US 3404268 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Oct. 1, 1968 M. FOWLER FORMABLE LIGHT STRIP Filed Dec. 215, 1966 i0 ,ZM EMro/Q lflweslrcsfitfirmse,
United States Patent 3,404,268 FORMABLE LIGHT STRIP Lawrence M. Fowler, 419 W. Palmer Ave., Glendale, Calif. 91204 Filed Dec. 23, 1966, Ser. No. 604,406 3 Claims. (Cl. 240-) ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE A series of flexible tubular strip sections connected together and adjustable to a desired configuration. Each section contains an upper passage for electrical wiring and a lower mounting base having a passage for a shape-retaining StilTening wire. The strip sections having an upper opening for light bulb socket outlets. The base is formed with a pair of external longitudinal slots on each side and is provided with a longitudinal split to provide access to interior surfaces. The strips are held in a closed position by mounting clips. The mounting clips are provided with resilient side fingers adapted to fit closely into the longitudinal base slots. The strip sections are connected together, end to end by slip-on coupling tubes. The coupling tubes are provided with an internal longitudinal shoulder construction to accommodate the external longitudinal construction of the strip sections.
This invention relates generally to flexible light strips used for arranging lighted patterns in decoration or advertising display. More particularly, the invention relates to such a strip in which each section houses the wiring and a series of bulb sockets within a tube assembly comprised of a flexible insulating tube longitudinally separable at a pair of mating base flange members, and a bendable, shape-retaining spine housed between said base flange members.
Long strings of electric lights have long been used for illuminated display purposes, for example, in Christmas tree lights, in festoons for decorating streets or buildings, and for forming the letters of an illuminated sign. In the past, however, such festoons have been of a rather makeshift type not suited for the fabrication of permanent advertising displays of good strength and appearance. Instead, electric signs illuminated by bulbs h-ave been custom made in rigid construction to meet legal requirements for safety; they have been expensive, have required special contractors and workmen, and have been expensive or impossible to change or to salvage in part.
In instances in the past in which a flexible string of lights has been used for making a permanent display sign or the like, it has been necessary to fasten the flexible string to a mounting surface at numerous points in order to insure that it remain permanently in the desired configuration.
Various devices for stiffening and for mounting flexible light strips have been unsatisfactory either because they were unsafe electrically or because they were restricted in the position in which they would be mounted, or both.
Moreover, flexible light strips of the past have not provided convenient access to the wires inside the light strip, or if they did, they were mere wrappings of a type which did not assist in retaining a permanent structural configuration.
The present invention meets and overcomes all these objections by means of a novel light strip assembly. In addition to its versatility and many features not found in previously known light strips, the invention provides a light strip which is economical to manufacture, and which a non-electrician can make permanent light strip configurations of high electrical safety, good structural strength, and excellent appearance with the investment of very little labor, and without any need for special tools.
3,404,268 Patented Oct. 1, 1968 It is the primary object of the invention to provide a formable light strip which can be bent into any desired shape, and which will retain that shape, whether mounted or not. It is a related object to provide a structure for the shape-retaining light strip which is electrically safe.
It is a second important object of the invention to provide a light strip which can be mounted on almost any type of surface, with the light bulbs oriented in almost any desired position.
A third important object of the invention is to provide a formable light strip which can be opened, closed, or reopened along its entire length so access both to the electric wiring and sockets, and to the shape-retaining structure.
A heretofore unknown advantage of the formable light strip of the invention is that the electrical system, and the shape-retaining structure, although housed in separate insulated compartments, are both readily accessible when the base flanges are separated.
The preferred materials for construction of the invention may be specified in order to make a complete disclosure of one preferred specific embodiment. The wiring, sockets, and bulbs are those used generally in festoon light displays. These are housed in a series of tubes and couplings of unique design, which can be conveniently fabricated as extrusions of vinyl plastic, although other flexible insulating materials might be used.
The flexible tubular housing is assembled with a wire spine, preferably of malleable steel wire, soft enough to be bent manually, and having the characteristic that once bent, it retains its new shape, without springing back to its prior condition.
Obviously, soft copper wire could be used, but this would be more expensive and the shape-retaining wire is not intended for any electrical conductivity whatever.
The many advantages and objects of the invention will best be understood from the following description of one preferred specific embodiment, which may be read in connection with the accompanying drawings.
In the drawings:
FIGURES 1a, b, and 0 illustrate pieces of formable light strip, constructed according to the invention, as they might be mounted on flat, interior, or exterior surfaces with the light bulbs projecting normally, or inwardly, or outwardly, respectively;
FIGURES 2a, b, and c are perspective views of fragments of two light strips in position for series coupling, and a series coupling;
FIGURE 3 is a transverse sectional view of the light strip, at a section through a coupling, but with the electric wiring eliminated for purposes of illustration;
FIGURES 4 and 5 illustrate the simple crimping connectors best suited for inter-connecting successive light strip section.
FIGURES 7 and 6 illustrate in perspective views the method of mounting and the mounting clip, respectively; and
FIGURE 8 is a cross-type coupling for connecting intersecting sections of light strip.
In FIGURES 1a, b, and c, a single longitudinal section of a light strip, constructed according to the invention, is shown as formed in three different configurations, designated in the illustrations as 10a, 10b, and 100, respectively.
Light bulbs 11 are seen projecting normally with respect to the longitudinal axis, from normally projecting socket structures 12; the latter are spaced along the length of strips 10a, 10b, and 10c, usually at uniform spacing.
The different illustrations of FIGURES 1a, b, and 0 illustrate the adaptability of the flexible, and shape-retain: ing light strip of the invention. In FIGURE la, light strip 10a is formed into a half-circle of light as it might appear mounted on the vertical plane of a flat wall surface. It will be understood that the half-circle shape has been selected only for purposes of example, and that the light strip may be formed into letters, to make a sign, or may be formed into some complex configuration in order to make a pic ture.
In FIGURE lb, the light strip b presents a half-circle configuration very similar to the configuration of light strip 10a, but the strip 10b is illustrated as it would appear if mounted on the interior surface of a cylindrical mounting, such as an arch, or a hoop.
In FIGURE 10, the light strip 100 is mounted around an exterior cylindrical surface, with the light bulbs 11 and their socket structures 12 projecting radially outwards.
In utilizing the light strip of the invention, one usually assembles a series of many light strip sections end to end. FIGURE 2 illustrates the series coupling of two light strips 10 and 20, which are illustrated only in their end portions adjacent to a coupling 30. The latter is in the form of a close-fitting external sleeve; however, as will be explained hereinafter, the cross-sectional shape of light strips 10 and 20, and coupling are preferably formed with a novel and unique base structure.
The preferred cross-section for the light strip assembly, as taken at a plane normal to the longitudinal axis thereof, through a coupling, is seen in FIGURE 3, the section being identified generally by the numeral 40. The separate cross-sections of the light strips 10 and 20, and the coupling 30, may be viewed in FIGURE 2 at 41 and 42 respectively.
Both light strips 10 and 20, and coupling 30, are preferably made of a soft and yielding plastic material, such as molded polyvinyl. However, other materials which are suitably flexible, and have sutficient insulating qualities to provide safe and lawful electrical enclosure, may be used.
An important feature of the invention is that it does not rely on shape-retention by the plastic material of sections 10 and 20, and coupling 30, but upon the shape-retaining characteristics of a spine of malleable steel wire or the like, as will be described hereinafter.
The transverse cross sectional views of Section 41, seen in FIGURES 2 and 3, reveal that the light strip 10 has a housing 43, comprised of an upper tubular conduit portion and a substantially solid base portion 45. The socket structures 12 are integral with the conduit portion 44, projecting on the side opposite the base portion 45, and molded as part of the entire housing 43.
The under side of base portion 45 is flat, so that it ma be conveniently mounted on flat surfaces. The sides of the base portion 45, however, are characterized by a pair of longitudinal side slots 46 and 47, which play an important role in both coupling light strip sections, and mounting the entire light strip assembly to a flat surface.
It will be seen that an important feature of the pre ferred form of construction for the light strip of the invention is that the coupling 30 be provided with a pair of internal longitudinal shoulders 56 and 57 which mate with the slots 46 and 47 to provide secure coupling, as illustrated in the sectional view of FIGURE 3.
In FIGURE 2, the cross sectional view 41 shows that the 'base 45, although substantially solid, is actually divided along a longitudinal plane 50, which is normal to the flat under side of base section 45. In assembly, the division 50 is closed with the adjacent mating surfaces 51 and 52 held in contact, but the material of the entire housing 43 is so flexible, and the upper conduitportion 44 so extensive, that a person of very moderate skill may manually open the housing 43 for access to its interior, whenever and wherever required.
The shape-retention characteristics of the light strip sections 10 and 20 are provided by a wire spine as illustrated in FIGURES 2 and 3, which are accommodated in a passage 61, formed in the mating whorls 51 and 52 of base section 45, but insulated from the interior of the electrical conduit section 44. Preferably wire spine is soft malleable steel wire, lacking in resilience, and manually iformable to any desired shape, without any tendency to return to its original condition, if fastened to a mounting surface, or even without fastening, in most cases.
As seen at the right of FIGURE 2, it is convenient to provide the strips with some of the wire spine 60 projecting, as illustrated, to allow for some wire movement or displacement when the strip is formed. For coupling, one of the strips 10 can be opened for one-half an inch or so near its end, a piece of Wire spine cut off, and the projecting portion of the Wire spine 60 from an adjacent section inserted into the empty portion of passage 61.
The electrical system housed within the light strip sections 10, 20, etc., may be of any standard or suitable type. A simple but very practical electrical construction is illustrated in FIGURES 2, 4, and 5. The light strips 10 and 20 are preassembled with a pair of insulated electric wires 71 and 72 in their interiors, which are connected at spaced intervals to standard bulb receptable sockets 12a, illustrated in FIGURE 2 as part of socket 12.
When an electrical display or decoration or sign is fabricated from the light strips 10 and 20, and suitable couplings 3%, connection between successive strips 10 and 20 is accomplished as illustrated in the respective views of FIGURES 4 and 5. The corresponding ends of two pairs of wires, 71 and 72, and 71a and 72a, are inserted into a pair of tubular connectors, 73 and 74, which connectors are made of some type of insulating but crimpable material. The tubular connectors 73 and 74 are then crimped as illustrated in FIGURE 5 to tightly hold the series connection of wires 71 and 71a, and 72 and 72a.
FIGURES 6 and 7 illustrate the use of the mounting bracket 80, with its mounting screw 81, which is used in association with the base side slots 46 and 47 of light strip sections 10 and 20, to firmly mount a light strip assembly on a flat surface. Preferably, the mounting bracket is made of resilient steel sheet so that its side members 82 and 83 are resiliently deflectable outwards, after surface mounting, to receive one of the light strip sections 10 or 20, and firmly grip it between the bracket shoulders 84 and 85, as they nest into the side slots 46 and 47.
It will be apparent from the foregoing disclosure and description that the light strip of the invention is capable of a great variety of elaborations and modifications. One addition which has been found convenient is the intersection coupling which is illustrated in FIGURE 8. Three or four light strips sections, like sections 10 or 20, may be connected to each other at a single intersection in the interior of an intersection coupling 90, following substantially the same procedure as has already been described for the series coupling 30.
It is not my intention that my invention is to be treated as limited to the specific details of the preferred form illustrated and described herein as required by law. Many variations, including advancements and simplifications, or assembly and association with other devices, will undoubtedly occur to future users, and others. My invention extends to all such varied forms to the extent that they fall within the scope of the following claims.
What is claimed is:
1. A formable light strip adjustable to a desired configuration of light bulbs, which light strip includes:
a series of flexible tubular housings, each of said housings having an upper electrical conduit section containing an electrical wiring passage, and a lower mounting base section containing a stiffening wire passage, each said housing being longitudinally split throughout the length of said base section and having sufficient flexibility to permit opening of said housing along said split for access to said electrical Wiring and stiffening wire passages;
outer walls on each of said tubular housings formed with a pair of longitudinal slots, one on each side of said base section;
tubular coupling means for interconnecting said series of tubular housings, into a series having a continuous electrical wiring passage and a continuous stiffening wire passage, said tubular coupling having relatively rigid, inwardly projecting longitudinal shoulders for reception in said external longitudinal slots of said housing base sections;
inner Walls in closely mating surfaces along said split in said base sections of said housing, said inner walls defining said stiffening wire passage and separating it from the interior of said electrical wiring passage, upon closure of said flexibly-opening housrngs;
a stiifening wire accommodated in said stiffening wire passage, and stiffening wire having the characteristics of being bendable and tending to retain the configuration to which it is formed;
socket outlet structures spaced along said electrical conduit section of each said housings, and providing socket communication with the interior of said electrical wiring passage; and
electrical wiring and socket means accommodated within said electrical conduit sections and said socket outlet structures.
2. A -formable light strip as described in claim 1 in which said base sections are formed with a pair of external longitudinal slots, one on each side of said base section, and a series of said tubular housings includes a tubing section closely receiving adjacent ends of two of said housings, said coupling having relatively rigid, inwardly projecting shoulders for reception in said base section slots for holding said series of housings in assembly.
3. A =formable light strip as described in claim 1 in which mounting clips are formed with resilient side fingers accommodated closely into said longitudinal base slots for resiliently holding said light strip in closed position.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,574,297 2/1926 Lillebel'g 174-72 2,468,773 5/ 1949 Musinski 174-69 X 2,595,452 5/1952 Geist et a1. 174-68 FOREIGN PATENTS 505,013 5/1939 Great Britain. 1,167,605 8/1958 France.
NORTON ANSHER, Primary Examiner.
C. E. SMITH, Assistant Examiner.