CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
The applicant hereby claims benefit, under 35 USC §119, of co-pending U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/599,397 filed Aug. 6, 2004, which application is incorporated herein by this reference.
For both business and pleasure, people are spending more time traveling. Whether traveling internationally on business, or hiking a trail to a remote mountain lake, people have an ever increasing need to carry with them items to make these journeys more pleasant. Conventional travelers, whether motivated by exhaustion or otherwise, will often choose to sleep during their travels; unconventional travelers (hikers, bikers, etc.) likewise also choose to sleep during their treks, either as carryover camping trips or during siestas en route to their destination. One item desired by these groups to facilitate traveling comfort is a pillow.
Although desired, travelers often times will not bring pillows because pillows have one of two problems; either: (1) the pillow's volume is too great to allow for reasonable portability by an individual traveler; or (2) a pillow, by being too small and/or inadequately stuffed, exhibits loft insufficient to adequately support the user's head; i.e., the weight exerted on the pillow by a user's head (or other body part) will overly flatten the pillow, rendering useless its cushioning properties.
Both pillow size and its cushioning properties are integrally related to the material used to stuff the pillow. Pillow stuffing materials vary greatly (e.g., down, cotton, polyester, etc.), but optimally should be lightweight and resilient (high loft memory, i.e., not becoming permanently flattened when pressure is applied), and should not (unlike down and some of its counterparts) bunch, i.e., shift within the envelope, thereby providing inconsistent cushioning and/or support.
One of the most common fillers today is foam, namely open cell polyurethane. While such foam can be an excellent stuffing medium (it has high insulative properties, durability and loft, and good tensile rigidity), it possesses a single significant shortcoming for users who wish to travel with polyurethane foam filled pillows: Although compressible, the volume of space occupied by a piece of polyurethane foam, of thickness adequate to provide cushioning and/or support to a user, cannot be reduced (either through rolling or folding) to a volume sufficiently small enough to make its compacted state a particularly more desirable size for traveling. In other words, the reduction in volume though manual compaction is relatively small.
Manufactures have sought fervently for a solution to the compactability problem inherent in polyurethane stuffing material, but have come short of their goal. One endeavor has led manufactures to use foam in flocked rather than block form. Flocked foam, due to its arbitrary protrusions, bumps, and wrinkles, which result during production, either by tearing or shredding, exhibits the desirable property of being able to occupy a volume greater or equal to that of block foam, but with a significantly reduced aggregate foam volume. Thus, this solution provides a means by which an envelope can be filled with less material but still fill the same spatial volume that block foam would fill. The result is a reduction in fill material, which results in decreased material costs and weight, plus the advantage of less material present during compaction whether by rolling or folding the filled envelope.
Being broken into small pieces, flocked foam elements can easily be pushed past one another during compression. However, a drawback with flocked foam is that its protrusions, bumps, and wrinkles hook on to one another and, after a very short time, bunch together within an article, contributing to a loss of loft and a “bottoming out” effect (i.e., where the stuffing material eventually fails to occupy a desired volume within the envelope, thus creating a situation-where certain sections for the envelope fail to give support or cushion). Furthermore, although flocked foam filled envelopes adequately filled to exhibit reasonable loft and support can be compacted by a greater ratio than block foam filled envelopes, many users believe that they still do not compact small enough to make the articles an appealing size for travel.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,109,332 and 6,235,391 propose a solution to this “bunching” problem by using foam cut into polygram-shaped rods or bent foam strands that preferably have a length and width proportionally greater than the rod thickness. Other art suggesting filling materials with shape specificity include U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,754,511, and 5,608,936 (spheres); U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,608,961, 3,999,801 (pebbles/beads).
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
To date, the prior art has not shown polyurethane foam, whether flocked, shaped, or in block form, to be an optimal material for stuffing envelopes that are intended to be reduced to travel sized articles through compaction, i.e., the rolling or folding of the filled envelope. Further, the art reveals no integrated means for either (1) storing a foam filled item once reduced in size; and/or (2) helping to attain or maintain the article's reduced volume state once compacted.
The invention comprises an envelope filled with polygram-shaped prismatic bodies of precision formed resilient material, such as expanded foam, wherein the bodies, in cross section, have a plurality of radially extending arms. As used herein, the term “polygram” is intended to describe not only geometric forms with linear segments as is the conventional usage of this term, but also geometric forms with curved segments replacing some or all of the linear segments and that otherwise meet the described embodiment features. Moreover, this term applies to both regular forms as well as irregular forms, with the former being used in preferred embodiments. The term “prismatic” is intended to describe not only geometric prisms having parallel end surfaces, but also those wherein the ends are not parallel. As used herein, the term “arm” references an element of a polygram, as that term is described above, that has a vertex and/or a radius at a crest (crest vertex or crest radius), a first vertex and/or radius at a first adjacent root (first root vertex or root radius) and a second vertex and/or radius at a second adjacent root (second root vertex or root radius). Thus, a polygram-shaped prismatic body comprises any two-dimensional closed curve having a plurality of radially extending arms (as generally determined by the centroid location of the closed curve presuming uniform density) and having depth, i.e., a value for the “Z” axis.
The radially extending arms may all have the same radial length or may be of different radial lengths, although the former is preferred. Moreover, the radially extending arms may all have the same distance between adjacent roots (a symmetrical or regular form), or may have different distances between adjacent roots (an asymmetrical or irregular form). In addition, each radially extending arm, when the body is viewed in the axial or “Z” direction, has sides that converge to an apex at the arm crest, thereby minimizing any propensity to link with physically adjacent bodies when a plurality thereof are placed in an enclosing environment such as an envelope. The converging surfaces of the polygram-shaped prismatic bodies, as established from an arm's roots to its crest, may be planar or may be curved.
In a preferred series of embodiments, the radially extending arms have substantially similar radial lengths and adjacent root distances (a regular polygram), and the overall maximum width of the body is preferably equal to or less than the axial length of the prismatic body. Thus, the form is generally symmetrical about a plane that includes the body axis.
In a preferred embodiment, the bodies are precision formed from open cell polyurethane foam and have an axial length of between 1 and 1.5 inches, and a width of 1 inch. Preferably, the polygram-shaped prismatic bodies are die cut (although other means for achieving a substantially smooth outer surface are contemplated such as laser cutting, water-jet cutting and surface treating cut pieces) and have four (4) symmetric, orthogonally spaced converging arms. In this embodiment, the bodies are placed in an envelope of sufficient composition to prevent unintentional escapement of the bodies. The resulting structure, which when filled with the polygram-shaped bodies describe above, creates an article, not only with an efficient loft to weight ratio, but one that can be reduced through compaction to a viable travel size.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
While the envelope referenced above need not have any special attributes, an embodiment of the invention includes a means for aiding compaction. A preferred embodiment expresses the compaction aiding means through an integral drawstring arrangement and auxiliary panel.
FIG. 1 is a plan view of a compressible pillow with integrated sleeve.
FIG. 2 is an in perspective view of polygram-shaped foam filled pillow rolled into integrated sleeve.
FIG. 3 is an in end view of a die cut polygram-shaped foam body according to the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
FIG. 4 is an in perspective view, an embodiment where the length of the polygram-shaped foam body exceeds its width.
In the current embodiment, pillow 10 is shown in FIG. 1 in its expanded state and in FIG. 2 in its rolled and compacted state. Pillow 10 comprises envelope 20, which is defined by and constructed from at least one flexible sheet of material, and is preferably constructed from fleece panel 12 and nylon panel 14, sewn together along common periphery 16. Pillow 10 further comprises, in this embodiment, auxiliary panel 18 and drawstring 22. Disposed in envelope 20 is a plurality of die cut polyurethane foam polygram-shaped bodies 30, which are best shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. Each body 30 has first end 32 and second end 34 between which four symmetric, orthogonally spaced arms 40 of equal length radiate, and where the axial length “L” of polygram-shaped bodies 30 is greater or equal to width “W” at all points along bodies' longitudinal axis 36.
Each arm 40 includes crest 42 and is bounded by roots 44. The root to root distance is shown as 46, and the radial length is shown as 48. Thus, for the illustrated embodiment, crests 42 are orthogonal to each other, radial length 48 is the same for each arm 40, and the root to root distance 46 is also the same for any arm 40.
Analysis has shown that using polygram-shaped bodies 30 as fill material creates loft proportionate or greater to that of block foam. Proportionate loft is created due to the presence of arms 40: As the arms of one body abut those of another within the pocket, macro voids are created between the bodies because there is no close fit between bodies in a random environment. This creation of voids between the bodies concludes with the favorable result of two polygram-shaped bodies 30 exhibiting loft equal or greater to the loft of foam of the same mass when in block form. The void creation is the same phenomena which results from using flocked foam (arbitrary protrusions, bumps, and wrinkles which abut within an article); however, unlike flocked foam, precision cut polygram-shaped bodies 30 with a plurality of arms 40 do not bunch: The smooth surface of bodies 30 and the crush resistance and the axial length of arms 40, limit the degree of entanglement between bodies 30. In other words, this non-bunching quality results from two properties, namely the surface properties of bodies 30 and the shape and symmetry of arms 40.
Through entropy, flocked fill bunch when the flocked fills' protrusions, bumps, and wrinkles hook onto one another. This hooking action is facilitated by the flocking process itself. When foam is flocked it is arbitrarily torn or shredded—this tearing and shredding results in a multitude of rough edges containing micro hooks and burs (not unlike VelcroŽ). When enclosed within a compressible volume and subject to repeated compression, it is not long before these micro hooks and burs entangle, causing the flocked fill to cling, or “bunch” together and lose loft. By die cutting or precision cutting foam, however, the resulting-material has surfaces that are relatively free of hooks and burs, and so the bodies 30 do not bunch (or bunch so subtly that gentle shaking will loosen them). In the illustrated embodiment, polygram-shaped bodies 30 have edges 41 that are relatively free from any engaging protrusions.
The shape and symmetry of arms 40 also contribute to the non-bunching qualities of bodies 30. When fill-material, usually polyurethane foam, is flocked, the shape of the resulting flocked elements varies greatly. On a macro level, the flocked elements themselves are often hook shaped, or have engaging arms. When these elements with their engaging characteristics are enclosed within a pocket, they “hook” together and cause bunching, further exacerbating the “micro” hooking problems discussed above. The embodiment disclosed herein eliminates this “macro hooking” by cutting polygram-shaped bodies 30 of the same shape and dimension, each body's arms 40 being symmetric and possessing appreciable length in the “Z” axis, and therefore necessarily creating structures non-engaging in nature. Combining the polygram-shaped bodies' 30 smooth die cut edges 41 and their symmetric shape, the result is a fill that does not bunch.
The geometric qualities of body 30 constitutes not only a non-bunching, high loft fill material, but also a material that is extremely compressible. The very factors that influence loft also influence compactability. The greater the loft, the greater the compactability. And because the fill material is comprised of open cell polyurethane foam, it also exhibits great elasticity, thereby providing for a means to retain its original shape. This elasticity, however, presents a noticeable reconstitution bias. Therefore, once pillow 10 has been compacted, there is a notable reconstitution force urging expansion of pillow from the state shown in FIG. 2 to the state shown in FIG. 1.
To address the reconstitution bias, pillow 10 is constructed with an integrated auxiliary panel 18 and drawstring 22 that enables not only a means for maintaining the polygram-shaped bodies 30 in a compressed state, but aids a user during compression of said bodies. By rolling the envelope 20 towards auxiliary panel 18, the rolled portion of the envelope 20 may be placed therein, auxiliary panel 18 extended to encompass envelope 20, and drawstring 22 cinched closed. In this manner, auxiliary panel 18 prevents pillow 10 from unrolling. Those persons skilled in the art will appreciate the multitude of means available for preventing unrolling of envelope 20.