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Publication numberUS20050223667 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/064,577
Publication dateOct 13, 2005
Filing dateFeb 24, 2005
Priority dateFeb 25, 2004
Publication number064577, 11064577, US 2005/0223667 A1, US 2005/223667 A1, US 20050223667 A1, US 20050223667A1, US 2005223667 A1, US 2005223667A1, US-A1-20050223667, US-A1-2005223667, US2005/0223667A1, US2005/223667A1, US20050223667 A1, US20050223667A1, US2005223667 A1, US2005223667A1
InventorsBarry McCann, Rodney Ford
Original AssigneeMccann Barry, Ford Rodney B
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Cushioned apparatus
US 20050223667 A1
Abstract
The present invention relates to cushioning apparatus having a plurality of intersecting columns, the columns being formed from a thermoplastic, silicone, two-part, or other gel material. The cushioning apparatus are extremely strong and durable yet provide an improved cushioning apparatus. The intersecting columnar configuration of the cushioning apparatus allow for weight to be shared with neighboring column walls. When force is exerted on the columns, the column walls are designed to buckle in the areas of greatest pressure. The column buckling diffuses energy from the areas of highest pressure effectively eliminating pressure points. As the polymer gel collapses within the column walls, the column walls essentially collapse at least partially in a lateral direction allowing pressure to flow away from the areas of greatest pressure to areas of lesser pressure. This provides an improved cushioning surface on which a user can sit, sleep, or other types of cushioning can be provided.
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Claims(20)
1. A cushioning apparatus, comprising:
a first zone including a plurality of intersecting columns providing a first resiliency; and
a second zone including a plurality of intersecting columns providing a second resiliency.
2. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of voids defined by the intersecting columns.
3. The cushioning apparatus of claim 2, wherein the plurality of voids comprise a configuration selected from the group consisting of circular, pentagonal, hexagonal, triangular, and diamond shaped.
4. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a first side wall having a thickness sufficient for supporting the first zone and a second side wall having a thickness sufficient for supporting the second zone.
5. The cushioning apparatus of claim 4, wherein the first and second side walls are continuous and uniform.
6. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a third zone including a plurality of intersecting columns and providing a third resiliency.
7. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first zone is integrally disposed parallel to the second zone.
8. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a continuous layer.
9. The cushioning apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a securement apparatus for removably securing the first zone in relation to a mattress.
10. The cushioning member of claim 7, wherein the securement apparatus comprises a circumferential member and a plurality of engagement members.
11. A cushioning apparatus configured for disposition relative to a mattress, the cushioning apparatus comprising:
a continuous layer;
a cushioning layer configured having a plurality of intersecting columns having sufficient stiffness to prevent a user from contacting the continuous layer; and
the continuous layer configured to prevent a fluid from contacting the mattress.
12. The cushioning apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a securement apparatus for removably securing the continuous layer in relation to the cushioning layer.
13. The cushioning apparatus of claim 11, wherein the continuous layer is formed of a material that provides a hypoallergenic and moisture barrier against fluids.
14. A cushioning apparatus, comprising:
a first cushioning layer having a plurality of intersecting columns; and
a second cushioning layer having a plurality of intersecting columns, wherein the second cushioning layer is positioned beneath the first cushioning layer.
15. The cushioning apparatus of claim 14, wherein the plurality of intersecting columns of the first cushioning layer is disposed in a different angular configuration that the plurality of intersecting columns of the second cushioning layer.
16. The cushioning apparatus of claim 14, further comprising a third cushioning layer having a plurality of intersecting columns.
17. The cushioning apparatus of claim 14, wherein the first cushioning member comprises a firmness different from the second cushioning member.
18. A cushioning apparatus, comprising:
a core member having a first thickness and an outer surface; and.
a gel cushioning member having a plurality of intersecting columns having a second thickness, wherein the cushioning member comprises a size sufficient to engage at least a portion of the outer surface of the core member.
19. The cushioning apparatus of claim 17, wherein the core member is formed of a resilient member
20. The cushioning apparatus of claim 18, wherein the resilient member comprises a seat cushion.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/547,824, filed Feb. 25, 2004, and entitled “CUSHIONED APPARATUS,” which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. The Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to cushioning members having a plurality of intersecting columns, the columns being formed from a thermoplastic, silicone, two-part, or other gel material. The cushioning apparatus are extremely strong and durable yet provide an improved cushioning apparatus. The intersecting columnar configuration of the cushioning apparatus allow for weight to be shared with neighboring column walls.

2. Brief Description of the Art

The concept of using buckling columns in cushioning devices is not new. Products made with buckling columns have been in existence since at least as early as January of 1997. One of the earliest examples of a product utilizing buckling columns would include a seat cushion. The seat cushion apparatus was made from a “thermoplastic elastomer” and the general description of the material suggested that it be “resilient.”

Various other apparatus have been developed for numerous, specific applications, including without limitation: foot pads, wheelchair cushions, and mattresses.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to cushioning apparatus having a plurality of intersecting columns, the column being formed from a thermoplastic, silicone, two-part, or other gel material. The cushioning apparatus are extremely strong and durable yet provide an improved cushioning apparatus. The intersecting columnar configuration of the cushioning apparatus allow for weight to be shared with neighboring column walls. When force is exerted on the columns, the column walls are designed to buckle in the areas of greatest pressure. The column buckling diffuses energy from the areas of highest pressure effectively eliminating pressure points. As the polymer gel collapses within the column walls, the column walls essentially collapse at least partially in a lateral direction allowing pressure to flow away from the areas of greatest pressure to areas of lesser pressure. This provides an improved cushioning surface on which a user can sit, sleep, or other types of cushioning can be provided.

The cushioning apparatus of the present invention is utilized without additional cushioning structures formed from foam, gels, or other types of cushioning materials contacting, overlaying, or being utilized with the cushioning apparatus. The addition of foam, gels, or other cushioning materials over and/or under the cushioning apparatus can reduce the benefits provided by the column buckling of the novel cushioning apparatus of the present invention. A cushioning surface may be provided on the top of the cushioning apparatus. The cushioning surface allows a user or a surface upon which the cushioning apparatus may be placed to come in contact with the cushioning apparatus. When a predetermined amount of pressure is exerted on the cushioning surface, the intersecting columns of the cushioning member are designed to buckle to provide relief from the pressure exerted on the cushioning apparatus.

The cushioning apparatus may also be used in the absence of constraining belts, molds, forms, or other apparatuses that would prevent outward movement or buckling of side walls. This allows the cushioning apparatus to move freely and provide sheer relief in the lateral direction even at the edge surfaces of the cushioning apparatus.

A securement apparatus may be utilized with the cushioning apparatus, which securement apparatus controls slippage of the cushioning apparatus from the surface on which the cushioning apparatus is positioned without constraining lateral movement of the side walls of cushioning apparatus. The securement apparatus effectively maintains the position of the cushioning apparatus on top of a mattress without constraining the lateral movement of the cushioning apparatus.

The cushioning apparatus may be formed having a plurality of zones comprising a cushioning surface, a first zone, a second zone, and a third zone. Each of the plurality of zones may include a characteristic that is different from an adjacent zone to provide synergistic properties, thus providing an improved cushioning experience. By providing zones having different physical characteristics, an improved cushioning or sleep surface is provided. This allows each portion of the user's body to create a similar amount of column buckling from zone-to-zone providing optimal support to both the lumbar region and the head and neck of a resting user, unlike cushioning apparatus or mattresses of the prior art formed having uniform cushioning.

Furthermore, each cushioning zone may be engineered to the specifications of a user, such as the weight and height of the user. Additional cushioning zones may also be utilized to facilitate use by a second user. To this end, a presently preferred embodiment of the cushioning apparatus of the present invention may include a variety of different zones that may be utilized and configured in a variety of ways to accommodate different users and/or uses.

A pillow case may be made utilizing a cushioning apparatus according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention. The pillow case may comprise a gel cushioning portion and a core portion. The gel cushioning portion may utilize a columnar configuration where buckling of the gel columns diffuses pressure exerted on points in the pillow providing an improved sleep surface. Preferably, the structural characteristics of the gel columns are configured so as to prevent a user from bottoming out when a user's head is resting on the pillow.

In another presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, a motorcycle or bicycle seat cushion may be formed including a gelatinous columnar material. The gelatinous columnar configuration may provide pressure reduction by column buckling in the lateral direction. The motorcycle seat cushion of the present invention may also include a cushioning surface, a frontal portion, and a continuous layer. The cushioning surface may be configured to be positioned between the motorcycle seat and the user's buttocks. The frontal portion may extend in the frontward direction from the other portions of the motorcycle seat cushion. Specifically, the frontal portion may be configured to be positioned beneath the space between the user's legs. The configuration of the cushioning surface and the frontal portion generally provides improved cushioning and column buckling not only for the user's buttocks, but also the user's thighs due to the juxtaposition of the intersecting columns in the frontal portions and the portions behind the frontal portion.

One presently preferred embodiment of a cushioning apparatus of the present invention may have a plurality of tapered columns. Structurally, the tapered columns may define a plurality of voids. The tapered columns may also include an upper portion and a lower portion. The upper portion may be narrower than the lower portion. The lower portion may be in contact with a continuous layer. The tapered configuration of the columns may provide differential buckling depending on the amount of force exerted on the tapered columns. Less amounts of force are required to buckle the upper portion than the lower portion. Due to the tapered configuration, gradations of buckling can be provided along the length of the tapered columns. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, tapered columns can be utilized in a wide variety of configurations and designs.

A layered cushioning apparatus of one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention may include an upper layer, a middle layer, and a lower layer. Each of the layers may include a continuous layer positioned therebetween. The layered configuration of the cushioning apparatus may allow for smaller or greater amounts of cushioning based on the amount of pressure exerted on the layered cushioning apparatus and the number of layers that undergo column buckling. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, a variety of designs and configurations of layers may be utilized. Moreover, the columns of each of the layers may not be integrally coupled to the adjacent layers, thereby allowing the columns to buckle independently without controlling the direction or amount of lateral displacement of the columns from layer to layer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To further clarify the above and other advantages and features of the present invention, a more particular description of the invention will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof that are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is appreciated that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope. The invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a cushioning apparatus according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a securement apparatus utilized with a cushioning apparatus according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a cushioning apparatus having a plurality of zones according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a pillow utilizing a cushioning apparatus according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a motorcycle seat cushion having a plurality of gelatinous columns according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional end view of a cushioning apparatus having a plurality of tapered columns according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective end view of a cushioning apparatus having a plurality of columns of variable width according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 8 is a layered cushioning apparatus according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

It will be readily understood that the components of the present invention, as generally described and illustrated in the Figures herein, could be modified, arranged and designed in a wide variety of different configurations. Thus, the following more detailed description of the embodiments of the systems and methods of the present invention, as represented in the Examples and FIGS. 1 through 8, is not intended to limit the scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is as broad as claimed herein.

The present invention related to cushioning apparatus having a plurality of intersecting columns, the column being formed from a thermoplastic, silicone, two-part, or other gel material. The cushioning apparatus are extremely strong and durable yet provide an improved cushioning apparatus. The intersecting columnar configuration of the cushioning apparatus allow for weight to be shared with neighboring column walls. When force is exerted on the columns, the column walls are designed to buckle in the areas of greatest pressure. The column buckling diffuses energy from the areas of highest pressure effectively eliminating pressure points. As the polymer gel collapses within the column walls, the column walls essentially collapse at least partially in a lateral direction allowing pressure to flow away from the areas of greatest pressure to areas of lesser pressure. This provides an improved cushioning surface on which a user can sit, sleep, or other types of cushioning can be provided.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, a cushioning apparatus 1 is provided. In the embodiment, the cushioning apparatus 1 is utilized without additional cushioning structures formed from foam, gels, or other types of cushioning materials contacting, overlaying, or being utilized with the cushioning apparatus. This does not preclude utilizing the cushioning apparatus 1 with a mattress or other standard sleeping system. The addition of foam, gels, or other cushioning materials over and/or under the cushioning apparatus 1 may reduce the benefits provided by the column buckling of the cushioning apparatus.

In the illustrated embodiment, cushioning apparatus 1 includes a plurality of voids 2, intersecting columns 4, side walls 6, and a cushioning surface 8. The plurality of voids 2 are formed by the intersecting columns 4. The shape and configuration of the plurality of voids 2 and the intersecting columns 4 can be of a variety of configurations and designs without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. The shape of the voids 2 are largely defined by the intersecting columns 4. For example, depending on the placement of the intersecting columns 4, one presently preferred embodiment of the plurality of voids may be circular, pentagonal, hexagonal, triangular, diamond shaped, or any of a variety of voids that can be formed between columns and may have an internal diameter or dimension of between about 0.5 inches and about 3.5 inches. In addition, one presently preferred embodiment of the intersecting columns 4 may be formed having a cell wall thickness of about 0.04 inches to 0.25 inches. However, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, that the foregoing dimensions are merely exemplary of one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention and are not intended to be restrictive to the same.

Side wall 6, illustrated in the presently preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 1, may be formed of a continuous and uniform nature, while also providing sure relief due to the position, thickness, and configuration of such side walls. In one embodiment, the cushioning apparatus 1 comprises two sets of opposing side walls 6 a, 6 b disposed relative to each other. The opposing side walls 6 a may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length, preferably between about 12 inches to about 84 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus 1. In addition, the opposing side walls 6 b may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length, preferably between about 12 inches to about 84 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus.

The cushioning surface 8 may be provided on the top of the cushioning apparatus 1. The cushioning surface 8 allows a user or a surface upon which the cushioning apparatus is placed to come in contact with the cushioning apparatus 1. When a predetermined amount of pressure is exerted on the cushioning surface 8, the intersecting columns 4 are designed to buckle to provide relief from the pressure exerted on the cushioning apparatus 1. In particular, a natural elasticity of the material from which intersecting columns 4 are formed allow for pressure to be diffused away from the point of greatest pressure due to the sheer relief characteristics of the intersecting column.

In the illustrated embodiment shown in FIG. 1, cushioning apparatus 1 may also be used in the absence of constraining belts, molds, forms, or other apparatus that would prevent outward movement or buckling of the side wall 6. This allows for cushioning apparatus 1 to move freely and provide sheer relief in the lateral direction even at the edge surfaces of the cushioning apparatus 1.

In one presently preferred embodiment, the cushioning apparatus 1 comprises a topper to be placed on top of a mattress or other sleeping surface. In another embodiment, the cushioning apparatus comprises a seat cushion or the like.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a securement apparatus 10 may engage the cushioning apparatus 1 according to one aspect of the present invention. The securement apparatus 10 may control slippage of the cushioning apparatus 1 from the surface on which the cushioning apparatus is positioned without constraining lateral movement of the side walls 6 of the cushioning apparatus. A presently preferred embodiment of the securement apparatus 10 may comprise a circumferential member 12 and a plurality of engagement members 14.

As shown, cushioning apparatus 1 may be positioned on top of a mattress 9. The normal night-time movements that a user may make during a sleep period would normally result in twisting, slippage, or other movement of the cushioning apparatus 1. This may result in slippage of the cushioning apparatus 1 relative to the mattress 9. The securement apparatus 10 effectively maintains the position of the cushioning apparatus 1 on top of the mattress 9 without constraining the lateral movement of the cushioning apparatus.

The circumferential member 12 may be placed around the middle portion of the mattress 9. The circumferential member 12 may work to maintain the positioning of the engagement members 14 relative to the mattress 9. The circumferential member 12 is one example of a securement member.

The engagement members 14 may be secured to the circumferential member 12 on one end and engage the cushioning apparatus 1 on the other end. In the illustrated embodiment, the engagement members 14 may comprise straps that are looped through intersecting columns of the cushioning apparatus 1. The configuration of the engagement members 14 allows for portions of cushioning apparatus 1 adjacent or contacting the engagement members to buckle without restriction of the direction or amount of such buckling. This allows the cushioning apparatus 1 to provide maximum cushioning benefit even at the edges of the cushioning apparatus.

Referring still to FIG. 2, the upper surface of the cushioning apparatus 1 on one presently preferred embodiment may be shown with voids exposed for the sake of simplicity. A continuous surface layer may be formed or positioned on the cushioning surface 8 of the cushioning apparatus 1. This continuous layer may provide a hypoallergenic and moisture barrier to fluids exposed to the cushioning apparatus 1. In another presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, the continuous layer may be positioned on the bottom or underside portion of the cushioning apparatus 1. This placement may also provide a fluid barrier preventing exposure of fluids to a mattress positioned under the cushioning apparatus 1. This can be particularly beneficial in clinical or hospital settings where biological and/or other fluids may come in contact with the cushioning apparatus 1. The configuration of the continuous layer prevents such fluids from contacting the mattress over which the cushioning apparatus 1 is placed while the intersecting columns prevent a user from resting on the cushioning apparatus from contacting the fluids positioned on the bottom of the voids. This is due to the fact that the plurality of columns will often be configured to prevent a user from contacting the continuous layer (i.e. “bottoming out” at any point on the cushioning apparatus 1). In other words, a user would be suspended above the layer of fluids resting in the voids 2 at the cushioning apparatus 1.

With reference now to FIG. 3, there is shown a cushioning apparatus 20 having a plurality of zones according to one embodiment of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, the cushioning apparatus having a plurality of zones 20 comprises a cushioning surface 22, a first zone 24, a second zone 26, and a third zone 28. In one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, each of the plurality of zones has a physical characteristic that is different from an adjacent zone to provide synergistic properties to facilitate an improved cushioning experience. In the illustrated embodiment, the cushioning apparatus 20 comprises a bed topper configured to allow a user to rest thereon. When a user is positioned on the bed topper, different amounts of weight or pressure are exerted on the cushioning apparatus 20.

For example, a user's head and upper torso has a first amount of weight, a user's main torso and lower body has a second amount of weight, while the user's legs and feet have a third amount of weight. Typically, the greatest amount of weight and pressure is exerted by the user's hips and lower torso. A secondary amount of weight that is less than the amount of weight exerted by the user's hips and lower torso is exerted by the user's head and shoulders. The least amount of weight is exerted by the user's legs and feet.

In one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, the structural and physical characteristics of the first zone 24, the second zone 26, and the third zone 28 are configured to provide an improved cushioning surface for a user resting thereon. The columns of the second zone 26 have the greatest amount of stiffness to prevent a user's hips and lower torso from bottoming out when a user is resting on the cushioning apparatus 20. In one presently preferred embodiment, the second zone 26 may include voids 2 that are largely defined by the intersecting columns 4. For example, depending on the placement of the intersecting columns 4, one presently preferred embodiment of the plurality of voids may be circular, pentagonal, hexagonal, triangular, diamond shaped, or any of a variety of voids that can be formed between columns and may have an internal diameter or dimension of about 0.75 inches. In addition, one presently preferred embodiment of the intersecting columns 4 may be formed having a cell wall thickness of about 0.2 inches. However, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, that the foregoing dimensions are merely exemplary of one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention and are not intended to be restrictive to the same.

Side walls 6 a, 6 b, illustrated in the presently preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 3, may be formed of a continuous and uniform nature, while also providing sure relief due to the position, thickness, and configuration of such side walls. In one embodiment, the second zone 26 of the cushioning apparatus 20 comprises two sets of opposing side walls 6 a, 6 b disposed relative to each other. The opposing side walls 6 a may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length, preferably between about 20 inches to about 84 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus 20. In addition, the opposing side walls 6 b may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length of between about 12 inches and about 32 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus.

A lesser amount of stiffness or resiliency is provided in the first zone 24, allowing a user to comfortably rest on the first zone 24 without bottoming out, while also providing a desired amount of column buckling. In one presently preferred embodiment, the first zone 24 may include voids 2 that are largely defined by the intersecting columns 4. For example, depending on the placement of the intersecting columns 4, one presently preferred embodiment of the plurality of voids may be circular, pentagonal, hexagonal, triangular, diamond shaped, or any of a variety of voids that can be formed between columns and may have an internal diameter or dimension of about 1.5 inches. In addition, one presently preferred embodiment of the intersecting columns 4 may be formed having a cell wall thickness of about 0.125 inches. However, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, that the foregoing dimensions are merely exemplary of one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention and are not intended to be restrictive to the same.

Side walls 6 a, 6 b, illustrated in the presently preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 3, may be formed of a continuous and uniform nature, while also providing sure relief due to the position, thickness, and configuration of such side walls. In one embodiment, the first zone 24 of the cushioning apparatus 20 comprises two sets of opposing side walls 6 a, 6 b disposed relative to each other. The opposing side walls 6 a may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length, preferably between about 20 inches to about 84 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus 20. In addition, the opposing side walls 6 b may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length of between about 12 inches and about 32 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus.

The third zone 28 may be formed with the softest amount of or least amount of resiliency to allow user's legs to sink into the third zone 28 while providing a desired degree of column buckling to prevent bottoming out. In one presently preferred embodiment, the third zone 28 may include voids 2 that are largely defined by the intersecting columns 4. For example, depending on the placement of the intersecting columns 4, one presently preferred embodiment of the plurality of voids may be circular, pentagonal, hexagonal, triangular, diamond shaped, or any of a variety of voids that can be formed between columns and may have an internal diameter or dimension of about 2 inches. In addition, one presently preferred embodiment of the intersecting columns 4 may be formed having a cell wall thickness of about 0.075 inches. However, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, that the foregoing dimensions are merely exemplary of one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention and are not intended to be restrictive to the same.

Side walls 6 a, 6 b, illustrated in the presently preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 3, may be formed of a continuous and uniform nature, while also providing sure relief due to the position, thickness, and configuration of such side walls. In one embodiment, the third zone 28 of the cushioning apparatus 20 comprises two sets of opposing side walls 6 a, 6 b disposed relative to each other. The opposing side walls 6 a may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length, preferably between about 20 inches to about 84 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus 20. In addition, the opposing side walls 6 b may be formed perpendicular to each other and may have a width between about 0.5 inches and about 4 inches and a length of between about 12 inches and about 32 inches, depending on the desired configuration of the cushioning apparatus.

By providing zones having different physical characteristics, an improved sleep surface may be provided. This variation in physical characteristics of the zones allows each portion of the user's body to create a similar amount of column buckling from zone-to-zone, thus providing optimal support to both the lumbar region and the head and neck of the user, unlike cushioning apparatus or mattresses of the prior art formed having uniform cushioning.

It will be appreciated that uniform cell dimensions (e.g., cell size and cell wall thickness) could exist between the various zones of a cushioning apparatus 20, whereby the firmness or resiliency of each of the respective zones could be achieved by altering the formulation of the composition gel used in the manufacture of the cushioning apparatus.

Preferably, the first zone 24, the second zone 26, and the third zone 28 are integrally coupled to one another to provide similar advantageous column buckling properties of a cushioning apparatus formed from a single zone. By failing to integrally couple the first zone 24, the second zone 26, and the third zone 28, each zone may separate, float, or result in other undesirable buckling and/or movement of the zones. In one embodiment, a zoned bed topper may be formed in a single sheet.

In one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, the physical and structural characteristics of each zone may be engineered to the specifications such as the weight, height, and other dimensions of a specific user intending to sleep on a cushioning apparatus 20 of the present invention.

In another embodiment, a cushioning apparatus or bed topper 20 having six zones may be created to accommodate two users sleeping next to each other on a larger mattress such as a king or queen mattress. In such an embodiment, each of the six zones may be configured so as to accommodate a first and a second user. For example, a first, larger and heavier user, may be provided with overall more supportive and less resilient cushioning zones while a lighter and smaller user may have softer and more resilient cushioning zones. A design or configuration consistent with accommodating different uses allows for customization not only to the needs of a single user, but also to the differential needs of a first and second user providing optimal comfort, support, and sleeping experience, notwithstanding the different characteristics of the first and second user.

As contemplated herein, a variety of different configurations and designs relative to zones and the number of zones may be utilized without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. For example, a larger or smaller number of zones can be utilized. In another embodiment, a central zone may be positioned within a larger, outer perimeter of a secondary zone. In another embodiment, the zones may be formed from a unitary piece of gelatinous material with the characteristics resulting from the degrees of softness of different areas of columns in the topper. In another embodiment, each zone has a different readily distinguishable indicia to identify the particular characteristics of the zone. For example, each of the zones could have a different color indicative of the softness of the zone.

In another presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, the mattress topper 20 may include scenting, aromatherapy, oils, or other sensory related supplemental characteristics. In another embodiment, a mattress cover, envelope, or other case apparatus may be utilized with the cushioning apparatus 20. Such mattress cover, envelope, or other casing apparatus may provide characteristics supplementing or correcting the natural characteristics of the cushioning apparatus 20. The mattress cover, envelope, or other casing may also be utilized with a securement apparatus 10 to secure the cushioning apparatus relative to the mattress, sleeping surface, or sitting surface.

FIG. 4 illustrates a pillow case utilizing a cushioning apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, the pillow 30 comprises a gel cushioning portion 32 and a core portion 34. The gel cushioning portion 32 may utilize the similar, columnar configuration as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3. Buckling of the gel columns therefore diffuses pressure exerted on points in the pillow providing an improved sleep surface. In a preferred embodiment, the characteristics of the gel columns may be configured to prevent a user from bottoming out when a user's head is resting on the pillow. The gel cushioning portion 32 may be positioned around a core portion 34. In the illustrated embodiment, the core portion 34 is comprised of a foam layer with the gel cushioning portion 32 positioned around at least a portion of core portion 34. In an alternative embodiment, other materials may be used for the core portion 34. The core portion 34 generally provides a desired overall thickness to the pillow 30 to position the user's head and neck at a desired angle.

As contemplated herein, a variety of configurations and designs of pillows 30 may be utilized without departing from the spirit and scope of the inventive concepts of the present invention. In one presently preferred embodiment, the core portion 34 may be formed of a gelatinous material. In another embodiment, the core portion 34 may be formed of a gelatinous material having a columnar structure much like the gel cushioning portion 32. As shown in FIG. 4, a pillow case 36 in cross-section is shown covering the internal portions of the pillow 30.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a motorcycle or bicycle seat cushion 40 is shown according to one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, the motorcycle or bicycle seat cushion 40 may be formed of a gelatinous columnar material much like that shown in FIGS. 1-4. As with the illustrations shown in FIGS. 1-4, the novel gelatinous columnar configuration of the present invention provides pressure reduction by column buckling in the lateral direction. In the illustrated embodiment, the motorcycle seat cushion 40 may include a cushioning surface 42, a frontal portion 48, and a continuous layer 44. The cushioning surface 42 may be configured to be positioned between a motorcycle seat and a user's buttocks. As shown, the frontal portion 48 extends in the frontward direction from the other portions of the motorcycle seat cushion 40. The frontal portion 48 may be configured to be positioned beneath the space between the user's legs. The configuration of the cushioning surface 42 and the frontal portion 48 provides improved cushioning and column buckling not only for the user's buttocks, but also the user's thighs due to the juxtaposition of the intersecting columns in the frontal portions and the portions behind the frontal portion. Additionally, the overall configuration and shape of the seat cushion maintains sufficient contact between the seat cushion 40 of the present invention and the motorcycle seat.

In one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention, the encasement apparatus 46 may include an anti-friction surface on the underside of the encasement apparatus 46. Preferably, the anti-friction surface tends to minimize movement of the motorcycle seat cushion 40 of the present invention relative to the motorcycle seat. In one embodiment, the anti-friction surface may be formed of a rubberized foam layer. In another alternate embodiment, no-slip surface is provided with respect to the encasement apparatus 46.

A perspective end view of a cushioning apparatus having a plurality of tapered columns 52 a-d according to one embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 6. In the illustrated embodiment, the tapered columns 50 a-d define a plurality of voids 50 a-c. The tapered columns 52 a-d may include an upper portion 522 and a lower portion 524. The upper portion 522 may be narrower than the lower portion 524. The lower portion 524 may be in contact with the continuous layer 524. Consistent with the novel concepts of the present invention, the tapered configuration of tapered columns 52 a-d provide differential buckling depending on the amount of force exerted on the columns. Less amounts of force are required to buckle the upper portion 522 than the lower portion 524. Due to the tapered configuration of tapered columns 52 a-d, gradations of buckling can be provided along the length of tapered columns 52 a-d.

Preferably, the tapered configuration of the tapered columns 52 a-d also allows the columns to be more easily removed from molds during manufacture. Once an initial separation is created (when pulling the columns from the mold), complete, or near complete, separation is accomplished and the cushioning apparatus may be easily removed. In the illustrated embodiment, an intersecting column 54 is shown. The intersecting column 54 may be tapered or non-tapered. It will be appreciated that the portion of the cushioning apparatus illustrated in FIG. 6 may merely be a small portion of the overall cushioning apparatus having many columns and intersecting columns.

A variety of configurations and designs of tapered columns may be utilized without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. For example, in one presently preferred embodiment, the narrower portion of the column may be on bottom adjacent the continuous layer and the larger portion on the top of the cushioning apparatus. In another embodiment, a cushioning apparatus utilizing no continuous layer may be utilized.

Referring now to FIG. 7, a cushioning apparatus having a plurality of columns of variable width 60 a-d is shown. Columns of variable width 60 a-d include portions each having a different width to provide differential column buckling. In the illustrated embodiment, the columns of variable widths 60 a-d include an upper columnar portion 622, a middle columnar portion 624, and a lower columnar portion 626. In the embodiment, the upper columnar portion 622 has a uniform width that may be narrower than the other columnar portions 624, 626. The middle columnar portion 624 may have a uniform width that is intermediate to the other columnar portions 622, 626. In addition, the lower columnar portion 626 may have a uniform width that is wider than the other columnar portions 622, 624.

The variable width configuration of the tapered columns 62 a-d may provide differential buckling depending on the amount of force exerted on the columns. Less amounts of force are required to buckle the upper columnar portion 622 than the lower columnar portion 626. Due to the tapered configuration of the tapered columns 62 a-d, gradations of buckling can be provided along the length of the tapered columns 62 a-d.

Preferably, the tapered configuration of the tapered columns 62 a-d may also allow the columns to be more easily removed from molds during manufacture. Once an initial separation is created when pulling the columns from the mold, complete, or near complete, separation is accomplished and the cushioning apparatus may be more easily removed.

In one presently preferred embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIG. 7, an intersecting column 64 is shown. The intersecting column 64 may have a variable width much like the columns 62 a-d. In a preferred embodiment, a continuous layer 66 may be provided adjacent the lower columnar portions 626 a-d. As contemplated herein, a variety configurations and designs of variable width columns may be provided without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, in one embodiment, a first and second columnar portion of variable width may comprise the variable width columns. In another embodiment, a different number of columnar portions may be provided. In yet another embodiment, the columnar portions may not have variable widths, but may comprise variable stiffness to provide differential column buckling.

As shown in FIG. 8, a layered cushioning apparatus 100 according to one embodiment of the present invention is illustrated. The layered cushioning apparatus 100 includes an upper layer 110, a middle layer 120, and a lower layer 130. Each of the layers 110, 120, 130 may include a continuous layer positioned therebetween. The layered configuration of the layered cushioning apparatus 100 may allow for smaller or greater amounts of cushioning based on the amount of pressure exerted on the layered cushioning apparatus 100 and the number of layers that undergo column buckling.

In the illustrated embodiment, the columns of layers 110, 120, 130 are perpendicular to the continuous layer, but are angled. This design may provide predetermined directions of column buckling. The layer 120 is directed in a direction opposite to the layers 110, 130, thus reducing overall buckling of columns from layer to layer.

As contemplated herein, a variety of configurations and designs of layers of the cushioning apparatus may be provided without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. For example, in one embodiment, each of the layers have different properties to provide a synergistic aspect of the cushion. For example, the uppermost layer may be the softest (have the greatest cushioning), the middle layer can have an intermediate amount of softness, and the lowest layer may be formed having the most firmness. The varying levels of firmness will result in some cushioning even with small amounts of pressure while also preventing bottoming out of the cushion when large amounts of pressure are exerted.

In another embodiment, the columns of each of the layers are not integrally coupled to the adjacent layers. This allows the columns to buckle independently without controlling the direction or amount of lateral displacement of the columns from layer to layer. In yet another embodiment, some or all of the columns may be positioned perpendicularly to the continuous layer. In yet another embodiment, some or all of the columns may be tapered in configuration. In yet another alternate embodiment, the layers may not include a continuous layer.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative, not restrictive. Those skilled in the art will readily recognize other possible modifications and adaptations which are consistent with the spirit and scope of the present invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification52/403.1
International ClassificationA47C27/18, A47C27/08, B61G9/12
Cooperative ClassificationA47C27/085, A47C27/144, A47C27/146, A47C27/15
European ClassificationA47C27/14C4, A47C27/15, A47C27/14C2, A47C27/08B