US 3335529 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Aug. 15, 1967 L. M. GEDNEY INFLATABLE BUILDING 4 Sheets-Sheet 1 Filed April 29, 1966 INVENTOR 'fJA EY Aug. 15, 1967 M. GEDNEY INFLATABLE BUILDING 4 Sheets-Sheet 2 Filed April 29, 1966 ATTORNEYS Aug. 15, 1967 L. M. GEDNEY INFLATABLE BUILDING 4,Sheets-Sheet 3 Filed April 29, 1966 Aug. 15, 1967 L. M. GEDNEY INFLATABLE BUILDING 4 Sheets-Sheet 4 Filed April 29, 1966 .F/ .Q /6 Q INVENTOR .554 if GEM/5r z4m,@ %M ATTORNEYS United States Patent 3,335,529 INFLATABLE BUILDING Leigh M. Gedney, Box 914, Dothan, Ala. 36301 Filed Apr. 29, 1966, Ser. No. 546,369 12 Claims. (Cl. 52-2) This application is a continuation-in-part of my application Ser. No. 287,446, filed May 7, 1963, now abandoned and of my application Ser. No. 420,074, filed Dec. 21, 1964 now US. Patent No. 3,254,457.
This invention relates to air-supported and other types of portable structures conveniently constructed of a film, fabric or similar material of low air permeability and, more particularly, to an air-supported structure which can be easily maintained in an inflated position and which obviates support means in its inflated position.
A primary object of the instant invention is to provide an air inflatable building ideally suited for such purposes as a camping shelter or as a storage facility for machinery, produce and raw materials, such as lumber and the like.
Another object of the instant invention is to provide an air-supported structure which can easily, efliciently and economically be inflated and maintained erect.
Yet another object of the instant invention is to provide an inflatable structure provided with ingress and egress means which requires substantially no auxiliary support means and which serves to regulate the pressure within the inflated structure.
A further object of the instant invention is to provide an inflatable structure provided with peripheral means adjacent the ground engaging portion thereof to anchor the structure, with or without integrally attached flooring means, to the ground, thus avoiding the use of mechanical anchor aids such as screws, stakes or the like.
Yet a further object of the instant invention is to provide a novel method and means for storing and preserving materials, including loading the material in an inflated building made according to this invention and thereafter, withdrawing air from the building by any convenient means whereby the building conforms generally to the surface of the material stored thus lending support and stability to the same.
Other objects and advantages of this invention will appear in the specification hereinafter wherein the accompanying drawings are identified as follows:
FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the inflated air-supported structure of the present invention;
FIGURE 2 is a front elevational view of the inflated structure shown in FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 3 is a top plan view partly in section of the inflated structure shown in FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 4 is a fragmentary plan view in section of the inflated structure shown in FIGURE 1 with a pedestrian entering the structure;
FIGURE 5 is an enlarged fragmentary view taken on the line 5-5 of FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 6 is an enlarged fragmentary perspective view showing the loading means provided in the roof of the inflated structure of FIGURE 1;
FIGURE 7 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 7-7 of FIGURE 1 and showing attachment of the building to the anchor means therefor;
FIGURES 8 and 9 are fragmentary side elevational views of other embodiments of the instant invention showing alternative and/or complementary inflating means;
FIGURE 10 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the instant invention showing modified ingress and egress means;
3,335,529 Patented Aug. 15, 1967 FIGURE 11 is a fragmentary plan view taken on the line 1111 of FIGURE 10;
FIGURE 12 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the instant invention shown in a relaxed or deflated position;
FIGURE 13 is a perspective view of the structure shown in FIGURE 12 in the inflated position; and
FIGURE 14 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the instant invention showing a building in the evacuated state providing storage means for material housed thereby.
In one embodiment of the instant invention there is provided an air-supported structure having walls and roof formed of a low air permeable material, for instance, a synthetic thermosetting or thermoplastic resin such as polyethylene or the like. At least one of the walls of the structure is provided with self-supporting ingress and egress means for pedestrian and vehicular traflic, said means comprising a pair of contiguous flap members. In one embodiment of the invention each of the flap members can be secured at one end to the roof member by any convenient means such as sewing or heat sealing or any other conventional method of joining low air permeable materials. In another embodiment the flaps can be secured to each other at their upper ends and the flap assembly adjustably connected to the roof member by, for instance, strap means.
The lower end of each flap member can be secured to the floor of the structure. When the ground is employed as the floor the lower ends of the flap members can be secured thereto by stakes or the like. When, on the other hand, the floor is composed of the same low air permeable material as the structure and is made integral therewith, the lower ends of the flap members can be secured thereto in any convenient manner as described above. The flap members, generally, are contiguous to each other in the inflated position and thus serve as a check valve to regulate the pressure within the inflated structure. Thus, on ingress or egress the flap members are progressively or incrementally separable from each other.
The regulation of the air pressure within the inflated structure is enhanced by providing at least one, preferably a plurality of apertures in the flaps thereby permitting selective or controlled quantities of inflating medium to escape from the structure so as to accommodate the mass being introduced therein when the flap members are separated. The structure of this invention is adaptable to be inflated and maintained erect by means such as a fan to supply a current of air inwardly to said structure.
Referring now to the drawings, FIGURE 1 shows as one embodiment of the instant invention, the air-supported structure which includes an air impermeable velope 10 which is, preferably, rectangular in plan with side walls 12, 14, 16 and 18 and a roof 20. It will be recognized, however, that the shape of the structure can be altered to meet varied requirements, e.g., as housing, camping shelter, barracks, storage area, agricultural purposes, auditoriums, toys and the like. Preferably, the structure is of a size such that vehicles as well as pedestrians, can have easy access to the interior thereof through the ingress and egress means without collapse of the inflated building.
The ingress and egress means 22 employed in combination with the instant invention comprises a pair of flap members 24 and 26 which, when the structure is inflated are contiguous, at least in part, thereby serving as a check valve to regulate the pressure within the inflated structure. Preferably the flap members extend within the structure to provide tunnel-like ingress and egress means. Conveniently, the flap members 24 and 26 along their upper ends 28 and 30, respectively, are fixedly attached to the roof member 20. It has also been found advantageous to seal the upper ends 28 and 30 together and adjustably attach the thus formed flap member assembly to the roof by connecting means 32, such as a strap.
The lower ends 34 and 36 of the flap members, in one embodiment, can be attached, for instance, by stakes to the ground which serves as a floor for the structure. Alternatively, a floor made of a low air permeable material, similar to that from which the upright portion of the structure is fabricated, can be provided and integrally joined adjacent the lower portion of the walls 12, 14, 16 and 18. In this instance, the lower ends 34 and 36 of the flaps 24 and 26 can be joined thereto by heat sealing means when the low air permeable material is plastic or by sewing, etc., if desired, especially if the material is of some other suitable low air permeable material.
Preferably, the lower ends 34 and 36 of the flap members are contiguous along their entire length although they can converge rearwardly within the inflated structure, as best seen in FIGURES 1 and 3. In either arrangement the flap members are easily separable on entrance to or exit from the structure. At the same time such arrangements provide effective sealing means to avoid undue loss of pressure or inflating medium from within the inflated structure. To control more efficiently the pressure within the structure, the flap members 24 and 26 can be provided with at least one and, preferably, a plurality of apertures 38 which provide effective means to compensate for a given mass entering the inflated structure by permitting controlled flow of inflating medium from the structure to the exterior. Thus on separation of the flaps the inflating medium within the structure flows through the above described apertures and is vented to the atmosphere surrounding the structure. The quanity of air or inflating medium escaping is sufficient to accommodate the bulk of the body entering the structure. Thus, on entering, the flap members are easily separated from each other and as a person traverses the space between the two flaps the internal pressure within the building urges that portion of the flaps behind the person into engagement with each other as best seen in FIGURE 4. As can be seen from FIGURE 4, each of the apertures 38 on engagement of a portion of one flap with the other comes into contact with a part of the opposite flap which is not provided with an aperture, thus terminating the flow or loss of inflating media from within the structure. It has also been found advantageous to provide ingress and egress stabilizing means 40 comprising straps attached at one end to the flap member adjacent the forward portion and intermediate the upper and lower ends thereof, preferably about midway. The strap members 40 extend rearwardly and downwardly within the structure and are anchored at their other end to the floor of the structure.
In the embodiment of this invention where the ground is utilized as floor means, the lower ends of walls 12, 14, 16 and 18 can conveniently be sealingly attached to peripheral anchoring means 42. Alternatively when a floor made of an air impermeable material is provided, the floor can be secured by, for instance, strap means to the anchoring means 42. Peripheral anchoring means 42 comprises a plurality of inverted U-shaped rib members 44, interconnected by strap means 46 to provide, in this embodiment, a substantially rectangular skeleton assembly having a substantially continuous channel 48. The assembly of rib members 44 is covered with an air impermeable cover 50, the edges of which are in sealing engagement with the ground and/ or floor as shown in FIG- URE 7. Supplemental sealing means 52, such as an adhesive, can be employed, if desired. The channel 48 is in communication with the intake or blower means 54 via conduit 56 to evacuate the air within the channel and thereby sealingly anchor the cover 50 over the assembly of rib members and on the ground or floor at its lateral edges 58 and 60. Alternatively it should be noted that the supporting framework may be incorporated into the covering material. The lower ends of the walls 12, 14, 16, and 18 can be attached to the cover 50 of the peripheral anchoring means 42 by, for instance, strap members 62 or any other convenient device such as a clamp.
Conveniently a check valve-type loading means 64 can also be provided in the roof 20 of the structure as best seen, for instance, in FIGURES 5 and 6. Loading means 64 comprises a :pair of flap members 66 and 68, each having one end integrally attached to the roof 20. The flap members extend vertically downward into the structure and their opposed faces are urged into sealing engagement by the internal pressure of the structure when inflated. Loading means 64 provides a convenient means for introducing for instance, particulate material, such as grain, coal, rock, sand, gravel, etc. into the structure for storing.
Directed into the ingress and egress means 22 is a current of air provided by fan 70 or other conventional sources of air current to supply the gas means to inflate and maintain the structure erect. The fan is operatively connected to a source of electricity (not shown) which can be, when the structure is employed as a camping shelter, the cigarette lighter outlet in an automobile. Alternatively, or in addition to air current means directed into the ingress and egress means 22, a check valve 72 can be provided in one of the other walls, for instance, wall 18, to permit introduction of air current from fan 74 into the structure. Check valve 72 can comprise at least one flap member adaptable to sealingly engage the wall of the structure when the internal pressure is suflicient to inflate the building and maintain it erect as shown in FIGURE 8. The power source for fan 74 can be the same or similar to that for fan 70.
Alternatively, a conduit 76 in fluid communication with the interior of the structure can be provided, one end of which, preferably is in sealing engagement with the wall 18, the other end being Open to the atmosphere. Housed within the conduit 76 is fan means 74 mounted on support means 78.
In yet another embodiment of the instant invention, as best seen in FIGURES 10 and 11, the ingress and egress means 22 need not extend within the structure. As an alternative, a vertically extending aperture 80 extending from adjacent the roof to adjacent the floor can be provided in one of the walls, for instance, wall 12. Thus one of the walls also serves as one of the flap members of the ingress and egress means. A second flap member 82 can be secured at one end 84 to the roof 20, the end 86 opposite thereto to the floor, be it the ground or an air impermeable material and along one side 88 to the wall 12. Access to the structure is achieved through vertically extending passageway 90 defined by the wall 12 and the end 92 of the flap '82 and the aperture 80 in the wall 12. Again, if desired, apertures 38 can be provided in the flap 82 and that portion of the wall 12 superposed by the flap 82.
Referring now to FIGURES 12 and 13 which show yet another embodiment of the instant invention there is shown an elongated low air permeable material folded upon itself to form an upper wall 94 and a lower wall 96. The free ends 98 and 100 of the folded material are folded rearwardly within the folded structure to provide a pair of flap members. The assembly is sealed along the longitudinal edges 102 and 104. On inflation by means similar to fan 70 the flap members 98 and 100 provide check valve-type self-supporting ingress and egress means.
An important embodiment of the instant invention is illustrated in FIGURE 14. The device shown therein is ideally suited for providing storage facilities for materials whereby the protective building is caused to conform to the surface of the material stored. Thus after inflation of the building and introduction therein of material to be stored such as lumber, hay, wheat or other grain, machinery and the like through an ingress and egress means 22 as described hereinbefore the atmosphere within the building can be evacuated by, for instance, reversing the fan 74 housed in conduit 76 and mounted on supports 78. Materials stored in this fashion are thus provided with a protective covering which adheres to the surface thereof thereby significantly decreasing mechanical Wear of the covering due to abrasion eflects of high winds and the like experienced when loose fitting protective coverings are provided.
While certain representative embodiments and details have been shown for the purpose of illustrating the invention, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, reference being had to the appended claims.
What is claimed is:
1. An air-supported structure having walls and roof formed of a low air permeable material, at least one of said walls provided with self-supporting ingress and egress means for pedestrian and vehicular traflic, said ingress and egress means comprising a pair of flap members extending within said structure thereby providing tunnellike ingress and egress means, each of said flap members engageable at one end to said roof member, the other end of each of said flap members being adaptable to be secured to a floor of said structure, said flap members being separable thereby permitting ingress and egress of traflic to and from said structure, said structure being adaptable to be inflated and maintained erect by means for supplying a current of air inwardly to said structure and said flaps adaptable to abut each other by means of the air Within the inflated structure thereby preventing escape of air therefrom in quantities suificient to collapse said structure when inflated.
2. The air-supported structure of claim 1 which includes vertically adjustable strap means secured to said one end of said flap members and to said roof member.
3. The air-supported structure of claim 1 wherein each of said flap members are provided with at least one aperture.
4. The air-supported structure of claim 3 wherein each flap is provided with a plurality of apertures.
5. The air-supported structure of claim 1 wherein said floor member is formed of a low air permeable material and is integrally attached thereto.
6. The air-supported structure of claim 1 wherein said roof is provided with loading means, said loading means comprising an aperture provided with a pair of opposed contiguous vertically depending flap members integrally attached at one end to said roof member and adaptable to sealingly close said aperture.
7. The air-supported structure of claim 1 wherein at least one of said other walls is provided with aperture means in communication with means for establishing a current of air through said aperture.
8. The air-supported structure of claim 1 wherein at least one of said other Walls is provided with sealable aperture means for supplying a current of air to said structure, said aperture means provided with flap means adaptable to seal said aperture means under the influence of pressure within said structure.
9. The air-supported structure of claim 1 including peripheral anchoring means disposed adjacent said floor and engageable with the walls of said structure.
10. The air-supported structure of claim 9 wherein said peripheral anchoring means comprises a plurality of inverted U-shaped ribs spacedly interconnected to provide a channel and a cover member disposed over said ribs and extending laterally outwardly on either side of said ribs.
11. The air-supported structure of claim 10 wherein said peripheral anchoring means includes means for evacuating air from said structure, said means being in communication with said channel.
12. A collapsible air-supported structure formed of a low air permeable material and provided with self-supporting ingress and egress means integral with said structure, said ingress and egress means comprising a pair of contiguous flap members, each of said flap members having opposed sides fixedly secured to said structure and disposed within said structure.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,134,879 11/ 1938 Levy -1 2,910,994 11/1959 Joy 522 2,976,875 3/1961 Hoffman 522 2,977,106 3/1961 Dufl 52-2 3,254,457 6/ 1966 Gedney 52-2 REINALDO P. MACHADO, Primary Examiner.