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Title:
FOLDING TABLE AND SEATING SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/064097
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A folding table and seating apparatus has a generally oval shape and seating structures spaced around the periphery of the table. The folding table includes a pair of semicircular shaped tabletop sections folding along the straight edge of each section. A lock maintains the table in the unfolded position and is released by an end handle that extends downward from the center axis near the edges of the tabletop sections. The framework extends downward and out to eight stools, four stools spaced apart around the curving periphery of each tabletop section in a first seating configuration. In a second seating configuration, the framework supports four benches, two benches spaced apart around the curving periphery of each tabletop section. A support portion of the framework extends below each stool to provide spaced apart supports around the entire table or two legs extend downward from each bench. The benches and stools are interchangeable. The spacing of the pivot points of the benches provides for folding of the tabletop on a folding linkage without requiring the benches to slide relative to the framework.

Inventors:
DICKEY, Christopher, C. (1427 Carrie Street, West St. Paul, MN, 55118, US)
Application Number:
US2007/084903
Publication Date:
May 29, 2008
Filing Date:
November 16, 2007
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
SICO INCORPORATED (7525 Cahill Road, Edina, MN, 55439-2745, US)
DICKEY, Christopher, C. (1427 Carrie Street, West St. Paul, MN, 55118, US)
International Classes:
A47B3/14
Foreign References:
US6065802A2000-05-23
US6223661B12001-05-01
US4932333A1990-06-12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOWALCHYK, Katherine, M. (Merchant & Gould P.c, P.O. Box 2903Minneapolis, MN, 55402-0903, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A folding table and seating apparatus, comprising:

two opposed table top members, each of the table top members having a straight edge and an arcing edge, wherein the straight edges oppose one another;

a frame supporting each table top member, the frame including a first frame portion extending substantially laterally along the straight edge and a second frame portion extending substantially perpendicular to the straight edge;

a folding linkage folding the table top members between a use position, wherein the table top members form a horizontally extending table top and a storage position wherein the table top members substantially face one another; and

a bench extending between the first frame portion and the second frame portion.

2. A folding table and seating apparatus according to claim 1 , wherein the bench is the only connection between the first frame portion and the second frame portion beyond the table top.

3. A folding table and seating apparatus according to claims 1 or 2, wherein the bench pivotally mounts on the first frame portion and the second frame portion.

4. A folding table and seating apparatus according to any one of claims 1 through 3, wherein the bench pivotally mounts on the first frame portion at a first bench pivot and pivotally mounts on the second frame portion at a second bench pivot.

5. A folding table and seating apparatus according to any one of claims 1 through 4, wherein the table top pivots about the frame at a first table pivot and pivots about the other table top at a second table pivot, wherein the distance from the

first table pivot to the second table pivot is equal to the distance from the first bench pivot to the second bench pivot.

6. A folding table and seating apparatus according to any one of claims 1 through 5, wherein pivot axes of the first table pivot, the second table pivot, the first bench pivot and the second bench pivot are parallel.

7. A folding table and seating apparatus according to any one of claims 1 through 6, wherein the benches are interchangeable with stools.

8. A folding table and seating apparatus according to claim 7, wherein each bench is interchangeable with two stools.

9. A folding table and seating apparatus according to claim 8, wherein the frame comprises vertical seating supports and wherein the stools and benches mount directly to the vertical seating supports.

10. A folding table and seating apparatus according to any one of claims 1 through 9, wherein the area below a center portion underneath the bench is frame free.

11. A method of folding a table and seating assembly, the table and seating assembly having a table top folding linkage and a seating folding linkage, the method comprising: folding the table top folding linkage along a first axis extending through a first pivot and a second axis extending through a second pivot, the first and second pivots connected by a first member; simultaneously folding the seating folding linkage along a third axis extending through a third pivot and a fourth axis extending through a fourth pivot, the third and fourth pivots connected by a second member; wherein the distance between the first pivot and the second pivot equals the distance between the third pivot and the fourth pivot.

12. A method according to claim 11, wherein the second member comprises a bench.

13. A method according to claim 11 or 12, wherein the first member comprises a table top frame member.

14. A method according to any one of claims 11 through 13, wherein the table and seating assembly comprises a first table top member and a second table top member, and wherein each table top member includes an associated table top folding linkage and seating folding linkage.

15. A method according to any one of claims 11 through 14, wherein each table top member includes two benches.

16. A method according to claim 11, wherein the first axis, second axis, third axis and fourth axis are parallel.

Description:

FOLDING TABLE AND SEATING SYSTEM

This application is being filed on 16 November 2007, as a PCT International Patent application in the name of SICO INCORPORATED, a U.S. national corporation, applicant for the designation of all countries except the U.S., and Christopher C. DICKEY, a citizen of the U.S., applicant for the designation of the U.S. only, and claims priority to U.S. Utility Patent Application Serial No. 11/601,439 filed on 17 November 2006.

Background of the Invention

Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a folding table with associated seat structures and more particularly to a non-rectangular table, folding between a use position and a storage position with benches spaced around the table.

Description of the Prior Art

In large, multi purpose rooms that are utilized at various times as dining rooms, meeting halls, dance areas and the like, it is often desirable that multipurpose furniture be utilized. This furniture includes tables, chairs, benches and/or stools and combination table and seating units. Such furniture provides added utility if it is folding, so as to minimize the storage space needed. Folding tables and associated stools or bench units are well known and provide seating and table space that requires a relatively small area for storage as compared to the space needed during use. Such folding tables are generally rectangular, folding along a center line, and have benches or stools placed along both sides of the table, but no seats at the ends. Although such tables are successful in providing folding furniture with seating along either side, still further improvements are possible. For certain teaching, dining and other applications, especially with young children, it can be appreciated that it is preferable to have seating provided in a somewhat circular arrangement rather than in a linear arrangement. Such an arrangement provides for balanced distribution of the occupants and may facilitate easier access to the center of the table among the occupants. Such an arrangement

may have dimensions that also fit better into some areas and may provide for added seating in a given space. To meet this need, folding oval table and seating units have been developed. Examples of such table and seating units are shown in U.S. Patent Nos. 6,065,802; 6,254,178; and 6,386,628, all to Bue and assigned to Sico, Inc., the Assignee of the present invention.

The oval folding table and seating units have proven to be very successful in providing a seating and table space that has occupants seated around an oval table and substantially evenly spaced around the table. In addition, the table and seating units fold and have a relatively low ratio of the storage space needed per seat. However, there are applications where additional seating may be required.

To provide additional seating, combination table and seating structures may utilize benches. Although the use of benches may increase the seating capacity, problems with actuation, support and access are encountered when benches are utilized in a folding table and seating system. As elements fold and are spaced further apart, it is difficult to support both ends of a bench which spans supports with the distance between the supports changing during folding and unfolding. To overcome this, some systems have been developed to shorten the bench while this decreases the seating capacity. Other systems utilize sliding supports that increase the complexity of building and may potentially jam during the folding process. Still others span areas wherein the access to the bench is substantially blocked by supporting framework and might cause a tripping hazard. The frames of such table and seating assemblies must be configured differently when supporting stools as compared to being configured for supporting benches, increasing complexity.

It can be seen that a new and improved table and seating structure is needed. Such a table and seating structure should provide non-rectangular table with seating spaced around the table. In addition, the table should allow for the use of benches for increased seating capacity. Such a table and seating system provides added utility if benches and stools may be interchangeably used with the same support frame. The table and seating system should provide for easy folding and improved access to the benches and should fold to a storage position requiring less storage space. The present invention addresses these, as well as other problems associated with folding table and seating systems.

Summary of the Invention

The present invention is directed to a folding table and seating apparatus and in particular to a non-rectangular folding table and seating structure. The tabletop includes a pair of, for example, semicircular shaped tabletop sections folding along a straight edge of each section. A lock maintains the table in the unfolded position and is easily released by accessing an end handle that extends downward from the center axis near the edges of the tabletop sections. The framework extends downward and out to interchangeable seating configurations. In a first configuration, the framework extends downward and out to eight stools, four stools spaced apart around the periphery of each tabletop section. A wheel or a leg extends downward below each stool to provide spaced apart supports around the entire table. The framework extends from under each stool inward toward the tabletop to provide easy access for a person to be seated at the stools without impeding their access or seated comfort. In a second configuration, the stools are replaced with curving benches. Two curving benches are associated with tabletop section. The benches fold from a horizontal use position to a substantially vertical storage position. The benches curve around the periphery of the tabletop sections with space for walking between the benches at each end. The benches increase seating capacity from eight to up to twelve people, particularly when used for seating children. The benches are pivotally mounted at the top of the seat framework supports to allow for folding between the use position and storage position. The distance between the pivot points for the benches and the tabletops and the two corresponding pivot points of each tabletop section are the same so that the table and seating assembly folds with each half of the assembly functioning as a four bar linkage in a parallelogram type configuration. The benches pivot, but the configuration and spacing of the pivot points eliminates the need for sliding relative to the framework.

The folding framework folds the tabletops from a horizontal position to a vertical position wherein the bottoms of the tabletops substantially oppose one another. In a first configuration, the stools fold inward with the seats remaining substantially horizontal in a configuration that reduces the floor space occupied by the assembly in the unfolded use position. In the second seating configuration, the

benches also wrap around the edges of the table so that the table requires less floor space than in the unfolded use position. In the folded position, the table and seating structures are supported on four wheels so that the assembly may be rolled to any desired location. A lock holds the table in the folded position for easy and safe movement.

These features of novelty and various other advantages that characterize the invention are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed hereto and forming a part hereof. However, for a better understanding of the invention, its advantages, and the objects obtained by its use, reference should be made to the drawings that form a further part hereof, and to the accompanying descriptive matter, in which there is illustrated and described a preferred embodiment of the invention.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Referring to the drawings, wherein like reference letters and numerals indicate corresponding structure throughout the several views:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a folding table and seating structure with a first seating configuration in an unfolded position according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1 in a folded storage position;

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a bottom plan view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1; FIG. 5 is a right side elevational view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1 ;

FIG. 6 is an end elevational view of the round folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1 ;

FIG. 7 is an end perspective view of the round folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1 in a partially folded position; and,

FIG. 8 is an end elevational view of the round folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 1 in a folded position with a linkage lock engaged;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a folding table and seating structure with a second seating configuration in a folded position with portions removed for clarity according to the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a top plan view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 9 in an unfolded position;

FIG. 11 is a top plan view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 9 in a folded position with portions removed for clarity;

FIG. 12 is a right side elevational view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 9 in a folded position; and FIG. 13 is an end elevational view of the folding table and seating structure shown in FIG. 9 in a folded storage position.

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments

Referring now to the drawings, and in particular FIG. 1, there is shown a table and seating assembly with a first seating configuration, generally designated 10. The table and seating structure includes a pair of opposed table top sections 14 with a folding supporting frame 12. Eight stools 16 are spaced around the periphery of the table, four stools 16 about each table top section 14, and provide for seating proximate the edge of the tabletops. The stools 16 are substantially evenly spaced apart so that eight users may sit at the table without infringing upon one another's space.

The table and seating structure 10 includes a folding mechanism 18 that folds the table between the use position shown in FIG. 1, and the folded storage position, shown in FIG. 2. In the storage position, the seat tops of the stools 16 remain substantially horizontal while the table tops 14 fold to a vertically extending position with the bottom surfaces substantially facing one another. In the unfolded use position, the table and seating structure 10 is supported on support legs 22 below four of the stools 16 and on casters or wheels 20 below the other four stools 16. In the folded storage position, the table and seating structure 10 is supported on the four swiveling wheels 20, so that the table and seating structure 10 may be rolled to any desired location. The folding mechanism 18 includes a latch to lock the table and seating structure 10 in the unfolded use position. The latch has a lock member 50 that extends along the center line of the folding mechanism 18 and under the

table tops 14 to near the edges so that it is hidden from above, yet is easily releasable by lifting a handle 52 from engaging a stop member, to fold the table and seating structure 10.

As shown most clearly in FIGS. 1, 4 and 5, the frame 12 includes risers 32 extending out from pivots 48 underneath the semi-circular table top members 14. The table tops 14 have arcing outer edges that form an oval, shown as a circle. It is also envisioned that other non-rectangular shapes, such as octagons or other polygons could be used, preferably a configuration with adjacent stools 16 centered on the nearest straight section or arcing edge, and substantially evenly spaced about the periphery of the table 10. The risers 32 extend to horizontal sections 34 leading out to stool supports 22, while the stools 16 closest to the center folding line include a frame with risers 33 leading to double frame members 38A and 38B. In addition, lateral frame members 36 provide added support to the horizontal sections 34 for the end most stools 16. The double frame construction provides increased strength and support for the stools 16.

Referring to FIGS. 4 and 6, the folding mechanism 18 includes outer pivot members 26 along the folding center axis, connecting the straight edges of the two table top members 14. The folding mechanism 18 also includes first linkage members 42 and second linkage members 44 that attach to a pivot 46 on the frame as well as to the table top members 14 and pivot members 40 mounted to cross members 30 connecting the table risers 32 for the outermost stools.

The lock 50 extends along the center axis of the table top members 14 and is lifted up to release complementary cam-type pivot members 26 of the folding mechanism 18. The lock handles 52 extend downward under the table tops 14 and near the edges for easy access with a reduced risk of pinching fingers or hands, while being hidden from view from above. The center portion of the lock 50 is offset from the center edges of the table tops 14 to prevent the lock from being easily grabbed there by an operator. With the center portion of the lock 50 moved to a position wherein it cannot be gripped, the chances of an operator's hands being pinched between table tops 14 are reduced. When engaged in the unfolded position, the lock 50 prevents the table from folding. The lock 50 also stops the folding mechanism 18 just short of fully unfolding to provide added safety for preventing the edges of the table from pinching together until the lock 50 is actuated. Manually

holding the lock 50 open and disengaged from pivot members 26 allows the table 10 to MIy unfold. The folding mechanism 18 has torsion springs mounted to one or more of the cross members 30 to aid and control folding between the folded and unfolded positions. The torsion springs also assist in keeping the table 10 from folding or unfolding unexpectedly and allows for actuating the lock 50. The folding linkage 18 provides for folding of the table between the folded and unfolded positions in a controlled manner. The folding mechanism 18 also maintains the stools 16 in a substantially horizontal position in both the folded and unfolded positions. It can be appreciated that in either position, the frame 12 provides a base of support so that the table 10 cannot easily tip in either the folded or unfolded position.

As shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, a stop 70 is utilized to aid in holding the table 10 in a wider folded travel position that provides greater stability during transport of the table 10. As the table 10 is folded, it may be easier to push in a folded position wherein the table is supported solely on the wheels 20, but is not fully folded, as shown in FIG. 8. This maintains a slightly lower center of gravity, making movement easier and safer. The stop 70 is pivotally mounted to the frame 12 at the underside of one of the table tops 14. The stop 70 includes a cross bar 72 engaging the risers 32 of the frame 12, as shown in FIG. 8. The stop 70 hangs by gravity, and it may be manually lifted up to clear the frame 12, as shown in phantom in FIG. 8, and allow for fully folding the table 10, as may be appropriate for storage in limited spaces, as shown in FIG. 2. The stop 70 automatically drops down again when the table 10 is unfolded.

The frame 12 provides for supporting each of the stools 16 while keeping the support members 22 attaching under the table tops out of the way of the users, even while seated. The frame 12 also provides easy access to the stools 16 without undue restriction. With the design of the present invention, the horizontal portions of the frame extend inward from the stools 16 nearest the apex of the table top member 14 as well as those stools 16 along the center folding axis. The outer most stools 16 at each side of the table top members 14 have supports that provide an opening there between for unimpeded easy entry and exit for seating. The space between the stools 16 is wide enough so that there is sufficient room for passage between the stools with no obstruction from the frame members. The present invention provides

for substantially evenly spacing the stools 16 about the periphery of the table top members 14 so that there is sufficient use of space on the table top 14 at each seated position.

Referring now to FIG. 9, there is shown a table and seating assembly in a second seating configuration, the assembly is generally designated 110 with this seating configuration. The table includes a pair of opposed tabletop sections 114 with a folding supporting frame 112. Four benches 116 are spaced around the periphery of the tabletop sections 114, two benches 116 oppositely positioned proximate an arcing portion of each tabletop section 114, and provide for seating proximate the edge of the table. The benches 116 are substantially evenly spaced apart so that up to twelve users may comfortably sit at the table without infringing upon one another's space. Although the table and seating assemblies 10 and 110 have different seating, the folding mechanism and frame are substantially identical. For the second seating configuration, corresponding structure is designated with a "1 " added to the reference number used in the first seating configuration for the table and seating assembly 10.

The table and seating assembly 110 includes a folding mechanism 118 that folds the table and seating assembly 110 between the folded storage position shown in FIG. 9, and the unfolded use position shown in FIG. 10. In the storage position, the benches 116 rotate to a substantially vertical orientation and the tabletops 114 fold to a vertically extending position with the bottom surfaces substantially facing one another. In the unfolded use position, the table 110 is supported on support legs 122 and on casters or wheels 120 below the benches 116. In the folded storage position, the table 10 is supported on the four swiveling wheels 120, so that the table 110 may be rolled to any desired location. The folding mechanism 118 includes a latch to lock the table 110 in the unfolded use position. The latch has a lock member 150 that extends along the center line of the folding mechanism 118 and under the tabletops 114 to near the edges so that it is hidden from above, yet is easily releasable by lifting a handle from engaging a stop member, so that the table 110 may be folded.

As shown most clearly in FIGS. 9, 12 and 13, the frame 112 includes risers 132 extending out from pivots 148 underneath the semi-circular tabletop members 114. The tabletops 114 have arcing outer edges, shown here as a circle. It is also

envisioned that other non-rectangular shapes, such as octagons or other polygons could be used, preferably a configuration with adjacent benches 116 substantially evenly spaced about the periphery of the table 110. The risers 132 extend to horizontal sections 134 leading out to bench supports 122, while the first ends of the benches 116 closest to the center folding line include a frame with risers 133 leading to double frame members 138A and 138B. In addition, lateral frame members 136 provide added support to the horizontal sections 134 for second ends of the benches 116. The double frame construction provides increased strength to support the benches 116. Referring to FIGS. 9, 11 and 13, the folding mechanism 118 includes outer pivot members 126 along the folding center axis, connecting the straight edges of the two tabletop members 114. The folding mechanism 118 also includes first linkage members 142 and second linkage members 144 that attach to a pivot 146 on the frame as well as a pivot 148 to the tabletop members 114 and pivot members 140 mounted to cross members 130 connecting the table risers 132 for the first ends of the benches.

The lock 150 extends along the center axis of the tabletop members 114 and is lifted up to release complementary cam-type pivot members 126 of the folding mechanism 118. The lock handles extend downward under the tabletops 114 and near the edges for easy access with a reduced risk of pinching fingers or hands, while being hidden from view from above. The center portion of the lock 150 is offset from the center edges of the tabletops 114 to deter grabbing the lock between the table tops when unfolded. With the center portion of the lock 150 moved to a position where it cannot be gripped, the changes of an operator's hands being pinched between the tabletops 114 are reduced. When engaged in the unfolded position, the lock 150 prevents the table from folding. The lock 150 also stops the folding mechanism 118 just short of fully unfolding to provide added safety for preventing the edges of the table from pinching together until the lock 150 is actuated. Manually holding the lock 150 open and disengaged from pivot members 126 allows the table 110 to fully unfold. The folding mechanism 118 has torsion springs mounted to one or more of the cross members 130 to aid and control folding between the folded and unfolded positions. The torsion springs also aid to keep the table 110 from folding or unfolding unexpectedly and provides sufficient resistance

to folding and unfolding to allow for actuating the lock 150. The folding linkage 118 provides for folding of the table between the folded and unfolded positions in a controlled manner. The folding mechanism 118 also moves the benches 16 between a substantially horizontal unfolded position and a substantially vertical storage position. It can be appreciated that in either position, the frame 112 provides a wide base of support so that the table 110 cannot easily tip in either the folded or unfolded position.

As shown in FIG. 13, a stop 170 is utilized to aid in holding the table 110 in a wider folded travel position that provides greater stability during transport of the table 110. As the table 110 is folded, it may be easier to push in a folded position wherein the table is supported solely on the wheels 120, but is not fully folded. This maintains a slightly lower center of gravity making movements easier. The stop 170 is pivotally mounted to the frame 112 at the underside of one of the tabletops 114. The stop 170 includes a cross bar engaging the risers 132 of the frame 112, similar to cross bar 72 shown in FIGS. 4 and 7. The stop 170 hangs by gravity and it may be manually lifted up to clear the frame 112, as shown in phantom in FIG. 13, and allow for fully folding the table 110, as may be appropriate for storage in limited spaces, as shown in FIGS. 9 and 11-13. The stop 170 automatically drops down again when the table 110 is unfolded. The frame 112 provides for supporting each of the benches 116 with the support members 122 attaching under the tabletops, thereby causing minimal obstruction to the users, even while seated. The frame 112 also provides easy access to the benches 16 for seating without undue restriction. With the design of the present invention, the horizontal portions of the frame extend inward from the ends of the benches 116 nearest the apex of the table top section as well as the opposite ends of the benches 116 nearest the center folding axis. The outer most ends of the benches 116 at each side of the tabletop members 114 have supports that provide an opening therebetween for easy entry and exit between the benches 116. The space between the benches 116 is wide enough so that there is sufficient room for passage between the benches 116. The present invention provides for substantially evenly spacing the benches 116 about the periphery of the tabletop members 114 so that there is advantageous use of space on the tabletop 114 and even distribution of the seated positions. Moreover, seating capacity is increased to up to twelve occupants.

The benches 116 are supported on the tops of the bench supports 122. It can be appreciated that the benches 116 pivot from the horizontal use position to a substantially vertical position when stored. Therefore, it is necessary that the benches 116 pivot about the top of the supports 122. The benches 116 include a pivoting assembly 160 including a center pivoting pin 162 and a hinge leaf 164. The hinging assemblies allow the benches 116 to move between the substantially vertical storage position and the horizontal use position. It can be appreciated that the benches are configured so that no binding occurs with the folding linkage 118 for the table and seating assembly 110. The axis of the folding pins 162A and 162B are spaced apart the same distance as the distance between the pivots 146 and 148. Moreover, the pivot axes of the benches are parallel to the axis of rotation of the pivots 146 and 148. In this manner, folding occurs without further sliding or the pins 162 and/or the leaf retainer members 164. The table and seating assembly 110 folds as a pair of parallel linkages. The advantageous spacing of the seating supports and the pivot points of the folding mechanism 118 allows for only pivoting of the benches 116, eliminating the complexity of prior designs with benches that required the end benches be slidably mounted in order to fold the table and seating assembly. The folding mechanism 118 and the pivot assembly 160 provide safe, easy to operate and reliable folding of the table and seating assembly 110. It can be appreciated that the present invention provides for fast and simple conversion between a configuration with stools 16, shown in Figure 1 and a configuration with benches 116, shown in Figure 9. Both types of seating directly mount to the frame without needing to reconfigure the frame 12 or 112 or to reconfigure the folding assembly 18 or 118. It is to be understood, however, that even though numerous characteristics and advantages of the present invention have been set forth in the foregoing description, together with details of the structure and function of the invention, the disclosure is illustrative only, and changes may be made in detail, especially in matters of shape, size and arrangement of parts within the principles of the invention to the full extent indicated by the broad general meaning of the terms in which the appended claims are expressed.