US 3801403 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
[ Apr. 2, 1974 United States Patent Lucek  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS METHOD OF MAKING INFLATABLE SHAPED ARTICLES 1,165,045 12/1915 Ufford 3,205,106 9/1965 Cross 3,382,662 5/1968 Seelig et al.
2 Appl. 237 44 Primary Examiner-Gerge F. Lesmes.
Assistant ExaminerJames J. Bell Related US. Application Data  Continuation-in-part of Ser. No. 25,767, April 6,
Attorney, Agent, or FirmBauer & Amer  ABSTRACT Inflatable shaped articles, such as a manikin, chair, or
the like, having askeletal construction of fibrous members limiting outer wall expansion to positions providing the desired shape to the article (i.e., avoid- 8 0 2 m m 6HHM 4 4 ,66 7 2 a AWA 6 6 4//2 a 4M 466 m 1&3 .62 "52 ,5 97 711 2 /l 66 51 .11 u 0 U 7 1 C U u 6 S 1 U  Int Cl ing bulging, distortion and the like), and-yet collaps- B29c 1/00 [581' Field of'Search 264/112 121 267 94- mm a P f memem wage 156/279 244 1 l 6 4 7 and transportation, wherein the fibrous members fill the voids of the skeletal construction.
1 Claim, 8 Drawing Figures METHOD OF MAKING INFLATABLE SHAPED ARTICLES This is a continuation-in-part of US. Pat. application Ser. No. 25,767 filed Apr. 6, 1970 and now abandoned entitled Inflatable Shaped Articles.
The present invention relates generally to inflatable articles, and more particularly to improvements for controlling the shape of inflatables.
Inflatable articles are currently enjoying wide use as furniture, toys, props for stage and store fronts, and the like. A major problem in the construction of inflatables is to impart the same with shape-controlling means so that the expanding outer wall or covering thereof is confined to its intended shape or, in other words, does not bulge or otherwise assume a distorted shape under the influence of internal pressure air. Presently known and used expansion-limiting structure, such as ties or stringers, are too difficult and costly to embody in the numbers necessary to be effective and thus this solution is not entirely satisfactory.
Broadly, it is an object of the present invention to provide improvements for shape-control of inflatables overcomingthe foregoing and other shortcomings of the prior art. Specifically, it is an object to economically provide an inflatable with a skeletal arrangement of expansion-limiting ties or stringers which effectively restricts the inflatable to a desired shape, the stringers being extruded in place within the article to thereby contribute to facilitated, economic placement, and thereafter, the extruded material thereof, which normally is extensible, is then rendered inextensible so that these stringers can effectively function to limit expansion movement in the outer wall of the article.
I An inflatable demonstrating objects and advantages of thepresent invention includes a porous skeletal construction having a three-dimensional shape in tension which effectively limits the article outer wall to a corresponding three-dimensional shape, and which also has a collapsed, compact condition in which the fibrous members which form the skeletal construction are accommodated in the porosity or voids of the skeletal construction.
The above brief description, as well as further objects, features and advantages of thepresent invention, will be more fully appreciated by reference to'the following detailed description of a presently preferred, but nonetheless illustrative embodiment in accordacce with the present invention, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a front elevational view of an inflated manikin made in accordance with the present invention, a portion thereof being broken away to illustrate internal structural features;
FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of an inflated seat, also made in accordance with the present invention, and also having a portion broken away to better illustrate internal structural features;
FIG. 3 is a sectional view illustrating the shapecontrolling internal structure according to the present invention which is part of the exemplary inflatable articles of FIGS. 1 and 2;
FIGS. 4a, 4b and 4c are diagramatic views illustrating the progressive manner in which the adherance ofinextensible fibers to an elastomeric core, which is part of the shape-controlling internal structure hereof, renders said elastomeric core substantially inextensible;
FIG. 5 is a detailed sectioned view of the head of the manikin of FIG. 1 illustrating the manner in which said shape-controlling internal structure is placed in a remote location thereof and following which it is rendered inextensible as shown in FIGS. 4a, 4b and 4c, all preparatory to the progressive placement of additional amounts of said structure throughout the ramainder of said manikin; and
FIG. 6 is a perspective view, on a greatly enlarged scale, showing the typical manner in which the fibrous members are interconnected.
Reference is now made to the drawings and in particular to FIGS. I and 2 illustrating two of a wide variety of inflatable shaped articles having the shapecontrolling internal construction of the present invention, the specific illustrated articles being an inflated manikin 10 and an inflated seat 12. In each case the article includes an external flexible wall or covering 14,
preferrably of vinyl or other elastomeric material, which is air-tight and which is moldable or otherwise adapted to be imparted with a shape or contour. In use, the problem is to confine the flexible covering 14 to the specific shape intended so that it does not bulge or otherwise assume a distorted shape under the influence of internal pressure air.
In accordance with the present invention, use is made of a shape-controlling internal skeletal construction, generally designated 16, which limits the expansion movement of the covering 14 to the external shape or contour of the specific article, as for example the manikin shape of article 10 or the chair shape of article 12. The manner in which this is achieved will now be described with specific reference to FIG. 3.
In FIG. 3, it is assumed that outer covering 14 is intended to bound a rectangular shape as illustrated which, of course, is the result of the discreet or specific opposite areas 18 and 20 assuming expanding positions in which the distance between them is limited to the distance 22. This limitation is imposed by the array of a plurality of fibrous members, individually and collectively designated 24 in FIG. 3, which are connected between the areas 18 and 20. Specifically, a spanning connection between the areas 18 and 20 may be achieved by several interconnected fibers 24 such as, for example, the fiber 26 which is connected to fiber 28, the two fibers 26 and 28 being connected between the areas 20 and 18; alternatively, it may be achieved by a single fiber 30 which extends the entire distance 22 between the areas 18 and 20. In both cases, under the influence of pressure air which is admitted within the volume 30 bounded by the shaped outer covering 14 illustrated in FIG. 3, the prescribed shape is imparted to the covering 14 by reason of the fact that the fibers 24 (whether consisting of the interconnected fibers 26 and 28 or the single fiber 30) effectively limits the relative expansion movements in the wall 18 and 20 to the distance 22.
FIG. 6 illustrates the preferred construction for each individual fiber 24. This fiber member includes an elastomeric core 32 which because of its fabrication of elastomeric material is readily extruded in the cylindrical shape illustrated. The manner in which this is done will soon be explained. Next, since the elastomeric core 32 is readily extensible or expandable, and, as such, is therefore incapable of holding the expanding wall areas 18 and 20 to a specific distance 22, it is necessary to render the core 32 inextensible. This is achieved by applying to the elastomeric core 32 while it is tacky, a randum array of inextensible synthetic or natural fibers, individually and collectively designated 34. Good results have been achieved using hemp and cotton fibers of from one-sixteenth inch to one-half inch lengths and, in this manner, forming a continuous stretchlimiting construction about the elastomeric core 32. That is, the core 32 is effectively restricted from stretching by its inextensible fibrous covering 34. On the other hand, the inextensible fibers 34 do not interfere with or prevent the collapsing of each individual composite fibrous member 24.
To better understand how the fibers 36 limit stretch of the elastomeric core 32, reference should be made to FIGS. 4a, 4b and 4c. Assume that we start with a cylindrical shape of elastomeric material E that extends from point A to point B (FIG. 4a). Because of the inherent stretch of the elastomeric material, the same can readily stretch a distance which is greater than the distance between the points A and B.
However, next let it be assumed that a cotton fiber C is dusted or blown into'contact with the elastomeric material E while it is tacky and thus sticks to the same, specifically at the two points D and F (FIG. 4b). Obviously, since the cotton fiber C is not extensible, the portion thereof between the points D and F is also not extensible. More significant, the portion of the elastomeric shape E which is coincident with length portion of the cotton fiber from points D andF must, of necessity, be restricted in stretch to the stretch capability in the cotton fiber length portion between points D and F. As already noted, however, stretch between the two points D and F is nominal or nil since the cotton fiber is an inextensible material and thus is not capable of stretching. Thus, the elastomeric material E is still capable of stretching, but the stretch thereof is confined to the length portion between points A and D and between points F and B.
Next, let it be assumed that a second cotton fiber G becomes bonded to the elastomeric shape E, specifically the length portion thereof between points H and 1 (FIG. 4c). The effect of the bonding of this cotton fiber to material E is the same as previously noted, namely that the length portion of the elastomeric between points H and I will be confined to the same stretch as the fiber between these two points, which is nominal, since the fiber is an inextensible material. It should be noted, however, that points H and I somewhat overlap points D and F, and thus both fibers C and G contribute to rendering the elastomeric material E inextensible.
The further effect of the bonding of cotton fiber G to the elastomeric material E is that it widens the medial portion of elastomeric material E which is rendered inextensible. That is, elastomeric material E, due to the combined effect of the two cotton fibers C and G is now inextensible between the points H and F, and is extensible only between the points A and H, and F and B.
In the above manner, when third, fourth, and literally thousands of cotton fibers are blown into adhering contact against the elastomeric material E, the result is that the elastomeric material E takes on the inextensible character of the cotton fibers, which ultimately is along its entire length between points A and B.
In the practice of the present invention, it is contemplated that a popular technique for manufacturing an inflatable article, such as for example the manikin I0 hereof, will entail molding the same. In other words, the exterior shape of the manikin 10 will be imparted by a mold to which the rubber or vinyl is sprayed or otherwise applied during the formation of the outer shaped covering 14. Next, while the covering I4 is still supported within the mold (not shown), entry will be made through a bottom opening 42 of the manikin into the internal volume bounded by the covering 14 with an appropriate fiber-dispensing device, one exemplary form of which is illustrated in FIG. 5. The device includes a squeezable container 60 having an extrusion die 62 with an extrusion exit opening 64 and is effective in permitting the extrusion of the elastomeric material in fiber-like shapes 32 in any desired lengths. That is, the length of any extruded core 32 is a function of the amount of material that is pushed through the extrusion die opening 64. Thus, as long as the user of the device continues to force out elastomeric material from the container 60 through the extrusion die 62, the material exiting in this fashion from theextrusion die opening 64 forms part of the previous length of extruded core 32 and thus contributes to the length thereof. On the other hand, once the user ceases to force the elastomeric material through the extrusion die 62, whatever was previously extruded will constitute the entire length of the extruded core 32.
It is also contemplated that, in practice, the internal fiber-coated network of cores 32, 34 will be progressively placed within the inflatable article, starting in a remote area and working therefrom towards the access opening into the internal volume of the inflatable article..Thus, for example, the placement of the cores 32 in spanning relation across the internal volume of manikin 10 is not done in one fell swoop entirely throughout the internal volume, but is done first in the head area, and so forth. Further, after placement in the head area, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the cores 32 are dusted with and thereby rendered substantially inextensible by the cotton fibers 34, before the device 60 is used to place additional cores 32 in the neck area.
The placement of the cores 32 is readily achieved by movement of the device extrusion end 62 back and forth within the internal confines of the inflatable article. After said placement in a specific area, as for example in the head 44 of the manikin 10, it is advisable to then introduce by blowing, dusting or some such other appropriate technique, the cotton or inextensible fibers 34 which when making contact with the tacky elastomeric strings or cores 32 adhere thereto and limit extensibility thereof in the manner already described. Once this is achieved, the user can then build up the internal skeletal construction 16 in the upper torso portion 46 of the manikin l0 and, in this way, progressively impart a shape-controlling construction 16 throughout the internal volume of the manikin 10. An appropriate closure can then be placed in the bottom opening 42, such as a stand 48 or the like. Thereafter, pressure air can then be admitted through a valve 50 in the outer covering or wall 14 and this pressure air, in an obvious manner, will be effective in supporting the covering 14 in its prescribed external shape or contour.
Reference is now made to the enlarged scale showing of FIG. 6 which is intended to illustrate the interconnected fibers 24 during inflation of an article and thus when the fibers are in tension. As shown, individual fibers 24, specifically designated 52 and 54 in FIG. 6, are
connected .not only to the opposing wall portions 18 and 20, but are also adhesively secured to each other at points of contact, as at 56. As a consequence, fibers 24 provide an interconnected internal construction, much like a spider web, which limits-expansion of the outer covering or wall 14 to that expanded position in which the individual fibers 24 are in tension, all as has been described. Additionally, the interconnected array of fibers 24 also forms a porous construction in which the individual fibers bound voids between points of connection, such as the void 58. These plural voids 58 provide the internal skeletal construction 16 with a necessary degree of porosity which enables the free flow of pressure air throughout the internal volume 30 bounded by the outer covering 14. Thus, the pressure air which is admitted into the inflatable article or 12 is not impeded from performing its necessary function of supporting the outer covering 14 in the threedimensional shape previously imparted by molding of the covering 14. Also, upon deflation of the-article 10 or 12, the skeletal construction 16 collapses and the voids 58 are then utilized to accommodate'the corresponding collapsed individual fibers 24, all to the end of providing a compact, deflated condition to the articles 10, 12 which is convenient for storage and transportation of the article.
As has been indicated, the invention hereof is not intended to be limited to any specific materials, nor is it intended to be embodied only in the specifically illustrated articles 10 and 12 hereof. The extrudable internal strings 12 may be fabricated of natural or synthetic rubber or even plastic, and the flocking thereof may be achieved using inextensible fibers fabricated of glass, silk, or other readily available synthetic or man-made fibers. The articles controlled in their inflated shape in accordance with the present invention may consist of furniture, matresses or cushions toys, and display figures or objects for store fronts or used as stage props or similar end uses. Thus, a latitude of modification, change and substitution is intended in the foregoing disclosure, and in some instances some features of the invention will be employed without a corresponding use of other features. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the appended claims be construed broadly and in a manner consistent with the spirit and scope of the invention herein.
What is claimed is:
l. A method of making a shaped inflatable article comprising the steps of forming an outer covering for said article in a supporting external mold, said outer covering bounding an internal shaped volume and having an access opening into said volume, while retaining said article in said external mold projecting extruding means through said access opening into said volume such that the extruding operative end of said extruding means is in a location of said volume remote from said access opening, extruding elastomeric material to serve as fiber cores in spanning relation within said internal shaped volume between opposing portions of said outer covering, during said extruding of fiber cores progressively withdrawing said extruding means from said volume so as to locate said spanning fiber cores in said remote location and locations correspondingly progressively removed therefrom in the direction of said access opening, and applying to said cores a plurality of inextensible fibers so as to render said extruded spanning cores inextensible, whereby said inextensible spanning cores limit expansion of said outer covering to positions bounding said internal shaped volume.
* l l l=