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United States Patent Application 20160310857
Kind Code A1
EFFLER; Timothy A. ;   et al. October 27, 2016

TOY PLAYSET

Abstract

A toy playset including a transportable component such as a toy car, which includes a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein, and a transporting component including an engagement portion for engaging the transportable component and moving the transportable component from a first position to a second position. The transporting component can be, for example, a track on which the transportable component rolls, a pivoting ramp or track switch, a crane that grips and lifts the transportable component, a pivoting support pad, or a bounce pad.


Inventors: EFFLER; Timothy A.; (Marietta, GA) ; FLORES; Milton A.; (Atlanta, GA) ; NELSON; Chase; (Fayetteville, GA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

KIDS II, INC.

Atlanta

GA

US
Assignee: KIDS II, INC.
Atlanta
GA

Family ID: 1000001900421
Appl. No.: 15/135093
Filed: April 21, 2016


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62152846Apr 25, 2015
62215994Sep 9, 2015
62216307Sep 9, 2015

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A63H 18/02 20130101; A63H 17/12 20130101; A63H 17/00 20130101; A63H 18/025 20130101
International Class: A63H 18/02 20060101 A63H018/02; A63H 17/12 20060101 A63H017/12; A63H 17/00 20060101 A63H017/00

Claims



1. A toy playset comprising: a transportable component comprising a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein; and a transporting component comprising an engagement portion for engaging the transportable component and moving the transportable component from a first position to a second position.

2. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transportable component comprises a toy vehicle comprising a plurality of wheels.

3. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transportable component comprises a ball at least partially comprising a resilient polymeric mesh material forming the mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein.

4. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transportable component further comprises non-mesh portion.

5. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transporting component comprises a track, and the engagement portion of the transporting component comprises a contact surface of the track upon which the transportable component rolls.

6. The toy playset of claim 5, wherein the track comprises a pivoting ramp movable between a first position aligned with a first portion of the track and a second position aligned with a second portion of the track, wherein movement of the pivoting ramp between the first and second positions transfers the transportable component from the first portion of the track to the second portion of the track.

7. The toy playset of claim 5, wherein at least a portion of the track is inclined relative to horizontal.

8. The toy playset of claim 5, wherein the track comprises a switch for receiving the transportable component at a receiving portion thereof, and discharging the transportable component to one of a plurality of discharging portions thereof.

9. The toy playset of claim 8, wherein switch alternates sequentially between the plurality of discharging portions.

10. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transporting component comprises a resilient bounce pad configured to receive and rebound the transportable component.

11. The toy playset of claim 1, wherein the transporting component comprises a crane for gripping and lifting the transportable component.

12. The toy playset of claim 11, wherein the crane comprises fingers for engagement within the apertures of the mesh portion of the transportable component.

13. The toy playset of claim 11, wherein the crane comprises a claw and a pickup platform for holding the transportable component in pickup position for engagement by the claw.

14. The toy playset of claim 13, wherein the pickup platform pivots away from the pickup position after engagement of the transportable component by the claw.

15. The toy playset of claim 11, wherein the crane comprises a speed control mechanism controlling a lifting rate of the crane.

16. The toy playset of claim 15, wherein the speed control mechanism comprises a reducing gear system.

17. The toy playset of claim 11, wherein the crane comprises an articulating jaw mechanism movable between a closed position for engaging the transportable component and an open position for releasing the transportable component.

18. The toy playset of claim 17, wherein the crane further comprises a release mechanism for releasing the articulating jaw mechanism to move from its closed position to its open position when the crane moves into an elevated position.

19. The toy playset of claim 18, further comprising a bounce pad positioned beneath the jaw mechanism, wherein the transportable component is released from the jaw mechanism when the crane moves into the elevated position and falls onto the bounce pad below.

20. A toy playset comprising: a transportable component; a track having a rolling contact surface configured to receive the transportable component and allow the transportable component to roll along the rolling contact surface of the track; and a crane comprising a pickup platform for supporting the transportable component at a pickup position, and an articulating jaw mechanism for gripping the transportable component and lifting the transportable component from the pickup position to an elevated position.

21. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the transportable component comprises a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein, and wherein the articulating jaw mechanism grips the mesh portion of the transportable component.

22. The toy playset of claim 21, wherein the transportable component further comprises non-mesh portion.

23. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the transportable component comprises a toy vehicle comprising a plurality of wheels for rolling along the rolling contact surface of the track.

24. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the transportable component comprises a ball at least partially comprising a resilient polymeric mesh material forming the mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein.

25. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the track comprises a pivoting ramp movable between a first position aligned with a first portion of the track and a second position aligned with a second portion of the track, wherein movement of the pivoting ramp between the first and second positions transfers the transportable component from the first portion of the track to the second portion of the track.

26. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein at least a portion of the track is inclined relative to horizontal.

27. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the track comprises a switch for receiving the transportable component at a receiving portion thereof, and discharging the transportable component to one of a plurality of discharging portions thereof.

28. The toy playset of claim 27, wherein switch alternates sequentially between the plurality of discharging portions.

29. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the pickup platform pivots away from the pickup position after engagement of the transportable component by the claw.

30. The toy playset of claim 20, wherein the crane comprises a speed control mechanism controlling a rate at which the crane lifts the transportable component from the pickup position to the elevated position.

31. The toy playset of claim 30, wherein the speed control mechanism comprises a reducing gear system.

32. The toy playset of claim 20, further comprising a bounce pad positioned beneath the articulating jaw mechanism, wherein the transportable component is released from the articulating jaw mechanism when the crane moves into the elevated position and falls onto the bounce pad below.

33. The toy playset of claim 20, further comprising a base and support frame supporting the track and the crane.

34. A toy playset comprising: a transportable component comprising a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein, and a plurality of wheels; a track having a rolling contact surface configured to receive the transportable component and allow the transportable component to roll along the rolling contact surface, the track further comprising a transfer mechanism for receiving the transportable component from a first section of the track and transferring the transportable component to a second section of the track; a crane having an articulating jaw mechanism for engaging the transportable component at a pickup position, lifting the transportable component from the pickup position to an elevated position, and releasing the transportable component from the articulating jaw mechanism at the elevated position; and a bounce pad positioned beneath the crane, wherein the transportable component falls from the articulating jaw mechanism onto the bounce pad below after the transportable component is released at the elevated position.

35. The toy playset of claim 34, wherein the transfer mechanism of the track comprises a pivoting ramp.

36. The toy playset of claim 34, wherein the transfer mechanism of the track comprises a switch.

37. The toy playset of claim 34, further comprising a pivoting pickup platform movable between a first position at the pickup position and a second position away from the pickup position.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/152,846 filed Apr. 25, 2015, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/215,994 filed Sep. 9, 2015, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/216,307 filed Sep. 9, 2015, the entireties of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates generally to the field of children's play toys, and more particularly to a toy playset including a transportable component having one or more receiver openings, and a transporting component for moving the transportable component from one position to another.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Various children's toys are known. In many instances, a toy may be of interest to children of a certain age or stage of development, but when a child outgrows the toy they lose interest in playing with it. For example, a very young child may lack the fine motor skills needed to play with complex toys that are better suited to older children, and older children may not find a simple toy that is suited to younger children to be engaging. As a result, play areas are often cluttered with toys a child does not use, and parents may be frustrated after purchasing a toy their child uses for a short period of time and then loses interest.

[0004] Continuing developments in the field of children's toys are sought. It is to the provision of new and improved children's toys that the present invention is primarily directed.

SUMMARY

[0005] The present invention provides new and improved play toys and toy playsets for children. In example embodiments, toys are provided with a range of interactive, entertaining and/or educational features, to hold the interest of children of various stages of development and having different interests. For example, embodiments of the invention include toy playsets including components having mesh surfaces with openings that allow easy grasping and manipulation by very young children who are still developing fine motor skills. Example embodiments further include one or more transportable components having such mesh and opening surfaces, and one or more transporting components having features for engagement and movement of the transportable components, which also engage the interest of older children who may prefer more complex and interactive toys and activities. In example forms, the transporting component includes an engagement portion for engaging the receiver openings to grip and move the transportable component, a track on which the transportable component moves, and/or a resilient surface or trampoline for bouncing the transportable component.

[0006] In one aspect, the present invention relates to a toy playset including a transportable component including a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein, and a transporting component including an engagement portion for engaging the transportable component and moving the transportable component from a first position to a second position.

[0007] In another aspect, the invention relates to a toy playset including a transportable component, a base and support frame, a track and a crane. The track is preferably supported by the base and support frame, and includes a rolling contact surface configured to receive the transportable component and allow the transportable component to roll along the rolling contact surface of the track. The crane is preferably supported by the base and support frame, and includes a pickup platform for supporting the transportable component at a pickup position, and an articulating jaw mechanism for gripping the transportable component and lifting the transportable component from the pickup position to an elevated position.

[0008] In still another aspect, the invention relates to a toy playset including a transportable component, a track, a crane and a bounce pad. The transportable component preferably includes a mesh portion having a plurality of loop structures defining apertures therein, and a plurality of wheels. The track preferably includes a rolling contact surface configured to receive the transportable component and allow the transportable component to roll along the rolling contact surface. The track preferably also includes a transfer mechanism for receiving the transportable component from a first section of the track and transferring the transportable component to a second section of the track. The crane preferably includes an articulating jaw mechanism for engaging the transportable component at a pickup position, lifting the transportable component from the pickup position to an elevated position, and releasing the transportable component from the articulating jaw mechanism at the elevated position. The bounce pad is preferably positioned beneath the crane, such that the transportable component falls from the articulating jaw mechanism onto the bounce pad below after the transportable component is released at the elevated position.

[0009] These and other aspects, features and advantages of the invention will be understood with reference to the drawing figures and detailed description herein, and will be realized by means of the various elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following brief description of the drawings and detailed description of the invention are exemplary and explanatory of preferred embodiments of the invention, and are not restrictive of the invention, as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a toy playset according to an example embodiment of the present invention.

[0011] FIGS. 2A-2E show a sequence of operation of the toy playset of FIG. 1, according to example modes of play of the present invention.

[0012] FIGS. 3A-3I show additional details of a grip, lift and release mechanism of the toy playset of FIG. 1.

[0013] FIGS. 4A-4B show additional details of a pivoting track ramp mechanism of the toy playset of FIG. 1.

[0014] FIGS. 5A-5D show additional details of a track-switching toggle mechanism of the toy playset of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

[0015] The present invention may be understood more readily by reference to the following detailed description of the invention taken in connection with the accompanying drawing figures, which form a part of this disclosure. It is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the specific devices, methods, conditions or parameters described and/or shown herein, and that the terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments by way of example only and is not intended to be limiting of the claimed invention. Any and all patents and other publications identified in this specification are incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

[0016] Also, as used in the specification including the appended claims, the singular forms "a," "an," and "the" include the plural, and reference to a particular numerical value includes at least that particular value, unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Ranges may be expressed herein as from "about" or "approximately" one particular value and/or to "about" or "approximately" another particular value. When such a range is expressed, another embodiment includes from the one particular value and/or to the other particular value. Similarly, when values are expressed as approximations, by use of the antecedent "about," it will be understood that the particular value forms another embodiment.

[0017] With reference now to the drawing figures, wherein like reference numbers represent corresponding parts throughout the several views, FIG. 1 shows a toy playset 10 according to an example form of the invention. The toy playset 10 generally comprises one or more transportable components 30, such as a toy car or other toy wheeled vehicle, and one or more transporting components as described in greater detail herein, mounted to a base structure 70 optionally comprising one or more upright frame elements 72. In example embodiments, the playset 10 can be fabricated from a substantially rigid polymer such as for example, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), or polypropylene, or alternatively can be made of other polymeric, or other materials of construction. In example embodiments, the transportable component 30 comprises a wheeled base having one or more (for example three, four or more) wheels, casters, rollers, gliders, slides, or the like, for rolling or gliding along a support surface, and a body at least partially comprising a mesh material or structure including a plurality of loop structures coupled together, for example, as shown in U.S. Pat. App. Pub. No. US 2016/0051862 A1 (application Ser. No. 14/933,343 filed Nov. 5, 2015), or U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/953,797 filed Nov. 30, 2015, which are incorporated herein by reference. In further example embodiments, the transportable component 30 comprises a ball or other structure capable of rolling, gliding, sliding or other movement, at least partially comprising such a mesh material or structure.

[0018] In example embodiments, the loop structures of the mesh material comprising the transportable component 30 have a smoothly curved or polygonal inside perimeter. In example embodiments, the mesh portion of the transportable component comprises one or more loop structure assemblies, each loop structure assembly formed from one or more loop structures. In further embodiments, two or more loop structure assemblies are connected or joined together to form the mesh portion. In further example embodiments, the loop structure assemblies include cooperative mating surfaces disposed at least partially around an outer perimeter. The cooperative mating surfaces of adjacent loop structure assemblies can be configured to couple together for a distance along their lengths. Example embodiments of the mesh can be formed from a substantially pliable or resilient material. The body of the transportable component 30 optionally further comprises a non-mesh portion coupled to the mesh portion. The non-mesh component can be formed from a substantially rigid material or a substantially pliable material, for example a molded plastic. In example embodiments, the mesh portion, and optionally also the non-mesh portion, enclose or partially enclose a void or space, into which a small child can grasp their fingers through the mesh openings and/or through a space between the mesh and non-mesh components.

[0019] In example embodiments, the base structure 70 and optionally the support struts or frame elements 72 of the toy playset 10 support one or more transporting components incorporating motive systems or mechanisms for moving the transportable component 30 from one position to another position. In the depicted embodiment, the toy playset 10 comprises a plurality of transporting components, including a track system 110, a grip-and-lift crane system 210, and a resilient bounce surface or trampoline system 310. Each of these transporting component systems optionally comprises additional subsystems or mechanisms for engaging, manipulating, moving and/or actuating the transportable component 30, as described in greater detail herein.

[0020] In the depicted example embodiment, the track system 110 transporting components comprise a straight, curved, serpentine and/or spiral pathway defining one or more paths of rolling movement of the transportable component 30 from a first position to at least one other position (a second position, a third position, etc.) separated a distance from the first position. In example embodiments, at least a portion of the track system 110 is inclined relative to the horizontal, to impart rolling movement of the transportable component 30 under the influence of gravity. In example embodiments, the incline of the track system is between about between 5.degree.-75.degree. relative to horizontal, for example about 15.degree.-45.degree.. In example embodiments, the track system 110 comprises a rolling contact surface 120 bounded along each side by upright flanges or curbs 122, which are spaced a sufficient width apart to allow the transportable component 30 to roll along the contact surface constrained between the curbs to define the path of travel of the transportable component. Alternatively, a guide track or channel can be provided along the rolling contact surface 120 to engage a cooperating portion or portions of the transportable component 30 to define the path of travel of the transportable component. The rolling contact surface 120 of the track 110 optionally comprises one or more surface features, decorative elements or cutout sections, such as for example rumble-strips or speed bumps, for interaction with the transportable component 30 as it rolls down the track.

[0021] As shown in FIGS. 1, 2A, 2B, 4A and 4B, the track system 110 of the playset 10 optionally includes a pivoting ramp section of track 130. The pivoting ramp 130 comprises a similar configuration of contact surface and curbs or guides as the main section of track 110, and is positioned generally in alignment with at least one section of track. A first end of the pivoting ramp 130 is pivotally or hingedly connected to the base structure 70, frame elements 72 or other portion of the playset 10, about a generally horizontal axis; and the second end of the pivoting ramp is movable along an arcuate path between a first angular or pivotal position and a second angular or pivotal position. In the depicted embodiment, the pivoting ramp 130 is normally biased by a spring, elastic member or other biasing means into a raised first position (FIG. 1, FIG. 4A) in alignment with a first or upper section of track 110U, and pivotally moves to a lowered second position in alignment with a second or lower section of track 110L (FIG. 2A, FIG. 4B) in response to the weight of the transportable component 30 or other force applied thereon sufficient to overcome the biasing force, and then returns to the raised first position (FIG. 2B, FIG. 4A) after the weight or force is removed. Thus, as depicted, the pivoting ramp is upwardly inclined at an angle of, for example, between 5.degree.-75.degree., in the first position, such that the transportable component 30 rolls down an upper section of the track 110U and onto the pivoting ramp; and is downwardly inclined at a similar angular range in the second position, such that the transportable component rolls off the pivoting ramp onto a lower section of the track 110L. A stop surface or bumper 132 is optionally provided adjacent the first end of the pivoting ramp to stop and redirect the motion of the transportable component 30 as it rolls down the track 110. A starting platform 140 is optionally provided at a top end of the track 110, and the base 70 optionally further comprises a lower ramp section 150 at a bottom end of the track.

[0022] The track system 110 optionally comprises one or more segments of track, each defining a pathway for rolling or other movement of the transportable component 30 thereon. For example, in the depicted embodiment, as seen best with reference to FIGS. 1 and 5A-5D, a first section of track 110 defines a first pathway along one side of the playset 10, and a second section of track 110' defines a second pathway along the other side of the playset. A toggle or switch 160 is optionally provided at an intersection or transition between the first and second sections of track 110, 110', to direct the transportable component 30 along one or the other pathway. The switch 160 pivots generally parallel to the plane of the track 110 about a pivot pin or fulcrum 162, between a first toggle position (FIG. 5C) for directing the transportable component 30 along the pathway of the first section of track 110, and a second toggle position (FIG. 5A) for directing the transportable component along the second section of track 110'. In example embodiments, the switch 160 includes a gate 164 for directing the transportable component 30 one way or the other, a first actuating cam or lobe 166 for toggling the switch toward the first toggle position, and a second actuating cam or lobe 168 for toggling the switch toward the second toggle position. In the depicted embodiment, the switch 160 is self-alternating, with the first actuating lobe 166 positioned opposite the pivot pin 162 and the gate 164 from the pathway of the first section of track 110, and the second actuating lobe 168 positioned opposite the pivot pin and the gate from the pathway of the second section of track 110'. In this manner, when the gate 164 is in its second toggle position and directs the transportable component 30 toward the second section of track 110' (FIG. 5A), the transportable component contacts the first actuating lobe 166 as it passes through the switch 160, thereby toggling the switch into its first toggle position (FIG. 5B). Then on the next pass, as the transportable component 30 passes through the switch 160, the gate 164 directs the transportable component toward the first section of track 110 (FIG. 5C), and the transportable component contacts the second actuating lobe 168 and toggles the switch back to its second toggle position (FIG. 5D). With each successive pass of the transportable component 30 through the switch 160, the switch toggles back and forth between the first and second toggle positions, alternating the path of travel of the transportable component between the first and second track sections 110, 110'.

[0023] In example embodiments, the toy playset 10 comprises further comprises a grip-and-lift crane system 210 transporting component. FIGS. 2A-2E show an example sequence of operation of the crane system 210, and FIGS. 3A-3I show additional details of components of the crane system. The crane system generally comprises an upright support tower 220 comprising a pair of support posts joined at top ends by an inverted U-shaped cross-member, a boom 240 carried up and down along the tower, and a grasping claw 260 mounted to the boom. A pivoting pickup platform 280 is optionally provided along the crane tower 220 for supporting a transportable component 30 in position to be engaged by the crane 210. A resilient bounce surface or trampoline system 310 transporting component is optionally provided adjacent the base of the support tower 220 beneath the boom 240 and claw 260 of the crane 210.

[0024] In an example mode of use, the boom 240 and claw 260 of the crane 210 are raised to an upper position toward the top of the tower 220, and the transportable component 30 is placed on the pivoting pickup platform 280 with the pivoting pickup platform positioned along the crane's path of travel, as shown in FIGS. 2A and 3A. The boom 240 and claw 260 of the crane 210 are lowered, for example by manual hand pressure by a user, to engage the transportable component 30 in the claw of the crane, as shown in FIGS. 2B and 3B. The claw 260 may close to grip the transportable component 30, and/or the transportable component can flex or resiliently deform to be engaged by the claw. The boom 240 is released, allowing the boom and claw 260 to rise up along the tower 220, lifting the transportable component 30 engaged in the claw upward along with the motion of the crane 210, as shown in FIGS. 2C and 3C. Upward travel of the boom 240 triggers a platform actuator along the tower 220, releasing the pivoting pickup platform 280 to pivot to the side, away from a vertical axis coincident with and extending below the path of travel of the crane 210. Further upward travel of the boom 240 triggers a claw release actuator along the tower 220, opening the claw 260, and releasing the transportable component 30, as shown in FIG. 2D. The transportable component 30 drops under the influence of gravity, falling onto the bounce pad 310 below, and rebounding off of the bounce pad, as shown in FIG. 2E.

[0025] Optionally, the contact surface of the bounce pad is inclined outwardly away from the tower 220 at an oblique angle, causing the transportable component 30 to rebound outwardly in the direction of the user, so the user can retrieve the transportable component for further play. The peripheral support of the bounce pad 310 is optionally integrally formed with the base 70 of the playset 10, or alternatively can be a separate component coupled to the frame. The resilient surface of the bounce pad 310 can comprise a sheet of elastic material stretched over an aperture or hollow in the base 70, such that the transportable component 30 will rebound or bounce off the bounce pad similar to a trampoline.

[0026] FIGS. 3A-3I show additional details of the crane 210 and its mode of operation. A pair of springs 410 are connected in tension between connection points at the top of each support post of the crane tower 220 and connection points along each side of the crane boom 240, to bias and move the boom toward the top of the tower. In alternate embodiments, one or more springs, elastic members, motors or other motive means are provided for moving the crane boom 240 up and/or down during operation. In example embodiments, a generally matched pair of springs 410 are provided, one along each side of the tower 220 for balanced application of lifting force to both sides of the boom 240. As shown in FIGS. 3A-3C, the springs 410 are relaxed or in equilibrium when the crane boom 240 is in its raised position (FIG. 3A), stretched in tension to apply an upward biasing force on the boom in its lowered position (FIG. 3B), and act to move the boom and its payload (e.g., the transportable component 30) from the lowered position to the raised position (FIG. 3C). The boom 240 optionally comprises one or more vertical guide members comprising rollers, bearings, guide tracks, contact faces or the like, extending along one or more cooperative vertical guide surfaces of the crane tower 220 to maintain alignment of the boom as it is raised and lowered along the tower. A toothed rack 430 and reducing gearbox assembly 432, as shown in greater detail in FIG. 3F, are optionally provided to reduce or control the speed at which the crane boom 240 is lifted under the influence of the springs 410, and to act as a damper for the return springs 410. For example, the toothed rack 430 is a linear array of teeth mounted to one of the support posts of the crane tower 220, and the reducer gear assembly 432 is mounted to the crane boom 240, positioned for engagement of the gear teeth with the rack as the boom is lifted. In alternate embodiments, the rack 430 can be semi- or non-linear, and can be inside or outside the crane tower, or alternative means of slowing the ascent of the boom can be provided.

[0027] FIGS. 3D and 3E show additional details of a positional lock and release mechanism 460 of the pivoting pickup platform 280, according to an example embodiment. A cylindrical pivot hub 462 coupled to the platform 280 is rotationally mounted within a collar 464 mounted to the crane tower 220, allowing pivotal movement of the platform between its extended position (FIGS. 2A and 3D) in the path of the crane claw 260 and its retracted position (FIGS. 2C and 3E) to the side and out of the path of the crane claw. When the platform 280 is in its extended position, a locking pin 470 is biased by spring 471 into engagement with a stop member 472 on the pivot hub 466, to lock the platform 280 in the extended position (FIG. 3D). As the crane boom 240 is lifted, an actuator 480 on the boom triggers a release linkage 482 in the crane tower (See FIG. 3C), which is coupled to toggle a retractor linkage 484 within the lock and release mechanism 460 of the pivoting pickup platform 280, which in turn toggles a follower linkage 486 that retracts the locking pin 470 out of engagement with the stop member 472. A torsion spring 490 or other biasing means coupled to the pivot hub 462 then rotates the pivoting pickup platform 280 to its retracted position (FIG. 3E). The release linkage 482 is optionally biased by a retaining spring toward its retention position, until contact by the actuator 480 to release the platform 280.

[0028] FIG. 3G-3I show further details of the crane claw 260, according to example form. A hub portion 500 of the claw 260 is mounted to the crane boom 240 by one or more support struts 510. The claw 260 includes an opposed pair of articulating jaws or hooks 520, 522, which optionally comprise fingers 524, 526 at the free distal ends thereof, configured to grip the transportable component 30, for example by engagement within apertures in the mesh portion thereof. The hooks 520, 522 are pivotally coupled to the hub 500, and configured to open (FIG. 3H) and close (FIG. 3G) by pivotal movement about axes 540, 542. A compression spring 550 engages actuation fingers 560, 562 at proximal ends of the hooks 520, 522 to bias the hooks toward their closed position (see FIG. 3I). Torsion springs 545, 547 mounted to axes 540, 542 bias the fingers 524, 526 inwardly to grip and retain the transportable component 30 as it is engaged and lifted by the crane 210 until released, and allow the fingers to flex open to receive and engage the transportable component for pickup. An actuator arm 570 is pivotally mounted to the crane boom 240, and has a receiver slot in its distal end which engages the actuation fingers 560, 562 of the hooks 520, 522. As the boom 240 is lifted toward its uppermost position on the crane tower 220, a claw release linkage 580 coupled to the boom contacts a projection 582 on the tower, toggling the claw release linkage which in turn pivots the distal end of the actuator arm 570 downwardly to overcome the upward bias of spring 550 and push the actuation fingers 560, 562 downwardly, to move the hooks 520, 522 into their open position (FIG. 3H). Optionally, a cover panel or shroud 590 and hub cap 592 are provided to cover the moving components of the claw actuation mechanism.

[0029] In alternate embodiments, a crane mechanism incorporating an expanding jaw, hook, or other engagement means can be provided in place of the gripping claw as described above. For example, one or more engagement elements of the jaw, hook, or other engagement means can be inserted through an aperture in the mesh portion of the transportable component 30, and expanded or oriented to engage, grip, abut or otherwise engage the mesh and/or non-mesh portions of the transportable component, to allow the crane to lift and move the transportable component. In further alternative embodiments, a crane providing vertical and horizontal motion components during lifting of the transportable component 30 can be provided, for example having crane towers or other components configured to lift the transportable component along a spiral, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, arcuate, and/or irregular lifting path of motion.

[0030] In an example method of play using the grip-and-lift crane system 210 transporting component, a user positions the pivoting pickup platform 280 in its extended position, and places a transportable component 30 such as a toy car having a mesh portion with apertures formed therein on the pivoting pickup platform beneath the raised claw 260 of the crane (FIGS. 2A, 3A and 3D). The user then pushes the crane boom 240 and claw 260 downwardly to engage the transportable component 30 between the hooks 520, 522 of the claw, for example by engagement of fingers 524, 526 of the hooks within apertures of the mesh portion of the transportable component (FIGS. 2B and 3B). Upon release of the crane boom 240, the boom is lifted by the springs 410, with the rate of the lifting motion controlled by the toothed rack 430 and reducing gear mechanism 432 (FIGS. 2C and 3C). As the boom 240 is lifted, the actuator 480 on the boom triggers the release linkage 482, causing the pivoting pickup platform 280 to move to the side (FIGS. 2C, 3C and 3E). As the boom 240 continues moving upwardly toward the top of the crane tower 220 (FIG. 3G), the claw release linkage 580 contacts the projection 582 on the tower (FIG. 3H), actuating the hooks 520, 522 to open and release the transportable component 30 from the fingers 524, 526 of the claw 260. The transportable component 30 then falls free of the claw 260 (FIG. 2D), downward onto the bounce pad 310, whereupon the transportable component rebounds off of the bounce pad (FIG. 2E). The user may then retrieve the transportable component 30 and repeat the sequence of play.

[0031] In another example method of play using the track system 110 transporting components, a user places a transportable component 30 such as a toy car having a mesh portion with apertures formed therein on the contact surface 120 of the track, and releases the transportable component to roll along the track, for example rolling down an inclined portion thereof. The transportable component 30 moves through the switch 160 as described, and is directed to one of a plurality of different pathways along the track 110, for example alternating between two different pathways on sequential runs. Optionally, the transportable component 30 moves along a first portion of the track 110, onto the pivoting ramp 130, where the transportable component is then delivered from the pivoting ramp to a second portion of the track. The user optionally grasps the transportable component 30 by extending his or her fingers into the apertures of the mesh portion of the transportable component at any stage during play.

[0032] In further example embodiments, the playset 10 and methods of play using the playset include any one or more of the transporting components as described herein, as well as any combination thereof and/or combinations of any one or more of the transporting components described along with various other transporting components or play systems.

[0033] While the invention has been described with reference to preferred and example embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that a variety of modifications, additions and deletions are within the scope of the invention, as defined by the following claims.

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