Title:
RELEASE MECHANISMS FOR ADJOINING COMPONENTS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mechanism for facilitating the release of a components employed on an expandable and collapsible canopy having a spring-biased projection penetrating an opening in the component, the mechanism comprising a sturdy flap comprising a thumb press portion which is sufficiently large enough to lower the force per square inch required to release the mechanism, wherein the flap is rotatably secured to the mechanism so that the thumb press portion may be rotated into contact with the projection by a user when in use so that the thumb press portion is substantially perpendicular to the projection upon engagement.



Inventors:
Sy-facunda, Ron (THOUSAND OAKS, CA, US)
Application Number:
13/831354
Publication Date:
05/15/2014
Filing Date:
03/14/2013
Assignee:
PACIFIC CASUAL LLC, A CALIFORNIA COMPANY (Camarillo, CA, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H15/44
View Patent Images:
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20030226585Walker mocsDecember, 2003Burchel
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20110114143BIKE RACKMay, 2011Ohlman et al.
20080035194System and method for storing, assembling and transporting a canopyFebruary, 2008Goldwitz



Primary Examiner:
YIP, WINNIE S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Plager Schack LLP (HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A discrete mechanism configured to be added to a structural assembly comprising components in which at least one component can be placed in a temporarily fixed position within the structural assembly by way of a spring-biased projection penetrating an opening in the component, the discrete mechanism comprising a semi-rigid flap comprising a thumb press portion larger than the diameter of the spring-biased projection, wherein the flap is configured so that it can be rotatably secured to the structural assembly and rotated into position covering the spring-biased projection so that the thumb press portion may be placed into contact with the projection substantially perpendicular to the linear axis of movement of the projection upon contact, thereby facilitating depression of the projection inwardly through the opening in the component to release the component from its temporarily fixed position within the structural assembly.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The embodiments herein relate generally to a release mechanism employing a pivotable lever to facilitate disengaging two temporarily adjoined components while simultaneously reducing the weight borne by one component resting upon the other component to further facilitate disengagement. In one application, such embodiments may be used to more easily collapse canopy systems. As one may appreciate who has ever attempted to expand and collapse canopy systems, often colloquially referred to as easy-ups, disengaging one component from the other by pushing or pulling the buttons or pins employed to engage adjoining components can be frustrating if not downright painful. The inherent design of the systems do not present very comfortable surfaces against which a user can apply pressure. Morever, the weight of the canopy upon the button or pin makes movement that much more difficult.

Numerous efforts have been made in the past to address this problem, some with some varying degrees of success, but many still lack a more user-friendly system. Embodiments of the present invention solves at least some of these problems.

SUMMARY

In one embodiment of the present invention, a mechanism is provided for facilitating the release of a components from a temporarily fixed position. Such components could be those employed on an expandable and collapsible canopy, where such component is temporarily fixed in position by way of a spring-biased projection penetrating an opening in the component. In one such embodiment, the mechanism comprises a housing for securing a rotatable lever therein, where the lever is normally positioned, in some embodiments, in a downward fashion, for example at about 45 degrees from horizontal. In some embodiments, the lever is configured to have a handle at a proximal end and a cam-shaped distal end so that, when in use, a user may apply upward pressure to the handle at the proximal end so as to exert axial force by the cam-shaped distal end upon the projection. By doing so, the projection can be released from penetration from the opening, thus permitting the temporarily fixed component to become disengaged.

One feature of embodiments of the present invention is that the rotatable lever is configured so that rotation of the rotatable lever serves to remove in part the weight borne by the mechanism housing upon the projection penetrating one of the plurality of openings so as to facilitate the removal of the projection from the penetration. In some embodiments, the lever may be positioned at about 45 degrees below the horizontal, but of course other positions and arrangements are contemplated to serve the function of facilitating release.

In another embodiment, a mechanism is provided for adjusting the relative position of a first component with a second component, where the first component comprises a plurality of openings in a wall thereof for setting the positioning of the second component relative to the first component. In such embodiments, the mechanism comprises a housing for supporting the first and second components therewithin, where the mechanism housing may comprise an internal passageway sized and configured to permit the first and second components to be directed therewithin; a shoulder positioned within the internal passageway and configured so as to permit direct engagement of the second component with the shoulder to rest thereon for stable positioning; and a compartment within the housing for pivotally securing a spring-biased lever therewithin.

The compartment further comprises an opening between the compartment and the passageway, and pivotally supports a lever having a proximal end for user engagement to apply force to the proximal end of the lever against the spring bias force, the pivotal lever having a distal end comprising a projection configured to fit within the compartment opening and through one of the plurality of openings in the first component. In some of such embodiment, the passage way is so configured so as to permit the first component to be directed into the passageway so as to permit alignment with at least one of the plurality of openings in the first component wall with the opening in the compartment, thereby permitting the projection of the spring-biased pivotable lever to penetrate both the compartment opening and the at least one opening of the first component to secure the first and second components together in temporarily locked configuration, and wherein upon pressure being applied by the user upon the proximal end of the pivotable lever, the projection at the distal end of the lever may be removed from at least the opening of the first component to disengage the first and second components to permit movement of the first relative to the second.

One feature of such embodiments is that such mechanism housing is configured so that when a user applies pressure to the proximal end of the pivotable lever against the force of the spring, the mechanism housing may be raised upwardly sufficiently to remove the weight of the second component on the projection at the distal end of the pivotable lever within the openings, thereby making it easier to remove the projection from the first component opening by applying less force than if the weight borne by the projection were not removed prior to the lever being pressed. Another feature of such embodiments is that the mechanism provides a guide for more smoothly permitting telescoping action between the lower and upper legs in a way that prevents derailing or misalignment.

In yet another embodiment, a release mechanism is provided for facilitating the release of temporarily engaged adjoining components in a collapsible system, where the system employs a spring-biased button penetrating an opening to secure the adjoining components together, the release mechanism comprising a fabric overlay securable to the system and configured to drape over the spring-biased button to permit a user to apply pressure to the button while avoiding pinching injuries.

In another embodiment, a mechanism for facilitating the release of a components from a temporarily fixed position is provided, where such component is temporarily fixed in position by way of a spring-biased projection penetrating an opening in the component. In one embodiment, the mechanism comprises a sturdy flap comprising a thumb press portion, wherein the flap is rotatably secured to the mechanism so that the thumb press portion may be rotated into contact with the projection by a user when in use so that the thumb press portion is substantially perpendicular to the projection upon engagement, thereby facilitating depression of the projection.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The detailed description of some embodiments of the invention will be is made below with reference to the accompanying figures, wherein like numerals represent corresponding parts of the figures.

FIG. 1 shows a schematic perspective view of one embodiment of a prior art canopy presenting typical components to which embodiments of the present invention may be applied;

FIGS. 2A and 2B show schematic perspective views of one embodiment of a release mechanism;

FIGS. 3A and 3B show schematic elevational views of the embodiments of FIGS. 2A and 2B;

FIGS. 4A through 4E show schematic perspective and elevational views of another embodiment of release mechanism;

FIG. 5 shows a schematic perspective view of one embodiment of a portion of a prior art canopy;

FIG. 6 shows a schematic perspective view of yet another embodiment of a release mechanism;

FIGS. 7 and 8 shows a schematic perspective view of yet another embodiment of a release mechanism;

FIG. 9 shows a schematic elevational view the embodiment of FIGS. 7 and 8.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS

Canopies are but one of a number of consumer products that employ an array of components linked together in a way that permits collapsibility for purposes of portability. Many of such devices employ an interlocking mechanism to temporarily engage adjoining components in a releasable manner. An example of a canopy is shown in FIG. 1, with the canopy frame 1 comprising eave supports 2 linked through frame release members 3 to a plurality of legs 4, each of which is traditionally comprises of a telescoping upper leg section 5 and lower leg section 6 secured to each other by leg release member 7. Embodiments of the invention described herein have particular applicability to the release members 3 and 7 of such a canopy frame, but have equal applicability to other systems designed to permit collapsibility for portability.

By way of example, and with reference to FIGS. 2A and 2B, one embodiment of a frame release member 10 comprises a housing 12 configured to slideably mount around a vertical frame member 14 having a hole 16 (shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B) permitting temporary locking of the release member 10 relative to the frame member 14. In this example, as in many frame release members, the release member housing 12 comprises lateral supports 18 for supporting cross beams 20 (shown specifically in FIG. 2B) that form part of the canopy frame. Whether such beams be part of the eave support or the upper canopy support, it is not of importance here. What is important is that the housing 12 bears at least a portion of the weight of the canopy frame upon it when it is set in hole 16.

One important feature of the frame release members 10 of the present invention is the employment of a release lever 24 pivotalbly supported within an inner compartment 26 of the housing 12. Referring to FIGS. 3A and 3B, some of the advantages of the release lever 24 may be appreciated. There it is can be appreciated that the release housing 12 surrounds vertical frame member 14, and includes the lateral supports 18 for bearing the weight of the cross beams 20 (shown specifically in FIG. 3B). Within the compartment 26 of the housing 12 is the lever 24 and an opening 28 exposing the compartment to the one of a plurality of holes 16 in the vertical frame member 14. The lever 24 may comprise a cam-shaped distal end 32 and is pivotable about pivot pin 34 within the compartment 26. Internal to the vertical frame member 14 is a spring 36 having one of a number of possible configurations, but importantly comprising a projection 38 or button that is spring biased to fit into one of the plurality of holes 16 of the vertical frame member 14.

When in a desired frame-expanded position, where the frame release housing 12 is aligned with the vertical frame member 14 such that the housing hole 28 aligns with vertical frame member hole 16, the force of the spring 36 on the projection 38 drives the projection through both holes, essentially locking the release mechanism 10 to an affixed position on the vertical frame member 14. One can appreciate, therefore, that the weight borne by the release mechanism housing 12 caused by the weight of the cross beams 20 of the frame come to bear on the projection penetrating the compartment hole 28. Without the benefit of the level, a user would need to push with their thumb or forefinger upon the projection 38 to release the housing 12 from the vertical frame, which can be very difficult. The pivotable lever solves the difficult by being configured that when uplifted by the user, the lever both removes the weight borne by the housing on the projection and at the same time pushes the projection back through the compartment hole 28 and into the vertical frame 14, thus permitting release mechanism 10 to be released from the frame to vertically slide downwardly or upwardly as desired.

Referring to FIGS. 4A through 4E, another embodiment may be described that has particular, although not exclusive, applicability to the leg release mechanisms of canopy frames. In that regard, and by example only, one embodiment of leg release mechanism 40 may be employed between an upper leg 50 and a lower leg 60. In the this embodiment, by example, the adjustability in height is provided by a plurality of holes 62 in the lower leg 60. The upper leg 50 is preferably hollow and has an interior passage way 52 sufficient large to permit the lower leg 60 to slide in a telescoping fashion in and out of the upper leg 50.

Although it is envisioned that the leg release mechanism 40 may be movable relative to both the upper leg 50 and lower leg 60, in this particular embodiment, the release mechanism 40 comprising a housing that engages the upper leg 50 so that both move together when adjusting the height of the upper leg 50 relative to the lower leg 60. In that regard, release mechanism 40 comprises a housing 70 having an interior compartment 72 supporting a pivotable lever 74 therewithin, as shown in perspective view in FIG. 4A. With reference to FIGS. 4B and 4C, more details of the exemplary embodiment may be described.

Release mechanism housing 70 comprises the interior compartment 72 supporting a lever 74 that pivots about pivot pin 76 and is biased by spring 78 between a proximal end of the lever 74 and an interior wall of the housing compartment 72. The lever further comprises at its distal end a projection 82 configured to penetrate an opening 84 in the housing compartment, where the projection is configured sufficiently long to penetrate not only opening 84 but also one of the plurality of openings 62 in the lower leg 60.

The housing 70 further comprises interior shoulders 90 upon which the base of the upper leg 50 may rest to secure stability and unity of motion between the release mechanism housing 70 and upper leg 50. Affixation may be provided if so desired by affixed a portion of the upper leg 50 to side walls 92 of the housing 70. Otherwise, the weight of the frame upon the upper leg should normally maintain engagement of the upper leg 50 upon the interior shoulder 90 of housing 70.

In its normal “state” with the spring biased lever forcing the projection 82 through openings 84 and lower leg opening 62a, the system is stable and the upper and lower legs remains steady relative to each other. When it is desired to move one leg relative to the other leg, whether—at least in this embodiment—to telescope the lower leg 60 inwardly into the interior of the upper leg 50 or to move it outwardly, a user need only push upon the proximal end of the lever 74 bearing against the spring 78 so as to cause the lever to pivot and withdraw the projection 82 from hole 62a and into compartment 72. By grasping the release mechanism housing 70 with the user's hand while pushing against the lever, the weight of the upper leg bearing on the lower leg 60 may be reduced, further making it easier to withdraw the projection from the holes 62a and 84. The user may then allow the release mechanism housing 70 to slide downwardly further down the lower leg 60 to engage another opening, such as opening 62b, or an opening lower than that one. FIGS. 4D and 4E show the upper leg 50 lowered relative to the lower leg 60 so that projection 84 engages the next lower hole 62b. The lower leg slides easily and with no misalignment into the interior 52 of upper leg 50 for simple adjustment of canopy height.

One may appreciate that employing features like the levers set forth herein facilitates release of weight borne locking mechanism that are other wise difficult to navigate using just one's thumb or forefinger. Yet not only are there weight-born issues that make it difficult to collapsible adjoining components, but the users fingers may be pinched by releasing the button from the holes in a conventional collapsible system. One embodiment for minimizing the risk of pinching is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. With reference to FIG. 5, a conventional canopy frame 101 comprises a vertical frame member 102 with a hole 103 and a release mechanism 104 carrying a cross beam 105 by way of mechanical fastener 106. The release mechanism 104 is carried by spring-biased button 107 penetrating the hole 103. Although for clarity sake it is not illustrated as directly engaging each other, the release mechanism would be configured to rest upon the button 107 projecting through opening 103, requiring a user to push the button inwardly against the spring-biased forced to then release the release mechanism 104 from its position and permit it to be slid up or down the vertical member 102. When the button 107 is depressed, the weight of the release mechanism comes down to bear on the user's finger, often causing pinching or pain.

One embodiment of the present invention designed to avoid pinching associated with releasing the mechanism 104 comprises a cover 110, such as the example shown in FIG. 6, which may be affixed to the system in one of a number of ways, but in this example is affixed by securing it via mechanical fastener 106. The cover 110 may comprise one of a number of materials, but may simply comprise a durable fabric that is tear-resistant, but resilient enough to permit the user to firm push against the button 107 and avoid pinching of the user's fingers or thumbs.

Yet another embodiment contemplated to avoid pinching is reflected by the example shown in FIGS. 7 through 9. Referring to FIG. 7, embodiment 210 comprises a vertical frame member 212 supporting a release mechanism 214 by way of spring-biased button 216 secured to the frame member 212. The release mechanism 214 may carry one or more cross beams 220 and 222, each of which or one of which may comprise a mechanical fastening means 224 for securing a pinch-resistant mechanism thereto. In that regard, FIG. 8 shows the same release mechanism assembly, but further comprising a pinch resistant mechanism 230 that may comprise one of numerous possible shapes, and made of one or more of numerous possible materials. Preferably, the pinch resistant mechanism 230 comprises a sturdy flap 232 having a thumb press portion 234 and, if desired, one or more raised projections 236 for enhancing the engagement of a user's thumb (not shown) with the thumb press portion 234. The surface area of the thumb press portion 234 is preferably sufficiently large to distribute the force required to push the release mechanism 214, thus enhancing the ergonomics of the invention, by substantially reducing the force necessary to disengage the release mechanism. As shown in FIG. 9, the mechanical fastener 224 should be tight enough to securely retain the pinch resistant mechanism 230 to cross beam 222, while permitting rotation of the pinch resistant mechanism 230.

Referring to FIG. 9 specifically, rotation of the pinch resistant mechanism 230 about a pivot point P (representing mechanical fastener 224 on cross beam 222 behind cross beam 220) preferably allows the flap 232 to contact the spring-biased button 216 perpendicularly, as shown by the rotational movement of the flap 232 through positions A, B, C and D. By securing the pinch resistant mechanism 230 in such a manner as to permit engagement between it and the button 216 in a perpendicular relationship facilitates the user's ability to push the button inwardly into the vertical frame 212 for ease of release of the release mechanism 214, when it is desired to collapse a frame assembly. The combination of the large surface area of the thumb press portion 234 and the perpendicular engagement further substantially reduces the force necessary necessary to disengage the release mechanism. If desired, the sturdy flap 232 of the pinch resistant mechanism 230 may comprises a resilient material, so long as it is sturdy enough to withstand rotational movement and the force of the user's thumb to depress the button easily.

As one can appreciate, a variety of configurations maybe employed to achieve the functionality described herein to facilitate the release of semi-locked or temporarily locked adjoining members of a system, particularly when one of the components is bearing weight. The scope of the invention, however, is not to be measured by the particulars of the exemplary embodiments described herein, but rather by the claims set forth below.