Title:
PANEL TRIM AND RELATED METHOD OF MANUFACTURE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A panel trim including a cover and a base joined at opposite ends of a flange to form channels on opposite sides of the flange. The channels are adapted to receive panels, with the cover adapted to conceal the gap between the panels. The panel trim can include at least one ramp joined with the base. The panel trim can also include a flex region to enable independent flexing of opposite sides of the cover as panels are inserted into respective channels. The panel trim can be modified to accommodate linearly aligned panels, as well as panels that are at an angle to one another.



Inventors:
Meulemans, Michael J. (North Muskegon, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/247604
Publication Date:
04/08/2010
Filing Date:
10/08/2008
Assignee:
ISO-TRUDE, INC. (Grand Haven, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04F13/07; E04B2/88
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SADLON, JOSEPH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WARNER NORCROSS + JUDD LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:

1. A panel trim adapted for placement between adjacent first and second panels, the panel trim comprising: a base including a ramp; a flange joined with the base; a cover joined with the flange, the cover including a first cover portion and a second cover portion, the first cover portion and the base, and the second cover portion and the base, forming first and second channels on opposite sides of the flange, respectively, the cover including at least one flex region adjacent the flange so that the first cover portion flexes independently from the second cover portion without substantially altering the second channel, wherein the ramp extends upwardly toward the first cover portion, increasing in height as the ramp nears the flange.

2. The panel trim of claim 1 wherein the flex region is at least one of a groove, a recess, and a void defined by the cover adjacent the flange.

3. The panel trim of claim 1 wherein the cover is constructed from a first material having a first durometer, wherein the flex region is constructed from a second material having a second durometer that is less than the first durometer.

4. The panel trim of claim 1 wherein the ramp is raised at an angle between about 5 degrees and about 30 degrees relative to the base.

5. The panel trim of claim 1 wherein the ramp is located inward from the outer end of the cover portion so that the cover portion completely conceals the ramp from a viewer viewing along a line substantially parallel to the flange.

6. The panel trim of claim 1 wherein the ramp includes a panel engaging upper surface, a bottom surface opposite the upper surface, and a recess defined adjacent the bottom surface, wherein a structural support element is joined with the bottom surface of the ramp, the structural support extending downward from the bottom surface a distance so that the structural support element simultaneously engages a wall, to which the trim is joined, with the base.

7. A panel trim adapted for placement between first and second panels, the panel trim comprising: a base including a central region and opposing ends; a flange including a first flange end and a second flange end distal from the first flange end, the first flange end joined with the cover at the central region and extending substantially perpendicularly to the base, the flange including opposing first and second flange sides; a cover joined with the second flange end so that the cover, flange and base form opposing first and second channels, with the first channel adapted to receive the first panel and the second channel adapted to receive the second panel, the cover including a first cover portion extending from the flange on the first flange side, the first cover portion terminating at a free first flange end positioned a first distance from the base, the cover including a second cover portion extending from the flange on the second flange side, the second cover portion terminating at a free second flange end positioned a second distance from the base; and a flex region defined at least partially by the cover, the flex region being adjacent the flange and the first cover portion, the flex region enabling the first cover region to flex relative to the flange, and relative to and independently from the second cover portion, wherein the first panel is insertable by a user into the first channel without substantially moving the second cover portion so that the second distance remains substantially unchanged when the first panel is inserted into the first channel, whereby the second channel remains open and sized to receive the second panel, wherein the base includes at least one ramp positioned within the first channel, the ramp including a ramp base, the ramp base being located inward from the free first flange end, the ramp adapted to urge the first panel toward the first flange portion as a user inserts the first panel deeper into the first channel, wherein the base, cover and flange are integrally formed into a one piece panel trim, whereby the cover covers ends of the first and second panels when those ends are adjacent one another, thereby concealing a gap between the first and second panels.

8. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the flex region includes at least one of a groove, a recess, and a void defined by the cover adjacent the flange.

9. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the cover is constructed from a first material having a first durometer, wherein the flex region is constructed from a second material having a second durometer that is less than the first durometer.

10. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the ramp is raised at an angle between about 5 degrees and about 30 degrees relative to the base.

11. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the ramp includes a panel engaging upper surface, a bottom surface opposite the upper surface, and a recess defined adjacent the bottom surface, wherein a structural support element is joined with the bottom surface of the ramp, the structural support extending downward from the bottom surface a distance so that the structural support element simultaneously engages a wall, to which the trim is joined, with the base.

12. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the central region of the base includes a member substantially parallel to the flange and a member substantially perpendicular to the flange.

13. The panel trim of claim 7 wherein the upper and lower surfaces of the cover are substantially parallel, wherein the upper and lower surfaces substantially define a portion of a curve.

14. A panel trim adapted for placement between adjacent first and second panels, the panel trim comprising: a base including a ramp; a flange joined with the base, the ramp increasing in height as it nears the flange; a cover joined with the flange so that the cover and base cooperate to form opposing first and second channels on opposite sides of the flange, the second channel having first dimensions, at least one of the cover and the flange including a defined flex region so that a portion of the cover adjacent the first channel flexes independently from the second cover portion, wherein the second channel retains the first dimensions as a first panel is inserted by a user into the first channel.

15. The panel trim of claim 14 wherein the flex region includes at least one of a groove, a recess, and a void defined by the cover adjacent the flange.

16. The panel trim of claim 14 wherein the cover is constructed from a first material having a first durometer, wherein the flex region is constructed from a second material having a second durometer that is less than the first durometer.

17. The panel trim of claim 14 wherein the ramp is raised at an angle between about 5 degrees and about 30 degrees relative to the base.

18. The panel trim of claim 14 wherein the ramp includes a ramp base, wherein the cover extends laterally outward past the ramp base.

19. The panel trim of claim 14 wherein the ramp includes a panel engaging upper surface, a bottom surface opposite the upper surface, and a recess defined adjacent the bottom surface, wherein a structural support element is joined with the bottom surface of the ramp, the structural support extending downward from the bottom surface a distance so that the structural support element simultaneously engages a wall, to which the trim is joined, with the base.

20. A method for making panel trim, comprising: extruding a material through an extruder to form a linear, one-piece, monolithic panel trim including a base having a ramp, a flange joined with the base, and a cover joined with the flange so that the cover and base cooperate to form opposing first and second channels on opposite sides of the flange, the second channel having first dimensions, and forming a flex region in at least one of the cover and the flange adjacent the first channel, wherein the base, the base ramp, flange and cover are of a substantially uniform thickness.

21. A panel trim adapted for installation over an edge of a panel, the panel trim comprising: a base including a ramp to accommodate panels of different thicknesses; a flange joined with the base; a cover joined with the flange, the cover including a cover portion spaced apart from the base to define a channel, the cover including at least one flex region adjacent the flange so that the first cover portion flexes with respect to the flange; and wherein the ramp extends upwardly toward the cover portion, increasing in height as the ramp nears the flange.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to panel systems, and more particularly, to panel trim that conceals a gap between adjacent panels.

Panel systems are frequently used to aesthetically or functionally enhance existing structures, such as walls. Most panel systems include large panels that come in a variety of thicknesses, depending on the application. To install the panel systems, a user cuts or shapes the panels to a desired configuration or dimension. Sometimes, the panels come pre-cut so that the user need not further modify them. The user then joins the panels, usually one-by-one, with a wall via adhesives or fasteners until the wall is sufficiently covered with the panels to the user's satisfaction.

Typically, the panels are joined with the wall in a side-by-side configuration so that the edge of one panel is adjacent or abutting the edge of another panel. This configuration usually produces a visible gap or void between the panels. In some applications, this gap is acceptable. In most applications, however, it is not, as it provides a visual break in the wall, and can provide a location between the panels where dust and other debris can collect.

Manufacturers of panel systems have accordingly developed a variety of trim pieces adapted to cover the gap between panels. A simple trim piece is an “H” shaped construction, where one panel edge fits within one side of the H, and another panel edge fits within the other side of the H. While this construction conceals the gap, it is usually difficult to attach to a wall, and requires a variety of different dimensioned trim pieces to accommodate panels of varying thickness.

Another conventional trim piece is similar to the H trim piece above, but slightly modified. As shown in FIG. 1, such a trim piece includes two parts: (a) a base 10 that attaches to the wall, and (b) a complimentary cover piece 12 including a concave cover 14 and a connector flange 16 having a toothed section 18. The toothed section 18 mates with a receiver 20 in the base 10. The toothed section can be connected to the base in multiple configurations so that the distance between the cover 14 and base 10 varies to accommodate different thickness panels. While this trim piece can accommodate a variety of panels and cover the gap between those panels, it suffers several shortcomings.

First, the trim piece requires the construction of two separate components, that is, the base and the cover piece. This increases cost of manufacture as different molds or extrusion dies are required for each piece. It also increases labor during installation, as the user must spend time cutting the two pieces to the same length, and connecting the two pieces. Second, the construction of the cover piece can make it difficult to join with the base after the panels are joined in place with the trim. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, after panels 101 are installed in a channel of the trim, the cover tends to flex and teeter as the toothed section is inserted into the base. This teetering can reduce the dimensions of one or both of the channels. In turn, the user must exert more force to connect the cover with the base to secure the trim. This can be frustrating, particularly with large bulky panels.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a panel trim including a cover and a base joined at opposite ends of a flange. These components form channels on opposite sides of the flange. The channels can be configured so that panels nest therein, with the cover covering a gap between the panels.

In one embodiment, the cover can be one piece, with all of the components, for example, the cover, the flange and the base formed as a monolithic structure. Optionally, this structure can be formed using extrusion techniques.

In another embodiment, the panel trim can include one or more flex regions that enable portions of the cover to flex and/or move relative to other portions of the cover so that the other portions do not obstruct the positioning of panels within the channels. Generally, the portion on one side of the flange can flex substantially independently of a cover portion on the opposite side of the flange with the flex region. Optionally, the flange can include a portion of a flex region to facilitate the desired amount of flex.

In another embodiment, the flex regions can be grooves, recesses, slots, apertures or material voids defined by the cover and/or flange that enable a portion of the cover, for example, that portion extending beyond the flange, to flex upwardly and away from the base without causing another portion of the flange, for example, the part on the opposite side of the flange, to bend toward the base on the opposite side of the flange.

In yet another embodiment, the flex regions can be produced by co-molding or co-extruding different materials at the flex regions so that these regions are more flexible than other regions of the cover and/or flange. The term “co” is used to refer to the combination of two or more different materials with different durometer values, and is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to just two different materials. For example, the term “co” may refer to the combination of three materials with different durometer values.

In a further embodiment, the base of the panel trim can include one or more ramps that increase in height as they approach the flange. Optionally, the ramps can include a ramp base (where the ramp begins), which is positioned at a location that is under or concealed by the cover.

In yet a further embodiment, each ramp can be reinforced with a support rib extending along a portion of the width of each ramp. The support rib can be utilized when it is desirable to have a hollowed, yet structurally reinforced, ramp so that panels engaging the ramp do not deform the ramp. Optionally, the support rib can extend from the underside of the ramp to a location that is substantially coplanar with another portion of the base that engages a surface against which the trim is positioned.

In another, further embodiment, a method of making the panel trim is provided, the method including: forming panel trim including a base and a cover connected by a flange; forming a panel accepting channel between the cover and the base; and forming flex regions in at least one of the cover and the flange. Optionally, the method includes forming a ramp in the base, the ramp being generally hollow, except for a structural support rib on its underside. Further optionally, the panel trim is formed by extruding or molding techniques.

The panel trim of the present invention provides a simple and efficient construction that is easy to install and accommodates different thickness panels. Where the trim includes a cover having one or more flex regions, this enables portions of the cover to flex independently of other portions, and enables a user to insert a first panel within the channel on one side without tilting the cover about the flange thereby diminishing the channel dimensions on the opposite side of the flange. Accordingly, a user can easily insert a second panel in the other channel. The flex regions also facilitate insertion of a single panel within the channel of the trim, as their flexure minimizes the amount of force needed to insert the panel within the channel. Further, after insertion of a panel in the channel, the flex regions can urge the cover into engagement with the panel, providing a cleaner seal between the trim and the panel. Where the panel trim includes a ramp, it can accommodate a variety of different thickness panels. Upon insertion of thinner panels in to the channel having a ramp, the ramp “lifts” the panel into engagement with the cover so that the interface between the cover and the panel is tight and clean. Where the panel trim includes a hollow ramp, the underside of the ramp can include a reinforcing rib. With the ramp being hollow and supported by a reinforcing rib, rather than being of a solid, filled configuration, the panel trim can be efficiently manufactured using extrusion techniques.

These and other objects, advantages, and features of the invention will be more fully understood and appreciated by reference to the description of the current embodiment and the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a sectional view of the prior art;

FIG. 2 is another sectional view of the prior art;

FIG. 3 is a sectional view of a trim in accordance with an embodiment of the current invention;

FIG. 4 is a partial sectional view of the trim installed with corresponding panels;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the trim as a first panel is initially inserted;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view of the trim as the first panel continues to be inserted to its fully inserted position;

FIG. 7 is a sectional view of the trim as a second panel is initially inserted;

FIG. 8 is a sectional view of the trim as the second panel continues to be inserted to its fully inserted position;

FIG. 9 is a sectional view of a first alternative embodiment of the flex regions of the trim;

FIG. 10A is a sectional view of a second alternative embodiment of the flex regions of the trim;

FIG. 10B is a sectional view of a third alternative embodiment of the flex regions of the trim;

FIG. 11 is a sectional view of a fourth alternative embodiment of the flex regions of the trim;

FIGS. 12A is a sectional view of an end cap embodiment of the trim.

FIGS. 12B is a sectional view of an inside corner embodiment of the trim.

FIGS. 12C is a sectional view of an outside corner assembly showing both an outside corner embodiment of the trim and an end cap embodiment of the trim.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE CURRENT EMBODIMENT

I. Overview and Definitions

A current embodiment of the panel trim of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 3-8 and generally designated 25. The trim 25 can be used to capture the ends of adjacent panels 200, 210, and conceal the gap 213 between them (FIG. 8). In general, the trim 25 can include a cover 30, a base 40, a flange 52, and one or more flex regions 70. The cover, flange and base cooperate to define generally opposing channels 66 and 68. The flex region 70 allows for independent flexing or movement of the cover 30 to facilitate insertion of a first panel 200 into the first channel 66 (FIGS. 5-6), while maintaining the size of the second channel 68 so that a second panel 210 can be easily inserted into the second channel 68 (FIGS. 7-8).

The following terms will have the definitions presented. As used herein, “panel” refers to any material that forms a surface, including but not limited to composite, plastic (natural or fiber), or wood sheets, rolls, webs, boards, or other construction materials. These materials may be configured to enhance that existing structure aesthetically or functionally.

As used herein, “wall” refers to any surface to which trim or panel may be joined including, but not limited to, surfaces constructed from drywall, composites, plastics, wood, fiber, concrete, brick, or other material.

II. Components

Referring to FIGS. 3-8, the components of the trim 25 will now be described in detail. The cover 30 generally includes a first cover portion 32 and a second cover portion 34 extending laterally from the flange. Each cover portion can include a top surface 33 and 37 and a bottom surface 31 and 35. The cover portions can each include respective free flange ends 36 and 38 at the outermost ends of the cover. The top and bottom surfaces of the cover may generally be substantially coplanar. However, there may be configurations in which the two surfaces are at an angle relative to each other. Optionally, the angle between the top and bottom surfaces may vary when moving from one free flange end to the other. Further optionally, the top and bottom surfaces of the cover can be in a variety of geometric configurations including but not limited to flat, flat with the edges of the cover angled down, convex, and concave, if desired.

The trim can also include a base 40, which can include guides 42 and 44, ramps 46 and 48, and a central region of the base 50. The guides 42 and 44 can be configured so that when the trim is attached to a wall, they are generally parallel to the wall. Alternatively or additionally, the guides can be generally parallel to the panels, but adopted to flex or change configuration during the insertion of the panels (FIGS. 5-8). As shown, the guides can extend beyond the free flange ends 36 and 38, so that before installation of the panels, the two guides are visible to a viewer. Immediately adjacent the guides 42 and 44, the base can transition to the ramps 46 and 48. These ramps can increase in height as they approach the flange 52, and can include opposing surfaces, namely a panel engaging ramp upper surface 45 and 49 and a lower ramp surface 47 and 51.

The upper ramp surface can be at a predetermined angle α or β to the guide 42 or 44. The lower ramp surface can be substantially parallel with the upper surface. The ramp angles α and β can be selected to prevent binding of a panel as it engages a ramp 46, while still moving the panel upward, toward the cover 30 to provide a tight, aesthetically pleasing seal between the cover 30 and upper surface of the panel. The ramp angles α or β can vary from about 5 degrees to about 30 degrees, optionally about 10 degrees to about 20 degrees, and optionally about 14 degrees.

The ramps can further define recesses or voids. Where there is a recess 53, 55 defined adjacent the bottom ramp surface 47 and 51, the ramps can be structurally reinforced with structural support 72 and 74. These supports can be located on the lower surface 47 and 51 of the ramp to prevent or limit the deformation of the ramp 46 and 48 during insertion of the panels. The structural support can extend from the lower ramp surface to a location substantially coplanar with the guides 42 and 44 and/or the wall 150. Accordingly, the supports 72 and 74 can contact the wall on which the panels are mounted and provide further structural support for the ramps 46 and 48, thereby preventing the ramps from buckling when an inserted panel exerts force on it. The structural supports 72 and 74 can be located at the midpoint of the lower surface of the ramps 46 and 48, but may be placed at virtually any location along the lower surface of the ramps. Alternatively, the ramps 46 and 48 can be solid or hollow structures, with material extending from the upper ramp surface down to a plane generally coplanar with the guides 42 and 44, and then the wall 150, having no voids therebetween. In the case of such a solid or hollow ramp, there may be no need for the structural supports 72 and 74 because the ramp itself can be strong enough to prevent deformation during insertion of the panels.

The central region of the base 50 can generally include a lateral member 57 that can be substantially coplanar with the wall 150. The central region of the base 50 can also generally include vertical members 59 and 61 that connect the ramps 46 and 48 to the lateral member 57. The vertical members 59 and 61 can be substantially perpendicular to the lateral member 57.

The trim 25 can further include a flange 52 extending from the base 40. This flange 52 can be generally substantially perpendicular to the cover 30 and/or the base 40, as desired, or at other selected angles as the application requires. The flange 52 can include a first flange end 54 joined with the cover 30 and a second flange end 56 joined with the central region of the base 50. Alternatively, the second flange end 56 can be offset from the central region as desired. The flange can also include opposing first and second flange sides 58 and 60 that define the innermost portions of channels 66 and 68. The flange sides 58 and 60 can be adjacent to the flex region 70 as desired. Indeed, the sides 58 and 60 can terminate at or near, or transition to the flex regions 70 as desired.

As shown in FIGS. 3-8, the first free flange end 36 can be positioned a first distance 62 from the guide 42 of the base 40, and the second free flange end 38 can be positioned a second distance 64 from the guide 44. The first and second distances 62 and 64 can be sized to accommodate the panels the user has selected to join. Generally, the first and second distances 62 and 64 can be selected to accommodate a variety of panels having a range of thicknesses. For example, a certain trim 25 can be configured so that it accommodates ⅜ inch thick panels to ⅝ inch panels, while still providing a tight seal between the panel and the cover. In come cases, multiple different trims having different distances 62 and 64 can be manufactured to accommodate a variety of different panels. The cover 30, flange 52, and base 40 can cooperatively define the first channel 66, second channel 68 into which the edges of the trim panel 200, 210 are inserted, for example, by an installer, installation jig, fixture or device.

Turning to FIG. 3, the trim 25 can include one or more flex regions or points 70. These flex regions can be defined and positioned to enable a cover portion on one side of the trim to flex independently of the cover portion on the opposite side of the trim. This flexing facilitates insertion of a first panel 200 in channel 66 without substantially changing the dimensions of a channel 68 on the opposite side of the trim. As an example, referring to FIGS. 5-7 the cover portion 32 adjacent the channel 66 flexes substantially independently from the second cover portion 34 as a panel 200 is inserted into the channel 66. In turn, the second channel 68 substantially retains its dimensions or remains substantially unchanged as that insertion is performed. Thus, the distance 64 between the cover free end 38 and the guide 44 remains generally unaltered despite the cover free end 36 moving relative to the base 40, thereby increasing the distance 62 (FIG. 3) between the cover free end 36 and the base 40.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, an individual flex region 70 can be a void 100 defined at least in part by the cover 30 on the lower surface 31 of the cover portion 32. This void can be in the form of a groove, a recess, aperture, or a hole, and can be located adjacent the flange 52. In some applications, the void can be at least partially defined by the upper flange end 54. As shown, the void can be of virtually any geometric shape, for example partially circular, rectangular, triangular, hexagonal, octagonal, and the like. The void can be a continuous feature defined along the length of the trim, or the void can be intermittently defined along a section of the trim as desired. Of course, different void constructions, continuous and intermittent, can be combined in one trim. The void 100 itself can include sharp or radiused edges, which transition to the cover 30 and/or a flange 52. Generally the void 100 can be offset from, or not defined substantially by, the flange so that the flange retains tensile strength to keep the cover 30 attached to the flange 52 as the panels 200, 210 strain these elements upon insertion. Alternative embodiments of the flex region 70 are described below.

As shown in FIG. 3, the leading edges 76 and 78 of the upper surfaces of the ramps 46 and 48 can be located laterally inward from the free flange ends 36 and 38 to facilitate the entry of the trim panel into the channel 66 or 68. This configuration can ensure that the edge of the panel is adequately captured under the respective cover portion before the respective ramp begins to elevate the panel toward the cover. This can facilitate insertion of a panel into a channel for the user, and can eliminate the need to manually raise or pry the cover portions 32 or 34 during insertion of the panel. Although the flex regions 70 are shown as being adjacent the flange 52, they may be distanced from the flange as desired to provide the desired independent flexibility.

III. Method of Manufacture and Use

The trim 25 of the present invention can be made from a variety of materials using a variety of techniques. For example, the trim and its components can be constructed from plastics, composites, metals, fibers, natural materials or combinations thereof, depending on the application. When finished, the trim and its components can form a single, monolithic, unitary structure having a substantially uniform thickness throughout as desired. Construction can be achieved using an extrusion process, where material is passed through an extruder to form a linear, one-piece, monolithic panel trim including a base 40 having a ramp 46, a flange 52 joined with the base, and a cover 30 joined with the flange so that the cover and base cooperate to form opposing first and second channels 66 and 68 on opposite sides of the flange. In this extrusion process, the flex region can be formed as described in connection with the embodiments herein. With the trim extruded, it may be cut to desired lengths, trimmed and packaged for shipment. Where the trim 25 includes a generally hollow ramp with a support structure, this configuration can be conducive to such extrusion processes, as it produces a trim having components of a substantially uniform thickness. Optionally, the trim can be manufactured using other methods, such as injection molding, machining, and the like.

After being manufactured, the trim can be used by an end user. In general, a user can use the trim 25 to conceal the gap 213 between adjacent panels in the following manner. The user can place the base 40 adjacent a wall 150 and join the base with the wall 150, using fasteners such as glue, screws, or nails. As shown in FIG. 5, the user can then place a panel 200 adjacent a channel 66, with the panel resting on or near the base 40. The user can slide the panel 200 inward along the upper surface of the guide 42 until the leading edge of the panel 202 contacts the leading edge of the ramp 76. As the panel 200 is further inserted into the channel 66, the leading edge 202 moves up the ramp 46. At is does so, it engages the cover portion 32, which can flex slightly upward, as shown in FIG. 6. The precise amount of flex can depend on the thickness of the panel 204, and/or the material from which the panel is constructed. As described above, the flex region 70 facilitates flex in the cover portion 32, while preserving substantially the same distance 64 between the free flange end 38 and the guide 44 of the opposite channel 68. The user can continue to slide the panel up the ramp 46 until the front surface of the panel is sealed appropriately against the cover portion 32, or until the panel can be inserted no further.

After the first panel 200 is inserted, the user can follow the same procedure for the second panel 210, in the opposite channel 68. Due to the cover portion 34 maintaining its original distance 64 and the channel retaining its original dimensions, the panel 210 is readily and easily inserted within the channel 68.

IV. Alternative Embodiments

A first alternative embodiment is shown in FIG. 9. There, the components of the trim are generally the same as the embodiment described above, except for the flex regions 170. The flex regions 170 of this embodiment can be voids defined in the upper surface 33 and 37 of the cover 30. Optionally, these voids can be used in combination with any flex regions of any other embodiments described herein. The voids 170 can be located adjacent a line drawn along the first and second flange sides 58 and 60 through the cover 30. Placing the voids in these locations can enable the user to achieve the desired amount of flex, either in conjunction with other flex regions described herein, or as the only means for achieving flexibility in the cover portions 32 and 34. Further alternatively, if desired, a single void can be defined immediately above or even slightly offset from the flange 52, although the voids can be defined virtually anywhere on the upper surface of the cover.

In a second alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 10A, the trim 25′ may include flex regions 70′ that have regions of material 270′ and/or 272′ included in the lower and/or upper surfaces of the cover 30′. These materials can be of a lower durometer than the remainder of the cover 30′ or trim 25′ altogether. For example, the flex regions 270′ and 272′ can have a durometer selected from within the range of 20 Shore A to 60 Shore D (and beyond), while the remainder of the trim can be selected to have a higher durometer within the range of 20 Shore A to 90 Shore D (and beyond). The lower durometer material of the flex region can facilitate flexing of the cover portions 32′ and 34′ independent from one another as described in the above embodiments. This varying durometer trim 25′ can be manufactured via a co-extrusion process, in which two or more materials are fed into an extrusion die, with the resultant extruded part including the two or more materials joined together, for example, as illustrated in FIG. 10A. Alternatively, the embodiment may be manufactured using a two-shot (or multi-shot) injection molding process.

In a third alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 10B, the flex region 70″ can include regions of material 272″ joining the cover portions 32″ and 34″ to the flange 52″. This material 272″ can be of a lower durometer than the remainder of the cover 30″ or trim 25 altogether. For example, the flex region 272″ can have a durometer selected from within the range of 20 Shore A to 60 Shore D (and beyond), while the remainder of the trim can be selected to have a higher durometer within the range of 20 Shore A to 90 Shore D (and beyond). The lower durometer material of the flex region can facilitate flexing of the cover portions 32″ and 34″ independent from one another as described in the above embodiments. As with the embodiment of FIG. 10A, the trim 25″ can be manufactured via a co-extrusion process or a multi-shot injection molding process.

In a fourth alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 11, the flex regions of the trim 25 can be provided by a plurality of voids 370, 470 extending through the cover 30. In the illustrated embodiment, the voids are arranged in two rows 370, 470 defined through the cover adjacent to and on opposite sides of the flange. Optionally, the voids in the cover 30 may be filled with a material of lower durometer than the remainder of the part. The voids of this embodiment can be of virtually any geometric shape, including a circle, a rectangle, a triangle, or some other decorative configuration as desired.

A variety of additional alternative embodiments are shown in FIGS. 12A-12C. In these embodiments, the trim is configured for a number of purposes other than joining two aligned panels. For example, the trim can be manufactured to conceal the end of a single panel, to fit in or outside a corner, or other location, and conceal a gap between panels that are at transverse angles to one another. In each of these embodiments, the components are generally the same as the embodiment first described above with several exceptions as noted below. FIG. 12A shows an end cap trim 325′ intended primarily to be fitted onto the end of a panel. As with other embodiments, the end cap trim 325′ includes a base 340′ with a ramp 345′ and a flex joint 370′ that permits the cover 332′ to flex in use. FIG. 12B shows an inside corner trim intended primarily to cover an inside corner where two panels come together at an angle relative to one another. This particular embodiment is for a ninety-degree angle, but the trim could be modified for essentially any angle. As shown, the trim 325″ generally includes a cover 330″, a base 340″ and a flange 352″. The cover portions 332″ and 334″ will generally be at an angle relative to one another to accommodate the angle of the panels. The flex region 370″ may include voids 400″ that give the cover portions 332″ and 334″ essentially independent flexibility throughout their normal range of motion. As with other embodiments, the base 340″ may include a ramp 345″ and a reinforcing ribs 372″ extending downward to engage different walls to provide support to the ramp 345″. The ribs 372″ can extend downward to a location that is substantially non-coplanar with the central portion of the base 340″. The trim 325″ of this embodiment includes only one channel for receiving only one of the two panels. The edge of the other panel is concealed by the cover portion 334″, but is not contained in a channel. Alternatively, the inside corner trim could include two channels-one for each panel. FIG. 12C shows one embodiment of an outside corner assembly 300′″. In this embodiment, the outside corner assembly 300′″ generally includes an end cap trim 325′ and an outside corner trim 325′″. The end cap trim 325′ covers the edge of one panel and the outside corner trim 325′″ covers the edge of the other panel. The two trim components are brought together to form the completed assembly. The two trim components may be intersecured, for example, with cement or other adhesives. The end cap trim 325′ is essentially identical to the end cap trim 325′ of FIG. 12A discussed above and therefore will not be described in detail here. As can be seen in FIG. 12C, the outside corner trim 325′″ is largely identical to the end cap trim 325′, except that it includes an additional flange 344″ intended primarily to abut the wall on which the panels are being mounted. The outside corner trim 325′″ generally includes a cover 330′″, a base 340′″ and a flange 352′″. The base 340′″ may include a ramp 345′″ and a rib 372′″ as described in connection with previous embodiments. The cover 330′″ includes a flex point 370′″ to provide the cover portion 332′″ of the cover 330′″ with independent flexibility. In this embodiment, the wall flange 344′″ is an extension of flange 352′″ and it extends a sufficient distance to provide acceptable engagement with the wall. Although the outside corner assembly includes two separate trim elements, the outside corner assembly may be integrated into a single trim component that receives the edges of two different panels. This integrated alternative embodiment may complicate assembly in some applications.

The above description is that of the current embodiments of the invention. Various alterations and changes can be made without departing from the spirit and broader aspects of the invention as defined in the appended claims, which are to be interpreted in accordance with the principles of patent law including the doctrine of equivalents. Any reference to claim elements in the singular, for example, using the articles “a,” “an,” “the” or “said,” is not to be construed as limiting the element to the singular.