Title:
PORTABLE MAGNETIC TOY CONSTRUCTION KIT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An embodiment of the present invention provides portable magnetic toy construction system having a base plate upon which to build magnetic toy constructions, the base plate configured to accept and hold in position ferromagnetic or magnetic base elements, such as ferromagnetic balls. The base plate comprises at least one flexible membrane that stretches around a base element and holds the base element in position. The membrane exerts a force that holds the base element in position resisting lateral movement, although the elasticity of the flexible membrane still allows a user to manipulate the base element through the membrane to move the base element laterally. In one configuration, the base plate forms part of a travel case that can additionally include compartments to store magnetic building components. Further embodiments provide a magnetic toy construction, and a method for building the construction, that incorporate the base plate.



Inventors:
Tardif, Andree-anne (Montreal, CA)
Castro, Gustavo (Montreal, CA)
Application Number:
12/203618
Publication Date:
07/02/2009
Filing Date:
09/03/2008
Assignee:
MEGA Brands International S.A.R.L. (Luxembourg, CH)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H33/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Plumsea Law Group, LLC (Bethesda, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A portable magnetic toy construction system comprising: a base plate comprising a first layer comprising a flexible membrane and a second layer disposed under the first layer; a base element disposed between the first layer and the second layer; and a building component magnetically coupled to the base element with the first layer in between the base element and the building component, wherein the base plate is configured to hold in position the base element between the first layer and the second layer, and wherein a dimension of the base element exceeds a distance between the first layer and the second layer such that the first layer stretches around a contour of the base element to hold the base element in position to resist lateral movement of the base element between the first layer and the second layer.

2. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the first layer is configured to allow external manipulation of the base element to laterally move the base element between the first layer and the second layer.

3. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the base element comprises a ferromagnetic ball.

4. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the second layer comprises a rigid substrate.

5. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the second layer defines retaining structures that hold the base element in place.

6. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 5, wherein the retaining structures comprise one of holes, rings, and recesses.

7. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 5, wherein the retaining structures are uniformly spaced apart in an array.

8. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the second layer comprises a second flexible membrane, and wherein the second layer stretches around a second contour of the base element.

9. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the building component comprises a rod having a recessed magnet.

10. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 9, wherein the first layer is pinched between the rod and the base element such that lateral movement of the base element and the rod is restricted.

11. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 9, wherein the first layer is pinched between the rod and the base element such that the rod is prevented from moving relative to the base element; wherein upon application of a force to the rod, the rod moves by virtue of the stretching first layer, while the rod and the base element remain magnetically coupled and positionally fixed with respect to each other, and wherein upon removal of the force, the first layer retracts to restore the rod to its initial position.

12. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 9, wherein the rod defines a recess directly over the recessed magnet, and wherein the first layer conforms to a contour of the base element within the recess.

13. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 12, wherein the recess is about 10-50 mils in depth and the first layer is about 0.2-10.0 mils in thickness.

14. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the first layer is held on a frame and wherein the frame is removably attached to the second layer.

15. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 8, wherein the first layer is held on a first frame, wherein the second layer is held on a second frame, and wherein the first frame is removably attached to the second frame.

16. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 15, wherein the first frame is hingedly attached to the second frame.

17. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, further comprising a travel case to which the base plate is affixed, the travel case comprising one or more compartments configured to store the base element, the building component, and other components of the toy construction system.

18. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 1, wherein the first layer and the second layer are sealed together and are not separable without a destructive force, and wherein the portable magnetic toy construction system further comprises a plurality of base elements disposed between the first layer and the second layer.

19. A portable magnetic toy construction system comprising: a plurality of components including one or more ferromagnetic spheres; a travel case defining a substrate; and a flexible membrane affixed to the travel case and disposed over the substrate of the travel case, wherein a ferromagnetic sphere of the one or more ferromagnetic spheres is disposed between the substrate and the flexible membrane, wherein a dimension of the ferromagnetic sphere exceeds a distance between the first layer and second layer such that the flexible membrane conforms to a portion of a surface of the ferromagnetic sphere, thereby exerting a mechanical force upon the ferromagnetic sphere to hold the ferromagnetic sphere in position resisting lateral movement, and wherein the flexible membrane is configured to allow external manipulation of the ferromagnetic sphere to laterally move the ferromagnetic sphere between the substrate and the flexible membrane.

20. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 19, wherein the travel case defines a plurality of compartments configured to store the plurality of components of the magnetic toy construction system.

21. The portable magnetic toy construction system of claim 19, wherein a component of the plurality of components comprises a magnetic rod comprising an insulating portion and a recessed magnet, the rod magnetically coupling to the ferromagnetic sphere with the first layer sandwiched in between the ferromagnetic ball and the rod.

22. A method for building a magnetic toy construction comprising: providing a flexible layer over a substrate; inserting base elements between the flexible layer and the substrate such that the flexible layer stretches over the base elements and holds them in place; manipulating the base elements through the flexible layer to position the base elements at desired locations; and magnetically coupling toy construction components to the base elements with the flexible layer in between the components and the base elements.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/970,155, filed Sep. 5, 2007, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to toy construction kits and more particularly to a portable magnetic toy construction kit having a base plate with a flexible membrane holding in place ferromagnetic or magnetic base elements, over which a magnetic assembly can be built.

2. Background of the Invention

A major challenge in working with construction toy assemblies is the ability to build complex and large structures that maintain sufficient stability. Many different types of construction systems are known, including loose wooden blocks, mechanically fastened systems such as MEGA BLOKS™, and magnetic construction kits that are held together at least in part by magnetic force.

Although magnetic construction assemblies can be built on any surface, using a ferromagnetic surface (e.g., metal plate) as a substrate on which to place magnetic building components can add to the stability of the construction. FIG. 1a depicts a structure comprising ferromagnetic balls and magnetic rods built on a flat substrate. As shown, a flat plate 2 is used to support upright magnetic rods 4, which in turn support and magnetically bond to ferromagnetic balls 8. A horizontal magnetic rod 6 representing a roof, for example, magnetically bonds to the ferromagnetic spheres 8. The rods can be, for example, plastic cylinders that house at each end a magnet having an exposed or unexposed planar surface.

If plate 2 is a non-magnetic material, plate 2 merely acts as a flat support structure on which the magnetic components can be assembled. Such an assembly may remain together as long as the plate 2 is not moved or the individual components of the magnetic structure are not jostled. If plate 2 is a magnetic body, rods 4 can additionally be attracted to the plate, increasing the stability of the structure. However, although the rods may be magnetically attracted to the plate, it may still be possible for the rods to slide in a horizontal direction with respect to the plate if jostled, or if the plate is moved.

FIG. 1b illustrates an enlarged view of an interface between a magnetic rod 4 and a plate 2. As illustrated, magnetic rod 4 contains an insulating body 4a, such as plastic, and a magnet 4b. Magnet 4b can have a flat outer surface 4c that is recessed from the outer end of the plastic body. Because of this configuration, magnet 4b may not be in direct contact with plate 2 and the magnetic force coupling rod 4 to plate 2 is thereby weaker than in the case of direct contact. For this additional reason, a structure built on a rod 4 may not be anchored strongly enough to plate 2 to provide a desired stability to the overall structure. Indeed, rods 4 may slide across the horizontal surface of plate 2, as represented by the horizontal arrowed lines shown in FIG. 1b.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention provide a novel magnetic toy construction system that provides both increased stability for magnetic construction assemblies as well as increased portability of such assemblies.

An embodiment of the present invention provides a base plate having at least one flexible membrane on top of which building components can be assembled to form a stable structure. The base plate comprises two layers, with at least one of the layers being flexible. The base plate is configured to accept and retain one or more ferromagnetic or magnetic base elements between the two layers. Before the base elements are inserted, the two layers can contact each other or can be spaced apart. The flexible layer stretches to accept and retain the base elements. In one embodiment, the base plate retains ferromagnetic spheres between the layers. The bilayer structure can be configured to provide sufficient mechanical pressure on the base elements to hold the base elements in position, resisting their lateral movement within the volume between the two layers.

In one configuration of the invention, the base plate comprises two opposing flexible membranes, with the base elements retained between the two membranes. The flexible membranes can be mounted on a frame. The frame can include two sub-frames, with one membrane attached to each sub-frame. When the sub-frames are joined together, the resulting frame provides a container to house the base elements. The sub-frames can be configured to attach to each other at a hinge along one side of the frame, or to completely detach from each other. In this manner, the base plate can be opened and closed so that base elements can be added or removed from the base plate and can be positioned at desired locations within the base plate.

The membranes can be configured to have sufficient flexibility and surface friction to accommodate base elements (e.g., spherical elements) that cause local distortions in the membranes. When the base plate is in a closed position, the force exerted on the base elements by the membranes is sufficient to retain the bodies without substantial lateral movement. The base elements contained within the base plate thereby each serve as a stable foundation upon which further ferromagnetic or magnetic elements can be placed (with the flexible membrane in between).

In one configuration of the present invention, the base plate comprises at least one thin flexible membrane, wherein the position of base elements contained therein can be conveniently manually manipulated by exerting pressure through the thin flexible membrane. However, once external manual pressure is removed, the flexible membrane exerts enough force to retain the base elements in position, resisting any substantial lateral movement. Accordingly, a plurality of base elements, such as ferromagnetic spheres, can be arranged in any desired pattern within the base plate, which pattern is then maintained such that a stable magnetic structure can be constructed on the pattern of base elements.

In one embodiment, the base plate is sufficiently rigid such that the entire base plate, including the base elements contained therein as well as a magnetic structure assembled thereon, can be conveniently picked up and transported. As an example, in a base plate having a frame holding two flexible membranes, the frame could provide the necessary rigidity.

In one configuration of the present invention, the base plate is configured in a square or rectangular shape and is housed in a flexible travel case. The travel case can contain a plurality of compartments, including compartments to house the base plate, ferromagnetic spheres, magnetic rods, and other magnetic building components.

In one particular configuration of the present invention, the base plate comprises a frame, at least one portion of which is permanently affixed within a travel case. The lower layer of the base plate can be affixed to or form part of a travel case and the upper layer can be removable to accommodate insertion and removal of the base elements. For example, the lower layer could be a rigid plastic sheet affixed to the travel case and the upper layer could be removably attached to the travel case over the rigid plastic sheet. The travel case can also include separate compartments to temporarily house magnetic building components, such as spheres, rods, circles, triangles, squares, and other structures. The portable travel case therefore provides a convenient surface for assembly of a stable magnetic structure anywhere and anytime a user desires.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1a is a diagram showing a side view of a prior art base plate and magnetic building system.

FIG. 1b is a diagram showing an enlarged cross-sectional view of magnetic rods attached to a plate.

FIGS. 2a-2c are perspective views of exemplary travel case components arranged in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of an exemplary base plate and rod, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Aspects of the present invention relate generally to a base plate having a flexible layer holding in place ferromagnetic or magnetic base elements, over which a magnetic assembly can be built. As used herein, the term “flexible” generally refers to the ability of the layer to deform around the base elements to hold them in place in a manner that a rigid surface, such as metal plate, would not. The flexible layer can also be compressible and tacky to further envelope and hold in place the base elements, and also resist lateral movement of the base elements, especially when the flexible layer is compressed between a base element and a magnetic component, as explained in more detail below.

A flexible layer can be, for example, a membrane made of a thin layer of elastic material. The layer of elastic material could be, for example, a continuous sheet or a fine weave. The overall mechanical properties of the flexible layer can be such that the layer can be reversibly elastically deformed without substantial permanent deformation, so that the layer returns to an initial state after the source of deformation is removed. As an example, the flexible layer can be made of materials such as rubber, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, ethylene propylene diene monomer, polypropylene, latex, vinyl, and nitrile.

FIG. 2a shows a perspective view of a travel case system 100, according to an embodiment of the present invention. As shown, system 100 includes travel case 102, which is depicted in an open position. FIG. 2b illustrates travel case 102 in a closed position, which can be secured shut by, for example, a zipper 103. Travel case 102 can be made of a soft material such as soft vinyl, nylon, or canvas, and can also include more rigid outer surfaces or internal rigid inserts.

Travel case 102 also includes interior compartments 108, 112, 116, and 117 that are accessible when travel case 102 is open. The interior compartments can have opaque covers, such as that of compartment 117, or see-through, transparent, and/or translucent covers, such as the mesh covers of compartments 108, 112, and 116. System 100 includes various building elements 110 and 114 that are housed for storage in compartments 108, 112, and 117, and housed for play in compartment 116. Elements 110 and 114 comprise ferromagnetic spheres or balls and magnetic rods, respectively. However, any other suitably sized magnetic, ferromagnetic, or non-magnetic building pieces can be stored in travel case 102. In the configuration illustrated in FIG. 2a, compartment 116 comprises a base plate having an upper flexible membrane 120 disposed over a lower substrate. Before base elements are inserted, flexible membrane 120 can contact the lower substrate or can be spaced apart from the lower substrate. The lower substrate can be, for example, a rigid sheet of plastic or another flexible membrane.

As shown in FIG. 2a, compartment 116 retains a plurality of ferromagnetic balls 110′, held in position under membrane 120 as represented by the dashed lines depicting balls 110′. In one embodiment of the present invention, frame 119 of compartment 116 comprises a removable upper portion to which membrane 120 is affixed. Accordingly, building elements, such as ferromagnetic balls, can be inserted into and removed from compartment 116. In another embodiment of the present invention, compartment 116 is sealed and contains a preset number of magnetic bodies that are not meant to be removed, but can be moved within compartment 116.

As illustrated in FIG. 2a, magnetic construction assemblies 118 comprising ferromagnetic balls 110 and magnetic rods 114 can be constructed on top of underlying ferromagnetic balls 110′. Membrane 120 exerts sufficient force on the surface of underlying ferromagnetic balls 110′ such that the balls are held in place and do not roll or slide appreciably within compartment 116. However, because of the flexibility and give of the membrane 120, a user can still manipulate the underlying balls 110′ through the membrane, to move the balls 110′ to desired locations. After the user manually moves the balls to the desired locations and releases the balls, the membrane holds the balls in the desired locations. Accordingly, the balls 110′ can be arranged in a pattern that forms a foundation for building one or more structures thereon. For example, four balls 110′ could be arranged within compartment 116 at the corners of a rectangle, which could form the foundation for a rectangular building to be constructed using magnetic rods 114. Magnetic rods 114 could form upright members that are joined together by other magnetic building structures.

In holding base elements in place, the elastic flexible membrane 120 is locally a farther distance from the lower layer in regions where the base elements (e.g., ferromagnetic balls) are located. However, even though the flexible membrane 120 can be stretched in a vertical direction (i.e., a direction above the lower layer), the elastic constant, as well as friction of the membrane 120 are such that the base elements contained under the membrane 120 are held in place and resist lateral movement when no external manipulation is applied. Thus, compartment 116 has the novel properties of having a flexible membrane 120 that can nevertheless maintain a relatively fixed position of base elements held underneath the membrane 120.

System 100 provides the convenience of a travel case that houses all components of a magnetic building assembly, so that a magnetic structure can be constructed anywhere a user takes the travel case 102. For example, the outer portions of travel case 102 can be given sufficient rigidity that travel case 102 could be opened and placed on a user's lap for assembly of a magnetic building structure. Additionally, the novel configuration of compartment 116 imparts stability to magnetic structures assembled thereon because of the ability to retain without substantial lateral movement the spheres or other base element shapes that act as a foundation upon which additional components can be constructed. Thereby, an entire magnetic building structure can be conveniently moved in place by moving the open travel case. Travel case system 100 thus provides a portable magnetic building assembly system that can be conveniently used in any place where the travel case can be opened and placed in a horizontal position.

FIG. 2c illustrates a base plate 104, arranged according to a further embodiment of the present invention. Base plate 104 comprises a compartment 124 configured with two opposing flexible membranes. Compartment 124 can include a frame that can be separated into two pieces over each of which is stretched a flexible membrane. Base elements 105, such as ferromagnetic balls, can be inserted into and removed from between the opposing membranes of compartment 124, as represented by the dashed lines depicting base elements 105. Base plate 104 can be used as a standalone substrate upon which to build magnetic structures, as described above with respect to travel case 102. Base plate 104 could also be housed in a case, such as travel case 102.

By providing two opposing flexible membranes housed in a rigid frame, base plate 104 allows a user more flexibility in manipulating base elements contained therein. For example, a building structure comprising ferromagnetic and magnetic components can be erected on the outside of one of the membranes of base plate 104, building off of ferromagnetic balls contained within compartment 124. After assembly of the building structure, the entire base plate 104 can be lifted off of a work surface by grasping the frame region. The ferromagnetic balls 105 can be manipulated through the flexible membrane on the opposite side of the membrane on which the structure is built. This might be useful if it were necessary to slightly adjust the position of the foundation of a building (e.g., as provided by ferromagnetic balls in between the two flexible membranes) after the building has already been assembled.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged view of a cross section of a base plate 140, arranged in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. As depicted, spheres 144 are held between two flexible membranes 142a, 142b. Membranes 142a, 142b are attached to frame 146 such that in the absence of spheres 144 (or any other element having a dimension exceeding the distance D2 between membranes 142a, 142b), the membranes 142a, 142b lie generally in respective planes A-A′ and B-B′. As represented by dashed lines 147, frame 146 can be a two-part frame to allow the membranes 142a, 142b to be separated and brought together so that base elements such as spheres 144 can be inserted into and removed from the base plate 140.

In this example, membranes 142a, 142b are made of the same material, therefore having the same deformation characteristics (e.g., in terms of elasticity). Accordingly, the maximum distortion of membrane 142a in the Z direction (the vertical direction in FIG. 3) is about (D1−D2)/2. A similar distortion occurs for membrane 142b. Preferably, the elastic properties of membranes 142a and 142b are such that, when deformed as represented in FIG. 3, the elastic force exerted upon each of spheres 144 is sufficient to hold the spheres in place without excessive lateral movement (e.g., the spheres would stay in place if the frame 146 is shaken and would only move upon manipulation by a user). Additionally, the frictional properties of the inner surfaces of membranes 142a and 142b can be tailored to reduce the tendency of the spheres to rotate or slide.

As depicted in FIG. 3, the diameter D1 of spheres 144 can be arranged to be significantly greater than the separation D2 between membranes when base plate 140 is closed. Thus, when spheres 144 are placed between membranes 142a, 142b and base plate 140 is closed, the membranes elastically deform around the outer portions of the spheres and conform to the contour of the spheres along a portion of a sphere surface. A distribution of forces results in the deformed membrane including a force normal to the plane of the base plate and forces at oblique angles, which distribution tends to retain a sphere in place.

As illustrated, a magnetic rod component 4 can be placed directly above a ferromagnetic sphere 144, magnetically coupled to the sphere 144 with the membrane 142a sandwiched in between. The radius of sphere 144 is such that, even though magnet 4b is recessed within the lower surface of rod 4, magnet 4b can contact or nearly contact the upper surface of sphere 144. In one embodiment of the present invention, the thickness of membrane 142a is substantially less than the depth of the recess R. Accordingly, membrane 142a does not prevent sphere 144 from coming into close contact with magnet 4b. For example, recess R can be on the order of 10-50 mils, while the thickness of membrane 142a can be on the order of a few tenths of a mil to about 10 mils (e.g., about 0.2-10 mils).

Because membranes 142a, 142b are relatively thin, the membranes can be pinched between ferromagnetic spheres 144 and external magnetic components that are recessed, as exemplified in FIG. 3. This pinching can help to maintain the position of the external magnetic component with respect to the underlying sphere. For example, the pinched membrane can prevent a magnetic rod from sliding or rotating around a ferromagnetic sphere. In addition, the pinching and tackiness of the membrane can help resist lateral movement of a sphere 144 and rod 4.

It is to be noted that the number, placement, and spacing of ferromagnetic or magnetic base elements contained in base plate 140 can affect the rigidity with which the bodies are held in place. For example, spheres placed near the frame may be more rigidly held than those placed toward the center of the base plate. This variation in clamping force allows a user the ability to configure the degree of “give” in the position of the underlying base elements, adding to the enjoyment of the construction process.

In addition, in the case of spherical ferromagnetic bodies held within a base plate, a certain degree of movement or rotation around the top of the spheres may occur for magnetic rods or other structures placed thereon, as represented by the arrow 170 in FIG. 3. However, because the elastic membrane may be pinched between the sphere and overlying magnetic component, the bottom of the overlying component may still be prevented from moving with respect to the sphere. Thus, rotation of the overlying component may tend to cause the elastic membrane to stretch and thereby induce an extra elastic force within the membrane that tends to restore the position of the overlying magnetic component to the pre-rotation position. Thus, the overall magnetic superstructure built on such a flexible substrate may have some “give,” while still tending to hold together.

In one embodiment, membrane 142a is pinched between the rod 4 and the sphere 144 such that the rod 4 is prevented from moving relative to the sphere 144, wherein upon application of a force to the rod 4 (e.g., a force applied generally horizontal to rod 4 in FIG. 3), the rod 4 moves or rotates by virtue of the stretching membrane 142a, while the rod 4 and the sphere 144 remain magnetically coupled and positionally fixed with respect to each other. Upon removal of the force, the membrane 142a then retracts to restore the rod 4 and sphere 144 to their initial position.

In another embodiment of the present invention, a base plate for a magnetic assembly comprises a compartment having a first planar surface that is relatively rigid, and an opposing surface that is flexible. For example the opposing surface can be a flexible membrane, as described above. The rigid surface can be configured with retaining structures designed to retain or hold in place the magnetic or ferromagnetic base elements. Such structures could comprise, for example, holes, rings, or recesses. For example, the rigid surface could have an egg carton configuration with an array of recesses (e.g., cups or other shaped concave surfaces) designed to accommodate spheres. After closing the compartment with the spheres contained therein, a user could manipulate the spheres through the top flexible membrane to place the spheres in desired recesses within the array. Thus, a user could arrange spheres in the base plate at any point within a regular array, so that constructions built thereon have a uniform spacing of elements. In addition, the retention features of the rigid surface (e.g., holes, rings, or recesses) can further hold the spheres in place to provide additional rigidity to a construction assembly.

As described above, base elements retained within a base plate can be magnetic or ferromagnetic. Thus, although some of the embodiments shown and described herein use ferromagnetic spheres, the present invention is not limited to such embodiments. Alternatively, the base elements could comprise magnetic spheres, to which ferromagnetic rods are connected. In another embodiment, the base elements could comprise magnetic or ferromagnetic rods of a dimension suitable for occupying the volume between the layers of the base plate and for being retained in place within that volume by the flexible layer. Balls or rods could then be built upon the rods retained within the volume. In yet another embodiment, base elements could comprise magnets shaped as, for example, cylinders, discs, or rings, and sized appropriately for the flexible layer to retain them in place.

An aspect of the present invention provides a method for building a magnetic toy construction using a flexible layer to retain base elements of the construction. In an embodiment of this method, a flexible layer is first provided over a substrate. Base elements are then inserted between the flexible layer and the substrate such that the flexible layer stretches over the base elements and holds them in place. The base elements can be inserted by squeezing them between the flexible layer and the substrate, or by first separating the flexible layer and the substrate, placing the base elements on the substrate, and then placing the flexible layer over top of the base elements. The flexible layer and the substrate can be, for example, hingedly connected on a frame structure, in which case the frame structure is opened, the base elements are placed, and the frame structure is closed. Optionally, after placing the flexible layer over the base elements, the base elements can be manipulated through the flexible layer to position them at desired locations. With the flexible layer stretched over the base elements and holding the base elements in place, the method can continue by magnetically coupling further magnetic or ferromagnetic components to the base elements, with the flexible layer in between.

The foregoing disclosure of the preferred embodiments of the present invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Many variations and modifications of the embodiments described herein will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art in light of the above disclosure. The scope of the invention is to be defined only by the claims, and by their equivalents.

Further, in describing representative embodiments of the present invention, the specification may have presented the method and/or process of the present invention as a particular sequence of steps. However, to the extent that the method or process does not rely on the particular order of steps set forth herein, the method or process should not be limited to the particular sequence of steps described. As one of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate, other sequences of steps may be possible. Therefore, the particular order of the steps set forth in the specification should not be construed as limitations on the claims. In addition, the claims directed to the method and/or process of the present invention should not be limited to the performance of their steps in the order written, and one skilled in the art can readily appreciate that the sequences may be varied and still remain within the spirit and scope of the present invention.