US20120240506A1 - Self Locking Flooring Panels - Google Patents

Self Locking Flooring Panels Download PDF

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Publication number
US20120240506A1
US20120240506A1 US13/022,948 US201113022948A US2012240506A1 US 20120240506 A1 US20120240506 A1 US 20120240506A1 US 201113022948 A US201113022948 A US 201113022948A US 2012240506 A1 US2012240506 A1 US 2012240506A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
system according
flooring system
floor panel
characterized
insertion
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Abandoned
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US13/022,948
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Shoulian Joseph Zhu
Chi Wang Cheung
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SUNSTATE IMPORT/EXPORT Inc
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SUNSTATE IMPORT/EXPORT Inc
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Priority to US13/022,948 priority Critical patent/US20120240506A1/en
Assigned to SUNSTATE IMPORT/EXPORT, INC reassignment SUNSTATE IMPORT/EXPORT, INC ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: Cheung, Chi Wang, Zhu, Shoulian Joseph
Publication of US20120240506A1 publication Critical patent/US20120240506A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E04BUILDING
    • E04FFINISHING WORK ON BUILDINGS, e.g. STAIRS, FLOORS
    • E04F15/00Flooring
    • E04F15/02Flooring or floor layers composed of a number of similar elements
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E04BUILDING
    • E04FFINISHING WORK ON BUILDINGS, e.g. STAIRS, FLOORS
    • E04F2201/00Joining sheets or plates or panels
    • E04F2201/01Joining sheets, plates or panels with edges in abutting relationship
    • E04F2201/0138Joining sheets, plates or panels with edges in abutting relationship by moving the sheets, plates or panels perpendicular to the main plane
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E04BUILDING
    • E04FFINISHING WORK ON BUILDINGS, e.g. STAIRS, FLOORS
    • E04F2201/00Joining sheets or plates or panels
    • E04F2201/09Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts
    • E04F2201/091Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts with the edge-parts forming part of the panel body
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E04BUILDING
    • E04FFINISHING WORK ON BUILDINGS, e.g. STAIRS, FLOORS
    • E04F2201/00Joining sheets or plates or panels
    • E04F2201/09Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts
    • E04F2201/096Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts with only one type of connection parts, i.e. with male or female on one edge
    • EFIXED CONSTRUCTIONS
    • E04BUILDING
    • E04FFINISHING WORK ON BUILDINGS, e.g. STAIRS, FLOORS
    • E04F2201/00Joining sheets or plates or panels
    • E04F2201/09Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts
    • E04F2201/098Puzzle-type connections for interlocking male and female panel edge-parts wherein the interlocking male and female edge-parts have a dovetail, mushroom or similar shape

Abstract

A new interlocking or interconnection mechanism for securing floor covering panels is invented, whereas the covering panels can be any sizes, shapes, structures, and of any materials. The mechanism is consisted of independent features rendering the vertical and the lateral couplings, where vertical is defined as the direction perpendicular to the surface of the panel that is exposed and lateral is defined as the direction parallel to the exposed surface. The new mechanism provides a gradual progressive tightening effect during the installation process for securing the panels, which is completely different from the outcome by all the existing mechanisms including tongue-and-groove, snap-on, etc.

Description

    FIELD OF INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to a flooring system comprising a number of abutting floor panels having mutual interlocking means, said interlocking means comprising at least one male locking component protruding at a lateral side of a floor panel and locking into at least one female locking component at an adjacent lateral side of an adjacent floor panel.
  • BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
  • Such a flooring system provides for interlocking and interconnection of all floor panels involved, which may be of any sizes, shapes, structures, and made of any material. Such a locking system not only make both the manufacturing and the installation processes more efficient and cost effective, but also enables the none-skilled individuals to install the panels easily and in perfect alignment.
  • PRIOR ART For Rigid Flooring Materials:
  • Locking mechanisms for pieces connecting together for flooring applications date back to the beginning of last century. U.S. Pat. No. 1,978,075 to Butterworth describes wood block flooring with a tongue and groove engagement system for securement of such blocks in side-by-side relationship. A tongue-Groove design with at least one side of the tongue coated with adhesives was invented by Richardson in 1999 as described in a GB patent GB 2355025A. U.S. Pat. No. 2,914,815 by Alexander shows an interlocking flooring system wherein individual blocks have offset base members formed of plywood. Floor panels formed by offsetting the top and bottom layers were also granted patent to Vendohoef for U.S. Pat. No. 7,676,995B2 and Stone for U.S. Pat. No. 7,685,790B2. U.S. Pat. No. 3,554,850 to Kuhle shows parquet flooring with projecting components for side-by-side securement of similar offsetting parquet sections. U.S. Pat. No. 3,914,913, issued to Roberts, discloses a snap interlock deck structure of extruded aluminum. U.S. Pat. No. 5,179,812, issued to Hill, discloses a wood panel having a plurality of aluminum battens connected to the base of the panel. U.S. Pat. No. 5,052,158, issued to D'Luzansky, discloses a modular locking floor covering having panels with interlocking means composed of spaced locking fingers and locking apertures and secondary locking means in the form of tabs in the face of the finger and the base of the aperture. Each tab has a face inclined in a direction opposite to the inclined face of an adjacent tab.
  • A variety of essentially the same as more than centuries old zigzag tenon type of joining features were patented by many inventors, including Chung of GB 2235131A, Mcintosh, et al. of GB 2466138A, Pilippe of FR 2934626A1, Roderic of U.S. Pat. No. 4,018,025A and CA 1147127A1, and McDonald of U.S. Pat. No. 6,526,705B1. Panels with step down edges for all four sides that incorporated many kinds of securing features are also invented by Gay as in GB 1000627A, Austin as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,907,934A, and Council as in U.S. Pat. No. 59,050,378A. Patents were also issued to Stegner for CA 2512240A1 and Mcintosh, et al. for GB 2467471B for their inventions of the locking features on the panel's edges.
  • Other known interlocking designs include U.S. Pat. No. 5,050,362, issued to Tal, et al, which discloses construction panels for roofing and the like that become locked “so as to define a connection which is highly resistant to both clockwise and counter-clockwise movements applied about a connection axis”. U.S. Pat. No. 3,538,819, issued to Gould, discloses air field matting having interlocking members. U.S. Pat. No. 4,845,907, issued to Meek, discloses interlocking panel modules usable for decking sections in poultry operations. U.S. Pat. No. 7,856,785 B2, granted to Pervan, discloses a tongue for both the long side and the short side as well as a locking groove also for both the long and short sides. This known system is intended for laminate floor panels that have a harder decorative surface layer than the core layer beneath.
  • A widely used mechanism for securing the flooring blocks in the current market is revealed in the U.S. Pat. No. 5,797,237, issued to Finkell, Jr. in 1998. It describes a snap-together flooring system which fixes adjacent flooring members from lateral movement with respect to one another. A first flooring member includes a channel having a downwardly extending barb. A second flooring member includes an outwardly extending tongue having a groove defined therein. The first and second flooring members are snapped together by moving the tongue into the channel, which causes the barb to ride upwardly on an inclined face of the tongue in an elastic manner, and to ultimately snap downwardly into place within the groove of the tongue.
  • The engagement of the barb in the groove of the tongue prevents laterally removal of the tongue from the channel, and thus holds the adjacent flooring members together. Disengagement of the flooring members is provided by lifting of the interface between the adjacent flooring members and rotating the flooring member having the tongue downwardly in order to disengage the barb from the groove of the tongue, and to thus allow extraction of the tongue from the channel. A DE patent DE 19933343A1 issued to Hans-Juergen, et al. in 2001 has the similar design. U.S. Pat. No. 7,591,116 B2, issued to Thiers et al. for packaging flooring panels, discloses a locking design similar to Finkell's.
  • For Flexible Flooring Materials:
  • A known disadvantage of the rigid flooring materials is that they do not conform to the contours of the hard floor surface. Possible mitigating measures can be expensive and complicated to apply. Flexible materials of rubbery or plastic types are commonly utilized for such applications. U.S. Pat. No. 7,155,871 describes how two floor panels of two layers of flexible plastic sheet material, which are laminated together in offset relationship to define an offset marginal portion for each of the layers, are jointed together. Each of the offset marginal portions has oppositely facing adhesive coated surfaces. A foam layer and/or a fiberglass sheet can also be included in the laminate structure of the floor panel. The floor panel can conform to surface contours of a floor base. The bottom layer of the floor panel, whether it is plastic sheet or foam, is conformable to surface irregularities of the floor base. A one piece releasable packaging device covers the oppositely facing adhesive coated surfaces of the offset marginal portions.
  • A traditional adhesive system for the vinyl panel installation is through first preparing the floor, then applying adhesive the entire area to be covered, and finally laying the vinyl panels. Disadvantages associated with this process are the costly adhesive and the intensive laboring. U.S. Pat. No. 7,155,871 proposes a flooring system that might overcome these drawbacks of cost and inefficiency. According to this known system, the adhesive is pre-applied by the manufacturer and may be covered with wax paper also. An installer would peel off the paper and put the male side on top of the female side, then push down and glue together.
  • This process sounds good on the surface. However, the installer needs to be very careful when aligning the two pieces together before pressing them down, otherwise gaps will form between the adjacent panels. When it happens, the already glued together panels have to be separated and realigned to complete the installation process. The biggest disadvantage in this invention is, after the vinyl panels being pulled apart a couple of times, not only the adhesive losing its original strength but also that the installation process becoming very frustrating.
  • Further Interlocking Systems for Flooring Panels:
  • It is generally recognized that there are many drawbacks for the flooring locking mechanisms. Therefore many ideas have been proposed in the art so far. U.S. application No. US 2008/0184647 proposes an improved fabricated hardwood flooring product providing the advantage of a thick wood wear layer similar to a traditional ¾ inch solid wood floor with the dimensional stability characteristics of engineered wood flooring products.
  • An interlocking design is also been published in U.S. application No. US 2009/0031662. This patent application discloses a floor panel comprising: (a) a first sheet having four sides, the first sheet having an upper surface and a lower surface and said first sheet comprising at least one base layer, a print design located above said base layer, and at least one wear layer located above said print design; and (b) a second sheet having multiple sides and having an upper surface and a lower surface, the upper surface of the second sheet being adhered to the lower surface of the first sheet; wherein two adjacent sides of the second sheet has multiple projections to interlock with recesses from at least one adjacent floor panel and two other adjacent sides have recesses to interlock with projections from at least one adjacent floor panel; wherein said projections and recesses have a complementary shape to each other to be interlockingly engageable with corresponding recesses or projections on an adjacent floor panel; where in the multiple projections of said two adjacent sides of the second sheet extend beyond two adjacent sides of the first sheet and the recesses of said two other adjacent sides of the second sheet do not extend beyond said first sheet and are concealed by said first sheet; wherein at least a portion of the lower surface of the first sheet that is located directly above said recesses have at least one adhesive coating that permits adhesion of an upper surface of a projection from an adjacent floor panel or the upper surfaces of the projections have an adhesive coating or both.
  • U.S. application No. US 2009/0064623 relates to a double-layered floor panel sheet having a non-adhesive portion, more particularly to a floor panel sheet enabling adjustment of position during installation. When the upper layer of a floor panel sheet is bonded to the lower layer of another floor panel sheet, a non-adhesive portion formed in component of an adhesive portion enables the adjustment of position. A system specifically for bamboo flooring panels with glueless locking system is disclosed in U.S. application No. US 20080141611. This known system provides a 100% bamboo panel with an interlocking system and associated manufacturing methods. In one embodiment, the 100% bamboo panel comprises first, second, and third layers of 100% bamboo, wherein the layers are laminated together. The layers are independently preconditioned to control moisture content therein. Each layer can be preconditioned by alternately elevating and lowering the moisture content in a plurality of sequential cycles before the layers are laminated together. The middle layer is oriented so its grain is substantially perpendicular to the edges of the panel.
  • U.S. application No. US 2009/0183458 describes a panel system, preferably for floors, defined by a series of panels each formed of a plurality of tongue and groove main floor panel strips arranged side edge to side edge and cut to a common length with a tongue along one cut edge and a groove along the other. At the edges are attached edge strips formed also from the flooring panels with tongue and groove and fastened together to form a common panel member for transportation and installation.
  • Ricciardelli has applied for a new type of tongue-groove design in US 20020189183A1. The US 20100194039A1 by Trush, et al., US 20110000162A1 also by Trush, et al., US 20110011020A1 by Shen, and WO 2005081923A2 by Fuccella have all applied for a novel type of zigzag tenon design. Floor panels with edges that have slots, troughs, bolting features etc. have all been applied for patents as shown in US 2004226241A1 by Forster, et al., in US 2006003148A1 by Zwynengurg, et al., in US 20070011980A1 by Stegner, et al., WO 2005003487A2 by Forster, et al., and WO 2008039782A2 by Barlow.
  • All these known designs for joining flooring pieces to date are neither easy to make nor user friendly. They are not cost effective either, both for manufacturing and installation. The possible human errors in the installation process were not considered for these designs.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • It is recognized from the prior inventions of the floor panel locking mechanisms that the installation of such flooring panels requires high levels of skills and is labor intensive. The manufacturing process for such panels is also complicated. Elaborated quality control processes are needed to ensure the product to be usable and consistent. The locking features either demand the panel to have a certain minimum physical properties like thickness and hardness, or are visible on the surface, which is not acceptable for applications at homes and many other places. The present invention has inter alia for its object to provide a flooring system which counteracts at least a number of these drawbacks to a significant extent.
  • To that end a flooring system as described in the opening paragraph is according to the invention characterized in that said male and female locking component provide lateral interlocking and interconnection of floor panels substantially parallel to an exposed surface of said floor panels, and in that said interlocking means further comprise at least one insertion lip at a lateral side of a floor panel which is received by at least one insertion receptacles in an adjacent lateral side of an adjacent floor panel, which insertion lip and insertion receptacle provide transverse interlocking and interconnection of said floor panels, substantially perpendicular to said exposed surface of said floor panels.
  • The present invention significantly simplifies both the installation and the manufacturing processes, therefore reducing both costs. Since only simple tooling is employed to manufacture the panels and no machining is needed, consistent high quality panels are easily made. Most of all, due to the self-aligning feature, the installation of panels by none-skilled individuals is made easy and does not require any training. The panel being installed is pulled closer to its neighbours by the locking mechanism itself. When installed, the panels are tightly held together and the seams in-between the panels are less visible.
  • In a particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said female locking component comprises a sink at said adjacent lateral side of said adjacent floor panel and said male locking component resides in said sink in a close fitting relationship.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said sink has a transverse depth extending over part of a thickness of said floor panel, in that said sink opens at a back surface of said panel opposite said exposed surface, and in that said male locking component has a transverse thickness which is at most said transverse depth.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said insertion lips protrude from said lateral side over a distance which is less than approximately one and a half a thickness of said panel, while said insertion receptacle has a lateral depth which is at least said distance.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said male locking component has an edge that locks behind and contacts a corresponding edge of said female locking component.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said edges have curvatures, which generate gradual progressive compression forces on engaging each other.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said at least one insertion lips and said at least one female locking components reside at a same lateral side of a floor panel.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said at least one insertion receptacle and said at least one male locking component reside at a same lateral side of a floor panel.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said interlocking means are formed by mechanical machining of a floor panel or through the adhesion of a top layer to a bottom substrate.
  • In a further particular embodiment the flooring system according to the invention is characterized in that said at least one male locking component and said at least one insertion lip have either a planar top surface or non-planar top surface and define a circumference of one of various designs, including arcs and curvatures, multiple arcs and curvatures, slants, and multiple slants.
  • Advantages, features and further particulars of these particular embodiments will become apparent along the lines of an exemplifying embodiment and an accompanying drawing, in which:
  • The floor panel of the present invention as shown in FIG. 1 is rectangle in shape, but can be a square or any other possible shapes. The locking parts, i.e. the male locking components, (protrusions), the female locking components (sinks), the insertion lips, and the insertion receptacles in even numbers are evenly distributed along the panel . sides. The actual number of the locking parts is not critical and can vary according to the length and rigidity of the panel. At least two sides, preferably the long sides when the panel is rectangular in shape, have the combinations of the protrusion-sink pairs and the lip-receptacle couplings.
  • The protrusions and the sinks are half in length at the ends along these two sides so that when the short sides, or the ends, of the two adjacent panels meet a complete protrusion or sink is formed. A better locking is achieved as compare to when a whole protrusion or sink is constructed at the end of one of the panels and none for the other.
  • The insertion lips, preferably on the female lock component side, generate the vertical locking for the floor panels when inserted into the insertion receptacles, preferably on the male lock component side of its neighbor panel. The depth of the lips is related to the thickness and rigidity of the substrate. It in general should not exceed one and half times of the substrate thickness. The lips and receptacles can also be formed by offsetting the top layer to the substrate if the floor panel is formed by adhering the top layer to the bottom substrate.
  • The lateral locking of the floor panels are achieved through inserting the protrusion into the sink and then compressing into position. Portions of the sink edges (corresponding to the dotted lines shown in FIG. 2) are slightly deflected due to the gradual progressive deviation of the curvatures of both the protrusions' and sinks' edges in contact in respect to each other. This deflection will hold the neighboring panels more tightly together as compare to the other floor panel interconnection mechanisms and ensure the gaps or seams in-between the floor panels to be minimal.
  • The invention can be used for floor panels of any sizes, shapes, structures, and made of any materials. The vertical and lateral interlocking of floor panels is realized through independent features of insertion lip-receptacle couplings and protrusion-sink pairs.
  • In general invention provides a new interlocking or interconnection mechanism for securing floor covering panels is invented, whereas the covering panels can be any sizes, shapes, structures, and of any materials. The mechanism has independent features rendering the vertical and the lateral couplings, where vertical is defined as the direction perpendicular to the surface of the panel that is exposed and lateral is defined as the direction parallel to the exposed surface. The new mechanism may provide a gradual progressive tightening effect during the installation process for securing the panels, which is completely different from the outcome by all the existing mechanisms including tongue-and-groove, snap-on, etc.
  • The floor panels may be of any sizes, shapes, structures, and made of any materials, i.e., plastics, wood, bamboo, etc. According to the invention they will comprise an interlocking mechanism, which is made of the male locking components, or the protrusions, and female locking components, or the sinks, that provide lateral interlocking or interconnection of floor panels, and the insertion lips and insertion receptacles that provide transverse interlocking or interconnection of floor panels.
  • Particularly a floor panel has its locking parts, i.e. protrusions, sinks, insertion lips, and insertion receptacles, complementary to, or exactly the opposite of mirror images of, each other on at least one pair of the opposite sides in respect to the panel center lines, providing the interlocking or interconnection of the neighboring panels.
  • The male locking components and the female locking components, or the protrusions and the sinks, of the interlocking mechanism that have edges that come into contact with each other when installed. The edges in contact may have curvatures, which preferably generate gradual progressive compression forces when fully installed, to provide lateral tightening while interlocking or interconnection of the panels adjacent to each other.
  • The side of the panel that has the insertion lips is preferably with the combination of the female locking components, or the sinks, and the opposite side in respect to the centerline of the panel that has the insertion receptacles is preferably with the combination of the male locking components, or the protrusions.
  • The floor panel may have any size or shape of the locking parts, i.e. the male and female locking components, or the protrusions and the sinks, and the insertion lips and insertion receptacles of an interlocking mechanism, which may be formed either by mechanical machining or through the adhesion of a top layer to a bottom substrate or with any other means.
  • The male locking components, or the protrusions, and the insertion lips can have either planar top surface or non-planar top surfaces of various designs including arcs and curvatures, multiple arcs and curvatures, slants, and multiple slants.

Claims (11)

  1. 4. Flooring system comprising a number of abutting floor panels having mutual interlocking means, said interlocking means comprising at least one male locking component protruding at a lateral side of a floor panel and locking into at least one female locking component at an adjacent lateral side of an adjacent floor panel, wherein said male and female locking component provide lateral interlocking and interconnection of floor panels substantially parallel to an exposed surface of said floor panels, and wherein said interlocking means further comprise at least one insertion lip at a lateral side of a floor panel which is received by at least one insertion receptacles in an adjacent lateral side of an adjacent floor panel, which insertion lip and insertion receptacle provide transverse interlocking and interconnection of said floor panels, substantially perpendicular to said exposed surface of said floor panels.
  2. 5. Flooring system according to claim 1 characterized in that said female locking component comprises a sink at said adjacent lateral side of said adjacent floor panel and said male locking component resides in said sink in a close fitting relationship.
  3. 6. Flooring system according to claim 2, characterized in that said sink has a transverse depth extending over part of a thickness of said floor panel, in that said sink opens at a back surface of said panel opposite said exposed surface, and in that said male locking component has a transverse thickness which is at most said transverse depth.
  4. 7. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims characterized in that said insertion lips protrude from said lateral side over a distance which is less than approximately one and a half a thickness of said panel, while said insertion receptacle has a lateral depth which is at least said distance.
  5. 8. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims characterized in that said male locking component has an edge that locks behind and contacts a corresponding edge of said female locking component.
  6. 9. Flooring system according to claim 5 characterized in that said edges have curvatures, which generate gradual progressive compression forces on engaging each other.
  7. 10. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that said at least one insertion lips and said at least one female locking components reside at a same lateral side of a floor panel.
  8. 11. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that said at least one insertion receptacle and said at least one male locking component reside at a same lateral side of a floor panel.
  9. 12. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that said interlocking means are formed by mechanical machining of a floor panel or through the adhesion of a top layer to a bottom substrate.
  10. 13. Flooring system according to any of the preceding claims, characterized in that said at least one male locking component and said at least one insertion lip have either a planar top surface or non-planar top surface and define a circumference of one of various designs, including arcs and curvatures, multiple arcs and curvatures, slants, and multiple slants.
  11. 14. Floor panel for use in the flooring system according to one or more of the preceding claims.
US13/022,948 2011-02-08 2011-02-08 Self Locking Flooring Panels Abandoned US20120240506A1 (en)

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US13/022,948 US20120240506A1 (en) 2011-02-08 2011-02-08 Self Locking Flooring Panels
CN 201120142037 CN202194351U (en) 2011-02-08 2011-05-06 Self-locking floorboard
CN 201110116838 CN102312543B (en) 2011-02-08 2011-05-06 Self-locking flock piece
EP20120154558 EP2484845A2 (en) 2011-02-08 2012-02-08 Self locking flooring panels
US13/654,679 US8534023B2 (en) 2011-02-08 2012-10-18 Self locking flooring panels and related methods

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US20160090209A1 (en) * 2013-06-06 2016-03-31 Good Works Studio, Inc Multi-Purpose Transport And Flooring Structures, And Associated Methods Of Manufacture
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US8806822B1 (en) * 2013-02-19 2014-08-19 Wen Ping Wang Mat with puzzle function
CN103485510B (en) * 2013-09-09 2015-09-23 浙江长兴森大竹木制品有限公司 Bamboo mosaic structure reorganization
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CN202194351U (en) 2012-04-18
US20130042567A1 (en) 2013-02-21
CN102312543B (en) 2014-04-16
US8534023B2 (en) 2013-09-17
EP2484845A2 (en) 2012-08-08

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