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United States Patent Application 20170247905
Kind Code A1
Topping; Anthony ;   et al. August 31, 2017

SELF-LOCKING AND INVERTING CANOPY

Abstract

A collapsible shelter is provided and is in the form of a self-locking and inverting canopy that can be moved between a collapsed state to an in-use state by applying an inversion force to a central hub.


Inventors: Topping; Anthony; (Cary, NC) ; Keung; Eric Lam Chi; (Preta, MO) ; Tavin; Adam; (East Palo Alto, CA) ; Wilson, IV; Howard Allen; (Tracy, CA) ; Hu; Jason; (Menlo Park, CA) ; Mishin; Artem; (Menlo Park, CA)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

VEGHERB, LLC

Cary

NC

US
Family ID: 1000002595988
Appl. No.: 15/439536
Filed: February 22, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
62299785Feb 25, 2016

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: E04H 15/46 20130101; E04H 15/60 20130101; E04H 15/322 20130101; E04H 15/16 20130101; E04H 15/64 20130101; E04H 15/62 20130101
International Class: E04H 15/46 20060101 E04H015/46; E04H 15/54 20060101 E04H015/54; E04H 15/32 20060101 E04H015/32; E04H 15/62 20060101 E04H015/62; E04H 15/16 20060101 E04H015/16; E04H 15/64 20060101 E04H015/64; E04H 15/36 20060101 E04H015/36; E04H 15/60 20060101 E04H015/60

Claims



1. A collapsible shelter comprising: a primary canopy having a vent opening formed therein; a secondary canopy attached to the primary canopy in select locations, the secondary canopy being disposed over the vent opening, wherein the primary and secondary canopies define a canopy structure; a center hub attached only to the primary canopy and disposed within the vent opening; a plurality of ribs that are pivotally attached to the center hub and pivot between a collapsed state and an extended state in which the ribs are tensioned and the canopy structure is in a fully deployed state and is under tension; and a plurality of connectors, each connector being connected to the primary canopy and including a first portion that receives one end of one rib and a second portion that receives one leg that is part of a set of legs that suspend the canopy structure above the ground.

2. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein the secondary canopy has a smaller area than the primary canopy.

3. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein the center hub is centrally located within the vent opening.

4. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein the center hub is attached to the primary canopy at multiple locations.

5. The collapsible shelter of claim 4, wherein the center hub is attached to the primary canopy with a fastener that comprises a first strap that is attached at its two opposite ends to two opposite edges of the vent opening and a second strap that is attached at its two opposite ends to two other opposite edges of the vent opening.

6. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein the center hub includes a plurality of locking slots, wherein first ends of the ribs are coupled to the center hub within selected locking slots such that the ribs pivot within the locking slots.

7. The collapsible shelter of claim 6, wherein the first end of the rib includes a finger portion that is received between side walls of a connector disposed within one locking slot, the finer portion being rotatably attached to the side walls by an axle.

8. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein each locking slot comprises a U-shaped notch that is open along a perimeter edge of the central hub.

9. The collapsible shelter of claim 6, wherein the locking slots are formed in a first face of the central hub and the center hub is attached to the primary canopy with a fastener that is attached to a second face of the central hub, the second face being opposite the first face.

10. The collapsible shelter of claim 6, wherein a closed end of each locking slot defines a stop that defines an end of travel of the first end of one rib.

11. The collapsible shelter of claim 10, wherein the first end of the rib has a sleeve disposed therearound, the sleeve contacting the stop in the extended position of the rib.

12. The collapsible shelter of claim 11, wherein the sleeve is cylindrical in shape and the stop is defined by a concave surface.

13. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, further including a coupling member for detachably attaching the connector to the primary canopy.

14. The collapsible shelter of claim 13, wherein the coupling member comprises a strap having a first loop that is permanently attaches to the primary canopy and a second loop that releasably attaches to the connector.

15. The collapsible shelter of claim 1, wherein the first portion comprises a first tubular portion that receives one end of one rib such that a friction fit is formed therebetween and the second portion comprises a second tubular portion that receives a top end of one leg such that a friction fit is formed therebetween.

16. The collapsible shelter of claim 15, wherein the first and second tubular portions are angled relative to one another and the first tubular portion has a closed end defined by a planar outer surface, wherein a protrusion is formed along the planar outer surface.

17. The collapsible shelter of claim 16, wherein the first portion comprises a first tubular portion that receives one end of one rib and the second portion comprises a second tubular portion that receives a top end of one leg, wherein the first tubular portion has a closed end defined by a planar outer surface, wherein a protrusion is formed along the planar outer surface and a retaining space is formed between the protrusion and second tubular portion, the second loop between disposed within the retaining space for securely attaching the primary canopy to the connector and for applying tension to the primary canopy.

18. The collapsible shelter of claim 9, wherein the central hub is configured such that a force applied to the second face in a direction normal to the second face causes the canopy structure to go from a relaxed state to the fully deployed state and being under tension.

19. The collapsible shelter of claim 6, wherein the locking slots are formed in the central hub in a non-uniform manner.

20. A method for pitching a collapsible shelter that has a canopy structure; a central hub attached to the canopy structure and pivotally attached to first ends of a plurality of ribs, wherein opposite second ends of the ribs are detachably connected to the canopy structure by a plurality of connectors, the method comprising the steps of: initially positioning the canopy structure in a collapsed, relaxed state with the ribs in a non-tensioned condition and depending downward in a first direction away from the central hub, wherein corners of the canopy structure lie below the central hub; and applying a first force to the central hub in a second direction to cause inversion of the canopy structure from a relaxed state to a full deployed state and further cause the plurality of ribs to pivot relative to the central hub from the non-tensioned condition to a tensioned condition in which the ribs have a degree of curvature formed therealong, wherein in the tensioned condition, the ribs are locked in place in the central hub.

21. The method of claim 20, wherein the step of applying the first force to the central hub comprises using a foot for applying the force to the central hub.

22. The method of claim 20, wherein when the first force is applied, the ribs pivot until first end portions of the ribs contact stops formed in the central hub, wherein when the ribs contact the stops, the ribs are in the tensioned condition and the canopy structure assumes the fully deployed state.

23. A collapsible shelter comprising: a canopy; a center hub attached only to the canopy; a plurality of ribs that are pivotally attached to the center hub and pivot between a collapsed state and an extended state in which the ribs extend radially outward from the central hub; and a plurality of connectors, each connector being fixedly connected to the canopy by a coupling element and including a first portion that receives one end of one rib and a second portion for receiving one leg that is part of a set of legs that suspend the canopy above the ground, wherein the connector includes a cam feature at a first end of the first portion for releasably attaching the coupling element to the connector and applying tension to the canopy.

24. The collapsible shelter of claim 23, wherein in a first position with the canopy unfolded and lying on a ground surface, the canopy and ribs are in non-tensioned states and the central hub faces upward and is elevated relative to the connectors and the collapsible shelter is configured such that whereupon application of a force to the central hub the collapsible shelter assumes an inverted second positon as a result of the central hub moving toward the ground surface and the ribs pivoting and bending resulting in both the canopy and the ribs being placed under tension; and the collapsible shelter is configured to collapse by: (1) turning over the collapsible shelter in the second position so that the canopy remains tensioned and the central hub is elevated relative to the connectors; and (2) applying a force to the central hub in a direction toward the ground surface resulting in the collapsible shelter assuming a fourth position in which the canopy and ribs become non-tensioned and the connectors are elevated relative to the central hub.

25. The collapsible shelter of claim 24, wherein in the first position, the non-tensioned canopy assumes a generally convex shape; in the second position, the tensioned canopy assumes a generally concave shape; in the third position, the tensioned canopy assumes a generally convex shape; and in the fourth position, the non-tensioned canopy assumes a generally concave shape relative to the ground surface.

26. The collapsible shelter of claim 24, wherein the coupling element comprises a strap that is fixedly attached to the canopy and has an adjustable loop portion for attachment to the first portion of the connector and a fixed loop portion for placement along an end surface at the first end of the first portion.

27. The collapsible shelter of claim 26, wherein the fixed loop portion is disposed along the end surface between one edge of the cam feature and one end of the second portion.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] The present application claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 62/299,785, filed Feb. 25, 2016, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to folding, collapsible structures and more particularly, to a self-locking and inverting collapsible structure, such as a canopy or cabana, etc.

BACKGROUND

[0003] There are a number of different types of collapsible shelters that are commercially available. The terms tent, canopy, marquee, marquee tent, and canopy tent are used interchangeably by end users throughout the world. The term tent is often used to define a product that is constructed to sustain harsher use environments, whereas a canopy is a lighter weight system used only for short-term, fair weather applications. Traditionally, by definition, a canopy (also called a party canopy) is a small light-duty tent, usually without sidewalls. Canopies are typically one-piece tops, and are therefore not expandable. A basic canopy is designed to shelter against the sun or light rain.

[0004] In contrast, a tent is a temporary structure composed of a covering made of a pliable membrane or fabric and supported by mechanical means such as poles, metal frames, beams, columns, arches, ropes and/or cables. In addition, a tent has a floor, while a canopy does not. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs.

[0005] While traditional canopies are suitable for use, the storage and/or set-up can be cumbersome and therefore, there is a need for an alternative type of canopy. The present invention provides such product.

SUMMARY

[0006] The present invention relates to folding, collapsible structures and more particularly, to a self-locking and inverting canopy or cabana. In one embodiment, the collapsible shelter (canopy) includes a primary canopy having a vent opening formed therein and a secondary canopy attached to the primary canopy in select locations. The secondary canopy is disposed over the vent opening, wherein the primary and secondary canopies define a canopy structure.

[0007] The collapsible shelter further includes a center hub attached only to the primary canopy and disposed within the vent opening. In addition, a plurality of ribs are pivotally attached to the center hub and pivot between a collapsed state and an extended state in which the ribs are tensioned and the canopy structure is in a fully deployed state and is under tension.

[0008] The collapsible shelter includes a plurality of connectors. Each connector is connected to the primary canopy and includes a first portion that receives one end of one rib and a second portion that receives one leg that is part of a set of legs that suspend the canopy structure above the ground.

[0009] As described herein, the collapsible shelter is of a self-locking and inverting type in that the canopy and frame structure are designed such that the user applies a force in two opposite directions to cause the canopy structure to move between the collapsed state and the fully deployed state. In one aspect, the user can apply the force with his or her foot to the central hub to cause inversion in the given, intended direction.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWING FIGURES

[0010] FIG. 1A is a top and side perspective view of a collapsible shelter (e.g., a canopy) in accordance with the present invention and including a set of legs for suspending a canopy structure above ground;

[0011] FIG. 1B is a top and side perspective view of the collapsible shelter of FIG. 1 with optional side panels to form a cabana type structure;

[0012] FIG. 2A is a first weighted base for coupling to each leg;

[0013] FIG. 2B is a second weighted base for coupling to each leg;

[0014] FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the canopy structure;

[0015] FIG. 4A is bottom and side perspective view of a hub of the collapsible shelter;

[0016] FIG. 4B is a bottom plan view of the hub without the pole members (ribs);

[0017] FIG. 4C is a top plan view of the hub;

[0018] FIG. 5A is a perspective view of a pole connector of the collapsible shelter;

[0019] FIG. 5B shows a coupling member mated to the pole connector;

[0020] FIG. 5C is a cross-sectional view showing the coupling member mated to the pole connector;

[0021] FIG. 6 is a bottom perspective view of the collapsible shelter in a relaxed (non-tensioned) state;

[0022] FIG. 7 is a bottom perspective view of the collapsible shelter in a tensioned state which represents an in-use state of the canopy structure of the collapsible shelter;

[0023] FIG. 8 is an exploded view showing the components of a collapsible shelter according to one embodiment;

[0024] FIG. 9 is a side elevation of the collapsible shelter of FIG. 8;

[0025] FIG. 10A is a side perspective view of a hub and rib sub-assembly in an open position; and

[0026] FIG. 10B is a side perspective of the hub and rib sub-assembly in a collapsed, closed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS

[0027] FIGS. 1A-7 and 10A and 10B illustrate a collapsible shelter 100 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The collapsible shelter 100 is configured such that it can be collapsed and folded for carrying and transportation in a bag or sheath. The collapsible shelter 100 includes a framework 200 that is attached to three or more legs 210. In the illustrated embodiment, the collapsible shelter 100 has four legs 210; however, it will be appreciated that the collapsible shelter 100 can have three, five, six, or more legs 210. The collapsible shelter 100 also includes a flexible, collapsible canopy structure 300 that includes a canopy cover that can be formed of any number of different types of material, including a nylon material, a canvas material, or other natural or synthetic materials. As will be described below, the canopy cover is securely coupled to the framework 200 and extends therebetween so as to create and define a covered space in which people can seek shelter.

[0028] FIG. 1A shows one exemplary leg 210. The leg 210 is an elongated structure having a first end 212 and an opposing second end 214. The leg 210 can be of a telescoping type in that a length of the leg 210 can be altered and this allows the leg 210 to be moved between a collapsed state (for storage) and an extended state (for use). As is known, the telescoping leg 210 can be formed of a plurality of leg sections that nest with each other in the collapsed state and have a locking mechanism 215 associated therewith for locking the leg sections in the extended state. Any number of suitable locking mechanisms 215 can be used for locking the telescoping leg sections in place including clamp type locking mechanisms 215 as shown.

[0029] The leg 210 shown in FIG. 1 is of the type that is intended to be inserted into a ground surface. The leg 210 can thus be of a stake type with the second end 214 being a sharp pointed end configured to be implanted into the ground surface. Suitable ground surfaces for a stake type leg include but are not limited to a dirt surface, sand, grass covered dirt area, etc.

[0030] In one embodiment, the collapsible shelter 100 is configured to be transformable from a general canopy structure to a cabana. As shown in FIG. 1B, the canopy structure 300 is elevated relative to the ground and can easily be transformed into a cabana by adding side walls 303. In the embodiment of FIG. 1B, there are four sides 303 to the canopy structure 300 and therefore, up to four side walls 303 can be installed. The side walls 303 are selected to have a length that results in the bottom edge of the side wall 303 being either in contact with or in close proximity to the ground surface. Any number of techniques can be used to attach the side walls 303 to respective sides of the canopy structure 300 and in particular, the technique can be of a type that allows the side walls 303 to be detachably attached to the canopy structure so as to allow the side walls to be an optional feature. For example, the fasteners, such as hook and loop pieces, snaps, buttons, etc., (not shown) can be used to attach the top ends of the side walls to respective sides of the canopy structure 300 at select locations thereof. Thus, hook and loop fasteners can be placed at select locations across the side of the canopy structure and similarly, hook and loop fasteners are placed at select locations along the backside of the side wall. It will also be appreciated that one or more of the side walls 303 can include a door.

[0031] In addition, as shown in FIG. 1B, side wall fasteners 305 can be included and used to further attach the sides of the side wall 303 to legs (poles) 210. These fasteners 305 can be in the form of loops, ties, etc. (hook and loop material) that allow the sides of the side wall 303 to be connected to the pole 210 at various locations. The fasteners 305 can be integrally attached to the sides of the side wall 303 or they can pass through slits formed in the side walls 303.

[0032] FIGS. 2A and 2B show different types of leg structures for use when the collapsible shelter 100 is used on a solid surface that is not susceptible to implantation of the leg therein. For example, the second end 214 can be attached to a weighted base 215 that is intended for placement on a ground surface. The use of weighted base 215 is particularly suited when the ground surface is not suitable for implantation of the leg. For example, when the ground surface is asphalt or similar materials, the leg cannot be implanted therein and therefore, the weighted base 215 is needed for weighing down the leg and the collapsible shelter 100. The weighted base 215 can be formed of a heavy material, such as a solid metal structure or the like. The second end 214 can be detached from the weighted base 215. The weighted base 215 can take any number of different shapes and sizes and is not limited to being a disk shaped structure as shown in FIG. 2A.

[0033] FIG. 2B shows an alternative to the weighted base 215 of FIG. 2A. Since the weighted base 215 in FIG. 2A is formed of a heavy material, it can be cumbersome to handle and at the very least is heavy. FIG. 2B illustrates a weighted base 225 that in an unfilled state has a first weight, while in a filled state has a second weight which is greater than the first weight. The weighted base 225 can be a hollow structure with an opening 227 into which a material (solid or liquid) can be introduced to weight down the hollow structure. A cap 229 can be used to seal off the hollow structure after the material is added to the hollow interior of the weighted base 225. For example, the material to weight down the base 225 can be a solid, such as sand or dirt, or can be liquid, such as water or other liquid.

[0034] To use the weighted base 225, the user simple unscrews or otherwise removes the cap 229 and then delivers the material to the hollow interior of the weighted base 225. The shape of the weighted base 225 can vary and is not limited to the rectangular shape shown in FIG. 2B.

[0035] FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the collapsible shelter 100 and in particular, one exemplary collapsible canopy structure 300 includes a first main canopy 310 and a secondary canopy 320. The first main canopy 310 and the secondary canopy 320 have complementary shapes as discussed herein. In the illustrated embodiment, the first main canopy 310 has a square shape and the secondary canopy 320 also has a square shape.

[0036] It will be appreciated that the first main canopy 310 and the secondary canopy 320 can have any number of different shapes and are not limited to the square shapes shown in the figures. The first main canopy 310 is larger than the secondary canopy 320.

[0037] The first main canopy 310 includes a vent (opening) 315 formed centrally therein. The vent 315 in the illustrated embodiment has a square shape. The secondary canopy 320 overlies the vent 315 and is securely attached to the first main canopy 310 at select locations to allow air, such as a gust of wind, that originates underneath the first main canopy 310 to be vented through the vent 315. The vent 315 protects against an unintended inversion of the collapsible shelter 100 and/or damage occurring due to wind blowing underneath the first main canopy 310. It will be appreciated that the secondary canopy 320 is not sealed along all the entire lengths of its edges since this would prevent venting from occurring. Instead, there are section of the secondary canopy 320 that are not attached (sealed) to the underlying first main canopy 310 and the gaps between the points of attachment define air flow paths for venting the air. The secondary canopy 320 covers the vent (opening) 315 so as to not allow any of the elements to pass therethrough.

[0038] The framework 200 includes a central hub 215 and a plurality of ribs 250 that are pivotably coupled to the central hub 215 at first ends 252 thereof and to the first main canopy 310 at second ends 254 thereof. The central hub 215 is defined by a body 212 that has a first surface or face 214 and an opposing second surface of face 216. The first face 214 faces upward in a direction toward the secondary canopy 320, while the second face 216 faces downward toward the ground surface.

[0039] The central hub 215 is shaped and sized to be received within the vent (opening) 315 formed in the first main canopy 310. In the illustrated embodiment, the central hub 215 has a disk shape (circular shape). The first face 214 includes a plurality of locking slots 230 formed therein for allowing the pivoting of the ribs 250 relative to the central hub 215. The locking slots 230 are integrally formed in the central hub 215 and are open along the first face 214 and along a peripheral side surface 215 that extends between the first face 214 and the second face 216. When the central hub 215 is in the form of a disk, the peripheral side surface 215 has an annular shape. For each rib 250, there is a corresponding locking slot 230 to receive the rib 250 and allow pivoting thereof.

[0040] In the exemplary illustrated embodiment, the locking slot 230 has a U-shape in that each locking slot 230 has an open end 232 and a closed end 234. The closed end 234 can be a curved end as shown. The locking slot 230 does not extend completely to the second face 216 and thus, the locking slot 230 defines a stop 240 which limits the degree of travel (pivoting) of the rib 250 relative to the central hub 215. This prevents over rotation of the rib 215 relative to the central hub 215. The stop 240 can thus be thought of as being a bearing surface. This ensures that each of the ribs is in a desired position when the ribs are fully extended and also prevents against an unintended inversion of the canopy.

[0041] As shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, each locking slot 230 has a structure that allows for the first end 252 of the rib 250 to be securely attached to the central hub 215 and more specifically, allows for the first end 252 to pivot relative to the central hub 215. In one exemplary construction, an axle associated with the first end 252 of the rib 250 can be received within openings or slots formed in opposing side walls of the locking slot 230 to allow for the pivoting of the rib 250 relative to the central hub 215. For example, within the slot 230, a connector 235 can be disposed and as shown in FIG. 4A and 4B, the connector 235 can have a U-shape complementary to the U-shape slot. The opposing side walls 237 of the connector 235 can have an opening (hole) 239 which can receive an axle (not shown). The opposing ends of the axle are received in the openings 239.

[0042] Proximate the first end 252, the rib 250 can have a sleeve 260 disposed around the rib 250. The sleeve 260 can thus be in the form of a hollow member that receives the distal end of the rib 250 resulting in the sleeve 260 being securely attached to the distal end of the rib 250. The sleeve 260 can be formed of any number of different materials, such as metal or a rigid plastic. The fit between the sleeve 260 and the rib 250 can be of a friction nature (friction fit) and/or an adhesive agent can be used to securely attach the rib 250 to the inside of the sleeve 260.

[0043] The sleeve 260 is formed such that at a distal end thereof contains an integral finger or extension 251. The finger 251 can contain a bore that extends transversely therethrough to allow the axle to pass through the finger, thereby coupling the sleeve 260 to the hub 215 in a pivotable manner. The size of the finger 251 is selected so that it can be received between the two side walls 237 (however, preferably there is not excessive space between the finger 251 and the side walls 237 so as to prevent excessive lateral movement of the finger 251).

[0044] Thus, the sleeve 260 is sized so that at least a portion thereof can be received within the locking slot 230 and can pivot therein; however, when the rib 250 is pivoted into a fully extended position, the sleeve 260 contacts (bears against) the stop 240 and this limits the degree of travel of the rib 250. In other words, the rib 250 can only be pivoted in a direction toward the central hub 215 for extending the rib 250 until the sleeve 260 contacts the stop 240.

[0045] It will be appreciated that the central hub can be constructed so as to not include the connectors 235 and instead have other structures that allow for pivoting of the ribs within the locking slots. For example, instead of an axle being used and extending through a hole in the finger 251, the first end 252 of the rib 250 can include a pair of posts that extend radially outward in opposite directions in a co-axial manner. These posts are received in openings (slots) formed in the locking slot to allow for the pivoting of the rib relative to the respective locking slot. In this case, the separate axle and connector 235 are eliminated or at least the axle is eliminated.

[0046] As shown in FIG. 4B, the locking slots 230 can be formed and arranged in a non-uniform manner and there can be and preferably are more locking slots 230 than ribs 250. In the illustrated embodiment, the locking slots 230 are arranged in a first set 233 that comprises three locking slots 230; a second set 235 that comprises three locking slots 230; and a pair of single slots 230 spaced 180 degrees opposite one another. The first and second sets 233, 235 are opposite one another (180 degrees one another). The central hub 215 is symmetric in nature as shown.

[0047] The second face 214 of the central hub 215 can represent a surface to which a fastening element 400 is coupled for securely coupling the central hub 215 to the canopy structure. More specifically, the fastening element 400 can be used to securely attach the central hub 215 to the first main canopy 310. As shown, the central hub 215 is disposed within the vent (opening) 215 of the first main canopy 310.

[0048] Any number of different types of fastening elements 400 can be used to securely attach the central hub 215 to the canopy structure. In the illustrated embodiment, the fastening element 400 is in the form of a pair of locking straps 402, 404. The first locking strap 402 has first and second ends 411, 413 that are attached to the first main canopy 310 and similarly, the second locking strap 404 has first and second ends 415, 417 that are attached to the first main canopy 310.

[0049] The strap 402, 404 are overlaid such that the two strap 402, 404 are centrally positioned and generally form a cross-hair shaped structure. The straps 402, 404 are secured to the hub 215 using a fastener 405 or the like (e.g., rivet, screw, nail, etc.). In the illustrated embodiment, the straps 402, 404 overlap in a central portion of the hub 215 and the fastener 405 passes through the overlapped portions of the straps 402, 404. The straps 402, 404 are thus attached to the second face 216 of the hub 215. The first and second ends 411, 413 of the strap 402 are attached to two opposing edges of the first main canopy 310 and more particularly, the ends 411, 413 are attached to two edges that define the vent 215. As mentioned previously, the vent 215 has a square shape and thus, the two edges represent two sides of the square. Similarly, the first and second ends 415, 417 of the strap 404 are attached to two other opposing edges of the first main canopy 310 and more particularly, the ends 415, 417 are attached to two other edges that define the vent 315. As mentioned previously, the vent 315 has a square shape and thus, the two edges represent the other two sides of the square.

[0050] It will be understood that the fastener 400 can be different than the straps 402, 404. For example, another type of mechanical attachment can be formed between the straps 402, 404 and the hub 410 or an adhesive or other type of bonding agent can be used to attach straps 402, 404 to the hub 215.

[0051] However, the fastener 400 should be of a type that allows for the movement of the central hub 215 in the manner described herein. In particular, forces are applied to the central hub 215 to cause inversion thereof as described herein.

[0052] The central hub 215 can be constructed so as to be a universal hub in that the inclusion of extra locking slots 230 allows for the use of different numbers of ribs 250. For example in the illustrated embodiment, only four ribs 250 are connected to the central hub 215 and therefore, there is a plurality of open locking slots 230. If the canopy has a different shape and instead is a hexagon or octagon, then the same central hub 215 can be used and simply, additional ribs are mounted within these additional locking slots of the central hub. In addition, it will be seen that when the fastener is in the form of a strap construction, the strap portions extend across an area of the central hub 215 and in fact can cover locking slots formed in the central hub 215.

[0053] The locking slots are thus arranged circumferentially about the central hub 215.

[0054] The central hub 215 can be formed of any number of different materials including plastics, wood, or other suitable materials. In the illustrated embodiment, the central hub 215 is formed of plastic and comprises a molded structure.

[0055] FIGS. 5A-C show a connector 500 that is intended to connect rib 250 to the first main canopy 310 and also to connect to one leg 210. The connector 500 includes a first tubular portion 510 configured to receive the second end 254 of the rib 250 and a second tubular portion 520 that is configured to receive one end of the leg 210. As shown, the first and second tubular portions 510, 520 are formed at an angle relative to one another. In one embodiment, the second end 254 of the rib 250 is retained within the hollow bore of the first tubular portion 510 by a friction fit and similarly, the leg 210 is retained within the hollow bore of the second tubular portion 520 by a friction fit. However, it will be understood that any other means can be used to couple both the rib 250 and the leg 210 to the connector 500. The connector 500 should be constructed such that the rib 250 and the leg 210 can be removed from the connector 500 to allow disassembly of the product to allow storage and transportation thereof.

[0056] The dimensions of the first tubular portion 510 are less than the dimensions of the second tubular portion 520 since the dimensions of the rib 250 are less than the dimensions of the leg 210.

[0057] The first tubular portion 510 includes a closed end 512. The closed end 512 defines a planar outer surface 514. Along the planar outer surface 514, a protrusion 525 is formed. The protrusion 525 acts as a retention means for releasably retaining the first main canopy 310 to the connector 500. As illustrated, the protrusion 525 can be an angled, ramp like structure and in particular, can be generally triangular shaped. The protrusion 525 thus has an angled surface 527 and a vertical surface 529 that intersects the angled surface 527 and can be formed at a right angle to the planar surface 514.

[0058] A coupling member (connector) 550 is provided to attach the first main canopy 310 to the connector 500. The coupling member 550 is thus fixedly secured to the first main canopy 310 and configured to be detachably coupled to the connector 500, thereby securing the first main canopy 310 to the connector 500. In one embodiment, the coupling member 550 is in the form of a strap that is fixedly attached to the first main canopy 310. The strap 550 can be a nylon strap that is attached to the first main canopy 310.

[0059] Preferably, the coupling member (strap) 550 is adjustable in nature to allow a secure fit and attachment to be realized between the connector 500 and the first main canopy 310. For example, the strap 550 includes a buckle 555 which allows the length of the strap 550 to be adjusted.

[0060] As shown in FIGS. 5B and 5C, the strap 550 has two distinct portions, namely, a first strap portion 551 that is attached (e.g., stitched) to the first main canopy 310 and is coupled and releasably secured to the first tubular portion 510 and a second strap portion 561 that is also releasably secured to the first tubular portion 510 at a different location than the first strap portion 551 as described herein.

[0061] The first strap portion 551 can be in the form of an elongated strap that has first and second ends. The first strap portion 551 is fixedly attached to the first main canopy 310 at an intermediate location between the first and second ends. As mentioned, any number of suitable techniques can be used to attach the first strap portion 551 to the first main canopy 310 including but not limited to using stitching or the like or a mechanical fastener or adhesive/bonding agent. One end of the first strap portion 551 is coupled to the buckle 555 and the other end of the first strap portion 551 passes through a slot formed in the buckle 555 so as to allow the length of the first strap portion 551 to be adjusted. When coupled to the buckle 555, the first strap portion 551 defines a first loop 559 and the first tubular portion 510 is received within this first loop 559. The tightening of the first loop 559 about the first tubular portion 510 provides a means for coupling (attaching) the first main canopy 310 to the connector 500 and thereby provide a means for receiving the legs 210 of the collapsible shelter 100. The adjustability of the first loop 559 allows for different sized connectors 500 to be used with the coupling member 550. By tightening the first loop 559, a secure attachment is achieved between the connector 500 and the first main canopy 310 and conversely, by loosening the first loop 559, the connector 500 can be detached from the first main canopy 310.

[0062] The second strap portion 561 can be in the form of a fixed second loop 569 that is fixedly connected at the ends of the loop 569 to the first strap portion 551. For example, two opposite ends of the second strap portion 561 can be fixedly attached to the first strap portion 551 as by stitching or the like or using any other suitable techniques, such as those described herein.

[0063] The length of the second loop 569 is thus fixed and not adjustable.

[0064] As mentioned, the second loop 569 also provides a means for securely attaching and retaining the connector 500 in place relative to the first main canopy 310. More particularly, when the first strap portion 551 is attached to the first tubular portion 510 and is in a fairly taut condition, the second loop 569 is slid over the angled protrusion 525 (which acts as a cam) and once the second loop 569 clears the protrusion, the strap section 560 drops into place in a space 570 formed between the protrusion 525 and the second tubular portion 520. The second loop 569 is maintained within this space 570 in the taut condition (by an interference fit), thereby detachably yet securely attaching the first main canopy 310 to the connector 500.

[0065] It will be appreciated that as the second loop 569 moves along the angled protrusion 520 in an upward manner away from the peripheral edge of the planar outer surface 514, it becomes harder to push the second loop 569 due to the taut nature thereof. As mentioned above, the strap 550 can be adjusted using the buckle 555.

[0066] The adjustability of the strap 550 allows for the connector 500 to be used with different sized and different shaped canopies 310.

[0067] The connector 500 and coupling member 555 thus provide a manner for detachably securing the canopy 310 to frame structure. FIG. 7 shows the first main canopy 310 attached to the frame structure. FIG. 7 also shows the bottom of the collapsible shelter 100 in an in-use state in which the first main canopy 310 is under tension.

[0068] The ribs 250 can be held in place along the first main canopy 310 by one or more retainers 253. The retainers 253 can have any number of different types of structures including, but not limited to, ties, hook and loop fasteners, loops, etc.

[0069] The collapsible shelter 100 is formed such that in the fully opened position (FIGS. 7 and 9), the angle between the canopy 310 and each leg 210 is between about 108 degrees and about 118 degrees. In one embodiment, the angle is between about 111 degrees and 115 degrees, and more particular, between about 112 degrees and 114 degrees and more particularly, the angle can be about 113 degrees in one embodiment. It will also be understood, as shown in FIG. 5A, that the angle a between the tubular portion 510 and the tubular portion 520 is similar and in particular, the angle can be between about 108 degrees and about 118 degrees. In one embodiment, the angle is between about 111 degrees and 115 degrees, and more particular, between about 112 degrees and 114 degrees and more particularly, the angle can be about 113 degrees in one embodiment.

[0070] FIG. 6 shows the collapsible shelter 100 in a knock-down state in which the first main canopy 310 is not under tension. As shown in FIG. 6, the collapsible shelter 100 is configured such that in the initial state, the ribs 250 extend in a substantially linear manner between the central hub 215 and the connectors 500 in each corner of the first main canopy 310. As a result, the central hub 215 and the inner section of the first main canopy 310 are raised relative to the ground surface when the collapsible shelter 100 is placed on the ground surface with its top surface on the ground surface.

[0071] The collapsible shelter 100 is constructed to allow the user to easily cause the collapsible shelter 100 to assume the in-use state (FIG. 7) from the initial (relaxed) state shown in FIG. 6. More specifically, to cause such change in states, the user applies a force to the central hub 215 in a downward direction (toward the ground surface on which the canopy structure rests) to cause an inversion action resulting in the collapsible shelter 100 assuming the in-use state shown in FIG. 7. More specifically, the user can place his or her foot on top of the central hub 215 and push down toward the ground surface, the ribs 250 flex inward and assume curved positions as shown in FIG. 7. Under tension, the ribs 250 assume the curved positions. In other words, since the two ends of each rib 250 is fixedly attached to a corresponding structure (central hub 215 and the connector 500), the movement of the central hub 215, while the connector 500 remain relatively in the same positions, causes the inversion of the canopy and the bending of the ribs 250.

[0072] Once the collapsible shelter 100 assumes the in-use position shown in FIG. 7, the user can then attach the legs 210 to the frame structure and more particularly, to the connectors 500. For example, the legs 210 can be implanted into the ground or otherwise positioned in a self-standing manner relative to the ground surface and then the user can position the canopy structure such that the legs 210 can be slidingly inserted into the first tubular portion 510 of the connector 500, thereby fixing the canopy and frame structure to the legs 210.

[0073] It will also be understood that the converse action is likewise true in that after use of the collapsible shelter 100, the user first disassembles the canopy and frame structure from the legs 210. The detached canopy and frame structure are then placed on the ground surface with the top face of the canopy structure facing upward (i.e., as in the position of FIG. 3 and opposite to that shown in FIG. 7). When placed on the ground surface in this position, the central hub 215 is elevated relative to the ground surface on which the connectors 500 rest. In this canopy orientation, the ribs 250 are still under tension and exhibit curvature along their lengths. The user then applies a downward force (as by using foot action) to cause inversion of the canopy and frame structure as a result of the release of the tension stored in the ribs 250. The detached canopy and frame structure then assumes the relaxed state that is suitable for folding up and storing and/or transporting the canopy and frame structure.

[0074] Unlike conventional canopy structures which require assembly of the components of the frame and typically require the user to use his or her hands to assemble the canopy structure and/or to move the canopy structure between a collapsed (relaxed) state and an in-use state, the present invention is configured such that the user can user his or her foot to alter the state of the canopy structure (i.e., move between the collapsed and in-use states).

[0075] In addition and according to one other aspect of the present invention, the central hub is constructed such that an angle of the central hub, ribs and the canopy structure is carefully controlled such that after deploying the canopy structure to the in-use position, the entire collapsible shelter will fit for a four (4) foot square or a four (4) foot hexagon shaped playground. Without carefully control of the angle, the deployed collapsible shelter will not fit into a four (4) foot playground. Thus, the angle is important to control and tailor the overall footprint of the collapsible shelter.

[0076] It will also be appreciated that due to the design of the main components of the collapsible shelter and in particular, the dome-shaped construction, a user can easily open and close the collapsible structure within seconds. As discussed herein, to open the collapsible shelter, the loose cloth (canopy structure) is spread out on a ground surface and the collapsible shelter assumes a non-tensioned convex shape (FIG. 6) and by pressing the central hub, the collapsible shelter inverts and assumes a tensioned concave shape (FIG. 7). To close the collapsible structure, the tensioned concave shaped structure is turned over so as to position the tensioned canopy structure (having a convex shape) on the ground surface with the central hub being elevated from the ground surface and then the user presses the central hub to collapse the structure back the non-tensioned convex shape of FIG. 6.

[0077] In yet another embodiment, cross supports can be provided for increasing the robustness and rigidity of the frame structure that supports the canopy structure. In particular, between a set of legs 210, a cross member can be provided to be releasably attached at its two ends to the set of legs 210. More specifically, each leg 210 can include a side connector which receives one end of the cross member. Any number of different types of side connectors can be used so long as the side connector is configured to receive and releasably couple to (e.g., interlock with) the cross member. It will also be appreciated that the cross member can be an elongated collapsible structure, such as a telescoping cross member structure.

[0078] FIGS. 10A and 10B also show one movement of the hub and rib assembly and for ease of illustration, the canopy has been eliminated to allow these underlying components to be seen. FIG. 10A shows hub 215 and ribs 250 in an open position in which the canopy is under tension. As discussed herein, to collapse the collapsible shelter 100 from the position shown in FIG. 10A, the user simply applies a force in the direction shown by the arrow in FIG. 10A. The movement of the hub 215 in the direction of this arrow results in the inversion of the ribs 200 and breaking of the tension in the canopy (i.e. the canopy is in an non-tensioned state) and allows the ribs 250 to collapse into the positions shown in FIG. 10B.

[0079] FIGS. 8 and 9 show another embodiment of the collapsible shelter and in particular, show the use of a collapsible shelter 600 with a raised base 700. The collapsible shelter 600 is similar to the shelter 100 and therefore, like elements have been numbered alike.

[0080] The collapsible shelter 600 includes the hub 215, ribs 250, connectors 500 and the canopy structure 310, 320 as shown in the other figures.

[0081] FIGS. 8 and 9 show the use of the collapsible shelter 600 with a raised border or base 700 and given the raised nature of the base structure, this construction is particularly suited for use as a sand box, a garden box or even a butterfly tent.

[0082] The raised base 700 includes a pair of end walls 710 and a pair of side walls 720. When the raised base 700 is square shaped, the end walls 710 and side walls 720 can be the same (i.e., same lengths). The end and side walls 710, 720 can be formed of any number of different materials, including but not limited to wood, plastics, metal, masonry, etc.

[0083] The raised base 700 has a set of corner connectors 720 which each has first and second receiving portions 722, 724 for receiving respective ends of one end wall and one side wall. The first and second receiving portions 722, 724 can be formed at a right angle as shown. Each of the first and second receiving portion 722, 724 can thus include a receiving space or slot into which the respective end is inserted. A fastener 725 can be used to securely anchor the end of the beam within the slot. For example, a screw or nail can be used.

[0084] Each connector 720 has a main portion 730 formed between the first and second receiving portions 722, 724. The main portion 730 has a bore formed therein along a first axis. An anchor member 740, such as a stake, can extend downwardly from the main portion 730 for securely anchoring one corner of the raised base 720 to a ground surface. In addition, the main portion 730 includes a bore 735 that is open at the top and receives the bottom end of the leg 210. Any number of different techniques, including locking components, can be used to securely lock the leg 210 in place within the main portion 730. For example, a friction fit can be used or a locking mechanism can be used to lock the leg 210 in place. The insertion of the legs 210 into the corner connectors 720, thereby couples the collapsible shelter 600 to the raised base 720.

[0085] As mentioned, the combination of the shelter 600 and raised base 720 can define a sand box structure, a butterfly enclosure, a garden bed, etc. The dome shaped canopy 310 is elevated above the raised base 720 at a set distance and thus shelters the area defined internally within the raised base 720.

[0086] As discussed herein and as with the shelter 100, the collapsible shelter 600 is formed such that in the fully opened position (FIG. 9), the angle between the canopy 310 and each leg 210 is between about 108 degrees and about 118 degrees. In one embodiment, the angle is between about 111 degrees and 115 degrees, and more particular, between about 112 degrees and 114 degrees and more particularly, the angle can be about 113 degrees in one embodiment. It will also be understood that the angle between the tubular portion 510 and the tubular portion 520 is similar and in particular, the angle can be between about 108 degrees and about 118 degrees. In one embodiment, the angle is between about 111 degrees and 115 degrees, and more particular, between about 112 degrees and 114 degrees and more particularly, the angle can be about 113 degrees in one embodiment.

[0087] The framework of the collapsible shelter is strutless and the flat (planar) faces of the central hub allow for the foot of the user to be placed squarely on the central hub to apply a force to cause the controlled, intended inversion of the canopy structure and the locking of the ribs in the extended positions.

[0088] It will be apparent from the foregoing that while particular forms of the invention have been illustrated and described, various modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited, except as by the appended claims.

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