Title:
Portable enclosure system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Generally, a portable enclosure assembled from a first plurality of axially coupled linear segments and a second plurality of axially coupled linear segments each plurality of axially coupled linear segments having sufficient flexure to generate one of a pair of arcuate supports which can be erected on a support surface a distance apart to provide support for a flexible material having a terminal edge which engages the support surface to establish an enclosure perimeter. Specifically, a portable sports activity enclosure which supports a net having an aperture through which balls can be thrown for pitching and batting practice.



Inventors:
Morrow, William David (Fort Collins, CO, US)
Application Number:
10/876817
Publication Date:
01/12/2006
Filing Date:
06/25/2004
Assignee:
Morrow Sports, LLC
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Cr Miles P. C. (1 OLD TOWN SQUARE, SUITE 200 B, FORT COLLINS, CO, 80524, US)
Claims:
1. An enclosure, comprising: a. a first plurality of axially coupled linear segments having sufficient flexure to generate a first arcuate support; b. a second plurality of axially coupled linear segments having sufficient flexure to generate a second arcuate support; c. a length of a material coupled between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support; d. a first tension generator coupled to said to said first arcuate support; e. a second tension generator coupled to said second arcuate support, wherein said first tension generator and said second tension generator adjust to generate sufficient tension to erect said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support a distance apart on a support surface; and f. a flexible supported by said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support erected on said support surface, wherein said flexible material sufficiently engages said support surface to establish an enclosure perimeter.

2. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said first plurality of axially coupled linear segments have a length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet.

3. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said second plurality of axially coupled linear segments have a length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet.

4. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of axially coupled liner segments have a tubular configuration.

5. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein each of said plurality of axially coupled liner segments each have a length of between about two feet and about four feet.

6. An enclosure as described in claim 5, wherein said tubular configuration has a diameter of between about three quarters of and inch and about one and one half inches.

7. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said first plurality of axially coupled linear segments and said second plurality of axially coupled linear segments comprise a material selected from the group consisting of plastic, polyvinylchloride, virgin polyvinyl chloride, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, metal, aluminum, and fiberglass.

8. An enclosure as described in claim 1, further comprising an elastically tensioned coupling between said first plurality of axially coupled segments and said second plurality of axially coupled segments.

9. An enclosure as described in claim 1, further comprising a first arcuate retention line coupled to each end of said first plurality of axially coupled segments to generate said first arcuate support.

10. An enclosure as described in claim 1, further comprising a second arcuate retention line coupled to each end of said second plurality of axially coupled segments to generate said second arcuate support.

11. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said length of material coupled between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support comprises a plurality of lengths of material coupled between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support.

12. An enclosure as described in claim 11, wherein said step of coupling a plurality of lengths of material between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support comprises coupling four lengths of material between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support.

13. An enclosure as described in claim 11, wherein each of said lengths of material coupled between said first arcuate support element and said second arcuate support have a length of between about five feet and about twenty feet.

14. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said first tension generator coupled to said to said first arcuate support comprises a first plurality of tension generators coupled to said first arcuate support.

15. An enclosure as described in claim 14, wherein said first plurality of tension generators coupled to said first arcuate support comprises a first plurality of four tension generators coupled to said first arcuate support.

16. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said second tension generator coupled to said second arcuate support comprises a second plurality of tension generators coupled to said second arcuate support.

17. An enclosure as described in claim 16, wherein said second plurality of tension generators coupled to said second arcuate support comprises a second plurality of four tension generators coupled to said second support.

18. An enclosure as described in claim 1, wherein said length of material between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support, said first tension generator, and said second tension generator comprise an integral erector element.

19. An enclosure as described in claim 1, further comprising an aperture element in said flexible material through which a projectile can pass.

20. An enclosure as described in claim 19, wherein said flexible material comprises a net.

21. An enclosure as described in claim 20, wherein said projectile is selected from the group consisting of a baseball, a softball, a football, a golf ball, a tennis ball, and a soccer ball.

22. A method of generating an enclosed space, comprising the steps of: a. axially coupling a first plurality of linear segments; b. axially coupling a second plurality of linear segments; c. flexing said first plurality of axially coupled linear segments to generate a first arcuate support; d. flexing said second plurality of axially coupled linear segments to generate a second arcuate support; e. coupling a length of a material between said first arcuate support in said second arcuate support; f. coupling a first tension generator to said first arcuate support; g. coupling a second tension generator to said second arcuate support; h. adjusting tension in said first tension generator and in said second tension generator to erect said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support on a support surface; i. supporting a flexible material with said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support; and j. establishing an enclosure perimeter between said flexible material and said support surface.

23. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said step of axially coupling a first plurality of linear segments comprises axially coupling a first plurality of linear segments to generate a first linear support having a length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet.

24. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said step of axially coupling a second plurality of linear segments comprises axially coupling a second plurality of linear segments to generate a second linear support having a length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet.

25. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein each of said plurality of liner segments have a tubular configuration.

26. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein each of said liner segments have a length of between about two feet and about four feet.

27. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 26, wherein said tubular configuration has a diameter of between about three quarters of and inch and about one and one half inches.

28. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said linear segments comprise a material selected from the group consisting of plastic, polyvinylchloride, virgin polyvinyl chloride, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, metal, aluminum, and fiberglass.

29. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, further comprising the step of generating an elastically tensioned coupling between said plurality of axially coupled segments of said first support.

30. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, further comprising the step of securing each end of said first arcuate support to a corresponding end of a arcuate retention line.

31. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, further comprising the step of securing each end of said second arcuate support to a corresponding end of a arcuate retention line.

32. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said step of coupling a length of material between said first arcuate support element and said second arcuate support element comprises coupling a plurality of lengths of material between said first arcuate support element and said second arcuate support.

33. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 32, wherein said step of coupling a plurality of lengths of material between said first arcuate support and said second material arcuate support comprises coupling four lengths of material between said first arcuate support in said second arcuate support.

34. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said step of coupling a first tension generator to said first arcuate support comprises coupling a plurality of tension generators to said first arcuate support.

35. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 34, wherein said step of coupling a plurality of tension generators to said first arcuate support comprises coupling four tension generators to said first arcuate support.

36. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said step of coupling a second tension generator to said first support comprises coupling a plurality of tension generators to said second arcuate support.

37. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 36, wherein said step of coupling a plurality of tension generators to said second arcuate support comprises coupling four tension generators to said second arcuate support.

38. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said length of material coupled between said first arcuate support in and said second arcuate support, said first tension generator, and said second tension generator comprise an integral erector element.

39. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, wherein said length of material coupled between said first arcuate support and said second arcuate support has a length of between about four feet and about ten feet.

40. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 22, further comprising the step of providing an aperture element in said flexible material through which a projectile can pass.

41. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 40, wherein said flexible material comprises a net.

42. A method of generating an enclosed space as described in claim 42, wherein said projectile is selected from the group consisting of a baseball, a softball, a football, and a tennis ball.

43. An enclosure, comprising: a. a first support having a first end and a second end, wherein said first support has sufficient flexure to alter configuration between a substantially linear configuration and an arcuate configuration in which said first end of said first support and said second end of said first support each have a fixed location on a support surface; b. a second support having a first end and a second end, wherein said second support has sufficient flexure to alter configuration between a substantially linear configuration and an arcuate configuration in which said first end of said second support and said second end of said second support each have a fixed location on said support surface; c. a length of a material coupled between said first support in said arcuate configuration and said second support in said arcuate configuration; d. a first tension generator coupled to said first support in said arcuate cofiguration; e. a second tension generator coupled to said second support in said arcuate configuration, wherein said first tension generator and said second tension generator adjust to generate sufficient tension to erect said first support in said arcuate configuration and said second support in said arcuate configuration said length of said material apart on said support surface; and f. a flexible material supported by said first support in said arcuate configuration and said second support in said arcuate configuration erected on said support surface, wherein said flexible material has sufficient area to establish an enclosure perimeter between said flexible material and said support surface.

44. An enclosure as described in claim 43, wherein said substantially linear configuration of said first support has a length between said first end and said second end of about 25 feet and about 30 feet.

45. An enclosure as described in claim 44, wherein said substantially linear configuration of said first support comprises a plurality of tubular segments axially coupled each having a length of about 24 inches and about 36 inches in length.

46. An enclosure as described in claim 45, wherein said plurality of tubular segments axially coupled each having a length of about 24 inches and about 36 inches in length further comprise an elastically tensioned coupling between each of said plurality of axially coupled segments of said first support.

47. An enclosure as described in claim 46, further comprising a first circumferential groove established in said linear configuration of each said first support and said second support at the location at which said length of material couples between said first support and said second support, and wherein each said circumferential groove mates with a hook connected to said length of material to couple said length of material between said first support and said second support.

48. An enclosure as described in claim 47, further comprising: a. a pair of circumferential grooves one each established proximate to said first end and said second end of said first support, and b. a line having a first end and a second end, wherein each of said first end and said second end of said first line terminate in a hook which mates with one of said pair of circumferential grooves to generate said arcuate configuration of said first support.

49. An enclosure as described in claim 48, further comprising: a. a second pair of circumferential grooves one each established proximate to said first end and said second end of said second support, and b. a second line having a first end and a second end, wherein each of said first end and said second end of said second line terminate in a hook which mates with one of said second pair of circumferential grooves to generate said arcuate configuration of said second support.

50. An enclosure, comprising: a. a flexible material; b. an aperture element in said flexible material through which a projectile passes; c. a first support which supports said flexible material; d. a second support which supports said flexible material, wherein said first support and said second support have a sufficient flexure to alter configuration in response to impact of said projectile with said flexible material; e. a length of a material coupled between said first support and said second support; f. a first tension generator coupled to said to said first support; g. a second tension generator coupled to said second support; and

51. An enclosure as described in claim 50, wherein said sufficient flexure to alter configuration in response to impact of said projectile with said flexible material comprises sufficient flexure to alter configuration of said first support or said second support up to about 6 inches.

52. A method of establishing an enclosure, comprising the steps of: a. altering configuration of a first support from a substantially linear configuration to an arcuate configuration in which a first end of said first support and a second end of said first support each have a substantially fixed location on a support surface; b. altering configuration of a second support from a substantially linear configuration to an arcuate configuration in which a first end of said second support and a second end of said second support each have a substantially fixed location on a support surface; c. coupling a length of material between said first support in said arcuate configuration and said second support in said arcuate configuration; d. adjusting a first tension generator coupled to said first support in said arcuate configuration; e. adjusting a second tension generator coupled to said second support in said arcuate configuration, wherein adjusting said first tension generator and said second tension generator generates sufficient tension in said first tension generator and said second tension generator to erect said first support and said second support; and f. supporting a flexible material with said first support and said second support to establish an enclosure perimeter between said flexible material and said support surface.

53. A method of establishing an enclosure as described in claim 52, wherein said substantially linear configuration of said first support has a length between said first end and said second end of about 25 feet and about 30 feet.

54. A method of establishing an enclosure as described in claim 53, wherein said substantially linear configuration of said first support comprises a plurality of tubular segments axially coupled each having a length of about 24 inches and about 36 inches in length.

55. A method of establishing an enclosure as described in claim 54, wherein said plurality of tubular segments axially coupled each having a length of about 24 inches and about 36 inches in length further comprise an elastically tensioned coupling between each of said plurality of axially coupled segments of said first support.

56. A method of establishing an enclosure, comprising the steps of: a. establishing an aperture element in a flexible material through which a projectile can pass; b. supporting said flexible material having said aperture element through which said projectile can pass on a first support and a second support; c. altering configuration of said first support and said second support in response to impact of said projectile with said flexible material; d. coupling said first support to said second support with a length of material; e. adjusting a first tension generator connected to said first support; and f. adjusting a second tension generator connected to said second support, wherein said steps of adjusting said first tension generator and said second tension generator maintains said first support and said second support erect.

57. A method of establishing an enclosure as described in claim 56, wherein said step of altering configuration of said first support and said second support in response to impact of said projectile with said flexible material comprises flexing said first support between about one half inch and about three inches.

Description:

Generally, a portable enclosure assembled from a first plurality of axially coupled linear segments and a second plurality of axially coupled linear segments each plurality of axially coupled linear segments having sufficient flexure to generate one of a pair of arcuate supports which can be erected on a support surface a distance apart to provide support for a flexible material having a terminal edge which engages the support surface to establish an enclosure perimeter. Specifically, a portable sports activity enclosure which supports a net having an aperture through which balls can be thrown for pitching and batting practice.

I. BACKGROUND

Hit all the balls and run after them. Hit all the balls and run after them. Repeat the process until you have lost all the balls! Stop spending the same amount of time running after the balls as you do hitting them! The answer, a portable enclosure system for sports activities stored in a single case which can be carried to and assembled at a sports venue by a single person.

Temporary structures having a frame which supports a fabric material have been available for many years and include, for example, lawn tents, beach tents, camping tents, and batting cages. There is a large commercial market for temporary structures because permanent structures cannot be built for every form of transient event, to accommodate activities that have great variation in the number of participants, or activities which occur in remote locations.

Even though numerous types and kinds of temporary structures exist and even though there is a large commercial market for temporary structures, there remain significant unresolved problems with conventional temporary structures.

One significant problem with conventional temporary structures can be that they may not provide a completely enclosed space as disclosed by U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,577,721; 4,733,865; and 5,040,791. Because these conventional temporary structures do not establish an substantially enclosed perimeter, they may not protect persons inside the enclosure from various objects which may be thrown or hit such as baseballs or flying insects such as mosquitoes. Alternately, when used for applications such as a batting cage, conventional temporary structures may not protect persons outside the structure from balls hit from within the structure.

Another significant problem with conventional temporary structures can be that the erected structure provides a rigid frame which has little or no flexure upon impact by a person or object. As disclosed by U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,370,385 and 6,655,491, conventional frames for temporary structures may be made from inflexible sections of tubular pipe. Rigid structures, especially when used for applications such as batting cages, can deflect thrown or hit balls toward the hitter. To overcome this problem, the space enclosed by a conventional rigid structure may have a larger configuration place the hitter a substantial distance from the structure walls. Alternately, the frame or walls of conventional temporary structures may provide padded walls to absorb the impact energy of thrown or hit balls.

Another significant problem with convention temporary structures can be that the frame does not collapse, break down, or disassemble into components which can be readily transported. As disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 5,370,385 “portable” means “transported by a small van or pickup truck”, or as disclosed by U.S. Pat. No. 6,559,491 portable means “large wheels” to allow movement. However, none of these conventional temporary structures provide disassembled components that can be placed in a single case and carried by a person on foot.

Yet, another significant problem with conventional temporary structures can be that the frames are assembled from numerous and varied shaped components as disclosed for example by U.S. Pat. No. 5,820,494 which has a mid-frame of six feet in length, an upper leg which is four and one-half foot, mid-frame elbows, and a beam. These types of conventional temporary structures may be difficult to package into a small volume for transport, take additional time to set up, and may be expensive to manufacture.

The portable enclosure system invention described below addresses each of the above-described problems of conventional temporary structures.

II. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, a broad object of the invention can be to provide a portable enclosure system which provides an enclosed space with a closed or substantially closed perimeter. One aspect of this objective of the invention is to provide protection to persons within the enclosure from objects or environmental conditions external to the enclosed space such as rain, sun, wind, insects, sports objects (such as baseballs, softballs, soccer balls, footballs, golf balls, flying disks, or the like). Another aspect of this object of the invention can be to retain objects within the enclosed space from traveling beyond the closed or substantially closed perimeter. In this respect, the enclosure can be used as a sports training enclosure for the practice of hitting baseballs, softballs, tennis balls, golf balls, or the like.

Anther broad object of the invention can be to provide a portable enclosure system having a resiliently flexible support frame. While conventional wisdom has taught away from this object of the invention, a resiliently flexible support frame provides many unexpected benefits that rigid frame construction cannot. One benefit of a resiliently flexible support frame can be less damage to the frame upon impact with persons or projectiles. Another benefit of a resiliently flexible support frame can be less weight as compared to conventional rigid frames. An additional benefit of a resiliently flexible support frame can be that components can have a first configuration when assembled and a second different configuration when disassembled. The alternate configurations can allow storage of disassembled components in a reduced volume as compared to conventional rigid frames. Another important benefit of a resiliently flexible support frame can be a sufficient flexure in the assembled portable enclosure system to substantially absorb all the impact energy of objects thrown into or hit within the portable enclosure system. For example, baseballs hit within the portable enclosure system can have substantially reduced deflection or rebound from the frame or from the flexible material supported by the frame as compared to conventional temporary structures.

Another broad object of the invention can be to provide a “portable” enclosure system. In accordance with the invention, portable means disassembling the portable enclosure and placing or packaging all the disassembled components into a single case which can be transported by a single person without the use of wheels or other mechanical devices to assist in supporting the weight of the disassembled enclosure system. As to certain embodiments of the invention, “portable” can mean an arcuate support which disassembles into a plurality of substantially linear segments having a length not greater than 36 inches and a diameter of not greater than one and one-half inches.

Yet another broad object of the invention can be to provide a portable enclosure system which provides a plurality of linear segments of not greater than 36 inches in length from which the enclosure frame assembles without use of additional discreet hardware.

Naturally, further goals and objects of the invention are disclosed throughout other areas of the specification, drawings, photographs, and claims.

III. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A provides a side view of the arcuate supports erected in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1B provides an end view of the arcuate supports erected in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1C provides a top view of the arcuate supports erected in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1D provides a front view of a arcuate retention line which connects between the first end and the second end of an arcuate support in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1E shows an integral erector element in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1F shows an embodiment of integral erector element having hook which mates with a circumferential groove of an arcuate support.

FIGS. 2A through 2D show various linear segments in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2E shows a plurality of linear segments assembled into a linear configuration of a preferred embodiment of an arcuate support.

FIG. 2F shows a preferred embodiment of an elastically tensioned coupler.

FIG. 2G illustrates the manner of coupling a pair of linear segments.

FIG. 2H shows an enlarged view of the end of a preferred embodiment of the linear support configuration of a preferred embodiment of the invention having a circumferential groove which mates with the terminal hook of the arcuate retention line.

FIG. 2I provides a cross section view A-A of a preferred embodiment of a tubular linear segment shown by FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3A shows a side view of an embodiment of the invention having a net supported by arcuate supports.

FIG. 3B shows a top view of an embodiment of the invention having a net supported by arcuate supports.

FIG. 3C shows an end view of an embodiment of the invention having a net supported by arcuate supports with an aperture element configured for a batting cage.

FIG. 3D shows an enlargement of the terminal edge of a preferred embodiment the net supprted by arcuate supports having a band which gathers the edge of the net to configure the net to the arcuate supports and engage the support surface to generate an enclosure perimeter.

FIGS. 4A through 4D show kit from which a preferred embodiment of the portable enclosure invention can be assembled.

FIG. 4A shows an embodiment of a plurality of liner segments having an elastically tensioned coupling which allows the linear segments to fold for storage.

FIG. 4B shows an embodiment of a flexible material folded for storage.

FIG. 4C shows an embodiment of the integral erector elements.

FIG. 4D shows an embodiment of the arcuate retention lines

FIG. 4E shows an embodiment of a case which holds the folded linear segments, the flexible material, and the integral erector element.

IV. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A portable enclosure system erected on a support surface from a pair of arcuate supports which supports a flexible material having sufficient surface area to engage the support surface to establish an enclosure perimeter.

Now referring primarily to FIG. 1, a first arcuate support (1) and a second arcuate support (2), or more arcuate supports as desired, can be located on a support surface (3) a distance apart. As shown by FIGS. 1A, 1B, and 1C, a preferred non-limiting embodiment of the invention disposes the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in substantially parallel opposition between about eight feet to about ten feet apart. As to other embodiments of the invention, the distance between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) could be between five feet and fifteen feet apart or multiples thereof depending on the number of arcuate supports erected on the support surface (3). The arcuate supports can also be established on the support surface (3) in non-parallel opposition to generate enclosed space of numerous and varied configurations.

As shown by FIG. 1, a preferred non-limiting embodiment of the invention can provide the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in substantially semi-circular configuration each having a radius of between about five feet and about ten feet. The term arcuate, however, is not intended to limit the invention to substantially semi-circular configurations of the arcuate support. Rather, the term arcuate is intended to broadly encompass the numerous arc shaped or bow shaped configurations which can be formed by molding, forming, machining, or by the flexure of various materials from a substantially linear configuration.

The first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) can be produced from a variety of materials including, but not limited to plastic, such as polyvinylchloride, virgin polyvinylchloride, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or the like; expanded or blown crosslinked polymers; various types of metal such as aluminum; and composite materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, or the like.

Now referring to FIG. 1D, certain embodiments of the invention can further include a first arcuate retention line (4) coupled between the first end (5) and the second end (6) of the first arcuate support (1). Similarly, a second arcuate retention line (7) can be coupled between the first end (8) and the second end (9) of the second arcuate support (2). The first arcuate retention line (4) and the second arcuate retention line (7) can be made from any material sufficiently strong to maintain the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in the desired arcuate configuration. As such, the first arcuate retention line (4) and the second arcuate retention line (7) can be produced from braided or twisted steel strands; a rope; a cord; braided or twisted carbon fiber; plasic fiber, such as, nylon or polypropelene, or the like. The ends (5)(6) of the first arcuate retention line (4) and the ends (8)(9) of the second arcuate retention line (7) can terminate in terminal connectors (10) removably securable to the first end (5) and the second end (6) of the first arcuate support (1) and the first end (8) and the second end (9) of the second arcuate support (2), such as the hooks shown by FIG. 1D. The hooks can be configured to mate with a circumferential groove (11) in the corresponding arcuate support as shown by FIG. 1D. The hooks can further provide a resiliently flexible configuration which allows the ring portion of the hook to spread sufficiently to accept the diameter of the circumferential groove (11) and to close providing circumferential engagement of the ring portion with the circumferential groove (11). Removal of the hook requires a sufficient level of effort to spread the ring portion sufficiently to be drawn over the diameter of the circumferential groove (11).

Again referring primarily to FIG. 1, the distance established between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) on the support surface (3) can be limited by coupling one or more length(s) of material (12) between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). The term length of material (12) is meant to broadly encompasses any type of cord, line, cloth, web, strap, bungee, rope, or the like, which can be connected between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). In a preferred embodiment of the invention as shown primarily by FIG. 1E, the length of material (12) can be a length of rope, cord, or line. The length of material (12) can further include a pair of connectors (13)(14) such as the hooks shown in FIG. 1E each removably attachable to a corresponding one of the arcuate supports (1)(2). The hooks can be configured to mate with a circumferential groove (15) in the corresponding arcuate support as shown by FIG. 1F and as discussed above. As to certain embodiments of the invention, a plurality of lengths of material can be coupled between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). In the preferred non-limiting embodiment of the invention shown by FIG. 1, four lengths of material (12) can coupled between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2).

The invention can further include one or more first tension generator(s) (16) coupled to the first arcuate support (1) and one or more second tension generator(s) (17) coupled to the second arcuate support (2). By substantially fixing the position of the first ends (5)(8) and the second ends (6)(9) of each arcuate support (1)(2) on the support surface (3), tension generated in the first tension generator(s) (17) and tension generated in the second tension generator(s) (17) can be used to establish and maintain the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in an erect position a distance apart, as shown by FIGS. 1 and 3.

In the non-limiting embodiment of the invention shown by FIG. 1, the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) can be erected in substantially parallel opposition a distance apart with the circumference of each arcuate support substantially perpendicular to the support surface (3). Understandably, the first arcuate support (1) or the second arcuate support (2), or both, can be erected at any desired angle between the plane of the support surface (3) and perpendicular to the plane of the support surface (3).

As to certain embodiments of the invention, the first end(s) (18) of the first tension generator(s) (16) can be coupled to the first arcuate support (1) and the second end(s) (19) of the first tension generator(s) (16) can be secured at a location(s) (20) on the support surface (3). Similarly, the first end (21) of the second tension generator(s) (17) can be coupled to the second arcuate support (2) and the second end(s) (22) of the second tension generator(s) (17) can be secured at a location(s) (23) on the support surface (3). Adjustment of the length of the first tension generator(s) (16) or the length of the second tension generator(s) (17), or both, between the respective first and second secured ends can generate sufficient tension or tautness in the first tension generator(s) (16), the second tension generator(s) (17), and the length(s) of material (12) coupled between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) to establish the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in the desired erect configuration.

With respect to certain alternate embodiments of the invention, the first end(s) (18) of the first tension generator(s) (16) can be coupled to the first arcuate support (1) and the second end(s) (20) of the first tension generator(s) (16) can be secured to the support surface (3). Then the first end(s) (21) of the second tension generator(s) (17) can be coupled to the second arcuate support (2) and the second end(s) (22) of the second tension generator(s) (17) secured at a location on the support surface (3) which can without adjusting the length of the tension generators result in sufficient tension or tautness in each of the first tension generator (16); the length(s) of material (12) between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2); and the second tension generator (17), to establish the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) in the desired erect configuration.

As to other embodiments of the invention, the first tension generator (16) can include a first plurality of tension generators (16). The first ends (18) of each of the first plurality of tension generators (16) can be coupled to the first arcuate support (1). The second ends (19) of first plurality of tension generators (16) can be secured to the support surface (3) at separate locations or secured to the support surface (3) in pairs as shown by FIG. 1, or otherwise.

Similarly, the second tension generator element (17) can include a second plurality of tension generators (17). The first ends (21) of each of the second plurality of tension generators (17) can be coupled to the second arcuate support (2). The second ends (23) of the second plurality of tension generators (17) can be secured to the support surface (3) at separate locations or secured to the support surface (3) in pairs as shown by FIG. 1, or otherwise.

As to the preferred embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1, the first plurality of tension generators (16) can include four cords or lines. The first ends (18) of each cord or line can be coupled to the first arcuate support (1) at four separate locations on the circumference. The second end (19) of each cord or line can be secured to the support surface (3) at individual locations or secured in pairs to the support surface (3), or otherwise depending on the application. Similarly, the second plurality of tension generators (17) can include four cords or lines. The first end (21) of each cord or line can be coupled to the second arcuate support (2) at four separate locations on the circumference. The second end (22) of each cord or line can be secured at separate locations on the support surface (3) or in pairs to the support surface (3), or otherwise depending on the application.

Specifically referring to FIG. 1E, as to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the length of material (12) can be made integral with the first tension generator (16) and the second tension generator (17) as a single integral erector element (24). As shown by FIG. 1E, the single integral erector element (24) can provide a first connector (13) which attaches at a location on the first arcuate support (1) and can provide a second connector (14) which attaches at a location on the second arcuate support (2). The first connector (13) and the second connector (14) can each be a hook as shown by FIG. 1E (which can have a resiliently flexible ring as discussed above), or alternately could be any of a numerous and varied group of connectors such as a mated hook and loop, Velcro®, snaps, or other types or kinds of removably securable fasteners. The first end (20) and the second end (22) of the single integral erector element (24) can provide securement means (25)(26) to allow the ends (20) (22) to each be fixed at a location on the support surface (3), or other location. The securement means (25)(26) without limitation can be a loop as shown by FIG. 1E secured to a fixed a stake, pin, or post as shown by FIG. 1G driven into the support surface (3); or could be a piece of hardware such as an eyelet, hook secured to a stake, pin, or post driven into the support surface (3); or the securement means (25)(26) could be an integral terminal stake, pin, post, or the like which can be driven into the support surface.

Again referring primarily to FIG. 1, to erect a preferred embodiment of the invention, the first connector (13) of the integral erector element (24) can be connected to the first arcuate support (1) and the second connector (14) of the integral erector element (24) can be connected to the second material support (2). This process can be repeated for each additional integral erector element (24). The securement means (25) of the first end (19) of the integral erector element (24) can be fixed at a first location (20) on the support surface (3). The second end (22) of the integral erector element (24) can be fixed at a second location (23) on the support surface (3). As the second end (20) of the integral erector element (24) is brought to the second location (23) on the support surface (3), the integral erector element (24, or plurality of integral erector elements, becomes taut and draws the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) into the desired erect configuration. As to those embodiments of the invention in which the first tension generator (16) or the second tension generator (17) can be adjusted in length, the length can be adjusted to generate the desired amount of tension or tautness.

Now referring primarily to FIG. 2, a non-limiting preferred embodiment of an arcuate support, such as the first arcuate support (1) or the second arcuate support (2) can be generated by axially coupling various types of linear segments (28) as shown by FIGS. 2A-2D. As can be understood, from FIG. 2I, Cross Section A-A, the body (29) of a linear segment (28) can be of substantially circular tubular configuration with an outside diameter of about three quarters inch to about one and one half inches and having a wall thickness of between about one-sixteenth inch and about one eighth inch. However, it is to be understood that the embodiments of the liner segment (28) shown in FIG. 2 are not intended be limiting with respect to the numerous and varied configurations of material that can be utilized as linear segments (28) to generate arcuate supports, such as the first arcuate support (1) or the second arcuate support (2). The linear segments (28) can be of any desired geometry, such as, oval, rectangular, square, triangular, trapezoid, L-shaped, or the like. Also, the linear segments (28) do not have to be of tubular configuration as shown by FIG. 2, and alternately, can be solid, semi-solid, perforated, cellular, hollow, or the like.

A linear segment coupler (30) allows a plurality of the linear segments (28), whether the non-limiting embodiments shown in FIG. 2, or other embodiments as discussed above, or equivalents, to be coupled to generate a liner configuration (31) of various embodiments of arcuate supports (1)(2), such as the non-limiting example shown by FIG. 2E. In assembling the plurality of liner segments (28), various embodiments of the liner segments (28) can be selected to generate the various embodiments of the linear configuration (31) of the arcuate support (1)(2) desired. A preferred embodiment of the invention is shown by FIG. 2E in which, from left to right, a first linear segment (32) of the embodiment shown by FIG. 2B provides a circumferential groove (11) as shown by FIG. 2H for attachment of the arcuate retention line (4) to the ends (5)(6) the first arcuate support (1), above-described. A second linear segment (33) of the embodiment shown by FIG. 2A can be coupled, or slidely engaged as to preferred embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2, with the first linear segment (32). A third linear segment (34) as shown by FIG. 2D can be coupled or slidely engaged to provide a circumferential groove (15) as shown by FIG. 2G for attachment of a connector (13) or (14) of the length of material (12) or integral erector element (24) between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). Assembly of the linear configuration of a preferred embodiment of the material support ( ) continues by coupling or slidely engaging additional linear segments in the order shown by FIG. 2E, or otherwise as desired, until the linear configuration (31) of the arcuate support (1) or (2) is complete. A first plurality of axially coupled linear segments (28) in the linear configuration (31) from which the first arcuate support (I) can be generated can have length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet. A second plurality of axially coupled linear segments (28) in the linear configuration (31) from which the second arcuate support (2) can be generated can also have a length of between about 15 feet and about 35 feet.

After assembly of the first and second plurality of liner segments (28) to generate the corresponding linear configurations (3) of the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2), the linear configurations (31) of the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) can have sufficient flexure to generate the corresponding arcuate supports (1)(2) by reduction of the distance between the two opposing ends (5)(6) or (8)(9) of the linear configuration (31).

The various embodiments of the linear segments (28) can be produced from a variety of materials including, but not limited to various types of plastic, such as polyvinylchloride, virgin polyvinylchloride, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or the like; expanded crosslinked polymers; or composite materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, or the like.

Now referring specifically to FIG. 2F, the invention can further include an elastically tensioned coupler (35). The elastically tensioned coupler (35) provides elastically tensioned engagement between two or more linear segments (28). A non-limiting preferred embodiment of an elastically tension coupler (35) as shown by FIG. 2F provides a length of elastic cord (36) which traverses the hollow (37) inside of the linear configuration (31) of the arcuate support(s) (1)(2) and is secured at each end of the linear configuration (31) to generate a desired level tension or tautness in the elastic cord (36).

The level of elastic tension in the elastic cord (36) can be sufficient to engage or assist in engagement of the linear segment coupler(s) (30) to generate the linear configuration (31) of the arcuate support(s) (1)(2). The level of elastic tension can also maintain or assist in maintaining the linear configuration (31) of the arcuate support(s) (1)(2). The elastically tensioned coupler (35) of this preferred embodiment can allow sufficient travel of the liner segments (28) for disengagement of the linear segment coupler(s) (30). Upon disengagement, the linear segments (28) can be folded as shown by FIG. 4 without removal of the elastic cord (36). As to other embodiments of the invention, one or more elastic bands, or other elastic material, can be coupled to the exterior surface of the linear segments (28) to elastically tension the linear segment couplers (35).

Now referring primarily to FIG. 3, which shows a non-limiting preferred embodiment of the invention, a flexible material (38) can be supported on the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) after the arcuate supports (1)(2) are erected on the support surface (3). The flexible material (38) can be a net as shown by FIG. 3 in which the net has sufficient area to engage the support surface (2) to establish an enclosure perimeter (39).

However, it is to be understood that FIG. 3 is not intended to be limiting with respect to the numerous and varied types, kinds, and configurations of flexible material(s) (38) that can be supported on the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) or a plurality of arucate supports which can be erected, as above-discussed. As illustrative examples, the net shown by FIG. 3 can be generated from a variety of materials such as nylon, polyethylene, polypropelene, polyester, acrylic, metal strands, cotton fiber, Gore-Tex®, or the like, separately or in various combinations or permutations. The net made from these various materials, and others, can also be coated with a layer of a second material, such as vinyl, latex, or rubber. The net can have apertures from about 0.25 millimeter to about 50 millimeters depending on the application. The apertures can be of various geometry, such as, square, rectangular, hexagonal, diamond, or the like. Similarly, the flexible material (38) shown by FIG. 3 could be a mesh or a web. Alternately, the flexible material (3) can be a plastic sheeting; a woven sheeting made from cotton, nylon, acrylic, polypropelene, polyester, polyethylene, or the like, (separately or in various combinations or permutations), such as canvas.

The flexible material (38) can have sufficient area to engage the support surface (3) to generate an enclosure perimeter (39), as shown by FIG. 3 or can have an area configured to be supported by a portion of the circumference of the arcuate supports (1)(2), depending on the application. For example, for those applications in which the portable enclosure system is utilized to protect persons from flying insects, the flexible material (38) may be a mesh or net having a square aperture with each side of the aperture between about 0.25 millimeters and about 0.50 millimeters with an area of sufficient size to substantially engage the support surface (3) to establish a perimeter enclosure (39). As to certain alternate embodiments of the invention utilized to shade persons from sunlight, the flexible material (38) can be a continuous non-perforated sheet having sufficient size to provide the desired shaded area on the support surface (3).

Again referring primarily to FIG. 3, a preferred embodiment of the portable enclosure system utilized to facilitate baseball practice can further include an aperture element (40) in the flexible material (38) through which a baseball (41) can pass. The flexible material (38) can be a net, or other flexible material (38), having perforations (42) through which the baseball (41) cannot pass. As such, a baseball passing through the aperture element (40) can be contained within the enclosure perimeter (39) established by net (38) engaging the support surface (3). A preferred embodiment of the invention as shown by FIG. 3, can provide an aperture element having an open area of about 30 inches to about 36 inches wide and about 72 inches to about 96 inches in height.

This application of the portable enclosure can provide pitching practice in which a pitcher (43) throws the baseball (41) through the aperture element (40) and the majority of baseballs collect within the enclosure perimeter (39). This application of the portable enclosure as a batting cage can further provide batting practice in which a batter (44) located inside the portable enclosure attempts to hit baseballs (41) that pass through the aperture element (40). Of course, the pitcher (43) and the batter (44) could simultaneously utilize the enclosure for baseball practice together.

As to certain embodiments of the invention utilized as a batting cage, the aperture element (40) can be adjusted in size and location on the flexible material (38) to provide a target for the hitter. The surface of the flexible material (38) facing the inside of the enclosed space can have further target zones applied for training purposes. The target zones can be color(s) applied to the surface of the flexible material (38) or other perceivable sensorial indicia to which the batter (44) can direct baseballs (41). Similarly, the aperture element (40) can be adjusted in size or location to practice throwing and hitting of softballs. As to other embodiments of the invention, the aperture element (40) can be adjusted in size or location to facilitate the practice of throwing or receiving footballs, hitting tennis balls or golf balls, or kicking soccer balls, or the like.

The flexible material (38) can further include a terminal band (45) secured to the edge of the flexible material (38) proximate to the support surface (3). The edge of the flexible material (38) can be gathered and secured by the terminal band (45) in a manner which conforms a planar flexible material (38) to the configuration, or a portion of the configuration, of the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). The terminal band (45) can also establish the enclosure perimeter (39) by engaging or being proximate to the support surface (3).

Again referring primarily to FIG. 3, certain embodiments of the invention provide a first support (whether arcuate or otherwise) and a second support (whether arcuate or otherwise) which have sufficient resilient flexure (46) in the erected configuration to alter configuration in response to impact of a baseball (41) or other projectile. The amount of resilient flexure (46) in response to the impact of the baseball (41) or other projectile can be sufficient to substantially reduce or eliminate rebound of the baseball (41) or other projectile from the flexible material (38). In a preferred non-limiting embodiment of the invention, the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) can have resilient flexure (46) of up to six inches in response to impact of a baseball (41) with the flexible material (38).

Now referring primarily to FIG. 4, a kit (47) to generate an portable enclosure in accordance with the invention can include a first and second plurality of linear segments (28) having elastically tensioned couplers (35) such as shown by FIG. 2F from which the linear configurations (31) of the first material support (1) and the second material support (2) can be generated. The first and second plurality of linear segments (28) can be of the tubular configurations shown by FIGS. 2A-2D each having a length of between about 24 inches and about 36 inches and an outside diameter of between about one inch and one and one-half inches and a wall thickness of between about three thirty seconds of an inch to about three sixteenths of an inch. The linear segments (28) of the linear configurations (31) of the first material support (1) and the second material support (2) can be disassembled and folded as shown by FIG. 4 A without removing the elastic cord (36) which runs within the hollow (37) of the linear segments (28). The fold configuration (48) of the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2) can then be placed inside, stored or transported in a case (49)(such as the case shown by FIG. 4D) which can be between about 30 inches and about 40 inches in length and can have a diameter of between about 10 inches and about 20 inches. The case (49) can be made of a substantially rigid or flexible construction with a non-limiting preferred embodiment of the invention made from a flexible woven material with a zipper, hook and mated loop, or other closure (50).

The kit (47) to generate a portable enclosure in accordance with the invention can further include a pair of arcuate retention lines (4)(5) which can be placed inside, stored or transported in the case (49).

The kit (47) to generate a portable enclosure in accordance with the invention can further include four integral erector elements (24) as shown by FIGS. 1 E and 4 C; or other embodiments of the first tension generator element (16), the second tension generator element (17), and the length of material (12) which couples between the first arcuate support (1) and the second arcuate support (2). The four integral erector elements (24) (or other tensioning elements) can also be placed inside, stored or transported in the case (49).

The kit (47) to generate a portable enclosure in accordance with the invention can further include an amount of flexible material (38) configured for the particular enclosure application as shown by FIG. 4B. For example, if the application for the enclosure is a batting cage, the flexible material (38) can be a net as above-described having sufficient area to engage or be sufficiently proximate to the support surface (3) to generate an enclosure perimeter (39).

The particular embodiments, elements or steps of the invention disclosed by the description or shown in the figures accompanying this application are not intended to be limiting, but rather exemplary of the numerous and varied embodiments of the portable enclosure system generically encompassed by the invention or equivalents thereof. In addition, the specific description of a single embodiment or element of the invention may not explicitly describe all embodiments or elements possible; many alternatives are implicitly disclosed by the description and figure.

It should also be understood that each element of an apparatus or each step of a method may be described by an apparatus term or method term. Such terms can be substituted where desired to make explicit the implicitly broad coverage to which this invention is entitled. As but one example, it should be understood that all steps of a method may be disclosed as an action, a means for taking that action, or as an element which causes that action. Similarly, each element of an apparatus may be disclosed as the physical element or the action which that physical element facilitates. As but one example, the disclosure of an “enclosure” should be understood to encompass disclosure of the act of “enclosing”—whether explicitly discussed or not—and, conversely, were there effectively disclosure of the act of “enclosing”, such a disclosure should be understood to encompass disclosure of an “enclosure” and even a “means for enclosing”. Such alternative terms for each element or step are to be understood to be explicitly included in the description.

In addition, as to each term used it should be understood that unless its utilization in this application is inconsistent with such interpretation, common dictionary definitions should be understood to included in the description for each term as contained in the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, second edition, each definition hereby incorporated by reference.

Thus, the applicant(s) should be understood to claim at least: i) each of the portable enclosure systems herein disclosed and described, ii) the related methods disclosed and described, iii) similar, equivalent, and even implicit variations of each of these devices and methods, iv) those alternative embodiments which accomplish each of the functions shown, disclosed, or described, v) those alternative designs and methods which accomplish each of the functions shown as are implicit to accomplish that which is disclosed and described, vi) each feature, component, and step shown as separate and independent inventions, vii) the applications enhanced by the various systems or components disclosed, viii) the resulting products produced by such systems or components, ix) methods and apparatuses substantially as described hereinbefore and with reference to any of the accompanying examples, x) the various combinations and permutations of each of the previous elements disclosed.

The claims set forth in this specification are hereby incorporated by reference as part of this description of the invention, and the applicant expressly reserves the right to use all of or a portion of such incorporated content of such claims as additional description to support any of or all of the claims or any element or component thereof, and the applicant further expressly reserves the right to move any portion of or all of the incorporated content of such claims or any element or component thereof from the description into the claims or vice-versa as necessary to define the matter for which protection is sought by this application or by any subsequent continuation, division, or continuation-in-part application thereof, or to obtain any benefit of, reduction in fees pursuant to, or to comply with the patent laws, rules, or regulations of any country or treaty, and such content incorporated by reference shall survive during the entire pendency of this application including any subsequent continuation, division, or continuation-in-part application thereof or any reissue or extension thereon.

The claims set forth below are intended describe the metes and bounds of a limited number of the preferred embodiments of the invention and are not to be construed as the broadest embodiment of the invention or a complete listing of embodiments of the invention that may be claimed. The applicant does not waive any right to develop further claims based upon the description set forth above as a part of any continuation, division, or continuation-in-part, or similar application.





 
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