Title:
Cabinet With Accessory In Top Panel And With Top Panel Lift Mechanism
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cabinet has an accessory, such as a flat panel television screen, mounted to the inner surface of the top panel. The top panel is pivotally mounted to the body of the cabinet. A lifting mechanism attached between the top panel and another part of the cabinet entirely lifts the top panel or provides assistance to open the top panel.



Inventors:
Green, John M. (East Otto, NY, US)
Distefano, Lawrence (Jamestown, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/868586
Publication Date:
05/22/2008
Filing Date:
10/08/2007
Assignee:
Bush Industries, Inc. (Jamestown, NY, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/24
International Classes:
A47B81/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HANSEN, JAMES ORVILLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE WEBB LAW FIRM, P.C. (PITTSBURGH, PA, US)
Claims:
The invention claimed is:

1. A furniture piece comprised of a body having: a) a top opening defining a cavity therein; b) a top panel over the opening and pivotally attached to the body, wherein the top panel has an inner surface and, wherein the top panel is pivotal from a closed position covering the opening to an open position uncovering the opening; c) wherein the inner surface of the top panel is adapted to receive a generally flat accessory such that in the closed position the accessory is hidden and in the open position the accessory is in full view; and d) a lifting mechanism to assist in lifting the top panel from the closed position to the open position, wherein the lifting mechanism is sized to accommodate the weight of both the top panel and the accessory.

2. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the body is further comprised of side panels to define a cabinet having a cavity therein.

3. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the body is a table and the top panel is a portion of the top of the table.

4. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the top panel is pivotally attached to the body through a hinge.

5. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the accessory is a flat screen monitor.

6. The furniture piece according to claim 5, wherein the flat screen monitor consisting of one from the group of an LCD screen and a plasma screen.

7. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the accessory is a mirror.

8. The furniture piece according to claim 1, further including a lifting mechanism to assist in moving the top panel between the closed position and the open position.

9. The furniture piece according to claim 8, wherein the lifting mechanism is comprised of at least one biasing member attached at one end to the top panel and at the other end to the body.

10. The furniture piece according to claim 9, wherein the biasing member is preloaded to a degree that the external force required to lift the top panel from the closed position is minimized.

11. The furniture piece according to claim 9, wherein the at least one biasing member is a spring.

12. The furniture piece according to claim 11, wherein the spring is preloaded when the top panel is in the closed position.

13. The furniture piece according to claim 11, wherein the spring is a gas spring including a spring and a dampener.

14. The furniture piece according to claim 9, further including a resisting member to resist the lift member force at the upper travel of the top panel and to reduce the velocity of the top panel as it opens.

15. The furniture piece according to claim 14, wherein the resisting member is attached between the top panel and the body in parallel with the biasing member.

16. The furniture piece according to claim 14, wherein the resisting member is attached between the top panel and the body in series with the biasing member.

17. The furniture piece according to claim 14, wherein the resisting member is comprised of a spring positioned to oppose the biasing member when the top panel approached the open position.

18. The furniture piece according to claim 17, wherein the resisting member is further comprised of a sliding adjustment to adjust the point at which the biasing member is opposed by the resisting member.

19. The furniture piece according to claim 1, wherein the lifting mechanism is comprised of a motor to move the top panel between the closed position and the opened position.

20. The furniture piece according to claim 19, wherein the lifting mechanism further includes a first threaded member and a mating second threaded member, wherein each threaded member is threadingly engaged with the other and attached to one of the body and the top panel, wherein the threaded members are rotatively driven relative to one another by the motor to provide a translational motion for pivotally moving the top panel.

21. The furniture piece according to claim 19, further including a receiver attached to the motor and a remote transmitter for remote operation of the motor.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/828,474, filed Oct. 6, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention is directed to a furniture cabinet and, more particularly, to a furniture cabinet having an accessory mounted upon the inner surface of the top panel and a lift mechanism associated with the top panel.

2. Description of Related Art

U.S. Pat. No. 4,706,333 to Lauderbach is directed to a cabinet with a top panel utilizing gas springs as weight counterbalances for a top panel pivotable about a horizontal axis.

U.S. Pat. No. 2,268,104 to Bentley discloses a TV receiver provided within a cabinet. The receiver includes a viewing screen which is mounted upon members of a lifting linkage such that, in a fully upright position, the viewing screen is clearly visible. However, the viewing screen is separate from the top panel and occupies a portion of the housing which could otherwise be used for storage.

With the advent of large flat panel television (hereinafter “TV”) screens, a need has arisen to more efficiently utilize the limited space in many dwellings to accommodate large flat panel TV screens, but, at the same time, minimize the space required for viewing such flat panel TV screens.

A design is needed for housing an accessory such as a flat panel TV screen in a way that is not only unobtrusive, but in a way that, furthermore, permits a viewer easy access to viewing the flat panel TV screen.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is directed to a cabinet comprised of a body defining an opening with a cavity therein. There is a top panel over the opening, wherein the top panel has an inner surface and an outer surface and, wherein the top panel is pivotal from a closed position covering the opening to an open position uncovering the opening. The inner surface of the top panel is adapted to receive a generally flat accessory such as a flat screen TV, wherein, in the top panel closed position, the accessory is hidden and, in the top panel open position, the accessory is in full view. A lifting mechanism is connected between the top panel and the body and is biased in the top panel open position such that the external force required to lift the top panel to the open position is substantially less than the force that would be required without such mechanism.

In another embodiment, the lifting mechanism for the top panel of the cabinet is a power unit operated by an electric motor. The power unit may be remotely controlled by a user.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate a piece of furniture with a top panel in the closed position and the open position, respectively, wherein an accessory is mounted to the inner surface of the top panel;

FIG. 2 is a perspective line drawing of the cabinet illustrated in FIG. 1A;

FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C are a perspective view, side view and front view, respectively, of the cabinet with the top panel in a partially open position;

FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C are a perspective view, side view and front view, respectively, of the cabinet with the top panel in a fully open position;

FIGS. 5A, 5B and 5C are a front view, side view and top view, respectively, of a cabinet in FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C;

FIGS. 6A, 6B and 6C are an exploded perspective view, top view and side view, respectively, of a bracket assembly utilized for a resisting mechanism in accordance with the subject invention;

FIGS. 7A, 7B and 7C are an exploded perspective view, top view and side view, respectively, of another embodiment of the lift mechanism in accordance with the subject invention;

FIGS. 8A, 8B and 8C are an exploded perspective view, top view and side view, respectively, of a third bracket assembly utilized for a resisting mechanism in accordance with the subject invention;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of yet another embodiment of a lift mechanism utilized for a cabinet;

FIGS. 10A, 10B, 10C, and 10D are a perspective view, side view, front view and top view respectively of another embodiment of a lift mechanism powered by a power unit operated by an electric motor;

FIGS. 11A and 11B illustrate another embodiment of a piece of furniture with a top panel in the closed position and the open position, respectively, wherein an accessory is mounted to the inner surface of the top panel;

FIGS. 12A, 12B, 12C, and 12 D are a perspective view, side view, front view and top view, respectively, of another embodiment of a cabinet with the top surface serving as the top surface of a desk; and

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a table, whereby a portion of the table is a top panel to which an attachment may be secured.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2 illustrate a cabinet 10 comprised of a body 12 having side panels 15A-15D defining a top opening 17 with a cavity 20 therein. A top panel 22, as illustrated in FIG. 1A, covers the opening 17. The top panel 22 has an inner surface 27. The top panel 22 is pivotal from a closed position, illustrated in FIG. 1A, covering the opening 17 to an open position, illustrated in FIG. 1B, uncovering the opening. 17. The inner surface 27 of the top panel 22 is adapted to receive a generally flat accessory 30 such as a flat screen TV, such that, in the closed position, the accessory 30 is hidden and, in the open position, illustrated in FIG. 1B, the accessory 30 is in full view.

It should be appreciated that FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2 do not illustrate the lifting mechanism, but that hereinafter, such a lifting mechanism will be described with respect to other figures.

While FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2 illustrate the cabinet as a particular type of furniture, it should be appreciated that the cabinet described herein is not limited to any type of furniture, but may be utilized with any cabinet having a top panel that pivots upwardly to an open position, thereby exposing the inner surface of the top panel such that the top panel may be adapted to receive an accessory for viewing.

FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C illustrate a cabinet upper portion 11 with the top panel 22 in an intermediate position between the closed position illustrated in FIG. 1A and the open position illustrated in FIG. 1B. However, FIGS. 3A-3C illustrate elements of the lifting mechanism 35 and are key to the subject invention.

The top panel 22 may be secured to a side 15D through the use of one or more hinges 37 between the top panel 22 and the side 15D. As illustrated in FIG. 3A, the hinge 37 may be a piano hinge. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3C, the top panel 22 covers the entire opening 17. In certain embodiments, the top panel 22 may have a width less than the opening 17. Furthermore, although a hinge 37 has been described, it should be understood that the hinge 37 may be substituted with an arcuate slide bracket or another mechanical mechanism capable of moving the top panel 22 in a similar arcuate path as that provided by the hinge 37. In the event an arcuate slide mechanism is utilized, then the brackets associated with such a mechanism may be mounted to sides 15A, 15C.

Although the accessory 30 (FIG. 3B) is not illustrated on the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22, in FIGS. 3A-3C and in many subsequent figures, it should be appreciated that the cabinet 10, in accordance with the subject invention, is designed such that the inner surface 27 is adapted to receive and support such an accessory 30. As previously mentioned, the accessory 30 may be a flat screen TV and, furthermore, such a flat screen TV may be an LCD screen or a plasma screen. Additionally, it is entirely possible that the accessory may be something other than a flat screen TV, such as a mirror.

Directing attention to the lifting mechanism 35 illustrated in FIG. 3B, a first gas spring 40 is pivotally secured at a first end 42 to side 15D and, at a second end 43, is pivotally secured to the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22. In general, the gas spring 40 is formed of a cylinder 44 containing a gas filling under pressure with a piston rod 46 therein that slides within the cylinder 44 to further compress or to permit expansion of the gas, thereby providing relative motion between the cylinder 44 and the piston rod 46.

FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C illustrate the top panel 22 in the open position and, for illustrative purposes, the accessory 30 has been included in FIGS. 4A and 4C.

A second gas spring 50 is pivotally mounted at the first end 52 (FIG. 4C) and also pivotally mounted at the second end 53 to the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22 to provide additional lift to the top panel 22. The second gas spring 50 is formed of a cylinder 54 with a piston rod 56 therein.

FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C illustrate further the cabinet upper portion 11 in FIGS. 3A-3C and the top panel 22 in the open position and, for illustrative purposes, the accessory 30 has been included.

From inspection of FIGS. 2, 3B and 4B, it should be appreciated that the force required to lift the top panel 22 will be at a maximum when the top panel 22 is in the closed position as illustrated in FIG. 2 and will be at a minimum as the top panel 22 approaches the upright position illustrated in FIG. 4B. However, the force exerted by the gas springs 40, 50 tends to be uniform throughout the travel of the rod 46, 56 within the cylinder 44, 54 of the gas spring 40, 50. As a result, to prevent the top panel 22 from opening too quickly, a resisting member 60 (FIGS. 3C and 4C) is introduced in conjunction with one of the gas springs, such as the second gas spring 50. The second end 53 of the gas spring 50 is pivotally attached in series to the resisting member 60.

FIGS. 5A-5C illustrate another manner in which the hinge 37, the gas springs 40, 50 and the resisting member 60 are secured to the cabinet 10. Here, the resisting member 60 is a hydraulic dampener intended only to dampen the speed with which the gas springs 40, 50 open the top panel 22 and, in this instance, is mounted in parallel with the gas springs 40, 50.

Returning to the arrangement illustrated in FIGS. 4A-4C and directing attention to FIGS. 6A, 6B and 6C, the resisting member 60 is a compression spring 62 having a stop rod 64 positioned therein, such that compression of the spring 62 is limited by the stop rod 64. In particular, the stop rod 64 bottoms out between the bracket 78 and the lock nut 68. The resisting member 60, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4C, works in series with the second gas spring 50. Returning to FIGS. 6A-6C, the cylinder 62 is mounted within a bracket 66 and secured therein by locking nuts 68, 70 which are secured against the bracket 66 through locking screws 74, 76. A mounting plate 72 covers the bracket 66 and secures it against the inner surface 27. The second end 53 (FIG. 4C) of the gas spring 50 is secured to the bracket 78, such that the force produced by the rod 56 of the gas spring 50 is resisted by the resisting member 60 to slow down the advancement of the rod 56 of the gas spring 50. In particular, the gas springs 40, 50 are preloaded when the top panel 22 is in the closed position such that opening the top panel 22 is assisted by the gas springs 40, 50. As a result, the resisting member 60 is designed to resist as the top panel 22 pivots upwardly and requires less lifting force. Compression of the spring loaded rod 64 acts to oppose advancement of the gas spring rod 56. As a result, even though the gas springs 40, 50 still exert a significant force to position the top panel 22 in the upright position, as illustrated in FIG. 4A, the resisting mechanism 60 provides a counterforce which not only slows the advancement of the gas springs 40, 50, but furthermore, provides a smooth stop to the upward motion of the top panel 22. The mounting plate 72 secures the spring 62 within the bracket 66.

FIGS. 7A-7C illustrate the embodiment of the resisting mechanism 60 in FIGS. 3A-3C, whereby the compression spring 62 and stop rod 64 are positioned in a channel 80 directly within the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22. It should be noted that the arrangement illustrated in FIGS. 6A-6C is surface mounted to the inner surface 22 while the arrangement illustrated in FIGS. 7A-7C is recessed within the inner surface 22. Directing attention to FIGS. 7A-7C, the bracket 78 to which the second end 53 (FIG. 4C) of the gas spring 50 is mounted, is also mounted within the channel 80 and secured thereto by a mounting plate 82 which itself is mounted to the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22.

FIGS. 8A-8C illustrate a resisting mechanism 60 having a compression spring 62 with a stop rod 64 therein, but furthermore, having an adjusting mechanism 86 comprised of a rack 88 and pinion 90 to maneuver a stop 92 into different positions along the bracket 94 into which the cylinder 62 is positioned. The adjusting device 86 in conjunction with locking nuts 96, 98 which are locked in position by locking screws 100, 102 are used to position the spring 62 and stop rod 64, in any position within the bracket 94, but furthermore, may preload the spring 62 by compressing the spring 62, more or less, depending upon the position of the locking nuts 96, 98. Once again, the sliding bracket 78 (FIGS. 8A and 4C) is mounted to the second end 53 of the gas spring 50 to resist the force of the gas spring 50 when the top panel 22 is approaching the upright position, illustrated in FIG. 4A.

It should be appreciated that what has so far been described in FIGS. 6A-6C, 7A-7C and 8A-8C, is the use of a pair of gas springs 40, 50 to assist in lifting the top panel 22 connected in series with a resisting member 60 mounted in series with the gas spring 50 to counter the force of the gas springs 40, 50 when the top panel 22 is approaching the upright position, illustrated in FIG. 4A.

FIG. 9 expands upon the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 5A-5C, whereby secured to the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22 are two gas springs 40, 50 and, furthermore, a hydraulic shock absorber 120 operating as the resisting member 60 in parallel with the gas spring 50 to act as a dampener over the entire range of motion from the closed position, illustrated in FIG. 1A, to the open position, illustrated in FIG. 9. Unlike the previous embodiments in FIGS. 6A-6C, 7A-7C and 8A-8C, the resisting member 60 disclosed within FIG. 9 is not a spring/rod combination, but is a hydraulic dampener.

Briefly returning to FIGS. 3A-3C, the gas spring 40 and the gas spring 50 may be identical. However, the inventor has learned that the center of gravity for different accessories 30 may not correspond with the center of the top panel 22 and, for that reason, under certain circumstances, it may be preferred for one gas spring, for example spring 40, to be larger than the other gas spring, for example spring 50, to provide for a uniform lifting of the top panel 22 even though the center of gravity of the accessory 30 is off-center.

Preferably, the location and size of the gas springs 40, 50 should be such that the top panel 22 will rest in the closed position. However, with a small upward force on the outer edge of the top panel 22, an individual should be able to easily lift the top panel 22 with the assistance of the gas springs 40, 50.

As a result, it should be appreciated that the size and location of the gas spring is a function of the weight of the top panel 22 along with the weight and placement of the accessory 30 on the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22.

The cabinet 10 discussed herein is designed to accommodate an accessory 30 and, for that reason, will include mounting brackets 130 (FIG. 4C) secured to both the inner surface 27 of the top panel 22 and the back surface (not shown) of the accessory 30. Such mounting brackets 130 are known to those skilled in the art and, for that reason, additional details will be not be provided herein.

Although not illustrated, it is possible to utilize a locking latch to secure the top panel 22 in the closed position. With this locking feature, the gas springs 40, 50 may be sized and positioned such that when the locking latch is released, the top panel 22 moves upwardly without the need to manually lift the top panel 22 to get the top panel 22 started in the upward direction.

What has been discussed so far is a cabinet 10 having a top panel 22 which is at least partially lifted by a lifting mechanism 35 comprised of gas springs 40, 50. FIGS. 10A-10D illustrate a cabinet 10 having a lifting mechanism 35 comprised of a power unit 140, such as an electric linear actuator used to move a supporting rod 145, pivotally connected to the top panel 22 up and down to position the top panel 22 in the upright position illustrated in FIGS. 10A-10D and to position the top panel 22 in a closed position. The supporting rod 145 has a first end 147 pivotally connected to a bracket 150 secured to the top panel 22, while the second end 149 has a threaded interior which is engaged by a threaded rod 155 driven by the power unit 140, such that rotation of the threaded rod 155 translates the supporting rod 145 back and forth to lift and lower the top panel 22. It should be appreciated that the embodiment illustrated herein is a preferred embodiment. A number of other lifting mechanisms utilizing an electric motor are known to those skilled in the art and may be applied to the present arrangement.

As illustrated in FIG. 10C, a transformer 160 may be utilized to step down 120 volt line voltage to 12 volts utilized by the power unit 140. However, it should be appreciated that depending upon the requirements of the power unit 140, such a transformer 160 may not necessary.

Additionally, the power unit 140 may be actuated by a remote control unit (not shown) transmitting a signal to a receiver 170 which is in communication with the power unit 140. In this fashion, it is entirely possible for a user to open and close the top panel 22 without the need to manually lift or close the top panel 22.

Directing attention to FIGS. 10A and 10B, it should be appreciated that the lifting mechanism 35, in accordance with this embodiment, requires additional space within the cabinet 10 and in the event the cabinet 10 includes a shelf 175, it is likely a slot 177 would be needed through the shelf 175 to accommodate the lifting mechanism 35. It should furthermore be appreciated that the illustration in FIGS. 10A-10D, with respect to a cabinet 10, is only a portion of such a cabinet and the extension 179 of the rear side 15D is actually still part of the cabinet 10 and the remaining walls 15A, 15B and 15C would most likely also be extended to match the extension 179.

FIGS. 11A and 11B illustrate a cabinet 200 of another variety having a top panel 222 with an opening 217, wherein the top panel 222 is pivotal from a closed position covering the opening 217 as illustrated in FIG. 11A to an open position, wherein the accessory 230 is in full view. The lifting mechanism described in association with previous embodiments applies to this design as well, even though for illustrative purposes, a standard wire arrangement is shown.

FIGS. 12A-12D, illustrate a furniture piece 300 having a top panel 322 with an opening 317, wherein the top panel 322 is pivotal from a closed position covering the opening 317 as illustrated in FIG. 12A to an open position, wherein the accessory 330 is in full view. The lifting mechanism described in association with previous embodiments applies to this design as well.

Finally, FIG. 13 illustrates a furniture piece 400 having a top panel 422 with an opening 417, wherein the top panel 422 is pivotal from a closed position covering the opening 417 (not shown) to an open position, wherein the accessory 430 is in full view, as illustrated in FIG. 13. The lifting mechanism described in association with previous embodiments applies to this design as well.

While specific embodiments of the invention have been described in detail, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various modifications and alternatives to those details could be developed in light of the overall teachings of the disclosure. The presently preferred embodiments described herein are meant to be illustrative only and not limiting as to the scope of the invention which is to be given the full breadth of the appended claims and any and all equivalents thereof.





 
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