US 3920299 A
A pair of rectangular sub-frames are joined together in spaced relationship forming a free standing central core module. The vertical members of each subframe include latch mechanisms extending along their length to support components in cantilevered fashion. The lower portion of the core is enclosed by panels which enclose electrical and fluid accessories leading to outlets in the panels. At least a portion of the front and rear panels are removable to permit free access to the interior of the lower portion. The entire system is quickly subject to dismantling and one core module can be quickly connected to another in tandem forming a multiple system.
Claims available in
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Propst et a1.
1 LABORATORY MODULE SYSTEM  Inventors: Robert L. Propst, Ann Arbor; James O. Kelley, Spring Lake, both of Mich.
 Assignee: Herman Miller, llnc., Zeeland, Mich.
 Filed: Aug. 5, 1974  Appl. No.: 494,455
 U.S. Cl 312/223; 312/107  Int. Cl. A4713 77/00  Field of Search 312/107, 198, 196, 257 SK,
[5 6] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS] 728,150 5/1903 Wolf 3121107 1,435,015 11/1922 Lidberg 312/209 2,576,409 ll/l95l Michaelis et a1 312/107 2,987,356 6/1961 Slmpson, .lr. 312/198 3,079,207 2/1963 Deaton 312/198 3,338,647 8/1967 Schreyer..... 312/198 3,464,372 9/1969 Fiterman et 312/198 3,517,467 6/1970 Propst et a1 52/36 1 Nov. 18, 1975 3,606,506 9/1971 Ungaro 312/107 3,644,008 2/1972 Overby 312/107 3,712,698 1/1973 Propst et a1 312/350 Primary Examiner-Paul R. Gilliam Assistant E.\-am1'ner-Victor N. Sakran Attorney, Agent, or FirmPrice, Heneveld, l-luizenga & Cooper  ABSTRACT A pair of rectangular sub-frames are joined together in spaced relationship forming a free standing central core module. The vertical members of each subframe include latch mechanisms extending along their length to support components in cantilevered fashion. The
lower portion of the core is enclosed by panels which enclose electrical and fluid accessories leading to outlets in the panels. At least a portion of the front and rear panels are removable to permit free access to the interior of the lower portion. The entire system -is quickly subject to dismantling and one core module can be quickly connected to another. in tandem forming a multiple system.
15 Claims, 13 Drawing Figures I am Sheet 1 0f 4 US. Patent Nov. 18, 1975 US. Patent Nov. 18, 1975 Sheet 3 of 4 US. Patent Nov. 18, 1975 Sheet 4 of 4 62 2412 II- I in" i Z? 1 MI llml I 1 LABoRAToRY MODULE SYSTEM BACKGROUND or THE INVENTION The assignee of the subject application through extensive research and cost has developed two commercially well-known systems of furniture components with extreme flexibility and utility. One system relates primarily to vertical panel dividers and space divider hung furniture components known commercially as Action Office. The other system is an integrated coherent system of fixtures and portable elements providing a new concept in safety, satisfaction and proficiency for health care facilities known commercially as Co/Struc. Particular examples of various aspects of the two systems referred to above are disclosed in US. Pat. Nos. 3,752,547; 3,734,526; 3,716,282; 3,712,698; 3,712,697; 3,674,230; 3,572,263; 3,550,908; 3,550,892; 3,542,220; 3,517,467; 3,496,889; 3,449,877; 3,430,997; 3,418,765; 3,302,799 and Re. 27,215 all of which are commonly assigned with the subject application.
The present invention relates to a novel and unique blending of these two systems to provide a laboratory module system which reflects the versatility and flexibility inherent in both systems. Heretofore, laboratory systems of fixtures have not had sufficient flexibility to meet changing requirements. Any such system requires fluid and electrical accessory outlets in addition to other fixture components. Generally adequate systems in this regard were planned and installed, but these systems were permanent and hence became prematurely obsolete due to changing needs. The cost of dismantling prior art installations simply was prohibited with respect to the type of flexibility desired. With todays space priorities and cost of building, flexibility and utility become more and more important. Concurrent with utility is the overall cost itself. Present installations are almost all customized to fit individual situations and needs. This approach on a job-by-job basis is expensive.
Yet another consideration is the overall aesthetic appearance of the system. This is more and more significant due to continued pressure on economical use of building space. Heretofore, there has not been a completely integrated system of laboratory fixtures which not only have considerable flexibility but incorporate an extremely aesthetic appearance and continuity. Thus, there is a need in this art for the type of system described.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION In accordance with the invention, a laboratory system comprises a free standing central frame core of at least two rectangular sub-frames joined together in spaced relationship. The sub-frames are formed of top, bottom and side tubular members, one or more of the upstanding members having latch means extending generally the length thereof for receipt and support of one or more laboratory components. The central frame has an enclosed lower portion and upper generally exposed portion. Electrical and fluid accessories are enclosed in the lower portion with appropriate outlets positioned in enclosing panels. At least a portion of the enclosing panels are removable to permit quick and easy access to the core interior of the lower portion.
In narrower aspects of the invention, additional support means are provided in cooperation with the latch means to permit cantilevered support of laboratory components from either sub-frame regardless of the direction of lateral extension of the component.
The type of laboratory components envisioned includes various shelvings, cabinets, drawers and table tops or the like.
The entire system facilitates flexibility. The central core frame modules are connectable end-to-end and can extend from a wall as a divider or be entirely free standing within a defined area. The modular core concept of the central frame provides an aesthetic appearing shield for the various electrical and fluid accessories which terminate an outlets affixed appropriately and aesthetically to the enclosure portion of the lower portion of the frame. At the same time, within the concept of the invention, the entire facility can be quickly and easily dismantled and set up in various arbitrary design arrangements. Thus, even within a limited space, if the design criteria changes from time-to-time, the entire system leads itself to the flexibility desired thereby giving the component investment complete flexibility avoiding the prior disadvantage which rendered the system prematurely obsolete due to the permanency thereof.
Additionally, each system need not be custom made but rather can be designed from essentially standardized modular frame and frame elements. The components connected to the frame can also be generally standardized.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a free standing multiple laboratory module in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 2 is a fragmentary front elevation view of one. of the sub-frames in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the sub-frame illustrated in FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary view of the upper portion of the sub-frame illustrated in FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the fragmentary portion illustrated in FIG. 4 taken along line FIG. 6 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along line VIVI of FIG. 2;
FIG. 7 is a fragmentary perspective view of a portion of the core frame in accordance with the invention;
FIG. 8 is a broken, fragmentary, front-elevational view showing a pair of sub-frame modules prior to their being connected in abutment with one another;
FIG. 9 is a fragmentary plan view of the core modules in the position shown in FIG. 8;
FIG. 10 is a fragmentary perspective view of hanger bracket and clip;
FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a load supporting rail exploded away from the vertical supports of the core module;
FIG. 12 is a fragmentary side elevation view of a I drawer supporting structure suspended by the rail illus- DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS Referring now to the drawings in detail, FIG. 1 illustrates .a laboratory module system 10 comprised of three modules l2, l4 and 16 joined together end-to- 3 end. Each of the modules 12, I4 and 16 include a central core frame 20. For clarity, the central core frame of module 12 is designated as a, the core of module 14 is designated 20/) and that of module 16 is designated 20c. Each module 20a, 20b and 200 is free standing and interconnected to each other by means which will be described hereinafter. A pair of end panels 22 and 24 are 'attached to each end of system 10, namely the ends of core frames 20a and 20c. While each of the core frame assemblies 20a, 20b and 200 are free standing, additional support is provided by end panels 22 and 24 which extend laterally from the frames.
Referring specifically now to central core frame 20a (FIG. 1), it is comprised of a pair of spaced rectangular sub-frame assemblies 26a and 28a, preferably comprised of individual tubular members. Sub-frame 26a 1 (FIG. 2) is comprised of top and bottom members 30a and 32a and vertical side members 34a and 36a. They are welded or otherwise interconnected to each other forming a solid rectangular sub-frame. The sub-frame 28a (FIG. II) is likewise comprised of a top member 38a and a pair of vertical side members 40a and 42a. The bottom horizontal member 43a corresponding to member 32a in FIG. 2 is not shown in FIG. I but is illustrated in FIG. 7.
Sub-frame assemblies 26a and 28:: are interconnected by lateral cross members at each of the corners of the sub-frames. The upper cross support members 44 and 46 are illustrated in FIG. 1 while one of the lower cross members 48 is illustrated in FIG. 7. With reference to FIG. 12, a central cross support 50 can also be utilized. Having described the essential construction of frame 20a, it will be appreciated that frames 20b and 200 are constructed in similar fashion. Like reference numerals are utilized in the drawings for corresponding elements utilizing the appropriate suffix b or c.
Referring now in detail to FIGS. 25 and 8l0, each of the vertical tubular members 34, 36, 40 and 42 have an exterior of outwardly facing surface 52 (FIG. 5). Referring to one-pair of adjacent vertical members 36a and 34b, the outer surfaces 52 have a channel-like member a and 60b respectively, affixed thereto by conventional means such as screws 62 or the like (FIG. 3). Each of the channel-like members 60a and 60b has a base 64 and upstanding flanges 66 (FIG. 9) to form a channular recess along the entire vertical length of each vertical member.
An interlock and latch. assembly indicated generally by the reference numeral 70 comprises an upper forward wedge block 72 and a lower forward wedge block 74 (FIG. 8) afiixed to the outer side 52 (FIG. 5) of each vertical member such as member 36a. A backing plate 76 (FIG. 5) is utilized for the set screws 78 which secure the wedge blocks to the vertical members. The wedge blocks are affixed to the sides of each vertical member within the channular recesses 65 as indicated in the figures. Each of the wedge blocks 72 or 74 are one piece and comprise a pair of spaced wedge elements 80 and 82 with respect to the upper wedging blocks 72 and 84 and 86 with respect to the lower wedging blocks 74. The wedging surfaces on each upper block 80 and 82 are upwardly inclining while the lower wedging surfaces on each lower block 84 and 86 are downwardly inclining. A space 88 between each adjacent wedging block 80, 82 and 84, 86 is provided for reception of a tie rod 90 which will be discussed hereinafter. Planer surfaces 92 and 94 (FIG. 4) are provided Tie rod or bar 90 is elongated having a lower wedging draw block 96 (FIG. 8) affixed thereto by any conventional means such as a screw 98. The lower wedging draw block 96 has upwardly directed generally V- shaped wedging surfaces 100 which are adapted to receive the four lower wedging indexes 84 and 86 of each respective lower wedging block '74. Affixed to the upper extremity of tie bar 90 by means of an elongated screw member 102 is the upper wedging draw block I104. Tie rod 90 may be conveniently fabricated from a piece of metallic tubing tacked at one extremity as indi cated at 106 and the elongated screw member I102 screwed directly therein. This screw member or bolt 102 passes through aperture 108 in the upper draw. block 104 and the bolt head 110 shoulders within the.
suitable recess therein which will be apparent from FIGS. 8 and 9. A compression spring I 12 is provided to prevent upper wedging block 104 from sliding down on bolt I02 and to assist in assembly and disassembly of the joint.
The upper draw block I04 is provided with generally V-shaped wedging surfaces 114 which are adapted to receive the upper wedging surfaces 80, 82 of the upper wedging blocks 72. When it is desired to interlock two adjacent respective core frames such as frames 20a and 20b, they are positioned into abutment as illustrated on FIG. 8 with the interlock assembly 70 positioned be tween them such that the upper draw block 102 is above wedging blocks '72 and the lower draw block .96 is below the lower wedging blocks '74. The screw 102 is then rotated in such a direction as to cause draw blocks 96 and 102 to converge tightly together joining the two core frames as a single unit. Each side, of course, must I be so manipulated, i.e. vertical frame elements 42a, 40b in addition to 36a, 34b are also joined together and in the same fashion cor'e modules 20b and 200 can likewise be attached together.
It should be noted at this point that the exposed ends of each installation are covered by an additional mating vertical channel member 60a or 60b. Referring specifically to FIG. 7, channel member 60b is attached to vertical member 34a and an interlock assembly 70 as described previously with respect to FIGS. 8 and 9 joins a complimentary channel member 60a. Member 60a in 1 turn can be mechanically connected to end panel 22. As will be appreciated hereinafter, this end attachment also provides the necessary latching, which mechanism description follows. Although not clarified in FIG. l,
the outer end of module 12 and 16 is arranged in accor dance with the foregoing.
Each interlocked frame configuration provides a slot 116 (FIG. 7) formed by the converging flanges 66. This slot is formed to each lateral side as shown in FIG. This slot 116 provides a means of access to the tch' bracket 120. Referring specifically to FIG. 10, a tch bracket l20'and cooperating clip 122 will be described briefly. The bracket is positioned within channular, recess 65 and can be affixed by any conventional. 7
means such as screws 62. The bracket I120 has a for ward incline surface or hanger strip 124 and a rear incline surface 126. These surfaces initiate longitudinally adjacent the interior bases of flanges 66 and converge toward one another away from the edge of the vertical frames as shown in FIG. 9. The latch bracket 1120 may I possibly be interfabricated from steel or the like by conventional rolling methods.
Each of the surfaces 124 and 126 are provided with a plurality of aligned slots 130. Thus forwardly inclined surfaces 124 has slots 130 punched therein as do rearwardly inclined surfaces 126. The resulting configuration provides two generally box-like beams extending vertically within each of the channular recesses 65, each of the beams having a sloped exterior surface as viewed from the front of the panel. Each of the slots are in alignment with respect to the outwardly and inwardly inclined surfaces 124 and 126 so that accessory or module component supporting clips 122 (FIG. can be inserted into adjacent juxtaposed slots in the hanger strips at a common level for independent support of module components at a common level.
The retainer clip 122 adapted for utilization in conjunction with hanger bracket 120 has an accessory restraining section 132 with an accessory hook or nitch 134 formed therein. The accessory restraining section 132 is integrally connected by means of a curved shank section 136 to a pair of engaging hooks 138 and 140. The hooks are inserted at any desired height, as shown in FIG. 10 and appropriate laboratory components can be suspended thereby.
Although, the operation and construction of the interlock and latch assembly 70 should be obvious from the foregoing, a more detailed description and understanding may be achieved from applicants earlier invention entitled STRUCTURAL SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR SHELVING, issued June 30, 1970 as US. Pat. No. 3,517,467. This patent is incorporated by reference herein.
Referring now specifically to FIGS. 11-13, FIG. 11 illustrates a rail 150 which in turn is secured to the vertical posts of the core frame assembly such as frame 20a in a fashion similar to that previously described. A modified hanger clip 152 is utilized for securing rail 150 to the vertical columns formed from the core frames. In FIG. 11, one of the interlock and latch assemblies 70 is shown in exposed fashion with the slots 130 along one of the rearwardly inclined surfaces 126. Clip 152 is similar in principle to clip 122 described previously except that it is longer and has three engaging hooks 153. It also includes an open nitch 154 and closed nitch 156 essentially similar to a key hole slot for receipt of headed studs 158 and 160 on each end of rail 150. The opposite end of rail 150 has a similar clip 152a and likewise configurated assemblies to permit insertion and removal of rail 150 from the core frame assembly. Rail 150 includes a curved front face 162 extending upwardly to a lip 164 which runs along the length of rail 150 at the top front edge thereof.
With the rail 150 latched firmly through hanger clips 152, 152a to the core module, a drawer supporting structure such as that identified by reference numeral 170 (FIG. 12) can be easily and quickly removably suspended from rail 150. Structure 170 preferably includes a pair of spaced sides 172 and 174, the latter not being shown. A hanger 176 projects rearwardly and downwardly from back 178 such that it can be slipped over lip 164 of rail 150. Projecting rearwardly from the base of drawer supporting structure 170 are a pair of feet 180 the purpose of which is to abut the paneling or vertical column 182.
The drawer supporting structure 170 is designed to support the drawer or shelf or it may be provided with 6 a flipper door and cover, all of which are conventional within the art.
A more detailed description of the hanger rail 150 and related hardware can be obtained from applicants prior US. Pat. No. 3,712,698 entitled STRUCTURAL SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR DRAWERS AND THE LIKE issued Jan. 23, 1973, which patent is incorporated herein by reference.
Referring back to FIG. 1, each of the central core modules 20a, 20b and 200 each comprise a lower en closed portion 180a, 18% and 1800 and an upper exposed portion 182a, 1821) and 1820. The lower enclosed portions such as 1800 are fully enclosed by front and rear panels 184a and 1860, the latter being shown in FIG. 7. The ends are enclosed either by the adjacent core module such as 2017 or the longitudinally extending end panel 22.
Front and rear panels 184a and 186a are quickly detachable as will be explained hereinafter. Preferably, the front and rear enclosure of each core module includes a permanent panel of relatively narrow height. FIG. 1 illustrates the front permanent panel 188a and 1880 on modules 12 and 16. Module 14 as a tack board 190 positioned in front of its respective front permanent panel portion 18817. The permanent panel portion 188 generally include accessory outlets such as electrical plug outlets 192 illustrated in FIG. 1 or fluid outlets 194 illustrated on panel 1880 of module 16. One of the advantages of the enclosed portions a, 180b and 1806 is the aesthetic enclosure of the plumbing and conduits etc. for the various electrical and fluid outlets.
Referring to FIGS. 2, 6 and 7, the lower horizontal tubular frame members 32a and 430 include an L shaped channel member 200 welded or otherwise affixed to the upper surface 202 of tubular member 32a (FIG. 6) at its approximate midpoint. The vertical leg 204 acts as a stop and index for the detachable panels such as panel 184a. The panel includes a clip 206 at each lower corner secured thereto by fasteners 208 or the like, the clip having a protruding lip 210 which fits over the vertical upstanding leg 204 of channel member 200. This not only indexes the bottom of each panel such as panel 186a illustrated in FIG. 7, but also secures it to the bracket 200. A second latch 212 (FIG. 7) is provided on the vertical frame elements such as 34a and 40a against which the detachable panels abut for alignment and a threaded fastener or the like (not shown) is utilized to secure the panel firmly to each respective core frame.
The upper or top portion of each lower portion 180a, 18% and 1806' is preferably enclosed by a top panel 216a, 216b and 2160. These panels provide a work surface and shelving area and can be seated or attached to the cross-support50 (FIG. 13). In addition, fluid accessory outlets such as those illustrated by reference numerals 218 and 220 can be mounted in the tops such as top 216a (FIG. 1) which also includes a drain 222. Again, all of the plumbing and other related accessories is completely enclosed within the lower portion 180a while at the same time, the removable panels permit quick access to the interior for repair of alteration. It is also noted that electrical outlets or other accessory fixtures can be located at the transition of each adjacent module 20a, 20b and 200 as illustrated by electrical outlet accessories 224 in FIG. 1.
Referring yet to FIG. 1, the upper exposed portions 182a, 1821) and 1820 provide an open access area to working on the upper tops 216 and include the upper portion of each vertical frame secured together with interlock and latch assembly 70 in both the forwardly facing and rearwardly facing directions as described previously. This permits anchoring of various laboratory components such the drawer supporting structures 170a and 170C illustrated in FIG. 1. As described previously with respect to FIGS. l1l3, the drawer supporting structures 170 can be conveniently arranged in various positions illustrated in the drawings. Turning briefly to FIG. 13, it will be appreciated that with the utilization of rail 150, the drawer supporting structure 170 can be cantilevered from the front sub-frame 26a as illustrated in FIG. 1 with respect to drawer supporting structure 170a or can be recessed and cantilevered from the rear sub-frame 28a for slight extension beyond sub-frame 26a as illustrated in FIG. 13. Thus, a drawer supporting structure such as 170, 1700 or 1700 can be cantilevered to the upper frame portions of each module from within the rear sub-frame with respect to the direction of use or from the front sub-frame.
Referring to FIG. I again, it will be appreciated that a variety of laboratory components such as table top 230a, 230i; and 230C can be secured at various heights and further drawer module 232a or a modification thereof as illustrated by 234b can be suspended beneath. Appropriate brackets such as illustrated at 2366 can be utilized with clip means interlocking with the latch assembly '70 described previously. Where desired, as indicated previously, a tack board or accessory panel 190 can also be utilized. The flexibility and type of laboratory modules desired of course is in essence unlimited as is their positioning.
In summary then, a completely flexible modular system can be arranged and rearranged with minimum effort. Each unique system or installation can be designed and installed utilizing essentially standardized components and hardware. Thus, from the cost standpoint alone significant savings are realized over the prior art.
Although but one embodiment has been shown and described in detail, it will be obvious to those having ordinary skill in this art that the details of construction of this particular embodiment may be modified in a great many ways without departing from the unique concepts presented. It is therefore intended that the invention is limited only by the scope of the appended claims rather than by particular details of construction shown, except as specifically stated in the claims.
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are'defined as follows:
1. A laboratory module system having fluid and electrical accessories and outlets incorporated therewith comprising, in combination: a free standing central frame comprised of at least one pair of first and second rectangular sub-frames interconnected to each other in spaced relationship, each of said sub-frames having horizontal top and bottom tube-like members connected to vertical end tube-like members, one or more of said vertical members including latch means extending vertically the length thereof, said central frame having a lower enclosed portion and an upper exposed portion, said lower enclosed portion having vertical panel means and a horizontal shelf at the transition of said upper and lower portions, said shelf extending between said subframes, the fluid and electrical accessories and outlets being enclosed within said lower portion and having outlet means through at least one of said panel means or shelf. said vertical panel means having portions thereof detachable from said central frame permitting access to the interior of said lower portion of said central frame, and at least one laboratory components detachably latched to said latch means.
2. The combination according to claim 1 wherein said latch means includes interlock means for detachably joining at least two of said central frames together end-toend.
3. The combination according to claim 2 wherein one end of said system is free standing and includes an end wall connected thereto by said interlock means, said end wall partition means extends laterally to each side of said module to provide additional free standing support for said system.
4. The combination according to claim 1 wherein said latch means extends along each lateral face of said vertical member and includes access means for receipt of clip means to detachably anchor said laboratory.
components to said latch means.
5. The combination according to claim 4 wherein I said latch means comprises a pair of inwardly facing a channel members secured respectively to adjacent vertical members forming an access opening to each lateral side of said adjacent vertical members, and means defining aligned slots generally along each edge of said channel members for receipt of engagement latches extending from said clip means through said access openings, said aligned slots being spaced vertically to permit latching of said clip means at selected vertical heights.
6. The combination according to claim 4 wherein said latch means includes a hanger bar connectable between spaced vertical frame members for cantilever support of at least one of said laboratory components,
said components having hanger means fitting over said bar.
7. The combination according to claim 1 wherein said latch means extends along each lateral face of said vertical members, and said laboratory component extends laterally a distance greater than the spacing of said sub-frames, said component being cantilever supported by said latch means from either sub-frame in either lateral direction. I
8. The combination according to claim 1 wherein.
said vertical panel means includes an upper portion extending the width of each central frame and affixed to said frame, and a lower portion, said lower portion comprising said detachable portion.
9. The combination according to claim 8 wherein said bottom tube-like members include an upstanding flange means and said detachable portions of said verti'- 12.. A laboratory module system having fluid and electrical accessories and outlets incorporated therewith comprising, in combination: a plurality of free standing central frame modules each joined together 9 end-toie nd, eachmodule comprising a rectangular boxlike frame structure of-horizontal top and bottom tubelike members connected to vertical end tube-like members, said vertical members including latch means extending vertically the length thereof, each of said structures having a lower enclosed portion and an upper exposed portion, said lower enclosed portion having vertical enclosing panels and a horizontal enclosing top panel at the transition of said upper and lower portions, the fluid and electrical accessories and outlets being enclosed within said lower portions and having outlet means through at least one of said panels, said vertical panels having portions thereof detachable from said structures permitting access to the interior of said lower portion of said structures and at least one laboratory components detachably latched to said latch means.
13. The module system according to claim 12 wherein said system extends longitudinally and access to said latch means extends laterally from each side of said vertical members such that said laboratory components can be supported from either side of said system.
14. The module system according to claim 13 wherein said upper exposed portions comprises laterally spaced vertical members and said laboratory components are supportable by said vertical members from either side in either lateral direction.
15. The combination according to claim 12 wherein at least one end of said system is free standing and includes an end wall partition attached thereto and extending laterally to each side of said system to provide additional free standing support therefore.