US 3272199 A
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Sept 13, 1966 F. E. MATTHEWS PROCESS AND ASSEMBLY FOR ENCLOSING A VOLUME 5 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed Jan. 28, 1965 INVENTOR FRANK E. MATTHEWS BY i masow 'kwwmau wummce ATTORNEYS p 13, 1956 F. E. MATTHEWS PROCESS AND ASSEMBLY FOR ENCLOSING A VOLUME Filed Jan. 28, 1965 :3 Sheets-Shet 2 I NVENTOR ATTORNEYS Sept. 13, 1966 F. E. MATTHEWS PROCESS AND ASSEMBLY FOR ENCLOSING A VOLUME Filed Jan. 28, 1965 :5 Sheets-Sheet 5 INVENTOR F AN K E. MATTHEWS ATTORNEYS BY Wasow,
United States Patent 3,272,199 PRUCESS AND ASSEMBLY FOR ENCLUSKNG A VOLUME Frank E. Matthews, Falls Church, Va., assignor to Matthews Research, llnc., Alexandria, Va., a corporation of Virginia Filed Jan. 28, 1965, Ser. No. 428,794 7 Claims. (Cl. 1281) This application is a continuation-in-part of patent application Serial No. 174,843, filed February 21, 1962.
This invention relates generally to a working area assembly which may be isolated from its environment. More specifically, the present invention relates to a method and assembly apparatus capable of forming an enclosed volume which may be maintained completely separate from its environment and does not permit any undesirable ingress or egress.
The concept of an isolated volume which, for instance, may be used as a completely sterile atmosphere or as a germ breeding atmosphere, or even as a dust free or completely opaque isolated atmosphere, is well known in the art. However, prior known means for accomplishing complete and effective separation of one volume from another volume have left much to be desired. Some prior isolation chambers did not permit easy access into the chamber, which is of course, an essential feature of any effective isolated volume. Moreover, and very significantly, prior apparatus did not permit complete freedom of movement and working of an operator within the isolated volume while completely protecting and safeguarding the isolation. In an isolation chamber, for instance, such as a sterile atmosphere for a patient or animal, it is important that the enclosed atmosphere or volume be maintained sterile and yet the operator must be permitted to perform certain functions anywhere within the isolated volume. Such functions might include various treatments of the patient or animal as are necessary.
In said parent application there is disclosed an isolated volume which performs the function of maintaining a completely separated or isolated enclosure by forming the isolated volume or chamber from a flexible film which encloses a working area surface. One of the unique aspects of this film enclosure is that it is designed to be at least twice the longitudinal extent of the working area surface and also designed to hang and drape loosely below the bottom of the working area surface. Means are provided to pressurize the interior of the film enclosure, so that the enclosure expands to form a somewhat cylindrical shape. The film is in part supported by sliding hangers positioned on the top of the film throughout its length. Access to the interior of the film enclosure is through conventional glove ports or the like which are provided in the side of the film enclosure. While numerous glove ports may be positioned in the side of the enclosure, it is found that a pair of glove ports may be sufficient as long as they can be moved from one end of the interior of the isolated volume to the other. It is this movement of he flexible film by an operator who positions his hands through the glove ports that often-times has been found to be difficult, in view of the gathering of the flexible material at one end or the other of the enclosure, depending upon the movement of the operator. For example, it is possible in moving towards one end of the isolated volume that the gathering of the film may distort the view of the operator through the enclosure, even if viewing means are present on the surface of the film enclosure. Furthermore, it is desirable that the operator be able to move quickly and with little effort from one end of the isolated volume to the other.
Accordingly, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide an isolated volume assembly which provides easy access to any and all portions of the volume while being easily movable along its own axis.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide an isolated volume working assembly com-posed of a flexible film which permits the operator to move from one end of the working area to another for the use of conventional glove ports.
Another important object of the present invention is the provision of an isolated chamber made of flexible film which may be expanded by maintaining a pressure within the chamber above atmospheric pressure and permit the operator to easily roll the flexible film from one end of the chamber to the other.
A further important object of the present invention is the provision of a flexible film enclosure which is maintained in an expanded condition and which has end panels which are telescoped within the film enclosure as the operator moves in the direction of such end panel.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an isolation chamber in which the flexible film forming the enclosure does not gather at the end in the direction of the movement of the operator and thus does not impede the clear vision of the operator through the film.
A further and more specific object of the present invention is the provision of a gaseous hearing which in part supports the film enclosure as it telescopes over the end panel and which significantly aids the free movement of the film enclosure by the operator.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a method for moving with minimum effort -a flexible film enclosure about a working area surface.
Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art, from the following description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of the isolated enclosure assembly and working area showing the film enclosure in pressurized or expanded condition;
FIGURE 2 is a cross sectional view taken along lines 22 of FIGURE 1, illustrating the longitudinal tunnel and film enclosure of FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 3 is a cross sectional view taken along lines 33 of FIGURE 2, illustrating the full expansion of the film enclosure and also a view through the tunnel housing the springs, and
FIGURE 4 is a View taken along lines 4-4 of FIG- URE 2, showing in phantom the air bearing in operative condition and in solid lines the air bearing in a substantially inoperative condition.
In the specification and claims the terms enclosure, volume, chamber, and atmosphere are to be considered synonymous.
Briefly, the present invention comprises a working area assembly including an isolated volume or chamber formed of a flexible film which encloses a working area surface that may be a bench, bed, or the like. The flexible filin enclosure is of approximate cylindrical shape when pressurized and is provided with end panels which are positioned so that they intersect the central axis of the film enclosure. Each of the end panels, provided with an interior portion, is maintained at a constant predetermined separation. The length of the enclosure is such that it is at least twice the distance between the interior portion of the end panels. Each end panel is additionally provided with a rollable underlap means which forms a portion of the end panel and is composed of a flexible sheet connected to the film enclosure and surrounding the interior portion of the end panel. An air bearing is formed between the underlap means of the film enclosure when the enclosure is expanded and this air bearing permits the film enclosure to be rolled along its central axis to telescope at least a portion of an end panel with the minimum friction.
Additionally, the present invention includes a method of moving a flexible film enclosure surrounding a working area and includes the steps of pressurizing and expanding the interior of the enclosure and maintaining at least portions of the ends stationary and a predetermined distance apart, and then forming a gaseous bearing between the stationary end of the film enclosure and telescoping the film enclosure over the stationary end and at least partially supporting the film enclosure from the end by the gaseous bearing or gas-filled fold.
As shown in FIGURE 1, the enclosed working area assembly, designated generally by the numeral 10, includes the working area surface 12, which, for illustration, is depicted as mattress M. It is to be understood, however, that the working area surface may be a bench or any other surface that is desired to be enclosed and isolated from the environment. The mattress M can be used to support a patient, while other forms of surface might be used to support small animal cages or other living matter, including microorganisms, as well as vegetation. It is also conceivable that the Working area surface can be used as a support for various articles if, for example, a dust-free or particular lighting effect is desired.
Surrounding the mattress M is a film enclosure 14 which may be constructed of clear, flexible polyvinyl chloride material of any suitable thickness. It is common, however, to use a thickness in a range between .1" to .001". The film, of course, is not limited to any particular material, except that which is flexible. It is possible, for example, to use tinted plastic films in order to produce particular lighting effects or even opaque films for light sensitive objects.
The film enclosure is of a generally cylindrical shape, as best shown in FIGURE 3, particularly when pressurized to .01" to .5 of H 0. The enclosure may be inflated with any desirable gas, including inert gases; however, air and/or oxygen in various combinations are normally used when humans or animals are placed within the enclosure. An air or gaseous conditioner or purifier 16 is shown in FIGURES 1 and 2 and is conventional in every respect, and therefore shown schematically. When a particular gaseous atmosphere is not important within the isolated volume, any common air pump would suffice to substitute for the conditioner 16 and would provide the necessary air pressure in order to expand the enclosure to its substantially cylindrical shape, as shown in FIG- URE 1.
The surface 12 is conveniently supported in any suitable manner, such as the conventional gatch spring bed assembly 18. Supporting the bed is a frame 20, which in turn is supported by conventional legs 22 at one end and in the other end the frame 20 may be connected to cabinet 24 which houses the air conditioner and has a facing 25 which serves as an interior portion of an end panel for the film enclosure 14. It should be understood that legs similar to those shown at 22 may be provided at both ends of the working area assembly to support the frame 20.
The legs 22 and cabinet 24 may be provided with conventional ground engaging casters 26 to provide mobility for the assembly, if desired. Secured above the surface 12 in any suitable manner is a rigid, hollow frame 28, which is supported conveniently at 30 and 32 by stands 33, 33 atop cabinet 24 and cabinet 34, respectively, the latter cabinet having a facing 35 forming an interior portion for an end panel opposed to and corresponding to interior panel 25. The cabinet is positioned optionally on legs 22.
The film enclosure 14 is hung from the frame 28 between the cabinets and legs by means of suitable hangers 36 having roller heads 38, rolling within slot 40 provided in the frame 28. Hangers 36 are provided with arms 42, the ends of which are received in suitable loops 44 provided in the outer surface of the film enclosure 14. Thus, as best shown in FIGURES 1 and 2, the film enclosure is slidably supported for movement back and forth along its axis.
The cabinet 24 is provided with pass through locks 46 having double doors 48 with latch assembly 49 for admitting and removing materials from the interior of the film enclosure. The shape and design of the locks is not critical and any convenient type of pass through lock can be utilized. As shown, however, the locks at the head and foot of the enclosure assembly include sterilizing lamps, such as ultra 'violet lights 50, and convenient holding tray 52.
The film enclosure is provided with suitable arm ports generally in pairs, as shown at 54, having conventional gloves 56 attached for receiving the operators hands and arms. Additional pairs of glove ports may be positioned on the same or opposite side of the film enclosure as desired. Optionally, a viewing means of non-flexible material may be provided in the film enclosure, as shown at 58.
On the interior of the film enclosure guard rails 60 are removably secured to the cabinets which are provided with eye 62. Straps 64 are secured at one end of the guard rail 60 and the other end to the eye 62 to permit lowering of the guard rail to the side of the bed to admit and remove a patient.
The film enclosure 14, which is essentially of cylindrical shape when inflated and expanded, is provided with a suitable, conventional, scalable closure, as at 66, in order to permit the patient to be placed into and removed from the enclosure. The length of the closure along its axis X is determined by the distance between the intersecting facing interior portions 25 and 35 of the end panels of the cabinets 24 and 34 which, as shown, are fixed and immovable during usage of the enclosure. It should be understood that the cabinets, although highly desirable, are not essential to this invention, and as is obvious, stands 33, 33 could be mounted on the casters 26 and secured to frame 20.
In order to permit the operator, whose hands are placed through the arm holes 54, to move from one end of the working area surface 12 to the other, the length of the film enclosure should be at least twice the distance between the interior portions 25 and 35. Additionally, it is obvious that the total diameter of the film enclosure must be substantially greater than the width or height of the working surface. As shown, the film enclosure hangs loosely below the working area surface and extends from the sides of the bed or mattress. To illustrate the size of the film enclosure when used for human patients, it is desirable that the film be sufficiently far from the sides of the mattress supporting the patient, such that the patient would not be able to easily contact the film enclosure. Otherwise stated, the film enclosure should extend 4 or 5 feet above the mattress and 2 to 3 feet from each side. When human patients are not maintained in the film enclosure, smaller dimensions for the film enclosure are possible.
Broadly, for the purposes of this invent-ion, the interior portions forming a part of the end panel for the film enclosure may be any closed and continuous structure connected to or fixed relative to the frame 20 and remaining at least partially equidistant from each other.
As best shown in FIGURES 2 and 3, a tunnel 68 extends longitudinally through the film enclosure and is formed integrally with outer flexible end panels 70, which extend substantially around the movable cabinets and are sealingly connected to the interior end panels 25 and 35 by conventional ring seals 72, best shown in FIGURES 3 and 4. The term end panel, therefore, includes the outer flexible end panel 70 and the interior end panels 25 and 3.5.
The tunnel 68 is a large, unobstructed flexible opening in communication with the environment of the assembly, and in turn isolated from the interior of the film enclosure. The purpose of the tunnel is to avoid the necessity of sterilizing or otherwise decontaminating the bed frame 20 or any spring, such as the gatch spring 18. The tunnel must, of course, be large enough in diameter in order to permit the usual movement of the gatch spring bed, particularly as shown in phantom lines of FIGURE 2. The ends of the tunnel are suitably secured to the gatch spring at loops 74, made integral with the film enclosure, generally at the intersection between the inner section and the tunnel panel 70.
The film enclosure, in accordance with the present invention, is designed to be easily slidable along its central axis simply by the operator moving in the direction desired. This facility of movement is dependent upon a combination of structural features which contribute to producing a floating-like movement to the enclosure.
The end panels 70, which are formed integral with the film enclosure, have interior and exterior surfaces 76 and 78 and cooperate with the interior and exterior surfaces 80 and 82 of the film enclosure. As best shown in FIGURE 4, the film enclosure, when inflated, with the end panel 70 will form a gaseous bearing or gasfilled fold 84. Specifically, the gaseous bearing formed between the inner surface of that portion of the end panel 70 which surrounds the relatively fixed and immovable inner portion 25 and 35 of the end panel serves as a partial support for the film enclosure. As shown in FIGURE 4, when the film enclosure is expanded by being pressurized, the immovable interior end panels on the cabinets will be spaced from the film enclosure 82 with the flexible outer end panel 70 forming an underlap means which houses between interior surfaces 76 and 80 of the end panel and film enclosure, respectively, a continuous volume of gas. This enclosed volume of air or gas surrounds at least the top and sides of the fixed inner end panels and acts as a frictionless gaseous roller bearing, enabling the film enclosure 82 to telescope over the cabinets, as shown in phantom lines in FIGURE 4. Actually, as the operator moves the film enclosure towards cabinet 24, the gaseous bearing becomes deeper or longer towards the opposite end of the cabinet, as shown, and accordingly serves to prevent gathering and bunching of the film enclosure around the cabinet and maintains a relatively friction-free movement for the film enclosure.
It can be seen that as the film enclosure moves in the direction of the cabinet and in the direction of the end panel, the end panel underlaps the film enclosure and that part of the film enclosure which is about to turn under to form the underlap means, as at 70', because of its position, forms the flexible end panel, which in turn provides a boundary for the pocket of gas forming the gaseous bearing 84. FIGURE 4 shows the gaseous bearing at one side of the assembly, while it is manifest that at the opposite side the gaseous bearing would similarly provide the same frictionfree movement.
The method, in accordance with this invention, is one which may be utilized for moving a flexible film enclosure surrounding any work area and comprises steps of pressurizing and expanding the interior of the flexible film enclosure so that it takes on a bulbous shape. The pressurizing should be maintained at at least .01" of H 0 over the environment. The end portions of the enclosure must be relatively stationary, in order that the film enclosure may telescope over the stationary portions of the end panels.
The next step is the formation of the gaseous bearing which is usually air that is formed between the stationary ends and the film enclosure. The gaseous bearing that is forming by providing film enclosure with a diameter larger than the stationary portion of the end panels then will be substantially friction-less and will permit movement of the film enclosure and telescope the film enclosure of the stationary ends partially supporting the film enclosure by the gaseous bearing. This process may be continued by moving the film enclosure from one end of the working surface area to another.
From the foregoing detailed description it will be evident that there are a number of changes, adaptations, and modifications of the present invention which come within the province of those skilled in the art. However, it is intended that all such variations not departing from the spirit of the invention be considered as within the scope thereof as limited solely by the appended claims.
1. An enclosed working area assembly comprising: a working area surface having a predetermined longitudinal and lateral extent, first supporting means extending beneath said surface while engaging and maintaining said surface in a raised position to provide an unobstructed area beneath said surface, a flexible film enclosure of approximately cylindrical shape, said enclosure hanging freely alongside and extending continuously around and out of contact with said working area surface, said enclosure having a central axis and being at least twice the longitudinal length of said surface, inlet means to inflate said enclosure, second supporting means positioned on said assembly and connected to said enclosure for telescopic movement of said enclosure around said surface along the central axis, said enclosure being provided with end panels intersecting said central axis, means maintaining each end panel having an interior portion at a predetermined constant separation, a rollable underlap means integral with said interior portion and form ing a portion of said end panel, said underlap means comprising a flexible sheet connected to said film enclosure and surrounding said interior port-ion, said underlap means and said film enclosure each having an inner and an outer surface, whereby when the enclosure is inflated a gas filled fold is formed between opposed and facing inner surfaces of said underlap means and said film enclosure to permit said film enclosure to be rolled along said central axis.
2. The assembly of claim 1 including means positioned on the exterior of said film enclosure for moving said enclosure.
3. The assembly of claim 1 wherein each end panel extends transversely across said axis a distance less than the diameter of said film enclosure.
4. The assembly of claim 1 wherein said flexible film enclosure has opposed openings positioned in said end panels and spaced a predetermined distance apart, means forming a tunnel extending between said openings and secured to said film at said end panels, said tunnel containing a portion of said first supporting means, said openings communicating with said tunnel, the interior of said tunnel being isolated from and without fluid communication with said enclosure, said film having a length approximately twice the distance between said openings.
5. The assembly of claim 1 wherein said interior end panels are immovable and fixed, and cabinets forming a portion of said end panels.
6. A method of moving a flexible film enclosure surrounding a working area comprising the steps of providing an enclosure around said area, hanging said enclosure freely alongside and below said area, pressurizing and expanding the interior of said enclosure,
maintaining at least portions of the ends of said enclosure stationary and at a predetermined distance apart and less than the length of the enclosure, maintaining said film enclosure out of contact with said working area,
forming a gas-filled fold between a stationary end and said film enclosure,
telescoping said film enclosure over said stationary ends and along its longitudinal axis, and
partially supporting said film enclosure from said ends by said gas-filled fold.
7. A method of moving a flexible film enclosure sursurrounding a working area comprising the steps of providing an enclosure around said area, hanging said enclosure freely alongside and below said area,
pressurizing and expanding the interior of said enclosure,
maintaining at least portions of the ends of said enclosure stationary and at a predetermined distance apart,
maintaining said film enclosure out of contact with said working area,
providing said film enclosure with a length approximately at least twice the distance between said ends, forming a gas-filled fold between a stationary end and said film enclosure, telescoping said film enclosure over said stationary ends 5 and along its longitudinal axis and partially supporting said film enclosure from said ends by said gasfilled fold.
References Cited by the Examiner 10 UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,473,033 6/1949 Letac 1281 3,051,164 8/1962 Trexler 128-1 15 RICHARD A. GAUDET, Primary Examiner.
W. E. KAMM, Assistant Examiner.