US Patent 9,303,854 Electrical Rail Systems with Axially Interleaved Contact Arrays

Abstract

An improved electrical rail system for removable and repositionable lighting or other electrical fixtures is disclosed in which electrical interface contacts are interleaved along the rail axis to provide a wide range of fixture pivoting angles around the axis and linear translation along the axis of the rail assembly. Track systems disclosed include linear electrode rails with substantially circumferential contacts configured to provide pivoting of luminaires around the rail in excess of 180 degrees to provide lighting fixture directional flexibility. Helical rail systems are also disclosed with a plurality of interleaved electrical contacts on the surface that coil around the axis of the rail providing continuous pivoting of fixtures. Embodiments include rails with axial symmetry that may be bent in directions perpendicular to the rail axis. Embodiments provide fixture functional switching through movement in a first direction followed by further movement of the fixture without functional switching.

Claims

1. An electrical distribution system comprising:a rail having an axis and a length in the axial direction and an outer surface of the rail located about the axis, wherein the rail comprisesa plurality of axially interleaved contacts andelectrical insulation wherein the electrical insulation is adapted to cover at least a portion of an axially interleaved contact of the rail; anda fixture comprising at least two fixture contacts, wherein the fixture is configured for mechanical attachment to the rail in a position outward of the outer surface of the rail; andwherein the at least two fixture contacts are configured to make electrical connections to at least two of the axially interleaved contacts and wherein at least one of the fixture contacts comprises insulation displacement means for piercing the electrical insulation.

2. The electrical distribution system of claim 1, wherein the fixture is adapted to have a shape that surrounds the rail to an extent that restricts removal of the fixture in directions perpendicular to the axial direction at a time after mechanical attachment of the fixture to the rail.

3. The electrical distribution system of claim 1, wherein the axially interleaved contacts are configured to extend in a helical path about the rail.

4. An electrical distribution system comprisinga rail having a longitudinal axis and an outer surface positioned about the longitudinal axis, wherein the rail comprisesa polymeric member,a first electrode wherein the first electrode comprises a plurality of first electrode contact surfaces that extend at least partially around the longitudinal axis of the rail; anda second electrode wherein the second electrode comprises a plurality of second electrode contact surfaces that extend at least partially around the longitudinal axis of the rail; and wherein a second electrode contact surface is positioned in the longitudinal direction between first electrode contact surfaces; anda fixture adapted to be connected electrically to the rail electrodes at a plurality of positions that differ in longitudinal position along the rail and radial orientation around the rail and wherein the fixture comprises a fixture electrical contact configured to connect electrically to a first rail electrode through physical contact with a first electrode contact surface; and keying means for guiding the positioning of the first fixture contact relative to a first electrode electrical contact wherein the keying means includes at least one of a visual indicator and mechanical engagement between portions of the fixture and the rail, whereinthe keying means comprises a portion of the polymeric member that is configured to extend a greater distance from the longitudinal axis of the rail than the first electrode contact surface.

5. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the fixture is configured to surround the rail sufficiently after attachment to provide a mechanical interference hindering removal of the fixture from the rail along paths perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the rail.

6. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the rail and fixture are adapted to provide a path of fixture motion comprising a rotation of the fixture about the longitudinal axis of the rail by more than 180 degrees that maintains electrical continuity between the fixture electrical contact and the first electrode.

7. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the first electrode contact surface forms a helical path around the rail axis adapted to provide a path for fixture movement comprising simultaneous translation of the fixture along the longitudinal axis of the rail and movement of the fixture about the longitudinal axis of the rail by more than 360 degrees that maintains electrical continuity between the fixture electrical contact and the first electrode.

8. The electrical distribution system of claim 7, wherein the fixture is adapted to emit light and wherein the intensity and color of the emitted light is maintained over the path of fixture motion.

9. The electrical distribution system of claim 1, wherein the rail is adapted for bending in directions perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the rail and wherein the bending moment of the rail is substantially independent of direction perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the rail.

10. The electrical distribution system of claim 1, wherein the rail further comprises an insulating core.

11. The electrical distribution system of claim 2, wherein the fixture further comprises a spring member that is configured to provide a force pushing against the outer surface of the rail.

12. The electrical distribution system of claim 11, wherein the spring member is configured to contribute contact pressure between a fixture contact and an axially interleaved contact.

13. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the rail shape is configured to be generally cylindrical characterized by having a substantially uniform radial distance from the rail axis to the position where the fixture electrical contact touches the first electrode contact surface at different longitudinal and radial orientation positions of the fixture.

14. The electrical distribution system of claim 1, wherein the rail further comprises a polymeric member and wherein at least a portion of the polymeric member is configured to be located between portions of adjacent first and second electrodes in the longitudinal direction.

15. An electrical distribution system comprising a rail having a longitudinal axis and an outer surface positioned about the longitudinal axis, said rail includinga first electrode wherein the first electrode comprises a plurality of first electrode contact surfaces that extend at least partially around the longitudinal axis of the rail; anda second electrode wherein the second electrode comprises a plurality of second electrode contact surfaces that extend at least partially around the longitudinal axis of the rail; and wherein a second electrode contact surface is positioned in the longitudinal direction between first electrode contact surfaces;wherein the first electrode and second electrode comprise helical conductors; anda plurality of helical insulating members; anda fixture adapted to be connected electrically to the rail electrodes at a plurality of positions that differ in longitudinal position along the rail and radial orientation around the rail and wherein the fixture comprises a fixture electrical contact configured to connect electrically to a first rail electrode through physical contact with a first electrode contact surface.

16. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the fixture is capable of being attached to the rail at a plurality of longitudinal positions having the same radial orientation wherein the points of physical contact of the fixture electrical contact with the first electrode contact surface are located in a periodic array parallel to the rail axis and at a radial contact distance from the rail axis, wherein the periodicity is characterized by a first electrode contact axial pitch and wherein the first electrode contact axial pitch is at least 4 times the radial contact distance.

17. The electrical distribution system of claim 16, wherein the first electrode contact axial pitch is greater than one inch.

18. The electrical distribution system of claim 15, wherein the fixture comprises a plurality of separable elements configured for assembly about the rail to an extent sufficient to provide a mechanical interference in directions perpendicular to the rail axis.

19. The electrical distribution system of claim 15, wherein a portion of the first electrode is covered by electrical insulation.

20. The electrical distribution system of claim 19, wherein electrical insulation must be displaced in order for the fixture electrical contact to touch the first electrode contact surface.

21. The electrical distribution system of claim 15, wherein the mechanical attachment of the fixture to the rail comprises magnetic forces.

22. The electrical distribution system of claim 4, wherein the fixture further comprises a solid state light emitter configured to emit light when supplied with electrical power.

23. The electrical distribution system of claim 22, wherein the fixture further comprises a heat sink wherein the heat sink is adapted to remove substantially more of the heat generated by the solid state light emitter than the amount of heat that is removed by thermal conduction to the rail.

24. The electrical distribution system of claim 22, wherein at least one of the color of light emitted or the intensity of light emitted changes if the fixture contacts are attached to a different combination of the axially interleaved contacts.

25. The electrical distribution system of claim 22, having redirection means adapted to change the direction of light emission from the fixture wherein the redirection means includes any combination of bending of the rail, rotation of the fixture around the axis of the rail and translation of the fixture along the axial direction of the rail