Title:
Brick-based construction toy system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A brick for a brick-based construction toy, wherein the brick is of rectangular form comprised of end walls, side walls, and a top wall defining an open bottom configuration. The top wall has a plurality of predictably spaced studs projecting upwardly therefrom which can be frictionally gripped in the open bottom of a brick positioned above. The side and end walls are with joined with said top wall to form arcuate upper edge contours of the brick, and are also formed with arcuate bottom edge contours such that, in an assembly of two bricks, one above the other, access grooves are formed by adjoining upper edge contours and bottom edge contours of the respective bricks to facilitate subsequent disassembly thereof. A separating tool is also provided, for insertion in the access grooves, to assist in initiating separation of the bricks, where necessary.



Inventors:
Glickman, Joel I. (Jupiter, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/582031
Publication Date:
04/17/2008
Filing Date:
10/16/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B5/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
YOUNG, SCOTT E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ST. ONGE STEWARD JOHNSTON & REENS LLC (STAMFORD, CT, US)
Claims:
1. A brick for a brick-based construction toy, wherein the brick is of rectangular form comprised of end walls, side walls, and a top wall defining an open bottom configuration, said end and side walls having bottom edges defining a base plane parallel to said top wall, said top wall having a plurality of predictably spaced studs projecting upwardly therefrom and a plurality of similarly spaced stud-engaging elements projecting downwardly therefrom to a level near said base plane, the studs of one brick being snuggly receivable in the open bottom of a brick positioned above, with studs being frictionally gripped by elements of said end and/or side walls and said stud-engaging elements, whereby a pair of superimposed bricks are tightly secured to each other, characterized by (a) said side and end walls being with joined with said top wall to form arcuate upper edge contours, and (b) said side and end walls being formed with arcuate bottom edge contours between said base plane and outer surfaces of said walls such that, in an assembly of two bricks, one above the other, access grooves are formed by adjoining upper edge contours and bottom edge contours of the respective bricks to facilitate subsequent disassembly thereof.

2. A brick according to claim 1, wherein (a) said side and end walls being formed with arcuate end edges where said edges are joined.

3. A brick according to claim 2, wherein (a) said arcuate upper, and bottom, and end edge contours are of radii of not substantially less than about 0.005 inch.

4. A brick according to claim 1, wherein (a) said arcuate upper edge contours between said side and end walls and said top wall preferentially are of a radius greater than a radius of said arcuate bottom edge contours.

5. A brick according to claim 4, wherein (a) said arcuate upper edge contours preferentially are of a radius of about 0.040 inch, and (b) said arcuate bottom edge contours preferentially are of a radius of about 0.030 inch.

6. A brick according to claim 5, wherein (a) corner regions, at which said upper edge contours along side edges of said brick merge with upper edge contours along end edges of said brick, are formed with spherical contours of a radius preferentially greater than the radius of said upper edge contours.

7. A brick according to claim 6, wherein (a) said spherical contours preferentially are of a radius of about 0.045 inch.

8. A separating tool for use with an assembly of bricks according to claim 1, which comprises (a) a U-shaped body comprising a pair of spaced apart legs and an upper portion connecting said legs, (b) wedge shaped elements at lower end portions of said legs, (c) said wedge shaped elements being positioned in directly opposed relation and being insertable under pressure into an access groves formed between an assembled pair of bricks for effecting separation of said bricks.

9. A separating tool according to claim 8, wherein (a) said legs are normally spaced apart a distance greater then a width of a brick and are resiliently squeezable to press said wedge shaped elements into said access grooves.

10. A separating tool for use with an assembly of bricks according to claim 1, which comprises (a) a wedge shaped element, and (b) a manually engageable element mounting said wedge shaped element enabling said wedge shaped element to be pressed into an access groove.

11. A separating tool according to claim 10, wherein (a) said tool has an opposed pair of said wedge shaped elements engageable with opposed access grooves in a pair of assembled bricks.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Brick-based construction toy systems have been in existence for many years, being offered commercially by companies such as Lego, Mega Bloks, Cobi-Best Lock, and others. A typical construction toy brick is of rectangular configuration, having a plurality of cylindrical studs projecting upward from its top wall and having an open bottom cavity defined by vertical side walls and end walls. Typically, cylindrical friction elements project downward from the top wall into the open cavity defined by the side and end walls, positioned to frictionally engage studs projecting upward from a brick below. The dimensioning of the downwardly open cavity of a brick is such that, when a second brick is assembled with it from below, the cylindrical studs of the brick below frictionally engage portions of the side and/or end walls, and also portions of the cylindrical friction elements extending down from the top wall.

A relatively tight friction fit between assembled bricks normally is desired, in order to assure that assemblies of multiple bricks will remain in their assembled configurations and not easily fall apart. This creates a problem, however, in that disassembly of the bricks, when it is desired to do so, can be very difficult particularly for young children, who are significant users of the product. The problem exists because bricks of conventional construction are formed with flat, smooth, planar surfaces which can be difficult to grip. This is especially true for standard size bricks, which, for a brick having two rows of four studs (2×4) may be slightly more than ½ inch in width and about 1.25 inches in length, with a side wall height of around ⅜th inch (or less in the case of flat elements).

Conventional forms of standard bricks also tend to present somewhat of a safety hazard, in that they are formed with sharp edges and sharp corners. Since these bricks often are used on the floor, they can easily be stepped upon by a child with bare feet, with painful results.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the invention, a novel and improved brick is provided for brick-based construction systems, in which upper and lower edges of the side walls are distinctly rounded. The arrangement is such that, when two bricks are assembled in the usual fashion, with the cylindrical studs of a lower brick being inserted in and frictionally retained within the open cavity of a brick above, a distinct groove is defined along the meeting plane where the two bricks are joined. Multiple advantages are derived from this arrangement. To begin with, the joints between assembled bricks are always obvious, so that it is easy for a user to grip a pair of assembled bricks in proper positions, in order to attempt disassembly. More importantly, where the frictional gripping between assembled bricks exceeds a child's ability to separate the bricks by merely gripping them, the grooves along the meeting plane, which are convergently configured, provide easy entry areas for a user's thumbnail, for example, not only to provide better gripping of the bricks, but also to enable a thumbnail to exert a wedging action between two assembled bricks, to initiate separation. Once the separation has been initiated, friction forces are significantly reduced and completing the separation is more easily accomplished.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, an advantageous form of separating tool is provided to further facilitate separation of assembled bricks. In a particularly preferred form, the tool is of U-shaped configuration, of a size to straddle a brick of standard size, and is provided at the lower ends of spaced apart legs with tapered wedge elements. The U-shaped device can be positioned over an upper brick of an assembly, with the wedge elements aligned with the grooves defined at the meeting plane. By squeezing opposite sides of the device (e.g., between a thumb and forefinger), the wedge elements are pressed into the grooves. Because of the converging configuration of the grooves, the wedge-like elements of the separating tool easily enter the grooves and force the two bricks apart, either completely or sufficiently to allow the user to easily complete the separation.

For a more complete understanding of the above and other features and advantages of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment, and to the accompanying drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a brick according to the invention suitable for a brick-based construction toy, the illustrated form of brick being of 2×8 configuration.

FIG. 2 is an elevational view of a separating tool which can be used to advantage in connection with bricks of the type shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the separating tool of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged, fragmentary cross sectional view illustrating two bricks according to the invention, assembled one above the other, and also illustrating the manner in which the separating tool of FIGS. 2 and 3 is positioned for assisting separation.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged, fragmentary cross sectional view, similar to FIG. 4, but illustrating the bricks in a partially separated condition as a result of use of the separating tool.

DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring now to the drawings, the reference numeral 10 designates generally an advantageous forms of brick, suitable for use in standard brick-based construction toy systems. The illustrated brick 10 is of 2×8 size, having a top wall 11 with two rows of eight generally cylindrical studs 12 which project upward a short distance (for example, 0.070 inch) from the flat surface of the top wall 11. The illustrated brick 10 includes spaced side walls 13, 14 and end walls 15, 16, defining a downwardly opening cavity 17.

In accordance with known practice, the dimensions and spacing of the cylindrical studs 12 is accurately related to the dimensions of the cavity 17, such that when the studs 12 of one brick are inserted into the cavity 17 of a brick above, outer side wall portions of the studs 12 extending into the cavity are frictionally engaged by surfaces within the cavity. Typically, the studs 12 may have a diameter of about 0.193 inch and a spacing, both laterally and longitudinally of 0.315 inch. The spacing of the studs from the end walls 15, 16 and side walls 13, 14 is such that, when two bricks are placed side-by-side or end-to-end, the spacing between the cylindrical studs remains the same between the joining bricks.

To improve the frictional contact between cylindrical studs 12 of one brick with respect to the brick above with which it is assembled, cylindrical friction tubes 18 project downward from the top wall 11 to a point just slightly above a bottom plane 19 formed by the lower extremities of the side and end walls 13-16. Likewise, at the various contact points between cylindrical studs 12 and the side or end walls, vertical ribs 20 may extend upward along the side and end walls, for making frictional contact with the cylindrical studs. Thus, when bricks are assembled, as shown in FIG. 4, the studs 12 have frictional contact with surface portions of two adjacent friction tubes 18, and also with one of the ribs 20 along the adjacent side wall 13 or 14. Studs 12 at the endmost positions will have frictional contact with one friction cylinder 18 and two of the friction ribs 20, one on the end wall and another on the side wall. All of the foregoing features are of course well known in the art.

With conventional construction toy bricks, the top walls, side walls and end walls are flat, smooth and planar from edge-to-edge, such that a surface formed of a plurality of aligned side walls is flat and smooth. Construction toy bricks of the type described are generally injection molded with a relatively high degree of precision in order to assure a proper fit between bricks when assembled in the manner of FIG. 4. In this respect, it is important that the frictional engagement between the studs 12 of one brick and the internal cavity 17 of another will be adequate to prevent unintended separation of the bricks in a large and complicated structure, for example. While this is desirable from a standpoint of making a stable structure, it can present problems when attempting to disassemble such a structure. Frequently, small children, who are major users of these products, will have great difficulty separating two bricks, because of inadequate hand strength. This can be aggregated further in certain cases where the bricks are formed with so-called super studs (not shown), which may extend vertically a distance several times the height of a standard cylindrical stud, as illustrated. Bricks with super studs may be employed where particular strength is required in the structure, but in such cases the problem of disassembly is compounded.

Pursuant to the invention, the upper and lower edges of the side and end walls of the bricks are generously rounded, as shown particularly in FIGS. 4 and 5. Thus, the side walls 13, 14 are rounded at their upper edges at 21, 22 and at their lower edges at 23, 24. The end walls 15, 16 are similarly rounded at the top and bottom edges, as indicated at 25, 26 in FIG. 1. Likewise, the vertical edges of all of the side and end walls are rounded as indicated at 27 in FIG. 1.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the various corner radii range from about 0.005 inch to about 0.050 inch. Preferentially, the upper edges 21, 22 and the vertical edges 27 can have a somewhat larger radius of curvature than the lower edges 23, 24. By way of specific example but not of limitation, the upper edges 21, 22 and vertical edges 27 may have a radius of curvature of about 0.040 inch, while the lower edges 23, 24 may have a radius of curvature of about 0.030 inch. Preferably, the radius of curvature of the lower edges 23-26 is somewhat less than the thickness of the side and end walls 13-16, in order to provide a flat surface area at the bottom edges of the walls 13-16 to define the support plane 19 along the bottom of the brick. In a preferred but not limiting embodiment of the invention, the side wall and end wall thickness may be on the order of 0.048 inch, providing a flat surface of about 0.018 inch along the inner margins of each of the side and end walls 13-16.

As will be evident in FIG. 4 of the drawings, when a pair of the new bricks is assembled, one brick above the other, the bottom surfaces of the side and end walls of the upper brick will engage with the top surface of the lower brick along a meeting plane generally coincident with the base plane 19. The arcuate edge contours at the meeting plane define a distinct and visually obvious groove extending around the entire periphery of the assembly at the meeting plane. This has two significant advantages when seeking to disassemble the two bricks. First, it is immediately obvious where the bricks are joined, so that the bricks can be readily gripped on opposite sides of the meeting plane when applying separating force. Second and more importantly, where the bricks prove difficult to separate, as often is the case when separation is being performed by small children, the groove at the meeting plane is conveniently accessible for the user to insert a thumbnail, for example, to exert a wedging action and force an initial separation of the two bricks. In this respect, it will be understood that the frictional forces retaining the two bricks in assembled relation are derived exclusively from the frictional contact of the upper brick with surface portions of the cylindrical studs 12. Accordingly, even a slight initial separation of the bricks, forced by insertion of a thumbnail, for example, effects a significant reduction in the contact area between the two bricks and a correspondingly significant percentage reduction between the two bricks. Thereafter, the separation can easily be completed by gripping the two bricks in a normal manner. The improved ability to separate the bricks after assembly is very significant. Standard bricks, for example, have smooth, flat sides and essentially zero space between bricks at their meeting planes. It can be extremely difficult, and in some cases impossible, for a small child to separate such bricks. That problem is effectively resolved using the generously rounded edge contours according to this invention.

As an additional feature of the invention, a simple and inexpensive tool may be provided to facilitate separation of assembled bricks. This tool, shown at 29 in FIGS. 2 and 3, is molded of suitable structural plastic material, and is of U-shaped configuration comprising a pair of spaced apart legs 30, 31 joined at the top by a semicylindrical portion 32. At the lower extremities of the two legs 30, 31, are a pair of opposed wedge-like elements 33, 34 formed with relatively sharp tips 35 and inclined surfaces leading away from those tips. The spacing of the two legs 30, 31 of the separating tool is slightly greater than the width of the brick 10, such that a tool can be applied over the sides of the brick, in the manner shown in FIG. 4. Two assembled bricks can be separated by aligning the wedge tips 35 with the grooves defined at the meeting plane between two bricks, as shown in FIG. 4, and then squeezing the two legs 30, 31 together, typically using the thumb and forefinger. When the wedge-shaped portions 33, 34 are forced inwardly along the meeting plane, the bricks are forced to separate, as shown in FIG. 6. The inclined surfaces of the wedge-shaped elements 33, 34 provide significant mechanical advantage, such that tightly assembled bricks can be easily separated by a small child.

In a typical embodiment, the displacement provided by the wedge-shaped portions 33, 34 need not be for the full height of the cylindrical studs 12, inasmuch as an initial separating displacement of two bricks greatly reduces the forces required to complete the job by manually gripping the two bricks.

It is contemplated that bricks according to the configuration of the invention may be assembled together with conventional bricks having flat sides extending completely to the edges and thus forming sharp, right-angular edges. In such cases, the brick of the invention will nevertheless form a significant groove at the meeting plane between the two bricks, although the width of the groove will be only half the width of a similar groove formed by two bricks according to the invention. Nevertheless, the smaller groove will provide thumbnail access for initiating separation of the bricks. Likewise, the separating tool 29 may also be utilized by inserting its wedge-shaped portions 33, 34 into the smaller groove formed by the dissimilar bricks.

The separating tool 29 is particularly advantageous when disassembling a pair of bricks, one of which is formed with “super studs”, which may have a height several times the height of the studs 12 shown in the illustrations of FIGS. 1, 4 and 5. Such elongated studs may be utilized in special circumstances, where a particular brick construction may impose greater than typical leverage between certain bricks, which can be appropriately resisted by utilizing bricks with the elongated studs. The use of the elongated studs, however, comes at the expense of significantly increasing the forces required to separate the bricks for disassembly. This is made more feasible according to the invention by forming the bricks with generously rounded edges, providing thumbnail access for separation, and also accommodating the use of a separating tool 29 as disclosed.

It should be understood, of course, that the specific forms of the invention herein illustrated and described are intended to be representative only, as certain changes may be made therein without departing from the clear teachings of the disclosure. Accordingly, reference should be made to the following appended claims in determining the full scope of the invention.