Title:
USER-CONFIGURABLE TOY STRUCTURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A user-configurable construction system is provided. This system includes: a substantially planar base; a plurality of vertical support members each having a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage a portion of the base; a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members; and a plurality of substantially flat display panels each having top portion and a bottom portion, wherein the top portion of each display panel is adapted to be mountable within or attachable to a transverse support member, and wherein the bottom portion of each display panel is adapted to engage a portion of the base.



Inventors:
Yin, Lorena (Blacklick, OH, US)
Heipp, Shawn (Dublin, OH, US)
Sanchez, Terry (Vacaville, CA, US)
Schriver, Janet (Long Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/961205
Publication Date:
07/24/2008
Filing Date:
12/20/2007
Assignee:
Elmer's Products, Inc. (Columbus, OH, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/343
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BALDORI, JOSEPH B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCNEES WALLACE & NURICK LLC (HARRISBURG, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A construction system, comprising: (a) a substantially planar base; (b) a plurality of vertical support members each having a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage a portion of the base; (c) a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members; and (d) a plurality of substantially flat panels each having top portion and a bottom portion, wherein the top portion of each panel is adapted to be mountable within or attachable to a transverse support member, and wherein the bottom portion of each panel is adapted to engage the base.

2. The construction system of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of decorative accessories attachable to the top portions of each of the vertical support members, wherein each of the decorative accessories represents a unique theme.

3. The construction system of claim 1, wherein the substantially planar base further comprises a plurality of base panels, wherein the base panels are attachable to or detachable from one another, and wherein the bases panel further includes a plurality of mounting apertures formed therein and a plurality of connectors formed thereon.

4. The construction system of claim 3, wherein each of the vertical support members further comprises a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage one of the mounting apertures formed in the base, and wherein the top portion of each vertical support member further includes a plurality of notches formed therein.

5. The construction system of claim 4, wherein each of the transverse support members further comprises at least one protrusion formed on each end thereof for engaging the notches on the vertical support members; and a slot formed lengthwise therein.

6. The construction system of claim 1, wherein each of the substantially flat panels further comprises at least one pre-patterned surface.

7. The construction system of claim 1, wherein each of the substantially flat panels further comprises at least one blank surface suitable for drawing, painting, or coloring.

8. A system for building a structure, comprising: (a) a base, wherein the base further includes at least one base panel, wherein the base panel is attachable to or detachable from other base panels, and wherein the base panel further includes a plurality of mounting apertures and a plurality of channels formed therein and a plurality of connectors formed thereon; (b) a plurality of vertical support members each having a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage one of the plurality of mounting apertures formed in the base, and wherein the top portion of each vertical support member further includes a plurality of notches formed therein; (c) a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members, wherein each of the plurality transverse support members further includes: (i) at least one protrusion formed on each end thereof for engaging the notches on the vertical support members; and (ii) a slot formed lengthwise therein; and (d) a plurality of substantially flat display panels each having top portion and a bottom portion, wherein the top portion of each display panel is mountable within one of the lengthwise slots formed in the transverse support members, and wherein the bottom portion of each display panel is adapted to engage one of the channels formed in the base.

9. The construction system of claim 8, further comprising a plurality of decorative accessories attachable to the top portions of each of the plurality of vertical support members, wherein each of the decorative accessories represents a unique artistic theme.

10. The construction system of claim 8, wherein the connectors formed on the at least one base panel include a plurality of tabs and a plurality of receiving members.

11. The construction system of claim 8, wherein the vertical support members mechanically engage the apertures formed in the base.

12. The construction system of claim 8, wherein the vertical support members frictionally engage the apertures formed in the base.

13. The construction system of claim 8, wherein each of the substantially flat panels further comprises at least one pre-patterned surface.

14. The construction system of claim 8, wherein each of the substantially flat display panels further comprises at least one blank surface suitable for drawing, painting, or coloring.

15. A method for assembling a structure, comprising: (a) providing a kit, wherein the kit further includes: (i) a base, wherein the base further includes at least one base panel, wherein the base panel is attachable to or detachable from other base panels, and wherein the base panel further includes a plurality of mounting apertures and a plurality of channels formed therein and a plurality of connectors formed thereon; (ii) a plurality of vertical support members each having a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage one of the mounting apertures formed in the base, and wherein the top portion of each vertical support member further includes a plurality of notches formed therein; (iii) a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members, wherein each of the plurality transverse support members further includes: a) at least one protrusion formed on each end thereof for engaging the notches on the vertical support members; and b) a slot formed lengthwise therein; and (iv) a plurality of substantially flat panels each having a top portion and a bottom portion, wherein the top portion of each panel is mountable within one of the lengthwise slots formed in the transverse support members, and wherein the bottom portion of each panel in adapted to engage one of the channels formed in the base; and (b) inserting the vertical support members into the base; (c) inserting the transverse support members into the vertical support members; and (d) inserting the panels into the transverse support members and into the channels in the base.

16. The method of claim 15, further comprising attaching at least one decorative accessory to the top portions of a vertical support member, wherein each of the decorative accessories represents a unique theme.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein the vertical support members mechanically engage the apertures formed in the base.

18. The method of claim 15, wherein the vertical support members frictionally engage the apertures formed in the base.

19. The method of claim 15, wherein each of the substantially flat panels further comprises at least one pre-patterned surface.

20. The method of claim 15, wherein each of the substantially flat panels further comprises at least one blank surface suitable for drawing, painting, or coloring.

Description:

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/886,424 filed on Jan. 24, 2007 and entitled “User-Configurable Construction System,” the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference as if fully rewritten herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to systems, devices, and methods for use in building or assembling physical structures, and more specifically to a user-configurable and reconfigurable construction system for creating artistic and/or thematic three-dimensional models that may be used as toys for children and for other purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The following provides a summary of certain exemplary embodiments of the present invention. This summary is not an extensive overview and is not intended to identify key or critical aspects or elements of the present invention or to delineate its scope. In general, this invention provides a construction system for creating three-dimensional structural models that may be creatively configured to represent various artistic and personal themes or for other user-defined purposes.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a construction system is provided. This system includes: a substantially planar base; a plurality of vertical support members each having a bottom portion and a top portion, wherein the bottom portion of each vertical support member is adapted to engage a portion of the base; a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members; and a plurality of substantially flat display panels each having top portion and a bottom portion, wherein the top portion of each display panel is adapted to be mountable within or attachable to a transverse support member, and wherein the bottom portion of each display panel is adapted to engage the base. Various artistic themes or images may be either provided on or created on the display panels.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a system for building a structure is provided. This system includes a base; a plurality of vertical support members; a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members; and a plurality of substantially flat display panels each having top portion and a bottom portion. The base further includes at least one horizontal base panel that is attachable to or detachable from other horizontal base panels, a plurality of mounting apertures, a plurality of channels formed therein, and a plurality of connectors formed thereon. Each vertical support member has a bottom portion and a top portion. The bottom portion is adapted to engage one of the mounting apertures formed in the base and the top portion further includes a plurality of notches formed therein. Each of the transverse support members is attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members and each of the plurality transverse support members further includes at least one protrusion formed on each end thereof for engaging the notches on the vertical support members; and a slot formed lengthwise therein. Each of the substantially flat display panels has a top portion and a bottom portion. The top portion is mountable within one of the lengthwise slots formed in the transverse support members and the bottom portion of each display panel is adapted to engage one of the channels formed in the base. Various artistic themes or images may be either provided on or created on the display panels.

In yet another aspect of this invention, a method for assembling a structure is provided. This method includes providing a kit that includes a base; a plurality of vertical support members; a plurality of transverse support members attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members; and a plurality of substantially flat display panels each having top portion and a bottom portion. The base further includes at least one base panel that is attachable to or detachable from other base panels, a plurality of mounting apertures, a plurality of channels formed therein, and a plurality of connectors formed thereon. Each vertical support member has a bottom portion and a top portion. The bottom portion is adapted to engage one of the mounting apertures formed in the base and the top portion further includes a plurality of notches formed therein. Each of the transverse support members is attachable to and mountable between the top portions of the vertical support members and each of the plurality transverse support members further includes: at least one protrusion formed on each end thereof for engaging the notches on the vertical support members; and a slot formed lengthwise therein. Each of the substantially flat display panels has a top portion and a bottom portion. The top portion is mountable within one of the lengthwise slots formed in the transverse support members and the bottom portion of each display panel is adapted to engage one of the channels formed in the base. The method further includes inserting the vertical support members into the base; inserting the transverse support members into the vertical support members; and then inserting the display panels into the transverse support members and into the channels in the base. Various artistic themes or images may be either provided on or created on the display panels.

Additional features and aspects of the present invention will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading and understanding the following detailed description of the exemplary embodiments. As will be appreciated by the skilled artisan, further embodiments of the invention are possible without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and associated descriptions are to be regarded as illustrative and not restrictive in nature.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated into and form a part of the specification, schematically illustrate one or more exemplary embodiments of the invention and, together with the general description given above and detailed description given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the user-configurable construction system of the present invention shown in an assembled state.

FIG. 2A is a top view of an exemplary embodiment of one of the individual base panels of the construction system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2B is a bottom view of one of the individual base panels of the construction system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2C is close-up detailed illustration of a portion of one of the base panels of the construction system of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 3A-C are various views of the vertical support members of the construction system of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 4A-E are various views of the transverse support members of the construction system of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 5A-E are various illustrations of the steps involved in the proper assembly of the construction system of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary embodiments of the present invention are now described with reference to the Figures. Reference numerals are used throughout the detailed description to refer to the various elements and structures. In other instances, well-known structures and devices are shown in block diagram form for purposes of simplifying the description. Although the following detailed description contains many specifics for the purposes of illustration, a person of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that many variations and alterations to the following details are within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the following embodiments of the invention are set forth without any loss of generality to, and without imposing limitations upon, the claimed invention.

The present invention relates to a user-configurable construction system for creating a three-dimensional assembly that may be used as a toy or for other purposes depending on the final scale (i.e., dimensions) of the structure and the intended use thereof. As previously indicated, a first general embodiment of this invention provides a construction system; a second general embodiment of this invention provides a system for building a three-dimensional structure; and a third general embodiment of this invention provides a method for assembling a three-dimensional structure. With reference now to the Figures, specific embodiments of this invention shall be described in greater detail.

As shown in FIG. 1, an exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides a construction system in the form of an assembly 10, which includes a floor or base 20, a plurality of vertical supports 40, a plurality of transverse support members or crossbars 60, a plurality of substantially flat display panels 80, and a plurality of accessories for use in creating unique and/or personalized themes or motifs. Although assembly 10 is shown as having a particular configuration in FIG. 1, it will be appreciated by the skilled artisan that FIG. 1 is merely illustrative and that other arrangements and/or configurations of assembly 10 are possible. For example, in some embodiments of this invention, additional vertical supports 40 are inserted into the top portions of the vertical supports 40 already inserted into base 20 for creating a multi-tiered structure. In other embodiments, base 20 is adapted to provide a floor structure that is mountable between vertical supports 40 for creating a structure with multiple stories or floors.

As shown in FIGS. 2A-C, base 20 includes one or more individual horizontal base panels 22. Each individual base panel 22 includes a plurality of mounting apertures 24, and each aperture 24 further includes a series of notches 26 formed on the inner surface thereof for receiving a vertical support member 40 as described below. Each base panel 22 also includes a plurality of tabs 28 and a plurality of tab receiving members 30 formed on the side portions thereof for connecting multiple base panels 22 to one another to form a larger structure. As shown in FIG. 5A, tabs 28 are inserted into receiving members 30 for the purpose of enlarging or changing the configuration of base 20. As best shown in FIG. 2A, a plurality of grooves 32 are formed in the surface of base 20 for receiving display panels 80, as described below. Base 20 is typically manufactured according to known techniques or methods from plastic, polymer, or any other suitably rigid and durable material including metal and even wood.

As shown in FIGS. 3A-B, vertical support members 40 each include an elongated, substantially cylindrical body 42 that further includes a plurality of slots 44 formed circumferentially along the top edge thereof. Each support member also includes a base 46 that further includes a plurality of rectangular protrusions 48 formed therein that correspond to the notches 26 formed in mounting apertures 24. Vertical supports 40 are typically manufactured according to known techniques or methods from plastic, polymer, or any other suitably rigid and durable material including metal and even wood.

As shown in FIGS. 4A-E, crossbars 60 each include a first end portion 62 that further includes a first engagement member 64 having a locking tab 66 formed thereon. Each crossbar 60 also includes a second end portion 68 that further includes a second engagement member 70 having a locking tab 72 formed thereon. First and second transverse portions 74 and 76 extend between the end portions 62 and 68 and define a slot-like opening therebetween. A plurality of retaining ridges 78 are formed on the inner surfaces of transverse portions 74 and 76 for securing a panel 80 within the slot-like opening (see FIGS. 5D-E).

With reference to FIGS. 5A-E, construction system 10 is assembled by first arranging or configuring horizontal base panels 22 as desired by inserting tabs 28 securely into receiving members 30 (see FIG. 5A). Vertical support members 40 are then mounted in base 20 by inserting bases 46 (of vertical support members 40) into mounting apertures 24 such that protrusions 48 align with notches 26 (see the inset of FIG. 5B). In this embodiment, base 20 and vertical support members 40 form a fit that is partially frictional and partially mechanical. In other embodiments of this invention, the connection between these components is entirely mechanical or entirely frictional. Crossbars 60 are mounted on vertical support members 40 by inserting first and second engagement members 64 and 70 respectively into slots 44 and applying downward force sufficient to frictionally/mechanically engage locking tabs 66 and 72 and slots 44 (see FIG. 5C). Display panel 80 is then inserted though the slot-like opening (from the top or bottom of crossbar 60). When properly installed, the bottom edge of display panel 80 rests securely within one of the grooves 32 formed in base panel 22 (see FIGS. 5D-E).

As shown in FIG. 5E, various decorative accessories 90 may be attached to the top portion of each vertical support member 40 to create a decorative effect when the invention is used as a toy. In one embodiment, construction system 10 is provided as a kit that includes the previously described structural components as well as a variety of thematic accessories and items, referred to in some cases as “chotchkies”. In some instances, and as shown in the Figures, the accessories may be inserted into the top portion of each vertical support member 40. In other instances, the accessories are small human or animal figurines, tables, chairs, rugs, beds, etc. that may be included in any variety of kits or collections for use with the primary structural components of this invention, primarily base 20. As is apparent from FIGS. 5D-E, the flat display panels 80 that are used with the present invention may be provided with artwork or images already painted or printed thereon, or these panels may be initially blank or include basic outlines printed thereon for serving as a substrate upon which a child may create her own original or personalized patterns, images, or artwork. Glue, sparkles, beads, buttons, markers, paints and other decorative items may be included with this invention for use in decorating the panels 80. Various artistic configurations of the exemplary embodiment are possible, wherein each configuration represents a unique, user-defined and personalized theme. For example, the “tropical bedroom”, the “fashion boutique”, the “glamour bedroom”, the “pet boutique”, the “pop star bedroom”, and the “sweet shop” are all possible themes for assembled versions of the present invention, which in some versions is known as the “Dream Designer”.

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, the construction system of the present invention is compatible with models and toys, but may be used for other projects and/or applications in which easily moveable and changeable structural components and elements are desired. The various structural components of this invention are scalable and different materials may be used for the components based on the intended end-use of the system. For example, high-impact plastics, polymers, metal, or even wood may be used for various structural components based on the intended application or end-use of the structure created in accordance with the present invention. In some versions of this invention, “display” panels 80 are provided as rigid, moveable panels that may serve as walls in a structure intended for use as a storage unit or for another purpose.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of exemplary embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in certain detail, it is not the intention of the Applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention in its broader aspects is not limited to any of the specific details, representative devices and methods, and/or illustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the spirit or scope of the applicant's general inventive concept.