Title:
KINETIC WALL SYSTEM AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retractable wall system for a structure such as a building includes a torque tube and a kinetic wall member that is secured to the torque tube. A shaft that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube is secured to the structure so that rotation with respect to the structure is precluded. A drive mechanism that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube is constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotational position of the shaft with respect to the torque tube so that the wall member may be moved with respect to the structure. An electronic control system may be provided for monitoring and controlling movement of the kinetic wall member with respect to the structure. The electronic control system may be integrated with other control systems of the structure, such as the electronic control system of the structure's HVAC system.



Inventors:
Becker, Michael (NEW HOPE, MN, US)
Fervoy, Peter (ST. PAUL, MN, US)
Kline, Timothy J. (MINNETONKA, MN, US)
Krueger, Alexander (RICHFIELD, MN, US)
Krzmarzick, Dan (BLOOMINGTON, MN, US)
Nielsen, Lennart (EDINA, MN, US)
Riberich, Barton L. (BROOKLYN PARK, MN, US)
Silberman, Cyril (MINNETONKA, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/041902
Publication Date:
09/10/2009
Filing Date:
03/04/2008
Assignee:
UNI-SYSTEMS, LLC (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/741.1
International Classes:
E04B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BARLOW, ADAM G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE PATENTWISE GROUP, LLC (Wallingford, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A retractable wall for a structure, comprising: a torque tube; a wall member that is secured to said torque tube; a shaft that is at least partially positioned within said torque tube, said shaft being secured to the structure so that rotation with respect to the structure is precluded; and a drive mechanism positioned at least partially within said torque tube, said drive mechanism being constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotatable position of said shaft with respect to said torque tube, whereby said wall member may be moved with respect to the structure.

2. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 1, wherein said drive mechanism comprises a motor, said motor being positioned within said torque tube.

3. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 2, wherein said drive mechanism further comprises a reduction gearing assembly that is interposed between said motor and said shaft, said reduction gearing assembly being positioned within said torque tube.

4. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 3, wherein said reduction gearing assembly comprises planetary gearing.

5. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 2, wherein said motor comprises an electric motor.

6. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 1, further comprising a removable access panel that is mounted on said torque tube for permitting access to said drive mechanism.

7. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 1, wherein said drive mechanism comprises an electronic control system for selectively controlling the position of said wall member with respect to the structure.

8. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 7, wherein said electronic control system comprises at least one sensor for monitoring the position of said wall member with respect to the structure.

9. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 8, wherein said sensor comprises an absolute encoder.

10. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 8, wherein said sensor comprises at least one limit switch.

11. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 5, wherein said drive mechanism comprises a variable frequency drive.

12. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 7, wherein said electronic control system is programmable.

13. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 12, wherein said electronic control system is in electronic communication with an HVAC system of the structure.

14. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 1, further comprising sealing means for sealing said wall member with respect to the structure.

15. A retractable wall for a structure according to claim 1, wherein said wall member comprises a plurality of thermal breaks.

16. A method of retrofitting a structure to incorporate a kinetic wall member, comprising steps of: removing a portion of a pre-existing wall within the structure to form a wall opening; providing a retractable wall assembly that includes a torque tube; a wall member that is secured to the torque tube; a shaft that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube, and a drive mechanism positioned at least partially within the torque tube, the drive mechanism being constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotatable position of said shaft with respect to the torque tube; mounting the retractable wall assembly within the wall opening so that the shaft is secured to the structure so that rotation of the shaft with respect to the structure is precluded, whereby the wall member may be selectively positioned within and retracted from the wall opening by operating the drive mechanism.

17. A method of retrofitting a structure to incorporate a kinetic wall member according to claim 16, further comprising a step of operating the drive mechanism to move said wall member with respect to said wall opening.

18. A method of operating a kinetic wall member with respect to a structure to which it is mounted, comprising steps of: determining a first position of a kinetic wall member with respect to the structure to which it is mounted; and moving said kinetic wall member to a second position by operating a drive mechanism to cause rotational displacement between a shaft that is mounted to the structure and a torque tube that is mounted to a kinetic wall member.

19. A method according to claim 18, wherein said step of moving said kinetic wall member comprises a step of programming an electronic control system that is constructed and arranged to control operation of said drive mechanism.

20. A method according to claim 18, further comprising a step of electronically monitoring the position of the kinetic wall member with respect to the structure.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to structures such as buildings or stadiums. More specifically, this invention relates to a kinetic wall system for such structures.

2. Description of the Related Technology

Structures such as buildings are from time to time provided with kinetic walls, which for purposes of this document may be defined as kinetic sections of a wall or bulkhead that are larger than a typical door, e.g. having a surface area on one side that is greater than about 30 ft.2.

The term kinetic wall also applies to large kinetic or movable structural members that are used for purposes of providing shade or providing a surface to which photovoltaic cells are mounted for gathering electrical energy.

Conventionally, kinetic walls have been operated by using cables, linkage arms or struts that are unsightly, require maintenance because of their exposure to the environment and may interfere with the function of the structure in which they are being used. In addition, many conventional kinetic wall designs lack sufficient strength and durability for many purposes.

A need exists for an improved kinetic wall system and method that provides improved aesthetics, strength and durability with respect to conventional designs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide an improved kinetic wall system and method that exhibits improved aesthetics, strength and durability with respect to conventional designs.

In order to achieve the above and other objects of the invention, a retractable wall for a structure according to a first aspect of the invention includes a torque tube; a wall member that is secured to the torque tube; a shaft that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube, the shaft being secured to the structure so that rotation with respect to the structure is precluded; and a drive mechanism positioned at least partially within the torque tube, the drive mechanism being constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotatable position of the shaft with respect to the torque tube, whereby the wall member may be moved with respect to the structure.

According to a second aspect of the invention, a method of retrofitting a structure to incorporate a kinetic wall member includes steps of removing a portion of a pre-existing wall within the structure to form a wall opening; providing a retractable wall assembly that includes a torque tube; a wall member that is secured to the torque tube; a shaft that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube, and a drive mechanism positioned at least partially within the torque tube, the drive mechanism being constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotatable position of said shaft with respect to the torque tube; mounting the retractable wall assembly within the wall opening so that the shaft is secured to the structure so that rotation of the shaft with respect to the structure is precluded, whereby the wall member may be selectively positioned within and retracted from the wall opening by operating the drive mechanism.

A method of operating a kinetic wall member with respect to a structure to which it is mounted according to a third aspect of the invention includes steps of determining a first position of a kinetic wall member with respect to the structure to which it is mounted; and moving the kinetic wall member to a second position by operating a drive mechanism to cause rotational displacement between a shaft that is mounted to the structure and a torque tube that is mounted to a kinetic wall member.

These and various other advantages and features of novelty that characterize the invention are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed hereto and forming a part hereof. However, for a better understanding of the invention, its advantages, and the objects obtained by its use, reference should be made to the drawings which form a further part hereof, and to the accompanying descriptive matter, in which there is illustrated and described a preferred embodiment of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatical isometric view of a kinetic wall that is constructed according to a preferred embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded diagrammatical view of the kinetic wall that is shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an enlarged view of the area that is indicated at 3-3 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged view of the area that is indicated at 4-4 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary side elevational view of the kinetic wall that is shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the area that is indicated at 6-6 in FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 7-7 in FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is an enlarged view of the area that is indicated at 8-8 in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is an enlarged view of the area that is indicated at 9-9 in FIG. 5;

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 10-10 in FIG. 5;

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 11-11 in FIG. 5;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 12-12 in FIG. 5

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view taken along lines 13-13 in FIG. 5; and

FIG. 14 is a schematic diagram depicting a control system for the kinetic wall that is shown in FIGS. 1-13.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

Referring now to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding structure throughout the views, and referring in particular to FIG. 1, a kinetic wall assembly 10 that is constructed according to a preferred embodiment of the invention is mounted for movement with respect to a structure 12. Structure 12 may be an edifice such as a building, stadium or monument.

Kinetic wall assembly 10 preferably and advantageously includes a torque tube 14, which in the illustrated embodiment is positioned at an upper portion of the kinetic wall 10 and extends for the entire length of the kinetic wall 10 along the horizontal axis as it is shown in FIGS. 1, 2 and 5. In the illustrated embodiment, kinetic wall 10 includes a wall member 16 that is securely mounted to the torque tube 14 so as to be immobilized with respect to the torque tube 14. Accordingly, wall member 16 is constructed so as to rotate together with the torque tube 14, as will be described in greater detail below. Torque tube 14 could alternatively be oriented vertically so that the kinetic door assembly could open as a large door would, or it could be positioned at the bottom of the wall member 16. It is preferably, although not necessarily, positioned at an edge of the wall member 16.

To meet a variety of architectural requirements, the kinetic wall assembly 10 can allow for an opening in a building facade or within the interior of a building. It could also be used in an outdoor environment to provide shade for a sheltered area or patio, or to support photovoltaic cells. The torque tube 14 and any needed mullions are preferably constructed out of steel.

The kinetic wall assembly 10 is designed to function under load conditions that may occur as a result of wind forces, snow loads or other external pressures.

Wall member 16 in the illustrated embodiment includes three different panel sections 18, 20, 22 that are fabricated out of insulated glass panels. Each of the panel sections 18, 20, 22 are securely mounted to the torque tube 14 and to the adjacent panel section or panel sections. The wall panel could alternatively be constructed out of any number of materials including but not limited to, glass, wood, tensioned fabric, or perforated steel, whichever material best performs the selected function of the kinetic wall assembly 10. Alternatively, a single panel or any other number of panels could be used.

Referring now to FIG. 2, it will be seen that the kinetic wall 10 further preferably includes a shaft 24 that is at least partially positioned within the torque tube 14. Shaft 24 is secured to the structure 12 so that rotation between the shaft 24 and the structure 12 is precluded.

Kinetic wall 10 further includes a drive mechanism 26 that is positioned at least partially within the torque tube 14. Drive mechanism 26 is constructed and arranged to selectively change a rotatable position of the shaft 24 with respect to the torque tube 14, so that the wall member 10 may be moved with respect to the structure 12.

In the preferred embodiment, the drive mechanism 26 is positioned so as to be entirely within the torque tube 14, and the shaft 24 is positioned so as to be substantially entirely within the torque tube 14.

Preferably, the kinetic wall 10 includes two drive mechanisms 26 and two shafts 24 that are positioned within opposite ends of the torque tube 14 and are symmetrically opposed to each other. Alternatively, only a single drive mechanism 26 could be used.

Shaft 24 in the preferred embodiment includes a spline shaft 28 that is keyed at a first distal end to a bearing flange 34, which is connected to a mounting bracket 38 by bolts 40 so that the spline shaft 28, the bearing flange 34 and the mounting bracket 38 are rotationally immobilized with respect to each other. This is best illustrated in FIG. 6. A second proximal end of the spline shaft 28 is keyed to an output portion of a reduction gear assembly 68 that is part of the drive mechanism 26. A shaft collar 30 and a spacer member 32 are provided to maintain spacing between the spline shaft 28 and the mounting bracket 38. The mounting bracket 38 is securely mounted to the structure 12 so that it is completely immobilized with respect to the structure 12.

The bearing flange 34 and a bearing 36 are provided in order to permit rotational movement between the spline shaft 28 and the torque tube 14 under load conditions. The purpose of the bearings 36, which are provided at opposing ends of the torque tube 14, is to restrain the motion of the wall member 16 to allow for pure rotation with respect to the structure 12. This bearing 36 can be made from a variety of materials, although it is preferably made from ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene, oil impregnated bronze or it could be embodied as a rolling element bearing.

An adjustable physical stop 37 is preferably provided to physically constrain relative rotation between the shaft 24 and torque tube 14, and thus the permitted degree of travel of the kinetic wall assembly 10, between first and second extreme limits of travel. Adjustable physical stop 37, which is best shown in FIG. 3, includes a first adjustable stop member 39 and a second adjustable stop member 41, which in the preferred embodiment are constructed as threaded bolts having bearing heads. Stop members 39, 41 are constructed and arranged to bear against respective stop surfaces on the bearing flange 34 at the respective extreme limits of travel.

Referring now to FIG. 4, which is an enlargement of the area that is indicated at 4-4 in FIG. 2, a mounting bracket 42 is mounted for movement with the spline shaft 28 and accordingly with the shaft 24. A secondary sensor bracket 50 is connected to the mounting bracket 42. A first limit switch 46 and a second limit switch 48 are both positioned on the secondary sensor bracket 50. A speed sensor 47 is also provided on the bracket 42. The first and second limit switches 46, 48 are in communication with a controller 56, which will be described in greater detail below.

As may be seen in FIG. 3, a first limit stop 62, a second limit stop 64 and a speed sensor bracket 60 are fixed to an interior surface of the torque tube 14. Referring briefly to FIGS. 7 and 8, it will be seen that the first limit switch 46 will be substantially in contact with limit stop 62 when the shaft 24 is in a first rotational position with respect to the torque tube 14, namely the position that corresponds to the vertical orientation of the kinetic wall 10 that is shown in FIG. 1. The second limit switch 48 will be substantially in contact with the limit stop 64 when the shaft 24 is in a second rotational position with respect to the torque tube 14, namely a horizontal orientation.

In this embodiment of the invention, the kinetic wall 10 is constructed so as to permit a displacement of 90°, or between a downward vertical position and a substantially horizontal position. However, kinetic wall 10 could alternatively be constructed so as to permit 180° travel between, for example, a downward vertical position and an upward vertical position. In such an embodiment, the limit stops 62, 64 would be positioned 180° apart in order to correspond to the permitted extent of travel.

FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the kinetic wall 10. FIG. 6 is an at-large view of the area that is indicated at 6-6 in FIG. 5. FIG. 6 depicts the relationship between the gear reduction assembly 68, the spline shaft 28, the torque tube 14, the bearing 36 and a mounting bracket 38 in their operative positions.

As FIG. 7 shows, the torque tube 14 is securely mounted to the wall member 16 by means of a welding bracket 74, which preferably has a first portion that is welded to an external surface of the torque tube 14 and a second portion that is connected to the panel section 22, in this case using structural adhesive. In the illustrated embodiment, which contains a number of window panels, the mullions of the window panel assembly are preferably connected directly to the torque tube 14.

A seal system is preferably positioned around the perimeter of the wall member 16, effectively sealing the interior envelope from the exterior envelope. The seals prevent air and water filtration through the device. A number of thermal breaks are present in the wall member 16 as well to prevent frost or condensate from building up on the device.

FIG. 10 depicts an elastomeric seal member 76 that includes an elastomeric pneumatic bumper that is secured to the window frame weldment 78 by means of a seal strip 80 and a plurality of screws 82. The elastomeric seal member 76 preferably includes an extension 84 that provides thermal insulation to an end portion of the window frame weldment 78.

As FIG. 11 shows, the seal system also includes a lower elastomeric seal member 86 that is secured to a lower end of the window frame weldment 78 by a sealing strip 87 and a plurality of screws 88. The lower elastomeric seal member 86 preferably includes an extension 90 that provides thermal insulation between the window frame weldment 78 and a kick plate 92 that is secured to a lower frontal portion of the window frame weldment 78.

The drive mechanism 26 preferably includes a motor 70 that in the preferred embodiment is an electric motor, but could alternatively be a pneumatic or hydraulically driven motor. Motor 70 is coupled to the reduction gear assembly 68, which preferably is a planetary gear based reduction drive. The reduction gear assembly 68 requires a lubrication system and the provision of an expansion tank 96, as is shown in FIG. 12. Both the motor 70 and the reduction gear assembly 68 are preferably mounted entirely within the torque tube 14.

A pair of rekinetic access panels 72 are provided on the torque tube 14 in order to provide convenient access to the motor 70, the reduction gear assembly 68 and other components of the kinetic wall 10 that are positioned within the torque tube 14. An additional cover is provided for access to the electrical panel.

The expansion tank 96 is also secured to the torque tube 14. As the outer portion of the reducing gear assembly 68 rotates with the tube 14, a simple breather can not be used as the breather could become submerged below the oil level. A diaphragm expansion tank 96 keeps constant pressure in the reducer while allowing the air to expand with temperature. This permits operation of the lubrication system 94 without requiring a more complicated pumping system.

Advantageously, the expansion tank 96 is also secured to the torque tube 14, and is oriented so that it will be positioned above the reduction gear assembly 68 throughout the entire possible range of travel of the torque tube 14 and the kinetic wall 10 with respect to the structure 12. This advantageously permits operation of the lubrication system 94 without requiring a more complicated pumping system.

FIG. 14 is a schematic diagram depicting a control system 56 that is employed in the preferred embodiment of the invention. The control system 56 is preferably CPU based and is preferably programmable. Input is received by the control system 56 from the limit switches 46, 48 in order to inform the control system 56 that the kinetic wall assembly 10 has reached its respective extreme limits of travel. Instead of proximity sensors, an absolute encoder 98 may be provided in order to provide the control system 56 with continuous information as to the position of the kinetic wall assembly 10 over its entire range of travel.

Preferably, each motor 70 is an electric motor that utilizes a variable frequency drive (VFD) that synchronizes the input voltage to provide the correct voltage and frequency to the drive motors 70. This allows the kinetic wall assembly 10 to function at a variety of different input voltages. The control system 56 may accordingly be programmed to provide for variable speeds during operation. The control system 56 may monitor the speed of wall movement by receiving input from the speed sensor 47 shown in FIG. 3.

The kinetic wall assembly 10 may for example be programmed to begin the opening or closing stroke by gently increasing operating speed through mid-stroke, and slows near the end of the stroke before coming to a stop. This variable speed protects the mechanism from immoderate wear, effectively increasing the life of the kinetic wall assembly 10.

The control system 56 can accommodate whatever function the kinetic wall assembly 10 is serving. For example, the control system 56 could be programmed to respond to a manually operated constant pressure push button 102 or the control system 56 could be integrated with the heating and ventilation system 100 of the structure 12 to synchronize the operation of the kinetic wall assembly 10 with the operation of a climate controlled space.

Additionally, the inclusion of a programmable logic controller (PLC) 104 provides the ability to program and reprogram the control system 56. The kinetic wall assembly 10 then, for example, could position and reposition itself as necessary at a requested optimal angle to the sun to allow the use of solar panels that are mounted on the wall member 16, or alternatively, act as a sunshade. Utilizing the PLC 104 and integrating the control system with the structure's heating and ventilation system 100, the kinetic wall assembly 10 could be used to allow ventilation air to enter or leave a space.

A pre-existing structure 12 could also be retrofitted in order to incorporate the kinetic wall assembly 10. This would involve removing a portion of a pie-existing wall within the structure 12 to form a wall opening. The wall assembly 10 as described above would then be provided and would be mounted within the wall opening so that the shaft 24 is secured to the structure 12 so that rotation of the shaft 24 with respect to the structure 12 is precluded. The wall member 16 may then be selectively positioned using the control system 56 within and retracted from the wall opening by operating the drive mechanism 26.

A method of operating the kinetic wall system 10 would include a first step of determining a first position of the kinetic wall member 16 with respect to the structure 12 to which it is mounted. The kinetic wall member 16 would then be moved to a second position by operating the drive mechanism 26 to cause rotational displacement between the shaft 24 that is mounted to the structure 12 and the torque tube 14 that is mounted to the kinetic wall member 16.

It is to be understood, however, that even though numerous characteristics and advantages of the present invention have been set forth in the foregoing description, together with details of the structure and function of the invention, the disclosure is illustrative only, and changes may be made in detail, especially in matters of shape, size and arrangement of parts within the principles of the invention to the full extent indicated by the broad general meaning of the terms in which the appended claims are expressed.