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Publication numberUS20060042520 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/926,433
Publication dateMar 2, 2006
Filing dateAug 24, 2004
Priority dateAug 24, 2004
Publication number10926433, 926433, US 2006/0042520 A1, US 2006/042520 A1, US 20060042520 A1, US 20060042520A1, US 2006042520 A1, US 2006042520A1, US-A1-20060042520, US-A1-2006042520, US2006/0042520A1, US2006/042520A1, US20060042520 A1, US20060042520A1, US2006042520 A1, US2006042520A1
InventorsJohn Stevens, Donald Giovannoni
Original AssigneeMagna Design, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Table with multiple configurations
US 20060042520 A1
Abstract
A table includes a plurality of surface sections joined to a base. At least one of the surface sections is joined to the base with an attachment device having a slidable portion and a rotatable portion. A mounted end of the slidable portion is secured to the base and the opposite end of the slidable portion is slidably coupled to a rotatable joint, which is mounted to one of the surface sections. The rotatable joint is configured to rotate relative to the base, so that the surface section can be translated and rotated relative to the base to enable the table to readily be changed into four different configurations. Utility trays mounted under the surface sections provide access to power and data leads feeding from the base. A pleated accordion fold cover hides the attachment device and leads when a gap is formed between the surface sections.
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Claims(30)
1. A table system comprising:
(a) a base;
(b) a first surface section having a first inside edge;
(c) a second surface section having a second inside edge, the second inside edge being configured to abut the first inside edge of the first surface section so that when thus arranged, the first surface section and the second surface section form a combined table surface;
(d) a first attachment device that translatably and rotatably secures the first surface section to the base, the first attachment device including:
(i) a first attachment end having a rotatable joint that is configured to be joined to one of the base and the first surface section; and
(ii) a second attachment end that includes a slidable member slidably coupled to the rotatable joint and configured to be joined to the other of the base and the first surface section to which the first attachment end is not joined; and
(e) a second attachment device that is configured to secure the second surface section to the base.
2. The table system of claim 1, wherein the second attachment device movably joins the second surface section to the base such that the second surface section is translatable and rotatable relative to the base, the second attachment device including:
(a) a first attachment end having a rotatable joint that is configured to be joined to one of the base and the second surface section; and
(b) a second attachment end that includes a slidable member slidably coupled to the rotatable joint and configured to be joined to the other of the base and the second surface section to which the first attachment end is not joined.
3. The table system of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first surface section and the second surface section includes a utility tray extending below said at least one of the first surface section and the second surface section.
4. The table system of claim 3, wherein said at least one of the first surface section and the second surface section that includes the utility tray is configured to be secured to at least one of the first attachment device and the second attachment device at the utility tray.
5. The table system of claim 3, wherein the utility tray defines an interior channel configured to receive a plurality of wires extending from the base and to convey the wires generally parallel to one of the first and second inside edges of the at least one of the first and the second surface sections under which the utility tray extends.
6. The table system of claim 5, further comprising at least one access opening in an upper face of at least one of the first and the second surface sections through which the interior channel is accessible.
7. The table system of claim 6, wherein the access opening includes a closure device enabling the opening in an upper face of the surface section to be selectively partially closed.
8. The table system of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of table supports that support each of the first and the second surface sections, each of the plurality of table supports having opposite first and second ends, the first end being secured to one of the first and the second surface sections and the second end being supported by an underlying floor surface.
9. The table system of claim 8, wherein the second end of the table support includes at least one of a sliding surface and a caster to facilitate movement of the second end of table support across the underlying floor surface.
10. The table system of claim 1, further comprising an extensible cover secured over a top of the base to at least partially cover an opening formed between the first inside edge and the second inside edge when at least one of the surface sections is moved relative to the base, the opening being adapted to convey leads from inside the base toward each of the first and the second surface sections.
11. A table that is selectively reconfigurable in a plurality of configurations, including:
(a) a first table section having an upper generally planar surface;
(b) a second table section having an upper generally planar surface;
(c) a base that is generally centrally disposed relative to the first section and the second table section, an upper portion of the base being rotatably coupled to the first table section and the second table section, at least one of the first table section and the second table section being coupled through a rail assembly to the base, enabling the first table section and the second table section to be moved apart from each other while supported by the base and selectively rotated relative to the base; and
(d) wherein, in the second configuration, at least one of the first table section and the second table section is positioned away from the other while supported on the rail assembly by the base, and while rotating at least one of the first table section and the second table section relative to the base, so that adjacent corners at one end of each of the first table section and the second table section are moved toward each other coupled to the first table section and the second table section adjacent to ends thereof and extending downwardly to support the ends of the first table section and the second table section, the table being selectively configurable in a plurality of configurations, including:
(i) a first configuration in which the first table section and the second table section are substantially parallel to each other; and
(ii) a second configuration in which at least one of the first table section and the second table section is rotated relative to the base so that the first table section and the second table section are not parallel with each other.
12. The table of claim 11, wherein, in the first configuration, an edge of the first table section generally abuts against an opposing edge of the second table section.
13. The table of claim 11, wherein, in the first configuration, an opposing edge of the first table section is spaced apart by a substantial gap from an opposing edge of the second table section.
14. The table of claim 11, wherein, in the second configuration, at least one of the first table section and the second table section is positioned away from the other while supported on the rail assembly by the base, and wherein at least one of the first table section and the second table section is rotated relative to the base, so that adjacent corners at one end of each of the first table section and the second table section are moved toward each other.
15. The table of claim 14, wherein, in an alternative second configuration, at least one of the first table section and the second table section is positioned away from the other while supported by on the rail assembly by the base, and wherein at least one of the first table section and the second table section is rotated relative to the base, so that adjacent corners at an opposite end of each of the first table section and the second table section are moved toward each other.
16. The table of claim 11, wherein the end support members include friction reducing components that reduce a frictional resistance as the end support members are moved over a supporting surface, to change the table to a different configuration.
17. The table of claim 11, further comprising:
(a) a cable conduit disposed within a vertical portion of the base, for carrying data and electrical leads to both the first table section and the second table section;
(b) cable trays underlying the upper generally planar surface of the first table section and the second table section, the cable trays each being accessible through the generally planar surface of the first table section and the second table section; and
(c) a power strip disposed within each cable tray, the power strip being adapted to couple to an alternating current source through an electrical lead that is conveyed through the cable conduit and outwardly toward the cable trays.
18. The table of claim 17, wherein a cable pathway is disposed between the cable conduit and the cable trays, the cable pathway being adapted to convey data and electrical leads from the cable conduit into the cable trays, to enable connection of the data and electrical leads with user-supplied electronic devices that are disposed on the generally planar surfaces of the first table section and the second table section.
19. The table of claim 18, further comprising an expandable cover that substantially overlies the cable pathway, the expandable cover expanding as required to cover the cable pathway when the first table section and the second table sections are moved apart from each other.
20. The table of claim 11, wherein the rail assembly includes a pair of tracks, each track having a fixed rail connected to the base and a sliding rail connected to a turntable, a turntable rotatably coupling one of the first table section and the second table section to the sliding rails of the rail assembly.
21. The table of claim 20, wherein the other of the first table section and the second table section is also coupled to the base through another rail assembly that also includes a pair of tracks, including a fixed rail connected to the base and a sliding rail connected to another turntable that is rotatably coupled to the other of the first table section and the second table section.
22. A method for supporting a plurality of table sections to enable the plurality of table sections to be arranged in a plurality of configurations relative to a base that supports the table sections, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) joining a first end of a first support member to one of the first surface section and the base,
(b) rotatably and slidably joining a second end of the first support member to the other of the first surface section and the base, the second end being generally opposite to the first end; and
(c) joining the second surface section to the base.
23. The method of claim 22, further comprising the step of movably joining the second surface section to the base such that the second surface section is translatable and rotatable relative to the base.
24. The method of claim 23, wherein the step of movably joining the second surface section to the base includes the steps of:
(a) joining a first end of a second support member to one of the second surface section and the base; and
(b) rotatably and slidably joining a second end of the second support member to the other of the second surface section and the base, the second end being generally opposite to the first end of the second support member.
25. The method of claim 22, further comprising the step of forming a channel under at least one of the first surface section and the second surface section, the channel being configured to receive a plurality of leads extending from within the base and further configured to convey the wires generally parallel to the inside edge of said at least one the first and the second surface sections.
26. The method of claim 25, further comprising the step of providing at least one access opening into the channel through said at least one of the first and the second surface sections.
27. The method of claim 26, further comprising the step of providing a cover enabling the access opening to be selectively at least partially closed.
28. The method of claim 22, further comprising the step of supporting ends of the first and the second surface sections on table support members.
29. The method of claim 28, further comprising the step of reducing friction between an underlying surface and the table support members so as to facilitate movement of the table support members across the floor surface.
30. The method of claim 22, further comprising the step of covering an opening formed in the base, between the first inside edge and the second inside edge when said at least one of the first and the second surface sections is moved relative to the base, so that leads conveyed within the opening are not visible when the first and the second surface sections are spaced apart from each other at the base.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention generally pertains to conference tables, and more specifically, to conference tables that are selectively configurable in a plurality of different configurations.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    Most office suites include one or more conference rooms. These conference rooms may be used for any number of functions, but are typically used for meetings in which participants are seated around a table to discuss matters of interest to the participants. While a single conference table with seating on both sides can server this function, there are times when it is desirable to provide two sets of tables that are spaced apart from each other longitudinally. For example, it might be desirable to seat opposing parties along opposite sides of spaced-apart tables during negotiations. Still further, conference rooms might host presentations where a presenter, standing at one end of the table and using one or more visual aids, such as a video screen or monitor mounted on the wall at the opposite end of the table, addresses a number of participants seated around the table.
  • [0003]
    FIG. 1A shows a conference room 100 a furnished with a conventional conference room table 110 a surrounded by a number of chairs 120 a-136 a. As arranged, conference room table 110 a and chairs 120 a-136 a are configured to enable people seated in chairs 120 a-136 a to see and speak to persons who are seated in the other chairs. Unfortunately, conference room table 110 a and chairs 120 a-136 a are less well-suited to other purposes. For example, if people are gathered in conference room 100 a to listen to a speaker 140 speaking at a podium 150, people seated in chairs 120 a-136 a will have to turn in their chairs to look at speaker 140. People seated in chairs 126 a and 136 a may find this inconvenient because they will have to turn rather sharply in their chairs to look at speaker 140. Certainly, the people seated in chairs 126 a and 136 a will have to turn back and forth if they want to look at speaker 140 and take notes on pads that may be placed on table 110 a before them. However, it may prove even less convenient for people seated in chairs 120 a and 130 a, who will have to turn even further in their seats to look at speaker 140, and may also have to lean forward to see around people seated in chairs 122 a-126 a and 132 a-136 a, respectively. If the meeting requires that the participants view material displayed on a monitor 160, which is disposed at the opposite end of the room, then everyone has to turn around in their chairs, and the nature of the inconvenience for the people seated in chairs 120 a-136 a is reversed.
  • [0004]
    One way that has been developed in the prior art to make the furniture in a conference room more adaptable to different purposes and needs is to use two narrower tables, such as conference tables 112 b and 114 b, as shown in a conference room 100 b illustrated in FIG. 1B. By using two such narrower conference tables 112 b and 114 b, the conference tables can be rearranged to suit the purpose for which conference room 100 b is used. Thus, if people are called to conference room 100 b to view a presentation on monitor 160, conference tables 112 b and 114 b can each be positioned at an angle toward each other, with adjacent corners touching at one end and forming a “V” shape, so that both conference tables 112 b and 114 b at least partially face monitor 160. As a result, people seated in chairs 120 b-136 b will not have to turn so far in their chairs to view monitor 160, and if they are taking notes, their notepads will be more in front of them than in the arrangement of FIG. 1A. Although not shown, it will be apparent that the conference tables can alternatively, be arranged with the adjacent corners at the opposite end touching, to form the opposing “V” shape, when the participants' attention is directed only to speaker 140, at podium 150.
  • [0005]
    This prior art solution to the problem of achieving multiple configurations to address different functions and needs for conference tables unfortunately also has drawbacks. For example, even if tables 112 b and 114 b are narrower than a single conference table, such as conference table 110 a (shown in FIG. 1A), conference tables 112 b and 114 b will still have to be moved to effect the position of the conference tables shown in FIG. 1B. If conference tables 112 b and 114 b are of good quality, the work involved in moving even these narrower conference tables may be significant. In addition, if the participants are listening to speaker 140 at podium 150, tables 112 b and 114 b will have to be laboriously rearranged again, to achieve the opposite “V” shape configuration, or the people seated in chairs 120 b-136 b will really have to turn acutely in their chairs to be able to look at the speaker.
  • [0006]
    For still other purposes, such as hosting a meeting between opposing parties in a negotiation, FIG. 1C shows how conference tables 112 b and 114 b might be arranged to provide some separation in the form of a gap 116 c so that the participants of the meeting who are associated with one side of the discussion are seated in chairs 120 c-126 c and participants associated with other side of the discussion are seated in chairs 130 c-136 c. Unfortunately, arranging furniture as shown in FIG. 1C again may involve nontrivial labor in moving conference tables 112 b and 114 b.
  • [0007]
    Furthermore, as is the case in most meetings, people seated at conference tables 112 b and 114 b may need to use laptop computers and other devices. As a result, power cords, telephone cords, network cables, and other wiring, such as a video data lead for monitor 160, might need to be run to computers or other data device disposed on one or both of conference tables 112 b and 114 b. The use of laptops and other digital devices in conference rooms has become so prevalent that conference tables that are not intended to be moved about within a conference room are often provided with longitudinally extending cable trays disposed under the surface of the conference table, so that the data ports for digital (and even optical connections), and AC power strips disposed in the tray are accessed through a slot in the surface of conference table overlying the tray. These digital and power leads typically feed down through the supports for the conference table and into trays hidden under the flooring. Unfortunately, because one of the objects of using two separate tables 112 b and 114 b is to permit the reconfiguration of the conference tables to be readily carried out by moving the conference tables, it is not practical to equip these movable conference tables with cabling trays and conduits, since the data and power leads would then be exposed when the tables are moved to achieve the different configurations, creating a tripping hazard. As a result, when computers and other digital devices are used on conference tables 112 b and 114 b, the various data and power cords and cables will be run as needed, potentially presenting a tripping hazard and at least creating an inconvenient, tangled, and untidy set of leads, which might extend between the conference tables, e.g., hanging in gap 116 between tables 112 b and 114 b as shown in FIG. 1C, or between the conference tables when arranged in either “V” shaped configuration as shown by the example in FIG. 1B.
  • [0008]
    Considering the examples of FIGS. 1A-1C, having either one conventional conference room table or a plurality of narrower tables that can be moved to achieve different configurations is not a complete solution to the problem of addressing the need for different configurations discussed above. It would be highly desirable to provide an adaptable conference room table that can be readily reconfigured to accommodate a range of uses in a conference room, such as described above. It is also highly desirable that such a multiplicity of uses be accomplished without significant effort being required to rearrange the furniture into the various configurations for different uses. Furthermore, it is desirable that the furniture present an attractive appearance and avoid the need to string cables and leads when computing devices or other digital or electronic devices are used on the furniture.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0009]
    Accordingly, one of the advantages of the present invention is that it provides a table that can readily be configured to suit a number of different uses or functions. As a result, a space such as a conference room that is equipped with such a table can be efficiently used for different purposes without having to exchange or move furniture around the room. For example, if a pair of separate but facing tables are needed, sections of the table, which are rotatably supported by a base, can be moved apart to present generally parallel, spaced-apart table sections, thereby avoiding the need to bring an additional table into the room. Alternatively, one or more table sections can be rotated relative to the base to present a “V” shape configuration of the table sections that is selectively open at either end of the table to enable people seated around the table to more easily view a speaker and/or another object of interest, such as a display screen or monitor, disposed at open end of the “V” shape configuration.
  • [0010]
    The table sections are supported by the base and preferably, at other points adjacent to their ends, by a plurality of table supports. Each table support engages only one of the table sections, so as to avoid interfering when one of the table sections is moved relative to another table section. The lower end of each of the table supports preferably includes a device for reducing friction, such as a sliding surface or a caster, to further facilitate movement of the table sections while at least partially supported by the table supports.
  • [0011]
    In addition, one embodiment of the present invention includes utility trays that extend along the undersurface of the table sections and which are configured to receive cables and leads that pass through the base of the table. Included within the utility trays are electrical power strips that are connected to a source of alternating current through leads that extend downwardly through the base. The cables and leads within the utility trays can be accessed at different points along the length of the table sections. As a result, even when table sections are moved, connections to the cables and leads disposed within the utility tray are available through an opening into the utility tray through the table surface. Persons seated around the table are thus provided ready access to integral data and electrical connections within the utility trays. To further enhance the appearance of the table surface system and hide the cables and leads that are conveyed to the utility trays, an extensible cover is joined to each of the table sections so that as the table sections are moved relative to one another, the extensible cover continuously covers the cables and leads that are conveyed through an opening at the top of the base.
  • [0012]
    One aspect of the present invention as claimed is thus directed to a table system. The table system includes a base, a first surface section having a first inside edge, and a second surface section having a second inside edge. The second inside edge is configured to abut the first inside edge of the first surface section so that when thus arranged, the first surface section and the second surface section form a combined table surface. Also included is a first attachment device that translatably and rotatably secures the first surface section to the base. The first attachment device includes a first attachment end having a rotatable joint that is joined to one of the base and the first surface section, and a second attachment end that includes a slidable member slidably coupled to the rotatable joint and joined to the other of the base and the first surface section to which the first attachment end is not joined. A second attachment device secures the second surface section to the base.
  • [0013]
    The second attachment device preferably also movably joins the second surface section to the base such that the second surface section is translatable and rotatable relative to the base. Accordingly, the second attachment device includes a first attachment end having a rotatable joint that is joined to one of the base and the second surface section, and a second attachment end that includes a slidable member slidably coupled to the rotatable joint and joined to the other of the base and the second surface section to which the first attachment end is not joined
  • [0014]
    At least one of the first surface section and the second surface section preferably includes a utility tray extending below the surface section. The surface section that includes the utility tray is then secured to at least one of the first attachment device and the second attachment device at the utility tray. An interior channel is defined by the utility tray and is configured to receive a plurality of wires extending from the base. The interior channel conveys the wires generally parallel to the inside edge of the surface section.
  • [0015]
    At least one access opening is provided in an upper face of at least one of the first and the second surface sections, to provide access to the interior channel. The access opening includes a closure device enabling the access opening in the upper face of the surface section to be selectively partially closed.
  • [0016]
    The table system also includes a plurality of table supports that support each of the first and the second surface sections. The table supports each have opposed first and second ends, and the first end is secured to one of the first and the second surface sections, while the second end is supported by an underlying floor surface. Preferably, the second end of the table support includes either a sliding surface or a caster to facilitate movement of the second end of table support across the underlying floor surface.
  • [0017]
    An extensible cover is secured over a top of the base to at least partially cover an opening formed between the first inside edge and the second inside edge when at least one of the surface sections is moved relative to the base, to create a gap between the two surface sections. The opening is adapted to convey leads from inside the base toward each of the first and the second surface sections.
  • [0018]
    Another aspect of the present invention is directed to a method for supporting a plurality of table sections to enable the plurality of table sections to be arranged in a plurality of configurations relative to a base that supports the table sections. The method recites steps that are generally consistent with the functions of the table system discussed above.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIGURES
  • [0019]
    The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will become more readily appreciated as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
  • [0020]
    FIGS. 1A-1C (Prior Art) are overhead views of one or more conventional tables and chairs positioned in a conference room;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a table according to an embodiment of the present invention in a retracted position;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 3 is an exploded isometric view of the table of FIG. 1;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 4 is an exploded isometric view of a base of the table of FIG. 1;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 5A is an end view of utility trays secured to the attachment mechanism mounted atop the base of FIG. 4 in a retracted position;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 5B is an end view of utility trays secured to the attachment mechanism mounted atop the base of FIG. 4 in an extended position;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 6A is a bottom view of a portion of a surface section, illustrating a utility tray joined to the surface section and to a supporting leg;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 6B is a side elevational view showing a portion of the utility tray mounted to a leg;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 7 is a top view of utility trays installed on the base in an extended position;
  • [0029]
    FIGS. 8A-8D are overhead views of the table in a retracted position and in a plurality of extended positions;
  • [0030]
    FIGS. 9A-9B are cross-sectional views of the table deployed in different positions to illustrate operation of an extensible cover extending between utility trays of beneath the table surface; and
  • [0031]
    FIG. 10 is a flow diagram illustrating the logical steps for assembling and using a table system according to an embodiment of the present invention.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
  • [0000]
    Structure of Multipurpose Conference Room Table
  • [0032]
    FIG. 2 is an isometric view of a table 200 in a retracted position, according to an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of table 200, showing more detail of its internal structure. Table 200 includes a tabletop 210, which has a plurality of table surface sections 212, which are described below in further detail. Surface sections 212 include a plurality of closeable access openings 214, permitting access to an interior of utility trays 220 that are attached to the undersides of surface sections 212. The interior of utility trays 220 convey leads 236 for data, signals, and power. These leads provide network access, data communication, electrical power, and other functions for portable computers or other devices that one or more persons sitting at table 200 may be using.
  • [0033]
    Tabletop 210 is supported by a base 250 and a plurality of table supports or legs 280. Base 250 supports tabletop 210 approximately at a midpoint of tabletop 210. More particularly, in the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 2, base 250 is connected to utility trays 220 and thus provide support for surface sections 212. Base 250 includes an access panel 252, which can be opened to access a junction box (not shown) in the floor surface, e.g., to connect/disconnect leads 236 that are conveyed through utility trays 220, as described below. However, a significant advantage of the present invention is that table 200 can be changed to different configurations without the need to disconnect and reconnect these leads. Legs 280 support utility trays 220 and/or surface sections 212 of tabletop 210 at positions spaced apart from base 250. Legs 280 each include a plurality of caster 282 mounted to their lower ends to facilitate movement of legs 280 across a floor surface. Alternatively, other forms of friction reducing components, such as plastic sliding surfaces can be employed instead of the casters to reduce the friction as the legs are moved over an underlying floor surface.
  • [0034]
    As shown in FIG. 2, table 200 appears to be conventional. However, as FIGS. 3-7 clarify, the structure of table 200 enables table 200 to be adapted to a number of different uses, by enabling it to be reconfigured in three other forms.
  • [0035]
    As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, tabletop 210 is shown in a retracted position, in which adjacent edges of surface sections 212 abut each other, so that the table appears as a single, integral surface. In the retracted position shown, the adjacent longitudinal edges of surface sections 212 abut at a center joint 216. Similarly, the adjacent transverse edges of surface sections 212 meet at lateral seams 218. As will be better understood from the discussion below, surface sections 212 are fixedly joined at lateral seams 218, but movably abut at center joint 216.
  • [0036]
    Utility trays 220 may be integrally formed into surface sections 212, but in the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the utility trays are separately formed and coupled with surface sections 212 with suitable fasteners (not shown) that extend through flanges 228 and into the undersides of the surface sections. Each of the utility trays 220 includes an interior channel 222. Mounted inside interior channel 222 are power outlet strips 224 and connections to other leads 226. Optionally, interior channels 222 may be equipped with a wiring harness (not shown) that can be connected to wiring facilities in the room through base 250. Thus, people seated around table 200 can access power outlet strips 224 and connect to other leads 226 through closable access openings 214, which are formed in tabletop 210. Each utility tray 220 is joined to a rotatable joint 256 of attachment mechanism 254 at a receiving portion 230 of the utility tray. Utility trays 220 thus couple surface sections 212 to attachment mechanism 254, which in turn is mounted to the top of base 250 with appropriate threaded fasteners (not shown).
  • [0037]
    Attachment mechanism 254 thus supports a plurality of rotatable joints 256 that are slidably mounted to the base as described below. Surface sections 212 are coupled to rotatable joints 256 via utility trays 220. Accordingly, as will be further appreciated from the discussion that follows, surface sections 212 of tabletop 210 can be both translated laterally and rotated with respect to base 250.
  • [0038]
    Legs 280 include inner support braces 281, which provide internal structural support to the legs. In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 3, inner support braces 281 each have a planar upper surface 284 that are connected with fasteners (not shown) to a plurality of flanges 286 that extend outwardly from legs 280. Planar upper surfaces 284 are coupled with surface sections 212 using fasteners (not shown). Casters 282 (or other friction reducing components) are mounted to the bottom ends of inner support braces 281, to facilitate moving legs 280 over an underlying floor surface. In addition, in the embodiment of the invention shown, each leg 280 includes an inner surface 288 supporting a plurality of attachment devices 290 that are mounted to utility trays 220 with threaded fasteners (not shown). When the components shown in FIG. 3 are assembled, one configuration of table 200 appears as shown in FIG. 2.
  • [0000]
    Mechanism Providing for Configurability of Surface Sections
  • [0039]
    FIG. 4 is an enlarged, exploded isometric view of base 250 of table 200 (not shown). As previously described, base 250 includes an access panel 252 allowing for manipulation of wiring or leads emanating, preferably, from a junction box (not shown) that is inset into the floor surface to enable the leads to be fed into utility trays 220. Alternatively, access panel 252 allows for connecting one or more wiring harnesses previously installed in interior channels 222 of utility trays 220 to connections in the junction box that is inset into the floor surface of a room.
  • [0040]
    Upper edges 259 of base 250 engage and support a lower surface 261 of attachment mechanism 254, which provides supports for rotatable joints 256. Rotatable joints 256 preferably comprise bearing-supported turntables such that, when coupled to the surface sections of the tabletop (not shown in FIG. 4), enable the surface sections to be rotated relative to base 250. Furthermore, in accordance with the present invention, rotatable joints 256 are slidably mounted to attachment mechanism 254, so that the surface sections coupled to rotatable joints 256 are both rotatable and laterally translatable relative to base 250.
  • [0041]
    In particular, attachment mechanism 254 includes a support panel 258 to which are mounted channel mounts 260. Slidable channels 262 are preferably slidably bearing-mounted to mounted to channel mounts 260 and include channel stops, such as stop blocks 268, to limit the travel of slidable channels 262. Limiting the travel of slidable channels 262 allows adjustment to the range of motion the table sections (not shown) to suit the size of the room where the table will be located. In the example shown, stop blocks 268 extend through a lower portion of support member 254 and block further travel of slidable channels 262 when the desired limit of their travel is reached.
  • [0042]
    Bases 264 of rotatable joints 256 are coupled with slidable channels 262, and rotatable upper portions 266 of rotatable joints 256 are rotatably secured to joint bases 264. Thus, securing the surface sections of the table to rotatable upper portions 266 of rotatable joints 256 enables the surface sections to be rotated relative to joint bases 264 of rotatable joints 256. Also, slidable channels 262 are laterally translatable relative to channel mounts 260, such that rotatable joints 256 are translatable relative to support member 254 along the line of travel of slidable channels 262.
  • [0043]
    Preferably, rotatable upper portions 266 of rotatable joints 256 engage the surface sections via tension mounts 270 to flexibly, yet securely, join the surface sections to attachment mechanism 254. Attachment mechanism 254 also preferably includes wiring orifices 272 enabling wiring or leads (not shown) that extend through a central channel 274 of base 250 to pass through and on to utility trays 220, as explained below.
  • [0044]
    It is contemplated that in other embodiments (not shown), the surface sections can be attached to the base in other ways that still enable the surface sections to be translated and rotated relative to the base. For example, one surface section may be fixedly mounted to the base, while the adjacent surface section is movably mounted on the base, so as to be rotatable and translatable with respect to the base (and the other surface section). In addition, if both surface sections are coupled to rotatable joints that are slidably mounted to the base, the rotatable joints may be slidably mounted to opposing ends of a single support member, or the rotatable joints may be slidably mounted to separate support members. Further, although FIGS. 3 and 4 show rotatable joints slidably mounted to base 250, the slidable joints could be rotatably mounted to the base, and the surface sections coupled to the slidable joints. It is also contemplated that other forms of rotatable joints can be employed instead of the those shown in the Figures.
  • [0045]
    In one alternative embodiment of the present invention, surface sections 212 integrally include utility trays 220. However, in the illustrated embodiment shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the utility trays are attached to the undersides of the surface sections and are coupled to base 250. FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate how utility trays 220 are coupled with attachment mechanism 254. As noted above, utility trays 220 are coupled with the rotatable upper portions (not shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B) of rotatable joints (also not shown in these two Figures) that are mounted on slidable channels 260. Utility trays 220 include flanges 228 to which the surface sections (not shown) are attached. In a retracted position, as shown in FIG. 5A, slidable channels 262 and in turn, utility trays 220 that are mounted thereto, are translated laterally to a retracted position. In the retracted position shown for this embodiment of the present invention, slidable channels 262 engage each other, causing the adjacent longitudinal edges of surface sections (not shown) to abut each other at the central joint. However, exploiting the functionality of slidable channels 262, utility trays 220 and the surface sections connected thereto may be translated away from the central joint. For example, by sliding utility trays 220 that are secured to slidable channel 262 in the opposite directions indicated by arrows 550, utility trays 220 and the surface sections connected thereto are translatable laterally apart, relative to base 250. FIG. 5A shows the support devices for the table according to the present invention, in a retracted position so that the adjacent longitudinally extending edges of the surface sections abut, while FIG. 5B shows the support devices for the table in a partially extended position, so that the surface sections are spaced apart from each other.
  • [0000]
    Retracted and Expanded Positions of Structural Elements of Table
  • [0046]
    As shown and FIGS. 6A and 6B, table supports or legs 280 provide additional support to the table. FIG. 6A is a bottom view of a portion of a surface section mounted on a utility tray supported by leg 280. As shown in FIG. 6A, leg 280 includes planar upper surface 284 with a plurality of flanges 286 used to secure leg 280 to an underside of surface section 212. In addition, flanges 2 are used to couple legs 280 to utility tray 220. It should be noted that leg 280 engages only one surface section 212, so that when taking advantage of attachment mechanism 254 to translate surface sections relative to the base, the legs attached to the surface section are also translated relative to the base.
  • [0047]
    FIG. 7 is a top view of utility trays 220 supported by attachment mechanism 254 mounted on base 250 and by legs 280 in a laterally extended position. Utility trays 220 are secured to rotatable portions of rotatable joints (not shown) beneath receiving portions 230 of utility trays 220. Wiring or leads (not shown in this Figure) extending through wiring orifices 272 in attachment mechanism 254 pass beneath receiving portions 230 and into interior channels 222 of utility trays 220.
  • [0048]
    In the extended position shown in FIG. 7, utility trays 220 are drawn away from one another along the line of travel of slidable channels 262 as they slide over channel mounts 260. Slidable channels 262, which are coupled to utility trays 220 via the rotatable joints (not shown in this Figure) slide along channel mounts 260, enabling the surface sections (not shown) to be laterally separated. Legs 280, coupled with utility trays 220 and/or surface sections (not shown), move with utility trays 220 and surface sections to support the utility trays and surface sections in all positions. It should also be appreciated that as utility trays 220 are moved into the extended position shown in FIG. 7, wiring or leads extending up through base (not shown) and wiring orifices 272, which are provided in the interior channels, move with utility trays 220 and the surface sections.
  • [0000]
    Configurations of the Table
  • [0049]
    FIGS. 8A-8D are plan views of table 200, illustrating surface sections 212 a-212 d in retracted, extended, and partially extended positions and showing the four different configurations in which the table can be readily placed. FIG. 8A shows a plan view of table 200 in a retracted position 800, in which table 200 appears to be generally conventional in form, appearing as an integral single table surface. However, in the illustrated embodiment, table 200 includes four surface sections, 212 a-212 d. Surface sections 212 a and 212 b are coupled to one of the utility trays (not shown), while surface sections 212 c and 212 d are coupled to the other utility tray (not shown). Thus, surface sections 212 a and 212 b meet at lateral seam 218 a and, being fixedly joined, effectively comprise a single surface section. Similarly, surface sections 212 c and 212 d meet at lateral seam 218 b and also effectively comprise a single surface section. It will thus be apparent that the surface sections may be monolithic (i.e., only a single surface section may be employed instead of surface sections 212 a and 212 b, as well as a single surface section instead of surface sections 212 c and 212 d, or as many joined sections may be employed as desired. In this preferred embodiment, all surface sessions 212 a-212 d include closable access openings 214 permitting access to interior channels (not shown) and a wiring extending therethrough.
  • [0050]
    In the retracted position shown in FIG. 8A, the longitudinal edges of joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b abut the adjacent longitudinal edges of joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d along center joint 216. Thus, surface sections 212 a-212 d form a single, monolithic tabletop when table 200 is positioned in a retracted position. Joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b may be latched to joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d to further ensure that table 200 presents a single tabletop surface.
  • [0051]
    By contrast, FIG. 8B shows table 200 in a fully extended position 820. In fully extended position 820, joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b are moved in the direction indicated by an arrow 822, while joined surface sections 212 c-212 d are moved in the direction indicated by an arrow 824. Movement of joined surface sections 212 a-212 b away from joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d is enabled by the movable attachment mechanism (not shown), and by the legs (not shown), which are independently connected to different surface sections. As a result, the single, monolithic tabletop shown in FIG. 8A is reconfigured as two separate tabletops divided by a gap 826, which is useful in situations where the configuration of two separate tables is desired.
  • [0052]
    FIGS. 8C and 8D illustrate table 200 configured in partially-extended positions 840 and 860, respectively. In FIG. 8C, table 200 is opened between an inner corner 842 of joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and an inner corner 844 of joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d, forming a “V”-shaped configuration. Partially-extended position 840 may be useful if a speaker or a visual aid is disposed adjacent to the end of table 200 where inner corners 842 and 844 are spread apart. Table 200 is deployed in partially-extended position 840 by applying force to joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b directed so that inner corner 842 moves in a direction indicated by an arrow 846, and by applying force to joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d directed so that inner corner 844 moves in a direction indicated by an arrow 848. Joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d both translate and rotate relative to the base and to each other such that joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d effectively pivot about a point where inside corners 852 and 854 meet. A gap 850 is thus formed between inside corners 842 and 844 to enable those seated at table 200 to more comfortably view a speaker, visual aid, or other object of interest disposed adjacent to gap 850.
  • [0053]
    Similarly, in FIG. 8D, table 200 is shown in partially-extended position 860, opening the table at its opposite end, between inner corner 852 of joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and inner corner 854 of joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d. Partially-extended position 860 may be useful if a speaker or a visual aid is positioned at the end of table 200 adjacent to inner corners 852 and 854. Table 200 is deployed in partially-extended position 860 by applying force to joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b directed so that inner corner 852 moves in a direction of arrow 862 and applying force to joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d directed so that inner corner 854 moves in a direction of arrow 864. Joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d translate and rotate relative to one another such that joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d effectively pivot opposite one another about a point where inside corners 842 and 844 meet. A gap 870 is thus formed to present a widened end of table 200 between inside corners 852 and 854 near where a speaker, visual aid, or other object of interest is disposed, to enable those seated at the table to view the person or visual aid in greater comfort.
  • [0054]
    It should be appreciated that caster locks (not separately shown) may be provided on casters 282 or other sliding or rolling devices that are disposed on the bottom of the legs and used to secure table 200 in any of positions 800, 820, 840, and 860 to prevent the table from being unintentionally moved out of the desired configuration as a result of people bumping into the table or otherwise pressing against surface sections 212 a-212 d.
  • [0000]
    Extensible Cover Overlying the Gap Between Table Sections
  • [0055]
    As described in connection with FIGS. 8B-8D, relative movement between joined surface sections 212 a and 212 b and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d can create a gap between the joined surface sections. Such a gap would normally expose attachment mechanism 254 and leads 226 that extends from base 250 and through wiring orifice 272 (FIG. 4). It will be appreciated that exposing the wiring and leads within the gap to the view of people seated around table 200 detracts from the appearance of the table. Accordingly, it is desirable to cover gap 826, gap 850 (FIG. 8C), and gap 870 (FIG. 8D), to conceal the wiring and leads, as well as to conceal attachment mechanism 254 from view.
  • [0056]
    FIGS. 9A-9B illustrate an extensible cover that covers the gap between the joined table sections. While not specifically shown in these Figures, it will be understood that the extensible cover appears as an inverted “U”-shaped cover, having sides that extend downwardly to cover the sides of the attachment mechanism 254, including slidable channels 262 a/b and 262 c/d. In FIG. 9A, with table 900 a in a retracted position, extensible cover 910 a is shown in a contracted state. End sections 920 a and 920 b of extensible cover 910 a are coupled with utility trays 220 a/b and 220 c/d to which joined surface sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d are joined, respectively. Alternatively, extensible cover 910 a could be joined to the interior edges or undersides of joined surface sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d, and joined surface sections 212 c and 212 d, or otherwise coupled with the joined surface sections and their attached utility trays. Further alternatively, extensible cover 910 a may include a single cover fully covering a gap between table sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d, thereby covering attachment mechanism and gaps formed between table sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d to either side of attachment mechanism 254.
  • [0057]
    Preferably, extensible cover 910 a includes an opaque material that conceals objects under the extensible cover. In particular, extensible cover 910 a conceals a top end of base 250 and leads 226 extending from base 250 along slidable channels 262 a/b and 262 c/d. Slidable channels 262 a/b and 262 c/d travel on channel mount (not shown in FIG. 9A) and into interior channels of utility trays 220 a/b and 220 c/d.
  • [0058]
    As illustrated in FIG. 9B, with table 900 b in an extended position, extensible cover 910 b, which is pleated with a plurality of accordion folds 915, extends as needed to cover any gap formed between joined surface sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d as the surface sections are moved further apart when translated in the direction of arrows 930 a/b and 930 c/d. As the joined surface sections are translated further apart from each other, the pleated folds comprising extensible cover 910 b extend to cover the widening gap. As a result, extensible cover 910 b also covers exposed channel mount 260, slidable channels 262 a/b and 262 c/d, leads 226, and the rest of attachment mechanism 254 and top of base 250. On the other hand, as shown in a partial view 900 a in FIG. 9A, when joined surface sections 212 a/b and 212 c/d are moved to configure the table in its fully retracted position 900 a, accordion-folded extensible cover 910 a compresses to a size that easily fits below the joined surface sections.
  • [0059]
    Thus, extensible cover 910 a-910 b provides an automatically adaptable covering for any potential gap that may form between the surface sections when the table is reconfigured from any retracted position to any extended position and back. It should be noted that an extensible covering may comprise material other than pleated accordion fold covering. Extensible covering 910 a-910 b also may include elastic materials or scissor-folding materials that can be stretched or extended, to cover a variable-size gap formed between the joined surface sections.
  • [0000]
    Logical Steps for Assembling and Using the Reconfigurable Table
  • [0060]
    FIG. 10 illustrates a flow diagram 1000 of the logical steps for assembling and using a reconfigurable table according to the present invention. Flow diagram 1000 begins at a step 1002. At a step 1004, a base for the table is positioned at the desired location. At a step 1006, an attachment mechanism capable of supporting surface sections is secured to the base. At a step 1008, utility trays are secured to rotatable joints of the attachment mechanism. For purposes of flow diagram 1000, it is assumed that the utility trays are separate from and attachable to the surface sections and not integrally formed with the surface sections.
  • [0061]
    At a step 1010, leads are extended from the base through the wiring orifice of the attachment mechanism and into the interior channels of the utility trays. Alternatively, if interior channels of the utility trays are preinstalled with one or more wiring harnesses, the wiring harnesses are joined with wiring extending up through the base or are coupled to external wiring in a utility box set into the flooring under the table. At a step 1012, the legs are connected to the ends of the utility trays, if desired, at positions away from the base. Alternatively, the legs may be connected only to the surface sections if desired. At a step 1014, the surface sections are secured to the utility trays and/or to the legs directly. At a step 1016, an extensible gap covering is secured to the inside edges of the surface sections, or otherwise joined to the surface sections, as described above. The table is now assembled and ready for use.
  • [0062]
    Now that the table is assembled, at a decision step 1018, it is determined if the surface sections are configured as desired. If so, flow diagram 1000 ends at a step 1024. However, if the surface sections are not in the desired configuration, at a step 1020, the surface sections are translated using the slidable channels, and, at a step 1022, the surface sections are rotated to a desired angular orientation, using the rotatable joints. It will be appreciated that steps 1020 and 1022 can be undertaken concurrently, because the surface sections can be both translated and rotated at the same time, as described above. After the surface sections are translated and rotated, flow diagram 1000 loops to decision step 1018 to determine if the surface sections now are in a desired configuration If so, the flow diagram ends at step 1024. However, if the surface sections are still not in a desired configuration, steps 1020 and 1022 are repeated. It should be appreciated that steps 1018, 1020, and 1022, maybe performed as often as desired to change the table to a different configuration suitable for a particular purpose.
  • [0063]
    Although the present invention has been described in connection with the preferred form of practicing it and modifications thereto, those of ordinary skill in the art will understand that many other modifications can be made to the present invention within the scope of the claims that follow. Accordingly, it is not intended that the scope of the invention in any way be limited by the above description, but instead be determined entirely by reference to the claims that follow.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification108/50.02
International ClassificationA47B37/00
Cooperative ClassificationA47B1/10, A47B21/06, A47B2200/0079, A47B1/08
European ClassificationA47B1/10, A47B1/08, A47B21/06
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Aug 24, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: MAGNA DESIGN, INC., WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:STEVENS, JOHN R.;GIOVANNONI, DONALD E.;REEL/FRAME:015733/0614
Effective date: 20040823