Title:
Lifting Cradle
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A lifting cradle for use with a modular building system of the type in which pre-fabricated modules constructed off-site are inserted into openings in a support frame constructed on-site to produce a building according to a user's requirements. The lifting cradle has a central loading platform and two safety cages arranged on opposite sides of the platform for operatives to view and/or control installation of the module in the opening. The lifting cradle is temporarily attached to the building during installation of the module and a counterbalance mechanism is provided to maintain stability of the lifting cradle during installation. The lifting cradle may also be employed when removing modules from the building.



Inventors:
Hourihan, Kevin James (Beyton, GB)
Application Number:
11/751892
Publication Date:
12/13/2007
Filing Date:
05/22/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D35/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060236626Multi-angle exterior drywall corner beadOctober, 2006Smythe
20100050569HIGH-STIFFNESS, LIGHTWEIGHT BEAM STRUCTUREMarch, 2010Dutra
20070163201Joist stud rafter connector systemJuly, 2007Devlin
20070130861Movement control screedJune, 2007Chenier et al.
20080104900VENTILATION SYSTEM FOR MULTI-PANED WINDOWSMay, 2008Joasil
20090188187COMPOSITE WALL AND FLOOR SYSTEMJuly, 2009Studebaker et al.
20100005732BUILDING ROOF STRUCTURE HAVING A ROUND CORNERJanuary, 2010Schwartau
20090320383TPO ROOFING MEMBRANE FASTENING SYSTEM AND METHODDecember, 2009Taylor et al.
20060179734Roll-up surface, system and method for wet environmentsAugust, 2006Fletcher et al.
20090313909Low density semi-rigid flame resistant foamsDecember, 2009Clatty et al.
20090188182PANELS FOR USE IN STAIRCASES, GATES, FENCES AND BALCONIES AND THE METHOD OF MAKING PANELS THEREFOREJuly, 2009Iannotta



Primary Examiner:
TRIGGS, ANDREW J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard, PC (St. Louis, MO, US)
Claims:
1. A lifting cradle having a working platform to receive a module to be inserted in or removed from an opening in a building, and means for temporarily attaching the cradle to the building.

2. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein the temporary attachment means comprises one or more electromagnets for releasably securing the cradle to a frame of the building.

3. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein the temporary attachment means comprises temporary clamps, locating bolts or inserts or fixtures for releasably securing the cradle to a frame of the building.

4. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided for reducing out of balance loads as the module is inserted in or removed from the opening.

5. A lifting cradle according to claim 4 wherein the out of balance reduction means comprises a counter balance weight movable in response to the direction of movement of the module to maintain the cradle in a stable condition.

6. A lifting cradle according to claim 5 wherein the out of balance reduction means is electronically controlled in response to movement of the module.

7. A lifting cradle according to claim 5 wherein the counter balance mechanism is provided on the platform.

8. A lifting cradle according to claim 4 wherein the out of balance means is provided or jib or lifting arm of a crane used to lift the cradle.

9. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein at least one safety cage is provided for an operative to monitor and/or control insertion/removal of the module.

10. A lifting cradle according to claim 9 wherein the safety cage extends substantially the whole length of the platform.

11. A lifting cradle according to claim 9 wherein the safety cage allows an operative to access the platform.

12. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided for aligning the platform with the opening in the building.

13. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided to insert a module into an opening and/or to remove a module from an opening.

14. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided to level a module installed in an opening.

15. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided for monitoring operation of the cradle.

16. A lifting cradle according to claim 1 wherein means is provided for electronically controlling operation of the cradle.

17. A method of installing a module in an opening of a support frame during construction of a modular building, the method including the steps of: providing a lifting cradle having a working platform, positioning a module to be installed on the working platform, lifting the cradle to position the working platform adjacent to an opening in a support frame of the building, temporarily attaching the lifting cradle to the support frame, transferring the module from the working platform through the opening into the support frame, releasing the lifting cradle from the support frame, and lowering the lifting cradle.

18. A method according to claim 17 wherein counterbalance means is provided to maintain stability of the lifting cradle during installation of the module.

19. A method according to claim 17 wherein leveling means is provided for leveling the module in the support frame.

20. A method according to claim 17 wherein aligning means is provided for aligning the working platform with the opening in the support frame.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is related to, and claims priority from, co-pending UK patent application No. 0610185.1 filed on 23 May 2006, and co-pending UK patent application No. 0619540.8 filed 4 Oct. 2006, the contents of each of which are incorporated herein by reference.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention concerns improvements in or relating to buildings constructed from prefabricated modules and in particular to a building system for constructing buildings employing such pre-fabricated modules and apparatus for use in such system.

The invention has particular, but not exclusive, application to building systems of the type described in co-pending UK patent application publication No. 2415444-A, published on 28 Dec. 2005, and in co-pending UK patent application No. 0619540.8 filed 4 Oct. 2006, the contents of each of which are incorporated herein by reference.

In the aforesaid applications, modules are inserted in and removed from openings in a support frame employing a mechanism that allows the modules to be slid into and from the frame. The modules may be room or service modules or floor or roof modules or other components or sections for construction of the building. Achieving and maintaining the necessary alignment while supporting the module from a crane to enable the module to be slid into place in the frame can be difficult and time consuming. Similar problems arise when removing a module from the frame.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly stated, the present disclosure provides a lifting cradle having a working platform to receive a module to be inserted in or removed from an opening in a building, and means for temporarily attaching the cradle to the building. The temporary attachment means may comprise one or more electromagnets and/or temporary clamps, locating bolts or inserts or fixtures for releasably securing the cradle to a frame of the building.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a lifting cradle having a working platform to receive a module to be inserted in or removed from an opening in a building, and means for reducing out of balance loads as the module is inserted in or removed from the opening. The out of balance reduction means may comprise a counter balance weight movable in response to the direction of movement of the module to maintain the cradle in a stable condition. The counter balance mechanism may be provided on the platform or the jib or lifting arm of a crane used to lift the cradle.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a lifting cradle having a working platform to receive a module to be inserted in or removed from an opening in a building, and at least one safety cage for an operative to monitor and/or control insertion/removal of the module. The safety cage may extend substantially the whole length of the platform and may allow an operative to access the platform to carry out any work required.

According to still another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a lifting cradle having a working platform to receive a module to be inserted in or removed from an opening in a building, and means for leveling a module in the building. Working from the lifting cradle, access may be gained in order to control the leveling of the room, services, roof and floor modules within the building. It is envisaged that the installed modules could be adjusted to a level position automatically from the cradle or remotely by any suitable means such as hydraulics or pneumatics. Alternatively or additionally, the installed modules could be packed to a level position within the building using conventional means and/or locking feet or castors adjusted to a level position. For example, the modules could be leveled automatically by hydraulic or pneumatic means and then packers inserted or locking feet or castors adjusted to maintain the level position. The lifting cradle according to each of the preceding aspects of the invention may be employed for installation/removal of modules such as room or service modules or floor or roof modules or any other components or sections employed during the construction of the building.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of installing a module in an opening of a support frame during construction of a modular building, the method including the steps of:

providing a lifting cradle having a working platform,

positioning a module to be installed on the working platform,

lifting the cradle to position the working platform adjacent to an opening in a support frame of the building,

temporarily attaching the lifting cradle to the support frame,

transferring the module from the working platform through the opening into the support frame,

releasing the lifting cradle from the support frame, and

lowering the lifting cradle.

Preferably, counterbalance means is provided to maintain stability of the lifting cradle during installation of the module.

Preferably, leveling means is provided for leveling the module in the support frame.

Preferably, aligning means is provided for aligning the working platform with the opening in the support frame.

The foregoing features, and advantages set forth in the present disclosure as well as presently preferred embodiments will become more apparent from the reading of the following description in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings which form part of the specification:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cradle according to the invention viewed from one end;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the cradle of FIG. 1 viewed from the other end;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the cradle shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is an end view of the cradle shown in FIGS. 1 to 3;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the underside of the cradle shown in FIGS. 1 to 4;

FIG. 6 shows part of a modular building system; and

FIGS. 7 to 9 show various stages in the construction of a modular building.

Corresponding reference numerals indicate corresponding parts throughout the several figures of the drawings. It is to be understood that the drawings are for illustrating the concepts set forth in the present disclosure and are not to scale.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The following detailed description illustrates the invention by way of example and not by way of limitation. The description enables one skilled in the art to make and use the present disclosure, and describes several embodiments, adaptations, variations, alternatives, and uses of the present disclosure, including what is presently believed to be the best mode of carrying out the present disclosure.

Referring first to FIGS. 1 to 6 of the drawings, FIGS. 1 to 5 show a modular lifting cradle 1 for use with a modular building system of the type shown in FIG. 6 in which pre-fabricated modules 3 constructed off-site are inserted into openings 5 in a support frame 7 constructed on-site to produce a building according to a user's requirements. In this embodiment, the support frame 7 is constructed from steel but it will be understood that other metals or alloys or other materials such as timber, reinforced plastic or composites thereof could be used. For convenience, FIG. 6 shows one module 3 and one opening 5 and it will be understood that the frame 7 will be constructed with several openings to receive a plurality of modules according to the user's requirements.

The modules 3 may be room or service modules as described in co-pending UK patent application No. 2415444-A to which the reader is directed for details of the building system. While, the lifting cradle 1 described herein has particular application to the building system described in the aforesaid UK patent application, it will be understood that it is not intended for the lifting cradle 1 to be limited thereto and that the lifting cradle 1 can have application to other building systems where it is desired to support and accurately locate a module or other component or section during initial construction of a building or during refurbishment of a building.

The lifting cradle 1 comprises three sections, a central loading platform 9 and two safety cages 11,13 arranged on opposite sides of the platform 9 for operatives to view and/or control installation of the module 3 in the opening 5.

In this embodiment, the cradle 1 is provided with its own power supply (not shown) thereby reducing or avoiding any trailing cables that could cause accidents. This is not essential, however, and the cradle 1 could be adapted for use with a separate power supply. The cradle 1 is also provided with cameras (not shown) for viewing different parts of the cradle 1 to assist monitoring and/or control of the loading operation from within the safety cages 11,13 and/or from a remote control location on the ground. Again, this is not essential, however, and the cameras could be omitted and the loading operation monitored visually from the safety cages and/or the ground and/or frame.

A module such as the module 3 to be inserted into the corresponding opening 5 in the frame 7 of FIG. 6 is loaded onto the platform 9. Longitudinally extending channel section guide rails 15 on the platform 9 accept guides 17 (FIG. 6) such as wheels or runners located on the bottom of the module 3. Safety barriers 19,21 extend between the safety cages 11,13 at opposite ends of the platform 9 and retain the module 3 on the platform 9 as the cradle 1 is lifted by a crane or other lifting means 9 (not shown) to a height and position at which the guide rails 15 align with similar channel-section guide rails 23 (FIG. 6) on the frame 7. In this embodiment, the guide rails 15 project from the platform 9 at one end of the cradle 1 to assist alignment with the guide rails 23 on the frame. This is not essential, however. It will be understood that any suitable co-operating guide means may be provided to enable the module 3 to be inserted into the opening 5. In addition to guides 17 on the underside, the module may be provided with guides 17a on the sides to co-operate with guide rails 15a on the frame 7.

Monitoring systems (not shown) such as cameras operable from inside one or both cages 11,13, or from an area away from the caged area, allow operatives in the cages 11,13 to view the alignment of the platform 9 with the opening 5 in the building. When aligned, the cradle 1 is temporarily connected to the steel frame 7 by a pair of electromagnets 25,27 that are located at one end of the platform 9 and can be operated from inside one or both of the safety cages 11,13. It will be understood that any number of electromagnets 25,27 can be used as may be required and that the electromagnets may be replaced by any other suitable means for temporarily securing the cradle 1 to the frame 7. A laser level (not shown) or other suitable means ensures the module 3 is level by sighting level marks already incorporated on the steel frame 7.

Once the cradle 1 is secured to the frame 7, the safety barrier 19 at the secured end of the cradle 1 is opened to allow the module 3 to be slid into the opening 5 by any suitable drive means (not shown) such as a rack and pinion mechanism driven by a motor or any other suitable means, for example a robotic mechanism. The safety barrier 21 at the other end of the cradle 1 remains in place as the module 3 is moved into position within the opening 5 allowing an operative to safely access onto the platform 9 by means of doors 29,31 on the cages 11,13 to ensure that the module 3 has been positioned at the correct location in the opening 5. The rack and pinion mechanism may be arranged to slide the module platform 9 is provided with thrust points 33,35 for one or more hydraulic or pneumatic rams (not shown) that can be deployed to push the module 3 to its final resting position in the opening 5 as necessary.

To overcome any uneven loading occurring as the module 3 is pushed into the opening 5, the platform 9 is provided with a sliding counter balance weight 37 to the underside that moves weights (not shown) or counterbalanced mechanism on the jib or lifting arm of the crane in the opposite direction to the load so as to ensure the platform 9 remains stable and safe. The counter balance weight 37 and drive mechanism may be electronically controlled, for example by a computer or the like, to link operation to avoid human error and maintain a stable balanced condition of the cradle 1. In a modification (not shown), the counter balance weight on the platform may be replaced by a counterbalanced mechanism on the jib or lifting arm of the crane (not shown) employed to lift the cradle 1 to the required position for inserting the module 3.

Operatives within the safety cages 11,13 have full access to the facade to carry out any work that may be required during installation of the module 3 in the opening 5. The safety cages 11,13 have upper and lower walkway platforms 39,41 from which operatives can view all the procedures safely and for gaining access at different heights. The cradle can be manufactured or assembled with or without the safety cage(s) or part of the safety cage in order to facilitate the loading of components at ground or levels where the components obstruct operations.

The above operation can be used in reverse in order to remove the module 3 from the opening 5, for example to replace the module 3 with another module or to carry out repair or maintenance operations on the module 3. The platform 9 is enclosed by the safety cages 11,13 and safety barriers 19,21 and can therefore provide a safe working/loading environment for operatives during installation/removal of a module as well as for the maintenance of a module and/or for lifting/lowering any materials. The cradle 1 may be provided with tool kits for operatives to carry out any operations during installation/removal of a module and/or servicing of a module.

Referring now to FIGS. 7 to 9, there is shown various stages in the construction of a building employing a modular floor and roof system in addition to modular rooms or services. For convenience, part only of the building is shown. FIG. 7 shows a steel support frame 114 erected on a foundation 122. FIG. 8 shows the installation of panels 116 of a modular floor by lifting and sliding into the support frame 114 to form an open plan ground floor area of the building using the cradle described above or any other suitable means. FIG. 9 shows the installation of panels 124 of a modular roof and a glazed unit 125 to form the roof area of the building. The panels 124 are lifted and slid into place over the support frame 114 using the cradle as described above or any other suitable means and the glazed unit 125 is lifted and lowered into place by a crane or the like. Flat roof sections have been shown, but these could also be pitched roof sections. FIG. 9 also shows the installation of a room module 118 on the first floor of the building by lifting and sliding into the support frame 114 using the cradle as described above or any other suitable means. The room module 118 may house plant equipment such as an air conditioning unit or may be fitted out for use as an office. Room or service modules (not shown) may also be installed on the ground floor by lifting and sliding into the support frame 114 using the cradle as described above or any other suitable means.

It will be understood the invention is not limited to the embodiment above-described.

For example the cradle could be operated electronically by a programmable control system provided, for example, with a processor enabling operation by robots or by laser targeting or other suitable control means such that the need of human or manual operations in installing or removing the modules is reduced or eliminated. It is envisaged that laser targets/readers may be set on the steel support frame or other locations at intervals to allow for the platform to align at the correct position either vertically or horizontally. Once the platform is electronically aligned and is temporarily secured in a safe position, the module or other component or section is automatically inserted or withdrawn from the frame as described previously. The cradle is released from the building, once the module or other component or section is safely installed or removed from the building. This results in a controlled installation or removal by the control system where the controller gives co-ordinates as to the location of the module or component or section within the building and the platform is located automatically to the correct location and position. The control system may carry out a series of safety procedures and sequencing to ensure the temporary attachment to and release from the building facade and the safe removal/insertion of the module or component or section is carried out safely. The safety procedures and sequencing could be monitored from the cradle or remotely by any of the means described previously such as cameras. Means may be provided to level modules installed in the building. The leveling means may be operable from the lifting cradle or remotely to level modules automatically, for example by hydraulic, pneumatic or other suitable means. Alternatively or additionally, modules may be leveled by inserting packers or by height adjustable feet or castors that can be locked when adjusted.

As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the disclosure, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.