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Publication numberUS20050076532 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/927,184
Publication dateApr 14, 2005
Filing dateAug 26, 2004
Priority dateApr 22, 2002
Also published asCA2553141A1, CN1910317A, EP1706529A1, WO2005073451A1
Publication number10927184, 927184, US 2005/0076532 A1, US 2005/076532 A1, US 20050076532 A1, US 20050076532A1, US 2005076532 A1, US 2005076532A1, US-A1-20050076532, US-A1-2005076532, US2005/0076532A1, US2005/076532A1, US20050076532 A1, US20050076532A1, US2005076532 A1, US2005076532A1
InventorsThomas Ward, Barry McNamara, Cynthia Bedell, Jill Potter, Heidi Reeb, Kofi Ofosu-Asante, Dean DuVal, Trace Wendell Trajano
Original AssigneeWard Thomas Edward, Mcnamara Barry Patrick, Bedell Cynthia Maria, Potter Jill Marisa, Reeb Heidi Lyn, Kofi Ofosu-Asante, Duval Dean Larry, Trajano Trace Wendell De Guzman
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Fabric article treating device and system with anti-microbial agent
US 20050076532 A1
Abstract
A fabric article treating device includes an interior dispenser adapted for location inside of a fabric article drying appliance and a reservoir adapted to contain a benefit composition. The interior dispenser and the reservoir are adapted for fluid communication with one another. At least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.
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Claims(20)
1. A fabric article treating device, comprising:
an interior dispenser adapted for location inside of a fabric article drying appliance;
a reservoir;
wherein the interior dispenser and the reservoir are adapted for fluid communication with one another;
wherein the reservoir is adapted to contain a benefit composition; and
wherein at least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.
2. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the portion includes an interior coating.
3. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the portion comprises a closure.
4. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir comprises a closure and the portion comprises a closure liner.
5. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir comprises a closure and the portion comprises a closure coating.
6. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the portion comprises a reservoir body.
7. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the portion comprises an internal surface of the reservoir adapted to serve as headspace during use of the fabric article treating device.
8. The fabric article treating device of claim 2, wherein the reservoir comprises a material impregnated with an antimicrobial agent.
9. The fabric article treating device of claim 2, wherein the reservoir comprises an antimicrobial coating.
10. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the anti-microbial agent comprises one or more organic or inorganic compounds, or a combination thereof.
11. The fabric article treating device of claim 10, wherein the anti-microbial agent comprises iodine, silver, zinc or a combination thereof.
12. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir is adapted for location on an interior portion of the fabric article drying appliance.
13. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir is adapted for location on an exterior portion of the fabric article drying appliance.
14. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the portion is molded from a composition comprising thermoplastic material.
15. The fabric article treating device of claim 14, wherein the portion is molded from a composition comprising thermoplastic material impregnated with the anti-microbial agent.
16. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the reservoir is configured to be removable.
17. The fabric article treating device of claim 1, wherein the benefit composition further comprises a preservative.
18. The fabric article treating device of claim 17, wherein the preservative comprises one or more preservatives selected from the group consisting of hydantoins, isothiazolinones, methyl isothiazolinones, benzisothiazolinones, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, and carbamates, and combinations thereof.
19. A fabric article treating system, comprising:
a fabric article drying appliance having a chamber and a closure structure, the closure structure having a closed position and at least one open position, the closure structure allowing access to the chamber;
a reservoir for containing a benefit composition;
a dispenser in communication with the chamber; and
a fluid handling system that transports the benefit composition from the reservoir toward the dispenser, thereby dispensing the benefit composition into the chamber;
wherein at least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.
20. The fabric article treating system of claim 19, wherein the reservoir is removable.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/568,771 entitled “Uniform Delivery of Compositions”, filed on May 6, 2004 and is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/842,926 entitled “Fabric Article Treating System and Method”, filed on May 11, 2004; which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/839,549 entitled “Processes and Apparatuses for Applying a Benefit Composition to One or More Fabric Articles During a Fabric Enhancement Operation”, filed on May 5, 2004; which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/762,152, entitled “Volatile Material Delivery Method”, filed on Jan. 21, 2004; which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/697,736, entitled “Fabric Article Treating Method and Device Comprising a Heating Means”, filed on Oct. 29, 2003; U.S. Ser. No. 10/697,734, entitled “Thermal Protection of Fabric Article Treating Device”, filed on Oct. 29, 2003; U.S. Ser. No. 10/697,685, entitled “Fabric Article Treating Device Comprising More Than One Housing”, filed on Oct. 29, 2003; and U.S. Ser. No. 10/697,735, entitled “Fabric Article Treating Apparatus with Safety Device and Controller”, filed Oct. 29, 2003; each of which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/418,595, entitled “Fabric Article Treating Method and Apparatus”, filed on Apr. 17, 2003, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/374,601, filed Apr. 22, 2002 and U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/426,438, filed Nov. 14, 2002.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a fabric article treating device for use with a fabric article drying appliance, and more specifically to a unique fabric article treating device and system for dispensing a benefit composition, which employ antimicrobial agent.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Fabric article treating methods and/or apparatuses have been evolving over the past twenty years. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,207,683 describes a conventional automatic clothes dryer that incorporates a spray dispenser capable of dispensing liquids into the drum of the dryer. U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,642,908, 5,771,604 and 6,067,723 describe other variations of conventional clothes drying appliances.

There exists an ongoing need to develop a fabric article treating method and/or apparatus, especially an in-home fabric article treating method and/or apparatus, that improves/enhances the deposition of fabric article actives or benefit agents on the fabric articles being treated as compared to the currently existing deposition methods and/or apparatuses.

One particular challenge presented in the delivery of fabric article actives in the fabric article drying environment is the effect of moisture or condensation and heat generated during the drying of the fabric articles. Particularly, storage containers or reservoirs of actives can act as a terrarium, a controlled micro-climate that demonstrates a compact model of the hydrologic cycle. Heat generated by the drying cycle in combination with the aqueous benefit composition may develop an excess of humidity inside an active storage container or reservoir, which can lead to major environmental changes, including 1) evaporation of moisture and 2) condensation of moisture on container or reservoir surfaces, analogous to on the dome of a terrarium. The antimicrobial and/or preservative agents in this benefit composition, typically are not volatile, thus the water that evaporates from the benefit composition and condenses on the container or reservoir surfaces is unprotected and may support microbial growth. This water vapor and subsequent condensation may be problematic especially on headspace surfaces such as lids or caps above the benefit composition. If the reservoir has an aerobic environment with a constant influx of unsterile air, which is expected to be carrying air-born microbial contaminants such as bacteria, and especially yeasts and fungi, aerobic microorganisms are expected to have an increased opportunity to contaminate and populate the container or reservoir, especially in the unprotected water vapor/condensation. These microbial air-born contaminants may consist of: 1) purely vegetative microorganism such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Pseudomonas, Burkholderia as well as other numerous other non-spore forming microbial contaminants, including non-spore forming, potentially pathogenic yeasts such as Candida; and 2) spore forming contaminants such as various fungal species (Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium and other potentially pathogenic species) are expected to be major air-born microbial contaminants infiltrating the vents and caps of the reservoir during use and refill operations. These potential fungal pathogens are expected to be prevalent in and around the laundry room where adequate moisture, abundant growth substrate (cotton and other lint and debris) and warm temperatures are typically encountered and will encourage active populations of these organisms on surfaces (walls, floors, washer/dryer) and as air-born contaminants.

The potential microbial contamination in the water vapor or condensate, is expected to become established, with substantially increased population densities. The most problematic contaminants would be spore forming microorganisms, since they could actively increase in densities, form numerous more spores and result in further and complete microbial contamination of the reservoir, reservoir surfaces and condensation water. As the condensation cools, or increases in size or volume, contaminated water droplets may fall back into the benefit composition, resulting in potential microbial insult to, not only the benefit composition, but also to the treated fabrics in the drying appliance during application of the benefit composition, and more importantly to the consumer who may be exposed to these contaminants via wearing the contaminated clothing or fabric items. Many of these microbial contaminants, especially the non-spore-forming ones, may be eliminated during drying assuming a full (20 to 30 min) and completed drying cycle using the hottest settings. However, the spore-formers, in most cases, even under the hottest settings, would be resistant and could easily survive even these worse case drying conditions. More importantly, if cooler settings or custom fluff settings are used with the benefit composition, most if not all of the microbial contaminants including both non-spore forming and spore-forming contaminants could easily survive the treatment processes.

The evaporation and condensation cycling can also alter an active composition's solute/solvent concentration. As such, it would be advantageous to provide a fabric article treating device comprising a reservoir which minimizes the potentials for microbial growth.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to fabric article treating devices and fabric article treating systems. More particularly, the invention is directed to fabric article treating devices and systems including a reservoir, at least a portion of which reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.

One embodiment of the present invention is a fabric article treating device. The fabric article treating device comprises an interior dispenser adapted for location inside of a fabric article drying appliance, and a reservoir. The interior dispenser and the reservoir are adapted for fluid communication with one another. The reservoir contains a benefit composition, and at least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.

Another embodiment of the present invention is a fabric article treating system. The fabric article treating system comprises a fabric article drying appliance having a chamber and a closure structure, the closure structure having a closed position and at least one open position and allowing access to the chamber; a reservoir for containing a benefit composition; a dispenser in communication with the chamber; and a fluid handling system that transports the benefit composition from the reservoir toward the dispenser, thereby dispensing the benefit composition into the chamber. At least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

While the specification concludes with claims particularly pointing out and distinctly claiming the invention, it is believed the same will be better understood from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a second embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary closure according to a fourth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary reservoir according to a fifth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a sixth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a seventh embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a eighth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fluid handling system according to a ninth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a tenth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating system according to a eleventh embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 12 is a schematic illustration of an exemplary fabric article treating device according to a twelfth embodiment of the present invention.

The embodiments set forth in the drawings are illustrative in nature and not intended to be limiting of the invention defined by the claims. Moreover, individual features of the drawings and the invention will be more fully apparent and understood in view of the detailed description.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Reference will now be made in detail to various embodiments of the invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals indicate similar elements throughout the views.

Definitions

The phrase “fabric article treating system” as used herein means a fabric article drying appliance, a non-limiting example of which includes a conventional clothes dryer and/or modifications thereof. The fabric article treating system also includes a fabric article treating apparatus which may be discrete in relation to the fabric article drying appliance and/or it may be integrated into the fabric article drying appliance. Furthermore, the fabric article treating apparatus may be integrated into a readily replaceable portion of the fabric article drying appliance, a non-limiting example of which includes a closure structure of the drying appliance.

“Fabric article” or “fabric” as used herein means any article that is customarily cleaned in a conventional laundry process or in a dry cleaning process. The term encompasses articles of fabric including, but not limited to, clothing, linen, drapery, clothing accessories, leather, floor coverings, sheets, towels, rags, canvas, polymer structures, and the like. The term also encompasses other items made in whole or in part of fabric material, such as tote bags, furniture covers, tarpons, shoes, and the like.

As used herein, the term “benefit composition” refers to a composition used to deliver a benefit to a fabric article. Non-limiting examples of materials and mixtures thereof which can comprise the benefit composition include: water, softening agents, crispening agents, perfume, water/stain repellants, refreshing agents, antistatic agents, antimicrobic agents, durable press agents, wrinkle resistant agents, odor resistance agents, abrasion resistance agents, solvents, and combinations thereof. The benefit composition may comprise a liquid, a powder, a suspension, or gaseous product, and/or a combination of such. In one embodiment, the benefit composition includes a preservative. Various preservatives which help maintain one or more properties of the benefit composition are generally known in the art and are suitable for use herein. Exemplary preservatives include hydantoins e.g. Dantoguard Plus™ (Dimethylol-5,5-Dimethylhydantoin, DMDMH, and including the fungicide IPBC, iodopropargyl-N-butylcarbamate) commercially available from Lonza; isothiazolinones (e.g. Kathon™ commercially available from Rohm & Haas, or MicroCare ITL from Thor); and Integra 44™ (Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate) commercially available from International Specialty Products (ISP). Other preservatives may include benzisothiazolin-3-ones, BIT (e.g. Proxel GXL™ from Avecia, or Acticide B-20™ from Thor); methylisothiazolin-3-ones, MIT (e.g. Neolone™ from Rohm & Haas or Acticide M20-S™ from Thor); combination preservative systems such as Acticide MBS™ (BIT/MIT mixture from Thor), Acticide IM™ (MIT & IPBC, also from Thor), Dantoserve™ (DMDMH and BIT, from Lonza). This list is designed to be representative, but not all inclusive.

As used herein “anti-microbial agent” refers to a compound which is effective against bacteria, algae, fungus, mold and/or mildew that may cause odor, stain, discoloration, unsightly texture, decay, or deterioration of physical properties.

FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary fabric article treating device 20 according to one embodiment of the present invention. The fabric article treating device 20 comprises an interior dispenser 25 adapted for location inside of a fabric article drying appliance and a reservoir 30. The interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 are adapted for fluid communication with one another, for example via fluid line 32. In one embodiment, the fluid connection between the interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 comprises tubing configured to allow the benefit composition to be transported from the reservoir 30 to the interior dispenser 25. One exemplary tubing comprises a polymeric tubing with one or more channels or conduits. In one embodiment, the tubing is configured to allow the closure structure on the fabric article drying appliance to maintain a closed position while still permitting dispensing of the benefit composition. The reservoir 30 contains a benefit composition and at least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. In one exemplary embodiment, the reservoir 30 is removable. In another exemplary embodiment, the reservoir 30 comprises a sealed pouch.

The reservoir 30 may be constructed of any material known in the art and at least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. Non-limiting examples of such structural materials include polymeric materials including but not limited to polypropylene, polyethylene, styrenics, polyesters, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polycarbonates, Poly(methyl methacrylate (PMMA), polyvinyls, Nylon, polyurethane, acrylic, epoxies, acetates, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, fluoropolymers, latex, nitrile copolymers, nylons, polychloroprene, polyvinylchloride, Rayon, rubbers (natural and synthetic), silicone, and combinations thereof. Other exemplary materials of construction include a metal, for example aluminum foil. In one embodiment, the reservoir 30 comprises multiple layers of one or more materials. In another embodiment, the reservoir 30 comprises a single or multiple layer barrier film.

At least a portion of the reservoir is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. In one exemplary embodiment, the anti-microbial agent of the reservoir is effective to prevent and/or minimize proliferation of anaerobic and/or aerobic bacteria. In another exemplary embodiment, the anti-microbial agent comprises one or more organic or inorganic compounds, or a combination thereof. Non-limiting examples of anti-microbial agents include, but are not limited to, iodine; silver; zinc; 2,4,4′-trichloro-2′-hydroxydiphenyl ether; silver zeolite; silver glass; 4-t-butylamino-6-cyclopropylamino-2-methylthio-s-triazine; thiabenzazole, 2-(4-thiazolyl)benzimidazole; dichloro-octyl-isothiazolone; octyl-isothiazolone; 10,10-oxybisphenoxarsine; tebuconazole; tolnaftate; zinc bis-(2-pyridinethiol-1-oxide); and quaternary compounds such as Bardac, dialkyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, or Barquat, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, (Lonza, Fairfield, N.J., USA).

In one embodiment, the anti-microbial agent is either melt processed with the polymer material or is provided as an intimate part of a coating, optionally as a cured coating composition to provide durability. The incorporation of the anti-microbial agent into a polymer product is performed by known methods such as dry blending in the form of a powder or wet mixing in the form of solutions, dispersions or suspensions, optionally in an inert solvent, water or oil. The anti-microbial agent may be added directly into the processing apparatus (extruders, mixers, kneaders, etc.) in an inert atmosphere or ambient atmosphere. The present anti-microbial agent may be added in the form of a master batch or polymer concentrate.

Alternatively, or in addition, the anti-microbial agent may be provided in a coating. The application of a coating including the anti-microbial agent is for example performed by applying the dissolved or dispersed agent to a material forming a portion of the reservoir, for example on a polymeric reservoir body structure, with or without subsequent evaporation of the solvent or the suspension/dispersion material. The anti-microbial agent can also be sprayed onto a polymer reservoir body structure. An applied coating may be cured in any conventional manner. In another exemplary embodiment, the anti-microbial agent is impregnated into the material of the reservoir.

The present polymer products comprise for example about 0.005% to about 3.0% by weight of the active anti-microbial agent. A single anti-microbial agent may be employed or any combination of anti-microbial agents may be employed in order to achieve desired results.

In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 2, at least a portion 36 of the reservoir 30 that is adapted to serve as a headspace 38 during use of the fabric article treating device 20 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. The headspace 38 is created in the reservoir 30 as the space between the upper portion of the reservoir and the surface level of the benefit composition. During use of the fabric article treating device 20, the level of the benefit composition may change, thus resulting in a change in the amount of headspace in the reservoir.

In another embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 3, the reservoir 30 further comprises a closure 40. In one exemplary embodiment, the closure 40 is adapted to allow access to the interior of the reservoir 30. For example, the closure 40 may be removed from the reservoir 30 to allow the user to add a benefit composition to the reservoir 30 and then the closure 40 can be positioned back on the reservoir 30. In one exemplary embodiment, at least a portion of the closure is formed of a material comprising anti-microbial agent, in any of the manners discussed above. For example, the closure may include an interior coating. The interior coating may be formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent.

In a further embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 4, the closure 40 further comprises a closure liner 43. In one embodiment, at least a portion of the closure liner 41 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent.

In another exemplary embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the fabric article treating device 20 further comprises a coating 41 on the interior of the body of the reservoir 30. In another embodiment of the present invention, at least a portion of the reservoir includes an interior coating 41. The coating may comprise one or more anti-microbial agents.

In one exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the reservoir 30 is adapted for location on an interior portion of the fabric article drying appliance 20. For example, the reservoir may be located in the chamber of the fabric article drying appliance. Alternatively, the reservoir may be located within the fabric article drying appliance, but not within the chamber of the fabric article drying appliance. Further, the reservoir may be adapted for location on an exterior portion of the fabric article drying appliance.

The interior dispenser 25 may comprise at least one nozzle for the purposes of distributing the benefit composition into the fabric article drying appliance. Misting/atomizing of the benefit composition can be achieved using any suitable spraying device such as a hydraulic nozzle, sonic nebulizer, pressure swirl atomizers, high pressure fog nozzle or the like to deliver target particle size. Non-limiting examples of suitable nozzles include nozzles commercially available from Spray Systems, Inc. of Pomona, Calif. under the Model Nos. 850, 1050, 1250, 1450 and 1650. Another suitable example of a nozzle is a pressure swirl atomizing nozzle made by Seaquist Perfect Dispensing of Cary, Ill. under Model No. DU-3813. In one exemplary embodiment, at least a portion of the interior dispenser is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent.

In another exemplary embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 6, the fabric article treating device 20 further comprises fitment 44, which is one of corresponding male and female fitments, and the reservoir 30, shown as a sealed pouch or carton, comprises the other fitment 42 of the corresponding male and female fitments, wherein the female fitment is configured to receive the male fitment to establish the fluid communication between the interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30. In the embodiment of FIG. 6, the fitment 42 on the reservoir 30 is the female fitment, while the corresponding male fitment 44 is adapted for fluid connection with the dispenser 25, for example via a fluid handling system as described hereafter. Various corresponding male and female fitments which establish fluid communication are generally known in the art and are suitable for use herein. One exemplary fitment that may be utilized is available from IPN USA Corp. of Peachtree City, Ga., available as Clean-Clic® pouch fitments, model SBS-4. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, any fitments can be utilized in the present invention provided the fitments are configured to maintain fluid communication between the reservoir 30 and the interior dispenser 25.

In one exemplary embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the fabric article treating device 20 further comprises a fluid handling system 55, a power source 50 and a controller 60. In one exemplary embodiment, the fluid handling system 55 is configured to transport the benefit composition from the reservoir 30 to the interior dispenser 25. The interior dispenser 25 is configured to deliver the benefit composition to one or more fabric articles in the fabric article drying appliance. The power source 50 is configured to provide electrical power as needed by the fluid article treating device, such as the controller 60, the fluid handling system 55, sensors, and any electrical needs of a user interface. The controller 60 is configured to regulate the dispensing of the benefit composition. For example, the controller 60 may determine the optimum time to dispense the benefit composition, the quantity of benefit composition to be dispensed and the rate at which to dispense the benefit composition. In one embodiment, the fabric article treating device further comprises a communication link adapted to provide communication between the controller of the fabric article treating device and the fabric article drying appliance. For example, the controller may send and/or receive signals to/from the fabric article drying appliance to determine the optimum benefit composition dispensing conditions such as, time, length, etc.

Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 8. In this exemplary embodiment, the fabric article treating device 20 further comprises a housing 65. The housing 65 is adapted to receive various components of the fabric article treating device, optionally, the housing may substantially enclose and protect the components in their assembled form. For example, as shown in FIG. 8, the housing may receive the power source 50, the fluid handling system 55, the controller 60 and the reservoir 30. In another embodiment, the housing may comprise a tubing storage area adapted to contain a quantity of fluid line 32 to allow the user to customize the installation of the fabric article treating device for the user's particular fabric article drying appliance. The housing 65 may be constructed with any materials known to one skilled in the art. Exemplary materials include, but are not limited to, polymers, metals, fabric, wood, and the like. The housing 65 may be located on the exterior or interior of the fabric article drying appliance. In one exemplary embodiment, at least a portion of the housing 65 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent.

In one exemplary embodiment as illustrated in FIG. 9, the fluid handling system 55 comprises a pump 70. The pump 70 is in communication with the reservoir 30 and the interior dispenser 25 via fluid lines 72 and 74, respectively. The pump 70 is configured to transport benefit composition from the reservoir 30 to the interior dispenser 25 for dispensing of the benefit composition. In one embodiment, the pump 70, comprises an piezo-electric pump. In another embodiment, the pump 70 may comprise a diaphragm pump. As one skilled in the art will appreciate any pump known to one skilled in the art may be utilized to transport the benefit composition from the exterior reservoir 30 to the interior dispenser 25. Other exemplary pumps include piston pumps, peristaltic pumps, and bellows-type pumps.

As noted above, one type of pump 70 that can be used in the present invention is an piezo-electric pump. While an piezo-electric pump has certain membranes or laminations which may vibrate in a reciprocating-type fashion, the piezo-electric pumps generally do not have major moving parts, such as rotating shaft and bearings used with a rotator member to displace a fluid or gaseous fluid, that experience wear over time. One commercially available suitable piezo-electric pump usable in the present invention is manufactured by PAR Technologies, LLC, located in Hampton, Va., and marketed as the “LPD-Series” laminated piezo-electric fluid pumps. Pumps which draw a relevantly low current are particularly suitable in certain embodiments.

In another embodiment, the reservoir 30 may be positioned in such a way to provide gravitation flow of the benefit composition to the interior dispenser 25. For example, the reservoir 30 may be mounted above the fabric article drying appliance to create static head on the benefit composition to allow dispensing of the benefit composition without the utilization of a pump.

Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 10. In this embodiment, as in previously discussed embodiments, the fabric article treating device 20 comprises an interior dispenser 25 adapted for location inside of a fabric article drying appliance and a reservoir 30 adapted to contain a benefit composition, wherein at least a portion of the reservoir 30 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. The interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 are adapted for fluid communication with one another. The device further comprises a controller 60 in electrical communication with a sensor 75. In one exemplary embodiment, the sensor comprises a temperature sensor. In another exemplary embodiment, the sensor 75 comprises a light sensor. In yet another exemplary embodiment, the sensor 75 comprises a motion sensor. The controller 60 is adapted to send and/or receive signals from the sensor 75 and to determine the dispensing conditions for dispensing the benefit composition.

Another embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 11, is a fabric article treating system 80. The fabric article treating system 80 comprises a fabric article drying appliance 35 having a chamber 81 and a closure structure 85, for example, a door. The closure structure 85 has a closed position and at least one open position. The closure structure 85 allows access to the chamber 81 of the fabric article drying appliance 35. The fabric article treating system 80 further comprises a reservoir 30 for containing a benefit composition; a dispenser 25 in communication with the chamber 81; and a fluid handling system 55 that compels the benefit composition from the reservoir 30 toward the dispenser 25, thereby dispensing the benefit composition into the chamber 81. At least a portion of the reservoir 30 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent, and as discussed above, the reservoir 30 may be removable. In another embodiment, the reservoir 30 comprises a sealed pouch.

Another embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 12, is a fabric article treating system 80. The fabric article treating system 80 comprises a fabric article drying appliance 35 having a chamber 81 and a closure structure 85. The closure structure 85 has a closed position and at least one open position, wherein the closure structure 85 allows access to the chamber 81. The fabric article treating system 80 further comprises a reservoir 30 for containing a benefit composition and a dispenser 25 in communication with the chamber 81; a fluid handling system 55 that compels the benefit composition from the reservoir 30 toward the dispenser 25, thereby dispensing the benefit composition into the chamber 81; a closure structure sensor 88; and a controller 60 that initiates dispensing of the benefit composition. The controller 60 is configured to prevent the benefit composition from being dispensed when the closure structure sensor 88 indicates that the closure structure 85 is not in the closed position. At least a portion of the reservoir 30 is formed of a material comprising an anti-microbial agent. In another embodiment, the fabric article treating system 80 further comprises one or more additional sensors 75 in the chamber in communication with the controller.

The reservoir 30 may be mounted on the exterior portion of the fabric article drying appliance 35, such as on the fabric article drying appliance closure structure 85, or a side wall, a top wall, an outer surface of a top-opening lid, or the like, including a stand, wall or other household structure that is separate from the fabric article drying appliance. Moreover, the reservoir 30 may be mounted on any interior portion of the fabric article drying appliance 35, examples of which include, but are not limited to, the interior surface of the closure structure 85, the drum of the fabric article drying appliance, the back wall, the inner surface of a top opening lid, or the like.

Optionally, filters and/or filtering techniques can be used to filter the benefit composition, if desired, for example at a point between the reservoir 30 and the outlet of the dispenser 25. Non-limiting examples of this include: utilizing a filter in the interior dispenser 25 prior to dispensing of the benefit compositions. Alternatively, the benefit composition may be filtered prior to dispensing into the reservoir; or a combination of filtering techniques may be employed.

The interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 are adapted for fluid communication with one another. In one embodiment, the interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 may be in electrical connection with one another. Non-limiting examples of means for connecting the interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 may include utilizing a flat cable (also referred to as a ribbon cable), a wire, a wire or group of wires enclosed in a stealth of woven or nonwoven material, a conduit (a non-limiting example of which is a conduit for the benefit composition), or combination thereof. The woven or nonwoven sheet may be used as a method of attaching the interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30. The interior dispenser 25 and the reservoir 30 may be used to provide a means of gravitational counterbalancing so as to reduce unnecessary tension on the wires and/or the connections.

The power source 50 may comprise chemical batteries, or any electrical power source, including standard household line voltage, or even solar power. Batteries may be utilized, and are particularly suitable when the fabric article treating device 20 is in the form of an add-on device for an existing fabric article drying appliance 35. However, any appropriate power adapter can be provided to convert an AC power source to the appropriate DC voltages used in any electrical components of the fabric article treating device 20, such as in the fluid handling system 55, the controller 60, and any sensors 75.

As noted, the fabric article treating device 20 can include optional sensors 75. Non-limiting examples of optional sensors include a door (or lid sensor), a motion sensor, a humidity sensor, and/or a temperature sensor. One non-limiting example of a door/lid sensor is an optoelectronic device, such as an optocoupler or an optical input sensor, e.g., a phototransistor or photodiode. When the door/lid of the drying appliance is open, the door sensor will change state, and will output a different voltage or current level along an electrical conductor that leads from the door sensor back to the controller. This can be used as a safety device to immediately interrupt the dispensing of the benefit composition from the interior dispenser 25. The optional door sensor could be utilized even when a control system is integrated into the overall conventional control system of the drying appliance. For example, a drying appliance typically has its own door sensor which shuts off the rotating drum of the dryer when the door becomes open. In this instant, the optional door sensor can act as a backup or second door sensor to the dryer's internal original sensor that shuts off the rotating drum. One example which could be used as a door/lid sensor is an NPN Phototransistor, Part No. PNA1801L, manufactured by Panasonic, of Osaka, Japan. In another embodiment, a communication link could be established between the drying appliance and the controller, wherein the drying appliance would send the controller a signal relating to the operational state of the drying appliance (e.g., door open/closed, drying cycle, temperature, etc.).

Another type of optional sensor 75 that can be utilized by the fabric article treating device 20 of the present invention is a motion sensor. For fabric article drying appliances 35 which utilize a moving interior, such as a rotating drum, the motion sensor can detect if a fabric article drying appliance is in use. One example of a motion sensor is a vibration and movement sensing switch manufactured by ASSEM Tech Europe Ltd., of Clifton, N.J., available as Model No. CW1600-3. Another type of optional motion sensor that may be used in the present invention uses a light source to direct (infrared) light at a surface, and the relevant motion of that surface can be detected by the intensity and/or frequency of the returning light. Such sensors can measure the actual speed of rotation, if that information is desired.

Another optional sensor 75 that can be used in a fabric article treating device 20 of the present invention is a humidity sensor. The optional humidity sensor, together with the controller, may be used to control the amount of composition being dispensed by the interior dispenser 25, and also may be utilized to determine the proper environmental conditions during an operational cycle in which the dispensing event should take place. Additionally, this humidity sensor may be used to maintain a specific humidity by controlling the dispensing the benefit composition such that optimal de-wrinkling and/or other benefits are achieved. Many different types of humidity sensors could be used in conjunction with the present invention, including variable conductivity sensors. One such sensor is manufactured by Honeywell, of Freeport, Ill. under the Model No. HIH-3610-001, although any of the HIH-3610 series, or other available sensors may be used.

A further optional sensor 75 that can be useful in the fabric article treating device 20 of the present invention is a temperature sensor, such as one that outputs an analog or digital signal along the electrical conductor that leads back to the controller.

As noted above, the fabric article treating device 20 may comprise a controller 60. In one embodiment, the controller may be a microcontroller. A suitable microcontroller is manufactured by MicroChip, of Chandler, Ariz. under the Part No. PIC16LS876-04/P. However, other microcontrollers made by different manufacturers could also easily be used. In one exemplary embodiment, the microcontroller includes on-board random access memory (RAM), on-board read only memory (ROM), which comprises electrically programmable non-volatile memory elements, as well as on-board input and output lines for analog and digital signals. The controller may also be used with a crystal clock oscillator, although a RC circuit could be used instead as a clock circuit, if desired. The clock circuit provides the timing of the clock as necessary to operate the controller. In one embodiment, the controller comprises a port that can be interfaced to an optional programmable interface using a communication link, such as RS-232 communication link. The port allows a user to alter the program information of the controller, such as dispensing options, etc.

One skilled in the art will appreciate that the controller can be any type of microprocessor or microcontroller circuit commercially available, either with or without on-board RAM, RAM, or digital and analog input/output (I/O). Moreover, a sequential processor may be used to control the fabric article treating device 20, or alternatively a parallel processor architecture or a logic state machine architecture could be used. Furthermore, the controller 60 may be integrated into an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) containing many other logic elements that could be used for various functions, as desired, such functions being optional depending upon the model of the fabric article treating device 20 that will be sold to a consumer. To change model features, the manufacturer need only program the ASIC or the on-board RAM of the controller according to the special parameters of that particular model, while using the same hardware for each of the units.

It will also be understood that discrete digital logic could be used instead of any type of microprocessor microcontroller unit, or analog control circuitry could be used along with voltage comparators and analog timers, to control the timing events and to make decisions based on input levels of the various sensors that are provided with the fabric article treating device 20.

It will be understood that the present invention can be readily used in other types of fabric “treating” devices, and is not limited solely to clothes “dryers”. In the context of this patent document, the terms “dryer” or “drying apparatus” or “fabric article drying appliance” include devices that may or may not perform a true drying function, but may involve treating fabric without attempting to literally dry the fabric itself. As noted above, the terms “dryer” or “drying apparatus” or “fabric article drying appliance” may include a “dry cleaning” process or apparatus, which may or may not literally involve a step of drying. The term “fabric article drying appliance” as used herein, also refers to any fabric treating device that utilizes moving air directed upon one or more fabric articles, a non-limiting example of which includes a clothes dryer, and modifications thereof. Such devices include both domestic and commercial drying units used in dwellings, laundromats, hotels, and/or industrial settings. In addition, it should be noted that some drying appliances include a drying chamber (or “drum”) that does not literally move or rotate while the drying appliance is operating in the drying cycle. Some such dryers use moving air that passes through the drying chamber, and the chamber does not move while the drying cycle occurs. Such an example dryer has a door or other type of access cover that allows a person to insert the clothing to be dried into the chamber. In many cases, the person hangs the clothes on some type of upper rod within the drying chamber. Once that has been done, the door (or access cover) is closed, and the dryer can begin its drying function. Dispensing of a benefit composition can take place within such a unit, however, care should be taken to ensure that the benefit composition becomes well dispersed within the drying chamber, so that certain fabric items do not receive a very large concentration of the benefit composition while other fabric items receive very little of the benefit composition.

Exemplary fabric article treating devices and systems include those described in co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/697,735 filed on Oct. 29, 2003; U.S. application Ser. No. 10/697,685 filed on Oct. 29, 2003; U.S. application Ser. No. 10/697,734 filed on Oct. 29, 2003; U.S. application Ser. No. 10/697,736 filed on Oct. 29, 2003; and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/762,152 filed on 10/762,152.

All documents cited in the detailed description of the invention are, in relevant part, incorporated herein by reference; a citation of any document is not to be construed as an admission that it is prior art with respect to the present invention.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been illustrated and described, it would be obvious to those skilled in the art that various other changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended to cover in the appended claims all such changes and modifications that are within the scope of this invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7559156 *May 10, 2006Jul 14, 2009Mabe Canada Inc.Clothes dryer door assembly
US7614162May 10, 2006Nov 10, 2009Mabe Canada Inc.Clothes dryer reversible door assembly
US7921578Jul 7, 2006Apr 12, 2011Whirlpool CorporationNebulizer system for a fabric treatment appliance
Classifications
U.S. Classification34/597
International ClassificationD06F58/20, D06F35/00
Cooperative ClassificationD06F58/203, D06F35/00
European ClassificationD06F58/20B, D06F35/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 17, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: PROCTER & GAMBLE COMPANY, THE, OHIO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WARD, THOMAS EDWARD;MCNAMARA, BARRY PATRICK;BEDELL, CYNTHIA MARIA;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015474/0050;SIGNING DATES FROM 20041202 TO 20041213