Title:
Construction system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a construction system which has individual construction elements or components which can be connected to each other by at least a ball-to-socket joint or a socket-to-socket joint. A basic construction element has a body with a ball at one end and a socket at the other end, or balls at both ends, or sockets at both ends. Other construction elements are contemplated which can have more than or less than two connectors for a single element.



Inventors:
Pinsker, Jeff (San Carlos, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/069196
Publication Date:
10/30/2008
Filing Date:
02/08/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
446/124
International Classes:
A63H33/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLISCH HARTWELL, P.C. (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A construction system comprising: a plurality of construction components, each construction component including: a cylindrical body having a first end, a second end, and a diameter; a socket disposed on the first end of the cylindrical body, wherein a neck is defined between the socket and the cylindrical body, the neck having a width less than the diameter of the cylindrical body; and a substantially spherical element disposed on the second end of the cylindrical body; wherein a spherical element of a first construction component is sized to be received in a socket of a second construction component.

2. The construction system of claim 1, wherein the width of the neck is between about 0.4 inches and about 0.5 inches, and wherein the diameter of the cylindrical body is between about 1.0 inches and about 1.4 inches.

3. The construction system of claim 1, wherein a ratio of the diameter of the cylindrical body to the width of the neck is between about 1.1 and 1.9.

4. A construction system comprising: a plurality of construction components, each construction component including: a cylindrical body having a first end and a second end; a socket disposed on the first end of the cylindrical body; and a substantially spherical element disposed on the second end of the cylindrical body, wherein a neck is defined between the spherical element and the cylindrical body, the neck having a width; wherein a spherical element of a first construction component is sized to be received in a socket of a second construction component; and wherein a ratio of the diameter of the spherical element to the width of the second neck is less than 3.75.

5. The construction system if claim 4, wherein the diameter of the spherical element is between about 1.3 inches and about 1.9 inches, and wherein the width of the neck is between about 0.4 inches and about 0.5 inches.

6. A construction system comprising: a plurality of construction components, each construction component including: a cylindrical body having a first end, a second end, and a diameter between about 1.0 inches and about 1.4 inches; a socket disposed on the first end of the cylindrical body; and a substantially spherical element disposed on the second end of the cylindrical body, wherein a neck is defined between the spherical element and the cylindrical body, the neck having a width between about 0.4 inches and about 0.5 inches; wherein a spherical element of a first construction component is sized to be received in a socket of a second construction component.

7. A construction system comprising: a plurality of construction components, each construction component including: a cylindrical body having a first end, a second end, and a diameter; a socket disposed on the first end of the cylindrical body; and a substantially spherical element disposed on the second end of the cylindrical body, wherein a neck is defined between the spherical element and the cylindrical body, the neck having a width; wherein a spherical element of a first construction component is sized to be received in a socket of a second construction component; and wherein a ratio of the diameter of the cylindrical body to the width of the neck is greater than 2.8 or less than 2.7.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119 and applicable foreign and international law and incorporates in its entirety U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/900,443, filed Feb. 9, 2007.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to construction systems, and more particularly to construction systems including individual construction elements having ball and jaw connections.

SUMMARY

The present invention is directed to a construction system which has individual construction elements or components which can be connected to each other by at least a ball-to-socket joint or a socket-to-socket joint. A basic construction element has a body with a ball at one end and a socket at the other end, or balls at both ends, or sockets at both ends. Other construction elements are contemplated which can have more than or less than two connectors for a single element.

A ball from one construction element or component can be removably inserted into the socket of another element. The socket, which will also be referred to as a jaw, has at least two petals separated by openings on either side of the petals. The ball-to-socket joint may “lock” at orientations when at least one detent in the interior of the socket protrudes into at least one of a plurality of dimples on the ball. Due to the contour of the petals of the jaw, the available range of orientations in a ball-to-socket interconnection is at least two pi steradians. The ball may incorporate a regular pattern of dimples that allows small well-controlled and reproducible reorientations of the connection to be made.

The elements may also interconnect in many ways, such as for example, two types of socket-to-socket connections where the longitudinal axes of interconnected elements are collinear. In a socket-to-socket connection the petals of one element connect with the petals of a second element. A third type of socket-to-socket connection allows the elements to form a chain with the longitudinal axes of the elements being parallel and coplanar and orthogonal to the direction of the chain. The elements may also be interconnected by having the socket of a first element grasp the body of a second element. With the socket-to-body connection, the longitudinal axes of the two elements are orthogonal and the angle between the symmetry plane of the first element and the longitudinal axis of the second element is continuously adjustable through 360 degrees. In the socket-to-body connection, a closed system can be formed by the connection of three elements. The construction set may include elements of different size scales and elements having connectors of more than one size scale.

Components and connectors may be configured in size, construction and material properties to be used by younger children with less developed muscle strength and coordination. The force required to join two components such as a ball into a socket may be limited and the force required to disengage the ball from the socket may also be limited. Components may be sized so they can be gripped firmly with a child's full hand to exert a maximum amount of force for engaging one component into the mating parts of a second component.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a child playing with a construction system according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a side view of a construction component of a construction system.

FIG. 3 illustrates two construction components being joined together.

FIG. 4 is an isometric view of another construction component of a construction system.

FIG. 5 is an isometric view of two construction component joined together.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows components of a construction system according to the present disclosure in use by a child 12 at 10. Child 12 holds two construction components 100A and 100B and is preparing to assemble them together into a single unit. Components are sized to be fully grasped by the child's small hand. The child may hold a component in each hand, grasping them firmly to engage one to the other. Additional components are also shown that may be further assembled to an assembled unit.

A basic construction component 100 is shown in FIG. 2. The construction component 100 may be made of an elastomeric compound. The construction component 100 has an elongated substantially cylindrical body 112, with a socket or jaw 114 extending from body 112 at one end and a substantially spherical ball 116 attached to body 112 at a second end. Socket 114 is attached to body 112 at one end by a neck 118 having a width less than the diameter of body 12. Ball 116 is also attached to body 112 by a neck 120 at the opposite end, neck 120 having a width less than the diameter of body 12. Necks 118 and 120 may be circular, oval, rectangular or other shape in cross section.

Similar numbering may be used for similar components in the figures.

Referring again to FIG. 1, joining components 100A and 100B end to end is illustrated as part of forming various structures. Ball 116 may be inserted into socket 114 using an applied force exerted by one hand pushing on component 100A and the other hand pushing an opposing direction on component 100B until the socket engages the ball. Alternatively, child 12 may place one component on the floor and push the ball 116 into the socket by holding a second component with both hands and pushing down to insert the ball of the held component into the socket of the component on the floor. Components may alternatively be joined by engaging the socket of component 100A to the socket of component 100B.

FIG. 3 at 200 shows first component 100A including ball 116A and second component 100B including socket 114B. Components 100A and 100B are not joined and are coming together with ball 116A to be inserted into and engage socket 114B.

At 250 in FIG. 3, components 100A and 100B have engaged each other with ball 116A in socket 114B. Component 100A is retained by component 100B. To separate the two components, force may be applied to each component in opposite directions to overcome the retention force of socket 114B.

Component 100 may be configured to operate with a set range of applied forces. Component 100 may engage ball 116 in socket 114 when an insertion or pushing force within a set range is applied to the components, deflecting the socket sufficiently to admit ball 116. Component 100 may disengage ball 116 from socket 114 when a pulling force within a set range is applied to the components, overcoming the retention force of socket 114 and deflecting the socket so the ball moves out. This retention force maintains engagement between components during play.

Component sets may be engineered and configured for different age groups. A first set of components may be configured with a range of extraction and engaging forces that is lower than a second set of components. The first set of components may be engineered for preschool children that have not developed the muscle strength of school age children. The second set of components may be engineered with higher extraction and engagement forces to be used by more developed school age children.

A third set of components may be engineered for applications where the assembled components must remain engaged when roughly handled such as an industrial application, student demonstration project or a museum hands on exhibit. These component sets may be engineered with even higher engagement and extraction forces.

Component materials may be selected, and mating parts configured, so as to be joined and parted with a limited amount of force, as may be exerted by a child. Deflecting parts of a socket designed for preschool children may deflect with a limited force as a result of element design, element thickness and/or the material composition. Component materials may be selected, at least in part, to limit sliding friction between surfaces so that on assembly, less applied force is required to assemble a component into a socket.

Surfaces and edges of elements and components designed for use by preschool children may be configured to limit the amount of force required for assembly. For example, edges and corners of connectors and elements may be rounded with large radii to limit any “stubbing” of biased elements on contact to mating component elements.

The surfaces of mating elements may be textured in such a way as to limit the insertion and extraction force required to engage and/or disengage one component with a second component. Dimples, surface roughness, protrusions, smoothness or other surface features may be used to limit friction, stubbing and deflection of components to configure them for preschool children.

The components may be comprised of elastomeric compounds that include one or more of ABS, PVC, polypropylene, polyethylene, polyester, natural rubber, synthetic rubber, nylon, acrylic or other synthetic or natural material. Components may be injection molded. Individual components may comprise more than one material. End elements of the component may be comprised of different material than the body of the component. Components may further incorporate structural features that are composed of metal or other material which may add structural strength and support to surrounding materials.

Alternatively, components may be made from wood, metal, glass, minerals, fiber or other material.

Components 100 may be sized for the appropriate age group as well as having engagement and extraction forces engineered for the age group. As an example of a component 100 for a preschool child and referring again to FIG. 2, body 112 may comprise a length from 3.5 inches to 5 inches and a diameter of 1.0 inches to 1.4 inches as designated at A and B, respectively. Ball 116 may have a 1.3 inch to 1.9 inch diameter ball and necks 118 and 120 may have a 0.4 inch to 0.5 inch diameter as designated at C and D, respectively. Socket 114 may have a 0.9 to 1.4 inch opening between petals of the jaw and a length of 1.3 inches to 1.9 inches as designated at E and F, respectively. There may be a fillet at the base of one or both of the necks, which may add strength.

Ball 116 may include a plurality of small dimples on the surface. Alternatively, the surface of the ball may be textured or smooth. These dimensions and features are examples and actual components may be larger or smaller or incorporate different or additional features.

As another example of a component 100 for a preschool child and referring still to FIG. 2, body 112 may comprise a length of 3.5 inches and a diameter of 1.0 inches as designated at A and B, respectively. Ball 116 may have a 1.9 inch diameter ball and the necks may have a 0.5 inch diameter as designated at C and D, respectively. Socket 114 may have a 1.0 inch opening between petals of the jaw and a length of 1.9 inches as designated at E and F, respectively.

FIG. 4 shows an alternative configuration of a component 300 including a body 302, a first socket 304, a second body socket 306 and a ball 308. The body socket 306 is shown in the middle of body 302 and may be configured to accept the body of another component.

FIG. 5 shows the component 300 of FIG. 4 joined with a component 402 similar to component 100 of FIG. 2. Component 402 is engaged to the body socket 306 of component 300. The joined component 400 includes two sockets and two balls and may be used to build additional structures. Component 300 may again be engineered for engagement and extraction forces compatible with and appropriate to a selected age group.

The described system and assemblies are examples and are not to be used as limitations. The number of connectors may be more or fewer than those shown. The orientation or position of connectors may vary from the examples. Any suitable configuration or combination of components presented, or equivalents to them that perform a similar function, may also be used.

While embodiments of a construction system and methods of use have been particularly shown and described, many variations may be made therein. This disclosure may include one or more independent or interdependent inventions directed to various combinations of features, functions, elements and/or properties, one or more of which may be defined in the following claims. Other combinations and sub-combinations of features, functions, elements and/or properties may be claimed later in this or a related application. Such variations, whether they are directed to different combinations or directed to the same combinations, whether different, broader, narrower or equal in scope, are also regarded as included within the subject matter of the present disclosure. An appreciation of the availability or significance of claims not presently claimed may not be presently realized. Accordingly, the foregoing embodiments are illustrative, and no single feature or element, or combination thereof, is essential to all possible combinations that may be claimed in this or a later application. Each claim defines an invention disclosed in the foregoing disclosure, but any one claim does not necessarily encompass all features or combinations that may be claimed. Where the claims recite “a” or “a first” element or the equivalent thereof, such claims include one or more such elements, neither requiring nor excluding two or more such elements. Further, ordinal indicators, such as first, second or third, for identified elements are used to distinguish between the elements, and do not indicate a required or limited number of such elements, and do not indicate a particular position or order of such elements unless otherwise specifically stated.