US 3597874 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent |72| Inventors CharlesS.Ogsbury FOREIGN PATENTS Goldllil'fl 848,932 9/1960 GreatBritain 63/4 lmcwme-salmsm011193011111, 1,135,362 12/1968 GreatBritain..... 16/171 bom'flcmaowz 597,530 8/1959 Italy 63/4 [211 PP 81516 $97,531 8/1959 Italy 63/4 1221 F1led Apr. 14, 1969  Patented Aug. 10.1971
 RELEASABLY INTERLOCKING UNITS HAVING A SNAP CONNECTION l6 Claims, 12 Drawing Figs.
 U.S.Cl 46/25, 1 46/28, 46/31  Int. Cl A63h 33/08  Field of Search 46/29, 30,
31, 26, 27, 28, 23, 25; 35118.5; 16/171; 24/206, 208.3, 201 TR, 201 S, 230 RF; 63/4 Primary Examiner-F. Barry Shay AlwmeyJohn A. Reilly ABSTRACT: In a toy construction set, coordinated toy units are characterized by connectable members which radiate outwardly from common support and terminate in enlarged end portions of generally spherical shape and are so constructed and arranged that any pair of enlarged end portions will relcasably interlock with a pair of enlarged end portions on another toy unit disposed at right angles thereto; or interlock with other toy members to make up a variety of geometric shapes. The enlarged end portions with modifications such as opposed concave recesses permit the end portion of one unit to snap between a pair of end portions on another unit or an elongated shaping for the end portion provides suitable spacing for right angle connections. A single enlarged end portion and a hollow cylindrical hub, each preferably being slotted or hollow and of the same external dimension permits either to serve as a male or female coordinated locking joint portion for the toy units.
Patenecl Aug. 10, 1971 3,597,874
2 Shoots-"Sheet 1 DON WITTE BY i ATTORNEY RELEASABLY INTERLOCKING UNITS HAVING A SNAP CONNECTION This invention relates to construction toys and more particularly to novel and improved releasably interlocking toy units which are adaptably suited for assembly into a wide variety of composite structures either by interconnection with one another or connection to other toy members, and is related to our copending application entitled Construction Toys and Radial Arms Having Male Connector Portions Therefor.
Toy construction sets or building sets composed of large numbers of interfitting toy units are entertaining and may be highly instructional to the user. These sets challenge the creative ability of the user which is usually a child according to the possible interconnections and the degree of mechanical strength which the individual units affordfSome of the earlier toy sets were composed of wood and did not have the durability or flexibility of the newer plastic materials. Some plastic toy sets have heretofore been provided but have not made full utilization of the durability and flexibility of plastic materials to provide a toy construction set having maximum durability and versatility.
Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide a simple, durable and easy-to-assemble toy unit and a fully coordinated set of units which are capable of being assembled into a wide variety of geometric and random structures.
Another object of this invention is to provide toy units preferably composed of plastic or plastic-surfaced materials having strong interlocking joints which permit large numbers of units to be assembled one with the other while maintaining a definite position in the assembly together with full ease of assembly and disassembly.
Yet a further object of this invention is to provide a novel and improved toy unit in which a plurality of basically similar connectable members will interlock one with the other to minimize the cost of manufacture and wherein a slight modification and variation in connectable members and the units will greatly increase the number of possible combinations and shapes of composite structures which may be attained.
Still a further object of this invention is to provide a novel and improved toy unit which fully utilizes characteristics of molded plastic material to provide a toy unit with connectable members having spherical shaped enlarged end portions having smooth surfaces which is pleasing to touch and will produce an audible snap between members when they have been firmly interlocked into place.
In accordance with the present invention there is provided fully coordinated releasably interlocking toy units each comprising an inner hub and a plurality of connectable members radiating from the hub with each connectablc member terminating'in an enlarged end portion. Adjacent of the end portions are spaced a predetermined distance one from the other and from the hub in order to snap together in a releasable interlock with other toy units disposed at right angles thereto. A radial arrangement of a selected number of enlarged end portions, such as, four, six or eight will interlock with correspondingly spaced end portions on other toy units at right angles to one another and enable several toy units to be interlocked in a radially spaced array outwardly from a single toy unit and will enable the assembly of straight line, right angle, and a wide variety of geometric configurations. Modification in the enlarged end portions such as opposed concave recesses permits one end portion to snap fit between adjacent end portions and an elongated shaping for the endportions provides suitable spacing for right-angle connections to greatly increase the flexibility of a set of the toy units. A single enlarged end portion and a hollow cylindrical hub both having an end slot or the end portion being hollow which are of the same external dimension and serve as added male or female coordinated lockingjoint portions for the toy units.
Other objects, advantages and capabilities of the present invention will become more apparent as the description proceeds taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. I isa perspective view of two identical circular toy units interlocked with one another which embody features of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the interlocked toy units shown in FIG. I with a portion of one broken away to avoid unnecessary duplication and a third similar unit shown in dashed lines.
FIG. 3 is an elevation view showing the relationship of the interlocking sets of enlarged end portions of the two toy units shown in FIGS. I and 2 with the hub of one and spokes of both removed for clarity.
FIG. 4 is an elevation view illustrating a modified form of toy unit having opposed concave recesses, with portions of two toy units beinginterlocked on a similar intermediate toy unit.
FIG. 5 is an elevation view of another form of toy unit.
FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along lines 66 of FIG. 5.
FIG. 7 is atop plan view showing two toy units of a modified form being interlocked with a sheet of material having spaced apertures in which either the hub or an end portion of the toy unit frictionally interfit.
FIG. 8 is a side elevation view of the assembly of FIG. 7.
FIG. 9 is an elevation view of another form of toy unit embodying features of the present invention having modified elongated enlarged end portions which permit four-way or right-angle connection between units.
FIG. I0 is a sectional view taken along lines I0-I0 of FIG.
FIG. I I is an elevation view of another form of toy unit having true spherical shaped end portions of the same radius dimensions providing two-way connection for other similar toy units at 180 intervals to one another; and
FIG. I2 is a sectional view taken along lines 12-12 of FIG. II.
Referring now to the drawings in FIGS. 1-3 there is shown a pair of interlocked generally circular toy units 11 and I2 em bodying features of the present invention. Units II and I2 are shown for illustration purposes and correspond in size and shape so that the description of the details of one apply to both. Generally stated, each circular toy unit has outwardly disposed spherical shaped enlarged end portions or balls 13 which for the units 11 and I2 are arranged at 60 intervals with their centers in a common plane and supported about a central axis or center 0. These units comprise a common hub 14 and connecting means radiating out in a-co'mmon plane at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the hub in the form of a plurality of conncctable members including an elongated spoke 15 extending radially outwardly from the hub which terminate in the enlarged end portion I3. The hub is cylindrical and preferably provided with a hole or is hollow and extends transversely to a common plane through the centers of the balls 13.
The toy connector unit having six connectable members as illustrated in FIGS. I3 has a basic dimension, construction and arrangement of parts which are carried forward to make up a fully coordinated set of similar toy units suitable for as sembly into a wide variety of essentially rigid composite structures. One of the interlocking capabilities of the unit having six radiating connectable members as well as those with four or eight toy units described hereinafter is that with the dimension and spacing relationships of the enlarged end portions hereinafter set forth to permit any one of them to interlock at right angles to another as is illustrated by units II and I2 in FIGS. I3. In this way a straight chain of units may be constructed or a variety of geometrical configurations radiating from the center of one unit can be constructed. For example six units will connect radially outwardly from a single unit at 60 angularly spaced intervals on the unit 1 I which may be understood with reference to FIG. 2 by unit I2, and in dashed lines by a second unit 12a; the two units 12 and not interfering with one another.
Each pair of adjacent enlarged end portions I3 of a radius dimension designated 1' are arranged on an equal distance from center to center and spaced one from the other to provide sets of opposed and spaced convexly spherical or spherical-shaped surfaces or surfaces areas 16 and 17. The adjacent radiating spokes which are of a substantially lesser diameter than the end portion provide inwardly convergent surfaces 18 and 19 inwardly of the ball 16 and 17 respectively. These opposed surfaces define an essentially arrow-shaped slot which may be utilized to hold other toy members such as a cylindrical rod preferably of plastic which will snap between surfaces 16 and 17 (not shown) to illustrate another common member which can be secured to the basic toy unit ll herein described. The spacing between the centers of the adjacent surfaces or surface areas of the sphericalshaped end portion members is the same for all adjacent end portions and is designated R. Generally speaking the spacing R between the adjacent end portions will not pass a similar set of opposed semispherical surfaces disposed at right angles as is best shown in FIG. 3. This spacing is selected so that such resiliency of each set of adjacent end portions and their smooth double curved surfaces permits them to expand or spread slightly as one set of end portions is pressed against the other. However once the two sets of end portions pass the area of minimum spacing each set of opposed surfaces slightly overlap that of the other to provide contact points between adjacent balls arranged about a center C; the contact points serving to prevent the two elements from separating from each other. ln addition, adjacent end portions have surface areas with centers which are disposed from a line M a selected distance from a line R parallel to line M; line R passing between the centers of adjacent end portions being spaced from line M a distance designated X. This distance X may also be characterized as the perpendicular distance from the midpoint of the line R extending between centers of the convexly spherical surface areas of two adjacent end portions to a parallel line M which is tangent to the surface of hub 14. The hub of a radius dimension r will establish a contact point located a distance X from the line through the center of the end portions to limit the inward movement of an interlocking set of end portions of a second toy unit to only a slight distance beyond areas of minimum spacing between the adjacent sets of end portions. The dimensional relationship which provides best results for a fully coordinated set of units is the ratio of R/r of about 2.77 and a ratio of X/r of about 1.4; this places the gap or space between adjacent end portions of0.77 times the radius r of the enlarged end portion.
The dimensional relationships of a toy unit may be derived using the geometric relation of the end portions of FIGS. 2 and 3 with reference to a three-dimensional coordinate system. The set of interlocking end portions of unit II are designated 13a and 13b and of unit 12 are designated 13d and 131'. The center of end portion 13b is A and the center of end portion [3c is B. The origin of the coordinate system is selected to be at C which is equally spaced between the centers of end portions 13a and 13b and also 13c and 13d, and the elevation of the center B above A through the origin C is at D. This places distance AC along one axis, distance CD along a second axis and distance DB along a third axis of a three-dimensional coordinate system. Using the general equation for a distance in space, the distance between the centers of two adjacent end portions 13b and I30 or distance AB is equal to the square root of the distance AC squared. plus distance CD squared, plus distance DB squared. Substitution of the corresponding values of R and r in the symmetrical six-member arrangement will produce the above dimensional relationships of R/r and X/r. These relationships may be carried forward into a variety of multiple-number configurations including four, five, six and eight connectable member structures, all of which will interlock at right angles with one another. Referring now to FIG. 4 there is shown a modification in the six-member construction above described wherein portions of two toy units 21 and 22 are constructed and connected to or interlocked to a central toy unit 23, the three units being identical. Each spherical end portion in this form has a pair of opposed spherical concave recesses 24 and 25 located generally at right angles to the convex surfaces which form joint portions for interlocking sets of enlarged end portions at right angles as above described so that they do not interfere with the interconnections ofthe convex contact surfaces 16 and 17 above described. Recesses 24 and 25 permit the end portion of one element 2] to be interlocked between the opposing convex surface of unit 23 and permit the rotation of one unit toward and away from the other unit as best shown between elements 22 and 23.
As shown with reference to unit 23 these opposed concave recesses 24 and 25 are in a radial alignment with the spokes and centers of the spherical end portions and have the same concavity as the radius of the convex spherical surface which fits therein. The centers P of the recesses as viewed in elevation are spaced slightly radially outwardly from that of the as sociated spherical end portion on which they are formed and the effective radius designated I1 and measured from P of the recess is less than the spherical radius r ofthe end portion. The recesses 24 and 25 are preferably joined by a hole through the spherical portion which makes them essentially hollow; the holes for the unit preferably having a radius c which is less than h to provide a concave spherical surface but is recognized that if the radius of the hole was increased to that of the recesses 24 and 25 or b that this would be effective in forming opposed recesses which would also permit the interconnection of the units 21, 22 and 23 as shown. The holes 26 are effective in permitting the spherical end portions to contract under compressional forces so they will effectively yield to snap fit into an apertured sheet or the like as is illustrated herein with unit 41 in FIGS. 7 and 8, and for the basic six-member permits as many as six similar units to be connected to a single unit and provides a frictional fit which permits one unit to be forcibly rotated toward and away from the other to give added flexibility to the set and is particularly suitable for joint structures such as for legs or animals and the like.
With a general reference now to FIGS. 4, 7 and 8 it is apparent that either the opposed concave recessed portions 24 and 25 and hole 26 in the ball and the radial slot 46 will not interfere with each other or with the opposed convex surfaces so that all may be provided on the same toy element surfaces 16 and 17.
The eight-member form of unit 30 shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 has the same dimensional relationships of radius r, distance R and distance X above described with eight connectable membersarranged about a modified hub 31 with radially extending spokes 32 between the hub and spherical end portion 33. The hub being considerably larger for the eight-member configuration and preferably has an internal diameter which will frictionally receive the hub 14 of the six-member toy unit. This eight member structure has the same dimensional relationships as the six-member unit and permits it to receive eight units having outwardly disposed sets of spherical end portions as above described at right angles thereto and will dispose and hold them at 45 angles.
A toy assembly in FIGS. 7 and 8 includes a pair of toy units 41 and 42 releasably interlocked with a thin sheet of material 43 having a series of spaced apertures 44 to illustrate how a single enlarged end portion and the hub may be utilized as connectable members. Each of these units 41 and 42 are identical to each other. The same toy units 41 and 42 have the dimensioning of the spherical end portions. hub and spokes as that above described with references to FIGS. 1 to 4. The end portions 45 of each unit have a radial slot 46 which extends substantially beyond the center of the sphere to divide it into a pair of opposed spherical sections 450 and 4511 which are supported on a common spoke 47. The combined external dimension or diameter of these spherical sections is slightly larger than that of the aperture 44 in the sheet but the slotted construction provides an added degree of resiliency to permit them to yield when fitted into the aperture so that the spherical surfaces will first contract and will then expand when in place to the original position once they are moved into the aperture 44 past the center of the sphere for a snap-on fit. The thickness of the sheet of material 43 is selected so that the outer surface does not extend beyond the center of the sphere or ball 45. In this manner the sheet of material will snap onto the opposed semispherical sections and the undersurface of the adjacent ball sections will support the sheet in position as shown. The thickness of the sheet is coordinated with the thickness of the slot 46 to also permit the sheet 43 to slide into the slot for added versatility. The hub 48 of these elements has a radial slot 49 which also affords an added degree of resiliency to the hub to permit the hub which is of essentially the same radius as the ball to slip into any of the apertures 44 in the sheet with the hub being under slight compression to hold it in place. The hole or aperture in the hub is designed so as to fit loosely on part of a cylindrical rod for rotational movement thereon and may be provided with an inturned opposed lip at one end along its interior surface so that the hub will fit tightly on the rod when it is placed all the way on the rod for uprigh support of the element and added versatility.
The four-way, four-member unit 51 shown in FIGS. 9 and illustrates one possible variation in the shape of the enlarged end portions of the connectable members from that of a true sphere. Four identical elongated enlarged endportions 52 are disposed at 90 intervals about a solid hub 53 which extends transversely to the connectable members; each end portion being supported by a narrower radially extending spoke 54. The enlarged end portions 52 include an elongated cylindrical intermediate portion 52a and semispherical shaped portions 52b and 52c at each end. The space between the surface areas 56 and 57 of adjacent end portions are of a radius r as measured from center to center thereof is a distance R and a radial distance X extends from the hub to the midpoint of the distance line R; these distances r, R and X having the same dimensional relationships as above described. lt is also noted that the centers of the semispherical portions 52b and 520 are spaced one from the other an equal distance on opposite sides of a radial line passing through the center of the spoke. As illustrated by elements 58 and S9 represented in dashed lines this form of connector element permits two units to be held at 90 intervals to one another or a total of four units on a single unit and will provide a right-angle or four-way unit, as required. The other form of four-way unit shown in FIGS. 11 and 12 comprises four spherical end portions 62 of a radius r supported by radial spokes 63 for each end portion; the spokes 63 merging together in the center and this form does not require a transversely extending elongated hub. The same R, r and X relationships are utilized for coordinated set units. This form pennits only the connection of two units 64 and 65 shown in dashed lines at 180 to one another because there is not sufficient circumferential spacing to connect two more units while two are in place as shown. The interlocking units are at 180 and may engage each other on each side or adjacent spokes as 630 and 63!) may form a seat on each side for the interconnecting pair of spherical end portions of one unit to provide other points of contact or stop support surfaces to form locking joints without the necessity ofelongated cylindrical transverse hubs.
The toy units as above described are preferably formed as an integral body composed entirely of a hard-surfaced, slightly resilient plastic material such as polypropylene in one of a variety of bright colors. The units illustrated herein may advantageously be formed by injection molds without coring. The juncture of spokes and the hub are preferably filled in or thickened or radiused for added strength to avoid breakage. While the spoke-type extensions for the enlarged end portions have been shown it is understood that other forms of structure such as a web-type structure may be provided for'a similar radial disposition of enlarged end portions about a common center. The plastic material such as polypropylene has a slight resilience which permits the opposed spherical sections to be expanded and contract a slight degree to facilitate a snap action and a rigid interlocking ofthe units.
From the foregoing it is apparent that the various toy units using connector members with spaced spherical shaped enlarged end portions hereinabove described afford a wide degree of flexibility for making up composite structures. These units when composed ofa hard, smooth plastic material with slight resiliency such as polypropylene may be made in bright colors to provide a striking appearance. The inter' locking hubs and spherical-shaped surfaces one with the other will provide a snap action or audible click which is pleasing to the user and especially children which indicates that the units are firmly interlocked in place. These spherical-shaped end portions permit the units to be assembled and disassembled with ease and yet once in place provide a composite structure of substantial rigidity. Units constructed in accordance with the present invention may be assembled to make up random structures such as a tree or a variety of geometrical configurations due to the geometry of the arrangements shown. The geometric relationships of these units may be highly instructional for making molecular structures and the like.
Although the present invention has been described with a certain degree of particularity, it is understood that the present disclosure has been made only by way of example and that changes in details of structure and materials may be made without departing from the spirit thereof.
What we claim is:
l. A toy unit for toy construction sets comprising a generally cylindrical hub support and connecting means radiating'out in a common plane at right angles to the longitudinal axis of said support on said support for connection with other'similar toy units, said connecting means including a plurality of connectable members projecting outwardly from said support, each connectable member terminating in an outer enlarged end portion having generally convexly spherical surface areas, adjacent of said areas being spaced a predetermined distance between one another and from said hub support for simultaneously engaging a pair of enlarged end portions and hub support of other similar toy units.
2. A toy unit for toy construction sets comprising a hollow generally cylindrical hub support, connecting means radiating out in a common plane at right angles to the longitudinal axis of said support on said support for connection with other similar toy units, said connecting means including a plurality of connectable members projecting radially outwardly from the hub support, each connectable member terminating in an enlarged outer end portion having generally convexly spheri cal surface areas, adjacent of said surface areas being spaced a predetermined distance from one another and from said hub support for simultaneously engaging a pair of enlarged end portions and hub support of other similar toy units.
3. A toy unit for toy construction sets as set forth in claim I wherein each said connectable member includes a narrower spokclike portion extending from the support to the enlarged end portion.
4. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein the ratio of the distance between the centers of a pair of adjacent surface areas to that of the radius of each of these surface areas is about 2.77. l
5. A toy unit as set forth in claim 4 wherein the ratio of the distance from a midpoint between the centers of said pair of adjacent surface areas to the nearest common surface of the hub support to that of each of the radius dimensions of the adjacent surface areas is about L4.
6. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein said support and connectable members are composed of a slightly resilient, hard-surfaced plastic material formed as an integral body.
7. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein at least one of said enlarged end portions has a pair of opposed concave recesses on opposite sides thereof adapted to releasably interlock between adjacent of the enlarged end portions of a corresponding set of connectable members turned at right angles thereto.
8. A toy unit as set forth in claim I wherein said enlarged end portions are generally elongated in shape and have a scmi spherical section along each side, said semispherical sections being of the same radius dimension and each is spaced at predetermined distance from an adjacent semispherical scc tion.
9. A toy unit as set forth in claim 2 wherein said hub extends to a selected distance beyond the center of the unit,whereby, in said simultaneous engagement, said hub engages and forms a support surface area for an adjacent pair of end portions on a second similar unit releasably interlocked thereto at right angles.
l0. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein at least one of said enlarged end portions has a radial slot extending through an outer surface and beyond its center toward the support for releasable connection of the unit with other toys.
11. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein at least one of said enlarged end portions are essentially hollow.
12. A toy unit as set forth in claim 1 wherein said hub is hol' low and has an external diameter which is substantially the same dimension as the enlarged end portions and slotted at one end for releasable connection of the unit with other toys.
13. A toy unit for toy construction sets comprising an integral body composed entirely of a slightly resilient and hardsurfaced plastic material including an inner generally cylindrical hub, and connecting means radiating out in a common plane at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the hub, said connecting means including a plurality of spokes radiating outwardly from the hub at equally spaced angular intervals with each spoke terminating in an outer enlarged end portion having generally convexly spherical'surface areas, said end portions being essentially identical in size, each said spherical surface area having its center an equal distance from the center of the hub, each pair of spherical surface areas on adjacent end portions being spaced a predetermined distance from one another and from the hub for simultaneously engaging a pair of enlarged end portions and hub of other similar toy units disposed at right angles thereto.
14. In a construction set, first and second toy units, each unit including coupling means adapted to interlock when said units are disposed at right angles to one another, said first unit having a cylindrical hub support, said first unit coupling means including a plurality of connectable members projecting outwardly from the associated hub support with each connectahle member terminating in enlarged outer end portions having generally eonvexly spherical surface areas, adjacent of said end portions being slightly yieldable one from the other and the adjacent surface areas thereof supported a predetermined distance one from the other, said second unit coupling means having connectablc members similar to the first unit, the spac ing between an adjacent pair of said surface areas on the first and second units being less than sufficient to permit the end portions to slide past one another when turned at right angles, the yieldable support permitting end portions of the two pairs to forcibly expand and slide past and then contract one toward the other to rcleasably interlock one unit with the other, said hub support extending to a selected distance from the center of the first unit to engage a pair of the end portions of the second unit and provide another support surface area for the first and second interlocking units.
15. In a construction set, first and second toy units, each said unit including coupling means adapted to interlock one with the other when said units are disposed at right angles to one another, said first unit having a support member, said first unit coupling means comprising a plurality of connectablc members projecting radially outwardly from the associated support member, each said connectable member terminating at its outer end in an enlarged end portion having generally convexly spherical surface areas, said surface areas of adjacent end portions being spaced a predetermined distance one from the other, said second unit coupling means having similar connectable members having an enlarged end portion with a pair of opposed spherically shaped concave recesses in the end portions thereof to forcibly fit between a pair of adjacent end portions of the first unit when the units are turned at right angles to one another and permit relative rotational movement between said first and second units toward and away from one another.
1 In a construction set as set forth in claim 15 wherein the opposed recesses are joined by a cylindrical hole of a lesser diameter extending through the associated end portion to make it essentially hollow.