Title:
Lining
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a lining for hard surfaces, such as in bathtubs or pools, wherein the lining is divided into chambers by means of inner walls and arranged to contain at least one fluid. The lining is characterized in that at least two of the chambers are in direct fluid communication with each other, and that at least one resilient member is arranged in at least one of the chambers. The lining comprises at least an external layer of a resilient material. The external layer forms the surface of the lining opposed to said hard surfaces.



Inventors:
Pleym, Viggo (Lillehammer, NO)
Application Number:
10/469942
Publication Date:
06/10/2004
Filing Date:
01/16/2004
Assignee:
PLEYM VIGGO
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/02; A47K3/00; A47K3/12; A47K4/00; E04F15/22; (IPC1-7): A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, TUAN N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROTHWELL, FIGG, ERNST & MANBECK, P.C. (1425 K STREET, N.W., WASHINGTON, DC, 20005, US)
Claims:
1. Lining for hard surfaces (2), such as in bathtubs or pools, wherein the lining is divided into chambers (3) by means of inner walls (11) and adapted to contain at least one fluid (6), characterized in that at least one resilient member (7) is arranged in at least one of the chambers (3), and that an outer layer (8) of a resilient material forms the surface of the lining opposite said hard surfaces (2).

2. Lining according to claim 1, wherein fluid communication takes place through at least one wall (11) between at least two chambers (3).

3. Lining according claim 1, wherein at least two of the chambers (3) are in direct fluid communication with each other.

4. Lining according to claim 2, wherein a first aperture (11a) and a second aperture (11b) are arranged in at least one wall (11) for fluid communication between the chambers (3).

5. Lining according to claim 4, wherein it in connection with a first aperture (11a) is arranged a first one-way valve (12a) which in case of an external pressure impact on the lining opens for one-way fluid flow in a first direction, and wherein it in connection with the second aperture (11b) is arranged a second one-way valve (12b) which in case of an external pressure impact opens for one-way fluid flow in a second, opposite direction.

6. Lining according to claim 1, having a channel system (13) for fluid communication between at least two chambers.

7. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one resilient member (7) comprises a bag (7e) whith granular material.

8. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one resilient member (7) comprises a capsule (7a) containing liquid.

9. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one resilient member (7) comprises a body (7d) of a solid, resilient material such as a spongy, soft polymer material.

10. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one resilient member (7) comprises a capsule (7c) containing a gel.

11. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein at least one resilient element (7) comprises a capsule (7b) containing air.

12. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, having an outer sheet (10) made of a material which exerts friction against skin, both in wet and dry states, above and in water.

13. Lining according to claim 12, wherein the outer sheet (10) is made of a textile.

14. Lining according to claim 12, wherein the outer sheet (10) is made of a resilient polymer material, preferably PVC.

15. Lining according to claim 1 or one of the claims 7-11, wherein the resilient member (7) is attached to the inner side of the inner layer (5).

16. Lining according to claim 1 or one of the claims 7-11, wherein the resilient member (7) floats freely in the chamber (3) in the lining.

17. Lining according to claim 16, wherein the weight of the resilient member (7) is neutral in relation to the fluid in which it floats.

18. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein the fluid (6) to be used in the lining is water, a gel and/or air.

19. Lining according to one of the preceding claims, wherein an adjustable amount of fluid (6) is present in the lining.

20. Lining according to the preceding claims, adapted for arrangement in a bathtub (16), a spa (17) or a pool (18).

21. Lining according to claim 1-19, adapted for arrangement on floors (19).

Description:
[0001] This invention relates to a lining for hard surfaces, such as in bathtubs or pools, wherein the lining is divided into chambers by means of inner walls and arranged to contain at least one fluid.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Hard surfaces in various bath arrangements, such as for example bathtubs and pools, involve a risk for personal injuries which may occur in connection with a possible fall in such bath arrangements. This could be unfortunate, in particular for those who for different reasons cannot use common bathtubs. For the disabled and those in need of nursing it may be difficult to enter into and get out of a common bathtub.

[0003] It is the above groups which are particularly exposed to injuries when showering/bathing. This is also a problem for the nurses. It is not easy being a nurse having the responsibility for a person who for example sits on a shower chair. When the nurse keeps the person in need of nursing in place with one hand, and simultaneously uses the other hand for washing the person concerned, the risk for the occurrence of an accident is great. For the nurse it may be difficult to catch the person concerned in case of a fall, or if the person concerned slides off the shower chair, which could involve that the person concerned could risk hitting his/her head on the water tap, and hitting the shower chair, and thereafter landing hard on the floor.

[0004] If a bathtub has a soft liner layer or lining, usual personal injuries which may occur could be reduced, or even possibly be completely avoided. It will also be possible for those with a weak grip ability to “grasp” the rims of the bath apparatus, so that it becomes easier to take care of oneself with a view to personal hygiene.

PRIOR ART

[0005] U.S. Pat. No. 2,264,676 (Levine) describes an inner lining for bathtubs which divided into sections with cushion elements, the cushion elements being filled with air so that the lining becomes comfortable to sit on during bathing. The cushion elements can in one embodiment be filled with a resilient and compressible material, e.g., cotton and mohair, but in another embodiment of a spongy or blown rubber, instead of air.

[0006] Each section comprises three pockets which communicate with each other by means of a channel between each cushion element to facilitate for the section to lie flatly when inflated with air. Each cushion element is provided with a small air valve in a corner of the cushion element. The cushion elements on the bottom and on the back rest are flexibly joined by means of flexible rubber strips or bands. No fluid communication is present between the sections. The sections with cushion elements cover only the bottom and the back rest of the bathtub. The side walls consist of a flexible lining wall without cushion elements.

[0007] The invention according to U.S. Pat. No. 4,051,563 (Clarke) is a cushioned liner for a bathtub, with a cushioned back portion which is constituted by flexible water-filled cushions which are conformed to the back portion of the bathtub, and with left and right cushioned side portions which are constituted by left and right flexible water-filled cushions conformed to the side portions of the bathtub.

[0008] The liner comprises an elongate water-filled top cushion which is conformed to a top rim of the bathtub and which connects the water-filled cushions on the back portion and on the left and right side portions, passages for water between the top cushion and the top ends of the water-filled cushions on the back portion and the left and right side portions, and a water supply tube which on one end is connected to the top cushion and which on the other end is adapted for connection with the water spigot of the bathtub for filling the cushions with water.

[0009] The elongate top cushion and left and right cushions are fixedly connected for defining an open, elongate liner. At the ends of the elongate liner, there are arranged means for connecting the ends so that the liner defines a closed ring which fits into the bathtub when the ends are connected. Means for draining the cushions of water are also arranged.

[0010] The water-filled cushions does not contain resilient members. Thus, there is a danger for stepping on hard bathtub surfaces, and thus it does not represent a satisfactory solution.

[0011] Water from the water-filled cushions is drained off directly into the bathtub. If the water in the cushions remains for a while, this will be somewhat unhygienic with a view to bacterial growth and formation of biological deposits within the cushions. As opposed to the liner according to U.S. Pat. No. 4,051,563, the object of the present invention is that fluid in the lining should not come into contact with the user of the bath arrangement. This can take place, e.g., by circulating the fluid in a closed system.

[0012] U.S. Pat. No. 5,839,132 (Rooney) discloses an interior insert for a bathtub with a bath compartment having opposite side walls, end walls, a bottom and a drain opening in the bottom of the liner which can be closed.

[0013] The interior insert comprises a thin liner which is shaped for conforming to a bathing compartment of a bathtub, with opposite sidewalls, end walls and a bottom covering at least partially the bottom of the bathtub. The thin liner can be inflated and has a resilient thickness when being inflated. The outside of the liner will generally be in contact with or co-operate with the interior surface of the bath compartment of the bathtub. The liner can be comprised of a plurality of inflatable subcells which are in air communication with each other. The surface of the lining can be made of a material which provides friction for a person in the bathtub. An important object of the liner according to U.S. Pat. No. 5,839,132 is to keep the bathtub clean and be adapted to be disposable.

[0014] According to the above US patent publications, no resilient member is arranged in the compartments of the liners, which involves that it is possible to step onto the hard surfaces of the bath apparatuses with possible subsequent personal injury. The cushioning is in other words not satisfactory for use in bathtubs to be used by, e.g., persons in need of nursing and the disabled.

[0015] The liners according to the above US patents are not arranged for permanent installation, and will easily be movable against the bathtub and get displaced in relation to the surface of the bathtub in case of movement in the liner which occur when using a bathtub with such liners.

[0016] Cleaning of surfaces of the liners according to said US patents which face a user in the bathtubs cannot be performed in a satisfactory manner because the surface of the liner facing the user is uneven so that there are areas on the surfaces which may be difficult to access.

[0017] In other respects, none of the liners according to said US patents is arranged for control of the amount of fluid in the liner beyond that they either are inflatable or that they can be filled with water.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0018] With this invention there is developed a lining for hard surfaces, such as in bathtubs and pools, wherein the lining is divided into chambers by means of inner walls and adapted to contain at least one fluid. The lining can advantagously involve that at least two chambers are in fluid communication with each other and that at least one resilient member is arranged in at least one of the chambers. The lining also comprises an outer layer of a resilient material which forms the surface of the lining layer opposite said hard surfaces.

[0019] An object of the lining according to the present invention includes that the number and extent of personal injuries which may occur in the case of falls when using normal bath apparatuses has been minimized.

[0020] Another object of the invention is to provide a lining wherein the danger for holes to occur in the lining has been minimized.

[0021] A further object of the invention is that the lining is adapted for containing a controllable amount of fluid.

[0022] The invention will be described in more detail below, with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0023] FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view showing a cross section through one embodiment of a lining according to the invention, here with an external sheet. The figure also shows schematically that fluid communication between the chambers can take place via apertures in inner walls between chambers in the lining. Moreover, it is shown how fluid communication can take place in another way, for example via apertures in the walls and wih one-way valves associated in connection with the apertures.

[0024] FIG. 2 shows schematically an embodiment of the invention wherein fluid communication takes place via a channel system.

[0025] FIG. 3 shows schematically a lining according to the invention arranged in a bathtub.

[0026] FIG. 4 shows schematically a lining according to the invention arranged in a spa bathtub.

[0027] FIG. 5 shows schematically a lining according to the present invention arranged in a pool.

[0028] FIG. 6 shows schematically a lining according to the invention arranged on a floor.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0029] Reference is now made to FIG. 1, in which a cross section through a lining according to the present invention is shown. The lining is particularly adapted for arrangement on hard surfaces 2, such as in bathtubs, pools, spas or similar, but it can also be arranged, e.g., on floors in bathrooms. Moreover, the lining is divided into chambers 3 by means of inner walls 11 and adapted for containing at least one fluid 6. An inner layer 5 lies against hard surfaces 2.

[0030] The lining according to the invention includes among other things that at least two of the chambres 3 are in direct fluid communication with each other, and that at least one resilient member 7 is arranged in at least two of the chambers 3. In a preferred embodiment, at least one resilient member 7 may be arranged in each chamber 3. An advantage with such resilient elements is that a resilient resistance is obtained when the lining is exposed to an external pressure impact, e.g., from a user entering into or moving in a bathtub, without the user stepping completely onto and/or coming into contact with a hard surface in the bathtub. However, because the lining is adapted to contain at least one fluid 6, the lining will still be soft when the user comes into contact with it, so that the risk for injuries is reduced.

[0031] The resilient elements 7 appear in several different variants. At least one resilient member 7 can in one embodiment comprise a capsule 7a containing liquid, e.g., water or similar, and in a second variant a capsule 7b containing air. In a third variant, at least one resilient member comprises a capsule containing a gel. In a further embodiment, at least one resilient member may comprise a body 7d of a solid, resilient material, such as a spongy, soft polymer material, and in another further embodiment, at least one resilient member may also comprise a bag 7e with granular material, e.g., sand or similar. Naturally, other materials with similar resilient properties can be used.

[0032] According to one embodiment of the invention, the resilient members are formed of rubber mats, as an example having a thickness of 5 cm. However, it should be mentioned that said mats may have any suitable thickness.

[0033] Said resilient members can be attached to the inner side of the inner lining 5. The resilient members can also be attached in other suitable manners.

[0034] According to a second embodiment, said resilient members 7 may “float freely” within said chamber/chambers 3 in the lining. In such an embodiment, the resilient member 7 may be formed of a material or be of such a weight that these becomes weight neutral in relation to the fluid in which they are located.

[0035] Further, the resilient members 7 may be of any suitable shape.

[0036] The lining includes further an outer layer 8 of a resilient material which forms the surface of the lining opposite said hard surfaces 2, as appears from FIG. 1. The surface can advantageously be smooth with regard to cleaning of the outer layer 8 in the bathtub, because it will be easy to access to the complete surface to be cleaned. For this reason, the lining according to the invention may advantageously be used for permanent installation in bath apparatuses such as, e.g., bathtubs. Such a permanent installation of the lining can for example be designed as shown in FIG. 3. The lining can for example be moulded into, glued or in other ways be attached to an external frame 9 of aluminium, glass fibre or other suitable composite materials, acryl or other suitable polymer materials, possibly combinations of different materials, with the desired impact resistance. It is possible to arrange a sheet layer (not shown) in the interior, possibly also along the edges, in the frame 9 before the lining is arranged in the frame 9. The sheet layer can be glued onto, or in other ways be attached to the frame 9. In the case wherein the sheet layer is glued to the interior of the frame 9, the joining with the lining may further take place by heating and cooling of the frame 9 with the sheet layer and the lining for curing.

[0037] For reducing the possibility of occurrence of holes in the lining, an internal protection for the inner layer 5 and the outer layer 8 can be arranged. This can be done for example by that the outer layer 8 and the inner layer 5 is formed of a double layer of the same kind of material or by at least two different kinds of materials, such as PVC. The material preferred depends among other things of the choice of material for the bath arrangement.

[0038] The side of the inner layer 5 which faces the inner side of the frame 9, can be embedded into the frame itself when it is moulded. This solution involves that movements which create friction against the frame 9 itself are minimized, because the lining then is fastened to the frame 9 itself. This solution can be favourable, among other things because the disadvantages which may occur if, e.g., the lining is fastened in the corners 9a-9d of the bath apparatus, are avoided, as such a solution could involve that the lining may move against the frame 9 itself and get displaced in relation to the surface of the frame 9 in case of movement in the lining which takes place when a user utilises such a bathtub. However, it is completely possible to arrange corner fasteners for the lining in order to retain it in place in the frame 9, but then the frame should be completely smooth so that damages to the lining during movement relative to the frame 9 do not occur.

[0039] As shown in FIG. 1, an external sheet 10 is advantageously arranged which is made of a material which exerts friction against skin, both in a wet and a dry state, above and under water, as shown in FIG. 1. Thus, the danger of personal injuries due to falling which may occur on slippery surfaces is reduced. The external sheet 10 may for example be made of a textile, or of a resilient polymer material. A combination between textile and polymer material is also appropriate, but it is also possible to use other materials with the same or similar properties.

[0040] As mentioned above, at least two of the chambers 3 can be in direct fluid communication with each other. In this way, fluid 6 in the lining will be able to yield by circulation between at least two chambers 3, e.g., if the lining is exposed to pressure impact because the user steps onto a lining being arranged in a bathtub. As shown in FIG. 1, such fluid communication can take place through at least one wall 11 between two chambers 3 in one embodiment of the invention.

[0041] Fluid communication between the chambers 3 may readily take place via a first aperture 11a and a second aperture 11b arranged in at least one wall between the chambers 3, as shown in FIG. 1. In a preferred embodiment, a first one-way valve 12a may be arranged in connection with the first aperture 11a, which in case of an external pressure impact on the lining opens for fluid flow in a first direction, and a second one-way valve 12a may be arranged in connection with the second aperture 11b, which in case of an external impact on the lining opens for fluid flow in a second, opposite direction. This involves that fluid(s) 6 in the lining may take place faster, which leads to a more appropriate distribution of the fluid(s) 6 in the lining.

[0042] In one embodiment of the lining according to the invention, transport of fluid 6 in the lining may take place by means of a channel system 13 for fluid communication between at least two chambers 3. This principle is illustrated in FIG. 2.

[0043] Fluid(s) 6 to be used in the lining can in principle be any fluid, and include any appropriate combination of fluids, but clearly, usable fluids in preferred embodiments are primarily water, a gel or air, but combinations of these may also be used. In the case wherein the fluid 6 to be used in the lining is for example a liquid or a gel, it is not necessary to have pockets in order to retain the liquid in the sides of the lining. As an example it should be mentioned that as a rule, the mass of a user and water in a bathtub would be sufficient for the liquid to be distributed in the complete lining, also in those portions of the lining which lie against the sides of the bathtub. Chemical substances which impedes the formation of biological deposits and other kinds of scale formation within the lining may of course be added to the fluid(s) 6. A known example of this is adding algae biocide to water for avoiding formation of biological deposits.

[0044] Among other things for maintaining a suitable temperature in the bath apparatus, an appropriate circulation system which provides for circulation of the fluid(s) 6 may be arranged. Such a system may comprise required connection conduits to a forced circulation apparatus, e.g. a pump or a compressor (not shown). By means of a circulation apparatus, such as a pump, it is possible to circulate and/or replace the fluid(s) 6 as required.

[0045] A lining according to the invention can be adapted for arrangement in bathtub 16, for example as shown in FIG. 3. A bathtub with a lining according to the invention should be soft and comfortable to sit in, and may have a shape and size as a common bathtub, but also other shapes of the bathtub 16 are possible, for example circular, semicircular or circle sector shaped base, or possibly rectangular or triangular base. As mentioned above, the external portion, or frame 9, be a moulded form, and might be made of an impact resistant material, may also be a conventional bathtub. The inside of the frame 9 is attached to the portion of the lining which is convex or adapted to face the inside 2 of the frame 9. The lining contains fluid(s) 6 and resilient members which makes the bathtub soft to sit on, without coming into contact with hard surfaces 2 in the bathtub 16.

[0046] If the lining is embedded into the frame 9, the weakest part of the lining is often the part which is arranged to face the inside of the external form, or frame 9. This embodiment of the invention may be suitable as lining for spa 17. For avoiding unnecessary loads on and frictional damages to the lining, it should be attached with its inside against the frame 9 itself. At the same time, it will be necessary to provide openings through the lining in order to provide air for the spa. Air can be supplied to the spa for example through nozzles in the side walls of the spa (not shown) by means of a compressor or a pump controlled by an electrical motor, or in other appropriate ways. The amount of air which is supplied to the spa 17 can be adjustable for individual adjustment of the amount of air flow.

[0047] Reference is now made to FIG. 5, wherein a lining according to the invention is shown arranged in a pool 18. Examples of such embodiments of the invention are among other things exercise pools for convalescence purposes and for exercise of the elderly and the disabled, or pools for baby swimming. Circulation of water to the bath water in the pool 18 can also be considered, e.g., such as for swimming pools, among other things for hygienic reasons, or such as for spas, so that a massaging effect occurs on that part of the body which is immersed in the bath water of the pool 18.

[0048] The lining according to the invention may of course also be adapted for arrangement on floors, for example as shown in FIG. 6. The lining can be formed as mats 19 which is laid on a hard floor surface in a room, but there are also embodiments wherein the complete surface is covered, possibly also part of the walls of the room.

[0049] Above it is indicated that at least some of the chambers are advantageously in direct fluid communication with each other. However, it should be mentioned that each chamber may constitute a closed cell without fluid communication with the other chambers.