Title:
MODULAR FLOOR SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular floor system employing shared loading between adjacent panels. The modular floor system is comprised of a plurality of lower panels with each panel having interlocking features and a plurality of upper panels with each panel having interlocking features. The lower panels are arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other. The upper panels are similarly arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other and positioned above the lower panels. The pattern of upper panels is arranged such that each upper panel interlocking features engages with the complementary interlocking features of a plurality of lower panels. The resulting unified structure forms a substantially planar surface.



Inventors:
Bly, Robert Russell (Wellington, OH, US)
Application Number:
12/417684
Publication Date:
10/08/2009
Filing Date:
04/03/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/747.1
International Classes:
E04F15/16; E04B5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
AKBASLI, ALP A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROBERT R BLY (WELLINGTON, OH, US)
Claims:
Having described the invention, I claim:

1. A modular floor system comprising: a plurality of lower panels, each panel having interlocking features; a plurality of upper panels, each panel having interlocking features; wherein said lower panels are arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other; wherein said upper panels are arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other and positioned above said lower panels; and wherein said pattern of upper panels are arranged such that each said upper panel interlocking features engages with a complementary interlocking feature of a plurality of lower panels.

2. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein said engagement of said upper panels with said lower panels forms a unified substantially planar surface.

3. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein an external load is shared by a plurality of said upper and lower panels.

4. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein each said lower panel is offset longitudinally from a latitudinally adjacent lower panel.

5. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein each said upper panel is offset longitudinally from a latitudinally adjacent upper panel and interlocks with at least two said lower panels.

6. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein said upper and lower panels are the same configuration.

7. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein said upper panels are not the same configuration as said lower panels.

8. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein said upper and lower panels are extruded.

9. The modular floor system of claim 8 wherein said panels are plastic.

10. The modular floor system of claim 1 wherein said each upper and lower panels further comprise a rib that automatically aligns and interlocks with a complementary feature on an opposing mating panel.

11. A method of constructing a modular floor system comprising: arranging a plurality of lower panels adjacent to each other; positioning a plurality of upper panels adjacent to each other and above said lower panels; and moving said upper panels into engagement with said lower panels such that a unified substantially planar surface is formed.

12. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of positioning each said upper panel such that it interlocks with at least two said lower panels.

13. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of displacing longitudinally each said lower panel from a latitudinally adjacent lower panel.

14. The method of claim 11 further comprising the step of displacing longitudinally each said upper panel from a latitudinally adjacent upper panel.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/072,789 for MODULAR FLOOR SYSTEM filed Apr. 3, 2008, the entire disclosure of which is fully incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

A modular floor system is a semi-permanent surface assembled using a plurality of smaller, usually identical floor panels to provide a stable, uniform and durable surface. These floor systems are typically installed over rigid surfaces such as concrete or semi-rigid surfaces such as grass or sand to provide a temporary platform for a variety of uses. Care must be taken in that some conventional edge joined modular floor systems installed over semi-rigid surfaces will tend to “unlock” from the adjacent panels during use creating a hazard, especially for foot traffic. Other uses include covering and protecting surfaces from non-intended uses such as covering over a polished wooden basketball floor to prevent damage from hard-soled shoes or covering an ice rink so that it can be used for other functions.

Floor panels are typically square in shape although other shapes have been used such as rectangular or polygonal. The panels are formed from a variety of materials including wood, plastic or metal and usually include complementary interlocking features around the periphery so as join with adjacent panels to form a unified structure. The key aspects of modular floor systems are that they can be quickly and easily assembled and disassembled and therefore easily transported and stored.

SUMMARY

The present invention relates to a modular floor system employing shared loading between adjacent panels. The modular floor system is comprised of a plurality of lower panels with each panel having interlocking features and a plurality of upper panels with each panel having interlocking features. The lower panels are arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other. The upper panels are similarly arranged in a pattern adjacent to each other and positioned above the lower panels. The pattern of upper panels is arranged such that each upper panel interlocking features engages with the complementary interlocking features of a plurality of lower panels. The resulting unified structure forms a substantially planar surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a modular floor system according to one embodiment of the present invention with one corner area partially assembled to show construction;

FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of the partially assembled corner area of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is a cross-sectional view of a modular floor system panel according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3B is an enlarged portion of FIG. 3A illustrating several interlocking features;

FIG. 3C is an enlarged portion of FIG. 3A illustrating an interlocking feature;

FIG. 4A is a cross-sectional view of an alternate modular floor system panel according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4B is a cross-sectional view of an alternate modular floor system panel according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4C is a cross-sectional view of an alternate modular floor system panel according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a modular floor system according to one embodiment of the present invention depicting assembly of the modular floor system panels;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of an assembled modular floor system according to one embodiment of the present invention taken along section 6-6 in FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged portion of FIG. 6 illustrating the interlocking features.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A modular floor system 10 as illustrated in FIGS. 1-2 includes interlocking upper panels 12, lower panels 14 and edge covers 16. According to one embodiment of the present invention, upper panels 12 and lower panels 14 are preferably the same so as to facilitate ease of manufacture and resulting cost savings. As will be described in more detail later, alternate embodiments of the present invention could include upper and lower panels that are constructed differently to tailor the floor system for a specific uses.

In describing one embodiment of the present invention, the upper panels 12 and lower panels 14 will be assumed to be identical such that the description from hereafter, unless otherwise described, will be the same for both panels. Panel 12 is typically constructed of plastic, but other materials are possible such as aluminum. Panel 12 is made by first extruding plastic such as polypropylene, polyvinylchloride (PVC) or any other suitable plastic material into a typical cross-sectional shape as shown in FIG. 3A. The plastic extrusion process is especially well-suited for producing panels 12 since it provides a cost efficient means of producing a consistent cross-section and allows the variability of making different lengths. Cross-sectional width W and thickness T can be designed to any practical size, but it is usually dictated by a combination of manufacturing and application considerations. Typical panel 12 widths are 8, 12 and 16 inches although other widths are easily feasible. Likewise, a typical panel 12 thickness is approximately 0.5 inch, although it can be made larger such as 1 inch, 2 inches or greater depending on the application.

Individual panels 12 are formed by cutting the extruded plastic shape to any desired length, but preferably even lengths such as 2, 4 or 8 feet. The panel 12 length can be tailored to a specific application which may involve a variety of factors such as shipping and handling considerations, and ease of assembly or disassembly. For instance, a typical homeowner application may require shorter length panels than those used for commercial applications.

FIG. 3A illustrates a typical cross-sectional shape of extruded panel 12. Panel 12 is extruded as a unified structure and is comprised of outer surface 20, inner surface 22, main latch 24, side latches 26, ribs 28 and locking ribs 30 and is essentially symmetrical about a vertical centerline through main latch 24. Since panel 12 is formed by the extrusion process, these features are consistent throughout the length of the panel. The outer surface 20 is generally planar but can include surface treatments or features to enhance aesthetics or functional characteristics such as a decorative wood grain lamination for appearance and scratch resistance, grooves or texture for traction purposes, or perforations for drainage or ventilation. The inner surface 22 is generally planar and essentially parallel to outer surface 20. Main latch 24 is located substantially around the midpoint of the cross-sectional shape, but in an alternate embodiment can be offset in either direction depending on the panel overlap required for a particular application. Side latches 26 are located along the longitudinal sides of the extrusion and are designed to mate with main latch 24. Ribs 28 project substantially perpendicular from inner surface 22 and are located symmetrically to either side of main latch 24.

Referring to FIG. 3B, main latch 24 is comprised of a central portion 32 which projects substantially perpendicular from inner surface 22, two locking flanges 34, and two alignment flanges 36 that form recess 38. Locking flanges 34 project laterally outward from central portion 32 at approximately the midpoint while alignment flanges 36 project laterally outward and then downward to form recess 38.

Referring to FIG. 3C, side latches 26 are located along the longitudinal sides of the extrusion and include body portion 40, hook 42 and side flange 44. Body portion 40 extends substantially perpendicular from inner surface 22 and is designed to flex laterally during assembly or disassembly of the floor system 10. Hook 42 is located at the end of body portion 40 and projects laterally outward. The angles of the two sloping surfaces on hook 42 are designed to permit easy assembly and positive locking between panels 12 but yet allow disassembly when required.

FIGS. 4A-4B illustrate alternate cross-sectional shapes of panel 12 that are similar to that shown in FIG. 3A but differ in the design of main latch 24 and corresponding side latches 26. FIG. 4C is yet another alternate cross-sectional shape of panel 12 with a different design of main latch 24 and side latches 26 but illustrating a possible asymmetrical cross-sectional shape.

Referring to FIGS. 1-2, the assembly of floor system 10 will be described using upper panels 12 and lower panels 14 for clarity of orientation, although it is still assumed that both panels 12 and 14 are identical in construction and configuration. Assembly begins by first arranging multiple lower panels 14 with outer surface 20 in contact with the surface to be covered. Lower panels 14 adjacent in the longitudinal direction are positioned with their ends touching and their extruded features aligned longitudinally. Lower panels 14 adjacent in the latitudinal direction are positioned such that their ends are offset from each other in a longitudinal direction so as to create a longitudinal overlap when upper panels 12 are assembled. The longitudinal offset of adjacent lower panels 14 can be as little as two inches or as much as half the longitudinal length depending on the specific application. The longitudinal offset pattern can be a simple staggering of every other latitudinal lower panel 14 or can follow a staggering pattern spread over multiple adjacent panels. For instance, the first adjacent lower panel 14 can be offset by four inches; the next lower panel 14 is offset by an additional four inches, and so on until the pattern repeats. Once the entire field of lower panels 14 is installed over the surface to be covered, the lower panels 14 can be easily trimmed with an appropriate cutting tool to create a straight edge on each longitudinal end of floor system 10 or left as staggered edge created by the longitudinal panel offset.

FIG. 5 illustrates a typical orientation and assembly of upper panels 12 onto lower panels 14. Upper panels 12 and lower panel 14 with the cross-sectional shape shown in FIG. 3A are shown in a partially assembled state with one upper panel 12 assembled with a lower panel 14 and another upper panel 12 positioned for assembly. Upper panels 12 are positioned and installed on lower panels 14 such that they are offset latitudinally from lower panel 14 by half the width of each panel. Like the arrangement of lower panels 14 previously described and as shown in FIGS. 1-2, upper panels 12 are offset longitudinally from adjacent upper panels 12 so as to overlap and directly interlock with four lower panels 14. Additionally, each panel 12 will indirectly interlock with up to six adjacent panels 12 and 14 through the joints created by hooks 42 and main latches 24. This results in each joint being supported by up to ten panels 12 and 14. The combination of longitudinal and latitudinal overlap creates a unified structure that eliminates the need for a rigid or semi-rigid support surface. Also, recess 38 is specifically located as near as possible to the surface of panel 12 to limit joint flexure when loaded in tension so as to add further rigidity to the structure. In operation, any external load applied to the floor surface, whether above or below, is therefore shared by multiple panels resulting in a much stronger and stiffer floor.

Once upper panel 12 is positioned over lower panels 14 with the desired longitudinal overlap and with side latches 26 aligned for engagement with the corresponding main latches 24 of the lower panels 14, a downward force F is applied to upper panel 12 along one longitudinal edge above the side latch 26 so as to force it into engagement with the corresponding main latch 24. The downward force can be generated in practice by merely stepping down on the upper panel 12 with a foot or through the use of a tool such as a rubber mallet or weighted roller. As upper panel 12 travels downward, the side flange 44 pilots into recess 38 in the main latch 24, and hook 42 of side latch 26 contacts the locking flange 34 of the main latch 24 and is deflected laterally away from locking flange 34. Referring to FIG. 7, as upper panel 12 completes its engagement with lower panel 14, side flange 44 further engages and aligns itself in recess 38, and hook 42 moves past locking flange 34 and then is able to return back to its original shape and thereby engage locking flange 34. Once the one longitudinal edge of upper panel 12 is secured, the assembly procedure is repeated with the main latch 24 of upper panel 12 as shown in FIG. 5 and then again for the remaining longitudinal edge of upper panel 12. It is also conceivable that both longitudinal edges and main latch 24 of upper panel 12 can be simultaneously joined to lower panels 14 with an appropriate tool having sufficient width to span beyond the width W of upper panel 12. For instance, a heavy roller type of tool such as a lawn roller could be employed.

Referring to FIGS. 5-7, as upper panel 12 is mated with lower panels 14, ribs 28 automatically align with locking ribs 30. The interlock between ribs 28 and locking ribs 30 prohibits ribs 28 from deflecting laterally and therefore provides rigid vertical structural support to outer surface 20.

Referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and 6, edge covers 16 provide a functional height transition as well as a decorative edge treatment and are installed over the edge of panels 12 and 14 around the perimeter of floor system 10. Edge covers 16 are extruded plastic similar to panels 12 and 14, and are cut to a practical length such as 8 or 16 feet.

Floor systems 10 are semi-permanent in nature and are designed to be easily disassembled. Disassembly of the exemplary floor system 10 is as simple as reversing the assembly operation. After removing edge covers 16 and then starting at one corner of floor system 10, disassembly is initiated by lifting up along one longitudinal edge of the end of one upper panel 12 to start disengaging hook 42 from main latch 24 in lower panel 14. Continuing with the lifting motion in a slight peeling manner will then further progressively disengage hook 42 along the longitudinal edge and simultaneously start disengaging main latch 24 in upper panel 12 from hooks 42 in lower panels 14. As the disassembly motion progresses, the opposite longitudinal edge of upper panel 12 will then start to disengage from lower panels 14 until the entire upper panel 12 is free The remaining upper panels 12 of floor system 10 are disassembled in the same manner. The disassembly process can also be described as an unsnapping or unzipping process. The disassembly process can also be made even easier by using a specially designed tool to accomplish the disengagement of hooks 42 with main latches 24. For instance, a wedge shaped unzipping tool can be inserted between hooks 42 in upper panels 12 and main latch 24 of lower panel 14 and then pushed or pulled along the longitudinal edge to quickly and continuously unlock an entire length of panels 12. Then the disassembly of main latch 24 in each upper panel 12 is more easily accomplished by the aforementioned lifting motion.

Individual panels 12 and 14 are designed for manufacturing considerations, easy handling and installation. While it was previously described that floor system 10 can be disassembled into individual pieces, it is often advantageous to disassemble floor system 10 into large sections. For instance, if floor system 10 is assembled from panels 12 and 14 that are 12 inches wide by 4 feet long, it could be readily disassembled into easily manageable sections measuring approximately 48 inches wide by 8 feet long, or in other words, four panels wide by two panels long. Panels of this size are similar to many sheet building materials and therefore are easily stored. Obviously, many other configurations are possible and can easily be determined and managed by the user depending on the needs of a particular installation.

In alternate embodiments of the invention, panels 12 and 14 can be of different sizes depending on the application. For instance, upper panel 12 can be made twice as wide as lower panel 14 so that there are fewer visible joints on the upper surface of floor system 10 thereby possibly enhancing the aesthetic appearance. This unequal panel size can also increase the structural rigidity of floor system 10. In another alternate embodiment, upper panels 12 with, for instance, two or three different widths, can be installed in an alternating pattern to provide an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not the intention of the specification 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. For example, individual components can be combined, assemblies can be divided into separate components or components can be rearranged without affecting the operation. Therefore, the invention, in its broader aspects, is not limited to the specific details, the representative apparatus, and 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.