US 20040244719 A1
A toy for animals, especially for dogs, is provided. The toy has a body having optional recesses on an outer surface thereof. The body comprises a hollow core of a first, hard polymeric material, and a covering of a second, soft polymeric thermosetting material which is thermally and chemically bonded to the first polymeric material
1. A toy for animals, comprising:
a hollow core of a first polymeric material;
a covering of a second thermosetting polymeric material;
wherein said first polymeric material is harder than said second polymeric material; and
wherein said covering is disposed outwardly over said and on at least portions of said core.
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wherein said end portions are interconnected by said at least one central portion; and
wherein said end portions comprise a greater circumference than said central portion.
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 The animal toy of the present invention is characterized primarily in that it comprises a core of a hard polymeric, preferably thermoplastic material with a covering of a soft polymeric material, especially a rubber-like or rubber-feeling, elastic polymeric material. The toy of the present invention is also characterized by use of a thermosetting material as the soft polymeric material. This provides a stronger, safer interconnection with the harder core and also provides greater design versatility than prior art mechanical interconnections toys or toys utilizing binders for interconnection. Further, the harder core is preferably hollow to prevent damage to the toy and, optionally, to provide a place for insertion of stimulating treats or devices. Finally, the utilization of the softer thermosetting polymer material with a hard hollow core provides a better compression dynamic than prior art toys, thereby providing a toy that is more stimulating to the animal.
 As a consequence of the inventive configuration of the toy, an animal has the impression of a bone that is covered with meat, whereby the core can be hollow in order to imitate a hollow marrow-filled bone, and possibly, as an optional benefit, to hold treats, and more preferably, acoustical or optical effects, etc. A scented and/or flavored insert to stimulate an animal to play with the toy would also be possible. Pursuant to one embodiment, the toy has the shape of a bone, having a narrow central portion and wider end portions, but can also have shapes including but not limited to a ball or an oval shape, a cross or “jack” shape, a traditional “kong” shape, or a disc shape, among others. The toy is preferably rotationally or axially symmetrical, and may be provided with optional grooves that extend in the circumferential and/or peripheral direction along elements of the toy. The toy thus on the one hand has a shape that is comfortable and stimulating for the animal and on the other hand is easy to manufacture, as described herein.
 The material of the covering is a thermosetting material or a mixture of a thermosetting material and a non-thermosetting material such as natural rubber. The material of the covering is preferably thermally and chemically bonded with the core (given application of heat in increments known in the industry with respect to the thermosetting material utilized) without it being necessary to dispose an additional layer of a binder, an adhesive or the like between the core and the covering. Alternatively, some mechanical interconnection can be used in addition to the thermally achieved chemical interconnection between the hard plastic core and the outer rubber-like coating, for example via undercuts and/or over-molding.
 The harder material of the core is preferably a thermoplastic that is particularly suitable for forming this chemical bond. Such materials include but are not limited to a polyamide (PA) or a modified polyphenylene ether (PPE). With such a combination of materials, it is possible to simulate a marrow-filled bone that is covered with meat, but one which is more durable and stable against external forces that tend to attack and destroy it. Further, it is easy to manufacture.
 The hard, hollow core, which is fixedly connected with the covering through the chemical bond between the thermosetting material and the thermoplastic material, improves the durability and stability of the toy. Unlike prior art hard or soft toys, the combination of the hard hollow core with the elastic covering ensures that the toy jumps or rebounds well when it falls upon a hard surface, and thus enables an entertaining and exciting toy for the animal. Pursuant to one advantageous embodiment of the invention, with an axially symmetrical, bone or dumbbell shaped toy, the peripheral beads or ridges have a slightly differing diameter, so that the toy rolls along a curved path in a manner not foreseeable by the animal, thus making play with the toy even more interesting.
 The hollow internal structure of the core furthermore makes it possible to dispose therein an electronic device that produces musical tones, acoustical effects, or light effects, and/or releases scents or flavors, thus exerting a particular fascination for the animal. The electronic device can be embodied in such a way that it produces different effects depending upon how the animal manipulates the toy.
 Further specific features of the present invention will be described in detail subsequently.
 It is an object of the present invention to improve the toy of the aforementioned general type such that it is particularly interesting to an animal and stimulates the animal to occupy itself with the toy
 Referring now to the drawings in detail, an embodiment of the toy of the invention is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Toy 10 in the first embodiment is shown as having an axially symmetrical configuration, and, like a bone, toy 10 may have a dumbbell-shaped configuration with spherical enlargements 12,14 at its opposing end portions 16,18, which enlargements 12,14 (and respective end portions 16,18) are interconnected by narrow central portion 20. Enlargements 12,14 can optionally be provided with a plurality of deep grooves 22 preferably extending in the circumferential direction and dividing each of end portions 16,18 into ridges 24. Alternate embodiments will utilize peripherally extending grooves, dimples, and/or bumps or other similar indentation/extension combinations known in the art. When the animal, for example a dog, plays with the inventive toy, the teeth of the animal penetrate or enter into grooves 22 when the animal grasps toy 10 with its mouth. The animal's teeth and/or gums beneficially rub against interior walls 26 of the grooves 22 or against upper surfaces 28 of ridges 24. In so doing, the teeth and/or gums are cleaned of food residue, coatings on the teeth, etc. Optionally, central portion 20 is additionally provided with a plurality of preferentially smaller circumferential grooves 30 (or other indentation/extension combinations and sizes) preferably extending in the circumferential direction and dividing central portion 20 into ridges 32, increasing the ability of an animal to grasp toy 10 and to clean any smaller teeth.
 In preferred embodiments of the invention, toy 10 has core 34 and sheathing or covering 36, wherein the core and the covering preferentially comprise different materials, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Covering 36 is comprised of a thermosetting polymeric material which is softer than core 34, and preferably having elastic, rubber-like qualities.
 Preferably, covering 36 comprises either an unmixed composition of a particular thermosetting material or a composition having a mixture of materials including at least one thermosetting material known in the art, such as but not limited to natural rubber (NR), styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR), isoprene rubber (IR), ethylene propylene diene terpolymer rubber (EPDM), nitrile terpolymer rubber (NBR), hydrogenated nitrile terpolymer rubber (HNBR), carboxylated nitrile terpolymer rubber (XNBR), polyurethane (PU), fluorocarbon rubber (FPM), flurosilicone rubber (MVQ), and/or modified flurorosilicone rubber (FMVQ).
 More preferably, natural rubber (NR), isoprene rubber (IR) and/or styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) are utilized in their unmixed form or in a mixture with other thermosetting materials and/or other polymeric materials as the covering of the present invention. Other thermosetting materials, including but not limited to those listed above may also be utilized in their unmixed form or in mixtures with other thermosetting materials and/or other polymeric materials as well.
 Preferably, the material of covering 36 will have a hardness between approximately 20 and approximately 80 Shore A [DIN 53505 and ASTM 22140]. More preferably, the hardness will be between approximately 30 and approximately 70 Shore A. Most preferably, the hardness will be between approximately 35 and approximately 65 Shore A.
 Use of thermosetting materials provide a surprisingly useful advantage in that the materials of the covering may be chemically bonded by a thermally derived bond to the material of the core, thereby providing a fixed, stable combination of covering and core which need not utilize less stable mechanical interconnections to arrive at the combination, or worse, utilize potentially unstable and sometimes hazardous binders to arrive at such a connection. Thermosetting materials are particularly useful in providing a thermally derived chemical bond since a thermosetting polymer “sets” upon heating and cannot be re-melted, unlike thermoplastics known in the art which may be softened again if the toy becomes heated. This, in turn, would make connections of a thermoplastic less stable and less durable than the connections of the thermosetting material of the present invention.
 Further, the use of the thermosetting cover to chemically bond to the core provides additional versatility in designs and other structure for the toys. In prior art devices, mechanical interconnections and/or use of binders (which are typically dark in color, most usually black) prevented flexibility in design elements. For example the apparatus of the present invention can have different colors for the core and for the covering where in prior art mechanical devices, the interconnection would, in most cases, have been visible given the necessary protrusion of one element into another to provide the interconnection. In the prior art devices utilizing binders, the unsightly binder between layers would prevent any ornamentation-oriented showing of an inner layer because of concurrent display of the unsightly binder. In the present invention however, ornamental cuts or partial covering of the inner layer (the core—or additional colored layers of core or covering) can be achieved without display of unsightly mechanical interconnections or binders.
 Further, use of the thermosetting bond to a hollow core is beneficial in allowing the manufacturer to utilize less material than in preparing a solid core toy and also reduces the amount of cure time necessary for the core to set. Therefore, the use of a hollow core is also more cost- and time-effective to a manufacturer.
 Core 34 comprises a material that is necessarily harder than the material of covering 36. Preferably, the core material comprises a thermoplastic such as, but not limited to polyamide (PA), polyphenylene ether (PPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), acrylonitrile-butadine-styrene (ABS), acetal polyoxymethene (POM), polycarbonate (PC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and modifications thereof, wherein such resins preferably have a melting point of approximately 400° F. or greater. Most preferably, the core material comprises a thermoplastic such as a PA or modified PPE. Thermosetting materials and mixtures of thermoplastics and thermosetting materials with an appropriate hardness (greater than the hardness of the covering) may be utilized. However, other materials known in the industry and/or thermoplastics or thermosetting materials with a hardness of preferably at least 50 on the Shore D scale and a tensile strength of at least 100 N/mm2 may also be utilized. More preferably, the core material will have a hardness of between approximately 55 and approximately 90 on the Shore D scale and a tensile strength of at least 1500 N/m2, and preferably, at least 2700 N/m2.
 The chemical bond is preferably achieved in a two component injection molding system with a one-step integral operation wherein the hard thermoplastic component is first molded and then the soft thermosetting component is injection molded around (or partially around) the thermoplastic core, but may be alternately done in a two-step process, utilizing typical injection molding and curing techniques for thermosetting and thermoplastic materials, respective of the type of thermosetting materials used, as is well-known in the art for each material.
 Core 34 is preferably hollow, having an interior space 72 as is depicted in FIG. 2. In particular, core 34 of the embodiment as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 comprises a cylindrical tube with relatively thick walls wherein the end faces of the core are preferably left open. Thus, the toy has the appearance of a hollow, marrow bone that is covered with soft meat. The use of a hollow or latticed embodiment is a great improvement over prior art toys comprising multiple hardness layers since the harder, hollow core allows the toy to deform and return to its prior non-depressed state with greater ease and less chance of breakage or permanent deformation.
 As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a preferred embodiment of toy 10 will have an end portion 16 which has its greatest diameter or radius where indicated by the reference numeral 38, and end portion 18 has its greatest diameter or radius at 40. The two radii differ from one another by the amount x. Due to these differing measurements, the toy will roll on a curved path, and will jump around, in an unforeseeable manner. This lack of predictability makes playing with the toy more interesting for an animal.
 For a large dog, such as but not limited to a Labrador, Golden Retriever, or German Shepherd, the preferred maximum diameter of 38 or 40 can be between approximately 50 and approximately 80 mm, more preferably, it is approximately 70 mm.
 The inventive toy has somewhat surprising superiority in bounce over prior art toys with the hollow thermoplastic core/thermosetting covering combination of the present invention. Hard prior art toys (such as solid nylon bones) have very little bounce because of lack of compression/deformation in the material. On the other hand, soft prior art toys, such as non-reinforced rubber toys deform too greatly, such that most of the kinetic energy introduced by a fall is lost as heat. The amount of bounce, or the “work” performed is calculated by the force (for example, from a fall or drop) which is force is converted into potential energy in the resulting deformation of the toy and which is then released again as kinetic energy plus energy lost as heat.
 Work, W, is calculated as
 Ddef=distance of deformation in the toy.
 In the hard prior art toys, there is little work or bounce which comprises the work since there can be little deformation of the toy. In the soft prior art toys, while there was great potential for increased work as a bounce, there was also a great loss of energy as heat. With the present art invention, it is believed that the resilience offered by the strengthening of the toy with its hard core provides sufficient resilience to prevent the major loss of energy found with prior art toys and that the soft covering provides the necessary deformation to provide the desired work in the form of a bounce. And, particularly with the embodiments utilizing ridges, the ridges act somewhat in the manner of a spring to store the potential energy (by their deformation) and release them again as shown in FIGS. 9, 9a, and 9 b, depicting the inventive device and directional arrows on a ridge component to show the deformation (storage of potential energy) and recoil (conversion to kinetic energy) given the resilience of the core.
 In conjunction with FIGS. 3-5, an embodiment of the inventive toy will be described that is provided with an additional unit in the form of electronic device 42 that sends out acoustical or optical signals, and thus provides an additional attraction or fascination for the animal to encourage it to play with the toy. Electronic device 42 can, for example, be provided with a light emitting diode that is supplied from a small battery and constantly blinks. However, in an alternate embodiment, electronic device 42 can also be provided with sensors that establish if the animal is manipulating the toy and possibly with what effort, and in conformity therewith can emit signals, such as musical notes and noises. Such sensors can, for example, react to pressure, shaking, or during throwing and/or striking of the toy on the ground. It is possible, but not necessary, that such electronic devices are replaceable component units wherein, for instance, electronic devices whose battery has been depleted through play may be removed from the inventive toy and replaced with a new electronic unit.
 Electronic device 42 is disposed within a pressure-tight capsule or shell 44 that is sealed against moisture and that is inserted into a tubular core 34. As can be seen, toy 10 illustrated in FIGS. 3 to 5 has embodiments that are not a complete, dumbbell-shaped imitation of a bone, as shown in the embodiment of FIG. 1, but can also be, for instance, a totally or somewhat rounded object preferably having grooves that are similar to end portions 16,18 of toy 10 of FIG. 1. However, it is also possible that an electronic device of the type described in the following can also be installed into a toy of the type shown in all the Figures. An advantage of the shorter construction of embodiments as depicted in FIGS. 3 to 5 is that when the device is a blinking light, it is very visible.
 Capsule 44 will have an internally disposed electronic device 42, preferably at such a depth into tubular core 34 that it cannot be reached and damaged by teeth 46 of animal 48 playing with toy 10 (see FIG. 3).
 Securing of capsule 44 in tube 34 can be effected in various ways. With the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, the soft, rubber material of the covering 36 is guided about end faces 50,52 of tubular core 34 to inner side 54 thereof. Ends 56,58 of capsule 44 rest against the soft material of covering 36 and are held by the elastic forces thereof. As shown in FIG. 4a, in this connection, two ends 56,58 of capsule 44 and their abutment surfaces with covering 36 preferably have different configurations. On one side 56, the thermosetting mixture of covering 36 is provided on inner side 54 of tubular core 34 with a step 60 that serves as an abutment for one end 56 of capsule 44 (see the enlarged cross-sectional view of FIG. 4a). On the other side 58, there is no such step. At end 56, the capsule 44 has a cylindrical configuration, while on other side 58 its diameter widens slightly to form protrusion 62. During assembly, capsule 44 is inserted into tubular core 34 until it abuts against step 60. It is then held in a wedged manner by means of protrusion 62. Thus, after completion of fabrication of the toy from the core and covering, capsule 44 can be installed, so that the processes that are effected at high temperatures, such as vulcanization and curing of the polymeric material, do not have to be interrupted.
 In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 5-5b, the soft material of covering 36 ends at end faces 50,52 of tubular core 34. Capsule 44 is inserted directly into the thermoplastic tube 34, being held, for example, by a press fit or a “snap-fit”. In other respects, securement is analogous to that of the embodiment of FIG. 4. It is understood that, in particular, for electronic devices, it is preferably during the manufacturing process to utilize these deployments of the electronic device after the formation of the body of the toy (covering and core) to prevent damage to the electronic device during high temperature molding and curing of the body.
FIGS. 6-8 show modified embodiments of the inventive toy, with all of these embodiments having a hollow interior. Several different shapes are shown, and it will be understood that variations thereof are also possible.
 With the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 6-8, harder core 34 or insert 64, which both comprise a material harder than covering 36, and may be any shape sufficient to provide rigidity, are alternately or in conjunction provided to reinforce covering 36 and to provide to an animal the idea of a hard bone covered with flesh as simulated by softer covering 36. Insert 64 or core 34 may be relatively thin. For example, pursuant to one exemplary embodiment of the inventive toy, hard core 34 has a thickness of only about 2 mm. However, it is to be understood that any thickness resulting in an overall size of toy small enough to be chewed may be utilized, however, thicknesses of less than 1 mm tend to be inefficient in providing sufficient rigidity. A similar core could also be provided for the embodiments of FIGS. 1 and 2 or 3-5. The same materials as previously described are contemplated for all of the embodiments.
 The embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 6-8 can also be provided with optional grooves on at least part of the surface of the covering 28. These optional grooves can be in the form of shallow grooves or ribs.
 The embodiments of FIGS. 6-8 can also, as shown in particular in FIGS. 6b, have a dispensing/holding hole 66, preferably at one location only. Treats can be inserted into the hollow interior of the toy through this hole 66. Flaps or retaining elements 68 can also be provided on the covering 36, and can project into the area of the hole 66, to hold treats and to prevent them from being released too easily. To provide an emergency breathing passage in the event that the toy gets stuck in the throat of an animal, and blocks its natural breathing process, another portion of the covering 36, such as the opposite end of the toy, can optionally be provided with a small ventilation hole 70 (see in particular FIG. 6a), which is not intended to hold treats.
 The specification incorporates by reference the disclosure of German priority document 101 52 070.0 filed 25 Oct. 2001 and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/213,870 filed Aug. 2, 2002.
 The present invention is, of course, in no way restricted to the specific disclosure of the specification and drawings, but also encompasses any modifications within the scope of the appended claims.
 This object, and other objects and advantages of the present invention, will appear more clearly from the following specification in conjunction with the accompanying schematic drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a partially longitudinally cross-sectioned view of one exemplary embodiment of the inventive toy for animals;
FIG. 2 is an end cross-sectional view through the toy of FIG. 1,
FIG. 3 shows a modified embodiment of the inventive toy, as well as a schematic illustration of the muzzle of a dog;
FIGS. 4 and 5 show further modified embodiments of the inventive toy;
FIGS. 4, 4b are enlarged cross sectional views of the embodiments of FIG. 4;
FIGS. 5a and 5 b are enlarged cross-sectional views of the embodiments of FIGS. 4 and 5 respectively;
FIG. 6 is a partially cross-sectioned view of another exemplary embodiment of the inventive toy;
FIG. 6a is a view of one end of the toy of FIG. 6;
FIG. 6b is a view of the opposite end of the toy of FIG. 6;
FIG. 7 is a view similar to that of FIG. 6, but of a pear-shaped embodiment;
FIG. 8 is a view similar to that of FIG. 6, but of an oval-shaped embodiment; and
FIGS. 9, 9a, 9 b are depictions of an embodiment of the invention having ridges of the soft outer covering over the harder core wherein the presence of the core provides resilience in a bounce, (a) shown as force arrows for storage of potential energy upon elastic deformation of the ridges upon impact, and (b) conversion of the potential energy into kinetic energy upon recoil.
 This application claims the priority of German application 10152070.0 filed Oct. 25, 2001 and is a continuation-in-part of pending application Ser. No 10/213,870 filed Aug. 6, 2002.
 Chew toys for animals, especially dogs, are well-known in the art. Toys comprised of elastic polymers and/or having recesses and grooves such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,802,444 and U.S. Reissue Pat. No. 34,352, are also well-known. Such toys serve not only for keeping the animal busy and entertained, but also are used for caring for the animal's teeth. To achieve this, toys have been designed such that the teeth of the animal penetrate or enter into the recesses, whereby food residue and coatings on the teeth are wiped off against the edges of the recesses. Therefore, for hygienic reasons, it is desirable for the animal to occupy itself frequently with the toy.
 Additionally, it is well-known that animals which are stimulated and occupy themselves by playing with toys are often better behaved and pose less of a nuisance through typical “boredom” behaviors, such as barking, trying to escape yards or homes, and chewing on undesirable items such as shoes. Therefore, there is a deep-seated need to provide toys to animals to improve their hygiene and behavior.