Patent application title: VOID CONTAINING STRUCTURAL MEMBER
Robert Noble (Encinitas, CA, US)
Robert Noble (Encinitas, CA, US)
Matthew Arrigo (San Diego, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AE04C329FI
Class name: Including aperture composite web or sheet including nonapertured component
Publication date: 2014-05-15
Patent application number: 20140134394
A void containing structural member and method of fabrication that
provides for structural elements, such as beams, columns and rafters of
varying shapes containing voids within the structure. In one embodiment,
cellulosic materials are used, a flange type of beam configuration is
provided, which includes internal longitudinally extending voids.
1. A beam comprising: at least two longitudinally extending sheet layers;
and an inner structure between the sheet layers defining at least one
longitudinally extending void.
2. The beam of claim 1 wherein the inner structure includes a longitudinally and horizontally extending corrugated structure and the voids are defined by at least one of the longitudinally extending sheet layers and the inner structure.
3. An I-beam, comprising: a top flange; a bottom flange; wherein at least one of the top and bottom flanges including a first longitudinally extending sheet layer and a second longitudinally extending sheet layer; a core layer positioned between the first and second sheet layers; and wherein a longitudinally extending voids are defined between the core layer and each of the first and second sheet layers.
4. The I-beam of claim 3 wherein the core layer is made of a shaped cellulosic fiber material.
5. The I-beam of claim 3 wherein the core layer is corrugated and is formed of a shaped compressed cellulose fiber material.
6. The I-beam of claim 3 wherein the top and bottom layers are adhered to the core layer.
7. The beam of claim 1 wherein the beam is curved from one longitudinal end to the other.
8. The beam of claim 1 wherein the beam is straight from one longitudinal end to the other.
9. The beam of claim 1 wherein the beam has more than one curve from one longitudinal end to the other.
10. The beam of claim 1 further comprising an insulation material positioned within at least one void.
11. The beam of claim 1 further comprising a conduit positioned within at least one void.
12. The beam of claim 1 further comprising a ventilation duct positioned in at least one void.
13. A beam comprising: a first and second outer layer of flat fiberboard material; a first and second diagonal layer of flat fiberboard material secured between the first and second outer layers, wherein the first and second diagonal layers have a cutout through their center to them to pass through one another.
14. The beam of claim 13, wherein a third and fourth outer layer of flat fiberboard material are attached to the first and second outer layers for additional strength.
15. The beam of claim 13, further comprising a top and bottom flange, each flange comprising a stressed skin outer layer of flat fiberboard material, securing the third and fourth outer layers to the stressed skins of the flange.
16. The beam of claim 15, wherein the top and bottom flanges and the first and second outer layers and first and first and second diagonal layers are bendable into a selected curved shape.
17. The beam of claim 16, wherein the curved shape is a compound curve.
18. The beam of claim 13, wherein the top and bottom flange comprises holes.
FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE
 The disclosure that follows relates structural or cosmetic design elements that optionally are load bearing and optionally contain internal voids.
 Structural beams and other members, whether load bearing or cosmetic, are widely used in construction. Some such known beams or members include flange beams, I-beams or members of other cross sectional geometric shapes such as round or rectangular. These structural elements are known to be fabricated from metal (such as steel or aluminum), wood, plywood, oriented strand board, concrete and other known building materials.
 Flange beams, including I-beams, offer some advantages over similarly strength solid beams such as lower material costs and handling advantages. The cross-sectional shape of I-beams is similar to a letter "I", hence the name. Flange beams, including I-beams may be used as both a beam or a column and can be used in load bearing or cosmetic structures. They may be used as wall or floor joists as well.
 One disadvantage of such known beams is that fabricating curved beams or void containing beams is difficult and can thereby raise manufacturing costs and time. Other disadvantages are low strength to weight ratios making material handling costs relatively difficult or expensive. A further disadvantage is that running mechanical elements, such as wire conduits or ventilation ducts through the beams can be difficult or not possible.
 Accordingly, there is a need for structural or cosmetic beams that are of increased fabrication flexibility promoting unusual geometries, rather than relatively straight beams. There also is a need for beams having a relatively higher strength to weight ratio, and for beams incorporating structural voids that can accommodate any desired element, such as mechanical elements such as ducts or conduits.
 The present disclosure, in its many embodiments, alleviates to a great extent the disadvantages of known structural beams and other members such as columns, rafters, studs or walls by providing varying shaped or straight beams or members, such as comprising cellulosic materials or other materials and/or incorporating internal longitudinally (lengthwise) extending voids.
 In one embodiment of the invention a flange type beam configuration is provided, utilizing molded and/or compressed cellulose based materials for the web and flange elements, although any suitable material may be selected. Longitudinally extending voids are formed within the flange structure in some embodiments. Optionally a stressed skin panel layer is applied to the top and bottom flanges for additional structural integrity.
 In another embodiment beams of different cross sections are provided utilizing molded and/or compressed cellulosic materials and incorporating longitudinally extending internal voids. In further embodiments, the longitudinal shape of the beam is curved, wavy or contains any design geometry desired. In one example, a rectangular cross sectional beam is provided and in others "I" or other cross sectional profiles are provided. In the "I" shaped beam example, longitudinally extending voids are provided within one or both of the beam flanges. In another example the beam or member has simple curves or compound curves. Optionally in the various embodiments a resin or other strength altering material may be infused into all or a portion of the beam or member.
 Among the advantages of the present invention are the following examples, provided by way of illustration, and not limitation: Where beams with flanges containing the longitudinally extending voids of the present invention are provided, a higher strength to weight ratio may be achieved, there may be a greater resistance to torsion (twisting) forces as well. In addition, the internal, longitudinally extending voids also optionally may be used for mechanical elements, such as conduits, wiring, lighting, ventilation ducts, plenums or any other construction purpose that requires a plenum or conduit.
 Accordingly, it is seen that structural and cosmetic beams having a beneficial strength to weight ratio are provided, and beams containing internal longitudinally extending voids are provided.
 It should be understood that the present disclosure relates to beams, or any other structural or cosmetic member, such as columns, rafters, studs, joists and walls, and collectively all these applications may be referred to as "beams" and/or "members" herein.
 Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become more obvious hereinafter in the specification and drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The foregoing and other objects of the disclosure will be apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a portion of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIGS. 7A through 7G are cross-sectional views of a beams in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of a beam in accordance with the present invention;
 FIGS. 11A and 11B are perspective cross-sectional views of beams in accordance with the present invention;
 FIGS. 12A through 12G are perspective views of beams in accordance with the present invention;
 FIGS. 13A through 13D are plan views of beams in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of a stud wall in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 15 is a cross-sectional view of a structural stud in accordance with the present invention;
 FIG. 16 is a prospective view of a structural stud in accordance with the present invention.
 In the following paragraphs, embodiments will be described in detail by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, which are not drawn to scale, and the illustrated components are not necessarily drawn proportionately to one another. Throughout this description, the embodiments and examples shown should be considered as exemplars, rather than as limitations of the present disclosure. As used herein, the "present disclosure" or "present invention" refer to any one of the embodiments described herein, and any equivalents. Furthermore, reference to various aspects of the invention throughout this document does not mean that all claimed embodiments or methods must include the referenced aspects or features.
 A curved I-beam embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 1. In this embodiment, the structural beam 100 has an "I" shaped cross-section, although any cross-sectional shape may be selected that achieves the desired structural characteristics. In this illustration, the longitudinal direction is indicated with arrow 105, as running lengthwise along the beam 100. Although the beam 100 is illustrated as curved in the longitudinal direction, any profile may be selected, such as straight, wavy, curved and so on, depending on the use desired. For example, a compound curve may be desired for cosmetic or structural purposes. Likewise, a straight profile may be desired.
 In the illustrated example, a central web 110 extends between a first or top flange 120 and a second, or bottom, flange 130. The flanges 120 and 130 are at opposite ends of web 110, providing an "I" shaped cross-sectional profile. The flanges 120, 130 also have a corrugated or truss structure, providing longitudinally extending voids within the structure. In the illustrated embodiment, each of the flanges 120, 130 include opposing skins, which are called for naming purposes not limitation, a top or outer skin panel 140 and a bottom or inner skin panel 150. The outer skin panels 140 form the outer or upper surfaces of each of the flanges 120 and 130. The inner skin panels 150 form the inner or lower surfaces of the flanges 120, 130. Optionally, the top and bottom panels, or a subset thereof, may be formed of molded and/or compressed cellulose based materials, although any suitable material may be selected. Examples of suitable molded and/or compressed cellulose based materials are discussed in commonly owned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/412,554, entitled, "Engineered Molded Fiberboard Panels and Methods of Making and Using the Same" and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/412,780, entitled, "Engineered Molded Fiberboard Panels, Methods of Making the Panels, and Product Fabricated From the Panels", both of which are referred to and incorporated herein in their entireties (collectively referred to as the Incorporated Applications).
 Between the respective inner and outer skin panels 150, 140 is the inner structure 162 of each flange 120, 130. Any inner structure 160 may be selected that provides a sufficient structural integrity to the flange(s) 120, 130 and the beam 100 under desired loads and stresses, and also optionally creates longitudinally extending voids within the spaces between the outer and inner surfaces 140, 150 of the respective flanges 120, 130. In one illustrated embodiment, the inner structure 160 includes a longitudinally and laterally extending corrugated panel 160 positioned between outer and inner surfaces 140, 150. The corrugated panel 160 is optionally formed of a molded and/or compressed cellulose based fiber material, although any desired material having desired material characteristics and ability to be formed into the desired shapes may be used. One example of a suitable corrugated panel 160 is illustrated in the Incorporated Applications. It should be noted that the corrugated inner structure 160 illustrated in the figures is not exclusive. For example, a honeycomb inner structure 160 may be substituted for the corrugated structure.
 An example of a cross-section of a corrugated panel is illustrated in FIGS. 2-4, and in other figures. In the illustrated corrugated panel embodiment of the inner structure 160, angled flanges 165 positioned between alternating peaks 170. The outer and inner skin surfaces 140, 150, are affixed to the respective alternating peaks 170 that are adjacent to the outer or inner sides of the flanges 120, 130. In some embodiments, the outer and inner surfaces 140, 150 are affixed to their respective peaks 170 by an adhesive layer 175. Any suitable adhesive may be selected that provides a desired level of adhesion, heat expansion or contraction, longevity etc. between adhesion surfaces 180 of the peaks 170 and respective inner or adhesion surfaces 185 of the inner or outer layers 150, 140. In one example, polyvinyl acetate, commonly known as PVA is used for the layer 175, although it should be appreciated other adhesives may be used.
 In addition, an optional mechanical coupler, such as a rivet or bolt 190 may be used to connect the peaks 170 and respective outer or inner panels 140, 150. In some embodiments, at least one mechanical coupler 190 is provided along the longitudinal length of the beam 100 for each peak 170, although in other embodiments no mechanical couplers 190 are provided on a particular peak 170 or on any of the peaks 170. In a further example mechanical couplers 190 are used, and adhesive is not used. In another embodiment, both adhesive 175 and mechanical couplers are used 190, with the mechanical couplers periodically spaced along the longitudinal length of each peak. In a further embodiment, recesses 195 in the working surfaces 145, 155 of the respective outer or inner surfaces 140, 150 are provided to receive the mechanical couplers 190, such as to receive a bolt head or rivet head. By providing recesses 195 a flatter outer profile can be achieved in some embodiments, although relatively flat mechanical couplers 190 also can be selected in which similar outer surface characteristics might be achieved. Any combination of mechanical couplers 190 and adhesive 175 may be selected that achieves a desired level of binding the outer and inner surfaces 140, 150 to the inner structure 160.
 In an illustrated example, the flanges 165 are at alternating angles between the peaks 170, forming longitudinally extending void spaces between the respective flanges 165 and corresponding peaks 170 and outer and inner panels 140, 150. The void spaces are indicated with reference numbers 200. It should be noted that any interior structure may be used, not just a corrugated structure as illustrated, and accordingly, any shaped void spaces may be created. In one embodiment it is desired that at least one of the void spaces 200 extends longitudinally for the entire length or a desired portion of the entire length of the beam structure 100.
 Optionally mechanical or electrical elements 210 may be positioned within one or more of the void spaces 210. Examples of such mechanical or electrical elements may include ventilation ducts, wires, cables, plumbing or conduits. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, a longitudinally extending conduit 210 is provided along with a cable 220 threaded through the conduit 210. In some embodiments mechanical element 210 extends the full length of the beam 100 and extends out a respective end 230, 240. In other embodiments, the mechanical or electrical element may enter at one end 230, 240 but have an intermediate access or egress port 250 that enables access into the interior of the beam 100 at a point intermediate of the respective ends. In an alternate embodiment, there are two or multiple intermediate access or egress ports 250. The ports may be positioned either on outer or inner sides of the respective flanges 120, 130 in an I-beam embodiment, or on outer or inner sides of alternate structures as well. In alternate embodiments, the void(s) 200 may be used as conduits or ventilation conduits without the insertion of additional mechanicals 210.
 In an embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, insulating filler 410 is positioned within one or more of the longitudinally extending voids 200. Although the illustration shows the filler 410 in two of the voids 200 it should be noted that optionally filler 410 may be provided in all the voids. Optionally one or more mechanical or electrical elements 210 is provided within the insulation containing voids as well. It should be noted that although the filler 410 is called insulating herein, other types of filler may be used as well, such as fire retardant fillers 410, structural supplementing fillers 410 etc.
 In an embodiment including two or more flanges 120, 130, the web 110 connects the flanges with one another. In the example illustrated in FIG. 1, the web 110 connects with the respective inner surface panels and peaks 170. In an alternative example, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the web 110 extends through the respective inner surface panels 150, and peaks 170 and through the voids 200 to the outer surface panel 140. The example of FIG. 5 can provide greater structural strength characteristics, assuming the materials used are the same. Determining which embodiment works best for a particular application can depend on the characteristics desired.
 Any suitable connection between the structural elements may be selected. In another example, as illustrated in FIG. 6, the connection between the outer and inner flanges 120, 130 and the web 110 are achieved using an intermittent "tongue and groove" type design, using intermittent grooves or slots 151 on the inside surfaces of the flanges, which receive the matching intermittent protrusions 152 along the edge of the web. For illustration purposes, the elements in top flange 120 are illustrated in an exploded view, with the inner structure 160 illustrated separated from the inner surfaces 140, 150.
 The web 110 may also be of any desired longitudinally extending material and dimensions that achieve the desired structural characteristics. For example, the web may be comprised of polymeric materials such as PVC or other plastics, wood, metal or molded cellulose fiber material. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, three flat panels 111, 112, 113 of molded cellulosic fiber material are used. Additional panels may be added to increase the thickness or strength properties of the web 110 as well, or fewer panels may be used. Determination of how many panels to use will depends upon the structural characteristics desired.
 The web 110 is made from the same material as that of the top and bottom flanges 120, 130, or it may be a different material. The web 110 also may vary in thickness based on the structural requirements.
 In other embodiments, the outer and inner flange surfaces 140, 150 may include apertures for receiving lighting elements, with the power source (such as wires) provided in the voids 200, 205.
 There are numerous cross-sectional geometries that may be used for beams 100 of the present invention. Any-sectional geometry may be selected depending on the structural properties desired, or the appearance desired. Examples of cross-sectional geometries are illustrated in the figures, although it should be understood that other cross-sectional geometries may be selected. FIGS. 7A through 7G are examples are some geometries. FIG. 7A shows a beam structure with single void 200 containing flanges 120, 130, and a single linearly shaped web cross section. FIG. 7B shows two webs 110 connecting the flanges 120, 130. FIG. 7C shows a single web 110 between the flanges 120, 130, the web extending fully through the flanges. FIGS. 7D and 7E show an alternate web structure 110, where the web 110 contains voids 200 as well. The void containing web 110 connects the flanges 120, 130. FIGS. 7F and 7G illustrate rectangular or square beam structures, in which the walls contain the interior structures 160 and voids 200.
 The embodiment illustrated in FIG. 8, is an example of the cross-sectional profile shown in FIG. 7B. In the figure, first and second webs 110 are shown connecting the two flanges 120 and 130. This configuration can improve resistance to shear forces due to the use of laterally spaced apart webs 110. The void 205 between the flanges 120, 130 and two webs 110 can be used for any desired purpose, such as any desired mechanical or electrical structure 210. Likewise insulation may be positioned within the void if desired. Alternatively, the void 205 may serve as a ventilation conduit, without insertion of a mechanical element to accommodate it.
 In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 9, apertures 420 through the sidewalls of one or both of the webs 110. These apertures 190 provide a plenum for an application to pass through the I-beam structure. By way of example, and not as a limitation, one or more light sources 430, such as light bulbs or LED lights may be positioned via the apertures.
 In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10, the alternate web structure 440 (also illustrated as web 110 in FIGS. 7D and 7E) is illustrated. In the illustrated embodiment, the web 440 contains voids 200. The void containing web 440 connects the flanges 120, 130. The void-containing web 440 is positioned between the inner skin panel 150 of the top flange 120 and the inner skin panel 150 of the bottom flange 130. The peaks or connection surfaces 450 of the void-containing web optionally is connected to the respective stress skin panel 150 using an adhesive layer 175 and/or a mechanical binder 190. Any structure of the void-containing web 440 may be selected that provides the desired structural properties. In the illustrated embodiment, angled flanges 455 and longitudinal surfaces or peaks 450 form the web 440 For added strength, the outer stressed skin panels 140 may be increased in thickness by attaching additional stressed skin panels. Determining how many panels to add will primarily depend upon the structural requirements of the application.
 Referring to FIGS. 11A and 11B, an alternate embodiment of multiple corrugated layers 160 is provided. In the example shown in FIG. 11A, in which multi-layer flanges 470, 480 are provided. To continue increasing the height of the flange, additional layers of corrugated panels and stressed skin panels may be added to provide any thickness of flange 120, 130, 470, 480, or alternatively of any thickness of void-containing web 440. Determining how many stressed skin panels and corrugated panels to add will primarily depend upon the structural requirements of the application. FIG. 11B provides a generally rectangular embodiment in which multiple layers also are provided.
 In various embodiments, the beam 100 has any desired longitudinal profile. In some embodiments, the beam 100 is straight in the longitudinal direction. Perspective views of examples are shown in FIGS. 12A through 12G. Likewise, examples of the beam 100 that incorporates curves are shown in FIGS. 13A through 13D, although it should be appreciated that any beam shape may be selected as desired. FIGS. 13A and 13B illustrate the beam 100 vertically oriented, as a column, and FIGS. 13C and 13D show horizontally oriented beams 100. FIGS. 13A and 13C are examples of compound curves.
 Referring to FIGS. 14 through 16, a stud wall 500 and structural stud 510 embodiment is illustrated. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 14, stud sections 510 support top and bottom skin panel layers 140, 150, and are bound to the skin panel layers and to one another layers as described with reference to web 440. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 15 and 16, a structural stud or joist is illustrated.
 It should be noted that in examples where a molded cellulose fiber material or a compressed cellulose fiber material is used for the beams 100 or portions of them, different cellulosic fibers may be selected depending on the properties desired. Likewise, any of the components (or optionally all of them) may be impregnated with or coated with a strengthening material such as a resin or a polymer. Examples of methods of application of the resin include brushing or spraying. It has been observed that the resin infuses into the cellulose materials and can increase the tensile strength, UV resistance and fluid resistance of the panel. In addition, a fire-retardant additive or resin can be used. The use of a fire retardant additive or resin can serve these purposes, as well as providing fire resistance addressing building codes and fire safety benefits. For example, adding aluminum nitride or SiC to the resin will improve the resin's fire resistance.
 Thus, it is seen that structural and ornamental beams are provided. It should be understood that any of the foregoing configurations and specialized components or may be interchangeably used with any of the apparatus or systems of the preceding embodiments. Although illustrative embodiments are described hereinabove, it will be evident to one skilled in the art that various changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the scope of the disclosure. It is intended in the appended claims to cover all such changes and modifications that fall within the true spirit and scope of the disclosure.
Patent applications by Robert Noble, Encinitas, CA US
Patent applications in class Including nonapertured component
Patent applications in all subclasses Including nonapertured component