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Publication numberUS20020115373 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/055,038
Publication dateAug 22, 2002
Filing dateJan 25, 2002
Priority dateJan 26, 2001
Also published asCA2370624A1
Publication number055038, 10055038, US 2002/0115373 A1, US 2002/115373 A1, US 20020115373 A1, US 20020115373A1, US 2002115373 A1, US 2002115373A1, US-A1-20020115373, US-A1-2002115373, US2002/0115373A1, US2002/115373A1, US20020115373 A1, US20020115373A1, US2002115373 A1, US2002115373A1
InventorsLeon Lazerman
Original AssigneeLeon Lazerman
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Modular structure
US 20020115373 A1
Abstract
This invention is a modular device that uses permanent-magnets and electro-magnets to hold their position and reconfigure their position. The device has a variety of possible sizes, shapes and forms but all use the same principle of “complementary geometry”.
In its simplest form it could be used as a child's toy. A dozen or so 3″ blocks with only permanent-magnets and using this “complementary geometry” system, would allow the most uncoordinated child a frustration free assembly of their building blocks, because the blocks would literally slide into place.
In a more complex example: the device could be used as a digital display. By having a matrix of devices with permanent & electro-magnets, and with different colored sides, one could display charter of text by electronically rotating specific blocks in the matrix to create the pattern of a letter(s). With the same principle and using a larger matrix it is possible to display real life images.
In an even more complex example of this invention: this modular structure could transform itself from one shape to another, only by using the same principles as the said digital display. Electronically the device would morph in three dimensions. In conjunction with a CAD system, this Modular Structure with a matrix of thousands of tiny blocks would be a new type of rapid prototyping system for Industrial Designers.
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Claims(20)
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive privilege or property is claimed are defined as follows;
1. A modular structure, said modular structure comprising:
at least two building blocks, each of said building blocks including a block body defining at least one block connecting face, said block connecting face defining a block external connecting configuration;
a linking component, said linking component defining a pair of linking component connecting faces, each of said linking component connecting faces defining a linking component external configuration that is configured and sized so as to at least partially mate complimentarily with the block external connecting configuration of one of said blocks;
a magnetic force generating means for generating a magnetic field, said magnetic force generating means being anchored either to said block body and/or to said linking component so as generate a magnetic force that emanates respectively either through said block external connecting configuration and/or said linking component external configurations; whereby the block external connecting configuration of each of said blocks are adapted to be positioned in a facing relationship relative to each other with said linking component external configurations at least partially mating complimentarily with the block external connecting configuration of said blocks, said magnetic force generating means exerting a magnetic force that releasably maintains said building blocks coupled by said linking component.
2. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said block external connecting configuration takes the form of a recess and said a linking component external configurations take the form of complementary protrusions.
3. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said block external connecting configuration takes the form of a protrusion and said a linking component external configurations take the form of complementary recesses.
4. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said magnetic force generating means is anchored to said block body so as generate a magnetic force that emanates through said block external connecting configuration.
5. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said magnetic force generating means is anchored to said linking component so as generate a magnetic force that emanates through said linking component external configurations.
6. A modular structure as recited in claim 2 wherein said block external connecting configuration takes the form of a concavity defining a generally curved recess inner surface.
7. A modular structure as recited in claim 6 wherein said linking component external configurations take the form of generally rounded convexities.
8. A modular structure as recited in claim 6 wherein said linking component has a generally lenticular configuration.
9. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said magnetic force generating means is a magnet component made out of a magnetized piece of material.
10. A modular structure as recited in claim 6 wherein said magnetic force generating means is a magnet component made out of a magnetized piece of material, said magnet component being embedded within said block body so that a magnet outer surface thereof merges with said curved recess inner surface.
11. A modular structure as recited in claim 10 wherein said outer surface of said magnet component has a generally diamond-shaped configuration.
12. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said complementary block external connecting configurations and said a linking component external configurations allow both of said block bodies to pivot relative to said linking component about a common pivotal axis while maintaining said block bodies and said linking component in contact with each other.
13. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said block body has a generally polyhedral configuration defining a plurality of block connecting faces.
14. A modular structure as recited in claim 13 wherein said block body has a cubic configuration.
15. A modular structure as recited in claim 13 wherein said block body has a generally frustro-conical configuration.
16. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said linking component is permanently attached to on e of said block connecting faces.
17. A modular structure as recited in claim 1 wherein said magnetic force generating means is an electro-magnet component.
18. A modular structure as recited in claim 1, wherein each building block and each linking component is provided with a set of electro-magnets, said modular structure being provided with a selective actuating means for selectively activating the formation of the magnetic field of at least some of said electro-magnets according to a predetermined activation pattern.
19. A modular structure as recited in claim 18 wherein said selective actuating means includes a means for generating said predetermined pattern; said electro-magnets and said building blocks being configured, sized and positioned so that selective activation of the electro-magnets according to said predetermined pattern modifies the configuration of said modular structure
20. A modular structure as recited in claim 18 wherein said selective actuating means includes a set of receivers; each receiver being coupled to a corresponding electro-magnet; said selective actuating means also including an emitter for selectively emitting a signal ; whereby upon reception of said signal from said emitter, each receiver, in turn, sends a signal to the corresponding electro-magnet to which it is coupled for activating the latter.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention relates to the general field of modular structures and is particularly concerned with a modular structure made of building blocks.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    There exists a plurality of situations wherein it is desirable to form three dimensional modular structures. One example of such situations is in the field of toys. Indeed, numerous geometric puzzles have been known in the past, both in two dimensions as in plane geometry and in three dimensions as in solid geometry. Building blocks toys have been popular for many decades as an educational forum for the development of a child's imagination and creativity in the construction of three dimensional objects. The conventional building block toys have designs ranging from simple cubicle blocks to complex geometrical shapes having various interlocking means.
  • [0003]
    One of the most popular building block typically defines a generally rectangular parallelepiped-shaped configuration having three pairs of opposing surfaces in which one of the pairs of opposing surfaces is provided with complimentary interengaging formations while the remaining pairs of opposing surfaces remain substantially planar.
  • [0004]
    An example of such arrangement is the conventional brick, suitable for constructing a wall or the like. Such prior art brick typically have a major surface that includes, spaced from the edge of the brick, two upraised projections and an opposite major surface. The major surface, in turn, includes, spaced from the edges of the brick two corresponding recesses.
  • [0005]
    The projections and recesses are arranged so that two identical bricks may be placed in an end-to-end relationship relative to each other. A third identical brick is typically placed on top of the other two with one of its recesses accommodating one projection from one of the two bricks and one of its recesses accommodating one projection from the other of the two bricks thereby interlocking the bricks together.
  • [0006]
    Another conventional building block design includes a generally rectangular interlocking building blocks having complimentary projections and recesses on opposite of its major surfaces, the projections being provided with ribs arranged to form at least one upstanding cruciform shape.
  • [0007]
    One of the major problem associated with the hereinabove disclosed type of toy building blocks is that the blocks must be arranged in one of the limited orientations. This greatly limits the design of any construction incorporating the blocks. Furthermore, the type of links between the blocks does not allow relative movement between the blocks once they are assembled.
  • [0008]
    In order to circumvent the hereinabove mentioned disadvantages, some prior art building blocks have been provided with relatively complex interconnecting means typically taking the form of slotted pegs, metal springs, metal screws and the like which are awkward to manipulate especially for a given child. The overall complexity associated with such toys typically frustrates a child in not wanting to play further. Furthermore, some of the complex interconnecting means associated with prior art building blocks not only increase the overall manufacturing cost thereof but also potentially creates safety hazards.
  • [0009]
    There exists various other situations in numerous fields wherein an improved modular structure made of building blocks would prove to be most desirable. For example, in the field of robotics there exist a long felt need for a modular structure that can easily be configured according to various configurations. Such a configurable modular structure could be used for numerous applications. For example in the medical field and other fields it would be most desirable to be provided with a three dimensional structure that can be re-configured according to specific needs without external physical contacts with the actual three-dimensional structure.
  • [0010]
    Accordingly, there exists a need for an improved construction block design allowing for the construction of an improved modular structure and for an improved modular structure.
  • [0011]
    In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, there is provided a modular structure, the modular structure comprising: at least two building blocks, each of the building blocks including a block body defining at least one block connecting face, the block connecting face defining a block external connecting configuration; a linking component, the linking component defining a pair of linking component connecting faces, each of the linking component connecting faces defining a linking component external configuration that is configured and sized so as to at least partially mate complimentarily with the block external connecting configuration of one of the blocks; a magnetic force generating means for generating a magnetic field, the magnetic force generating means being anchored either to the block body and/or to the linking component so as generate a magnetic force that emanates respectively either through the block external connecting configuration and/or the linking component external configurations; whereby the block external connecting configuration of each of the blocks are adapted to be positioned in a facing relationship relative to each other with the linking component external configurations at least partially mating complimentarily with the block external connecting configuration of the blocks, the magnetic force generating means exerting a magnetic force that releasably maintains the building blocks coupled by the linking component.
  • [0012]
    Preferably, the complementary block external connecting configurations and the linking component external configurations allow both of the block bodies to pivot relative to the linking component about a common pivotal axis while maintaining the block bodies and the linking component in contact with each other.
  • [0013]
    In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the magnetic force generating means is a magnet component made out of a magnetized piece of material. In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, the magnetic force generating means is an electro-magnet component.
  • [0014]
    In accordance with some embodiments of the invention, each building block and each linking component is provided with a set of electro-magnets, the modular structure being provided with a selective actuating means for selectively activating the formation of the magnetic field of at least some of the electro-magnets according to a predetermined activation pattern.
  • [0015]
    Conveniently, the selective actuating means includes a means for generating the predetermined pattern; the electro-magnets and the building blocks being configured, sized and positioned so that selective activation of the electro-magnets according to the predetermined pattern modifies the configuration of the modular structure
  • [0016]
    Conveniently, the selective actuating means includes a set of receivers; each receiver being coupled to a corresponding electro-magnet; the selective actuating means also including an emitter for selectively emitting a signal; whereby upon reception of the signal from the emitter, each receiver, in turn, sends a signal to the corresponding electro-magnet to which it is coupled for activating the latter.
  • [0017]
    Advantages of the present invention include that the proposed modular structure is made out of building blocks and linking components that allow for releasable linking of the components while providing adequate structural rigidity. Also, the modular structure allows for selective relative movement between the components even when they are in an assembled state, hence allowing the modular structure to change its configuration while remaining in an assembled state.
  • [0018]
    Furthermore, the proposed components of the improved modular structure allow for ergonomical handling thereof without requiring special tooling or manual dexterity. In at least one embodiment of the invention, the components of the modular structure can be moved relative to each other without the need for the intended user to physically contact the structure.
  • [0019]
    Another advantage of the present invention relates to the fact that the modular structure could optionally be provided with means for allowing the self-modification of its structural configuration through the use of magnets or other force generating means. This additional feature could lead to the construction of functional structures such as miniature robots that could be used in the medical field or any other suitable fields.
  • [0020]
    Still further, the components of the proposed modular structure are specifically designed so as to provide an aesthetical pleasing modular structure. Furthermore, the proposed modular structure is specifically designed so as to provide building components that are manufacturable using conventional forms of manufacturing so as to provide a modular structure that will be economically feasible, long lasting and relatively trouble free in operation.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0021]
    An embodiment of the present invention will now be disclosed, by way of example, in reference to the following drawings in which:
  • [0022]
    [0022]FIG. 1: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block component part of the modular structure in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0023]
    [0023]FIG. 2: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block shown in FIG. 1 having linking components attached thereto.
  • [0024]
    [0024]FIG. 3: in an exploded view, illustrates the building block component and associated linking components shown in FIG. 2 with the linking components removed from the building block.
  • [0025]
    [0025]FIG. 4: illustrates various elevational side, top and bottom views of the building block shown in FIG. 1
  • [0026]
    [0026]FIG. 5: in a perspective view, illustrates a pair of building blocks about to be linked together by a linking component.
  • [0027]
    [0027]FIG. 6: illustrates the building blocks and linking component shown in FIG. 5 in a proximal relationship relative to each other.
  • [0028]
    [0028]FIG. 7: illustrates the building blocks shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 attached by the linking component in an assembled configuration.
  • [0029]
    [0029]FIG. 8: in a perspective view, illustrates an additional building block being attached to the modular structure shown in FIG. 7 using another linking component.
  • [0030]
    [0030]FIG. 9: in a perspective view, illustrates the assembled configuration using three (3) building blocks.
  • [0031]
    [0031]FIG. 10: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block in accordance with a second embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0032]
    [0032]FIG. 11: orthographic views, illustrates the various sides of the building block shown in FIG. 10.
  • [0033]
    [0033]FIG. 12: in an exploded view, illustrates the building block shown in FIGS. 10 and 11 having linking components about to be attached thereto.
  • [0034]
    [0034]FIG. 13: in a perspective view, illustrates the building block and associated linking components shown in FIG. 12 in a proximal relationship relative to the building block.
  • [0035]
    [0035]FIG. 14: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block having linking components attached thereto.
  • [0036]
    [0036]FIG. 15: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The building block having two connecting faces.
  • [0037]
    [0037]FIG. 16: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention. The building block being shown with one connecting face.
  • [0038]
    [0038]FIG. 17: in a side elevational view, illustrates various configurations of linking components.
  • [0039]
    [0039]FIG. 18: in an exploded view, illustrates a building block in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention having three (3) different block connecting face configuration and associated linking components about to link corresponding differently shaped linking blocks.
  • [0040]
    [0040]FIG. 19: in an elevational view, illustrates various configurations of block connecting faces.
  • [0041]
    [0041]FIG. 20a: inside an elevational view, illustrates the configuration of a linking component associated with another embodiment of the present invention.
  • [0042]
    [0042]FIG. 20b: in an exploded view, illustrates a linking block using linking components such as shown in FIG. 20a for connecting spacing components thereto.
  • [0043]
    [0043]FIG. 21: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention having a geometrical cross sectional plane extending therethrough.
  • [0044]
    [0044]FIG. 22: in a perspective view, illustrates a building block having been cut along the geometrical plane shown in FIG. 21.
  • [0045]
    [0045]FIG. 23: in a transversal cross sectional view, illustrates the internal configuration of a building block and the complementary connection face such as shown in FIGS. 21 and 22.
  • [0046]
    FIGS. 24 THROUGH 29: illustrates relative movements between a pair of building blocks attached together using the configuration shown in FIGS. 21 through 23.
  • [0047]
    [0047]FIG. 30: in a perspective view, illustrates the configuration modification of a modular structure formed with building blocks in accordance with the present invention.
  • [0048]
    [0048]FIG. 31: in a perspective view, illustrates the change of configuration of a matrix formed by building blocks such as shown in FIGS. 1 through 30 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0049]
    Referring to FIG. 5, there is shown a modular structure (10) in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The modular structure (10) includes at least two building blocks (12). Each building block (12) includes a block body defining at least one complementary connecting face (14). The complementary connecting face (14) defines a block external connecting configuration.
  • [0050]
    The modular structure (10) also includes a linking component (16). The linking component (16) defines a pair of linking component connecting faces (18). Each linking component connecting face define a corresponding linking component external configuration that is configured and sized so as to at least partially mate complimentarily with the adjacent block external connecting configuration of one of the blocks (12).
  • [0051]
    The modular structure (10) further includes a magnetic force generating means for generating a magnetic field. The magnetic force generating means is anchored either to the block body or to the linking component (16) so as to generate a magnetic force that emanates respectively either through the block external connecting configuration or the linking component external configuration.
  • [0052]
    Typically, the block external configuration takes the form of a recess and the linking component external configuration takes the form of complimentary protrusions. Alternatively, the block external connecting configuration could take the form of a protrusion and the linking component external configuration could take the form of a complimentary recess.
  • [0053]
    In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the magnetic force generating means is anchored to the block body so as to generate a magnetic force that emanates through the block external connecting configuration. Alternatively, the magnetic force generating means could be anchored to the linking component (16) so as to generate a magnetic force that emanates through the linking component external configuration.
  • [0054]
    In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1 through 16, the block external connecting configuration takes the form of a concavity defining a generally curved recess inner surface. In FIGS. 1 through 16, the linking component (16) has correspondingly generally rounded convexities. Preferably, the rounded convexities form a generally lenticular configuration.
  • [0055]
    In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 through 9, each building block (12) has a generally hexagonal configuration defining a six block connecting faces (14). In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 10 through 14, the connecting block has a generally triangular configuration defining three connecting faces (14) while the embodiment shown in FIGS. 15 and 16 respectively define building blocks having two and one connecting faces (14). Alternatively, each building block could have a generally frustro-conical configuration or any other suitable configuration without departing from the scope of the present invention.
  • [0056]
    Referring now more specifically to FIGS. 17 through 20b, there is shown alternative embodiments of the invention wherein from the connecting blocks (12′) have generally cylindrical configurations defining longitudinally opposed connecting faces (14′). FIG. 17, illustrates various configurations of linking components (16) while FIG. 19, illustrates corresponding configuration of connecting faces (14).
  • [0057]
    One of the main features of the present invention resides in the presence of the magnetic force generating means. In one embodiment of the invention, the magnetic force generating means is a permanent magnet component made out of a magnetized piece of material. The permanent magnet component may be embedded within the block body so that a magnet outer surface (20) thereof merges with the curved recess inner surface (14).
  • [0058]
    In another embodiment of the invention, the magnetic force generating means includes at least one electro-magnet component (22). Adjacent electro-magnet components can produce attractive or repulsive forces as is well known in the art. As illustrated in FIGS. 21 through 31, the outer surfaces of both the building blocks (12) and the linking components (16) are preferably lined with a plurality of electro-magnet components (22). Alternatively, either or both the building blocks (12) and linking components (16) can be provided with combinations of permanent magnets and/or electro-magnets.
  • [0059]
    In some embodiments of the invention, the modular structure is provided with a selective actuating means for selectively activating the formation of the magnetic field of at least some of said electro-magnets according to a predetermined activation pattern.
  • [0060]
    Typically, the selective actuating means includes a means for generating the predetermined pattern. The electro-magnets and the block (12) are typically configured, sized and positioned so that the selective activation of the electro-magnets according to the predetermined pattern modifies the configuration of the modular structure.
  • [0061]
    For example, in FIG. 30, the selective activation according to a predetermined sequence of the electro magnets (22) located on the surface of building block (12) and on the surface of linking component (16) to create an attractive-repulsive force combined with the activation of the electro-magnets (22) located on complementary connecting face (14) to create an attractive-repulsive force that allows two building blocks (12) to slide around each other that changes the overall configuration of the modular structure from a generally rectilinear to a generally ‘L”-shaped configuration.
  • [0062]
    The selective actuating means can take various forms. In one embodiment of the invention, the selective actuating means includes external logic device like a computer. In such an embodiment, the selective actuating means would reside apart from the invention and would relay the actuation information through a base in which the building blocks (12) rest, the information and current would travel through an array of electrodes (19) on the surface of the building blocks (12) and connecting faces (14) as shown in FIG. 21.
  • [0063]
    In another embodiment of the invention, the selective actuating means includes an internal logic device like a computer. In such an embodiment, the selective actuating means would reside in the building blocks (12) and would relay the actuation information through and an array of electrodes (19) on the surface of the building blocks (12) and connecting faces (14) as shown in FIG. 21.
  • [0064]
    As shown in FIGS. 21 through 31, grids of electro-magnets can be strategically positioned on the building blocks (12). When grids of electro-magnets are used, adjacent building blocks (12) can be moved relative to each other while remaining in contact with each other.
  • [0065]
    [0065]FIGS. 27 through 29, illustrate the relative movement along three orthogonal axis between adjacent building blocks (12). The relative movement between the building blocks (12) results from the selective activation according to a specific pattern of the electro-magnets (22) positioned at the interface between the block components (12) and the linking components (16).
  • [0066]
    [0066]FIG. 30 illustrates the relative movement between three building blocks (12) showing that a set of three building blocks (12) can be moved from a generally rectilinear configuration to a generally L-shaped configuration by the mere selective activation in a predetermined sequence of the electro-magnets (22) mounted on the building blocks (12).
  • [0067]
    [0067]FIG. 31 further generalizes the concept by showing the relative movement between several building blocks (12) forming a block matrix. The block structure or matrix changes configuration from a generally cubic-shaped to a generally flat shape through the mere activation of the electro-magnates (22) mounted on the building blocks (12) according to a predetermined activation sequence or pattern.
  • [0068]
    In use, the building blocks (12) are assembled together using the linking components (16) and can be either manually displaced relative to each other or moved according to various patterns using selective activation of magnet components mounted thereon.
  • [0069]
    In one embodiment of the invention, the building blocks (12) and/or the linking components (16) are provided with a colored or textured outer surface. Relative movements therebetween therefore creates display of corresponding color patterns. Such a display can be used for numerous applications including LCD-like displays or similar applications.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification446/85
International ClassificationA63H33/10, A63H33/04
Cooperative ClassificationA63H33/046
European ClassificationA63H33/04M