US 20050029313 A1
A mouthpiece is provided for a personal hydration system having a fluid supply tube. The mouthpiece includes a hollow body having a first opening with a first area at a first end to engage the fluid supply tube in a substantially leak-free manner, and a second opening with a second area larger than the first area at a second end. A removable valve cap is coupled to the body in a substantially leak-free manner and includes a diaphragm adjacent the second opening. A slit through the diaphragm permits passage of fluid when the slit is in a first position and opposes passage of fluid when the slit is in a second position.
1. A mouthpiece for a personal hydration system having a fluid supply tube, the mouthpiece comprising:
a hollow body portion having a first opening with a first area at a first end configured to engage the fluid supply tube in a substantially leak-free manner, and a second opening with a second area larger than the first area at a second end;
a removable valve cap portion coupled to the body portion in a substantially leak-free manner and having a diaphragm adjacent the second opening;
a slit through the diaphragm configured to substantially oppose passage of fluid in a first position and to permit passage of fluid in a second position.
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16. A mouthpiece for a personal hydration system to provide fluid to a user, comprising:
a first portion having a first opening at a first end for receiving a liquid, and a second opening at a second end;
a second portion having a wall configured to substantially surround the first portion proximate the second end and a diaphragm substantially perpendicular to the wall and configured to cover the second end;
a linear aperture having adjacent sides extending at least partially across the diaphragm, the adjacent sides configured to contact one another when the second portion is not in use by the user to substantially prevent fluid flow and the adjacent sides configured to separate to form an opening configured to permit fluid flow to the user; and
a ridge extending at least partially along the diaphragm and intersecting the linear aperture.
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26. A flow regulating device for controlling the delivery of fluid from a reservoir to a user, comprising:
a hollow body having an inlet end configured for attachment to a tube to receive fluid from the reservoir and an outlet end;
a valve having a side wall and an end wall, and coupled to the outlet end of the body;
a reclosable aperture in the end wall configured to open in a fishmouth profile when the valve is activated by the user; and
at least one rib formed along an internal surface of the body and configured to maintain a passage for fluid flow through the body when the valve is activated by the user.
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The present Application claims the benefit of priority as available under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to the following applications (which are incorporated by reference): U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/468,897, filed May 8, 2003, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/478,372, filed Jun. 12, 2003.
The present invention relates to personal hydration systems. The present invention relates more particularly to a personal hydration system with a removable fluid reservoir and an improved mouthpiece and valve device.
The need for a ready supply of fluids to combat dehydration during strenuous activity is well known. Commonly, people who are working or recreating take periodic refreshment breaks to hydrate themselves. However, such refreshment breaks might not occur frequently enough to properly hydrate a person performing strenuous activities. In addition, it is generally accepted that a person's physical and mental health may be maintained by adequate hydration while working or recreating. Hydration systems for hydrating persons during work and recreation activities have grown in popularity, including participation in non-team oriented sports such as biking, hiking and running, where refreshment breaks may be more difficult to accomplish.
Maintaining proper hydration levels can require the regular ingestion of fluids. The medical and performance enhancing need for regular drinking requires ready access to fluids. Several portable devices have been developed to meet this need. Some devices include containers of rigid or of semi-rigid construction. These devices, such as aluminum canteens and plastic water bottles, are reasonable light, durable and inexpensive. However, they are often awkwardly mounted to a waist belt or in a pocket of a back pack, and thus typically require a user's hand for manipulating the container to access the liquid.
More recently, portable hydration devices have been developed that include a flexible, bag-like (e.g. soft-sided) reservoir to store fluids. This type of reservoir has the benefit of being more comfortable when carried next to the body, and is often configured to be worn on a user's back with a short drinking tube and mouth piece to provide hands-free access to the fluid.
While some improvements have been made in such bag-like systems, the reservoirs of these systems are often expensive and difficult to clean due to their construction. Flexible reservoirs are typically constructed from two sheets of high grade plastic that are bonded or welded together along their edges to create a bag with water-tight seams. These bags then have components attached to them for filling and dispensing fluids, such as an input port with a large threaded neck to fill the bag which ice and water, and an output spout with a bonded or welded drink tube. The resulting reservoir is typically a water-tight, though expensive, assemblage of fused or bonded parts. These assemblages usually have many internal seams and corners that are difficult to clean with conventional methods.
Another feature of the known bag-like devices is the mouthpiece. It is desirable that the mouthpiece acts like a valve configured to open and close at the user's command to provide access to the fluid in the reservoir. For convenience, it is also desirable that the valve operates under the action of a user's mouth. These mouthpieces that include mouth-actuated valves are sometimes referred to as “bite valves.” Many designs have been put forward to provide such a mouthpiece. Such mouthpieces typically include multiple parts which move relative to one another, and unitary mouthpieces made from a resilient, deformable material.
It is also desirable that the mouthpiece provides a sufficient flow rate of fluid from the reservoir without undo exertion by the user. To this end, some recent designs have attempted to increase the size of the flow passages by incorporating larger mouth pieces, bigger openings, and improved valve designs. In addition to improving flow rates and ease-of-use, mouthpieces have been developed to reduce the likelihood of leakage when in a “standby” or ready-to-use position.
However, such known mouthpieces tend to have certain disadvantages. For example, efforts to optimize desirable characteristics such as ease-of-use, improved flow rates, and reduced leaking has proven difficult, as these characteristics tend to oppose each other. Thus, for example, while ease-of-use is improved by having decreased mouthpiece thickness, this can result in reduced flow rate due to pinching of the valve. Such known mouthpieces also include variations that are formed in a unitary construction, which also tend to have certain disadvantages, including difficulty in cleaning due to their ‘blind’ corners and small sizes.
Cleaning has become a more desirable issue for many hydration system users to consider, as the typical user's desire for continuous hydration with liquids that contain dissolved salts or sugars has increased. However, the use of a liquid other than water may, in many of such known systems and in the unitary mouthpiece, cause the system to become contaminated due to trapped residue and accumulation of bacteria.
Previous attempts to address the cleaning problems have tended to provide mouthpieces that are an assemblage of two or more parts. Such mouthpieces tend to be somewhat easier to clean, but usually suffer from any one of more of the following deficiencies: inadequate flow rates, leakage, or difficult to activate by a user's mouth.
Therefore, it would be desirable to provide a personal hydration system that is easier to clean and maintain, and that is less expensive to construct than current bag hydration system devices. It would also be desirable to provide a fluid delivery system that is positionable for a user in a hands-free configuration and that does not require retention in a user's mouth. It would also be desirable to provide a personal hydration system that provides a mouthpiece that reduces leakage, is easily activated, can be easily cleaned and provides sufficient flow rates for the user. It would be further desirable to provide a personal hydration device adapted for convenient use with fluids other than water, and that provides sufficient and controllable quantities of fluid to individuals that are exerting themselves.
Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a personal hydration system having any one or more of these or other advantageous features.
One embodiment of the invention relates to a mouthpiece for a personal hydration system having a fluid supply tube. The mouthpiece includes a hollow body having a first opening with a first area at a first end configured to engage the fluid supply tube in a substantially leak-free manner, and a second opening with a second area larger than the first area at a second end. A removable valve cap is coupled to the body in a substantially leak-free manner and includes a diaphragm adjacent the second opening. A slit through the diaphragm opposes passage of fluid when the slit is in a first position and permits passage of fluid when the slit is in a second position.
Another embodiment of the present invention relates to a mouthpiece for a personal hydration system to provide fluid to a user. The mouthpiece includes a first portion having a first opening at a first end for receiving a liquid, and a second opening at a second end. The mouthpiece also includes a second portion having a wall that surrounds the first portion near the second end and a diaphragm perpendicular to the wall that covers the second end. A linear aperture is provided in the diaphragm. The linear aperture includes adjacent sides extending at least partially across the diaphragm, the adjacent sides contact one another when the second portion is not in use by the user to prevent fluid flow and the adjacent sides move and separate from each other to form an opening to permit fluid flow to the user. A ridge extends at least partially along the diaphragm and intersects the linear aperture.
A further embodiment of the present invention is related to a flow regulating device for controlling the delivery of fluid from a reservoir to a user. The flow regulating device includes a hollow body having an inlet end for attachment to a tube to receive fluid from the reservoir and an outlet end. The fluid regulating device also includes a valve having a side wall and an end wall, where the valve is coupled to the outlet end of the body. A reclosable aperture in the end wall opens in a fishmouth profile when the valve is activated by the user. At least one rib is formed along an internal surface of the body to maintain a passage for fluid flow through the body when the valve is activated by the user.
Referring to the FIGURES, the personal hydration system includes (among others) a holder 20, a reservoir 50, and a fluid delivery system 100 to provide fluids to a user. The user may be a person engaged in any activity in which hydration of the user's body is desirable, such as recreation (shown for example as a cyclist in
The semi-rigid structural shape of the reservoir has sufficient rigidity (e.g. firmness, etc.) to substantially minimize deformation of shell 52 when reservoir 50 is filed with fluid (or is filled with a “hot” fluid, etc.), yet has sufficient flexibility (pliability, flexibility, deformability, etc.) to temporarily deform at least partially into another shape (e.g. of reduced volume) when fluid is being withdrawn by the user. The capability of the shell to partially deform is intended to permit a user to overcome a vacuum that might otherwise be created within the shell when the fluid is withdrawn (e.g. “sucked out” through the generally “airtight” fluid delivery system, etc.) by the user. Shell 52 has sufficient resiliency so that after fluid is withdrawn by the user, shell 52 returns to its original shape and in so doing, draws air through the fluid delivery system (e.g. through the mouthpiece, etc.) and into the reservoir to generally equalize pressure between the shell and the surrounding atmosphere. According to any preferred embodiment, the shell of the reservoir has sufficient firmness to maintain its shape when fluid is not being withdrawn, and to deform a certain degree to permit relatively easy fluid withdrawal under normal suction pressure by the user, and to return to its original shape (e.g. resiliency, memory, etc.) by drawing air into the volume of the shell after fluid withdrawal (e.g. in a manner somewhat analogous to a “breathing” operation).
Shell 52 of reservoir 50 is shown having a first end 54, a second end 56, a first side 58 and a second side 60. The shape of shell 52 is attributable, in part, to a curvature of the first side 58 and the second side 60. According to the illustrated embodiment, first side 58 is shown having a surface that is at least partially curved (e.g. convex, dome-shaped, etc.) in a first plane (shown schematically in
First side 58 is shown to further include ribs 68 (e.g. stiffeners, ridges, etc.) extending longitudinally and intended to optimize the stiffness and resiliency of first side 58. Second side 60 is shown to further include ribs 70 (e.g. stiffeners, ridges, etc.) extending laterally (i.e. generally orthogonal to ribs 68) and intended to enhance the stiffness and resiliency of second side 60. According to one preferred embodiment, the curvature of first side 58 of shell 52 is configured to deform (e.g. “bow” inward) while fluid is withdrawn from reservoir 50 and the curvature of second side 60 is configured to remain substantially unchanged so that the “fit” of second side 60 to a user's back remains substantially constant. After the user finishes withdrawing fluid from reservoir 50, the shape and resiliency of first side 58 tend to cause first side 58 to return (e.g. “spring back,” etc.) to its original curvature, drawing air into the shell as the shell returns to its original volume. Shell 52 is also shown to include a projection (shown schematically as a baffle 72) on an interior surface of side 60. One or more baffles may be provided and are intended to arrest or minimize motion or movement of the fluid (e.g. “sloshing” etc.) and to minimize related fluid noises during movement or activity by the user for applications where minimizing noise is desirable (e.g. nature watching, hunting, military activities, etc.).
According to an alternative embodiment, a baffle may be a separate device configured to be removably inserted into the shell by the user and configured to minimize motion of the fluid. According to another alternative embodiment, the shell may be substantially rigid and provided with a pressure-equalization device (e.g. check valve, vacuum breaker, etc.) at any suitable location on the shell that permits air to enter the volume of the shell as fluid is withdrawn by the user. According to a further alternative embodiment, the shell may be substantially rigid and provided with a flexible bladder (e.g. that is disposable, etc.) within the shell for containing the fluid in a manner that does not require pressure equalization across the shell as fluid is withdrawn. An airspace separate from the fluid contained in the bladder may be created between an exterior surface of the bladder and an interior surface of the substantially rigid shell so that the air space may be pressurized by the user (e.g. by a bicycle pump, hand pump, etc.) to provide a source of “pressurized” fluid to the user in a manner intended to prevent contamination of the fluid by potential contaminants within the airspace. According to other alternative embodiments, the orientation of the ribs may be provided in any suitable orientation to obtain the desired stiffness characteristics of the shell. Further, the particular curvature of the surfaces of the shell may be varied to enhance any desirable characteristic of the shell (e.g. stiffness, memory, aerodynamic performance, adaptation to physical characteristics of users, etc.).
Referring further to
Collar 86 is further shown to include an extension member (shown as a handle 94) having an end region with a downwardly extending protrusion 96. Collar 86 is rotatable about neck portion 80 between a first position (e.g. an installation/removal position as shown schematically in
Fluid delivery system 100 is shown to include a cap 110, a tube coupling device 130, a tube 150, a mouthpiece 200, a clamp 160 and a positioning system 180. As shown schematically in
Fluid delivery system 100 further includes a tube coupling device 130 (e.g. spigot, elbow, union, tube-cap interface, etc.—shown schematically in
Referring further to
Mouthpiece 200 includes a mouth-actuated valve that operates to permit flow of the fluid when the shape of an opening or aperture (e.g. a slit, etc.) in the mouthpiece is transformed (e.g. “deformed”) by the mouth of the user. Mouthpiece 200 is intended to overcome problems associated with conventional “bite valves.” For example, mouthpiece 200 as shown is intended to be easily disassembled to provide easy access to the interior of the mouthpiece for cleaning. Mouthpiece 200 is shown to include relatively thin walls and a construction intended to prevent the complete closing of the flow area under increased clamping by the user, so that the mouthpiece will not restrict flow in the event that the user provides increased force on the mouthpiece to actuate the valve.
According to any preferred embodiment, body portion 202 and valve cap portion 204 are formed from resilient, deformable materials, including, but not limited to, silicone, polymer or latex. Fluid inlet end 206 of the mouthpiece includes a stretchable connecting portion 290 configured to be stretched over second end 154 of tube 150 to provide a substantially leak-free connection for receiving fluid from reservoir 50, and that is removable from tube 150 (e.g. for cleaning, repair, replacement, etc.). Valve cap portion 204 and a portion of body portion 202 of the mouthpiece are configured to be placed within a user's mouth for actuation of the valve and to draw fluid from the reservoir and through the fluid delivery system for consumption by the user.
Mouthpiece 200 is configured to function as a valve for dispensing liquid through slit 210 by transformation between a first shape (i.e. “undeformed”) where slit 210 is closed to prevent flow of fluid (as shown in
Valve cap portion 204 includes diaphragm 208, which is shown to include slit 210, and a side wall 230 having an inner surface 232 and an outer surface 234. Outer surface 234 of valve cap 204 thus forms an outer valve surface 250. Inner surface 232 and outer surface 234 meet to form a circumferential lip 236. Lip 236 defines an aperture 238 in valve cap portion 204 shown at the end opposite diaphragm 208. Inner surface 232 is also shown to include a plurality of ridges 240 (shown schematically as two ridges). Valve cap portion 204 is configured to interconnect with body portion 202 when aperture 238 of valve cap portion 204 is pulled over second end 216 and over outlet portion 294 towards transition portion 292 of body portion 202. The shape of diaphragm 208 is configured to generally correspond to the rectangular-like shape of second end 216, and wall 230 is shown to conform with the outer surface of body portion 202. When valve cap portion 204 is assembled on body portion 202, wall 230 is shown to extend over outlet portion 294 and a part of transition portion 292 with a circumferential groove 242 adapted to receive lip 236. A pair of circumferential grooves 244 are provided in on body portion 202 to receive ridges 244. Lip 236 is also intended to facilitate installation and removal of valve cap portion 204 from body portion 202.
Referring further to
Diaphragm 208 preferably includes a ridge 260 that protrudes away from side wall 230 and that is generally perpendicular to and bisects slit 210 (shown schematically in
Referring further to
Ridge 260 and sections of increased thickness 262 also cooperate to open slit 210 during operation of the valve to create area 268 so that fluid may flow from the reservoir, through the tube, through the mouthpiece and diaphragm wall of the valve, and into the user's mouth according to the pressure difference between the reservoir and the user's mouth. This pressure difference can result from suction applied by the user against the pressure within the reservoir. Accordingly, one method for a user to draw fluid is to compress the mouthpiece and valve cap in his/her teeth or lips to open slit 340 and then create a suction to draw fluid from the reservoir.
Referring further to
Mouthpiece 200 is also configured to resist deformation to an extent that flow may be unduly restricted through the mouthpiece (as shown schematically in
Two projections (shown schematically as ridges or ribs 280 and 282) are shown extending longitudinally along inner body surface 220 from second end 216 that are shown to run along a top surface. According to a preferred embodiment, ribs 280 and 282 extend a substantial length along outlet portion 294. Referring to
The length of transition portion 208 is intended to allow mouthpiece 200 to fit into the user's mouth comfortably, while maximizing the flow potential of the mouthpiece. The length of transition portion 292 is also intended to provide a clamping location for a clamp (to be further described) which may be used as an additional shut-off device (e.g. valve, etc.). In general, the clamp is intended for use to positively stop flow through the tube when fluid flow is not required (e.g. when the personal hydration system is not in use). According to a preferred embodiment, the thickness of transition portion 292 is shown to increase with distance from first end 206 and is intended to stiffen the body portion.
Referring further to
According to any preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a reservoir that has sufficient stiffness to resist deformation when fluid is not being withdrawn, but has sufficient flexibility to permit a degree of deformation that is intended to permit fluid withdrawal without application of excessive suction by the user. The present also includes a fluid delivery system with a positioning system configured for to locate the mouthpiece in a desired location by the user. The present invention also includes a mouthpiece device with a valve cap for providing improved operation of a mouth-actuated valve. The present invention also includes a mouth piece that is readily cleanable, easily operable, and has internal ridges intended to prevent flow from being restricted in the event that excessive opening force is applied to the mouthpiece.
It is important to note that the construction and arrangement of the elements of the personal hydration system provided herein are illustrative only. Although only a few exemplary embodiments of the present invention have been described in detail in this disclosure, those skilled in the art who review this disclosure will readily appreciate that many modifications are possible in these embodiments (such as variations in features such as components, materials, thicknesses, capacities, shapes, dimensions, proportions and configurations of the holder, reservoir, and fluid delivery system, etc. without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the invention. For example, while the present invention describes the use of a single, straight slit for in the diaphragm, slits of other shapes, or multiple slits may be used. In addition, a pair of straight ridges are described within the body portion to prevent collapse of the mouthpiece from obstructing the flow path. Alternatively, other shapes consistent with the deformation of the mouth piece during operation are within the scope of the present invention. In addition, the reservoir is shown having first and second sides with surfaces curved in two planes. Alternatively, the surfaces of the reservoir may be provided in any desirable shape or contour to achieve optimum performance of the reservoir. Further, it is readily apparent that variations of the personal hydration system and its components and elements may be provided in a wide variety of types, shapes, sizes and performance characteristics. Accordingly, all such modifications are intended to be within the scope of the invention.
The order or sequence of any process or method steps may be varied or re-sequenced according to alternative embodiments. In the claims, any means-plus-function clause is intended to cover the structures described herein as performing the recited function and not only structural equivalents but also equivalent structures. Other substitutions, modifications, changes and omissions may be made in the design, operating configuration and arrangement of the preferred and other exemplary embodiments without departing from the spirit of the inventions as expressed in the appended claims.