Patent application title: Connector for Joining Sections of Port Security Barrier Structures
Erick Knezek (Lafayette, LA, US)
Matthew Marcy (Annapolis, MD, US)
David Delleart (Washington, MO, US)
Jim Andersen (Oxnard, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63G904FI
Class name: Joints and connections flexibly connected rigid members
Publication date: 2015-04-23
Patent application number: 20150110546
A connector especially suited for connecting sections of floating port
security barriers (PSBs) has a central portion joining two spaced apart,
generally transverse end sections. The connector has a generally I-shaped
cross section shape. Bolts or other fastening members are inserted
through holes in the end sections to permit attachment to the PSB
sections. The connector is preferably of a cast monolithic structure of a
flexible, strong, non-corrosive material such as urethane. High-strength
embedments may be formed into the end sections, to increase overall
strength of the connector. Another embodiment has an internal tension
member, which may be a loop of high-strength fiber, connecting the
1. A connector for joining sections of floating members, comprising: a
central portion joining two spaced apart, transverse end sections, said
central portion and said end sections forming a generally I-shaped
connector, said central portion and said end sections being of unitary
fabrication; said end sections comprising a means for attaching said
connector to said floating members; and wherein said connector is formed
of a flexible, non-metallic material.
2. The connector of claim 1, wherein said connector is formed from urethane.
3. The connector of claim 2, wherein said connector is formed as a cast monolithic member.
4. The connector of claim 3, wherein said means for attaching said connector to said floating members comprises a plurality of holes through said end sections, through which bolts are inserted and engaged with said floating members.
5. The connector of claim 1, further comprising embedments disposed within said end sections, said embedments comprising generally plate-shaped members, said embedments formed from rigid, high strength materials.
6. The connector of claim 4, further comprising embedments disposed within said end sections, said embedments comprising generally plate-shaped members, said embedments formed from rigid, high strength materials, and wherein said embedments comprise holes aligned with said holes in said end sections.
7. The connector of claim 6, wherein said embedment is formed from metal.
8. The connector of claim 6, wherein said embedment is formed from a composite.
9. The connector of claim 1, wherein said floating members comprise port security barrier sections.
10. A connector for joining sections of floating port security barrier members, comprising: a central portion joining two spaced apart, transverse end sections, said central portion and said end sections forming a generally I-shaped connector, said central portion and said end sections being formed from flexible urethane as a cast monolithic member; said end sections comprising a means for attaching said connector to said floating port security barrier members.
11. The connector of claim 10, wherein said means for attaching said connector to said floating port security barrier members comprises a plurality of holes through said end sections, through which bolts are inserted and engaged with said floating members.
12. The connector of claim 11, further comprising generally plate-shaped embedments within said end sections, said embedments comprising a plurality of holes aligned with said end section holes.
13. The connector of claim 12, wherein said embedments are formed from metal.
14. The connector of claim 12, wherein said embedments further comprise brackets, and said connector further comprises a tension member connecting said brackets.
15. The connector of claim 14, wherein said brackets comprise a pair of spaced apart brackets on each embedment having aligned holes therein, and said tension member is connected to said brackets by pins inserted through said tension member and said holes in said brackets.
16. The connector of claim 15, wherein said embedments, said brackets, and said tension member are encased in said urethane.
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This regular United States Patent Application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/891883, filed Oct. 16, 2013, for all purposes. The disclosure of that provisional patent application is incorporated herein by reference, to the extent that it is not inconsistent with any portion of this regular patent application.
 Land based assets adjacent to waterbodies, such as dock facilities, harbor facilities, ports, etc., referred to generally as "ports" herein, require protection from water-conveyed threats. In response, a number of types of Port Security Barriers ("PSBs") have been developed. While designs vary, many PSBs comprise metal and/or composite structures which float offshore of the port facilities, by virtue of flotation modules fixed to the PSB structures.
 Many PSBs comprise a plurality of sections, each floating in the water, and joined together to create a linked-together floating structure of a desired length. Traditional means of connecting the floating PSB sections included metal chain and cable, referred to generally as "chain." However, chain connectors exhibit various limitations. Since the connectors are in a marine environment, typically a saltwater environment, corrosion of the metal chain is always an issue. The chain is relatively heavy, which makes installation, servicing and replacement more difficult. In addition, chain link connectors inherently possess concentrated wear points, with metal to metal contact.
 There is accordingly a need for improved connectors to attach floating PSB sections, one to the other.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention comprises a non-metallic, flexible material PSB connector for joining floating sections of PSBs. Although various materials could prove suitable for fabrication of the connector, urethane is a presently preferred material. Preferably, the connector is fabricated as a monolithic cast urethane member, suitably shaped to provide for connecting via bolts or other suitable means to the floating PSB sections. For example, the connection may generally have an I-shaped cross section shape, with a central portion joining two spaced apart, transverse end sections. One embodiment is solid urethane with no embedments. A second embodiment is a composite structure with reinforcing embedments (which may be metal or high-strength non-metallic materials) in the end flanges or sections for additional strength.
 The relatively light weight, non-corrosive connectors exhibit a number of other benefits over conventional chain link or similar connector, as will be further described below. The connector is easy to retrofit on existing structures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a bird's-eye (top) view of several sections of a floating PSB, joined by the connector of the present invention.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the connector formed from urethane, without any embedment reinforcements.
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the connector formed from urethane, having end embedments encapsulated therein.
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one embodiment of embedment.
 FIG. 5 is an exploded view of another embodiment of the connector, comprising an inner fiber loop or grommet connecting the embedments.
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 While various changes may be made to form different embodiment of the present invention, by way of illustration and not limitation some of the presently preferred embodiments can be described in connection with the drawings. It is to be noted that any dimensions, materials, tolerances, etc. noted on the drawings are by way of illustration only, and do not constitute any limitation on the scope of the invention.
 The present invention comprises a solid, preferably monolithic or unitary cast connector, suitable for connecting floating sections of PSBs. While various materials may be suitable for fabrication of the connector, urethane is a presently preferred material, and the following description will focus on that material. Two embodiments of the invention will be described: a first embodiment, comprising a solid urethane structure with no additional embedments; and a second embodiment, very similar to the first in overall configuration but adding strengthening embedments to form a stronger, composite structure.
 FIG. 1 is a bird's eye or top view of floating sections 100 of a PSB protecting a port, harbor or the like. Connectors 10 join PSB sections 100, and permit some degree of motion between the sections.
A First Embodiment
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of connector 10, without any embedments in the connector. Generally, connector 10 has a central portion 20 joining two spaced-apart, transverse, expanded end sections 30 and 40. End sections 30 and 40 typically have a plurality of holes 32 therethrough, which provide a means for insertion of bolts therethrough, to permit attachment of connector 10 to PSB section 100, by bolting the connector ends to the PSB sections. It is understood that the expanded end sections 30 and 40 provide sufficient area for multiple bolt patterns. Generally, connector 10 has a cross section shape resembling that of an I-beam (that is, generally I-shaped in cross section).
 The dimensions, shape (cross-sectional and otherwise), and material properties of connector 10 may be varied and tuned to provide specific needed mechanical characteristics (e.g., breaking strength, bending resistance on each axis, elongation, energy absorption, creep, etc.).
 By way of example, this first embodiment, all urethane, may yield an average breaking strength of 75 kips.
A Second Embodiment
 FIGS. 3 and 4 show a second embodiment of connector 10. As can be seen in FIG. 3, connector 10 is shaped very much like the first embodiment, with central portion 20 and expanded end sections 30 and 40. In addition, this embodiment comprises embedments 50 and 60, typically within the end sections 30 and 40. FIG. 4 shows one possible shape of embedments 50 and 60. Generally, while various shapes may be suitable, embedments 50 and 60 are plate-shaped so as to create a relatively large area of high strength material, which better absorb the loads (tension and otherwise) transferred from the PSB sections to the connectors, via the bolts or other structural means attaching the connectors to the PSB sections. As can be seen in the figures, multiple holes can be provided in embedments 50 and 60, generally conforming to holes 32 in end sections 30. Embedments may have transverse sections on either side of a central plate section, to enhance securing the embedments within the connector.
 Embedments 50 and 60 may be made of metal or high strength non-metal material (e.g. composites, plastics, fiberglass, etc.). If the embedments are metal, typically a bonding agent would be used to augment the bond between the urethane body and the embedment; use of a bonding agent may be desirable for non-metal embedments as well. Preferably, particularly for metal embedments, the embedment is completely encapsulated within the urethane, to protect it from the marine environment.
 It is to be understood that the embedments may also take the form of rods or other extended members, in combination with plate-shaped embedments if desired. The scope of the present invention covers embedments of any shape, number or configuration.
 By way of example, this second embodiment, with embedments within the urethane body, may yield an average breaking strength of 150 kips.
A Third Embodiment
 Certain applications of the invention may dictate a higher strength connector, yet one which still provides the corrosion resistance of the above-described embodiments.
 FIG. 5 is an exploded, perspective view of another embodiment of connector 10. Central portion 20 and end sections 30 and 40 are substantially like those in the earlier described embodiments. Embedments 50 and 60 in this embodiment further comprise spaced-apart brackets 31 and 41, comprising holes through which pins 32 and 42 can be placed. A grommet or tension member 33, comprising a loop of strong, flexible, preferably non-metallic material is disposed within brackets 51 and 61, and held in place by pins 52 and 62, thereby connecting embedments 50 and 60. Support plates 34 and 41 can be inserted if needed.
 Another embodiment may have only a single bracket on each embedment, with a hole through which tension member 33 runs. Various other means of connecting tension member 33 to embedments 50 and 60 may be readily envisioned by those of skill in the relevant art field.
 As can be readily appreciated, when connector 10 is fastened to PSB sections by bolts, etc., linear loads are transferred to embedments 50 and 60, thence by brackets 51 and 61 and pins 52 and 62 to tension member 33.
 Tension member 33 may be formed in various manners, from high-strength fibers such as Aramid and the like, by means known in the relevant art. It is understood that many other fibers can serve for tension member 33.
 In one preferred embodiment, the various components of the connector shown in FIG. 5 are all embedded in or encased in the urethane connector, including the embedments, brackets, pins, tension member, and support plates. In another embodiment, some of these elements, for example the embedments, may be wholly or partially on the exterior of the urethane connector body.
Materials for the Connector
 As noted above, various types of non-metallic materials may be used for the body of the connector, with urethane (sometimes referred to as polyurethane) being a presently preferred embodiment. However, it is understood that connectors embodying the principles of the present invention may be made of other materials, including those including advanced formula polymers, fiber reinforced materials, rubbers, plastics, other elastomers, etc. Additives may be included to increase light or UV ray resistance, or to decrease unwanted biodegradation. All of such materials are referred to at times herein as "urethane."
Attributes of the Connector
 The monolithic cast construction, whether in urethane or other suitable material, exhibits a number of desirable attributes. Typically, the urethane connector of the present invention is 30 to 50% lighter than prior art connectors, making installation and service easier. The urethane or other non-metallic construction eliminates corrosion. Impulse tensile loads between the PSB sections are better absorbed by the urethane material. A higher bending modulus of the urethane connector, compared to prior art connectors, improves performance characteristics of the PBS.
 While the preceding description contains many specificities, it is to be understood that same are presented only to describe some of the presently preferred embodiments of the invention, and not by way of limitation. Changes can be made to various aspects of the invention, without departing from the scope thereof. For example, various materials can be used for the connector, including but not limited to urethane and other suitable materials; dimensions, shapes and strengths can be varied to suit particular applications; embedments may be made of different materials and in different shapes, to yield the force-transfer characteristics desired.
 Therefore, the scope of the invention is to be determined not by the illustrative examples set forth above, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.
Patent applications in class FLEXIBLY CONNECTED RIGID MEMBERS
Patent applications in all subclasses FLEXIBLY CONNECTED RIGID MEMBERS