US 3927489 A
A construction toy for erecting a wide variety of structural or decorative forms is made up of construction elements with channels, connectors which have one end extending into the ends of the channels to be frictionally joined thereto, and rings to join two or more connectors. The construction elements may be hollow tubes or plates with channels formed in them. The outwardly extending ends of the connectors have keyhole-shaped gripping portions, with inner, generally round apertures that fit snugly on the rings, and slots that extend from the apertures to the periphery of the outwardly extending ends. Each ring or connector is sufficiently deformable to allow the connectors to be snapped on to the rings so that the elements can be joined together. The connectors are slidable around and along the rings received in their apertures to permit universal variation of the angular relationships of the elements joined by a ring, but the aperture size and the thickness of each connector is such that the connector is substantially limited from any other than such slidable and rotational movement.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [1 1 Bernstein Dec. 23, 1975  Inventor: Lawrence A. Bernstein, P.O. Box
651, Frederick, Md. 21701  Filed: May 16, 1973  Appl. No.: 360,785
 US. Cl. 46/29; 35/18 A; 46/31  Int. Cl. A63H 33/10  Field of Search 46/29, 31, 27, 28, 23; 35/18 A  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,248,068 11/1917 Brunel 46/29 2,303,294 l1/l942 Wagner 63/9 2,900,496 8/1959 Williams 46/29 X 2,959,888 11/1960 Noble 46/28 3,032,919 5/1962 Amsler 46/26 3,144,881 8/1964 Sproull 46/31 X 3,392,480 7/1968 Stubbmann 46/28 X 3,422,565 1/1969 Kentfield et a1. 46/29 X 3,577,660 5/1971 Kenney 35/18 A 3,698,123 10/1972 Heldt 46/29 FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 759,523 11/1933 France 46/29 1,069,155 2/1954 France 46/29 Primary ExaminerF. Barry Shay Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Lewis H. Eslinger; Alvin Sinderbrand [5 7] ABSTRACT A construction toy for erecting a wide variety of structural or decorative forms is made up of construction elements with channels, connectors which have one end extending into the ends of the channels to be frictionally joined thereto, and rings to join two or more connectors. The construction elements may be hollow tubes or plates with channels formed in them. The outwardly extending ends of the connectors have keyhole-shaped gripping portions,with inner, generally round apertures that fit snugly on the rings, and slots that extend from the apertures to the periphery of the outwardly extending ends. Each ring or connector is sufficiently deformable to allow the connectors to be snapped on to the rings so that the elements can be joined together. The connectors are slidable around and along the rings received in their apertures to permit universal variation of the angular relationships of the elements joined by a ring, but the aperture size and the thickness of each connector is such that the connector is substantially limited from any other than such slidable and rotational movement.
10 Claims, 15 Drawing Figures Sheet 1 of 2 3,927,489
U.S.. Patent Dec. 23, 1975 US. Patent Dec. 23, 1975 Sheet 2 of2 3,927,489
RING ELEMENTS, CHANNEL ELEMENTS, AND CONNECTORS FOR JOINING SAME BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates generally to construction toys in which parts of various kinds may be assembled together to produce a variety of structural or decorative forms. 1 Prior Art In existing construction toys, the structural or decorative forms that may be erected are usually limited by prescribed, particular angular relationships in which the parts may be assembled together. Heretofore, it has been attempted to expand the range of forms that may be erected by providing many different kinds and shapes of construction parts, but this substantially increases the cost of the construction toy and tends to restrict the imaginative use of the toy to the obvious capabilities of the furnished parts.
Accordingly, it is an object of this invention to provide a construction toy consisting of parts of a limited number of different kinds which may be assembled together with great freedom to erect a wide variety of structual or decorative forms limited only by the users imagination.
Another object is to provide a construction toy in which parts thereof are joinable to each other in universally variable angular relationships.
A further object is to provide'a construction toy of the described character that may employ, as major construction elements thereof, articles such as plastic straws, tubes, and plates that are either readily available or are simple to manufacture, so as to minimize the cost of the toy and to promote the use of such articles.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION In accordance with one aspect of this invention, a construction toy is provided that comprises construction elements, such as tubes or plates having channels. Separately formed connectors are provided to be inserted into the ends of each channel and of a size and shape to form a relatively tight friction engagement with the channel wall. Each connector has a gripping portion comprising an aperture extending through its free end and a restricted slot from the aperture to the margin of the respective connector. The orientation of the slot preferrably gives the connector an F-shaped configuration. Two or more of such connectors are joinable to connect the elements in universally variable angular relationships by means of a ring which can be forced through the restricted slot into the aperture of the connector at an end of the channels in the construction elements to be joined thereby. When one ring is received in the apertures of two or more connectors at the ends of the construction elements, such connectors can slide along the ring and can turn about the latter to provide the desired universality of the possible angular relationships of the joined elements. However, it is desirable to make the connector apertures fit the rings rather snugly so that the relative movement between each connector and ring is substantially limited to a sliding movement of the connector along the ring or a rotational movement of the connector about any particular part of the ring.
The above, and other objects, features and advantages of the invention, will be apparent in the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment thereof which is to be read in connection with the accompanying drawing, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a possible structural or decorative form that can be erected with a construction toy according to this invention.
FIG. 2 is an enlarged, detail perspective view of the portion of FIG. 1 indicated at A on the latter, and which shows a typical joint that can be formed with the construction toy of this invention.
FIGS. 3 and 4 are elevational views of a ring and a connector, respectively, which constitute parts of the construction toy.
FIG. 5 is an elevational view of a sub-assembly of connectors, as shown on FIG. 4, with an elongated tubular element that also forms a part of the construction toy.
FIG. 6 is an end view of a modified tubular construction element for use in the toy in FIG. 1.
FIG. 7 shows the element in FIG. 6 with a connector inserted in one of the preferred orientations.
FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the bottom surface of a construction element in the form of a plate for use in the toy of FIG. 1.
FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the top surface of the construction element in FIG. 8.
FIGS. 10-12 show fragments of the channel portions of plate construction elements.
FIG. 13 shows a fragment of a panel of the type illustrated in FIG. 8 with a connector and ring of the type shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 14 shows a fragment of a multipanel structure using the panels in FIG. 8.
FIG. 15 shows the bottom surface of a fragment of a multipanel structure using modified panels.
Referring to the drawing in detail, and initially to FIGS. 1 and 2 thereof, it will be seen that one embodiment of a construction toy 10 according to this invention comprises a number of construction elements in the form of elongated, substantially rigid elements 11 each having connectors 12 at their ends, and rings 13 engageable by the connectors 12, as hereinafter described in detail, for assembling together any desired number of the elements 11 in any desired angular relationships to produce a joint, for example, as shown on FIG. 2, of a structural or decorative form of which only an example is shown on FIG. 1.
As shown particularly on FIGS. 4 and 5, each connector 12 has a head 14 formed with an aperture 15 extending therethrough and opening at a margin of the head by way of a restricted slot 16. Preferably, as shown, each slot 16 extends laterally, or at right angles to the longitudinal axis of the elongated element 1 l for a purpose hereinafter described, and the sides of each slot 16 taper inwardly or converge in the direction from the margin of head 14 toward the respective aperture 15 so that the connector 12 has a generally F-shaped appearance and the aperture 15 and slot 16 form a keyhole-shaped gripping portion.
The connectors 12 may be molded of a suitable plastic apart from the elements 11, as shown, and in that case the connectors 12 are preferably frictionally assembled to the elements 1 1. For example, each connector 12 may further include a stem 17 (FIG. 4) extending from the head 14 and dimensioned to be received, and frictionally retained in an adjacent hollow end portion of an elongated element 11. In such case, of course, each element 11 is hollow, at least at its opposite end portions, to have connectors 12 removably assembled to its opposite ends, as on FIG. 5. Preferably, the elements 11 are constituted by lengths of hollow plastic tubing, for example, plastic drinking straws, so as to be cheaply and readily available, however, and other tubing of sufficient rigidity may be employed.
In a desirable embodiment of the invention, each connector 12 is of flat-sided configuration so as to have rectangular cross-sections, particularly in the stem-portion thereof, and the rectangular cross-section of the stem 17 is provided with a major dimension slightly larger than the internal diameter of the tubular element 11. Further, the stem 17 may have a tapered or bevelled end, as at 18, to facilitate the insertion of such end of the stern into the tubular element and may also have indentations 17a in its larger surfaces. Upon such insertion of stem 17 into tubular element 11, the described major dimension of the cross-section of stem 17 causes flexing of the element 1 1 from its normal circular crosssection to a generally oval cross-section, whereby the resilient tendency of the tubular element to return to its normal circular cross-section atfords the frictional force for retaining the connector 12 in assembled relation to the element 11. As shown, the head 14 of each connector 12 projects laterally beyond the stern 17, at least at one side, to define a shoulder 19 which can abut against an end edge of the element 11 for limiting the extent of the insertion of the connector into the hollow element 11.
In the embodiment as shown, each ring 13, which may also be of a suitable plastic or other material of suitable rigidity, is of toroidal configuration (FIG. 3) and has a circular crosssection, whereas the aperture of each connector is also circular and diametrically dimensioned to receive a ring 13 snugly therein. Preferably, each aperture 15 is of sufficient diameter so that, when a ring 13 is received therein, the connector 12 is slideable along the annular ring and also tumable about the center of the circular cross-sections of the ring, but the thickness of the head 14 and the diameter of the aperture 15 combine to allow the connector 12 to tilt to only a limited extent, not more than about on the ring 13.
When erecting a desired structural or ornamental form from the elements 11, connectors 12 and rings 13, the connectors 12 are initially installed in the ends of the elements 11, as described above, and then each connector at the end of an element 11 is attached to a ring 13 by forcing the latter through a slot 16 and into the aperture 15 of such connector. The slot 16 is preferably tapered to facilitate attaching the connector to the ring, but the width of the slot adjacent the aperture is substantially smaller than the cross-section of the ring so that the ring and connector snap together. When thus assembled, several elements 11 may be disposed in any desired angular relationships to each other. The universality of the angular relationships of the joined elements 11 results almost entirely from the possibility of moving the respective connectors along the joining ring 13 and the possibility of turning the connectors about the centers of the circular cross-sections of the ring and not from tilting the connectors on the ring. Further, the number of connectors 12 that can be engaged with a single ring 13 and hence the number of elements 11 that can extend to a common joint is limited only by the thickness of the heads 14 and the circumferential dimension of the ring. Thus, from two to a large number, such as ten, of the elements 11 can be joined at a single ring 13 over a wide range of angular relationships to each other, which makes possible the erection of a wide variety of structural and omamental forms limited only by the users imagination.
In a construction toy, as described, the tubular elements 11 may be of the same length or supplied in various lengths. Since such elements 11 are desirably constituted by extruded plastic tubing, the provision of elements 11 in various lengths does not substantitally increase the cost thereof.
When the connectors 12 of several elements 11 are engaged with a ring 13 to provide a joint therebetween, forces may be transmitted through the joint to produce longitudinal compression or tension in the connected elements 11 without tending to dislodge the ring 13 from apertures 15. This is because the slots 16 are at right angles to the longitudinal axis of elements 11 and hence to the directions of the longitudinal compression or tension forces. Thus, structures of very large size and surprising strength, as well as of great variation in form, can be erected from the described construction toy.
FIGS. 6 and 7 show an end view of a modified extruded plastic element 21 that has a channel 22 of circular cross section and a hexagonal outer surface 23. Alternatively, both the channel 22 and the outer sur face 23 may be polygonal. Although the stem 17 can be forced into the channel 22 in any orientation, the regions where the stem fits most easily are apart, and thus the stem tends to slide into place to press against these wall locations. The transverse dimensions of the stem 17 are slightly larger than the diameter of the channel 22, which in the case of an inner wall of circular cross-section, causes opposite wall portions 24 and 26 to bulge out slightly, as shown in FIG. 7. Having specific preferred interconnecting orientations makes it easy to align the two connectors 12 at opposite ends of a construction element 11 so that they are in the same plane or specifically related planes.
So far the description has been directed to a construction toy for building a skeleton framework, and indeed, structures of great complexity, elegance, and even utility can be so constructed. However, additional interest and realism can be obtained using plates as construction elements. These plates may be formed in any desired shape, but certain polygonal shapes are most useful. Triangles, squares, pentagons, and hexagons will be the only ones needed for almost any structure.
FIGS. 8 and 9 show a triangular plate 27. In fact, the plate 27 is an equilateral triangle. Its edges are rolled to form three channels 28-30. The plate may be formed of any suitable material, such as sheet metal or thermoplastic material. If the latter, the channels 28-30 may be formed by heating and rolling the edges of the plate 27, as shown in FIG. 10.
Alternatively, channels may be formed by direct molding of the plate and channel as shown in FIG. 11. The plate 32 has a U-shaped channel 33 molded in its edges in such a way as to be entirely on one side of the plane of the plate 32. The channel 33 has two oppositely directed indentations 34 and 36 to fit into the indentations 17a in the stem 17 to help hold the connector 12 more firmly.
FIG. 12 shows a plate 37 with a rectangular channel 38 to hold the connector 12 in one, fixed position.
FIG. 13 shows the plate 27 of FIGS. 8-10 (although it could be the plates 32 or 37 of FIGS. 11 or 12) attached to a ring 13 by a connector 12 inserted in the channel 28. As may be seen, a second connector 12 could also be inserted into the channel 29 to grip the ring 13 even more firmly.
FIG. 14 shows the top surface of several plates 27 joined together to form a network, and FIG. 15 shows the bottom surface of a small part of the same network. Each comer of each plate 27 is cut away along an are so that the ends of the channels 28-30 do not intersect each other. Connectors can be inserted in each of the channels at each comer, but usually sufficient support and rigidity can be obtained if only one of the channels has a connector in it. 9
FIG. 15 shows another arrangement of the channels. Instead of forming a channel 28 that extends the full length of one edge of the plate 27a, a short channel 28a is formed only at each end of the edge. These short channels are capable of gripping a connector as well as a longer channel, but the longer channels stiffen the plate 27 more effectively.
Although illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described in detail herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various changes and modifications may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention as defined in the following claims.
What is claimed is:
l. A construction toy comprising:
A. a plurality of substantially rigid construction elements each comprising at least one hollow channel;
B. a plurality of connectors each comprising:
1. a stem at one end capable of extending into one of said channels and having a cross-section defined by surfaces that intersect to form longitudinal edges and being broader in one direction than in the direction perpendicular thereto, the maximum cross-sectional dimension of said stem being greater than the maximum cross-sectional dimension of said one of said channels to be frictionally held by the wall defining that channel, and
2. a head at the other end extending from the channel and formed with a circular aperture extending therethrough and opening at a margin of the respective head by way of a restricted slot that extends and opens laterally with respect to said stem, said head including a portion extending to one side of the longitudinal direction of said stem beyond one side of said channel in the same direction relative to said stem as said slot to form an abutment surface that engages said element to allow only said stem to enter said channel; and
C. a ring for joining at least two of said elements, said ring being forceable through said restricted slots into said apertures of the connectors attached to said elements to be joined, said ring having a crosssection dimensioned to be larger than said slots but both slidable and rotatable in said apertures so that the angular relationships of elements joined by said ring are universally variable.
2. A construction toy of claim 1 in which at least some of said construction elements are hollow tubes.
3. The construction toy of claim 2 in which said tubes comprise walls having inner surfaces of circular crosssectional configuration and outer surfaces of polygonal configuration, said edges engaging said inner walls to press thinner cross-sectional areas of said walls outwardly more easily than thicker cross-sectional areas to form preferred angular positions of said stems in said tubes.
4. The construction toy of claim 1 in which at least some of said construction elements are plates with channels formed at edges thereof.
5. The construction toy of claim 4 in which said plates have polygonal perimeters and said channels extendalong said perimeters.
6. The construction toy of claim 5 in which each of said channels extends along substantially the entire length of one of said edges.
7. The construction toy of claim 5 in which each of said channels extends along only. a portion at each end of one of said edges.
8. The construction toy of claim 5 in which each of said channels is in the form of a tubular member.
9. The construction toy of claim 5 in which each of said channels has a U-shaped cross-section.
10. The construction toy of claim 1 in which said slot in each of said connectors extends substantially perpendicularly to said stem in the same direction as said portion of said head.