US 2749551 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
June 12, 1956 D. w. GARBELLANO UNDERWATER SUIT Filed Jan. 22, 1954 INVENTOR. DdV/U' fl/ arbd/mm ULMLQMD H United States Patent UNDERWATER SUIT David W. Garbellano, Berkeley, Calif.
Application January 22, 1954, Serial No. 405,597
2 Claims. (Cl. 2-82) This invention relates to rubber suits for underwater wear. In particular, it relates to submarine garments manufactured from soft, unicellular neoprene foam rubber providing a smooth, durable outer surface or skin in conjunction with a somewhat porous inner texture affording close adhesion to the wearer by its inherent resilience and vacuurn-induced bonding.
Underwater diving suits are classified according to construction and purpose. Dry type suits are intended to exclude all water from contact with the body of the wearer, whereas wet type suits do not attempt this feature. Moreover, shallow water suits are adapted for use at depths no greater than about thirty feet and are therefore not designed to solve the problem of increased water pressure which is of extreme importance in the manufacture of deep water suits. While some suits are intended for use by divers only, others are made for both swimmers and divers. The present invention contemplates a suit for swimmers and/or divers which suit may be either of the wet or dry type, as desired, and may be used in shallow water or at depths in excess of two hundred feet. For example'a suit as described herein has been found completely satisfactory at a depth of 225 feet.
In order for a submarine suit to be efiicient and satisfactory it must meet certain desirable requirement. It should keep the wearer warm and protect him against painful abrasions caused by corals, shells and other sharp objects such as rocks and sunken debris. It should be comfortable, permitting effortless movement, and it should be durable and easy to care for. It should be easily donned and doifed and should consist of several separate components. This allows the wearer to select and use whichever items he may find necessary and advantageous for his particular purpose. This feature also allows for ready replacement of individual items which may have become lost, worn or damaged. It is also desirable that the material out of which the suit is to be constructed increase the buoyancy of its wearer without promoting excessive change in such buoyancy with change in immersion depth. Other important features will be readily appreciated from a consideration of the invention as set forth herein.
Various materials of construction have been recommended for possible use-in the manufacture of underwater garments Suits made from thin, non-porous rubber, from leather and the like, or those fabricated from cloth are unsatisfactory in most instances. Thin, relatively non-elastic materials are awkard and loose-fitting. They afliord little protection against cold water and introduce additional problems of instability and excessive buoyancy.
The application of conventional neoprene foam rubber to the problem has been suggested, and underwater suits made. from this material are now commercially available. Neoprene is a trade name signifying the synthetic rubber .made by the controlled polymerization of chloroprene, a material produced by the addition of hydrochloric acid to vinylacetylene. The term neoprene is so widely used today that its meaning has become almost synonomous with synthetic rubber. Conventional neoprene foam rubber is generally made in sheets of various thicknesses, having relatively smooth top and bottom surfaces resulting from their having been in direct contact with forms or platens during manufacture. While still viscous, the synthetic elastomer is poured over a first platen and then a second platen is situated in close relationship with the first platen, the distance therebetween usually being the same throughout the sheet and predetermined by the thickness of product desired. The foamy, unicellular quality of the internal mass of the neoprene sheet is produced, at least in part, by including in the viscous synthetic elastomer a small amount of a selected gas-generating chemical compound which causes an indeterminate number of minute bubbles or foamy particles to form throughout the internal mass, while leaving the smooth surface or skin undisturbed.
This material, designated herein as conventional neoprene foam rubber, has certain definite advantages over the relatively inelastic, thin rubber mentioned heretofor. Foam rubber, with its unicellular structure, increases the buoyancy of the wearer because of its multitudinous pockets of entrapped gases. These entrapped gases, having low heat conductivity, also serve to insulate the wearers body from cold temperatures. Moreover, this unicellular structure maintains body-warmth by preventing the circulation of ambient cold water therethrough from cell to cell as would be the case with sponge rubber wherein the cells are interconnected. However, conventional neoprene foam rubber unfortunately has offsetting disadvantages. The elasticity of the foamy interior mass is drastically reduced by the presence of a skin on both surfaces which prevents full utilization of the desirable three-dimentional ipliability of the foamy mass. Each cell at the surface is more rigidly connected with contiguous cells because of the skin structure than is the case with the cells in the interior foamy portion. In other words, conventional foam rubber garments do not possess the high degree of flexibility required in well designed underwater suits. Hence, it is impossible to manufacture a form-fitting underwater suit from conventional neoprene foam rubber without incorporating undesirable slits and other openings throughout the suit to enable it to be donned and doffed by its wearer with ease. Otherwise, these suits must be made over-size as opposed to form-fitting. Openings, other than those always required at the neck, sleeves, ankles and waist, introduce an additional problem in necessitating the use of Zippers or other means of closure, such as buttons, buckles, hooks, snap-on devices, laces, belts or the like. These mechanical fastening devices should be held to an absolute minimum because of their tendency toward malfunction or failure at crucial moments when speed is essential in getting into and out of the suit. Malfunction and failure may result from corrosion, breakage, jamming, etc. Furthermore, most fasteners are cumbersome, difficulty operable, and cause inconvenience to the wearer of the suit.
Now, I have discovered a new and useful underwater suit and means for manufacturing the same. The ideal underwater garments of my invention are skin-tight, form-fitting, and have the right amount of elasticity and resiliency to'allow complete freedom of movement by the wearer. The invention provides an underwater suit with a smooth, sturdy external skin surface, reinforced at various locations of stress and wear, along with the absolute minimum in fasteners, suspenders or the like. Other advantageous and desirable features will be readily apparent from the following description.
The underwater suit of the invention can be made from conventional neoprene foam rubber by eliminating the skin on the inner surface of the suit, thereby allowing the soft, relatively porous, foamy neoprene to come into direct contact with the superficies of its wearer. The skin on the outer surface of the suit is retained throughout, thus utilizing all the advantages of a smooth outer surface resistant to abrasions and cuts, while simultaneously providing the wearer with a comfortable garment having sufficient elasticity for donning and dofiing with case.
While thin rubber, already mentioned, is not readily bonded or closely held to the superficies of its wearer, and, conventional neoprene foam rubber is form-fitting only through the use of zippers or the like, an important feature of the present invention lies in the close adherence or bonding of the suit to its wearer. Such bonding in suits other than those of the invention can be produced, if at all, onlyby exerting extremely uncomfortable pressure 011 the wearer's body by deliberately providing a severely tight-fitting suit. Such a garment would obviously impair the normal circuilation of the blood resulting in serious harm to its wearer. On the other hand, along with the feature of desirable structural elasticity provided by the foamy portion of the material of the invention, there is also an adhesion produced by the creation of a partial vacuum between the surface cells of the garment and the body of its wearer. As the suit is donned, the tiny pockets of air in the unicellular structure of the inner surface of the garment are distorted and compressed by the forces of elasticity as the form-fitting suit comes into intimate contact with the wearers body. The resilience of the garment tends to exclude the air from the surface cells, thereby creating a novel adhesive force or vacuum bonding between a suit and its wearer. Moreover, another characteristic of the foamy portion of the garment described herein is its greater natural ability and tendency to conform to the natural irregularities of the superficies of the wearer, thus providing more area of contact and, hence, more vacuum adhesion or bonding. None of these features, in particular, is found in underwater suits now commercially available.
In accordance with the invention, one of the smooth surfaces of a conventional neoprene foam rubber sheet is removed by longitudinal severance therefrom. A preferred embodiment of the invention is to fabricate two underwater suits from the same sheet of conventional neoprene foam rubber. For example, if a garment of /3" thickness is desired, a sheet of A1" thickness Would be disected lengthwise, thereby providing suflicient Ms material for the manufacture of two suits. In this connection, for general use in cold water normally encountered, neoprene has been found to afford sufficient protection from the ambient water, whereas, A neoprene is a recommended thickness for swimming and diving in water of freezing temperatures. It has also been found comfortable, efficient and practical to wear more that one suit of A3" thickness each under severe conditions.
The term suit as used herein is intended to connote the customary dictionary meaning, namely, a group of things forming a unit. The invention contemplates the use of trousers, jacket, hood, mittens and socks. These garments may each be worn individually or as a part of an integrated suit. For example, it is often desirable to wear only the jacket when the temperature of the water is about 60 F. It is also contemplated that jacket sleeve length or trouser leg length may be varied without sacrificing the form-fitting qualities of the suit or the components thereof. Furthermore, the exact dimensions of a particular suit will depend on the size of its prospective wearer.
While the foam rubber material of the present invention is useful in many types of underwater suits, one design in particular, along with certain modifications thereof, is especially adapted for use with the aforesaid material. This preferred design comprises a jacket having a narrowed dorsal extension concavely shaped to pass comfortably through the wearers crotch and fasten securely on the inner surface of the frontal portion of said jacket, thereby preventing the jacket from slipping upward on the wearers body. While a pair of snap-on devices are recommended for securing the aforesaid dorsal extension to the inside frontal portion of the jacket, other devices will readily suggest themselves to those skilled in the art. Moreover, when the jacket is worn in combination with underwater trousers, this dorsal extension provides means of support for said trousers in addition to that afforded by their inherent resilience. While it is recommended that the dorsal extension of the jacket be integral with said jacket, it may alternatively be made detachable therefrom. Moreover, while the use of additional fastensrs is generally to be avoided, they may be provided, as desired. For example, it may be found advantageous under certain conditions to fasten the mittens to the jacket sleeves, or the socks to the trousers.
In order to function satisfactorily, the suit as described herein is made from sheets of unicellular neoprene foam rubber having skin on one side only. This is accomplished by cutting the specially prepared material in conformity with a pattern and then securely fastening the appropriate ends together by sealing, vulcanizing, bonding, cementing, or the like. It may be found desirable to reinforce the seams as well as points or lines of stress by incorporating therewith additional strips of rubber or the like. Furthermore, the areas of greatest wear, such as the external surfaces at the elbows of the jacket sleeves, knees of the trousers, soles of the socks, or palms of the mittens, may be reinforced by the bonding of thin, hard rubber pads thereto. Other materials will also be found satisfactory for this purpose.
The invention may be more readily understood by referring to the drawing wherein Figure 1 represents a specially designed underwater suit as described in detail herein, and, Figure 2 illustrates an enlarged section of the specially prepared unicellular neoprene foam rubber material out of which said suit should be constructed. Considering Figure 1 in detail, trousers 11 comprising legs 12 and 13, reinforced crotch portion 14 and waist section 16 are suspended at the wearers waist by the inherent form-fitting nature of the material of construction and, additionally, by crotch supporting member 17 which comprises an extended, narrowed, concavely shaped appendage of the dorsal portion of jacket 18 adapted to provide support for trousers 11 when attached to frontal portion 21 of jacket 18 by suitable securing means 22 advantageously positioned on the inner surface of jacket 18 at a height substantially above the lower frontal edge 23 of jacket 18. Reinforcing means 24 are provided throughout at areas of increased service, strain or wear. Jacket 18 is a unitary, over-head, slip-on torso cover with formfitting long sleeves 26 and 27, frontal portion 21 and collar 28 forming neck opening 29, exemplifying one of the restricted or minimum openings in the underwater suit. Other similar restricted openings are incorporated into the jacket at the sleeve extremities as well as at the waist and leg extremities of the trousers. Such restricted openings enable the suit to be donned and dotfed with ease in view of the inherent resilience of unicellular neoprene foam rubber while still providing protection for the wearer over maximum body area. Detachable hood 31 is of a unitary, pull-over design with face opening 32, and, of suflicient length to extend downwardly over collar 28 or into jacket 18 through neck opening 29. Also shown as separate integral items are mittens 33 and socks 36 and 37. Referring now in detail to Figure 2, the relatively smooth surface or skin 41 of the specially prepared unicellular neoprene foam rubber material is readily distinguishable from the exposed foam 42 with its cuplike depressions 43 conducive to producing the herein described attractive forces when in contact with the superficies of the wearer.
From the foregoing it will be readily appreciated that the invention avoids undue bulkiness and waste of material resulting from the overlapping generally encountered it suits now available. In fact, any overlapping of material in my suit advantageously provides a double thickness of insulation at the areas of greatest sensitivity; e. g., waist, neck, wrists and ankles. Furthermore, the suit of the present invention is not required to be watertight or water-proof, although it may be made substantially water-tight if desired. The seepage of cold water into the unicellular structure is immaterial because it is prevented from circulating through the suit and the small amounts entrapped therein are immediately warmed to body temperature. The material of construction is exceptionally strong, yet pliant, and even where it may accidently become torn, the tears will not easily become enlarged. Moreover, the suit will protect the wearer from the cold and from shock waves despite the development of punctures and tears. It is light in weight and readily packaged or stored without damage.
While the salient features of this invention have been described in detail with respect to certain embodiments, it will of course be apparent that numerous modifications may be made within the spirit and scope of this invention, and it is not therefore desired to limit the invention to the exact details shown except insofar as they may be defined in the following claims.
1. A protective underwater suit comprising form-fitting trousers having an integral lower torso covering section and integrally formed upper and lower leg enclosing members, said leg enclosing members having restricted openings adapted to embrace closely the lower leg portions of the wearer, said lower torso covering section having an upper peripheral edge constituting a restricted opening adapted to embrace closely the waist of the wearer, and an over-head form-fitting jacket torso cover having shoulder, chest and hip covering portions and unitary sleeves formed therewith said sleeves having at their lower extremities restricted arm openings adapted to embrace closely the arms of the wearer, the shoulder portion being provided with a restricted opening adapted to embrace closely the neck of the wearer, the chest and hip covering portions and the arm enclosing portions being each circumferentially continuous throughout its length and having no mechanical closure element throughout said length, the hip covering portion having a suitably shaped dorsal appendage adapted to pass through the crotch of the wearer in close relationship therewith and be fastened to the lower frontal portion of said jacket torso cover; said underwater suit being fabricated entirely, except for fastening means, from neoprene foam rubber having a substantially water impervious skin-like structure on the external surface only as distinguished from the skin-less internal surface of unicellular foam rubber.
2. In a form-fitting torso cover suitable for underwater wear, an over-head jacket adapted to fit closely to the body of its wearer and having shoulder, chest and hip covering portions and unitary sleeves formed therewith said sleeves having at their lower extremities restricted arm openings adapted to embrace closely the arms of the wearer, the shoulder portion being provided with a restricted opening adapted to embrace closely the neck of the wearer, the chest and hip covering portions and the arm enclosing portions being each circumferentially continuous throughout its length and having no mechanical closure element throughout said length, the hip covering portion having a suitably shaped dorsal appendage adapted to pass through the crotch of the wearer in close relationship therewith and be fastened to the lower frontal portion of said jacket; said torso cover being fabricated entirely, except for fastening means, from neoprene foam rubber having a substantially water impervious skin-like structure on the external surface only as distinguished from the skinless internal surface of unicellular foam rubber.
References Cited in the file of this patent UNITED STATES PATENTS 1,970,130 Dickenson Aug. 14, 1934 2,190,376 Daley Feb. 13, 1940 2,296,305 Roberts Sept. 22, 1942 2,305,605 Craig et al Dec. 22, 1942 2,324,735 Spanel July 20, 1943 2,345,649 Zimmerman et al. Apr. 4, 1944 2,570,019 Wolk Oct. 2, 1951 2,664,888 Sutter Jan. 5, 1954 FOREIGN PATENTS 1,026,710 France Apr. 30, 1953