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Publication numberUS20020078507 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/843,413
Publication dateJun 27, 2002
Filing dateApr 25, 2001
Priority dateApr 25, 2000
Also published asUS6498198, US20010042271, WO2001080690A1
Publication number09843413, 843413, US 2002/0078507 A1, US 2002/078507 A1, US 20020078507 A1, US 20020078507A1, US 2002078507 A1, US 2002078507A1, US-A1-20020078507, US-A1-2002078507, US2002/0078507A1, US2002/078507A1, US20020078507 A1, US20020078507A1, US2002078507 A1, US2002078507A1
InventorsTony Pearce
Original AssigneePearce Tony M.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Contourable inflatable orthopedic pillow
US 20020078507 A1
Abstract
A pillow that includes an inflatable bladder surrounded by a resilient layer. The bladder may be inflated to various levels to achieve a desired level of orthopedic support. In some embodiments of the invention, the pillow may include an outer comfort layer of softer material than the firm inner core. Optionally, an integral hand pump may be included on the pillow for inflation purposes.
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Claims(49)
1. A contourable orthopedic pillow comprising:
an inflatable bladder, said inflatable bladder being capable of being inflated to a variety of levels by placing a gas therein,
a resilient material covering both the top and bottom of said bladder, said resilient material being sufficient flexible to accommodate inflation of said bladder,
wherein said combination of bladder and covering is symmetrical top to bottom so that it can be turned over for use on either side,
wherein the pillow may be adjusted from a fully flat configuration to a fully contoured configuration by inflating said bladder,
wherein said bladder may be inflated in discrete increments by use of a pump, and
wherein said resilient material is overlaid with another padding material selected from the group consisting of polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting, buckling elastomers, and a resilient material consisting of discontinuous pieces of flexible material joined together by low durometer, high elongation elastomeric material.
2. A pillow as recited in claim 1 further comprising a second inflatable bladder.
3. A pillow as recited in claim 1 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
4. A contourable orthopedic pillow comprising:
an inflatable bladder, and
a resilient material covering both the top and bottom of said bladder, said resilient material being sufficiently flexible to accommodate inflation of said bladder,
wherein said resilient material has top/bottom symmetry so that the pillow can be turned over for use on either side,
wherein said bladder may be inflated and deflated to adjust contour of the pillow from nearly flat to fully contoured,
wherein contour of the pillow is adjustable in discrete increments by inflating said bladder in discrete increments.
5. A pillow as recited in claim 4 further comprising a second inflatable bladder which may be inflated to further adjust orthopedic contour of the pillow.
6. A pillow as recited in claim 4 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
7. A contourable orthopedic pillow comprising:
a bladder that may be inflated by placement of a gas therein, and
a resilient material covering overlaying both the top and bottom of said bladder, said resilient material covering being sufficiently flexible to accommodate inflation of said bladder,
wherein contour of the pillow is adjustable from nearly flat to fully contoured by inflation of said bladder, and
wherein contour of the pillow is adjustable in discrete increments.
8. A pillow as recited in claim 7 further comprising a second inflatable bladder which may be inflated to further adjust orthopedic contour of the pillow.
9. A pillow as recited in claim 7 further comprising
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
10. A pillow as recited in claim 7 wherein said resilient material covering is selected from the group consisting of polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting, buckling elastomers, and a resilient material that includes discontinuous pieces of flexible material joined together by low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
11. A pillow as recited in claim 10 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
12. A contourable orthopedic pillow comprising:
a bladder that may be inflated by placement of a gas therein, and
a resilient material covering overlaying both the top and bottom of said bladder, said resilient material covering being sufficiently flexible to accommodate inflation of said bladder,
wherein said pillow is symmetrical from a top/bottom perspective so that it may be turned over for use on either side.
13. A pillow as recited in claim 12 further comprising a second inflatable bladder which may be inflated to further adjust orthopedic contour of the pillow.
14. A pillow as recited in claim 12 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
15. A pillow as recited in claim 12 wherein said resilient material covering is selected from the group consisting of polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting, buckling elastomers, and a resilient material that includes discontinuous pieces of flexible material joined together by low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
16. A pillow as recited in claim 15 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
17. A contourable orthopedic cushion comprising:
a bladder that may be inflated by placement of a gas therein, and
a resilient material covering overlaying both the top and bottom of said bladder, said resilient material covering being sufficiently flexible to accommodate inflation of said bladder,
wherein said pillow is symmetrical from a top/bottom perspective so that it may be turned over for use on either side.
18. A cushion as recited in claim 17 further comprising a second inflatable bladder which may be inflated to further adjust orthopedic contour of the pillow.
19. A cushion as recited in claim 17 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
20. A cushion as recited in claim 17 wherein said resilient material covering is selected from the group consisting of polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting, buckling elastomers, and a resilient material that includes discontinuous pieces of flexible material joined together by low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
21. A cushion as recited in claim 20 further comprising:
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including
a pump bladder having bladder walls,
an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means located in said pump bladder, said resilient means serving to re-expand said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and
a one-way valve between said pump bladder and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder, and
a bleed valve on said inflatable gas-containing bladder for permitting gas to escape therefrom.
22. A contourable orthopedic pillow for cushioning the head and neck of a user comprising:
a core section fabricated from a resilient material,
an overlay on said core section, said overlay being of a material that is softer than said core section.
23. A pillow as recited in claim 22 wherein the pillow has top/bottom symmetry so that it may be turned over and used on either side.
24. A pillow as recited in claim 22 further comprising an adjustment means located in said core section, said adjustment means being capable of adjusting the contour of the pillow to a variety of levels in discrete increments by placing a gas therein.
25. A pillow as recited in claim 24 wherein said adjustment means is a fluid-containing bladder.
26. A pillow as recited in claim 22 wherein said overlay includes a material selected from the group consisting of latex foam rubber, buckling elastomer, and a resilient material that has discontinuous pieces of a flexible material joined together by a low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
27. A pillow as recited in claim 22 wherein said overlay includes a material selected from the group consisting of elastomers and a resilient material that has discontinuous pieces of a flexible material joined together by a low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
28. A pillow for cushioning the head and neck of a user comprising:
a core section fabricated from a resilient material,
an overlay on said core section;
wherein said overlay includes a material selected from the group consisting of latex foam rubber, buckling elastomer, and a resilient material that has discontinuous pieces of a flexible material joined together by a low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
29. A pillow as recited in claim 28 wherein the pillow has top/bottom symmetry so that it may be turned over and used on either side.
30. A pillow as recited in claim 28 further comprising an inflatable bladder located in said core section, said inflatable bladder being capable of being inflatable to a variety of levels by placing a gas therein.
31. A pillow as recited in claim 28 further comprising an adjustment means located in said core section, said adjustment means being capable of adjusting the contour of the pillow to a variety of levels in discrete increments by placing a gas therein.
32. A pillow as recited in claim 31 wherein said adjustment means is a fluid-containing bladder.
33. A cushion for cushioning the head and neck of a user comprising:
a core section fabricated from a resilient material,
an overlay on said core section;
wherein said overlay includes a material selected from the group consisting of latex foam rubber, buckling elastomer, and a resilient material that has discontinuous pieces of a flexible material joined together by a low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
34. A cushion as recited in claim 28 wherein the cushion has top/bottom symmetry so that it may be turned over and used on either side.
35. A cushion as recited in claim 28 further comprising an inflatable bladder located in said core section, said inflatable bladder being capable of being inflatable to a variety of levels by placing a gas therein.
36. A cushion as recited in claim 28 further comprising an adjustment means located in said core section, said adjustment means being capable of adjusting the contour of the cushion to a variety of levels in discrete increments by placing a gas therein.
37. A cushion as recited in claim 31 wherein said adjustment means is a fluid-containing bladder.
38. A bed pillow comprising:
a plurality of discrete pieces of resilient material joined together by pieces of low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
39. A pillow as recited in claim 38 wherein the pillow has an orthopedic contour for support of the head and neck.
40. A pillow as recited in claim 39 further comprising an inflatable bladder in the pillow.
41. A cushion comprising:
a plurality of discrete pieces of resilient material joined together by pieces of low-durometer, high-elongation elastomeric material.
42. A cushion as recited in claim 41 wherein said cushion is configured to support a human head.
43. A cushion as recited in claim 42 wherein the cushion has an orthopedic contour for support of the head and neck.
44. A cushion as recited in claim 41 further comprising an inflatable bladder in the pillow.
45. A cushion as recited in 44 wherein said cushion is configured to support a human head.
46. A shape-adjustable cushion comprising:
an inflatable gas-containing bladder constructed from at least two layers of film welded together, said bladder being of a construction which permits it to substantially contain gas placed therein,
a pump integral to the pillow, the pump including a pump bladder having bladder walls, an orifice on a bladder wall through which a gas may travel as desired, resilient means for re-expanding said pump bladder after it has been contracted by a squeezing force, and a one-way valve between said pump and said inflatable gas-containing bladder to permit the pump to force gas into said inflatable gas-containing bladder,
a means for allowing gas to escape said gas-containing bladder, and
resilient material covering at least two sides of said inflatable gas-containing bladder.
47. A cushion as recited in claim 46 wherein the cushion is adapted for supporting the head and neck of a user.
48. A cushion as recited in claim 46 wherein said resilient material is selected from the group consisting of polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting and elastomer.
49. A cushion as recited in claim 48 wherein the cushion is adapted for supporting the head and neck of a user.
Description
CLAIM FOR PRIORITY

[0001] Applicant claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/199,587 filed on Apr. 25, 2000 and to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/216,021 filed on Jul. 3, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] This invention relates to the field of cushions of all types, particularly but not limited to cushions for beds, such as head pillows and mattresses, and furniture, including the main cushions for sitting and lying as well as the loose cushions and pillows associated with some types of furniture. Those skilled in the art will recognize the myriad of applications for the cushions of the invention.

[0004] 2. Background Art

[0005] There is considerable prior art in the field of ergonomic, orthopedic or contoured pillows and cushions. The objective of the prior art devices is to support the head and neck during sleep in a position that is similar to the position of the head and neck in a standing or sitting person during waking hours. To that end, the pillows are thicker in the portion that underlies the neck and thinner in the portion that underlies the head. Most of the prior art orthopedic cushions have three general sections: (1) a shallow center portion for the head to rest upon; (2) a bulbous edge portion thicker than the center portion for the neck to rest upon while lying on one's back; and (3) opposite from this bulbous edge portion, an even thicker bulbous secondary edge portion for the neck to rest upon while lying on one's side.

[0006] There are also numerous prior art orthopedic cushions that contain inflatable bladders. These bladders are to adjust the firmness of one or more of the three above-described sections of the pillow, and to a very limited extent, the contour. Examples of such cushions include U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,501,034; 4,528,705; 4,829,614; 4,979,249; and 5,068,933, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference. These pillows are all meant to be a very specific shape to accomplish the designs of the inventor. None of them are of such a shape that they can be turned over and used on the other side.

[0007] Unfortunately, orthopedic pillows are still in only limited use. Their cost is generally higher than for non-orthopedic pillows, especially those orthopedic pillows containing inflatable bladders. The bladder configurations of prior art pillows are all complex in nature, significantly adding to the cost. A major reason for rejecting prior art orthopedic pillows is the radical departure from traditional (flat) pillow shapes, to which the user has a difficult time adjusting.

[0008] None of the highly-shaped orthopedic pillows of the prior art address the need for a pillow that is adjustable in shape in the range from flat to fully contoured. There exists a need for such a pillow, so that the user can gradually adjust the pillow over the course of many nights to have more and more contour, until he or she is used to the full orthopedic shape and can thus reap the full benefits.

[0009] There also exists a need for such a pillow for those that can never get used to the full orthopedic shape, but can still reap the partial benefit from a shape that is somewhere between flat and fully contoured. There exists a need for such a pillow in situations where the pillow is used by different people on different nights, such as in a person's guest room or in a hotel, so that each person can adjust the pillow to his or her preference, including completely flat.

[0010] There exists a need for such a pillow because every person's body is different, and sleep positions differ, and a pillow that is completely adjustable as to the degree of orthopedic bulbousness will accommodate more people than the many prior art pillows whose shape is set by the pillow design. There also exists a need for an adjustable orthopedic pillow that is less complex and is inexpensive relative to prior-art bladder-type orthopedic pillows. There also exists a need for an orthopedic pillow that can be flipped over and used on either side.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTIONS

[0011] The pillows of the invention in their various embodiments address these needs. In its non-inflated form, one embodiment of the invention is completely flat like a standard foam pillow. It uses an exceptionally simple, single chamber flat-welded bladder that is very inexpensive to produce and install. It can be adjusted by inflation to any degree of bulbousness from completely flat to fully orthopedic, thus allowing the user to either set it permanently at the desired degree or to gradually increase the bulbousness as he or she gets used to having an orthopedic pillow. It allows different users to set the degree of bulbousness to their own preference or their own body's needs. The construction is simple and takes little labor, and the materials are inexpensive, thus allowing the pillow to be made at low relative cost. This orthopedic pillow of the invention can be flipped over and used on either side.

[0012] In other embodiments of the orthopedic pillows of the invention, other features are added which add additional desired properties. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will comprehend the objects, features and advantages of the inventions on reading the text of the patent in conjunction with the appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013]FIG. 1A depicts an embodiment of the invented pillow without air in its interior.

[0014]FIGS. 1B and 1C depict the air bladder pillow of FIG. 1A partially filled with air.

[0015]FIG. 1D depicts the air bladder pillow of FIG. 1A fully inflated with air.

[0016] FIGS. 2A-2H depict another embodiment of the invention from uninflated to fully inflated.

[0017] FIGS. 3A-3C depict embodiments of the invention with an outer cushioning layer on a pillow substrate.

[0018] FIGS. 4A-4D depict embodiments of the invention intended to be filled with a soft filler material other than a gas.

[0019]FIG. 5 depicts another bladder of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SOME PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0020] Referring to FIGS. 1A-1D, one embodiment of the invention is depicted.

[0021]FIG. 1A shows the pillow 100 in its flat configuration prior to inflation. Users that wish to gradually become accustomed to an orthopedic pillow would start in this flat configuration until they are used to the particular foams used in the pillow. To construct this pillow, a piece of resilient material 1 has a flat-welded plastic air bladder 3 placed on the resilient material's top surface. For purposes of discussion, we will refer to the resilient material as foam, since the preferred embodiment is open-cell polyurethane foam. The foam is then folded over and bonded to itself at bond line 2. During this process, the top of the air bladder 2 may be adhesively bonded to the foam or left unbonded. It has been found that there is sufficient friction between the bladder and the foam that bonding is not generally necessary to retain the bladder in the foam, and removability is desirable in the event the bladder or foam must be replaced. The pillow is then complete, and is generally put into a fabric pillow-slip and packaged for sale.

[0022]FIG. 1B shows the air bladder partially inflated with air or other gas 4. The user is now in his or her first stage of getting used to an orthopedic pillow shape, or has set the bladder at this shape permanently to get at least some benefit. FIG. 1C shows the air bladder partially inflated to a higher level. The user is now in his or her second stage of getting used to an orthopedic pillow shape, or has set the bladder at this shape permanently to get some benefit. FIG. 1D shows the bladder fully inflated to maximum bulbousness so that the user can get the full benefit of an orthopedically shaped pillow. In place of the bladder, any contour adjustment means could be utilized, for example, a fluid-containing bladder or other adjustment means.

[0023] In prior art pillows, inventors and designers have gone to great lengths to have the bottom surface of the pillow remain flat. It will be noted that the bottom surface of the pillows in FIGS. 1B, 1C, and 1D are not flat. It is not necessary to have the bottom surface be flat, since the user does not lay his or her head on the bottom surface. I find that an advantage of having both sides of the pillow same-shaped as in FIGS. 1B, 1C, and 1D is that the user can flip the pillow over if it gets hot, sweaty, or saliva is drooled thereon. None of the prior art orthopedic pillows can be flipped over. While it may appear from FIGS. 1B, 1C, and 1D that the user's head will be at an angle when the non-inflated side of the pillow reaches the mattress, in practice the foam is very soft and bends near the bulb or neck portion to level out the head portion of the pillow.

[0024] The resilient covering of the pillow should be flexible to accommodate inflation of the air bladder so that the pillow is adjustable from flat to fully contoured. Preferably the pillow will be adjustable in desired increments, or discrete increments, to achieve a desired orthopedic effect. The resilient covering material may be polyurethane foam, memory foam, latex foam rubber, fiber batting, buckling elastomers, or a resilient material that I made of discontinuous pieces of a flexible material joined together with a low durometer high elongation elastomeric material. The resilient pillow cover will preferably be constructed so that the pillow is symmetrical with respect to at least one axis, such as top/bottom symmetry, so that the pillow may be turned over and used on both sides.

[0025] It is desirable for users that intend to set the air bladders at a preferred level and leave them at that level, to have two different heights on the two edges: One for when they lay on their side, and another for when they lay on their backs. The preferred embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2H addresses these issues.

[0026]FIG. 2A shows the pillow 100 in the flat configuration including the bladder 30, foam folded over the bladder and bonded at 20. A second simple bladder 50 is installed near the opposite edge of the pillow from bladder 30. Bladder 50 can be the same size as bladder 30 or wider/narrower. FIGS. 2B, 2C, and 2D show increasing levels of inflation with air or other gas 40. This configuration provides for two levels of inflation for back and side sleeping.

[0027]FIGS. 2E, 2F, and 2G show that both bladders do not need to be increased or decreased together in terms of inflation. For example, FIG. 2G shows that when bladder 30 is at maximum inflation, bladder 50 is at low inflation. FIG. 2F shows that the foam can be in two or more adhered pieces rather than one folded and adhered piece.

[0028]FIG. 2H shows another embodiment wherein the foam can be added to or replaced by a secondary padding layer 70. Examples of excellent materials 70 of my invention to add to or replace the foam are: polyester batting fiber; Reflex™ foam and other polyurethane foams by Foamex Corporation of Linwood, Pa.; viscoelastic (memory) foam; latex foam rubber; and Gellycomb™ buckling-column elastomer by EdiZONE, LC. Gellycomb™ and its manufacture are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,749,111 and 6,026,527 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/303,979 filed on May 3, 1999 which are hereby incorporated by reference. The padding material 70 can replace some or all of the foam, and be on one or both sides and around either or both ends or just on the laying surfaces. Multiple alternative padding materials may be added to the pillow at 70 as desired.

[0029] Use of Gellycomb™ is highly valuable for pillows. Prior art pillows do not sufficiently conform to the fine contours of the face or head while properly supporting the broader, flatter areas of the face or head. Firmer materials such as firm polyurethane foam or buckwheat hulls are uncomfortable. Softer materials, such as soft polyurethane foam, down feathers, and imitation/substitute down feathers, are more comfortable but when lying on the side the face sinks in until the nose is blocked and breathing is hampered, or until the eye is pressed upon uncomfortably. In other words, these softer materials conform well, but do not properly support the broader, flatter areas of the face or head, which support is needed to keep the nose and eyes out of the pillow. Gellycomb™'s unique hollow buckling columns made of soft, rubbery gel conform to the fine features of the head or face by buckling where there is a point load and resisting buckling where a broad area of the face or head spans many columns. Thus it feels soft and comfortable but the face does not sink in far enough to irritate the nose and eye. Generally, Gellycomb™ is heat-bonded to a layer of non-woven fabric, and that fabric is adhesively bonded to the foam core or other core.

[0030]FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C show other preferred embodiments of my invention. Referring to FIG. 3A, the pillow 300 includes a foam core 81 containing an inflatable bladder 31 is made similar to the pillows described above. Wrapped around the core 81 is a comfort layer 91. Generally, but not in every case, the comfort layer 91 is soft and allows easy cushioning penetration, while the core 8 is somewhat firmer. In this manner, the face contacts soft material for comfort but does not sink in so far as to smother the nose and eye while lying on the side. FIG. 3A shows comfort layer 91, which is made from pin-core latex foam rubber, such as Talatech™ made by Latex International West of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. A good IFD (stiffness) for such foam is in the 10-13 range.

[0031] Referring to FIG. 3B, another pillow 301 is shown with a foam layer 82 containing air bladder 32. Wrapped about a portion of the exterior of the pillow is a comfort layer 102. The comfort layer 102 may be made of a suitable cushioning media such as memory foam. Memory foam is available from Carpenter Foam of Freeport Center, Clearfield, Utah. A preferred memory foam is about three pounds per cubic foot, though denser foams, while more expensive, are even more preferred for comfort.

[0032]FIG. 3C shows a pillow 302 including foam layer 83 about air bladder 33 and topped by comfort layer 112. In this instance, the comfort layer is a gelatinous buckling column structure of viscoelastic material, such as Gellycomb™.

[0033] In each of FIGS. 3A, 3B, and 3C, the comfort layer wraps around the top, shoulder area, and bottom of the pillow. Thus this preferred pillow is usable on both sides. Of course, a second bladder could be placed at the other edge of the pillow as shown in other embodiments of the invention. Or, the bladder could be eliminated while retaining the benefits of the soft and conforming comfort layer and the firmer inner core.

[0034] Referring to FIGS. 4A, 4B, 4C, and 4D, a pillow such as a pillow constructed according to the teachings of FIGS. 3A-3C, is shown at various stages of inflation, exhibiting the feature of infinite adjustability from flat to full orthopedic contour. FIG. 4A depicts a firm inner core 401 of the pillow 400, such as a firm foam, a bladder 403 for inflation, and an outer softer comfort layer 402. In FIG. 4A, the bladder is not inflated. In FIGS. 4B, 4C and 4D, the bladder is shown at increasing stages of inflation to provide a greater pillow height and greater stiffness.

[0035] A preferred air bladder 512 for the pillows of my invention is shown in FIG. 5. It is made by placing a plastic film 520 adjacent another identical film, then radio-frequency (RF) welding the desired perimeter 513 shape (generally rectangular with rounded ends is preferred). An air inlet is designed to work in harmony with an inflation device, which could be the human mouth or a hand pump or a powered pump. A means of sealing the air inlet must be provided. All of these things are well known in the air bladder art so are not disclosed in greater detail herein.

[0036] In FIG. 5, the air may be pumped into the bladder by means of an integrally welded hand pump. The pump has a small hole 514 which allows air into a bladder filled with a reticulated foam 515 or other means of reinflating the pump. When the reticulated foam 515 is filled with air, the pump is squeezed with the hand while hole 514 is covered for example by the palm of the hand, which forces air through one-way valve 516 into the bladder. A bleed valve 517 is situated so as to allow air to escape in the event the user desires less air in the bladder. Such integral pump/bleed systems have been used in the past by companies such as Dielectrics Industries of Chicopee, Mass. for items such as shoe-tightening systems. Construction of such devices is depicted in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,372,487 and 5,144,708 which are hereby incorporated by reference. The use of such a mechanism in a pillow bladder is unique to my invention and offers the advantages of being inexpensive, out of the way, and easy to use and control. In one preferred embodiment, the bladder will take 50-100 squeezes of the pump to go from totally flat to completely filled. This allows small incremental adjustments, which practice shows is an important feature.

[0037] One aspect of my invention is an improved foam that is useful in the outer pillow covering of the pillows of my invention as well as in other cushioning applications. I will refer to this as a gel/foam combination. There exists a need for a foam in many pillowing/cushioning applications that has a higher “hand” than prior art foams. Hand is the ability of the foam beneath a pillowed object or person to sink in deeply without dragging surrounding foam down. An aspect of my invention is to use small pieces of foam, which are very economically purchased as scrap from other manufacturing processes, and to bond these pieces of foam together with a soft, high-elongation elastomer. The soft versions of gelatinous elastomer described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,994,450 which is hereby incorporated by reference are preferred.

[0038] A preferred elastomer stretches to twenty times its original length, and can be made very soft in durometer. For example, the use of eight to twelve parts by weight of mineral oil to one part by weight of Septon 4055 SEEPS elastomer by Kuraray yields one preferred elastomer. The elastomer may includes various additives.

[0039] The elastomer acts as an easily deformable shear layer between particles of foam, allowing them to displace easily relative to one another. This creates a very high hand, while the compressibility of the foam particles imparts bulk stiffness to the foam so that the pillowed object or person does not bottom out. The elastomer can be applied to the foam particles in either solvated or melted form. If in solvated form, the solvent must be driven off before use. If in melted form, preferred, once cooled the foam is ready to use. The elastomer must penetrate the surface of the foam particles sufficiently to interlock with them. It is preferable to coat only the outer surface of the foam, but the elastomer can coat the interior portions of the foam as well. Advantages of this foam are myriad. The cost is very low for such a desirable foam because of the availability of scrap foams at low prices. The environment is helped by the recycling of the foam. The hand is very high, making the foam very plush and comfortable while also being supportive. Since the preferred elastomer has excellent memory, the foam does not crush down over time to the extent that it would without the elastomer. The elastomer imparts a viscoelastic property to the foam, a feature existing only in very expensive prior art foams.

[0040] It is to be understood that the above representations of my invention(s) are preferred embodiments only, and that many other embodiments are possible, including other materials, methods, and combinations. Many other applications for the pillows and cushioning materials disclosed herein are possible in addition to those mentioned.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6701558 *Feb 3, 2003Mar 9, 2004The Or Group, Inc.Patient support surface
US6785923 *Feb 10, 2003Sep 7, 2004Derby, Inc.Institutional bedding with integral pillow and mattress
US7225486Aug 22, 2005Jun 5, 2007Jackson Iii Avery MTherapeutic seat cushion
US7444698Mar 12, 2007Nov 4, 2008Jackson Iii Avery MTherapeutic cushion
US8726421Feb 13, 2012May 20, 2014Roberto R. AlvarezApparel with inflatable neck cushion
US20110094033 *Oct 28, 2009Apr 28, 2011Zinus Inc.Anti-snore neck-support contour pillow
Classifications
U.S. Classification5/644, 5/636
International ClassificationA47C27/00, A47G9/00, A47G9/10, A47C20/02, A47C20/00, A47C27/08, A47C3/16
Cooperative ClassificationA47C3/16, A47G2009/003, A47G9/10, A47C27/081, B68G1/00, B68G2001/005, A47C27/00
European ClassificationA47C27/08A, A47C27/00, B68G1/00, A47G9/10, A47C3/16
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 25, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: EDIZONE, LC, UTAH
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PEARCE, TONY M.;REEL/FRAME:011753/0361
Effective date: 20010425