Title:
COLUMNAR STRUCTURAL COMPONENT AND METHOD OF FORMING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A columnar structural component and method of forming a columnar structural element from a sandwich panel includes forming a number of sets of recesses in the sandwich panel and bending the sandwich panel at each set of recesses to form a columnar structural element. The columnar structural component includes a number of support members at least partially disposed within an area bounded formed with the sandwich panel is bent in the areas of the sets of recesses.



Inventors:
Schwartau, Ulrich (Port d Andratx, ES)
Application Number:
13/804904
Publication Date:
09/18/2014
Filing Date:
03/14/2013
Assignee:
MILLPORT ASSOCIATES S.A. (Panama, PA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/897.33
International Classes:
E04C3/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAPMAN, JEANETTE E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RENNER OTTO BOISSELLE & SKLAR, LLP (CLEVELAND, OH, US)
Claims:
1. A method for forming a columnar structural element from a sandwich panel having first outer layer and a second outer layer separated from one another by a core, the second outer layer having a surface facing in a direction opposite the core, comprising: forming a number of sets of recesses in the sandwich panel; bending the sandwich panel at each set of recesses to form a columnar structural element such that the second outer layer forms at least a first inner corner at a first set of recesses and a second inner corner at a second set of recesses; and applying bonding material across the first inner corner such that the bonding material contacts the surface of the second layer facing in a direction opposite the core on opposing sides of the first set of recesses.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the forming of the sets of recesses includes forming a number of substantially continuous channels between a first end of the sandwich panel and a second end of the sandwich panel.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the forming a number of sets of recesses comprises forming a first set of recesses and a second set of recesses, and wherein the bending includes bending the sandwich panel at the first set of recesses to form a first round corner, and bending the sandwich panel at the second set of recesses to form a second round corner.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the forming a number of sets of recesses further comprises forming a third set of recesses and a fourth set of recesses, and wherein the bending includes bending the sandwich panel at the third set of recesses to form a third round corner, and bending the sandwich panel at the fourth set of recesses to form a fourth round corner.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the bending of the sandwich panel at least partially bounds an area.

6. The method of claim 5, further comprising connecting at least one support member to the sandwich panel, wherein the support member is at least partially contained by the bounded area.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein connecting at least one support member to the sandwich panel includes applying bonding material.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein bending the sandwich panel forms a corner at each set of recesses, and wherein the method further comprises applying bonding material to at least one of the corners.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the applying bonding material includes applying bonding material at a first inner corner formed in an area of a first set of recesses and applying bonding material at a second inner corner formed at an area of a second set of recesses.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising securing the sandwich panel in the bent position for a period of time to allow the bonding material to cure.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the forming a number of sets of recesses includes forming recesses having a triangular cross-section.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein adjacent surfaces of the recesses are angled such that the bending results in a 90-degree angle between a plane of the panel to one side of a set of recesses and a plane of the other side of the set of recesses.

13. The method of claim 1, further comprising connecting a first edge of the sandwich panel to a second edge of the sandwich panel.

14. A structural component comprising: a sandwich panel having first outer layer and a second outer layer separated from one another by a core, the second outer layer having a surface facing in a direction opposite the core, and wherein the sandwich panel is bent to bound at least part of an area such that the second outer layer forms at least a first inner corner at a first set of recesses and a second inner corner at a second set of recesses; a support member disposed inside the bounded area and connected to the sandwich panel to form a columnar structural component, the sandwich panel and the support member cooperative to form a columnar structural component having at least a first inner corner and a second inner corner formed by the second outer layer; and bonding material applied across the first inner corner such that the bonding material contacts the surface of the second layer facing in a direction opposite the core on opposing sides of the first set of recesses.

15. The structural component of claim 14, wherein the sandwich panel includes a number of sets of recesses, wherein each set of recesses includes a number of substantially continuous channels between a first end of the sandwich panel and a second end of the sandwich panel.

16. The structural component of claim 14, wherein the sandwich panel includes a round corner in the area of each of the sets of recesses.

17. The structural component of claim 16, wherein each round corner includes a corresponding inner corner and bonding material applied to at least a portion of each inner corner.

18. The structural component of claim 15, wherein the sandwich panel includes four sets of recesses corresponding to a first, second, third and fourth round corner of the sandwich panel.

19. The structural component of claim 15, wherein the sandwich panel further comprises a first edge and a second edge, and wherein the sandwich panel is bent such that the first edge and the second edge are connected to each other.

20. A method for forming a column from a sandwich panel having first outer layer and a second outer layer separated from one another by a core, the second outer layer having a surface facing in a direction opposite the core, comprising: bending the sandwich panel at the area of a first set of recesses and a second set of recesses to partially bound an area with the sandwich panel such that the second outer layer forms at least a first inner corner at the first set of recesses and a second inner corner at the second set of recesses; applying bonding material across the first inner corner such that the bonding material contacts the surface of the second outer layer facing in a direction opposite the core on opposing sides of the first set of recesses; connecting a support member to the sandwich panel, the support member at least partially within the bounded area; and bending the sandwich panel at a third set of recesses and the fourth set of recesses to enclose the support member in the bounded area.

21. (canceled)

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to building construction, and more particularly, to a columnar structural component and method of forming a columnar structural component from a composite sandwich panel.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

There is an increasing global demand for lower cost buildings such as houses, warehouses and office space. The demand for lower cost buildings is particularly strong in developing countries where economic resources may be limited and natural resources and raw materials may be scarce. For example, in areas of the Middle East or Africa, conventional building materials such as cement, brick, wood or steel may not be readily available or, if available, may be very expensive. In some areas of the world, poverty may make it too costly for people to build houses or other buildings with conventional materials.

The demand for lower cost housing also is high in areas afflicted by war or by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and the like. These devastating events often lead to widespread destruction of large numbers of buildings and houses, especially when they occur in densely populated regions. The rebuilding of areas affected by these events can cause substantial strain on the supply chain for raw materials, making them difficult or even impossible to obtain. Furthermore, natural disasters often recur and affect the same areas. If a destroyed building is rebuilt using the same conventional materials, it stands to reason that the building may be destroyed or damaged again during a similar event.

It is generally desirable to increase speed of construction and to minimize construction costs. Prefabricated or preassembled components can streamline production and reduce both the time and the cost of building construction. Prefabricated buildings, however, are made from conventional materials that may be scarce or expensive to obtain. Thus, there exists a need for alternative materials and techniques for constructing buildings that use advanced material technologies to increase the speed of construction and to reduce or to lower ownership costs.

SUMMARY

The present invention provides an alternative to conventional construction materials and techniques. Buildings, such as houses, commercial buildings, warehouses, or other structures can be constructed by composite sandwich panels (also referred to as “sandwich panels” or “composite panels” or “panels”), which have an insulative core and one or more outer layers. The buildings can be constructed by gluing several sandwich panels together, and usually traditional fasteners, such as screws, rivets, nails, etc., are not needed for such connections. Generally, composite sandwich panels offer a greater strength-to-weight ratio than traditional materials that are used by the building industry. The composite sandwich panels are generally as strong as, or stronger than, traditional materials including wood-based and steel-based structural insulation panels, while being lighter in weight. Because they weigh less than traditional building materials, the handling and transport of composite sandwich panels is generally less expensive. The composite sandwich panels also can be used to produce light-weight structures, such as floating houses, mobile homes, or travel trailers, etc.

Sandwich panels generally are more elastic or flexible than conventional materials such as wood, concrete, steel or brick and, therefore, monolithic (e.g., unitary or single unit structure) buildings made from sandwich panels generally are more durable than buildings made from conventional materials. For example, sandwich panels also may be non-flammable, waterproof, very strong and durable, and in some cases able to resist hurricane-force winds (up to 300 Kph (kilometers per hour) or more). The sandwich panels also may be resistant to the detrimental effects of algae, fungicides, water, and osmosis. As a result, buildings constructed from sandwich panels may be better able to withstand earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters than buildings constructed from conventional materials.

Sandwich panel structures may be less expensive to build than structures built from conventional materials because of reduced material costs and alternative construction techniques. The ownership and maintenance costs for sandwich panel structures also may be less over the long term because sandwich panel structures may last longer and degrade at a slower rate than buildings made from conventional materials. Structures built from sandwich panels therefore may require less maintenance and upkeep than structures built from conventional building materials, which may reduce the overall ownership costs for end users.

The insulative core of the sandwich panels also may reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and/or cool the building, which may reduce the overall costs to operate the building. The insulative core also may reduce or eliminate the need for additional insulation in the building, as may be necessary to insulate structures built from conventional building materials. Sandwich panel structures therefore may be less expensive to build and operate than buildings constructed from conventional building materials.

Standard sandwich panels generally are planar building elements. In some cases, it may be desirable to impart or to form a curve or a round corner in the sandwich panel for aesthetic and/or functional purposes. For example, it may be desirable to incorporate one or more columnar structural components (also referred to as a “columns”) with round corners in a monolithic structure. The columnar structural components may have one or more curved or rounded corners or surfaces. The terms “round,” “rounded,” “curve,” and “curved” are used interchangeably to describe objects or surfaces that are non-linear or non-planar in shape. Such objects may be circular in shape, or may have another non-linear or non-planar shape.

According to one aspect of the invention, a method for forming a columnar structural element from a sandwich panel includes forming a number of sets of recesses in the sandwich panel, and bending the sandwich panel at each set of recesses to form a columnar structural element.

According to another aspect, the forming of the sets of recesses includes forming a number of substantially continuous channels between a first end of the sandwich panel and a second end of the sandwich panel.

According to another aspect, the bending includes bending the sandwich panel at the first set of recesses to form a first round corner, and bending the sandwich panel at the second set of recesses to form a second round corner.

According to another aspect, the forming a number of sets of recesses further comprises forming a third set of recesses and a fourth set of recesses, and wherein the bending includes bending the sandwich panel at the third set of recesses to form a third round corner, and bending the sandwich panel at the fourth set of recesses to form a fourth round corner.

According to another aspect, the bending of the sandwich panel at least partially bounds an area.

According to another aspect, the method further includes connecting at least one support member to the sandwich panel, wherein the support member is at least partially contained by the bounded area.

According to another aspect, the connecting at least one support member to the sandwich panel includes applying bonding material.

According to another aspect, the bending the sandwich panel forms a corner at each set of recesses, and wherein the method further comprises applying bonding material to at least one of the corners.

According to another aspect, the applying bonding material includes applying bonding material at a first inner corner formed in an area of a first set of recesses and applying bonding material at a second inner corner formed at an area of a second set of recesses.

According to another aspect, the method further includes securing the sandwich panel in the bent position for a period of time to allow the bonding material to cure.

According to another aspect, the forming a number of sets of recesses includes forming recesses having a triangular cross-section.

According to another aspect, adjacent surfaces of the recesses are angled such that the bending results in a 90-degree angle between a plane of the panel to one side of a set of recesses and a plane of the other side of the set of recesses.

According to another aspect, the method further includes connecting a first edge of the sandwich panel to a second edge of the sandwich panel.

According to another aspect of the invention, a structural component includes a sandwich panel bent to bound at least part of an area, and a support member disposed inside the bounded area and connected to the sandwich panel to form a columnar structural component, the sandwich panel and the support member cooperative to form a columnar structural component.

According to another aspect, the sandwich panel includes a number of sets of recesses, wherein each set of recesses includes a number of substantially continuous channels between a first end of the sandwich panel and a second end of the sandwich panel.

According to another aspect, the sandwich panel includes a round corner in the area of each of the sets of recesses.

According to another aspect, each round corner includes a corresponding inner corner and bonding material applied to at least a portion of each inner corner.

According to another aspect, the sandwich panel includes four sets of recesses corresponding to a first, second, third and fourth round corner of the sandwich panel.

According to another aspect, the sandwich panel further comprises a first edge and a second edge, and wherein the sandwich panel is bent such that the first edge and the second edge are connected to each other.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method for forming a column from a sandwich panel includes bending the sandwich panel at the area of a first set of recesses and a second set of recesses to partially bound an area with the sandwich panel, connecting a support member to the sandwich panel, the support member at least partially within the bounded area, and bending the sandwich panel at a third set of recesses and the fourth set of recesses to enclose the support member in the bounded area

According to another aspect, the method further includes connecting a number of support members at least partially contained within the bounded area.

These and further features of the present invention will be apparent with reference to the following description and attached drawings. In the description and drawings, particular embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail as being indicative of some of the ways in which the principles of the invention may be employed, but it is understood that the invention is not limited correspondingly in scope. Rather, the invention includes all changes, modifications and equivalents coming within the spirit and terms of the claims appended hereto.

It should be emphasized that the term “comprises/comprising” when used in this specification is taken to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps or components but does not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, components or groups thereof.

Features that are described and/or illustrated with respect to one embodiment may be used in the same way or in a similar way in one or more other embodiments and/or in combination with, or instead of, the features of the other embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an environmental view of an exemplary monolithic structure built from composite materials.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of an exemplary columnar structural component made from a sandwich panel.

FIG. 3A is a schematic top end view of a sandwich panel.

FIG. 3B is a schematic top end view of a sandwich panel with a number of sets of recesses.

FIG. 3C is a front elevation view of the sandwich panel of FIG. 3B.

FIG. 4A is a schematic top end view of a sandwich panel bent to form a first and second round corner.

FIG. 4B is a side elevation view of the sandwich panel of FIG. 4A looking generally in the direction of the arrows 4B-4B.

FIG. 5A is a schematic top end view of the sandwich panel of FIG. 4A with a support member.

FIG. 5B is a side elevation view of the sandwich panel of FIG. 5A looking generally in the direction of the arrows 5B-5B.

FIG. 6A is a schematic top end of the sandwich panel formed into a columnar structural component.

FIG. 6B is a side elevation view of the sandwich panel of FIG. 6A looking generally in the direction of the arrows 6B-6B.

FIG. 7 is an isometric view of an exemplary sandwich panel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

In the detailed description that follows, like components have been given the same reference numerals regardless of whether they are shown in different embodiments of the invention. To illustrate the present invention in a clear and concise manner, the drawings may not necessarily be to scale and certain features may be shown in somewhat schematic form. Certain terminology is used herein to describe the different embodiments of the invention. Such terminology is used for convenience when referring to the figures. For example, “upward,” “downward,” “above,” “below,” “left,” or “right” merely describe directions in the configurations shown in the figures. Similarly, the terms “interior” and exterior” or “inner” and “outer” may be used for convenience to describe the orientation of the components in the figures. The components can be oriented in any direction and the terminology should therefore be interpreted to include such variations. The dimensions provided herein are exemplary in nature and are not intended to be limiting in scope. Furthermore, while described primarily with respect to house construction, it will be appreciated that the concepts described herein are equally applicable to the construction of any type of structure or building, such as a warehouse, commercial building, factory, apartment building, etc.

The structures described herein are built with composite materials, such as composite sandwich panels. The sandwich panels may be formed from synthetic or natural materials and may provide a light-weight and potentially less expensive alternative to conventional raw materials, e.g., wood, concrete, metal, etc. The sandwich panels may be connected or joined together with a high-strength bonding material, such as epoxy or glue. The result is a strong and durable monolithic structure, as is described further below.

Referring to FIG. 1, an exemplary monolithic structure 10, for example, a house, is built from a number of sandwich panels that are connected together with bonding material. A front wall 10f of the house 10 is formed by connecting together sandwich panels 11-16 with bonding material. A side wall 10s of the house 10 is formed by connecting together sandwich panels 20-23 with bonding material. A top portion 10t of the house 10 is supported by a bottom portion 10b of the house 10. To support the top portion 10t of the house 10, the bottom portion 10b may include a number of columnar structural components or columns 25 formed from composite sandwich panels, as is described in more detail below. The house 10 also includes a roof 26 connected to the walls 10f, 10s and a number of prefabricated openings 27, for example, for installing doors or windows, etc. Although not shown in FIG. 1, it will be appreciated that the house 10 may include a number of other walls, e.g., another side wall, a rear wall, internal walls, etc.

As shown in FIG. 1, the columns 25 may be spaced throughout the house 10. For example, the columns 25 may be located along the edges or exterior of the house and/or may be located in the middle of the house 10, etc. The columns 25 may be used to support a ceiling or floor portion 28 of the house 10 or another portion of the house 10.

Referring to FIG. 2, an exemplary columnar structural component 25 (or column) is formed from a sandwich panel 30. The column 25 has four corners 31a-34a that are generally curved or smooth as compared to sharp right angle corners. The number of corners may be more or fewer than the four corners illustrated. To make a column 25 a sandwich panel 30 is bent to form the respective corners to provide a column having a longitudinal axis or extent. Columnar structures have strength characteristics; sandwich panels 30 have strength characteristics; some exemplary strength characteristics are described below. A column formed of a sandwich panel, e.g. a sandwich panel that is integrated and is bent to form the column, may have strength characteristics of both columnar shape and sandwich panel construction.

As described in more detail below, the sandwich panel 30 is formed into a number of round corners 31a-34a by cutting or forming one or more sets of recesses 31b-34b along a length L of the sandwich panel 30. The recesses 31b-34b provide stress relief and/or otherwise facilitate bending the panel in a controlled manner to achieve a desired shape, bend, corner, etc., and, for example, tending to avoid damage to the sandwich panel as it is bent or folded.

The sandwich panel 30 is bent in the area of the recesses 31b-34b to form the round corners 31a-34a and corresponding inner corners 31c-34c. The bent sandwich panel 30 partially contains or bounds an area 35. As used herein, the term “bound” means to partially or completely surround, enclose, or encompass an area or volume, and the terms “area” and “volume” are used interchangeably to mean a “space” or “region.” As described below, one or more support members may be disposed within the area 35 and connected to the sandwich panel 30 between the inner corners 31c-34c. The area 35 is closed by connecting a first edge 36 of the sandwich panel 30 to a second edge 37 of the sandwich panel 30, thereby forming the column 25 with round corners.

Referring to FIGS. 3A-6B, a column 25 and an exemplary method of forming the column 25 from a planar sandwich panel 30 are illustrated. As shown in FIG. 3A, the sandwich panel 30 includes a first outer layer 41 and a second outer layer 42 separated from the first outer layer 41 by a panel core 43. The first outer layer 41, the second outer layer 42 and the panel core 43 are substantially planar. The sandwich panel 30 also includes a first edge 36 and a second edge 37. Additional details of an exemplary sandwich panel are provided below with respect to FIG. 7.

The preparation of the sandwich panel 30 is shown in FIGS. 3B-3C. One or more sets of recesses 31b-34b are formed in the sandwich panel 30. The sets of recesses 31b-34b are formed in the second outer layer 42 and the panel core 43. Each set of recesses 31b-34b includes one or more continuous or substantially continuous channel that extends from a first end 44 of the sandwich panel 30 to a second end 45 of the sandwich panel, e.g., along the length L, of the sandwich panel 30. In FIGS. 3B-3C, each set of recesses 31b-34b is illustrated as including three substantially continuous channels extending between the ends 44, 45. As will be appreciated, the sets of recesses 31b-34b may include more or fewer than three channels, as may be desired.

The sets of recesses 31b-34b may have any desired shape. As illustrated in FIG. 3B, the sets of recesses 31b-34b may have a generally triangular shape or cross-section. A triangular shape may be desirable for sandwich panels that are to be bent at an angle and/or have a small radius to form a round corner (e.g., the round corners 31a-34a), as shown in FIG. 2. The triangular shape may be an isosceles triangle having an angle θ (theta). In one embodiment, the angle θ (theta) may be about 10-30 degrees. The recesses 32b, 33b may be a different shape and the angle θ (theta), as well of the depth of the recesses 32b, 33b, may be selected to achieve a desired radius of the round corners or to form a round corner having a different size or shape, as will be appreciated by one of skill in the art. It will be appreciated that the recesses may have a shape of a rectangle, square, arc or another shape, and that all of the recesses may not be identically shaped.

The sets of recesses 31b-34b may be formed in the sandwich panel 30 during manufacture of the sandwich panel 30 and/or on-site during the building construction process. During the manufacturing process, the sandwich panel may be molded to include the sets of recesses 31b-34b. Alternatively, after the sandwich panel is constructed, a tool (e.g., a saw) may be applied to the sandwich panel to cut or to form the desired number, size and shape of the recesses 31b-34b in the sandwich panel 30.

The sets of recesses 31b-34b are spaced apart from one another based upon the desired shape of the column 25. To form a generally square-shape or rectangular-shape column with round corners (e.g., as shown in FIG. 2), four sets of recesses 31b-34b are formed in the sandwich panel 30. The sets of recesses 31b-34b may be spaced from one another a distance W1. For example, as shown in FIG. 3C, the first set of recesses 31b is spaced from the second set of recesses 32b a distance W1. The second set of recesses 32b is spaced from the third set of recesses 33b a distance W1, and the third set of recesses 33b is spaced from the fourth set of recesses 34b a distance W1.

The first set of recesses 31b may be spaced from the edge 36 of the sandwich panel 30 a distance W2, which may be about half of the distance W1. The fourth set of recesses 34b may be spaced from the second edge 37 a distance W2. Thus, when the first edge 36 is connected to the second edge 37, the distance between the first round corner 31a and the fourth round corner 34a is about the same as the distance W1 between the other sets of recesses, e.g., the distance W1 between the first set of recesses 31b and the second set of recesses 32b.

It will be appreciated that the distances W1 and W2 and the number of sets of recesses may be may be selected to obtain the desired dimensions of the column and/or to form a column having different shapes, for example, a circular, triangular, rectangular, pentagonal or another polygonal shape, etc. It will be appreciated that although described as a rectangular column having round corners of about 90-degrees, the round corners 31a-34a may be formed to have any desired angle and/or curvature to form different shape columns. For example, the round corners 31a-34a may form an obtuse angle, an acute angle, or a right angle.

In one embodiment, the number, size and/or shape of the recesses are selected based at least on a desired radius of the round corners. In another embodiment, the size and shape of the recesses is selected based at least on a thickness of the sandwich panel.

FIGS. 4A and 4B, the column 25 may be formed from the sandwich panel 30 by bending the sandwich panel 30. The sandwich panel 30 may be bent such that the outer layer 41 bends to form a first round corner 31a and a second round corner 32a. In one embodiment, the sandwich panel 30 is bent by applying a force to the outer layer 41. For example, referring briefly back to FIG. 3B, the first round corner 31a may be formed by applying a force F to the outer layer 41 near the first edge 36 of the sandwich panel 30, such that the force F causes the sandwich panel 30 to bend in the area of the set of recesses 31b. The second round corner 32a is formed in the same or in a similar manner by applying a force to the outer layer 41 to bend the sandwich panel 30 at the second set of recesses 32b. The first round corner 31a and the second round corner 32a may be formed at the same time or may be formed consecutively, for example, one after the other. The other corners of the column may be formed by bending the sandwich panel in the same or in a similar manner. It will be appreciated that the sandwich panel 30 may be bent or formed in another manner, as will be appreciated by one of skill in the art.

As shown in FIG. 4A, the bending of the sandwich panel 30 compresses the channels of each set of recesses 31b, 32b and generally eliminates most or all of the air or space in the channels. The flexibility of the outer layer 41 allows the outer layer 41 to flex or to bend at the area of the set of recesses 31b, 32b to form the first round corner 31a and the second round corner 32a.

Continuing to refer to FIG. 4A, the round corners 31a, 32a each include an opposing side that forms corresponding inner corners 31c, 32c. For example, the first round corner 31a has an opposing an inner corner 31c. The inner corner 31c includes a portion of the second outer layer 42 and a portion of the set of recesses 31b. The second round corner 32a includes a similarly shaped inner corner 32c that includes a portion of the second outer layer 42 and a portion of the set of recesses 32b. Bonding material 50 may be applied to the first inner corner 31c. The bonding material 50 spans across the inner corner 31c from the second outer layer 42 on one side of the inner corner 31c to the outer layer 42 on the other side of the inner corner 31c. The bonding material 50, therefore, bonds to the second outer layer 42 to maintain the bent configuration of the sandwich panel 30 and to seal the inner corner 31c. As shown in FIG. 4A, the sandwich panel is bent to create a corner that is about 90-degrees. As described above, the sandwich panel 30 may be bent to any desired angle. In one embodiment, adjacent surfaces of the recesses are angled such that the bending of the sandwich panel results in a 90-degree angle between a plane of the panel to one side of the set of recesses and a plane of the other side of the recesses. Alternatively, the sandwich panel may be bent to form an obtuse or acute angle.

Bonding material 51 may be applied to the second inner corner 32c in the same or in a similar manner. The bonding material 50, 51, which is described in more detail below, may be of sufficient strength to permanently fix or hold the round corners 31a, 32a in the outer layer 41 of the sandwich panel 30.

The sandwich panel 30 with first round corner 31a and second round corner 32a at least partially bounds the area 35. The area 35 is defined by a portion of the second outer layer 42 that extends between the first edge 36 and the first inner corner 31c, a portion to the second outer layer 42 that extends between the first inner corner 31c and the second inner corner 32c, and a portion of the second outer layer 42 that extends between the second inner corner 32c and the third set of recesses 33c.

Referring to FIGS. 5A and 5B, a support member 52, such as one or more horizontal ribs or struts, may be placed in the area 35 of the column 25 to strengthen, stiffen and reinforce the column 25. The support members 52 may be generally rectangular in shape and may generally maintain the shape of the column 25 and may facilitate the formation of the column 25.

The support member 52 is connected to the sandwich panel. The support member 52 may be connected to the sandwich panel 30 with bonding material between the support member and the second outer layer 42 of the sandwich panel 30. The bonding material may be spread or applied between the edges of the support member and the second outer layer 42. The bonding material may be applied between a number of edges of the support member 52 and the second outer layer 42. In one embodiment, the bonding material is applied along at least one edge of the support member, for example, the edge of the support member 52 between the first inner corner 31c and the second inner corner 32c. Bonding material also may be applied to connect the support member 52 to the second outer layer 42 between the second inner corner 32c and the third inner corner 33c (formed when the sandwich panel 30 is bent at the recesses 33b to form the third round corner 33a, as described below with respect to FIG. 6A).

The bonding material that connects the support member 52 to the second outer layer 42 also may include a portion of the bonding material 50, 51 applied at the inner corners 31c, 32c. The support member 52 may be pressed into or partially embedded into the bonding material 50, 51 at the inner corners 31c, 32c. The support member 52 may be in direct contact with the second outer layer 42 of the sandwich panel and/or the bonding material 50, 51 may overlap a portion of the surface of the support member 52.

As shown in FIG. 5B, the column 25 may include a number of support members 52 spaced along the length L of the column. Each of the support members 52 may be connected to the second outer layer 42 with bonding material as described above. The support member 52 may be a sandwich panel similar to the sandwich panel 30 but of smaller size or may be cut from a larger sandwich panel. An exemplary sandwich panel is described in more detail below with respect to FIG. 7.

Referring to FIGS. 6A and 6B, the third round corner 33a and fourth round corner 34a are formed in the same or similar manner as the first round corner 31a and the second round corner 32a. The third round corner 33a includes an opposing side that forms a third inner corner 33c. Bonding material 53 may be applied to the third inner corner 33c to hold or to maintain the shape of the third round corner 33a. The fourth round corner 34a includes an opposing side that forms a fourth inner corner 34c. Bonding material 54 may be applied to the fourth inner corner 34c to hold or to maintain the shape of the fourth round corner 34a.

Due to the bending of the sandwich panel 30 to form the column 25 and the shape of the support members 52, it may not be possible to apply the bonding material 53, 54 along the entire length L of the third and fourth inner corners 33c, 34c. For example, access to the inner corners 33c, 34c may be partially or completely restricted by bending the sandwich panel 30 to form the third round corner 33a and fourth round corner 34a. The support members 52 also may cover a portion of the corners 33c, 34c, and may make it difficult to apply bonding material 53, 54. Thus, the bonding material 53, 54 may only be spread along a portion of the inner corners 33c, 34c.

To increase or maximize application of bonding material along the length of the third and fourth inner corners 33c, 34c, the bonding material 53, 54 may be pre-applied to each the set of recesses 33b, 34b prior to bending the sandwich panel 30 to form the third round corner 33a and the fourth round corner 34a. For example, the channel(s) in the third set of recesses 33b may be partially filled with bonding material. The bonding material may be squeezed or forced out of the channels when the sandwich panel 30 is bent to form the third round corner 33a. The excreted bonding material may extend along the length L of the column 25 and may span across the inner corner 33c to hold the shape of the third round corner 33a. Additional bonding material may be applied on or to the second outer layer 42 near the third set of recesses 33b. Bonding material may be applied to the fourth set of recesses 34c using the same technique. It also will be appreciated that the same technique may be used to apply the bonding material to the first inner corner 31c, second inner corner 32c, or any other inner corners of the sandwich panel.

To connect the support member 52 to the second outer layer 42 between the third inner corner 33c and the fourth inner corner 34c and between the fourth inner corner 34c and the second edge 37, bonding material may be applied to the edges of the support member 52 prior to bending the sandwich panel 30 to form the third round corner 33a and the fourth round corner 34a. The second outer layer 42 may be pressed into contact with the support member when the third and fourth round corners 33a, 34a are formed, thereby adhering or connecting the support member 52 to the second outer layer 42 between the third inner corner 33c and the fourth inner corner 34c. The support member 52 may be connected to other areas of the area 35 in a similar manner. It will be appreciated that while illustrates as having one or more support members, the area 35 of the column 25 may be empty or hollow.

As shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, the column 25 is closed by connecting the first edge 36 to the second edge 37. The edges 36, 37 may be connected together when the sandwich panel 30 is bent to form the fourth round corner 34a. The edges 36, 37 may be connected with bonding material spread or applied between the edges 36, 37 and/or along the length L of the column between or at the edges 36, 37. It will be appreciated that the distances W1, W2 may be selected so that the edges 36, 37 are aligned with one another when the column 25 is fully formed.

It may be necessary to hold or maintain the sandwich panel 30 in the configuration of FIG. 6A for a period of time to allow the bonding material to cure or to harden. One or more clamps may be used to maintain the configuration of the sandwich panel 30. Once the bonding material cures or hardens, the sandwich panel 30 is generally permanently maintained in the configuration of FIG. 6A.

Referring to FIG. 7, an exemplary sandwich panel 70 is illustrated. The sandwich panel has two outer layers 72, 74 separated by a core 76, for example, corresponds respective to outer layers 41 and 42 and core 43 of sandwich panel 30 described above. The outer layers 72, 74 of the sandwich panel 70 are made from a composite material that includes a matrix material and a filler or reinforcement material. Exemplary matrix materials include a resin or mixture of resins, e.g., epoxy resin, polyester resin, vinyl ester resin, natural (or non oil-based) resin or phenolic resin, etc. Exemplary filler or reinforcement materials include fiberglass, glass fabric, carbon fiber, or aramid fiber, etc. Other filler or reinforcement materials include, for example, one or more natural fibers, such as, jute, coco, hemp, or elephant grass, balsa wood, or bamboo.

The outer layers 72, 74 (also referred to as laminates) may be relatively thin with respect to the panel core 76. The outer layers 72, 74 may be several millimeters thick and may, for example, be between about 1 mm (millimeter)-12 mm (millimeters) thick; however, it will be appreciated that the outer layers can be thinner than 1 mm (millimeter) or thicker than 12 mm (millimeters) as may be desired. In one embodiment, the outer layers are about 1-3 mm (millimeters) thick.

It will be appreciated that the outer layers 72, 74 may be made thicker by layering several layers of reinforcement material on top of one another. The thickness of the reinforcement material also may be varied to obtain thicker outer layers 72, 74 with a single layer of reinforcement material. Further, different reinforcement materials may be thicker than others and may be selected based upon the desired thickness of the outer layers.

The panel core 76 separates the outer layers 72, 74 of the sandwich panel 70. The panel core 76 may be formed from a light-weight, insulative material, for example, polyurethane, expanded polystyrene, polystyrene hard foam, Styrofoam® material, phenol foam, a natural foam, for example, foams made from cellulose materials, such as a cellulosic corn-based foam, or a combination of several different materials. Other exemplary panel core materials include honeycomb that can be made of polypropylene, non-flammable impregnated paper or other composite materials. It will be appreciated that these materials insulate the interior of the structure and also reduce the sound or noise transmitted through the panels, e.g., from one outer surface to the other or from an exterior to an interior of a building structure, etc. The panel core 76 may be any desired thickness and may be, for example, 30 mm (millimeters)-100 mm (millimeters) thick; however, it will be appreciated that the core can be thinner than 30 mm (millimeters) or thicker than 100 mm (millimeters) as may be desired. In one embodiment, the core is approximately 40 mm (millimeters) thick.

The outer layers 72, 74 are adhered to the core 76 with the matrix materials, such as the resin mixture. Once cured, the outer layers 72, 74 of the sandwich panel 70 are firmly adhered to both sides of the panel core 76, forming a rigid building element. It will be appreciated that the resin mixture also may include additional agents, such as, for example, flame retardants, mold suppressants, curing agents, hardeners, etc. Coatings may be applied to the outer layers 72, 74, such as, for example, finish coats, paint, ultraviolet (UV) protection, water protection, etc.

The panel core 76 may provide good thermal insulation properties and structural properties. The outer layers 72, 74 may add to those properties of the core and also may protect the panel core 76 from damage. The outer layers 72, 74 also may provide rigidity and support to the sandwich panel 70.

The sandwich panels may be any shape and size. In one embodiment, the sandwich panels are rectangular in shape and may be several meters, or more, in height and width. The sandwich panels also may be other shapes and sizes. The combination of the panel core 76 and outer layers 72, 74 create sandwich panels with high ultimate strength, which is the maximum stress the panels can withstand, and high tensile strength, which is the maximum amount of tensile stress that the panels can withstand before failure. The compressive strength of the panels is such that the panels may be used as both load bearing and non-load bearing walls. In one embodiment, the panels have a load capacity of at least 50 tons per square meter in the vertical direction (indicated by arrows V in FIG. 7) and 2 tons per square meter in the horizontal direction (indicated by arrows H in FIG. 7). The sandwich panels may have other strength characteristics as will be appreciated in the art.

Internal stiffeners may be integrated into the panel core 76 to increase the overall stiffness of the sandwich panel 70. In one embodiment, the stiffeners are made from materials having the same thermal expansion properties as the materials used to construct the panel, such that the stiffeners expand and contract with the rest of the panel when the panel is heated or cooled.

The stiffeners may be made from the same material used to construct the outer layers of the panel. The stiffeners may be made from composite materials and may be placed perpendicular to the top and bottom of the panels and spaced, for example, at distances of about 15 cm (centimeters), 25 cm, 50 cm, or 100 cm. Alternatively, the stiffeners may be placed at different angles, such as a 45-degree angle with respect to the top and bottom of the panel, or at another angle, as may be desired.

The bonding material used to connect the various components and elements of the house 10 may be any suitable bonding material such as epoxy, epoxy resin, glue, cement, adhesive, adhering material or another bonding material (these terms may be used interchangeably and equivalently herein). In one embodiment, the bonding material is more flexible or bendable than the sandwich panels, and may, for example, be four or five times more flexible than the panels. The flexibility of the bonding material, therefore, reduces the likelihood than the joints of the monolithic structure will break or split, and also transmits loads from one panel to another, across the joint. The bonding material may include filling components, such as, fiberglass or a fiberglass and resin mixture, and may, for example, be microfiber and Aerosil® material.

The sandwich panels may be customized by cutting and removing a portion of the panel, e.g., portions 27 (FIG. 1), to form openings for windows or doors. The openings 27 may be cut to any desired size to accommodate the installation of any size window or door. It will be appreciated that the panel can be customized in any manner desired to meet the specifications of an architectural or design plan. The sandwich panels also may be cut in other designs to accommodate other roof, wall, etc. arrangements. It also will be appreciated that while the windows, door and roof are described as being cut from a solid sandwich panel, the openings may be molded or otherwise formed in the panel.

Although the invention has been shown and described with respect to a certain preferred embodiment or embodiments, it is obvious that equivalent alterations and modifications will occur to others skilled in the art upon the reading and understanding of this specification and the annexed drawings.