US 3742633 A
An illuminated display sign includes a light impervious box-like base housing electric lamps and having an open face covered by a translucent panel upon which is mounted a plurality of display characters each with contrasting opaque and translucent areas shaped to define an intelligible figure. The display characters comprise generally rectangular wafers which are arranged in interlocking edge-to-edge engagement to convey an illuminated message without light escaping between adjacent wafers. Vertically supporting each row of wafers on the panel is a support rail formed integrally with the panel. A leaf spring attached to the case at the end of each row acts to urge the wafers into interlocking light-tight engagement. Parallel ribs integrally formed with and extending horizontally and outwardly from the panel between adjacent rails act to support the wafers within a defined vertical plane, and the upper rib also functions as a fulcrum to aid in the insertion and removal of individual wafers from a row. In an alternative embodiment, a modular panel is constructed of several rectangular strips stacked edgewise on top of each other and held together by support rails with rearwardly protruding posts which are heat staked across the overlapping edges of adjacent strips to hold the strips together.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 191 Palm [451 July 3,1973
[ ILLUMINATED DISPLAY SIGN  Inventor: Bernhard Palm, Rockford, Ill.
 Assignee: Shapllte Displays, Inc., Rockford, Ill.
 Filed: June 11, 1971  Appl. No.: 152,300
 US. Cl. 40/133 B, 40/64 R, 40/132 D, 40/140  Int. Cl G091 07/08, G09f 13/04  Field of Search 40/133 B, 132 D, 40/63, 64, 140, 142, 141
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,271,044 7/1918' Leech 40/133 B 890,925 6/1908 Rand 40/63 1,359,510 11/1920 Kornicker 40/141 X 1,445,808 2/1923 Von Bultzingslowen. 40/133 B 1,841,026 l/1932 Greenstone 40/64 1,572,496 2/1926 Libros 40/133 B 2,632,270 3/1953 Moss .1 40/133 B X 2,035,659 3/1936 Lindstrom 40/133 B 3,369,312 2/1968 Chrietzberg et a1. 40/140 Primary Examiner-Robert W. Michell Arsistant Examiner.10hn F. Pitrelli Att0rney-W0lfe, Hubbard, Leydig, Voit & Osann 5 7] ABSTRACT An illuminated display sign includes a light impervious box-like base housing electric lamps and having an open face covered by a translucent panel upon which is mounted a plurality of display characters each with contrasting opaque and translucent areas shaped to define an intelligible figure. The display characters comprise generally rectangular wafers which are arranged in interlocking edge-to-edge engagement to convey an illuminated message without light escaping between adjacent wafers. Vertically supporting each row of wafers on the panel is a support rail formed integrally with the panel. A leaf spring attached to the case at the end of each row acts to urge the wafers into interlocking lighttight engagement. Parallel ribs integrally formed with and extending horizontally and outwardly from the panel between adjacent rails act to supportthe wafers within a defined vertical plane, and the upper rib also functions as a fulcrum to aid in the insertion and removal of individual wafers from a row. In an alternative embodiment, a modular panel is constructed of several rectangular strips stacked edgewise on top of each other and held together by support rails with rearwardly protruding posts which are heat staked across the overlapping edges of adjacent strips to hold the strips together.
9 Claims, 10 Drawing Figures BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an illuminated display sign having a sign board upon which display characters are interchangeably mounted so as to convey an advertising or informative message. More particularly, the invention relates to a display sign of the same general type as disclosed in Rudolph U.S. Pat. No. 3,553,870 in which the display faces of the interchangeable display characters are formed with contrasting opaque and translucent areas arranged to define intelligible figures such as letters, numbers or symbols which are illuminated by virtue of light from a lamp being diffused through the translucent areas.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The primary aim of the present invention is to provide a new and improved illuminated display sign of the above character which is considerably less expensive to manufacture than prior signs of the same general type and which, at the same time, is more reliable and trouble free in service use. In large, the foregoing ends are achieved by constructing each display character as a thin rectangular wafer made of translucent material and having a partially opaque and partially translucent display face defining the intelligible figure. The wafers are supported in edge-to-edge relation on rails on the sign board and are positioned in front of a lamp which serves to illuminate collectively the intelligible figures of the rows of wafers thereby to produce an illuminated message.
A further aim of the invention is to help retain the wafers on the supporting rails and to help prevent the leakage of light between adjacent wafers by biasing the wafers edgewise along the rails to press the wafers into tight edge-to-edge engagement with one another.
The invention also resides in the novel construction of the wafers to facilitate mounting of the wafers on the rails and to effect an interlocking fit between the wafers in order to reduce leakage of light; in the relatively simple and inexpensive construction of the supporting rails; and in the unique construction of a face panel for supporting and backing the wafers. These and other objects and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description when taken in connection with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view ofa display sign embodying the novel features of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view showing the front face of one of the display characters.
FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective view showing the rear of one of the display characters.-
FIG. 4 is an enlarged cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 4-4 of FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 4 but showing a display character being installed on the sign board.
FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 66-of FIG. 1.
FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 77 of FIG. 6.
FIG. 8 is a partial front elevational view of an alternative embodiment of a sign board incorporating the features of the invention.
FIG. 9 is 'an enlarged fragmentary cross-sectional view taken substantially along line 9-9 of FIG. 8.
FIG. 10 is an exploded perspective view of parts of the sign board shown in FIG. 8.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS As shown in the drawings for purposes of illustration, the invention is embodied in a display sign 15 of the type especially suitable for use in restaurants, bars and other establishments for advertising and merchandising purposes. I-Ierein, several display characters 16 are arranged on the front of the sign in parallel horizontal rows to convey a message. Each character is formed with contrasting opaque and translucent areas 17 and 19 (FIG. 2) shaped to define an intelligible figure such as a letter, number or symbol. Light originating from behind the display characters is diffused through the translucent areas to illuminate the figures and thereby produce an illuminated message.
In accordance with the primary aim of the present invention, the display sign 15 is constructed in a new and simplified manner so that the individual display characters 16 are collectively illuminated and are biased together in interlocking relationship to prevent light leakage between individual characters. The display sign 15 not only is considerably less expensive to manufacture than prior signs of the same general type but also is more reliable and trouble free in service use.
In the present instance, the display sign 15 comprises a light impervious box-like case 20 (FIGS. 1 and 4) having a translucent front panel 21 behind which are located three fluorescent lamps 23 connected through appropriate circuitry to a source of voltage in order to illuminate the sign. Light emitted from the lamps is diffused through the panel and collectively illuminates the characters 16, the latter being supported in edge-toedge relationship in horizontal rows on rails 24 extending outwardly from the face-of the panel. Herein, both the front panel and the display characters are constructed from a translucent material such as white styrene and the display characters are shaped as thin rectangular wafers (FIGS. 2 and 3). Each character or wafer 16 has a front face partially covered with an opaque material stencilled on the wafer such as by silk screening in order to define the intelligible translucent area or figure 19. Similar wafers 25 are completely covered with the opaque material and serve as dummy spacers to cover the panel between spaced intelligible characters and at the ends of the horizontal rows so that only the desired message appears illuminated. Thus, with the lamps turned on, light is diffused through the front panel and is directed through all of the translucent figures of the wafers 16 to collectively illuminate the same so as to display the desired message.
As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the front panel 21 is generally rectangular in shape and is fitted within a peripheral channel 26 formed around the front edge portions of the four inside walls of the display case 20 by two parallel flanges 27 and 29 which extend inwardly from the walls. Preferably, the panel is constructed of extruded styrene with a plurality vertically spaced, integral support rails 24 extending horizontally across the front face of the panel to support the wafers 16. The outer or exposed surfaces of the rails are covered with the opaque material to darken the space between the rows of wafers.
To support the wafers 16 on the front panel 21, each of the support rails 24 is formed with a shallow upwardly opening channel 30 and with a deeper downwardly opening channel 31 (FIGS. 4 and The channels are separated from each other by a central web 33 which extends perpendicularly from the panel and at its outer end includes an integral flange 34 extending vertically in both directions to define the two channels 30 and 31. The distance between the webs of adjacent rails and the relative depths of the two channels are correlated with the length of the wafers in order to support the wafers on the panel so that they may be interchanged while still being prevented from falling forwardly off the panel. For this purpose, the distance between the web of the higher of two adjacent rails and the upper end 35 of the flange of the lower rail is greater than the length of the wafers while the distance between the web of the lower rail and the lower end 36 of the flange of the upper rail is less than the length of the wafers. This arrangement allows the wafers to be placed on the panel very quickly and easily by simply tilting the wafer and slipping the upper end portion thereof into the downwardly opening channel 31 of the higher rail and then pivoting the lower end portion of the wafer inwardly towards the panel over the upper end of the flange 34 of the lower rail. Thereafter, the wafer may be released and allowed to slip down into the upwardly opening channel 30 of the lower rail to rest on the web 33 as shown in phantom in FIG. 5. Thus, when the wafers are supported in the horizontal rows by the rails, the upper end portion of each wafer rests within the downwardly opening channel 31 against the inner wall 37 of the lower portion of the flange of the higher rail and is prevented from falling forwardly off the panel.
Once positioned in a row on a particular rail 24, leakage of light between adjacent wafers 16 is prevented through the advantageous use of leaf springs 39 (FIG. 7) which are mounted on the side of the display case 20, one spring being centered between each two rows to urge thewafers in the two rows into edge-to-edge engagement. The springs are located within the channel 26 and are riveted to the walls of the case 20.
Preferably, the edges of adjacent wafers 16 interlock with one another to cover completely the crack between the wafers and prevent the emission oflight from between adjacent wafers. For this purpose, a lip lig 40 extends vertically along the entire length of the righthand edge (as viewed in FIG. 6) of each wafer to define a rearwardly and edgewise opening groove 41 in the back face of the wafer. A rearward lip 43 extends vertically along the entire length of the left-hand edge of each wafer to define a forwardly and edgewise opening groove 44 in the front face of the wafer. The lips 40 and 43 on each wafer interfit with the grooves 44 and 41 in the adjacent wafers and are biased into engagement by the springs 39 to completely close the cracks between adjacent wafers and eliminate light leakage between the wafers 16 thereby to enhance the appearance of the sign.
As shown in FIG. 5, integrally formed on the front face of the panel 21 between each pair of support rails 24 are two forwardly projecting horizontal ribs 45 and 46 spaced vertically from each other and spaced rearwardly of the inner wall of the flange 37 a distance just slightly greater than the thickness of the wafers 16. Advantageous, both ribs coact to hold the wafers away from the front face of the panel and against the inner walls of the flanges so that all of the wafers are held in one generally vertical plane paralleling the face of the panel. Thus, both of the ribs, in effect, act as stops to prevent the wafers from being pushed back flat against the panel and into a difficult position for removal.
In addition, when it is desired to change wafers 16 in orderto vary the illuminated message, the upper rib acts as a fulcrum to facilitate easy removal of the wafers. Removal of a wafer is accomplished by sliding the wafers remaining in a row along the rails 24 and holding those wafers against the bias of the spring 39 to create a space on both sides of the wafer to be removed. Thereafter, the wafer to be removed is slid upwardly into the lower channel 31 of the higher rail until the lower edge of the wafer clears the upper edge 35 of the flange of the lower rail (see FIG. 5). Then, the top portion of the wafer is simply pressed toward the panel 21 thereby tilting the wafer about the upper rib 45 so that the lower end portion of extends outwardly wafer extendsoutwardly past the outer wall of the lower rail to be grasped and pulled thrrough a downward arc and removed. In order to enable the lower ends of the wafers to be pivoted away from the panel for easy grasping, the back side of the top edge of each of the wafers is chamfered as indicated at 47 in FIG. 5. The chamfer 47 also facilitates insertion of the wafer into the channels.
FIGS. 8 through 10 show an alternative embodiment in which parts corresponding to the first embodiment are indicated by the same but primed reference numerals. In this instance, a modular front panel 21 is formed from a plurality of elongated translucent strips 49 stacked together in a generally edgewise relationship so that a panel of any desired height may be constructed simply by using a different number of strips. In this instance, the individual strips are generally rectangular in shape and are held on top of each other by a rail 24 which extends horizontally along the joined edges of the adjacent strips. As shown in FIG. 10, the upper portion of each strip is bent rearwardly away from the vertical plane of the lower portion of the strip at an angle a of about 7 and includes a plurality of semicircular bosses 50 integrally formed along the top edge. The back face of the lower portion of each strip includes a surface 51 beveled with respect to the vertical at an angle b which also is about 7 so that, when the upper and lower edges of adjacent strips are stacked together, the lower portions of all of the strips lie in a common vertical plane.
To hold strips 49 together, the rails 24' include rearwardly extending posts 53 alined with the bosses 50, and a hole 54 in each boss receives the corresponding post to connect the rail to the strip. The lower edge of the upper adjacent strip is inserted between the rail and the bosses, a downwardly opening U-shaped notch 55 being formed in the lower edge of the strip and fitting over each post 53 to hold the strip vertically on the lower adjacent strip. Extending between adjacent notches is a ridge 56 which seats within a horizontal groove 57 in the back of the rail thereby to support the rail vertically along its entire length. Once the rail and two adjacent strips have been positioned together, the posts are heat staked within the bosses to hold the panels together and to hold the rail on the panel. Any number of strips can beused to make the panel of any desired height.
The wafers 16f are held on the panel 21 by the rail 24' in a manner similar to the first embodiment. Insertion and removal of the characters also are accomplished in a similar manner. The bent upper portion of the strips 49 of the alternative embodiment facilitates insertion of the wafer and allows the lower edge of the wafer to be tilted. away from the front face of the panel during removal as shown in dotted lines in FIG. 9, the bend line of the strip functioning as the fulcrum during such tilting.
From the foregoing, it will be apparent that the present invention brings to the art a new and improved display sign in which the display characters 16 are formed by thin wafers of inexpensive construction. Since the display characters are illuminated collectively by the lamps 23 in the case 20, less servicing is required than would be the case if each character were illuminated individually by a separate lamp and, in addition, considerably fewer lamps are required.
We claim as our invention:
1. In an illuminated display sign, the combination of, a box-like case having an open forward side, an electric lamp housed within said case and adapted to be connected to a source of voltage, a translucent panel covering the open side of said case to diffuse the light emitted from said lamp, vertically spaced pairs of vertically spaced channels extending horizontally across said panel with one channel of each pair opening upwardly and the otherchannel of the pair opening downwardly, a series of interchangeable display characters, each of said characters comprising a substantially rectangular wafer made of translucent material having selected darkened areas of opaque material shaped to outline a translucent intelligible figure on the forward face, of the wafer, said wafers being fitted into said channels in edge-to-edge relation with the upper edge portion of each wafer fitted into one of said downwardly opening channels and with the lower edge portion of each wafer fitted into one of said upwardly opening channels, a fulcrum located below each of said downwardly opening channels and coacting between said panel and said wafers to facilitate removal of said wafers from said channels by permitting said wafers to be pivoted individually about said fulcrum, and a spring located at the end of each row of wafers and biased against the end wafer of said row thereby to urge the wafers edgewise along said channels and to press the wafers into edge-to-edge engagement with one another.
2. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 1 including a lip projecting from at least one side edge of each wafer, a groove formed in the adjacent side edge formed in the forward face of said wafer along the opposite edge thereof so as to leave a rear lip extending along such opposite edge, the lips on each wafer interfitting with the grooves in the adjacent wafers when said wafers are fitted into said channels thereby to help keep said wafers positioned in edge-to-edge relation and to prevent light from being emitted between the wafers.
4. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 3 in which a chamfer is formed across one end portion of the rear face of each wafer to facilitate broadwise insertion of the wafers into said channels.
5. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 1 in which the upwardly opening channel of one pair of channels and the downwardly opening channel of an adjacent lower pair of channels are formed in a single bar molded of plastic.
6. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 1 in which each of said fulcrums comprises a first horizontal rib on said panel member and extending generally parallel with and between each of the separate pairs of said channels, a second horizontal rib on said panel member below each of said first ribs for holding the wafers forwardly of the face of the panel.
7. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 1 in which said panel comprises a series of horizontally extending strips, adjacent edge portions of adjacent strips being attached to one another.
8. An illuminated display sign as defined in claim 7 in which the major portion of each of said strips lies in a vertical plane, one edge portion of each strip diverging from such plane and overlapping the adjacent edge portion of the adjacent strip, and means on the overlapping edge portions of said strips engaging one another in an interlocking relationship to attach said strips together.
9. In an illuminated display sign, the combination of, a box-like case having a forward side capable of enabling light to pass from the case, an electric lamp housed within said case and adapted to be connected to a source of voltage, vertically spaced supporting rails extending horizontally across the forward side of the case, first and second parallel channels formed in each of said rails, said first channels opening upwardly from said rails and said second channels opening downwardly from said rails, a series of rows of interchange-' able display characters, each of said characters comprising a substantially rectangular wafer made of translucent material having selected darkened areas of opaque material shaped to define an intelligible figure on the face of the wafer, each of said rows of wafers being supported on said rails in edge-to-edge relation within the first and second channels of adjacent rails, a fulcrum located below each of said second channels and coacting between said forward side and said wafers to facilitate removal of said wafers from said channels by permitting said wafers to be pivoted individually about said fulcrum, and a spring located at the end of each row of wafers and biased against the end wafer of said row thereby to urge the wafers in said row edgewise within said channels and to press the wafers into edge-to-edge engagement with one another.
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