Title:
SAG-FREE RETRACTABLE AWNING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A retractable awning having one edge of an awning canopy fixed and a movable opposite edge with the opposite edge being secured to a rotatable roll bar includes a floating mounting for the roll bar so that a bias on the roll bar urging the roll bar to rotate toward a retracted position of the awning permits the wrapped fabric on the roll bar to remain in engagement with an engagement wall of a mounting chassis so that the roll bar is prevented from sagging along its length regardless of the number of wraps of fabric about the roll bar.



Inventors:
Thompson, Scott P. (Boulder, CO, US)
Wagner, Robert (Longmont, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/183944
Publication Date:
02/04/2010
Filing Date:
07/31/2008
Assignee:
Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company (Broomfield, CO, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
160/66
International Classes:
E04F10/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PUROL, DAVID M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DORSEY & WHITNEY LLP - DENVER (DENVER, CO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A retractable awning for mounting on a support surface comprising in combination: a flexible sheet of material anchored along an inner edge to said support surface, an elongated roll bar connected along its length to an opposite outer edge of said flexible sheet such that rotation of said roll bar about a longitudinal axis will affect wrapping or unwrapping of said sheet around said roll bar, a housing supporting said roll bar for reversible rotation therein, said housing being reversibly movable toward and away from said support surface while maintaining a parallel relationship with said support surface, said housing including an engagement wall against which said sheet remains engaged while wrapped on said roll bar, a bias system in said housing for biasing said roll bar in one rotative direction about said longitudinal axis to encourage said sheet to wrap about said roll bar, and a mounting system in said housing allowing the roll bar to float toward and away from said engagement wall for permitting engagement of said sheet material with said engagement surface regardless of the number of wraps of said sheet material about said roll bar.

2. The awning of claim 1 wherein said mounting system includes end caps at opposite ends of said housing having bearing surfaces along which the ends of said roll bar can translate.

3. The awning of claim 2 wherein said roll bar has bearings operatively connected to the ends thereof for rolling engagement with said bearing surfaces.

4. The awning of claim 2 wherein said bias system includes a coil spring extending longitudinally of said roll bar.

5. The awning of claim 4 wherein said coil spring is operatively fixed to said housing and to said roll bar while permitting said roll bar to rotate and in doing so, increase or decrease the tension in said coil spring depending upon the direction of rotation of said roll bar.

6. The awning of claim 5 wherein said housing is mounted on a second support surface that is movable toward and away from said first-mentioned support surface, movement of said second support surface away from said first-mentioned support surface causing said sheet to unwrap from said roll bar while simultaneously tensioning said coil spring and causing said sheet to be tensioned between said first-mentioned support surface and said roll bar.

7. The awning of claim 6 wherein said inner edge of said sheet is anchored to said first-mentioned support surface with an elongated link having a first edge secured to said inner edge of the sheet and a second edge pivotally secured to said first-mentioned support surface.

8. The awning of claim 7 wherein said second edge is pivotally connected to said first-mentioned support surface with a flexible strip of material.

9. The awning of claim 8 wherein said housing sealingly engages said link when said sheet is fully wrapped about said roll bar.

10. The awning of claim 1 wherein said housing includes a first elongated extruded face plate that is attached in longitudinal alignment with a second face plate of identical cross-section by connecting end splicer strips to adjacent ends of said face plates and interconnecting said splicer strips.

11. The awning of claim 7 wherein said link includes a first component and a longitudinally aligned second component of identical cross-section and wherein said components are interconnected by connecting splicer strips to adjacent ends of said components and interconnecting said splicer strips.

12. A retractable awning comprising in combination an awning canopy having a first edge substantially fixed in position and an opposite second edge secured to a rotatable roll bar which is movable toward and away from said first edge while permitting said canopy to be wrapped onto and unwrapped from said roll bar, said roll bar being mounted to float in a translational manner as said canopy is wrapped onto or unwrapped from said roll bar and a bias system for biasing rotation of said roll bar in a direction to wrap said canopy about said roll bar to tension said canopy and cause said roll bar to translate.

13. The retractable awning of claim 12 further including an engagement wall against which said wrapped canopy is held while translating as a result of said tension in said canopy.

14. The retractable awning of claim 1 wherein said engagement wall includes a low-friction surface for engagement with said sheet material.

15. The retractable awning of claim 13 wherein said engagement wall includes a low-friction surface for engagement with said sheet material.

16. The awning of claim 5 wherein there are two of said coil springs.

17. The awning of claim 9 wherein said housing includes a low-friction surface for engagement with said link.

18. The awning of claim 1 wherein said roll bar includes two axially aligned components interconnected by a splicer tube inserted into confronting ends of said components.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

A retractable awning includes a roller about which an awning canopy can be wrapped and unwrapped with the roller mounted in a housing so as to be floating whereby tension placed on the canopy pulls the awning roller against a fixed surface along the entire length of the roller to prevent sagging of the roller.

2. Description of the Relevant Art

Retractable awnings have been commonly used for many years with some being manually driven between extended and retracted positions and others electrically driven between the same positions. Awnings have been used as coverings for doorways, windows, and in more recent years on the sides of recreational vehicles, motor homes, and the like. Some such recreational vehicles and motor homes include a slide-out unit which is a box-like structure, which can be selectively extended from the side of the vehicle to increase useful space within the vehicle when the vehicle is parked. The retractable awnings are used to not only cover the windows and doorways of such recreational vehicles and motor homes, but also to cover the roof of the slide-out units to prevent leaves and other debris from accumulating on the roof when the slide-out unit is extended.

With any retractable awning, an awning canopy or sheet is attached along one edge to a roller so that rotation of the roller causes the sheet or canopy to wrap or unwrap from the roller. The roller with the awning sheet thereon is a relatively heavy structure and regardless of whether or not the awning is wrapped or unwrapped about the roller, with relatively long rollers they will sag between their ends where they are typically rotatably supported. When the awning roller sags, the awning fabric, if it is extended, will form a depression which will undesirably accumulate rain water, which could cause damage to the awning and certainly an inconvenience to the user of the awning.

It is to provide an improved system for mounting a roll bar in a retractable awning system so that the roll bar does not sag along its length that the present invention has been developed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

While the present invention is disclosed in different embodiments with an embodiment showing a roll bar for a retractable awning that is rotatably mounted on a support surface and other embodiments showing a roll bar mounted to be extended away from the support surface, the roll bars are rotatably mounted between end caps where the ends of the rollers are supported. The roll bar has attached thereto one edge of an awning sheet or canopy while the other edge of the awning sheet or canopy is connected to the support surface or a lead bar extendable away from the support surface depending upon whether or not the roll bar is mounted on the support surface or is part of the lead bar. A conventional coil spring is positioned within the roll bar so as to be tensioned as the roller is rotated to unwrap the awning sheet therefrom whereby the tension in the coil spring will assist in retracting the awning while wrapping the awning sheet around the roll bar. The coil spring therefore maintains a tension in the awning sheet and also a pulling force on the roll bar regardless of the position of the roll bar in a fully extended or retracted condition inasmuch as even in the retracted condition when the spring is least tensioned, it has a pre-tension placed thereon.

The ends of the roll bar are mounted in end caps secured to a housing for the roll bar so that the roll bar floats within the housing and therefore can translate toward and away from an engagement wall or surface of the housing against which the awning canopy remains engaged. The tension on the awning canopy, which creates a pulling force on the roll bar, holds the awning fabric on the roll bar against the engagement wall regardless of the extended or retracted position of the awning so the roll bar remains straight along its entire length with the awning fabric in engagement with the engagement wall. The floating mounting for the ends of the roll bar in the disclosed embodiments includes bearings operatively connected to the roll bar that engage bearing surfaces in the end caps. Other such mountings that permit translating movement of the ends of the roll bar would also be acceptable.

Other aspects, features and details of the present invention can be more completely understood by reference to the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment, taken in conjunction with the drawings and from the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevation of a recreational vehicle having a slide-out unit and incorporating an awning in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an isometric fragmentary view of the awning and its attachment to the vehicle and slide-out unit shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an isometric similar to FIG. 2 showing the awning having been lengthened with a splice system in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary isometric showing the slide-out unit along with the awning of the present invention in an extended relationship relative to the recreational vehicle of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary isometric similar to FIG. 4 showing the extended awning of FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 6-6 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 7-7 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 8A is an exploded isometric showing the left end of the awning of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8B is an exploded isometric similar to FIG. 8A showing the right end of the awning of FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 9-9 of FIG. 2.

FIG. 10 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 10-10 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 11 is an exploded isometric showing a system for lengthening a link element of the awning of FIG. 1.

FIG. 12 is an exploded isometric showing a system for lengthening the housing for the awning of FIG. 1.

FIG. 13 is an isometric showing the link of FIG. 11 having been lengthened.

FIG. 14 is an isometric showing the housing of FIG. 12 having been lengthened.

FIG. 15 is a fragmentary isometric of a box awning incorporating the system for mounting the roll bar in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 16 is a fragmentary isometric similar to FIG. 15 with the awning having been extended.

FIG. 17 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 17-17 of FIG. 15.

FIG. 18 is an enlarged fragmentary section taken along line 18-18 of FIG. 16.

FIG. 19 is an exploded isometric of a further embodiment of the operating system for a retractable awning as previously described.

FIG. 20 is an exploded isometric looking from the opposite direction of the embodiment shown in FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is an exploded isometric of a system for elongating the roll bar for the awning with a splicer tube.

FIG. 22 is a transverse section taken through a spliced roll bar pursuant to the component shown in FIG. 21.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring first to FIG. 1, a recreational vehicle 20 is illustrated with a conventional slide-out unit 22 of the type that can be moved between the retracted position shown in FIG. 1 and an extended position shown in FIG. 4. A box-like structure defining the slide-out unit is retractably moved from the interior of the vehicle to a deployed position to increase the amount of usable space within the vehicle. Also illustrated in FIGS. 1, 2 and 4 is a retractable covering or awning 24 in accordance with the present invention, which is secured along one edge of an awning canopy 26 to a support surface 28, defined in the disclosed embodiment by the side of the recreational vehicle 20 immediately above the slide-out unit 22. The covering or awning 24 also includes a housing 30 which is secured to an outer wall 32 of the slide-out unit so as to be selectively movable between a retracted position closely adjacent to the recreational vehicle and a deployed or extended position removed laterally away from the recreational vehicle through movement of the slide-out unit.

The components of the awning 24 are seen in transverse cross-section in FIG. 6 fully retracted, and in FIG. 7 fully extended. In FIGS. 6 and 7, the awning can be seen to include a mounting rail 34 that pivotally supports an elongated rigid link 36 with a strip of flexible material 38 or the like so that the link can pivot substantially about its upper edge. The lower edge of the link is anchored to an inner edge 40 of the awning canopy 26, which is a flexible sheet of material, such as vinyl, canvas, or the like, commonly used in retractable awnings. The outer edge 42 of the awning sheet is secured to an elongated roll bar 44 so that the awning sheet can be wrapped about and unwrapped from the roll bar depending upon the direction of rotation of the roll bar. For example, the awning sheet is shown wrapped around the roll bar in the retracted position of FIG. 6 while unwrapped from the roll bar in the extended position of FIG. 7.

A mounting chassis 46 is secured to the top edge of the outer wall 32 of the slide-out unit 22 and supports the housing component 30 of the awning to define a substantially enclosed space in which the roll bar 44 is mounted. As will be appreciated from the description that follows, each end of the chassis and the housing is secured to an end cap 48 which closes off the ends of the housing and defines a system for supporting the roll bar so it is capable of floating toward and away from a curved engagement wall 50 on the chassis. The engagement wall includes an extruded cover or glide 51 made of a low friction material to prevent damage to the awning sheet in its engagement with the engagement wall to be described hereafter.

Coil springs 52 are supported within the interior of the roll bar 44 so as to rotatively bias the roll bar in a counterclockwise direction as viewed in FIGS. 6 and 7 so that as the awning is moved from the retracted position of FIG. 6 to the extended position of FIG. 7 the coil springs tension and therefore rotatably bias the awning toward the retracted position of FIG. 6. It should also be appreciated that the rotative bias placed on the roll bar is transferred to the awning sheet or canopy 26 itself in the form of a force acting along the plane of the awning sheet so that the awning sheet is held in a taut condition between its connection to the link 36 and its connection to the roll bar. This taut condition of the awning sheet creates a force pulling inwardly and upwardly on the roll bar as viewed in FIGS. 6 and 7 so as to hold the roll bar with the awning sheet wrapped therearound against the engagement wall 50 of the chassis 46 regardless of the amount of sheet material wrapped around the roll bar. The floating mounting of the roll bar to be described in detail hereafter permits the roll bar to translate toward and away from the engagement wall so as to permit the varying layers of the awning material wrapped around the roll bar to remain in engagement therewith.

Referring to FIGS. 8A and 8B, the component parts of the awning are best illustrated. Looking first at FIG. 8A, the mounting rail 34, which is secured along a top edge of the outer side wall 28 of the recreational vehicle 20 can be seen to include an elongated plate-like body 54 that extends the full length of the awning with an outwardly directed C-groove connector 56 along its upper edge. The C-groove connector is a conventional system for pivotally connecting a fabric material to a support structure and includes a generally cylindrical longitudinal passage 58 that opens through a side wall of a cylindrical body of the connector through a relatively narrow neck 60. The strip of flexible material 38, which is used to pivotally connect the link 36 to the mounting rail 34, has a hem 62 along an upper edge which can be inserted through the neck into the interior of the C-groove connector 56 and is held therein with an anchor rod 64 which is inserted into the hem longitudinally. The anchor rod has a diameter greater than the width of the neck 60 so as to hold the hem within the C-groove connector. The flexible strip is preferably a flexible material made to withstand harsh environmental elements such as UV radiation, rain, and the like. The opposite edge of the flexible strip also has a hem 66 for connection to the link 36 in a similar manner to be described hereafter.

The elongated link 36, which can also be seen in FIG. 11, is an elongated extruded piece of aluminum or similar lightweight but strong material. The extrusion has a main body 68 that is arcuate in transverse cross-section defining a downwardly opening channel 70 along a top rear edge, a relatively large C-groove connector 72 immediately therebeneath, a second C-groove connector 74 beneath the relatively large C-groove connector, and a lower C-groove connector 76 spaced from the second C-groove connector with each of the three C-groove connectors opening rearwardly. Along the bottom edge of the link is a forwardly opening C-groove connector 78.

The rear edge 80 of the downwardly opening channel 70 at the top of the link operatively engages the C-groove connector 56 on the mounting rail through the strip 38 as best seen, for example, in FIG. 6 when the awning is retracted. A rear wall 82 of the downwardly opening channel 70 also provides a smooth surface across which the strip of flexible material 38 extends. The hem 66 along the lower edge of the flexible strip is positioned within the upper relatively large C-groove connector 72 in the link 36 and is held therein with an anchor rod 84 in the same manner as described previously with regard to the opposite edge of the flexible strip.

An arcuate edge cap 86 is secured to the left end of the link 36 as seen in FIG. 8A with screw-type fasteners 88. One fastener 88 is inserted through a hole 90 in the edge cap and into the open end of the relatively large C-groove connector 72 along with the anchor rod 84. A hole 92 near the bottom end of the edge cap receives a second fastener 88 that goes in the open end of the forwardly opening C-groove connector 78 along the bottom edge of the link. A similar edge cap 86 is secured to the opposite end of the link as seen in FIG. 8B. From the description thus far, it will be seen the link 36 is pivotally suspended from the mounting rail 34 with the flexible strip 38 so that it can move between a downwardly hanging substantially vertical orientation, as shown in FIG. 6 when the awning is retracted, and an outwardly extending substantially horizontal orientation, as shown in FIG. 7 when the awning is extended.

The mounting chassis 46 as seen in both FIGS. 8A and 8B, and as mentioned previously, is secured to the upper edge of the outer wall 32 of the slide-out unit 22 and can be seen in FIGS. 8A and 8B as well as FIGS. 6 and 7 to include an intermediate main body 94 that is flat and extends the full length of the awning. The chassis can be secured to the front wall of the slide-out unit with fasteners 96. Along the lower edge of the main body is a forwardly projecting and downturned flange 98 that supports a forwardly and upwardly projecting plate 100 having a catch 102 of J-shaped cross-section along its lower edge and a C-groove connector 104 near its upper edge. Projecting upwardly from the main body of the chassis and slightly forwardly is the arcuate engagement wall 50, which is of slightly larger diameter than the roll bar 44. The engagement wall has a reverse curved support surface 106 at its upper end across which the awning sheet or canopy 26 passes as will be explained hereafter. Projecting rearwardly from the engagement wall is a C-groove connector 108 with a rearwardly projecting lip 110 adapted to rest on the top edge of the outer wall 32 of the slide-out unit 22 so that the chassis can be dependably positioned during installation.

The housing 30, which is best seen in FIGS. 8A, 8B, 6, 7, and 12, is an elongated extruded body of arcuate cross-section and extends the full length of the awning. An elongated bead 112 is formed along the upper edge of the housing and a generally upwardly and forwardly opening channel 114 adapted to receive the J-shaped catch 102 of the chassis is formed along the lower edge. Also formed in the rear surface of the housing are upper 116 and lower 118 C-groove connectors for a purpose to be described hereafter.

The chassis 46, housing 30 and roll bar 44 are all interconnected and related through the end caps 48 seen in FIGS. 8A and 8B, which have openings 120 therethrough for fasteners 122 to be inserted and screwed into the open ends of the C-shaped connector 108 on the rear side of the engagement wall 50 of the chassis and the C-groove connector 116 on the inner surface of the housing 30. When the end caps are connected to the chassis and the housing, these components of the awning are rigidly interconnected and retain their relationship through all operations of the awning.

The roll bar 44 is a conventional item having a cylindrical outer body in which two diametrically opposed elongated C-groove connectors 124 are formed on the inside with the connectors opening outwardly through necks on the cylindrical body. These connectors are used to connect fabric to the roll bar for various types of awnings, but in the present invention, only one of the C-groove connectors 124 is utilized for attaching the outer edge of the awning canopy 26 again through a hem 126 formed therein and an anchor bar 128 inserted through the hem, as seen for example in FIG. 6. The opposite or inner edge of the awning canopy is secured with a hem 130 in the C-groove connector 78 formed along the bottom edge of the link 36 as seen in FIG. 6.

As best appreciated by reference to FIGS. 8A and 8B, the roll bar 44 has inserted in each end thereof a collar 132 of generally cylindrical configuration having a circular plate 134 along an outer edge thereof. The cylindrical body 136 of the collar is insertable into an associated open end of the roll bar and channels 138 are formed in the outer surface of the cylindrical body of the collar to receive the C-groove connectors 124 in the roll bar so that the collars will remain fixed to and rotate in unison with the roll bar. Each collar also has an outwardly directed pair of diametrically opposed notches 138 formed through the circular plate and cylindrical body of the collar for a purpose to be described hereafter.

A spindle 142 (FIGS. 8A and 8B) having a cylindrical shaft 144 and a substantially circular plate 146 adjacent one end of the cylindrical shaft rotatably supports an associated collar 132, which is positioned on the cylindrical shaft immediately adjacent to the circular plate. The collar is held in place with a C-clip 133 received in an annular groove 135 of the shaft 144. The collar, as mentioned, includes diametrically opposed notches 138 through which fasteners 139 can be inserted to secure the collar to C-groove connector 124 in the roll bar 44. Facing in an outward or opposite direction from the collar on the circular plate of the spindle are a pair of diametrically opposed sockets 148 which receive press pins 150 having bearing surfaces 152 thereon that support roller bearings 154. The cylindrical shaft of the spindle has an elongated longitudinally extending notch 156 of generally V-shaped cross-section as seen best in FIGS. 6 and 7 for a purpose to be described hereafter.

The coil springs 52 (there may be one or two), rotatably bias the roll bar 44 toward a retracted position of the awning. Two coil springs are illustrated and preferably used on longer awnings where a strong torque is needed to rotate the roll bar 44. On shorter awnings, one coil spring can be simply omitted along with a spider 159 and assembly rod 163 to be discussed hereafter. For purposes of this disclosure, only the coil spring 52 seen in FIG. 8A at the left end of the awning is described even though if two springs are necessary an identical spring 52 seen in FIG. 8B would be used. The coil spring in FIG. 8A can be seen to be an elongated spring having an inwardly directed tang 158 at the left end and an inwardly directed tang (not seen) at the right end. The coil spring fits somewhat tightly on the end of the cylindrical shaft 144 of the spindle 142 with the inwardly directed tang at the left end of the coil spring being received in the V-shaped notch 156 on the associated spindle so that the spring will be anchored relative to the spindle at the left end of the awning. The inwardly directed tang at the right end of the spring is received in a groove 157 in a spider 159 having oppositely directed radial fingers 161 that engage the C-groove connectors in the roll bar 44 to transfer torque from the spring to the roll bar.

An assembly rod 163 is used to assemble the spindle 142, the collar 132, the coil spring 52 and the spider 159. Each end cap 48 has a cavity 162 on its inwardly directed side with the openings 120 defined therethrough for receipt of the previously noted fasteners 122 as well as two pair of bearing walls or surfaces 164 for engagement with the roller bearings 154 mentioned previously as being mounted on the spindles 142. The bearing surfaces of each pair defined in the end caps are identical mirror images of each other and as best appreciated by reference to FIGS. 9 and 10, one pair of bearing surfaces is adjacent the top of the end cap and the other pair adjacent the bottom. The bearing surfaces of each pair are defined by vertical walls that are horizontally spaced a distance slightly greater than the diameter of roller bearings. The roll bar 44, which is supported on the spindles through the collars 132, is thereby free to float up and down as the bearings roll along the bearing surfaces formed in each end cap. This movement will be described in more detail hereafter but suffice it to say the bearing mounting of the roll bar within the end caps permits translational movement of the roll bar toward and away from the arcuate engagement wall 50 of the chassis to accommodate various thicknesses of wrapped canopy about the roll bar within the housing.

Each spindle 142 also has a laterally directed generally rectangular tab 166 projecting outwardly from the cylindrical shaft 144 adjacent to the outer face of the circular plate 146 and this tab is positioned adjacent to a socket 168 formed in the end cap 48 so that a fastener 170 can be inserted and threadedly received in the socket while holding a washer 172 against an inner face of the tab to hold the spindle on the associated end cap. In this manner, the spindle is kept from being released from an associated end cap and the spindle will not rotate relative to the end cap due to the engagement of the bearings on the bearing surfaces and their positioning between the bearing surfaces within the end cap.

As mentioned previously, the coil spring 52 is pre-tensioned when inserted into the roll bar 44 and the roll bar is mounted within the housing 30 so there is some bias on the roll bar toward the retracted position of the awning even when the awning is fully retracted. As the awning is extended from its retracted position of FIG. 6 to its extended position of FIG. 7 the bias of the coil spring is increased, which serves to retain the awning sheet or canopy 26 in a very tight or taut condition as is desired. The taut condition of the awning sheet, which has its inner edge fixed relative to the support surface or side of the recreational vehicle 20 through the link 36, creates an inwardly directed force through the awning sheet biasing the roll bar toward the engagement wall 50 in the chassis but in reality simply forces the upper bearing 154 on a spindle 142, as viewed in FIGS. 9 and 10, to bear against the left bearing surface 164 while the lower bearing bears against the right bearing surface inasmuch as the canopy is pulling on the roll bar and biasing it to rotate in a counterclockwise direction which is resisted by the bearings on the bearing surfaces.

Since the awning sheet or canopy 26 is also being pulled upwardly across the engagement wall 50 of the chassis 46, as seen in FIGS. 9 and 10, the roll bar 44 is not only pulled in a rotative counterclockwise direction by the canopy, but also pulled upwardly. The upward and inward pulling motion on the roll bar forces the roll bar against the engagement wall 50 of the chassis along the entire length of the roll bar since the awning canopy extends substantially the entire length of the roll bar. Accordingly, the wrapped canopy material is forced into engagement with the engagement wall of the chassis when it is fully wrapped around the roll bar as shown in FIG. 9 and remains in engagement with the engagement wall when the canopy is substantially unwrapped from the roll bar as seen in FIG. 10. This, of course, is permitted since the roll bar is allowed to float within the housing through the relationship of the bearings 154 with the bearing surfaces 164. Since the awning canopy always remains in engagement with the engagement surface regardless of how much awning canopy is wrapped around the roll bar, the roll bar is retained in a sag-free orientation in longitudinal engagement with the engagement wall along the entire length of the awning.

As can also be appreciated, when the awning is fully retracted as seen in FIG. 6, for example, the bead 112, which is covered with a bumper cover 173 of a low friction material, on the upper edge of the housing 30 forms an abutting surface for engagement against the link 36 so as to fully enclose the awning. The housing, therefore, mechanically holds the link 36 in the retracted position and prevents the awning from billowing when a vehicle on which the awning is mounted is driven and protects the awning from environmental elements. The engagement of the cover 173 with the link also dampens noise and reduces paint damage and wear between the housing and the link. The use of the pivotal link permits a higher mounting of the awning on the recreational vehicle and helps protect the sheet from exposure to sun, tree branches, and the like, which might scrape the side of the vehicle. The higher connection point on the vehicle also permits a greater pitch to the awning canopy to improve water runoff without having to lower the outer edge. Also, since the roll bar remains engaged with the engagement wall 50 along its entire length and the awning sheet remains taut, the awning sheet will not form channels for water runoff but rather a continuous planar surface off which the water can drain uniformly.

FIGS. 11-14 disclose a system for lengthening the link 36 or the housing 30, which is sometimes beneficial due to restrictions on length of containers for shipping purposes versus the desired length of awnings in actual installation.

Looking first at FIGS. 11 and 13, adjacent ends of longitudinally aligned link members 36 are illustrated with a splicer member 174 being secured to the confronting ends of each link with screw-type fasteners 176 that are inserted through holes 178 in the splicer member and into the open ends of the C-groove connectors 74 and 76 aligned therewith. After the splicer members are connected to the confronting or adjacent ends of the link members, the link members themselves are connected by passing a pair of bolt/nut type fasteners 180 through second sets of holes 182 in the splicer members, which of course holds the splicer members together so that the link members are in turn held together. A similar system for connecting the housing 30 is illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 14 where splicer members 184 are connected to the confronting open ends of the two C-groove connectors 116 and 118 with screw-type fasteners 186 and then the splicer members are interconnected with a pair of bolt/nut fasteners 188 that pass through second pairs of aligned openings 190 in the splicer members.

A second embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 15-18. In this embodiment, the awning system is incorporated within a box-type housing of the general type shown in U.S. Pat. No. 7,188,889 issued Mar. 13, 2007, which is of common ownership with the present application and the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference. The box awning 192 shown in FIGS. 15-18 is not necessarily mounted on a slide-out unit but simply on any horizontal or vertical surface with the awning disclosed in FIGS. 15-18 being shown mounted on a horizontal surface 194. FIG. 15 shows the awning fully retracted and housed within a housing 196 with FIG. 16 showing the housing being open so that a lead bar 198, which is secured to the outer edge of the awning canopy 200, can be extended away from the housing with sets of pivotal support arms 202 that also support a longitudinally extending transverse support bar 204 to help prevent the awning canopy from sagging. The support arms conventionally include springs that bias them toward an extended condition. Internally of the housing, as seen best in FIGS. 17 and 18, a reversibly rotatable roll bar 206 is mounted for manual or motor-driven rotation. When manually extending the awning or by motor, the support arms extend against the spring bias. When the roll bar is rotated in the opposite direction manually or by motor, the support arms collapse under spring bias. The roll bar is secured to the inner edge of an awning canopy. As seen in FIGS. 17 and 18, the outer edge of the awning canopy is secured to the lead bar 198, which serves to close the housing when the awning is fully retracted but opens the front of the housing when the lead bar is extended through deployment of the support arms. The roll bar in this arrangement is mounted identically to that of the previously described embodiment with end caps 208 having bearing surfaces 210 defined therein and a spindle 212 with bearings 214, which can roll against the bearing surfaces, thereby preventing the spindle from rotating relative to the end cap and allowing the springs in the support arms (which are not shown) to be tensioned as the awning is extended so that the awning canopy is held in a taut condition. Note in this arrangement of the awning that the upper bearing 214 is biased toward a front bearing surface 210 while the lower bearing 214 is biased toward a rear bearing surface 210 due to the tension in the awning fabric which encourages the roll bar to rotate in a clockwise direction and therefore pulls the roll bar toward an engagement wall 216 of the chassis 218 so the wrapped awning canopy is always maintained in engagement with the engagement wall of the chassis to prevent the roll bar from sagging along its length. The chassis, of course, in this embodiment has a different configuration from that of the first disclosed embodiment, but the functionality of the mounting system is the same in that the bearings permit the roll bar to float, and through the forces placed on the roll bar by the springs in the support arms hold the wrapped canopy against the engagement wall of the chassis to prevent sagging of the roll bar.

An alternative embodiment 220, and possibly the preferred embodiment of the operating system, which would obtain the same results as shown in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-14, is shown in FIGS. 19 and 20. In this embodiment, the end caps 48 would be identical as would their connection to a roll bar 222 even though the roll bar has been modified slightly so as to include two sets of diametrically opposed elongated C-groove connectors 224 with each of the four defined connectors being equally spaced around the circumference of the roll bar for a purpose to be described hereafter.

A revised collar 226 for insertion into an associated open end of the roll bar for attachment thereto can be seen to include a circular plate 228 having radiating circumferentially spaced webs 230 adapted to fit snuggly against the interior wall of the roll bar to center the collar within the associated open end of the roll bar. A cylindrical body 232 passes through the center of the collar with the body being reinforced by the radiating webs 230 and by a set of circumferentially spaced radiating gussets 234 to reinforce the collar. A pair of openings 236 is provided through the circular plate 228, with the openings being diametrically opposed, and alignable with diametrically opposed C-groove connectors 224 in the roll bar so that fasteners 238 can be passed through the openings and threaded into the open end of a pair of C-groove connectors 224 to secure the collar to the roll bar.

A modified spindle 240 is similar to the spindle 142 of the embodiment of FIGS. 1-14. The spindle, as best seen in FIG. 20, has a cylindrical shaft 242 and a plate 244 so that the collar 226 can be rotatably supported on an inner portion of the cylindrical shaft immediately adjacent to the circular plate and held thereon with a C-clip 246 received in an annular groove 248 around the shaft. In addition, it has a V-shaped notch 250 but similar to that of the spindle 142 on an outer segment of the shaft but the V-shaped notch terminates about midway along the length of the shaft in a circumferential slot 252 through the hollow shaft. A coil spring 52 for transmitting torque identical to the first-described embodiment, is mounted on the outer end of the shaft by sliding the coil spring along the outer end of the shaft with the inturned tang 158 of the spring sliding along the V-shaped notch until it is received in the circumferential slot 252 at which point the spring can be rotated to releasably secure the spring to the shaft as in a bayonet type connection. The opposite end of the coil spring is mounted on a spider 159 identical to that used in the first-described embodiment so that an inturned tang (not seen) of the spring at that end of the spring can be received in the generally V-shaped notch or groove 157 to assure unitary rotation of the spider with the associated end of the spring. The spider, as in the first-described embodiment, has diametrically opposed and radiating fingers 161, which fit into the open end of the roll bar and transmit torque to the roll bar by engaging adjacent C-shaped grooves 224 which, as will be appreciated in this embodiment, are closer together than in the first-described embodiment due to the addition of two C-shaped grooves, which reduces play between the spider and the roll bar.

The spindle 240, as in the first-described embodiment, has a pair of diametrically opposed sockets 254 which receive press pins 256 having bearing surfaces thereon that support roller bearings 258. In this manner, this embodiment of the awning achieves identical results to those of the first-described embodiment. As in the first-described embodiment, the above-described components can be assembled on an assembly bar 260 so they can be inserted as a unit into the open end of the roll bar 222 in a convenient manner.

With reference to FIGS. 21 and 22, a system for elongating a roll bar by splicing two identical roll bar components is illustrated so that the awning can be made of any desired length. The roll bar components as illustrated are of the type shown in FIGS. 19 and 20 having four C-grooves 224 spaced equally around its perimeter that project inwardly into the interior of the roll bar component. To elongate a roll bar to a predetermined length, an initial roll bar component 262 is axially abutted against an extension roll bar component 264 of the same transverse cross-section and a splicer tube 266 is inserted into the interior of each adjacent end of the roll bar components so that the splicer tube projects into each roll bar component. The splicer tube can be seen to be an elongated extruded member of generally cylindrical configuration having three equally spaced longitudinally-extending grooves 268 in its surface which project inwardly into the interior of the tube and a gap 270 is defined between terminal side edges 272 of the tube. The tube is therefore slightly compressible so it can be inserted into the adjacent open ends of the roll bar components in a somewhat tight-fitting matter to facilitate assembly and with the longitudinal grooves 268 in the splicer tube being aligned with C-grooves 224 of the roll bar components to desirably position the splicer tube relative to the roll bar components. Fasteners 274 can be threadedly passed transversely through the roll bar components in the C-groove connectors as seen in FIG. 22 and through the aligned splicer tube to positively secure the roll bar components to the splicer tube with the ends of the roll bar components axially abutted.

Although the present invention has been described with a certain degree of particularity, it is understood the disclosure has been made by way of example, and changes in detail or structure may be made without departing from the spirit of the invention as defined in the appended claims.