Patent application title: Connector support clip for use in an electrified grid framework
Jere W. Myers (Washington Boro, PA, US)
Todd M. Bergman (Lititz, PA, US)
IPC8 Class: AE04C252FI
Class name: Static structures (e.g., buildings) wall, ceiling, or floor designed for utilities suspended ceiling
Publication date: 2010-06-17
Patent application number: 20100146885
The invention includes an electrified framework system having a plurality
of grid members which form a grid framework. A conductive material is
disposed on a surface of at least one of the plurality of grid members as
shown throughout the drawings. The system includes connectors which
provide electrical connections between the conductive material on the
grid framework and various electrical fixtures. The electrified framework
system includes a support clip for supporting depending articles
suspended from the grid framework into a room space. The support clip
does not interfere with the electrical and mechanical actuator
controlling the connector and grid interface connection mechanism. The
support clip attaches the connector to the grid element such that the
connector, and any device attached thereto, will not inadvertently become
detached from the grid element during a seismic event.
1. A support clip attached to an electrified grid framework for supporting
a connector and an article depending therefrom, the support clip is
configured to attach directly and positively to a grid element of the
grid framework such that the connector and depending article will
maintain mechanical and electrical connection when seismic forces are
2. The support clip of claim 1, wherein the clip is configured such that it does not interfere with the mechanism for electrically connecting a depending article to the electrified grid framework, the mechanism for electrically connecting a depending article to the electrified grid framework being a component of the connector.
3. A grid framework system comprising:a longitudinally extending grid element having a web portion extending in a vertical plane and a flange box portion extending from the base of the vertical web portion, the flange box portion having conductive material in an interior location of the flange box and a slot for accessing the conductive material;an electrical connector having a housing partially installed in the flange box portion of the grid element and a means for supporting a depending article therefrom; anda support clip, the support clip being fixedly directly attached to the vertical web portion of the grid element and being attached to the means of the connector for supporting a depending article therefrom;wherein the support clip includes a portion positioned in a plane offset from and perpendicular to the vertical plane of the web portion.
4. The grid framework system of claim 3, wherein the means for supporting a depending article therefrom is a threaded stud extending from the bottom of the connector housing.
5. The grid framework system of claim 3, wherein the flange box portion includes: a pair of horizontally extending support flanges which extend outwardly from the vertical web portion; a pair of vertically extending side walls extending generally downwardly from the support flanges; and a pair of horizontally return flanges extending inwardly from the side walls in a direction toward one another.
6. The grid framework system of claim 5, wherein the connector includes a housing which includes a wide base portion for lying against the support flanges of the flange box and a narrower top portion positioned in the flange box slot.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 61/192,872, filed Sep. 23, 2008, entitled "Seismic Retention Clip For Underside Connector Of An Electrically Active Grid."
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is directed to a support clip, and, more particularly, to a clip which enhances the mechanical and electrical connections between an electrified grid element of the suspended grid framework and a connector suspended therefrom. The clip is particularly useful in the interior building environment in areas of the world which are subject to seismic disturbances.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
For purposes of illustrating a conventional grid framework, FIG. 1 shows a portion of a conventional suspended ceiling framework. As shown, the system includes a plurality of grid elements 100 forming the grid framework which, in turn, form polygonal openings into which components such as panels 103, light fixtures 107, speakers, motion detectors and the like can be inserted and supported. These grid elements 100 are suspended by support cabling (not shown) to the building infrastructure, such as the overhead deck of the ceiling. Electrical components, such as light fixtures, are typically electrified by means of routing discrete wires, principally on an "as needed" point-to-point basis via conduits, cable trays and electrical junctions located in the space behind the grid framework. These known systems suffer from the drawback that the network of support cables and electrical wires require occupancy of the limited space behind the grid framework. In addition, the cables and wires are difficult to reconfigure and, therefore, provide limited flexibility.
One attempt to improve flexibility in a grid framework system is described in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/386,215 entitled "Connectors for Electrically Active Grid". Briefly stated, in accordance with one example embodiment described therein, conductive material is disposed on at least one of the plurality of grid elements and is electrified by a low voltage power source. A depending article, or device, such as a light fixture 108 (FIG. 1) can be electrically connected to the conductive material via a connector which itself is directly attached to a grid element. The depending article connector extends from the grid framework into the room space 109 (FIG. 1) and includes a means for supporting a depending article therefrom. The system is flexible in that the connector can be attached at any location along the electrified grid element. This includes grid intersections. However, such flexibility may be restricted due to other aspects of the ceiling system, e.g. wires and cabling which are difficult to reconfigure.
Another issue currently inhibiting flexibility of these suspended grid framework systems is the need to support depending devices from these frameworks in areas of seismic activity. It is well understood in the art that in geographic regions of seismic activity additional support of the articles depending from a grid framework, such as the ceiling system shown in FIG. 1 is required. In other words, to ensure that neither the grid elements nor the depending devices fall out of the system, additional cabling from the grid element and article to the building infrastructure is required. Again, such requirements significantly impede reconfiguration of components of the system, and specifically those components which are attached to the grid and extend into the room space.
One known support clip for supporting components which are attached to the grid and extend into the room space is shown and described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,599,921 to Cumber. However, use of the clip described therein necessitates attachment of the clip to the building infrastructure located a distance above the suspended ceiling plane. Since such attachment points are not easily accessible from the room space 109 (FIG. 1), any reconfiguration adds to the cost of maintaining the grid framework. Moreover, this additional cabling is separate from, and in addition to, any wiring bringing power to the depending article which needs to be reconfigured. In addition, the support clip described by Cumber cannot be utilized at a grid intersection.
For the reasons set forth above, increased versatility in the relocation of devices in a grid framework is desired, particularly in view of the increased versatility being engineered into conventional grid framework systems referred to above. The present invention accomplishes all of the needs identified above and provides additional advantages as will be described herein in greater detail.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
One aspect of the invention includes an electrified framework system having a plurality of grid elements forming a grid network. A conductive material is disposed on a surface of at least one of the plurality of grid elements. A depending article is electrically connected to the conductive material via a connector which itself is attached to a grid element. The invention includes a support clip for positively attaching the connector and depending article module to a grid element. The support clip is configured to attach directly to the grid element and to secure the connector to the grid element such that the connector, and any device attached thereto, will not inadvertently become detached from the grid element when seismic forces are applied thereto. The support clip is configured such that it maintains the mechanical and electrical connections of the connector to the grid element when elevated forces, such as seismic forces are applied thereto. The clip is also configured such that it does not interfere with the electrical actuator assembly of the electrical connector which connects or disconnects the electrical connection between the connector and the grid element and does not need to be detached from the framework system.
Additional advantages of the present invention include: the ability to provide seismic-type support to a variety of depending articles, such as an electrically powered device, to the grid framework without the need for direct attachment of the depending article, or the support clip therefore, directly to the building infrastructure; enhancement of the mechanical connection between a grid member and an electrical connector attached to the grid member, namely the support clips prevent the depending article and connector module from shifting position in the longitudinal direction of the grid element to which it is attached; and the increased versatility in placement of such support clips, and the ease in which they can be mounted and relocated, in the grid framework.
Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following more detailed description of the preferred embodiment, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a room space having an electrified ceiling according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 shows an elevational perspective view of an example connector attached to a grid element.
FIG. 3 shows a front elevational view of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 shows an elevational perspective view of the example connector of FIGS. 2 and 3.
FIG. 5 shows an elevational perspective view of a support clip in accordance with an example embodiment of the invention, the support clip being attached to a grid element and connector.
FIG. 6 shows a top plan view of FIG. 5.
FIG. 7 shows a side elevational view of FIG. 5.
FIG. 8 shows a front elevational view of FIG. 5.
FIG. 9 shows an elevational perspective view of the example support clip prior to assembly.
FIG. 10 shows a side elevational view of FIG. 9.
FIG. 11 shows a front elevational view of FIG. 9.
FIG. 12 shows a top plan view of FIG. 9.
FIG. 13 shows a portion of FIG. 7, partially exploded, illustrating the optional tab detail on the bottom of the support clip.
FIG. 14 is a bottom plan view illustrating how the clip is assembled to the grid element and connector.
Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout the drawings to refer to the same or like parts.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
For purposes of illustration of the invention, FIG. 1 shows a portion of a ceiling grid framework comprising a plurality of grid elements 100. The ceiling grid framework may include decorative tiles, acoustical tiles, insulative tiles, lights, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) vents, other ceiling elements or covers and combinations thereof being supported by the grid framework. The grid elements shown throughout the drawings are well known in the art and are of the type sold by Armstrong World Industries Inc. in its SIHOUETTE bolt-slot system. Briefly stated, each grid element 100 has: a web portion 111 which for purposes of defining orientation of the components relative one another extends in a vertical plane; and a box-type lower flange 114 extending therefrom. The lower box flange 114 includes: a pair of horizontally extending support flanges 115, 115' which extend outwardly from the vertical web portion 111; a pair of vertically extending side walls 116, 116' extending generally downwardly from the support flanges 115, 115'; and a pair of horizontally return flanges 117, 117' extending inwardly from the side walls in a direction toward one another. The space between the inwardly turned flanges defines a slot 118 for accessing the interior of the box 114.
As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, the box 114 includes a pair of electrical conductors 119, 119' which are positioned in the interior of the box and are oriented parallel sidewalls 116, 116'. Preferably, the electrifiable conductors 119, 119' have opposite polarity, i.e. one is positive and one is negative. As further shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, inserted into the lower box 114 of the grid element 100 is a connector 200. The connector 200 and grid element 100 interface is flexible in that the connector can be attached to the box 114 at any position along the length of the box. In addition, the interface provides both a mechanical connection as well as an electrical connection. The details of the connector and grid element interface are described in greater detail in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/386,215, which is hereby incorporated by reference.
Briefly stated, the example connector taught in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/386,215 and which is shown in the drawings, includes a connector housing 212. As best seen in FIG. 4, the connector housing 212 includes a narrow hanger portion 214 and a wider lower body portion 216. The connector 200 is installed by first inserting the hanger portion 214 through the slot 118 of the box. The connector 200 is properly seated in the box 114 by pressing the connector 200 up into the interior of the box until the top surface 215 of the lower body portion 216 is in contiguous relation with the outer bottom surface of return flanges 117, 117'. The top portion 214 of the connector 200 has a pair of contact elements 220 (only one contact element shown) movably mounted thereon for contacting a respective conductor 119, 119' housed in the lower box. When the connector 200 is properly seated in the grid box 114, the contacts 220 are in parallel alignment with the longitudinally extending conductors 119, 119' oriented parallel to the sidewalls 116, 116' of the box 114.
The example connector 200 includes an actuator 230 which is rotatable and includes a pair of wings 232, 232' extending therefrom. The winged actuator 230 is rotatable between a first position X (as seen in FIGS. 3 and 4) and a second position Y (as seen in FIGS. 5, 7 and 8). It is important to note that the actuator 230 is rotatable without having to rotate any other portion of the housing 212. When the actuator is in the first position X, the connector can be inserted into slot 118. When the rotator is then moved to a second position Y, the connector becomes both mechanically and electrically connected to the grid element. More specifically, the example connector 200 shown includes a cam member 240 mounted on the winged actuator 230 which interposes the pair of resilient spring contact elements 220. Thus, when the connector is moved from position X to position Y, the cam member 240 urges the contact elements against the conductors in the box, thereby providing both a mechanical and electrical connection. The connector can become electrically and mechanically disconnected from the grid member by rotating the rotator wings in the opposite direction which, in turn, allows the cam/gear to disengage and the expandable hanger and spring contacts to retract into their original unexpanded position.
In addition to the electrical connection provided by the connector between the conductors on the grid element and an article depending therefrom, the connector is designed to provide a means for supporting the article. Fixture mounting hardware, such as a conventional threaded stud 250 projects through the bottom of the connector housing 212 to which a depending article 107 such as a camera or lighting device may be mechanically secured by means of a wing nut 260, for example. The underside of the connector can optionally include other fixture mounting hardware such as strain reliefs, nipples, etc. for attaching a fixture, such as a pendant light, to the connector.
With respect to various Figures, and particularly FIG. 5-12, there is an example support clip 300 which provides a means for supporting the connector shown in FIGS. 2-4, and, in turn, a depending article 107 thereto, below the grid elements 100 of a suspended grid framework. Moreover, the clip allows the mechanical/electrical connection between the connector and grid described above to be removed but keeps the connector, and in turn, the depending article attached to the connector, physically connected to the grid element.
The support clip 300 is preferably formed of a resilient sheet material such as a spring steel strip. As best seen in FIG. 9-12, the body of the support clip includes a grid engaging portion 310 which is configured to be assembled to a longitudinally extending grid element 100, and, specifically, the vertical web and box-type flange of a grid element as shown in FIGS. 6-8. In general, the grid engaging portion 310 overlies only one side of the grid element and, as will be more evident from the features therein described below, prevents the connector/depending article module from sliding longitudinally along the length of the grid member as well as from pulling away vertically when forces are applied to the connector/depending article module in these respective directions. Moreover, the foregoing support clip is designed to directly attach to the grid but does not require the grid engaging portion 310 to go over top, e.g. hook over, the top of the grid element. This feature is particularly important as it eliminates the potential of the grid engaging portion 310 shorting the electricity where electricity is being transported by the electrified grid element via electrical buses provided at or near the top portion of the grid element.
The grid engaging portion 310 includes a rectangular longitudinally extending offset 315 for receiving the like-shaped cross section of the grid element. This offset 315 can be formed in any shape to conform to the shape of a grid element, however, conformity is preferred to avoid interfering with the mounting or removal of ceiling panels 103 and the like from the polygonal grid openings. As shown, the offset 315 conforms substantially to the sidewall, e.g. 116, and the horizontal flange, e.g. 115, of the flange box 114 of the grid element 100.
The grid engaging portion 310 also includes a top portion 320 which extends vertically and is integral to the offset portion 315. When the clip is attached to grid element 100, the top portion 320 preferably conforms substantially, and is positioned in a plane in parallel relation, to the vertical web of the grid element. To avoid having to support the clip directly to the infrastructure of the building interior, e.g. the ceiling deck, the top vertically extending portion 320 includes an aperture 322 (FIGS. 9 and 10) into which a screw-type fastener 324 (FIGS. 5-8) can pass through and then be mechanically fastened to the vertical web 111 of the grid element 100 so that the clip is positively attached to the grid element. The vertical web portion 111 may include an aperture to mate with the aperture 322 in the top vertically extending portion 320 of the grid engaging portion 310. By positively securing the grid engaging portion 310 to the vertical web of the grid element, the connector/depending article module is prevented from sliding longitudinally, which otherwise would only be restricted from moving longitudinally in the grid box flange by frictional force via the attachment mechanism of the connector in the grid box as described herein.
The grid engaging portion 310 further includes a base portion 325 which extends horizontally and conforms generally to one of the lower in-turned flanges, e.g. 116, of the box 114. As shown in the example embodiment, the offset 315 and base 325 essentially form a longitudinally extending C-shaped offset portion which mates with the lower box of the grid element. Further, the base portion is positioned such that the top vertically extending portion 320 is positioned above the base portion.
As best seen in FIG. 10, extending from an edge 330 of the base portion 325 in a direction generally perpendicular the top portion 315, and in turn the vertical web 111 of the grid element, is a connector engaging member 340 which mates with, i.e. parallels, both a sidewall and bottom surface of the connector which surfaces are positioned below, and in parallel alignment with, the longitudinally extending grid element. In the example configuration shown throughout the several views, the engaging member 340 is bent at a right angle to conform to the box-shape of the connector 200. As best seen in FIGS. 9, 10 and 12, the engaging member 340 is longitudinally offset from the grid engaging portion 310 and extends, at least initially, generally perpendicular to the vertical plane of the vertical web portion 111 of the grid element when the clip is attached to the grid as shown in FIG. 5.
Similar to the upper body portion contouring to the grid element, the components of the lower body portion are configured to mate with and contour to the connector so that the clip neither interferes with the insertion or removal of devices, such as ceiling panel, in the grid openings formed by the grid framework (FIG. 1). As can be seen in the various views, the cradling member 340 lies in substantially the same vertical plane as the vertical web portion of the grid element and therefore does not interfere with the winged rotator so that the wings can be swung to and from positions X and Y as described above. The engaging member 340, via its orientation relative the vertical web portion 111 of the grid element 100, prevents the threaded stud from sliding in the grid box 114 in both longitudinal directions. Without the support clip, there would be no positive lock, except friction, to prevent the connector from moving longitudinally in the grid box flange 114.
As illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 12, the engaging member 340 has a cut out extending from an edge thereof to receive the shaft of a threaded stud 250 of the connector. This cutout is critical in easily assembling the support clip to the grid element and connector assembly. As best seen in FIG. 15, this cut out allows the support clip to be assembled to the grid element and connector via a single horizontal rotation in the direction indicated by the arrows. Such ease in installation is important to the flexibility that an electrified grid system requires.
While the invention has been described with reference to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.
For example, the grid engagement portion of the clip body could be bent to conform to any shape of the lower box flange of the grid element. For example, the box may be of generally curved configuration, thus, not requiring the fourth portion to be bent at generally right angles as is necessary to conform to a box-shaped lower support flange of a grid element. In addition, a second support clip, having the exact same configuration as the first clip can be attached to the grid/connector on the opposing side of the connector. A second clip will provide additional reinforcement and resist forces applied transverse to the grid in both directions (e.g. enhanced pull-out perpendicular to the horizontally extending grid framework is provided).
Another optional feature of the support clip 300 is the tabs 360 shown in FIGS. 13 and 14 which protrude outwardly from the cradling member 340 adjacent the cut out. These tabs 360 are captured within a nut 260 when the nut is screwed onto the threaded stud 250. Two example configuration of the interface of these tabs and the nut are as follows: 1) the nut can include a grove that traps the tabs or the nut can have a wedge that bites onto the tabs when the nut is tightened. Both of these options provide enhanced positive locking of the bracket to the connector. In turn, these options provide increase the strength of the connection of the connector to the grid element.
Patent applications by Jere W. Myers, Washington Boro, PA US
Patent applications by Todd M. Bergman, Lititz, PA US
Patent applications in class Suspended ceiling
Patent applications in all subclasses Suspended ceiling