Title:
REMOVABLY SECURED, FLUSH-MOUNTED PANEL SYSTEM AND CABINET INCLUDING THE SAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A panel system is provided that may be used to access underlying apparatus, such as utility lines underlying a dental or medical cabinet. The panel system may connect to a frame via, for example, a magnetic element. The panels may include substantially planar or smooth outwardly facing surfaces that may be readily cleaned, sanitized, or disinfected to provide an aseptic surface. The frame may be a support member on, for example, a cabinet, a cart, or a storage devices used in a dental or medical office.



Inventors:
Helgesen, John (Rock Hill, SC, US)
Application Number:
12/208233
Publication Date:
03/11/2010
Filing Date:
09/10/2008
Assignee:
DENTAL EQUIPMENT, LLC DBA PELTON & CRANE (Charlotte, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/750
International Classes:
A47B95/00; E04B1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROHRHOFF, DANIEL J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TRASKBRITT, P.C. (SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A panel system, comprising: a frame having at least one recessed region therein; and a magnetic panel removably secured within the recessed region, exposed surfaces of the metal frame being substantially planar with exposed surfaces of the magnetic panel.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the frame comprises a base of a cabinet.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the frame comprises at least one metal portion.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the at least one recessed region in the metal frame is disposed around an opening.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the opening provides access to components underlying a base of a cabinet.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the magnetic panel includes a plurality of magnetic strips disposed on a surface thereof and comprises at least one of a metal, a plastic, or a rubber.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the magnetic panel comprises a magnetic polymer material.

8. The system of claim 1, further comprising a gap between the magnetic panel and the at least one recessed region, the gap having a width of less than 2 mm.

9. A cabinet having a removable panel, comprising: a cabinet having at least one apparatus underlying a base portion; a frame including at least one opening, the opening providing access to a compartment underlying the frame; and at least one panel removably secured to the frame by at least one magnetic element and having a substantially planar, outwardly facing surface.

10. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the at least one apparatus comprises a utility line or a service line for receiving water, gas, or vacuum pressure.

11. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the frame is disposed about the base portion of the cabinet.

12. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the at least one panel is fitted within a recessed portion of the frame.

13. The cabinet of claim 12, wherein an outer surface of the at least one panel is flush with the unrecessed portions of the frame to render the outwardly facing surfaces of the base portion substantially planar.

14. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the frame comprises at least one of a iron, nickel, cobalt, and alloys thereof.

15. The cabinet of claim 14, wherein the magnetic element is embedded within a recess in the panel.

16. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the compartment underlying the frame houses at least one supply line for providing water, gas, or vacuum pressure.

17. The cabinet of claim 9, wherein the at least one opening provides a channel through opposing sides of the frame.

18. A panel system comprising: a frame having at least one opening formed therethrough, the opening providing access to an underlying compartment; and a panel overlying the opening and comprising at least one magnetic element, the at least one magnetic strip removably securing the panel to the frame.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein the frame comprises a base of a storage container and provides support thereto.

20. The system of claim 18, wherein the underlying compartment houses a supply line for water, gas, or vacuum pressure.

21. The system of claim 18, wherein the at least one magnetic element comprises a magnetic strip having a length of about 3.8 cm and a width of about 12.7 cm.

22. The system of claim 21, wherein the magnetic strip is attached to a metal panel.

23. The system of claim 18, wherein the frame further comprises at least one recess having an interior sidewall having a height substantially equal to a thickness of the panel, the recess being configured to receive an outer periphery of the panel.

24. The system of claim 18, wherein an outwardly facing surface of the panel system is substantially planar.

25. The system of claim 18, further comprising a gap between the panel and the frame, the gap having a width of less than 1 mm.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to panels that may be removably secured to a surface or frame, and more particularly, to a panel system that provides access to devices stored thereunder while providing a substantially planar surface.

BACKGROUND

Various cabinet arrangements are used in dental offices. Some of this cabinetry contains various dental hand pieces (i.e., pneumatic or electric), syringes, pulp testers and like instrumentation used by the dentist in performing operations within the patient's oral cavity. Other cabinetry may contain other apparatus, such as Bunsen burners, amalgam mixing machines, vacuum apparatus, and the like used by the dentist in performing services associated with the practice of dentistry. Many of these dental apparatus and instruments require some sort of utility supply, either electricity, hot or cold water, gas, or vacuum lines.

The connection of the various utility service lines has been somewhat problematic using conventional cabinet arrangements. For example, the main utility service lines may be strung across the back of the cabinet and branch lines may extend into the cabinet through openings at the cabinet rear. In cases where the cabinetry is free standing, a separate false back or paneling may be built around the rear or base portion of the cabinet to conceal the various utility lines. These types of dental cabinets utilize exposed fasteners, such as screws, that must be removed and, thereafter, replaced to provide access to the underlying utility lines. In these types of cabinets, sufficient internal space may not be available to easily adjust the appropriate utility service connections. Conventional cabinets may also be difficult to move in order to service underlying utility lines.

In the modern day practice of dentistry, it has become increasingly important to disinfect the dental work station after each patient use and, especially, after treatment of a patient with an infectious disease. The disinfection of the dental work station is typically accomplished by wiping a disinfectant on all areas adjacent the dental work station, including the dental cabinet. The dental cabinet, however, is especially difficult to disinfect due to the various types of exposed fasteners used to secure the paneling covering utility supplies. Furthermore, in order to completely disinfect the cabinet, it may be necessary to disinfect utility supply lines. Consequently, this procedure is not only time consuming, but it is also relatively difficult to achieve complete disinfection of the dental cabinet.

In addition, conventional cabinets are often constructed from rigid materials such as wood, particle board, or metal. However, these cabinets are often relatively heavy and lack supports for easy movement, which may make the cabinet awkward or difficult to move.

A system that provides convenient and fastaccess to stored utility supply lines, that may be easily used, and which can be efficiently and effectively cleaned, disinfected, and sterilized by conventional methods is desired.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the invention includes a panel system that may be used to provide access to an underlying apparatus, such as a utility supply line. The panel system may include a frame and a magnetic panel removably secured thereto. The magnetic panel may have a plurality of magnets disposed thereon or embedded therein, and may be removably secured to a metal frame. Alternatively, the magnets may be disposed on or embedded within the frame, and the panel may include a metal that may be removably secured to the frame via the magnets. For example, the magnetic panel may be received and removably secured within a recessed region in the frame. An exposed surface of the magnetic panel may be substantially coplanar with exposed surfaces of the frame so the panel system may be easily cleaned, disinfected, or sterilized. The panel system may additionally provide a support for an overlying structure, such as a cabinet, and may be attached to a surface thereof.

Another aspect of the invention includes a cabinet having a panel system that may provide access to storage or features, such as utility or supply lines. A base portion of the cabinet may include a frame having openings therethrough. A panel may be removably secured to the frame using a magnetic element, which may be present in the panel or the frame. The panel and the frame may be configured to render an outer surface of the base portion substantially planar. For example, the panel may be fitted within a recessed portion of the frame, which may have an interior sidewall having a height substantially equal to a thickness of the panel. The frame and the panel may include, for example, iron, nickel, cobalt, and/or alloys thereof. Optionally, the openings of the frame may be arranged on different sides of the cabinet to enable adjustment of internal mechanisms and to enable movement of the cabinet.

In a further aspect, the panel system includes flexible, magnetic strips disposed on or in a panel. The magnetic strips enable the panels to be removably secured to a frame while providing a substantially flush outwardly facing surface. Because the panel system provides a substantially flush surface, the panel system may be easily cleaned, disinfected, or sanitized.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming that which is regarded as the present invention, this invention can be more readily understood and appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art from the following description of the invention when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIGS. 1 and 2 are perspective views of a cabinet including a panel system according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 3 and 4 are exploded perspective view of a frame of the panel system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of a panel of the panel system shown in FIG. 2; and

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a frame of the panel system shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Although the foregoing description contains many specifics, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention, but merely as providing illustrations of some representative embodiments. Similarly, other embodiments of the invention may be devised that do not depart from the spirit or scope of the present invention. Features from different embodiments may be employed in combination.

Reference will now be made to the drawings. Like elements are identified by like numerals. The drawings are not necessarily to scale.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 6, a panel system 10 may be used to cover and provide easy access to apparatus, such as supply lines, that are protected and stored in underlying compartments. Conventional panels or covers used in dental or operatory settings include exposed fasteners which create a a rough or uneven surface that inevitably collects and traps microorganisms, pathogens, such as bacteria and virus, and other undesirable particles. By providing a panel system 10, such as that shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, with a substantially planar outwardly facing surface, the surfaces may be substantially free of gaps or depressions that may trap pathogenic agents or debris and, thus, may be easily cleaned, sterilized and disinfected using conventional methods. The outerwardly facing surfaces 28a and 28b of the panel system 10 may be advantageously provided as a substantially planar or smooth surface by a variety of means, non-limiting examples of which are provided herein. Additionally, by providing a frame to receive the panels 28a and 28b, an overlying structure, such as cabinet 24, may be readily moved or adjusted by a single person. The panel system 10 may include a frame 12, which may optionally be used to support the overlying structure and may be positioned on a surface (not shown) such as, for example, a floor, a ceiling, or a countertop.

Referring to FIG. 1, a particular embodiment of panel system 10 may include, for example, a frame 12 having multiple openings 14a, 14b, 14c, 14d and 14e that expose underlying compartments or devices. Each of the openings 14a, 14b, 14c, 14d and 14e may provide access to a number of apparatus that may be concealed within the frame 12, such as, for example, inlets and outlets for water, electrical, air, and gas lines. The frame 12 of the panel system 10 may be formed from a rigid, support material, such as metal, fiberglass, wood, or plastic. As will be described in further detail below, in some embodiments, the frame 12 may include a material capable of attracting a magnet, such as a magnetic metal (i.e., iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), cobalt (Co)), a magnetic alloy including at least one magnetic alloy (i.e, steel, alnico, and permalloy), or a magnetic polymer. The frame 12 may include support regions 20 and recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d. In some embodiments, the support regions 20 of the frame 12 may provide a support structure that may be used in a wide variety of situations such as, for example, for supporting a cabinet, a monitor, a cart, a workstation, and the like. By way of non-limiting example, the support regions 20 may be secured to and may provide support for an overlying structure, such as a cabinet 24. Optionally, the support regions 20 may include a foot 26 that may be provided to support the cabinet 20 and may be positioned on a supporting surface, such as a portion of ground surface or floor.

Referring to FIG. 2, panels 26a and 26b may be provided over the support regions 20 of the frame and may be sized and configured to cover a substantial portion of the openings 14a, 14b, 14c, 14d and 14e. Each of the panels 26a and 26b may be sized and configured to be received within the recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d (shown in FIG. 1) and may be removably secured therein to provide substantially flush or substantially planar outwardly facing surfaces 28a and 28b. In some embodiments, a gap may remain between an interior sidewall of the recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d and the adjoining panel 26a and 26b and may be utilized in detaching the panel 26a and 26b from the frame 12. Other embodiments will not have any gap or may have a minimal gap between an interior sidewall of the recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d and the adjoining panel 26a and 26b. In additional embodiments, the gap 29 may be sealed using, for example, a material such as a thermosetting plastic or a thermoplastic polymer, or another suitable material to render the surfaces 28a and 28b of the panels 26a and 26b substantially flush with the frame 12.

FIGS. 3 and 4 each of show an enlarged view of a portion of the frame 12 of the panel system 10 illustrated in FIG. 1. As shown in FIG. 3, a plurality of magnetic elements 16a and 16b may be disposed on the frame 12 (16a), or may be inset with cavities 18 therein to provide a substantially planar surface (16b). In some embodiments, each of the magnetic elements 16a and 16b may comprise magnets, while, in other embodiments, the magnetic elements 16a and 16b may each comprise a material capable of attracting a magnet, such as those previously described.

As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, each of the recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d may have a size and shape sufficient to receive at least one panel and, for example, may have sidewalls having a depth in a range of between about 0.25 mm and about 5 mm, and more particularly, about 2 mm. By way of non-limiting example, the recesses 22a, 22b, 22c and 22d may extend from a lip 30 or an edge 32 of the frame 12, each of which may form at least a portion of an outer periphery of the frame 12 and may be generally vertically aligned with the support regions 20 (FIG. 1). Referring to FIG. 3, recess 22d can be formed by an interior sidewall of the lip 30. In FIG. 4, recesses 22b and 22c can be formed by an interior sidewall of the edge 32.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged view of the panel 26a shown in FIG. 2. As shown in FIG. 5, in some embodiments, the panel 26a may be formed from any suitably rigid material, including but not limited to, plastic, vinyl, rubber, wood, fiberglass, or other suitable composite materials sufficient to withstand repeated removal and replacement of the panel 26a. In such an embodiment, the panel 26a may be provided with a plurality of magnetic elements 37a and 37b, which enable removeable attachment to the frame 12. For example, the magnet may include a ceramic or ferrocite composite, alnico, or other alloys, magnetic plastics, resins or polymers, or other magnets known in the art. By way of non-limiting example, the magnetic element 37 may be a magnetic strip 37a or a magnet 37b, and may be affixed to the panel using, for example, an adhesive. The magnetic elements may also have a triangular, square, oval, oblong, rectangular, or any other suitable shape. The magnetic strips 37a may be flexible and may be attached to align vertically or horizontally (as shown in broken lines) with a length of the frame 12. As a non-limiting example, the magnetic strips 37a may have a length of between about 5 cm to about 30 cm, a width of between about 0.5 cm to about 12 cm, and a thickness of between about 0.05 cm to about 7.5 cm. Additionally, the panel may be formed from a magnetic metal (i.e., iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), cobalt (Co)), a magnetic alloy including at least one magnetic metal (i.e, steel, alnico, and permalloy), and a magnetic element 37, such as magnetic strips 37a, or magnet 37b, may be placed directly thereon. In some embodiments, a magnetic element, such as magnetic strips 37a or magnets 37b, may be embedded within the panel 26a or fitted within a cavity or recessed region of the panel 26a, such that a surface 35 of the panel 26a may be substantially planar. In additional embodiments, the panel 26a may be formed from a magnetic polymer and the panel 26a itself may serve as the magnetic element 37 and may be removably attached to a frame 12 that includes a material capable of attracting the magnetic polymer.

Whether present on the frame 12 or the panels 26a and 26b, the magnetic element may be utilized to removably attach the panels 26a and 26b to the frame while providing a substantially planar surface that may be easily cleaned, sterilized, or disinfected.

Referring to FIG. 6, the openings 14a-h may each be positioned within the frame 12 to provide access to internal apparatus or mechanisms, such as utility supply lines for electricity, hot or cold water, gases, or a vacuum. In some embodiments, at least two of the openings 14a-h may provide one or more channels (such as those shown by arrows), which extend through opposing or offset sides of the frame 12. Advantageously, the openings 14a-h in the frame 12 provide a track or passageway for attaching a portion of a strap for a sling-, harness-, or hoist-type system, which facilitates adjustment, movement and transportation of the overlying structure, such as cabinet 24. For example, straps 38 may optionally be passed through openings on opposing sides of the frame 12 such as, for example, through openings 14b and 14h or through openings 14a and 14e. As another example, hooks 40 (which may be connected to a harness or hoist 42) may be attached to an outer perimeter of any one of the openings (shown in 14f and 14e), and may then be used to readily lift or move the overlying structure, such as a cabinet (not shown), to provide access to utility lines.

Thus, the panel system 10 may be used in a variety of applications in a dental or operatory setting. Because the panel system 10 provides a substantially planar surface that may be easily cleaned, disinfected and sterilized, the surfaces of the panel system 10 may be easily made aseptic.

Although the foregoing description contains many specifics, these are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention, but merely as providing certain representative embodiments. Similarly, other embodiments of the invention can be devised which do not depart from the spirit or scope of the present invention. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated and limited only by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than by the foregoing description. All additions, deletions, and modifications to the invention, as disclosed herein, which fall within the meaning and scope of the claims, are encompassed by the present invention.