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Publication numberUS3854253 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateDec 17, 1974
Filing dateJan 22, 1973
Priority dateMay 1, 1972
Publication numberUS 3854253 A, US 3854253A, US-A-3854253, US3854253 A, US3854253A
InventorsSlowbe J
Original AssigneeSlowbe J
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Joint construction between supported and supporting members
US 3854253 A
Abstract
A joint structure and method are disclosed for interconnecting a marginal edge portion of an inflatable panel component with a supporting member. The panel is constructed of walls of flexible material interconnected interiorly so as to limit the lateral spacing therebetween when the panel is inflated. One or more of the marginal edges of the panel is disposed in or adjacent the recess, and the panel is filled with a settable material whereby the marginal edge portion of the panel is interconnected with the support member. Walls of the panel are provided with covers of sheet material having marginal edges in the form of flaps adhesively bondable to the support member to initially pre-position the panel relative thereto. The panel and support member are assembled by partially inflating the panel, positioning the panel relative to the support member with the marginal edge of the panel disposed in or adjacent the recess thereof, bonding the flaps of the panel to the support member to hold the panel in place relative thereto, further inflating the panel for the marginal edge portion to fill the recess, introducing filler material into the panel while at the same time evacuating the air therefrom, and then allowing the filling material to set.
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United States Patent Slowbe 1 1 Dec. 17, 1974 1 JOINT CONSTRUCTION BETWEEN SUPPORTED AND SUPPORTING MEMBERS Primary Examiner-Frank L. Abbott [76] Inventor: Joseph A. Slowbe, Cleveland, Ohio Assistant Exammer Henry Raduazo [22] Filed: Jan. 22, 1973 [63] Continuation-impart of Ser. No. 249,681, May 1,

1972, abandoned.

[52] U.S. Cl 52/2, 52/63, 52/615, 52/619 [51] Int. Cl E04b 1/345 [58] Field of Search 52/2, 601, 619, 623, 615, 52/309 [56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,127,661 8/1938 Davis 52/601 2,717,062 9/1955 Dasing.... 52/619 3,151,663 10/1964 Bohner 52/2 3,153,817 10/1964 Please 52/619 3,231,644 1/1966 Ming Yang Changm, 52/2 3,328,926 7/1967 Reinhard 52/2 3,343,324 7/1967 Gordon 52/2 3,357,142 12/1967 Furrer 52/2 3,414,320 12/1968 Helm 52/2 3,432,609 3/1969 Durall 52/2 3,473,829 10/1969 Daniels 52/2 3,501,868 3/1970 Ganzinotti 52/2 3,631,644 l/1972 Mazza 52/623 FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 860,238 2/1961 Great Britain 52/2 [57] ABSTRACT A joint structure and method are disclosed for interconnecting a marginal edge portion of an inflatable panel component with a supporting member. The panel is constructed of walls of flexible material interconnected interiorly so as to limit the lateral spacing therebetween when the panel is inflated. One or more of the marginal edges of the panel is disposed in or adjacent the recess, and the panel is filled with a settable material whereby the marginal edge portion of the panel is interconnected with the support member. Walls of the panel are provided with covers of sheet material having marginal edges in the form of flaps adhesively bondable to the support member to initially pre-position the panel relative thereto. The panel and support member are assembled by partially inflating the panel, positioning the panel relative to the support member with the marginal edge ofthe panel disposed in or adjacent the recess thereof, bonding the flaps of the panel to the support member to hold the panel in place relative thereto, further inflating the panel for the marginal edge portion to fill the recess, introducing filler material into the panel while at the same time evacuating the air therefrom, and then allowing the filling material to set.

10 Claims, 12 Drawing Figures JOINT CONSTRUCTION BETWEEN SUPPORTED AND SUPPORTING MEMBERS This application is a continuation-in-part of my copending application Ser. No. 249,681 filed May I, 1972, and now abandoned.

The present invention relates to the art of structural components and, more particularly to inflatable components and joint structures and methods of forming a joint between a supporting component and a supported component including an inflatable body interengagable with the support member.

In accordance with the present invention a joint structure is provided in which a supported component including an inflated body is interconnected with one or more supporting components having openings therein in which a portion of the inflated body is disposed. The inflated body may be filled with a settable material which is substantially rigid, whereby the supported and supporting components together define a reasonably rigid structure.

The supported component may be a panel of flexible material adapted to be inflated by water, air or other fluid. Alternatively, the supported component may be a substantially rigid structure including an inflatable body portion for interengaging the supported and supporting components. The joint construction, as will become more apparent hereinafter, is applicable to a wide variety of constructional applications and provides for a structural interconnection between supported and supporting components to be achieved in a minimum amount of time and in a manner whereby structural integrity is achieved. v

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the supporting component has an opening therein having a restricted entrance. In this respect, for example, the supporting components may be U-shaped in cross section and provided with inwardly extending flanges defining a restricted entrance into the space between the legs of the U. The supported component includes an inflatable body of flexible material a portion of which extends through the restricted opening and laterally outwardly behind the flanges defining the restricted opening. The flanges thus operate to constrict the inflatable body to interlock the portion disposed in the recess with the supporting component. Preferably, the inflatable body is subsequently filled with a settable material, whereby the interlocking interengagement becomes substantially rigid.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, the supporting components are defined by U- shaped channels spaced apart and rigidly supported with the channels facing one another. The supported component may be an inflatable panel having opposite marginal edges, or a rigid structure disposed between the channels and having inflatable portions adapted upon inflation, to enter the corresponding channel. When the panel or inflatable portions are inflated, the supported component is interengaged with the opposed channels, and if the panel or inflated portions are then filled with a settable material, a substantially rigid joint is produced and a rigid structure results.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention the supported component is provided with prepositioning and supporting elements such as flaps of flexible sheet material. The pre-positioning elements are adapted to be interconnected with the supporting component in any suitable manner such as by adhesive bonding, nailing or interengaging fastener assemblies so as to pre-position and support the supported component relative to the supporting component. The prepositioning elements support the supported component relative to the supporting member to facilitate the assembly operation and, in certain embodiments, the prepositioning elements are flaps defined by the marginal edge portions of an outer covering for the supported component, which covering provides a finished appearance therefor.

The form of the supported components will vary depending on the end structure sought, as will become more apparent hereinafter. Likewise, the crosssectional profile of the recess in the supporting component can readily be varied without departing from the principles of the present invention.

It is an outstanding object of the present invention to provide a structural assembly between supporting and supported components in which the supported component includes at least an inflatable body portion which is cooperable with the supporting component when inflated to interengage the supported and supporting components.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a structural joint between a supporting component and inflatable body portion of a supported component characterized by a portion of the inflatable body being constricted by engagement with the supporting component to interlock the supporting and supported components.

Another object is the provision of a joint structure of the foregoing character in which the inflatable body is filled with settable material to enhance the interengaged relationship between the body and supporting member.

Yet another object is the provision of a joint structure of the foregoing character in which the supported component adapted to be pre-positioned and supported relative to the supporting component during assembly of the joint structure.

A further object is the provision of a joint structure of the above character in which the supported component carries one or more pre-positioning elements by which the supported component is initially prepositioned and supported relative to the supporting member.

Still a further object is the provision of a joint structure between a supported component including inflatable body portions and a pair of opposed supporting members each having a recess in which one of the body portions is disposed for interlockingly interengaging the supported component with the supporting members.

Yet another object of the present invention is the provision of an inflatable panel having pre-positioning and supporting elements thereon by which the panel is supported relative to a supporting component during assembly therebetween.

Yet a further object is the provision of an inflatable panel wherein at least one side of the panel is provided with a covering of flexible material having one or more marginal edge portions adapted to be bonded to a surface of the support component to pre-position and support the inflatable panel relative thereto.

,Still another object is the provision of a joint structure between a supporting component and a supported component including an inflatable body which enables substantially rigid interconnection between the supported and supporting components to be achieved economically, with a minimum of effort and a minimum amount of time.

Yet a further object is the provision of a method of joining a supported member including an inflatable body with a supporting member having a recess and which method comprises positioning the supported member relative to the supporting member for a portion of the inflatable body to enter the recess, and inflating the body for the latter to cooperatively interengage with the recess in the supporting member to interconnect the supported and supporting members.

Still another object is the provision of a method of joining of the foregoing character which includes the further step of pre-positioning and supporting the supported member relative to the supporting member.

Yet another object is the provision of a method of joining of the above character which includes the further step of introducing a settable filling material into the inflatable body and simultaneously evacuating the inflating fluid therefrom and allowing the filling to set to form a substantially rigid supported and supporting member assembly.

The foregoing objects and others will in part be obvious and in part more fully pointed out hereinafter in conjunction with the following description of the drawings depicting preferred embodiments of the present invention and in which:

FIG. I is a perspective view, partially in section, of an inflatable panel and supporting channel adapted to be joined in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view, partially in section, of the joint construction resulting from assembly of the inflatable panel and supporting channel components illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view, partially in section, illustrating another structural assembly including a joint construction made in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view, partially in section, illustrating yet another structure embodying the joint construction of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of still another structure including the joint construction of the present inventron;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of disassembled supported and supporting components which are adapted to be interconnected by the joint construction of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a view in cross section of the supported and supporting components illustrated in FIG. 6, the section being taken along line 7-7 in FIG. 6 and illustrating the components in partially assembled relationship;

FIG. 7A corresponds to 'FIG. 7 and illustrates the components in fully assembled relationship;

FIG. 8 is a view in cross section of the supporting and supported components illustrated in FIG. 6, the section being along line 88 in FIG. 6 and illustrating the components in partially assembled relationship;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view, partially in section, of another embodiment of an inflatable panel;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view, partially in section, of the panel of FIG. 9 pre-positioned and supported between supporting channels; and

FIG. 11 is a plan view, in section, of the panel and supporting channels of FIG. 10 in fully assembled relationship.

Referring now in greater detail to the drawings wherein the showings are for the purpose of illustrating preferred embodiments of the present invention only and not for the purpose of limiting the same, supported and supporting components 10 and 12, respectively, are illustrated in FIG. 1, and the joint construction therebetween provided in accordance with the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 2.

Supported component 10 in the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, is a panel including an inflatable body of flexible material having sidewalls 14 and 16 interconnected by end walls 18 and 20 and top and bottom walls 22 and 24, respectively. The several walls of the inflatable body are of flexible sheet material and the body can be constructed in any suitable manner. In this respect, for example, the walls can be separate components of sheet material suitably interconnected with one another such as by adhesive bonding, heat sealing, stitching, or the like, or the body can be suitably molded for the several walls to be integrally united. The inflatable body can be produced from any suitable material or combinations of material such as, for example, plastic, rubber, treated fabric, or the like. Moreover, the material can be either pervious or impervious to the passage of air therethrough for the purpose set forth more fully hereinafter, and can be translucent, transparent or opaque as desired. The particular materials and the manner of fabrication of the inflatable body do not form a part of the present invention, and it will be understood that it is only necessary that the supported component include a body portion which is of an inflatable nature.

In the embodiment illustrated, sidewalls 14 and 16 are impervious and are provided with inlet and discharge valve elements 26 and 28, respectively, by which the body can be inflated with air or other gas as well as with a suitable filling material as described more fully hereinafter. Preferably, walls 14 and 16 of the inflatable body are provided with cross ties 30 of nylon or other suitable materials having opposite ends which are suitably interconnected with the walls to limit separation thereof when the body is inflated. While cross ties are illustrated, it will be appreciated that other forms of wall interconnections can readily be provided for the same purpose, namely to restrict separation of the body walls upon inflation thereof. Moreover, while the cross ties are illustrated as being operable to maintain the sidewalls in relatively flat dispositions parallel to one another, it will be appreciated that the cross ties can provide for the walls to have other contours when the body is inflated.

The inflatable body has a peripheral edge portion 32 which is disposed between legs 34 and 36 of supporting member 12 when assembled therewith. In the present embodiment, the marginal edge portion is defined by those portions of sidewalls l4 and 16 and end wall 18 disposed along the corresponding legs 34 and 36 and web 38 of the supporting member. Supporting member 12 further includes a pair of intumed flanges 40 and 42 extending along the outer edge of the corresponding one of the legs 34 and 36, and flanges 40 and 42 define a restricted entrance to an opening or recess 44 defined by legs 34 and 36 and web 38 of the supporting member. Supporting member 12 can be metal or any other suitable rigid material such as wood, plastic, concrete or the like. Member 12 can be defined, for example, by an extrusion, by an assembly of parts to provide the desired recess configuration, or in any other suitable manner. It will be appreciated that opening or recess 44 has an axis A and that flanges 40 and 42 have outer sides 40a and 42a and inner sides 40b and 42b with respect to axis A.

Walls 14 and 16 of the inflatable body are provided with covers 46 and 48 of flexible sheet material which are generally coextensive with regard to the dimensions of the corresponding body walls and which are interconnected therewith in any suitable manner such as, for example, by stitching, adhesive bonding, heat sealing and the like. The material of sheets 46 and 48 may be plastic, rubber, cloth, leather, or the like. Sheets 46 and 48 have corresponding marginal edge portions 50 and 52 which are free from interconnection with the underlying portions of sidewalls l4 and 16 of the inflatable body. In the embodiment illustrated marginal edge portions 50 and 52 are adapted to overlie the outer surface of channel legs 34 and 36 and preferably, are adhesively bonded to legs 34 and 36 for the purpose set forth more fully hereinafter. Such adhesive bonding may be achieved in any suitable manner. For example, the outer surfaces of channel legs 34 and 36 may be provided with a coating of adhesive, the inner surfaces of portions 50 and 52 may be provided with a coating of adhesive or the portions 50 and 52 may be bonded to legs 34 and 36 by suitably applied heat and pressure. Preferably the inner surfaces of portions 50 and 52 are provided with corresponding layers 51 and 53 of pressure sensitive adhesive which is initially protected in a well known manner by removable strips 54 and 56 or release paper of the like.

It will be appreciated that prior to assembly of the components the inflatable body is in a collapsed condition. Preferably, though not necessarily, the inflatable body is first partially inflated through valve 26 to facilitate handling thereof during assembly, and marginal edge portion 32 thereof is then positioned within recess 44 of supporting member 12. It will be appreciated that at this time discharge valve 28 is closed. Release paper strips 54 and 56 are then removed from marginal edge portions 50 and 52 of sheets 46 and 48 and the latter edge portions are pressed against the outer surfaces of legs 34 and 36 to pre-position and support the inflatable panel relative to the supporting member. Additional air or other inflating fluid is then introduced into the inflatable body through valve 26 to inflate the body to the extent necessary for the latter to assume the desired contour and for marginal edge portion 32 thereof to substantially fill recess 44. It will be noted that in the inflated condition of the panel portions of panel walls 14 and 16 within channel recess 44 underlie the inner surfaces 40b and 42b of channel flanges 40 and 42, and that the restricted entrance to recess 44 constricts the inflatable body between marginal edge portion 32 and the portion of the inflatable body disposed outwardly of the supporting component. While marginal edge portion 32 of the inflatible panel is illustrated as being free of cross tie members corresponding to cords it will be appreciated that such cross ties can be provided in this area of the inflatable body if desired.

After the inflatable body is pre-positioned and supported relative to the supporting member and is inflated as described above, suitable filling material 58 preferably is introduced into the body and the air or other inflating fluid therein is exhausted from the body through valve 28 as the body fills with the material 58. In this respect, valve 28 defines an outlet valve for the air and is operable in any suitable manner to achieve air evacuation simultaneous with filler material introduction. For example, valve 28 can be operable in response to the increased pressure caused by introduction of the filler to open and allow the air in the inflated body to escape. The filler material is of a settable nature, whereby after filling of the body therewith the material sets to form a substantially rigid panel which is interlocked with the supporting component as a result of the structural interrelationship between the marginal edge portion of the panel and the restriction defined by flanges 40 and 42 of the supporting member. The filling material may be any suitable material adapted to be flowed into the inflatable body and which will set to define a substantially rigid mass therein. For example, the filling material could be a foamed plastic, concrete, or other settable material. Moreover, it will be appreciated that if the filling material is foamed plastic, the dried plastic material can be introduced or provided in the inflatable body and the necessary activator introduced when desired to cause generation of the foam material. It will be appreciated that upon setting of the filling material the panel is interlocked with the supporting component in a manner which provides structural integrity for the joint to prevent unintended separation of the supporting and supported components.

Cover sheets 46 and 48 can be of a material providing a pleasing appearance for the exterior of the supported component, thus for the panel to have a decorative appearance once the assembly is completed. It will be appreciated, however, that the pre-positioning and the support functions provided by marginal edge portions 50 and 52 of the cover sheets can be provided by means other than sheets of material dimensionally coextensive with the opposed walls of the inflatable body. For example, narrow strips of material could be attached to walls 14 and 16 of the inflatable body adjacent marginal edge portion 32 thereof to provide these functions. Moreover, it will be appreciated that the inflatable body could otherwise be pre-positioned and supported relative to supporting member 12 during the inflation and filling operations by which the joint is constructed. For example, the inflatable body could be partially inflated, positioned relative to supporting member 12 and held by hand during the final inflation and filling operation. Sheets 46 and 48 are preferred in that they not only provide the pre-positioning and support function but also provide the supported component with an outer surface which can be preprinted, embossed, colored, or otherwise constructed to enhance the appearance of the panel.

It will be appreciated from the foregoing description of the joint structure of the present invention that many end products and structural configurations can readily be devised employing the joint structure. For example, supporting member 12 of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1 can be suitably interconnected with a support surface such as a wall or ceiling in a manner whereby the panel or supported member projects outwardly from the wall or is suspended from the ceiling to provide a sign or a support surface for suitable decorative or informative indicia.

While the joint construction is illustrated in FIG. 1 as including a single supporting member and an inflatable body having one marginal edge interengaged therewith it will be appreciated that more than one supporting component may be interconnected with an inflatable body to be supported in order to achieve a desired end structure. End structures which may be formed are numerous and FIGS. 3-5 are provided to illustrate of few of such structures. Others will be readily apparent.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a portion of a partition, panel or wall assembly is illustrated which is comprised of a plurality of support members 60 suitably interconnected to define openings for receiving and supporting inflatable panels 62. Supporting members 60 are structurally similar and in this respect are in the form of metal I-bearns having a web component 64 and flange components 66 which cooperate to define a recess 68. Flanges 66 are provided with longitudinally extending and inwardly projecting flanges 70 which define a re stricted entrance to the corresponding recess 68. The several supporting members 60 may be interconnected in any suitable manner such as by welding, bolting or the like to define structure for one or more of the inflatable panels. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a frame structure may be constructed to provide walls, floors, ceilings, roofs, partitions, or combinations of these structures as well as others depending on the end structure sought. In the embodiment illustrated, four of the supporting members designated 72, 74, 76 and 78 are interconnected to define a square or rectangular frame for supported component 62. It will be appreciated that each of these supporting members has a recess 68 facing inwardly of the frame opening. Supported member 62 is structurally similar to supported member described hereinabove and, in this respect, includes marginal edge portions each of which is disposed in a corresponding one of the recesses 68. More particularly, supported member 62 is in the form of an inflatable panel having side walls 80 and 82 of flexible material interconnected interiorly by cross ties 84. Preferably, the outer sides of both walls 80 and 82 are provided with cover sheets 86 having marginal edge portions 88 adapted to be adhesively bonded to the corresponding support member in the manner and for the purpose described hereinabove in conjunction with the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. I and 2. The outer surface of one or both cover sheets may be provided with a decorative configuration such as defined by embossment 90 so that the cover sheets of adjacent inflatable panels on one or both sides of the structure have a pleasing appearance. It will be understood that the inflatable panel is provided with suitable valves or other means, not illustrated which enable inflation thereof and the filling thereof with settable filling material 92. Moreover, it will be appreciated that the marginal edge portions of the inflatable panel may be free of cross ties or may include cross ties similar to cross ties 84.

Supported component 62 is readily assembled with the frame structure by partially inflating the panel, positioning the panel relative to members 72, 74, 76 and 78 with the marginal edge portions of the panel in the corresponding recess 68, adhesively bonding the marginal edge portions 88 of cover sheets 86 to the corresponding support member, and further inflating the panel to assure expansion of the marginal edge portions thereof into the recesses of the corresponding support members. The assembly is then completed by introducing settable filling material into the panel and simultaneously evacuating the air or other inflating fluid therefrom. When the filling material has set, the panel is substantially rigid and is interlocked on four sides with the supporting members. It will be appreciated that in this manner an expansive wall assembly can be readily constructed. Further, it will be appreciated that by the use of supporting members having various cross sectional profiles and longitudinal contours, such a wall can be constructed with angular corner configurations as vwell as other desired structural configurations.

With reference to FIG. 4, a panel and frame structure is illustrated which is of arcuate configuration. Such a configuration could, for example, provide an open ended arcuate cover, or half of a tubular structure. In this embodiment, the supporting members include a pair of longitudinally extending U-shaped channels and 102, arcuately contoured U-shaped channels 104 and 106 at opposite ends of channels 100 and 102, and an intermediate I-beam channel 108 extending between channels 104 and 106. Channels 100, 102, 104 and 106 are similar in cross section to the supporting member illustrated in FIG. 1 and, in this respect, include a recess having a restricted entrance thereinto. Support member 108 is similar to the support members disclosed in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3 and, in this respect, has a pair of recesses on opposite sides of the web of the beam and each of which recesses includes a restricted entrance. The frame recesses are adapted to receive corresponding marginal edge portions of a pair of inflatable panels 110 each of which is arcuate in transverse cross section. It will be appreciated that panels 110 are constructed in a manner similar to the inflatable bodies described hereinabove, and that the arcuate contours thereof can be provided during the manufacturing process. It will be further appreciated that the marginal edge portions of the panels interengage with the channel recesses in the manner previously described, and that settable material is introduced into the panels to provide for interlocking engagement between the panels and supporting channels.

surfaces of panels 110 may be provided with cover sheets or other pre-positioning and supporting elements in the manner hereinbefore described. It will be appreciated too that a plurality of the structures illustrated in FIG. 4 could be assembled end to end by interconnecting the juxtaposed end channels thereof, and that two such structures could be interconnected to form a tubular structure by interconnecting the juxtaposed longitudinal channels corresponding to channels 100 and 102. While the end channels 104 and 106 are illustrated as being of U-shaped cross-section, it will be appreciated that these components could be defined by I-beams similar to beam 108, whereby a plurality of panels corresponding to panels 110 could be interconnected in an elongated structure. Moreover, it will be appreciated that two or more longitudinal beams corresponding to beam 108 could be provided between end beams 104 and 106 with panels disposed between the pairs of longitudinal beams and the corresponding arcuate portions of the end beams.

FIG. 5 illustrates a tubular structure constructed by use of the structural joint of the present invention. In this respect, the tubular structure is comprised of end portions 112 and 114 having different diameters and an intermediate portion 116 which is tapered for its opposite ends to correspond with the diameters of sections 112 and 114. In this embodiment, section 112 includes a supporting member 118 in the form of an I-beam having recesses on the opposite side of the web thereof and which recesses have restricted entrances in the manner described hereinabove. Section 1 14 includes a supporting component 120 similar in cross section to component 118. The inflatable panels defining sections 112, 114 and 116 are tubular in transverse cross-section and have inner and outer walls of flexible material interconnected by cross ties in the manner described hereinabove. Sections 112 and 114 have marginal edge portions at the inner ends thereof disposed in the corresponding recesses of supporting members 118 and 120, and intermediate section 116 has marginal edge portions at the axially opposite ends thereof disposed in the recesses of the corresponding supporting member 118 and 120.

The joint structure of the present invention has been described hereinabove with regard to a supporting component and a supported component which is in the form of an inflatable panel. In FIGS. 6-8 the joint structure is illustrated in conjunction with a supported component which, as a unit, is a relatively rigid structure adapted to be interconnected with a supporting component by means of the joint structure of the present invention. More particularly, a building wall 122 is illustrated in FIG. 6 as being provided with a window opening 124 adapted to receive and support a window and window frame unit 126. As illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, window opening 124 is provided about the periphery thereof with support components including side members 128 and a sill member 130. It will be appreciated that a suitable top member not illustrated, would be provided to complete the frame structure within the window opening. In the embodiment illustrated, each of the side members 128 is in the form of a metal I- beam having a recess 132 facing inwardly of the window opening and provided with a restricted entrance defined by flanges 134 on the I-beam. Similarly, sill member 130 is of a form similar to an I-beam in cross section and includes a recess 136 having a restricted entrance defined by flanges 138 thereon.

The window and window frame assembly 126 can be of any suitable construction and includes side frame members 140, sill member 142 and a top frame member 144. Frame members 140, 142 and 144 may be of any suitable material such as wood or metal and are pre-assembled and interconnected to support relatively slidable window panels W. Such pre-assembled or prefabricated window units are well known and do not form a part of the present invention. In accordance with the present invention, an inflatable body of flexible material 146 is mounted such as by adhesive bonding to the outer surfaces of frame members 140, 142 and 144. It will be appreciated that inflatable body 146 may be a continuous body extending peripherally about the window frame unit, or that individual sections may be provided to define the inflatable body. Moreover, it will be appreciated that the inflatable body or bodies are provided with means such as the valves described hereinabove to facilitate inflation thereof and the filling thereof with a settable filling material. Preferably, the outer surfaces of wooden frame members 140, 142 and 144 are provided with covers of sheet material 148 having marginal edge portions 150 adapted to be adhesively bonded to the corresponding support component to preposition and support the window and window frame assembly prior to inflation of inflatable bodies 146. Cover material 148 may completely cover the exposed outer surface of the wood frame members as illustrated in FIG. 7, or may cover only a portion thereof as illustrated in FIG. 8.

The window and window frame assembly is positioned in the window opening with frame members 140, 142 and 144 overlying the recesses of the corresponding supporting components. Marginal edge portions of cover sheets 148 are then bonded to the supporting components in a manner similar to that described hereinabove, and bodies 146 are inflated so as to extend through the restricted entrance and into the recess of the corresponding supporting components. Settable filling material 152 is then introduced into the inflatable body in the manner described hereinabove to interlock the window and window frame unit with the supporting unit in the manner illustrated in FIG. 7A. If desired, one or more of the wooden frame components 140, 142 and 144 may be provided with a longitudinally extending recess 154 into which a portion of the inflatable body can expand. Recess 154 is desirable in that when filled with the settable material it stabilizes the window and window frame unit against displacement laterally of the corresponding supporting component.

It will be noted that the flexible material of inflatable body or bodies 146 is illustrated as being resilient and expansible upon inflation to fill the corresponding recess. The material may be a rubber or rubber like composition for this purpose. However, it will be understood that the inflatable body could be of a size adapted to extend into the recess prior to inflation in a manner similar to the marginal edge portion of the panel illustrated in FIG. 1.

While the window and window frame assembly has been described as being comprised of wooden frame components, it will be appreciated that the frame components may be of any suitable material. Moreover, while the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 6-8 is comprised of an assembly of a window relative to a wall, it will be appreciated that the joint structure can in a sim ilar manner be employed to provide for interlocking other substantially rigid units, such as air conditioning apparatus, door and door frame assemblies, or the like, with respect to an opening therefor in a wall of a building or the like. Moreover, doors, windows and other rigid units can be assembled in a similar manner in conjunction with the construction of a building structure or the like produced of inflatable panels and supporting components of the character described in other embodiments herein.

In all the embodiments described hereinabove, the supporting member or component has been in the form of an elongated structural channel having a pair of in turned flanges defining a restricted entrance to a recess provided by the side and bottom walls of the channel. It will be appreciated, however, that many crosssectional channel profiles, and structural configurations or assemblies other than channels can be employed as the supporting member. It is only necessary in connection with the embodiments described hereinabove that the supporting component have an opening or recess which provides in some manner for a marginal edge portion of the inflatable body to be constructed so that the portion of the inflatable body disposed in the recess is interlocked with the supporting component to prevent unintentional separation thereof. Many crosssectional profiles or other structural configurations which could be employed to provide this structural interrelationship between the supporting and supported components will be apparent. Moreover, it will be appreciated that the beam structures described hereinabove can alone define the supporting components or can be suitably mounted relative to an additional support member such as a wall or floor. Still further, while the inflatable panels or inflatable body member of the embodiments described hereinabove have a marginal edge portion coextensive with a side edge of the panel, it will be appreciated that the inflatable panels or body members could have a marginal edge portion within the meaning of this term herein which would be defined, for example, by an inflatable projection extending outwardly from the peripheral edge of the panel and into the recess of the supporting member.

Referring now to FIGS. 9-11 of the drawing, there is illustrated another embodiment of an inflatable panel made in accordance with the present invention and an assembly thereof with a pair of spaced apart supporting channels. More particularly, an inflatable panel 160 is illustrated in FIG. 9 which is comprised of spaced apart side walls 162 and 164 and a pair of end walls 166 and 168. It will be appreciated that the panel includes top and bottom walls, not illustrated. Sidewalls 162 and 164 are laterally interconnected by cords 170 to limit lateral separation of the sidewalls upon inflation of the panel. In this embodiment, the material of at least end walls 166 and 168 of the panel is a resilient material such as rubber which will permit expansion of end walls 166 and 168 outwardly in the direction of the corresponding arrow B upon full inflation of the panel. It will be appreciated, of course, that suitable valve means, not illustrated, are provided to facilitate inflation of the panel and the filling thereof with settable filling material.

Side walls 162 and 164 are provided with corresponding cover sheets 172 and 174 of flexible material suitably interconnected with the corresponding wall 162 and 164 such as by adhesive bonding, stitching, heat sealing or the like. In this embodiment, cover sheet 172 has marginal edge portions 176 and 178 and cover sheet 174 as marginal edge portion 180 and 182. Marginal edge portion 176, 178, 180 and 182 each extend beyond the corresponding one of the end walls 166 and 168 of the inflatable panel when the latter is in the uninflated or partially inflated disposition as illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10. The inner surfaces of the marginal edge portions of cover sheets 172 and 174 may be provided with adhesive in the manner described hereinabove with regard to the inflatable panel illustrated in FIG. 1, or the marginal edge portions may be provided with other suitable means for pre-positioning and supporting the inflatable panel relative to the supporting members with which it is to be assembled.

In FIG. there is illustrated a pair of U-shaped channel members 184 and 186 of metal or the like which are rigidly supported in spaced apart relationship in any desired manner. For example, channels 184 and 186 could be opposed frame components of a frame structure similar to that illustrated in FIG. 3, or as illustrated in FIG. 10, the channel components can be mounted to extend at parallel spaced apart relationship from a suitable substrate or base 188 which may, for

example, be a concrete foundation in which the corresponding ends of the channel are embedded. Inflatable panel has a length between end walls 166 and 168 which, when the panel is partially inflated, correspond substantially the distance between channels 184 and 186. Channels 184 and 186 are each defined by a web portion and a pair of side flanges which together define a corresponding channel recess 184a and 186a, and the channels are supported with the recesses facing one another. The spacing between the channels and the length of the inflatable panel provide for the partially inflated panel to be disposed between the channels with the panel end walls 166 and 168 disposed adjacent the outer edges of the channel flanges, as illustrated in FIG. 10. The marginal edge portions of cover sheets 172 and 174 overlap the outer surfaces of the channel flanges to pre-position and support the partially inflated panel relative to the channel members.

With the inflatable panel pre-positioned and sup.- ported relative to the channels as illustrated in FIG. 10, the panel can be further inflated to cause panel end walls 166 and 168 to expand outwardly into channel recesses 184a and 186a, respectively, as illustrated in FIG. 11. The inflated panel can then be filled with settable material 190 and the inflating fluid simultaneously evacuated therefrom. When material 190 sets, the panel and supporting channels define a substantially rigid structure in which the set filling material restrains lateral separation of the panel from the supporting components.

It will be appreciated that the assembly illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11 is merely illustrative of one embodiment of a combination of spaced channels and an inflatable panel in which the end walls of the panel expand outwardly of the panel and into the channel recesses. When an inflatable panel is interrelated with a pair of supporting channels in this manner, it will be appreciated that it is not necessary to provide the inner surfaces of the channel flanges with projections defining a restricted entrance of the character described in conjunction with the embodiments previously described. Moreover, it will be appreciated that many structural assemblies of supporting channels can be employed to form an end structure in which the panels and supporting channels are interrelated in the manner disclosed in FIGS. 9-11. For example, the channels could be H- shaped in cross-section and interconnected in the manner illustrated in FIG. 3 of the drawings, or the channel could be interconnected to define a frame structure such as that illustrated in FIG. 4. Still further, it will be appreciated that the supporting channels in the window opening illustrated in the embodiment of FIGS. 6-8 could be modified to eliminate the flanges defining the restricted entrance to the recesses therein so that the inflatable body or bodies provided on the periphery of the prefabricated window structure would expand into the recesses in the manner described herein with respect to the embodiment of FIGS. 9-11. In other words, whenever the supporting components for the member to be supported are rigidly supported in spaced apart relationship, the supported member may include an inflatable portion expandable outwardly and into the channel recess and the inflatable body filled with a settable material to maintain the corresponding opposite edges of the supported member within the channel recesses to interconnect the supporting channels and the supported member.

Many variations of supporting component structures and cooperable marginal edge structures for the components to be supported thereby will be apparent, as will the construction of numerous structures having various utility such as tables, chairs, buildings, signs, conduit, and others. It will be appreciated too that the joint construction can be employed to erect temporary enclosures such as domes often used for outdoor exhibits or shows. In this respect, the supporting components could be assembled to define the necessary frame structure, the inflatable panels would be positioned between the frame components and the panels inflated with air or the like to interlock the marginal edge portions of the channels with the frame components. In a structure of this nature, the panels would not be filled with a settable material, whereby following use of the temporary structure the panels could be deflated and removed and the frame structure dismounted for subsequent reassembly of the temporary structure. Moreover, the inflatable panels of such a temporary structure would not necessarily have to be provided with outer covers of sheet material to provide the prepositioning and support functions thereof prior to panel inflation, although the use of such cover sheets, especially if decorated could enhance the exterior appearance of such a temporary structure.

While considerable emphasis has been placed herein on the use of valves for inflating and filling the supported component, the material of the inflatable body can be a fabric which would be pervious to air but impervious to the filling material. Thus, air could be pumped into the body to inflate the latter and pumping continued to maintain inflation during introduction of the filler. Thus, the air would escape through the material but the filler would not, and the use of an exhaust or discharge valve would not be necessary. Further, it will be clearly understood that the use of adhesive between the pre-positioning elements of the supported component and the corresponding surfaces of the supporting component is merely illustrative of a preferred manner of interconnection between the flaps and support member. The flaps or other elements on the supported member can be interconnected with the support member by suitable fastener elements or cooperable fastener assemblies. For example, if the supporting member is wood, nails, staples or the like can be employed in place of or in addition to adhesive. Moreover, such fastening assemblies can be either temporary or permanent as desired. Further, it will be appreciated that the portion of the inflatable body disposed in the recess of the supporting member can, when inflated, substantially or completely fill the recess either by having a pre-formed configuration corresponding to that of the recess and/or by being of sufficient resilience to expand into conformance with the recess contour.

As many possible embodiments of the present invention may be made and as many possible changes may be made in the embodiments herein disclosed, it is to be distinctly understood that the foregoing descriptive matter is to be interpreted merely as illustrative of the present invention and not as a limitation.

Having thus described my invention, I claim:

1. A joint structure comprising, an elongated support component having a bottom wall and laterally spaced apart sidewalls, said bottom wall and sidewalls defining a recess, flange means on said sidewalls and extending laterally inwardly thereof to define a restricted entrance to said recess, said flange means having inner surfaces with respect to said recess, and panel means interengaged with said support component, said panel means including an inflatable body of flexible sheet material, a portion of said body extending throughsaid restricted entrance and into said recess, means filling said body and forcing the sheet material of said portion of said body in said recess to extend laterally behind saidflange means to interengage said panel rneansandsupport component against separation outwardly of said restricted entrance, and means prepositioning and, sup,- porting said panel means with respect to said support component, said side walls of said support component having outer surfaces with respect to said recess and said prepositioning and supporting means including flap means on said panel means adhesively bonded to, said outer surfaces.

2. The joint structure according to claim 1, wherein said panel means further includes a substantially rigid, member disposed adjacent said support component and having a side overlying said recess, and saidinflatable body of flexible material is attached to said side of said substantially rigid member.

3. The joint structure according to claim 2, wherein said prepositioning and supporting means is sheet means attached to said rigid member and having portions adhesively bonded to the outer surfaces of said side walls of said support component.

4. The joint structure according to claim 1, and a second support component identical to said first named support component, said first named and second support component being spaced apart and disposed with the recesses thereof opening toward one another, and said inflatable body of said panel means including a second portion extending through the restricted entrance and into the recess of said second support com ponent.

5. The joint structure according to claim 1, wherein said means filling said body of flexible material is set filler material.

6. The joint structure according to claim 5, wherein said body of flexible material includes spaced apart walls, and means between said walls to limit the spacing therebetween by said filler material. 1

7. An inflatable panel member mountable on a rigid channel-shaped supporting component having a bottom wall and sidewalls defining an elongated recess,

comprising: said panel member including a body portion and a marginal edge portion, said edge portion nent, and flap means attached to said body portion outside said recess and adjacent said marginal edge, said flap means extending in overlying relationship with said marginal edge and the outer surface of the corresponding one of said sidewalls of said supporting component and adhesive means on said flap means for connecting said flap means with said one of said sidewalls for prepositioning and supporting said panel member relative to said supporting component.

8. The panel member according to claim 7, wherein said body portion and marginal edge include a pair of panel walls having end edges and an end wall transversely interconnecting said panel walls along said end edges, said end wall and a portion of said panel walls defining said marginal edge, sheets of flexible material covering the outer surfaces of said panel walls, said sheets each having an end overlying said portion of the corresponding panel wall and a remaining portion bonded to the corresponding panel wall, said ends of said sheets defining said flap means.

9. A joint structure comprising, an elongated support component having a bottom wall and laterally spaced apart sidewalls, said bottom wall and sidewalls defining a recess, flange means on said sidewalls and extending laterally inwardly thereof to define a restricted entrance to said recess, said flange means having inner surfaces with respect to said recess, and panel means interengaged with said support component, said panel means including an inflatable body of flexible sheet material, a portion of said body extending through said restricted entrance and into said recess, means filling said body and forcing the sheet material of said portion of said body in said recess to extend laterally behind said flange means to interengage said panel means and support component against separation outwardly of said restricted entrance, and means prepositioning and supporting said panel means with respect to said support component, said inflatable body further including sidewalls integral with said portion in said recess and extending parallel to said sidewalls of said support component, and a cover sheet of flexible material secured on the outer side of at least one of said sidewalls of said inflatable body, said cover sheet having an edge flap overlying said portion of said inflatable body in said recess, said edge flap defining said prepositioning and supporting means and being adhesively bonded to the outer surface of the corresponding one of said sidewalls of said support component 10. The joint structure according to claim 9, and a second cover sheet on the outer side of the other of said sidewalls of said inflatable body, said second cover sheet having an edge flap overlying said portion of said inflatable body in said recess and adhesively bonded to the outer surface of the other one of said sidewalls of said support component.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification52/2.15, 52/717.2, 52/63
International ClassificationE06B1/56, E06B1/02, E04B2/56, E06B1/60, E06B1/00
Cooperative ClassificationE04B2/56, E06B1/02, E06B1/6069
European ClassificationE06B1/60D, E04B2/56, E06B1/02