper furniture module comprises a compartment.

12. The system of furniture according to claim 10 wherein said lower furniture module comprises a table or shelf.

13. The system of furniture according to claim 12 wherein said table or shelf contains a sink.

14. The system of furniture according to claim 10 wherein movement of said upper and lower furniture modules is driven by a motor.

15. The system of furniture according to claim 14 further comprising a remote control for controlling movement of said upper and lower furniture modules.

16. A method for providing convenient furniture for disabled people, said method comprising the steps of: providing a furniture system with and upper module and a lower module, said upper module being adapted to move downward and outward, said lower module being adapted to move downward; providing a motor and reducer to drive said modules; providing a remote control to control said motor; allowing a user to use said remote control to cause said upper module to move downward and outward while said lower module moves downward, or causing said upper module to move upward and inward while said lower module moves upward.

17. The method of claim 16 further comprising a counterbalance to relieve weight of said upper and lower modules.

18. The method of claim 16 further comprising a braking system that prevents said modules from moving too quickly.

19. The method of claim 16 further comprising limiting means to prevent collision or overshoot of said modules.

20. The method of claim 16 further comprising placing said furniture system in a metal frame.

Description:
This application claims priority to Brazilian patent application number PI 0601449-6 filed Apr. 11, 2006 and Brazilian continuation (addition) of the that application of number 0160070001645 filed Mar. 15, 2007. Brazilian application PI 0601449-6 and continuation 0160070001645 are hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a system to move furniture vertically and articulately, such system being created particularly to disabled people who cannot move easily, presenting some limitation of movements, and to individuals with special needs, where the furniture moves vertically to a position that allows the user to manipulate the desired utensils. This movement is possible due a various mechanical components, a track system, brakes, jambs and sensors, and this furniture can move to and from the original height by manual or remote control.

2. State of the Art

There is no turning back in the accommodation of the physical space to disabled people, where services are being adapted to allow comfort and independence to a large number of the population. For example, in Brazil, it is believed there are about 16 million disabled people. This accommodation is extended to sidewalks with ramps, easy access to public and private buildings, banks, theaters, public transportation and the like. Currently there is the movement to admit trained helping animals into movie theaters, shopping malls, underground transportation, etc, in such a way that disabled people do not feel excluded from the rest of the population. This movement to improve the access and independence also is felt within the commercial and domestic environments, where the integration of disabled people everyday grows larger and more dynamic. With this, the interiors are being adapted with the attachment of support bars, larger doors for disabled people on wheelchairs, spaces on the same level and planned furniture. Within the category of special furniture, there are several examples, such as mechanisms for elevation, retreat, with degrees of freedom larger than was believed possible years ago.

Searches performed in Brazil in the state of the art in the respective field, particularly referring to classes A47B 51/00, A47B 5/03, B42F 13/00, B64C 11/04 and B61D 37/00, show a series of patent documents that present solutions to some of the quotidian situations. The more important documents reveal systems that allow a vertical movement of a furniture, using several ways to accomplish it, such as patent document MU 7102189 (Brazil), where a cabinet dislodges vertically. The wood cabinet module is set into an aluminum profile through four pieces and is supported by two steel cables connected to a counterbalance, which slides into this profile. There is a brake system that allows to wood module to stop in any position along this aluminum profile. This system is commanded by a mobile jamb connected to two action jambs. Each jamb has to extensions in “T” that fit at the bottom of the module, through two engagement pieces. At the other end of each jamb, there is a spring and two brake pads, which guarantee the immobility of the module when the mobile jambs are not being pulled.

This system shows a solution in vertical movement, nonetheless it does not foresee using the system for disabled people in a wheelchair, because the movement aims only to decrease the height of the furniture not being adapted for a disabled person in wheelchair.

A little different from the previous is patent document MU 7301355 (Brazil) to exposit furniture, having a defined tower and two vertical structures, each one on a side, both flatly folded forming a profile practically in a “C” shape when all of it sides are completely closed except those who are facing each other. The structure is connected by its extremities through upper and lower structural shafts, also profiled flatly, where the lower in assembled in conjunction with the support base. In the interior of the tower is installed a motion mechanism assembled by a lower axle inserted into the corresponding vertical structure. It works with another pair of upper mechanisms with axles of one sliding element as a tension puller. The pair of mechanisms can move the chains that configure the mobile ways in which can be means of turning connected to the support terminals of the parts to be moved.

This patent also foresees the possibility to vertically movement of a module; nevertheless the difficulties of this proposition are the same as the previous one, where the means to accommodate the furniture to disabled people is not foreseen.

Even more simple is the development proposed by patent document MU 8100698 (Brazil) where a cabinet that is the form of a box similar to a traditional cabinet is attached to the wall and/or ceiling, totally closed, except at the bottom or base, and this lower part is the base of the vertical drawer connected to a handle with a brake to allow the return of the mobile part upwards which is made easier by the sheaves, counterbalances (weights), cables and tracks. The counterbalances are made from concrete bars or sand or metal, and can be modulated according to the weight to be compensated—that is, the content of the shelves.

This system is simpler than the previous ones revealing a cabinet that can be lowered and raised to facilitate the handling of the objects that are in a higher position. However, none of these pieces of furniture are aimed to facilitate vertical movement being adapted to people with special needs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This way, due to considerations to the state of the art described previously, an object of the present invention is the development of a vertical and articulated system to move furniture for use with the disabled with the following features:

    • The present invention can comprise a metal structure with internal mechanisms to execute movements by manual or remote control allowing that this furniture with a structure so capable can be moved upwards, downwards and articulated, being at an adequate level for someone with special needs to pick up objects inside the cabinet.
    • The vertical movement can be obtained through an electro/electronic motorization, where the engine and other motion systems are inside of the metal structure, or similarly, installed in a way not observable externally thus maintaining the furniture aesthetics as conceived.
    • The cabinets and other aerial furniture parts are attached in this structure by articulated arms that move providing the lowering and raising of the cabinet and, thus, advancing the aerial module to make it closer to the disabled person.
    • Besides the vertical movement, advance and articulation is possible since there is a system of brakes and bars. These cause the aerial module to descend slowly not colliding with other parts of the furniture or putting the user at risk.
    • The system aims to move the aerial modules and also provide adequate height of the lower modules, such as tables, sinks, ovens, stoves as well as any furniture, for instance, room, living room, kitchen and restroom, in a way that there is an integration of movements of parts of the furniture with each other. For example, while the cabinet slowly descends, the other associated furniture can also move to allow a better position for the disabled person.
    • The tables, sinks and other parts of the furniture can have special spaces or recesses to allow the proximity of the disabled person up to a distance that allows access the aerial module once it has reached the lowest position.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The characterization of the present invention can be better understood by means of representative drawings of the vertical and articulated movement of the furniture in such a way that the product can be integrally reproduced by adequate technique allowing full characterization of the functionality of the invention. It should be understood that these drawings are merely illustrative, with numerous variations also within the scope of the claimed invention. In no case is the scope of the present invention limited to what is shown in the figures.

FIG. 1—shows a disabled person in a wheelchair in a position in front of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2—illustrates schematically an embodiment of the present invention applied in an upper module together with a lower module where the one of the side arms responsible for the vertical and forward movement can be seen.

FIG. 3—shows the embodiment of FIG. 2 in the most horizontally extended stage of the downward movement of the upper module, where the forward advance of the module can be clearly seen.

FIG. 4—shows the embodiment of FIGS. 2-3 in a position of immobility in the lowest position.

FIG. 5A—presents a side view of an alternate embodiment with a sink and without table with a floating cabinet showing the mechanism of the movement in the elevated position.

FIG. 5B—presents the same embodiment as FIG. 5A, showing the aerial module in the down position next to the table holding the sink.

FIG. 5C—presents a side view of the embodiment of FIGS. 5A-5B with an aerial and inferior module. The optional internal sink is not shown.

FIG. 5D—presents a frontal view of the embodiment of FIGS. 5A-5C with the mechanism arranged in such a way that the respective engines responsible for the movement can be observed.

FIG. 6—shows a perspective representation of modular furniture having a table and sink in a configuration that allows a disabled person to reach it.

FIG. 7—shows a more developed stage of the upward and downward movement previously shown where the advance of this module forward and the articulated arms that support the cabinet can clearly be seen.

FIG. 8—shows a perspective view of a proposed embodiment showing its internal structure, mechanical components, motor, fuse and electric system.

FIG. 9—presents another perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 8 showing the movement of the sink table downwards and the movement of the cabinet toward the user and downward simultaneously.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to furniture that is designed with the disabled in mind. FIG. 1 shows a person in a wheelchair 16 in front of an embodiment of the invention that has a vertical back 1, an upper shelf or compartment 2 that can be raised and lowered and a table 4 or other lower module containing an optional sink 19. The shelf 2 or aerial module is supported by a pivoting arm 3 that allows it to be lowered and extended outward. In general, embodiments of the present invention can be constructed from a general metallic structure 1 with internal mechanisms to execute the upward and downward movements by manual or remote control. The structure can hove one or two aerial modules 2 which are adequately attached to the structure through an articulated arm 3, and an inferior module 4 that also can be vertically moved upward and downward allowing the access to the furniture by a disabled person 16.

FIG. 2 shows a side view of the arrangement. The upper module 2 besides having a vertical and articulated movement upwards and downwards in said metallic structure 1, through articulated arms 3 is projected forward to position 5 (shown in FIG. 3), until it surpasses the horizontal extent of the lower module 4 and ends up in position 6 (shown in FIG. 4). In this way the disabled person can reach objects kept in the aerial module 2.

The lower module 4 can also have vertical upward and downwards movement as shown in FIG. 4 position 7 to where it almost touches the ground when set in motion. The lower module 4 moves in a way that the aerial module does not to collide with it.

Turning to FIGS. 5A-5B, it can be see that the movement can be obtained by the adequate motorization 8 disposed in a position that does not create an obstacle to the disabled person getting closer to the furniture. The engine or engines, and reductors or motor-reductors act on a group of indented wheels attached to the rack 9, capable to move the inferior module 4 to a lower position so that the upper module 2 can be freely moved. The aerial part 2 is moved by the articulated arms 3 which are attached to the engines 10-11 respectively associated with racks 13 guaranteeing that the descent of the upper module is smooth and with safety to the user.

Along with the moving system driven by the rack 13, there is a brake and jamb 12 and sensors which prevent the descent of the aerial 2 module down to a position lower than where it would collide with the lower module 4. It is thus pre-programmed to avoid collision with the top of the table 14 or with the head of the user.

The present invention can use a counterbalance system 15 that is placed inside main structure 1 in a way to help the motor 8 in moving the vertical and articulated furniture by reducing the load. The counterbalance is important to decrease the weight that the motor sees when moving the parts that comprise the proposed system.

The vertical upward and downwards moving of the table 4, 14, allows a better accommodation of the superior module 2, enabling this module to assume a lower position 6 (shown in FIG. 4) in relation to the lower module 4.

In particular embodiments of the present invention a sink can optionally be placed in the lower module. A sink 19 can be seen in FIG. 5A. The sink table 14 is normally is shaped in a way that a disabled person can move a close as possible to the furniture being in a position where the aerial module 2, acting by the articulated arms 3 extends beyond the table thus moving closer to the disabled person.

The furniture of the present invention generally follows the patterns of heights considered adequate by the international norms, generally guaranteeing comfort and safety to people with special needs. The height of the lower module and the minimum height that the aerial module goes down almost equals the height of the table. This generally is optimum for a disable person.

Turing to FIGS. 6-7, a perspective view of an embodiment of the present invention can be seen. The lower module 4 can be seen attached to the back support 1 with a sink 19. The upper module 2 is shown in FIG. 6 in its higher, folded position and in FIG. 7 in its extended, lower position. I can be seen by comparing FIGS. 6 and 7 that the lower module 4 moves downward as the upper module 2 comes out and down.

Referring to FIGS. 8-9, it can be seen that the movement is generally obtained by means of adequate motorization by an electric motor 8 (in previous drawings) and reducers (8a), disposed in a position that does not interfere with the reach of the disabled person toward the furniture, such that the motor or other engine and the reducers 8a act over the bar slide 9, capable of guiding the lower module 4 to the lower position in order to let the upper module to move outward easily. The aerial part is moved and supported by arms 3 that are adequately fixed to a fixation mechanism 10, whose axles 11 are themselves fixed to the sides of the metallic structure. The axles 11 are attached in a way that, while moving the motor and reducers and the arm 12 along the slide bar 9, they cause the full movement of the upper structure guaranteeing that the descent of the upper module is smooth and safe to the user. The slide bar 9 is allowed to pivot in the structure 1 by means of pivots 21, 22 and 23 that are fixed to an upper brace 24, a lower brace 25 and a vertically moving brace 18 that moves up and down with the lower module 4 when driven by the motor and reducers.

Together with the slide bar 9, the configuration becomes a brake system that limit the upwards and downwards movement of the arm 12 on the slide bar 9. There can be a jamb and sensor, disposed at the top 13 and bottom 14 of the movement range of the arm 12 that can prevent the descent of the aerial module to a lower position that are pre-programmed to not collide with the upper part of the table or the head of the user.

The upper module 2 is fixed to the upper structure by means of a frame 6 that is attached to an upper pivot point 15 that allows the bar 10 to pivot outward keeping the lower module 2 always in the same position parallel to the ground thus avoiding any sort of inclination that might open the doors of the cabinet and project objects outside hitting the disabled person.

The lower frame has bars 17 orthogonally fixed to the lower fixation brace 18, in a way to support the table and the sink 19 without inclining it forward or backward.

It is foreseen to use a remote control to set the proposed movement system in motion when the electric system and receiver of the remote control and controller 20 can be disposed on the metallic structure 1 for support and receives a signal causing the controls to act directly together with the motor 8 and reducer 8a. It can be seen that the vertical upward and downwards movement of the table 4 allows a better accommodation of the upper module 2, enabling this module to assume a lower position in relation to the lower module.

The displacement of the superior module 2 and lower module 4 are generally perfectly synchronized and harmonic guaranteeing that one does not collide with the other when they are being moved upwards or downwards. The resulting movement yields a constant and patterned velocity by the action of the reducers 8a and motor system 8 commanded by the electro/electronic frame controller or receiver 20.

The metallic structure 1 of the present invention, when the furniture is completely ready, does not normally show any of the internal mechanisms, wiring or motor parts. All of the internal parts are adequately hidden inside the front and side covering 26 (FIG. 6) in a way that the user sees only the arms and the slots where the arms can be dislodged.

Movement in the present invention is generally made through a bar in the upper part of the mechanism in a pivot, and in the lower part, mechanical velocity reducers coupled to a mono-phase electric motor. This motor can be connect in several torques or velocities, according to the need of each installation. The motor normally has inner thermal protection to prevent over-heating and assure the good functioning. The movement of the furniture (upwards or downwards) is caused by the rotation of the motor.

The motor is normally set in motion by control relays installed in an electronic plate where there also may be installed noise suppressors, protectors of over-voltage and fuses for protection against short-circuiting. The outlet of the cables to the motor and reducer are made through easy and rapid installation connectors and a holding system able to absorb mechanical shocks without losing good contact with the wiring. The relays are normally mechanically and electronically internally locked in order to prevent accidental simultaneous switching consequently producing a short circuit.

The equipment is generally composed of several protection systems to determine the end of the courses and limits to movement, and detecting of objects and people that might, by chance, be in the space of movement safety.

On the aerial table and aerial sink, there is a laser sensor installed in the lower part which projects a laser beam forming a protection barrier. Any object that obstructs this beam during the movement will make the furniture to stop instantly and only answer again to the command of control to set it in motion again after the object has been removed.

The upper and lower limits of movement of the furniture can be determined by inductive sensors installed in the movement mechanism. Besides these sensors, safety sensors also can be installed just beyond the limiters as a safety measure in case of failure or electrical damage in one of these.

The electric wiring of the furniture is installed in a whip shape with connectors and/or plugs in its extremities thus avoiding the need of special tools by installations. The electric feed wiring can be composed of a cable with phase, neutral and ground, and it should pass through a disjunctor in the protection furniture (as an option, a differential residual disjunctor can be used). All of the metallic parts, as well as the electronic motors, are connected to a metal safety ground placing all the equipment to a safe potential. The metal structure should be grounded to the building electrical ground according to norms.

Several descriptions and illustrations of various embodiments of the present invention have been presented to aid in the understanding of the invention. One of skill in the art will recognize that there are numerous changes and variations possible that do not depart from the spirit of the invention. Each of these changes and variations is within the scope of the present invention.