US 3550159 A
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E. ALARCO IMPACT-ABSORBENT CELLULAR STRUCTURE` Dec. 29, 1970 Filed Oct. 10. 1968 United States Patent O 3,550,159 IMPACT-ABSORBENT CELLULAR STRUCTURE Eugenio Alarco, Malecon Armendariz 211 PH-l- Miraflores, Lima, Peru Filed Oct. 10, 1968, Ser. No. 766,519
t. Int. Cl. A41d 13/00 U.S. Cl. 2-2 9 Claims ABSTRACT OF THE DISCLOSURE` A cellular structure having a plurality of adjacent inatable cell units, each cell unit being further divided into a plurality of compartments with communicating passages between adjacent compartments. Additionally, communicating passageways are provided between one of the compartments of each cell unit, and corresponding compartments in adjacent cell units. The cellular structure is constructed of a flexible sheet material and inated slightly to maintain the cellular structure in an expanded condition. When the structure is subjected to an impact, the restricting passages and passageways prevent the immediate equalization of the cell pressures, and the cells resiliently absorlb the impact and thereafter start to have their pressures equalized. When the cellular structure is subjected to relatively slow compression or ilexing movements, the air within the cell units ows easily from one compartment to another allowing the cellular structure to conform to a desired shape.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The present invention relates generally to impactabsorbing structures of a type adapted to be worn by a person, and more particularly to such structures constructed of a plurality of inflatable cells.
There are many environments in which a person is subjected to the possibility of being forcibly thrown against other persons or objects. Examples of such environments are the decks and cabins of ships or boats and the cabins or cargo holds of large transport aircraft, especially during rough weather.
Many schemes have been devised for preventing injury to persons working in such environments, such as lining the walls of the cabin or hold with impact-absorbing or cushioning padding. This solution, however, reduces the interior size of the cabin and does not prevent collisions between persons and objects in the cabin.
Another solution includes a suit or garment ot impactabsorbing material which a person wears while in the hazardous environment. Various materials have been employed for these suits including plain quilted padding. However, such quilted padding is relatively bulky and severely restricts freedom of movement of the person wearing the suit.
Suits constructed of inflatable cell-like cushions have object.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION To solve the above problems, the present invention provides a cellular structure which absorbs and cushions impacts, but is relatively ilexible when subjected to relatively slow flexing movements.
The impact-absorbing cellular structure of the present ICC invention includes a plurality of cell units preferably adjacently arranged in a generally aligned configuration. Each of the cell units includes a plurality of compartments with communicating air passages between the compartments. At least one of the compartments of each cell unit communicates with a corresponding compartment of an adjacent cell unit through auxiliary air passageways. Thus, each cell includes a plurality of interconnected compartments, and each cell is connected to the adjacent cells by passageways between corresponding compartments.
The composite cellular structure is only slightly intlated to maintain the structure in an expanded resilient condition. When the cellular structure is flexed or bent relatively slowly, as during the ordinary movements of a person wearing a suit made with the cellular structure of the present invention, the air within the structure moves from compartment to compartment through the cornmunicating passages and from cell unit to cell unit through the auxiliary passageways. This allows relatively slow and easy tlexing of the configuration of the cellular structure.
Should the cellular structure be subjected to an impact, however, not all of the air can move immediately from within the affected compartments and cell units. Thus, the cell units receiving the impact remain initially in a resilient, expanded state to absorb the impact, but gradually collapse as the air moves from cell unit to cell unit. The gradual collapse of the cell units also tends to prevent puncturing of the lightly inated structure.
The cellular structure may include variable area valve means between certain compartments so that as a cell unit collapses, the valve area decreases to slow the movement of air and to prevent the complete collapse of the cell.
Thus, a cellular structure constructed according to the present invention is flexible enough for use in making protective suits, and will also absorb impacts.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. l is a perspective View of a person wearing an impact-adsorbing pad constructed according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the cellular structure of the present invention taken in the direction of line 2--2 of FIG. l;
FIG. 3 is also an enlarged cross-sectional view of the cellular structure taken in the direction of line 3-3 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional View similar to that of FIG. 3 showing the `cellular structure undergoing an impact with an object;
FIG. 5 is a fragmentary sectional view taken on a diminished scale of an alternative construction fora portion of the cellular structure; n
FIG. 6 is also a fragmentary sectional view taken on a diminished scale similar to that of FIG. 5 with the structure shown undergoing an impactual force with an object; and
FIG. 7 is a perspective view taken on a diminished scale of a portion of an impact-absorbing coat or jacket constructed according to the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now to the drawings, particularly FIGS. l and 7, an impact-absorbing cellular structure 10 constructed according to the present invention appear externally as a relatively flexible, lightly inflated cushion. The basic cellular structure 10 may be utilized in constructing impact-absorbing cushions or pads for local protection such 3 as the chest protector 12 illustrated in FIG. 1, or garments such as the jacket 14 shown in FIG. 7.
Internally, the cellular structure 1() is constructed with a honeycomb of cell units 16 adjacently arranged in a generally aligned configuration. It will be appreciated that the number and size of the cell units 16 will depend upon the material used, the impact-absorbing quality desired and the limitations on the thickness of the structure 10, among other things. Each of the cell units 16 is further divided into a number of compartments 20, 22, 24, each generally substantially parallel to the general plane of the structure 10. Again, the number of compartments Z0, 22, 24 in the cell unit 16 will depend upon the impact-absorbing quality desired, the limitation of the thickness of the structure 10, and the size of the cell unit. However, as an example, the cell units 16 in the drawings are divided into three compartments, an outer compartment 20, an intermediate compartment 22, and an inner compartment 24 which would ordinarily be next to the person or object to be protected.
Generally, the cellular structure may be constructed of any flexible material which can be made substantially air-tight, such as flexible sheet plastaic, rubberized cloth, or the like. While materials exhibiting some elastic properties may be utilized, it is preferable, for the impactabsorbing functioning of the structure 10, that a substantially inelastic material be employed.
The compartmentalized cell units 16 are formed by walls between and generally parallel to outer and inner facing sheets 26 and 28, with generally perpendicular partitions further subdividing the larger spaces. Thus, inwardly from the outer facing sheet 26 is a wall 30 substantially coextensive with the facing sheets 26 and 28; and between wall 30 and inner facing sheet 28 is wall 32 of a similar size. To subdivide the larger spaces so formed, partitions or spacers 34 extend between outer facing sheet 26 and wall 3f), and similar spacers extend between walls 30 and 32, and between wall 32 and inner facing sheet 28. The spacers 34 between the outer facing sheet 26 and wall 30 are preferably arranged in a substantially perpendicular pattern to form rectangular compartments 20, and the compartments 22 and 24 are similarly shaped. End pieces 36 extend around the structure 10 to complete the closure of those of cells 20, 22 and 24 at the edge of the structure 10.
The illustrated preferred embodiment, the entire cellular structure 10 is constructed of sheet plastic material and all the sheets 26, 28, 30, 32 and spacers 34 are heat sealed in their proper locations. The finished structure 10 is lightly inflated so that the structure is maintained in slightly expanded condition.
In order to provide for the flexing or shape-conforming quality of the cellular structure 10, the compartments 20, 22, 24 of each cell unit 16 are in communication through first and second air passages 38, 4t) which may be appropriately sized holes in the plastic sheet material. Additionally, each of the inner compartments 24 is in communication with the other through auxiliary air passageways 42 which again may be appropriate holes in the spacers 34 between corresponding inner compartments.
With this construction, it will be appreciated that as an object 44 (shown in FIG. 4) continuously is pressed against one of the outer compartments 20, the air within the outer compartment passes through the first communicating passage 38 in the first intermediate sheet 30 between the outer and intermediate compartments 20, 22 resulting in a partial collapse of the outer compartment. Also, the air within the intermediate compartment 22, as well as that from the outer compartment 20, passes through the second communicating passage in the second intermediate sheet 32 between the intermediate compartment and the inner compartment 24 resulting in a partial collapse of the intermediate compartment. The air within the inner compartment 24, as well as the air from the outer compartments 20, 22, then passes through the auxiliary passageways 42 in the spacers 34 Ibetween the inner most compartments also resulting in a partial collapse of the innermost compartment.
Thus, it can be seen that as the object 44 is pressed against the cellular structure 1f), the cell unit 16 in the immediate vicinity of the object tends to collapse and the air originally contained in the cell unit passes from compartment to compartment and into adjacent cell units. The air passing into the adjacent cell units 516 tends to raise the air pressure within those cell units, and it will be appreciated that, depending upon the initial air pressure within the cellular structure 10 and the number of cells in the structure, the cell unit in the vicinity of the object 44 will tend to eventually collapse completely or an equilibrium will be reached with the air pressure within the adjacent cell units balancing the air pressure in the partially collapsed cell unit.
It will also be appreciated that the rate at which the cell unit 16 in the vicinity of the object 44 collapses will depend in part on how fast the air can pass from compartment to compartment and from cell unit to cell unit. The air passage rate is, in turn, dependent upon the size of the communicating passages 38, 4f) from compartment to compartment and the auxiliary passageways 42 from cell unit to cell unit.
If the object 44 is pressed into the cellular structure 10 at a slow rate, and the passages 38, 40 and passageways 42 are large enough, the cell unit 416 will collapse without offering any appreciable resistance to the object. However, if the object 44 is moving toward the person at a fast enough rate, so that the Contact of the object and the person would be in the nature of an impact, the air in each compartment 20, 22, 24 cannot pass through the passages 38, 40 fast enough and the air `flow is restricted. In this case, the air within each compartment 210, 22, 24 tends to maintain the compartment in an inflated state as the object 44 strikes the structure 10. The partially inflated and slowly collapsing compartments 20, 22, 24 resiliently absorb the impact force of the object 44.
If the cellular structure 10' is formed into a garment such as the jacket 14 shown in FIG. 7, the ordinary movements of a person wearing such a garment tend to bend and flex the structure. It can be seen that if the structure 10 is bent at a particular place, the structure is at least partially collapsed at that place. Thus, the size of cornpartments 2f), 22, 24 and the size of the passages 38, 40y between them are selected so that the cell units 16 can be collapsed relatively easily as the cellular structure 10 is bent or flexed due to ordinary movement of the person. The passages 38, 40, however, are selected so that air movement through the compartments 20, 22, 24 is relatively restricted if the cellular structure 10I is struck by a fast-moving object 44.
To aid the smooth collapse of compartments 20, 22, 24 while still retaining the desired resilience, the sizes of these compartments and the sizes of the communicating passages 38 and 40 and the auxiliary passageways 42 are selected so that the inner compartment 24- is collapsed last. This maintains open the passages and passageways for the flow of air while still providing resilient cushioning until the whole cell unit 16 is completely collapsed.
In order to enhance the gradual increase of the resistance offered to the object 44 during collapsing of the cellular structure and to maintain the compartment 24 in an expanded condition for as long as possible, an optional form of the cellular structure employs a passage 40 between the intermediate compartments 22 and the innermost compartment 24 which forms a part of a valve means which tends to close off the passage 40 as the inner compartment 24 collapses. In the preferred embodiment illustrated, the valve means includes a substantially conically-shaped projection 46 mounted on the inside of the inner sheet 28 and aligned with the passage 40 so as t@ be capable of extending into and at least partially closing that passage. As the inner compartment 24 tends to collapse, as shown in FIG. 6, the projection 46 extends into the passage 40', reducing the area through which the air in the intermediate and outer compartments 22, 20 can pass. The resistance offered to the object 44 then increases as the inner compartment -24` collapses, enhancing the impact-absorbing effect of the cellular structure 10.
Again, it will be appreciated that the actual size of the projection 46, as well as the size of the passage 40 between the compartment 22, 24, will be governed by the size of the cell units 16, the thickness of the structure and the desired impact-absorbing quality.
Thus, an impact-absorbing garment constructed according to the present invention provides a cellular structure which is relatively iiexible for ordinary movement of a person wearing the garment, but provides a controlled resistance to an object striking the person wearing the garment with an impactual force.
It will be understood that while a preferred embodiment of the invention, as well as an alternate construction, have been described and illustrated, modification of the design and construction can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Hence, the invention is not to be limited except as defined in the appended claims.
1. An impact-absorbing structure which includes:
a rst cell unit having an outer compartment adapted to receive an impact;
an inner compartment substantially aligned with said outer compartment, said inner and outer compartments having a passage therebetween for the ow of gas from one compartment to another, and cooperating to form said first cell unit wherein gas within said compartment resilientlyabsorbs an impact on said outer compartment;
a plurality of cell units around said first cell unit, each including an inner and outer compartment with a passage therebetween, said inner compartments of said cell units having interconnecting passageways whereby gas from one cell unit may pass to surrounding cell units; and
means mechanically connecting all of said cell units together to form a sheet-like member having resilient impact-absorbing qualities.
2. A structure as defined in claim 1, in which said compartments within a cell unit include a wall separating said compartments, said wall having an aperture therein, and said compartments in adjacent cell units have spacers extending from said wall and separating said adjacent cell units, with said spacers between said inner cells having apertures therein forming said passageways.
3. A structure as defined in claim 1, formed of flexible sheet material, and said cell units are inflated to a pressure sufficient to extend them to their full dimensions but not to distend said cell units substantially.
4. A structure as defined in claim 3, formed of a exible sheet material with said wall bonded to said spacers, and at least some of said spacers are bonded to said means mechanically connecting all of said cell units together.
5. A structure as defined in claim 1, in which said means mechanically connecting all of said cell units together comprises outer and inner facing sheets that form boundaries of corresponding compartments.
6. An impact-absorbing structure adapted to be worn by a person to be protected against impacts, while permitting movement by the person and flexure of the structure, which includes:
an inner facing sheet adapted to cover the area of a person to be protected;
an outer facing sheet substantially coextensive with said inner facing sheet;
at least one sheet wall between said inner and outer facing sheets, substantially coextensive with and parallel to said sheets; and
spacers between each wall and the adjacent coextensive sheet, said spacers being so positioned to form a plurality of aligned compartments between said inner and outer facing members, each group of aligned compartments forming a cell member, each cell member having passageways between its said compartments for the flow of gas from one compartment of a cell to another compartment of the same cell, and the spacers between the inner compartments of adjacent cell members having passageways therethrough to equalize the gas pressure of different cells.
7. An impact-absorbing structure as defined in claim 6, in which said inner and outer facing sheets, said wall, and said spacers are formed of a flexible, substantially gas-tight sheet material, and said cell units are inflated to a pressure sufficient to extend them to their full dimensions but not to distend said cell units substantially.
8. An impact-absorbing structure as defined in claim 6, in which the volumes of the compartments of a cell and the passage therebetween, and the passageways be tween the compartments of adjacent cells are all so coordinated that the quick blow of an impact is resiliently absorbed in the particular cell unit sheets, while the slower movement of a person permits equalization of the pressures between compartments and cell units to permit freer movement by a person.
9. An impact-absorbing structure as defined in claim 6, in which means are provided to close the passage through said wall into said inner compartment as the compartments of a cell aligned with said inner compartment are collapsed, whereby said cell retains at least part of its ability to absorb impacts.
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 374,150 11/1887 Gray 2-2 745,007 11/1903 Gamble 2-2 876,237 1/ 1908 Ridlon 2 2 2,028,060 1/1936 Gilbert 2-2UX 3,248,738 5/1966 Morgan 2--2 JORDAN FRANKLIN, Primary Examiner G. H. KRIZMANICH, Assistant Examiner