US 20040000100 A1
A track and trolley system for a movable wall system including a plurality of wall panels, including a track mounted to a ceiling with the track including a pair of rails, and a trolley operatively engaging said track. The wall panels are disposed in an open space and are capable of being moved into one of a variety of positions to separate the open space into smaller spaces. The trolley includes at least four wheels and an elongate member projecting downwardly between the wheels and coupled to one of the wall panels; each wheel includes a circumferential groove having an arcuate cross-section sufficiently larger than the rails to define a lubrication zone between the rails and the wheels. The wheels and rails comprise a metallic material such as steel, for increased strain tolerances.
1. A track and trolley system for a movable wall system including a plurality of wall panels, comprising:
a track adapted to be mounted to a ceiling, said track including a pair of rails; and
a trolley operatively engaging said track, said trolley including a plurality of wheels and an elongate member projecting downwardly between said wheels, said elongate member adapted to be coupled to one of the wall panels, said wheels including a circumferential groove having an arcuate cross-section larger than said rails to define a lubrication zone between said rails and said wheels.
2. The track and trolley system of
3. The track and trolley system of
4. The track and trolley system of
5. The track and trolley system of
6. The track and trolley system of
7. The track and trolley system of
8. The track and trolley system of
9. In combination:
at least one movable wall capable of being positioned in an open space, said movable wall capable of being moved into one of a variety of positions for separation of the open space into smaller spaces;
at least one trolley having a plurality of wheels and an elongate extending member, said elongate member being attached to said movable wall whereby said trolley carries said movable wall, each said wheel including a circumferential groove having an arcuate cross-section; and
a track adapted to be mounted to a ceiling in the open space, said track including at least a pair of rails, said circumferential grooves being larger than said rails to define a lubrication zone between said grooves and said rails.
10. The combination of
11. The combination of
12. The combination of
13. The combination of
14. The combination of
15. The combination of
16. A movable wall system comprising:
a plurality of wall panels capable of being positioned in an open space, each said wall panel being structured and arranged to move into one of a variety of positions for separation of said open space into smaller spaces;
a track adapted to be mounted within said open space, said track including at least a pair of rails, each said rail comprising steel and having an arcuate cross-section;
at least one trolley having a plurality of wheels comprising steel, said trolley further including an elongate extending member disposed between said wheels and fixed to a said wall panel whereby said trolley carries said wall panel, each said wheel having a circumferential groove with an arcuate cross-section, said circumferential grooves being larger than said rails to define a lubrication zone between said grooves and said rails.
17. The movable wall system of
18. The movable wall system of
19. The movable wall system of
20. The movable wall system of
 This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/391,680, filed Jun. 26, 2002.
 1. Field of Invention
 The present invention relates to trolley and rail systems utilized as part of a larger moveable wall system, such as those used in large convention halls or other large spaces.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 In many convention halls or other large open areas, it is often desirable to create smaller areas for smaller conventions, seminars, programs, or the like. As such, some form of movable partition is required to partition the large open areas into smaller areas, yet which may be moved into storage so as to not interfere with events in the larger open area.
 Previous partition systems utilize folding walls having hangers which slide in a metal track, or a structure similar to bi-fold doors. However, these types of partitions prove to be unstable and are not truly suitable for large areas, or feasible in those areas in which a motorized partition system would be more beneficial. When motorized systems are included with the movable walls, trolley and rail systems became part of the movable wall system, thereby allowing for the use of larger and potentially heavier walls. Furthermore, such trolley and rail systems also allow for a type of “programming” of the movement of the wall panels in terms of the ultimate location for any one panel through the use of small protrusions on the rail which engage a portion of a select trolley to bias the particular wall panel into a certain track leading to the selected position.
 A problem with the heavier trolley and rail systems is the leakage of lubrication fluid and an inability to support even larger panel that are becoming more necessary as the size of the large open spaces increases. In any system which includes moving metallic parts, some form of lubrication is needed between the different moving parts and the parts against which they move, or in the trolley and rail systems, lubrication is needed between the trolley wheels and the rail. When there is no lubrication, friction between the trolley and rail increases, thereby creating large amounts of heat or preventing movement of the trolley along the rail. The second problem, that of the limitations on the weight carried by the trolleys, arises due to the selection of materials used in the trolleys. Each metal is limited in the weight that a product made from that material may carry due to the strain limits of the material used, or an aluminum product generally is deformed sooner than a steel product when the same weight is carried by each.
 A further problem with previous trolley and rail systems is the complexity of the parts used within the system. Some previous trolleys include wheels on one side of the trolley, which are slightly curved, while the wheels on the opposite side of the trolley are not curved. Correspondingly, the rail upon which the curved wheels ride was circular in cross-section while the opposite rail is flattened. As such, the manufacturer of the trolley and rail system needs both curved wheels and those having a flat circumferential surface, as well as circular rails and noncircular rails, thereby requiring a large inventory of rails and wheels and creating a further problem of non-interchangeability of the parts.
 The above-mentioned and described shortcomings are overcome by providing a track and trolley system which utilizes a trolley having radiused wheels in conjunction with a track system having rails. The rails may have an arcuate cross-section to interface with the wheels. The wheels and rails are structured having different radii such that they create a lubrication zone between the track and rails to maintain lubrication therebetween and allow for easier movement of the trolley relative to the rails.
 Steel may be used as the material of both the wheels and the rails to provide additional strength. Such enhanced strength allows for both the wheels and rails to support larger and heavier movable walls with the trolley and track system.
 The present invention provides a track and trolley system for a movable wall system including a plurality of wall panels, the track and trolley system including a track mounted to a ceiling and including a pair of rails, and a trolley operatively engaging the track. The trolley includes at least four wheels and an elongate member projecting downwardly between the wheels and coupled to one of the wall panels to support those panels. The wheels include a circumferential groove having an arcuate cross-section sufficiently larger than the arcuate cross-section of the rails to define a lubrication zone between the arcuate surfaces.
 The present invention further provides, in combination, at least one movable wall in an open space and being moved into one of a variety of positions for separation of the open space into smaller spaces, at least one trolley having a plurality of wheels and an elongate extending member disposed between the wheels, and a track mounted to a ceiling in the open space. The elongate member is fixed to the movable wall whereby the trolley carries the movable wall and the wheels include a circumferential groove having an arcuate cross-section. The track includes at least a pair of circular cross-sectional rails, with the circumferential grooves being sufficiently larger than the rails to define a lubrication zone between the grooves and the rails.
 The present invention further provides a movable wall system including a plurality of wall panels in an open space, a track mounted within the open space, and at least one trolley. Each wall panel is structured and arranged to move into one of a variety of positions for separation of the open space into smaller spaces, the track includes at least a pair of rails with each rail comprising steel and having an arcuate cross-section, and the trolley has a plurality of wheels comprising steel. The trolley further includes an elongate extending member disposed between the wheels and fixed to a wall panel whereby the trolley carries the wall panel and each wheel has a circumferential groove with an arcuate cross-section with the circumferential grooves being sufficiently larger than the rails to define a lubrication zone between the grooves and the rails.
 The above-mentioned and other features and advantages of this invention, and the manner of attaining them, will become more apparent and the invention itself will be better understood by reference to the following description of an embodiment of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is an exterior side view of a trolley for use with a rail, in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a sectional view of a trolley and rail combination attached to the movable wall, in accordance with the present invention; and
FIG. 3A is a side view of a trolley wheel without a bearing for support of an axle;
FIG. 3B is a sectional view of the trolley wheel of FIG. 3A;
FIG. 3C is a side view of trolley wheel with a bearing for support of an axle; and
FIG. 3D is a sectional view of the trolley wheel of FIG. 3C.
 Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views. Although the drawings represent embodiments of the present invention, the drawings are not necessarily to scale and certain features may be exaggerated in order to better illustrate and explain the present invention. The exemplifications set out herein illustrate two embodiments of the invention and such exemplification is not to be construed as limiting the scope of the invention in any manner.
 For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. The invention includes any alterations and further modifications in the illustrated devices and described methods and further applications of the principles of the invention which would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.
 Trolley 20 is shown in FIG. 1 having a plurality of wheels 22 with two such wheels 22 disposed on either side of trolley 20. Specifically, wheels 22 are mounted proximate body 24, from which elongate panel support member 26 extends. Wheels 22 comprise a metallic material, such as steel, to provide additional strength to wheels 22 for support of trolley 20 and, in turn, movable wall panel 42. Trolley 20 and the rail system, discussed hereinbelow, may be utilized as part of a trolley and track system for operable walls, such as that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,374,456, assigned to the assignee of the present invention, the complete disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
 Each pair of wheels 22 is rotatably mounted on an axle 58, which extends through body 24 of trolley 20 (FIG. 2). Axle 58 and wheels 22 are structured and arranged such that axle 58 extends through body 24 above bolt 60, which secures elongate panel support member 26 to body 24, and as such, axle 58 may freely rotate without any interference from bolt 60. Wall 42 includes protrusions 62 thereon on either side of wall 42, with these protrusions providing decorative covering to hide panel support member 26 and also to assist with the “programming” for determining where each wall or panel 42 is to be moved to.
 Trolley and track system 28 is shown as including trolley 20, described above, and track support structure 30. Track support structure 30 is held securely within opening 52 proximate ceiling 32 by support mechanism 34, which includes two mirror image portions 36 that receive track support structure 30 therein and which are securely attached to plate 38 by bolts 40. Support mechanism 34 provides the structural integrity for supporting track support structure 30 which is, in turn, used to maintain movable wall 42 in an upright position in conjunction with elongate panel support member 26.
 Track support 30 includes head 44, which is disposed between portions 36, and neck 46 which abuts C-shaped support portions 37 of portions 36 and is tightly held therebetween. Rail support mechanism 30 further includes two extending portions 48 which abut walls 50 of opening 52 into which trolley and track mechanism 28 is inserted; at the bottom of each extending portion 48 is 90° angle portion 54 into which rails 56 are inserted and seated.
 Rails 56 are arranged to support wheels 22 of trolley 20 and comprise a metallic material, such as steel. Since rails 56 and wheels 22 comprise metallic material, a lubricating fluid, such as an petroleum based product, for example, oil or grease, is disposed between wheels 22 and rails 56 to reduce friction between the contacting surfaces and thereby facilitating movement of wheels 22 along rails 56. Thus, the provision of the lubrication zone between those arcuate surfaces facilitates the movement of trolley 20 and wall 42 relative to track support 30.
 Wheel 22 is shown in both side and sectional views in FIGS. 3A-3D. Wheel 22 includes semi-circular circumferential groove 64 therein, which is sized slightly larger than the radius of rails 56, such that wheel 22 may easily roll along a complementary rail 56. Each wheel 22 may have a similar structure, including having the circumferential groove 64, thus only one type of wheel 22 is required to be used in trolley 20 and, only one type of rail 56 is needed in the track system. However, it is also possible that wheel 22 may be created in several different sizes, which may or may not require different sizes of rail 56. Wheel 22 further includes aperture 66 therein for receipt of bearing 68, which then receives axle 58 and allows for rotation of axle 58 and wheels 22 relative to body 24 of trolley 20. Outer circumferences 70, or edges 70, are located at the junction of groove 64 and the outer surfaces of wheels 22. As shown in FIG. 2, outer circumferences 70 are not in contact with rails 56 and instead are disposed outwardly of such rails 56.
 Since groove 64 has a radius only slightly different from the radius of rails 56, wheels 22 and rails 56 fit substantially closely together, yet have sufficient clearance so as not to interfere with movement of wheels 22 relative to rails 56. Within this clearance, lubrication zone 70 is created between wheels 22 and rails 56 such that any lubricating fluid (not shown) inserted in lubrication zone 70 between wheels 22 and rails 56 is maintained within and is inhibited from exiting lubrication zone 70. The size and arrangement of the clearance creating lubrication zone 70 results in lubricating fluid that extends from wheel 22 to rail 56 having sufficient surface tension to effectively prevent the seepage of the lubricating fluid off rail 56 and out of track 30. The shape and structure of lubrication zone 70 retains sufficient lubricating fluid so that part of the lubricating fluid is located at the contact points of wheels 22 and rails 56. As such, wheels 22 have lubrication and roll along rails 56 easily and substantially frictionlessly.
 With rails 56 comprising a metallic material, such as steel, and wheels 22 being of a substantially similar material, track and trolley system 28 has a higher strain tolerance than known systems utilizing aluminum for wheels and rails. As a consequence, larger and weightier movable walls 42 may be used in conjunction with track and trolley system 28. By providing for the usage of larger and weightier panels, larger areas may be divided into smaller more intimate sections by such a panel system. In addition, the use of larger panels may provide advantages in stacking and storage of the panels.
 Since track and trolley system 28 may utilize a single type of wheels 22 and a single type of rail 56, a manufacturer of such a track and trolley system 28 need not stock several types of wheels and rails to build a single trolley and track system, but need only stock the single type of wheel 22 and rail 56, thereby reducing inventory costs. Furthermore, by utilizing only a single type of wheel and a single type of rail, in the event that a failure of a wheel 22 should occur, wheel 22 may be more easily replaced as one need not be concerned about the type of wheel needing replacement, as the single type of wheel 22 would work on either side of trolley 20 and in either orientation.
 While this invention has been described as having exemplary designs, the present invention may be further modified within the spirit and scope of this disclosure. This application is therefore intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention using its general principles. Further, this application is intended to cover such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which this invention pertains.