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Title:
Facial Spacer Device and Associated Methods
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention provides systems and methods for decreasing breath condensation on a facial garment or covering. In one aspect, for example, a system for creating a breathing space between a facial covering and a subject's mouth and nose can include a facial covering operable to at least partially encircle at least a portion of a subject's head and/or neck and a facial spacer operable to be removably positioned between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose. The facial spacer is free to move relative to the facial covering when the facial covering is in position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose.


Inventors:
Fairbanks, Cody (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Application Number:
12/489967
Publication Date:
12/23/2010
Filing Date:
06/23/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41D27/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THORPE NORTH & WESTERN, LLP. (P.O. Box 1219, SANDY, UT, 84091-1219, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for creating a breathing space between a facial covering and a subject's mouth and nose, comprising: a facial covering operable to at least partially encircle at least a portion of a subject's head and/or neck; and a facial spacer operable to be removably positioned between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose, wherein the facial spacer is free to move relative to the facial covering when the facial covering is in position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose and while the spacer is positioned between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial spacer is removable from between the facial covering and the subject while the facial covering remains on the subject.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial spacer is collapsible when removed from between the facial covering and the subject.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein the facial spacer is laterally collapsible.

5. The system of claim 3, wherein the facial spacer is made from a collapsible material.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein the collapsible material includes a member selected from the group consisting of polymeric compounds, natural rubbers, synthetic rubbers, thermoplastic elastomers, and combinations thereof.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the collapsible material includes a member selected from the group consisting of silicone, chloroprene polymers, thermoplastic polyurethanes, and combinations thereof.

8. The system of claim 6, wherein the collapsible material is a thermoplastic polyurethane.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial spacer includes a plurality of breathing ports disposed therein.

10. The system of claim 9, wherein at least a portion of the plurality of breathing ports is oriented substantially orthogonally to an axis running dorsally to ventrally through the subject's head.

11. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial covering includes a neck covering portion.

12. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial covering is operable to fully encircle at least a portion of the subject's head and/or neck.

13. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial spacer has a structural configuration such that, when positioned over the mouth and nose, a space is created between the subject's chin and the facial spacer sufficient to allow the chin to move without contacting the facial spacer.

14. The system of claim 1, wherein the facial spacer has a peripheral supporting wall operable to support the facial covering away from the mouth and nose, and wherein the facial spacer is substantially open proximal to the peripheral supporting wall.

15. A method of reducing breath condensation on a facial covering, comprising: pulling a facial covering away from a contact position with a subject's mouth and/or nose; and inserting a removable facial spacer between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose, wherein the facial spacer maintains the facial covering in position away from the subject's mouth and nose.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the facial spacer is held in a position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose by pressure applied by the facial covering.

17. The method of claim 15, further comprising removing the facial spacer from between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose to allow the facial covering to return to the contact position.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising collapsing the facial spacer to reduce the effective volume of the facial spacer for storage.

19. A method of reducing breath condensation on a facial covering, comprising: observing breath condensation on a facial covering adjacent a subject's mouth and nose; pulling the facial covering away from a contact position with the subject's mouth and/or nose; inserting a facial spacer between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose, wherein the facial spacer maintains the facial covering in position away from the subject's mouth and nose; observing a reduction in the breath condensation on the facial covering; removing the facial spacer from between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose to allow the facial covering to return to the contact position; and collapsing the facial spacer to reduce the effective volume of the facial spacer for storage.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to face coverings and devices and methods associated therewith.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional cold weather face masks, neck garments, and the like, have been used for some time to protect users from cold environments. While some such articles provide a comfortable fit, others can be cumbersome and restrictive, particularly when used in cold environments. In some cases, such has been accomplished by wrapping the face and head with various materials. In some cases, holes have been added to facilitate breathing. Such wrapping can provide some protection from the cold, but can also facilitate breath condensation forming around the mouth and nose. Breath condensation tends to make a user feel cold and uncomfortable, and can in some cases restrict breathing and speech.

Specific types of head/neck wrappings that are common at ski resorts include balaclavas and neck garments, also known as “neck gators.” These devices are designed to be positioned over a user's face and neck in order to provide some protection from the cold. Unlike traditional ski masks, balaclavas and neck garments can be pulled down off the face and under the chin as temperatures increase. Similarly, as temperatures decrease, these garments can be pulled back up over the face as protection from the cold. As many of these garments are designed to elastically fit to the face and neck, moisture from exhaled air can penetrate the material and freeze, leaving the frozen or moist garment wrapped tightly around the users face. Additionally, goggles and glasses often tend to fog as well when breath is dispersed throughout the garment.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention provides systems and methods for decreasing breath condensation on a facial garment or covering. In one aspect, for example, a system for creating a breathing space between a facial covering and a subject's mouth and nose can include a facial covering operable to at least partially encircle at least a portion of a subject's head and/or neck and a facial spacer operable to be removably positioned between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose. The facial spacer is free to move relative to the facial covering when the facial covering is in position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose and while the spacer is positioned between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose.

In one specific aspect, the facial spacer is removable from between the facial covering and the subject while the facial covering remains on the subject. In another specific aspect, the facial spacer is collapsible when removed from between the facial covering and the subject. The facial spacer can be made from numerous materials that render it collapsible. Exemplary materials can include, without limitation, polymeric compounds, natural rubbers, synthetic rubbers, thermoplastic elastomers, and combinations thereof. Collapsible materials can also include, without limitation, silicone, chloroprene polymers, thermoplastic polyurethanes, and combinations thereof. In one specific aspect the collapsible material is a thermoplastic polyurethane.

In another specific aspect, the facial spacer has a structural configuration such that, when positioned over the mouth and nose, a space is created between a subject's chin and the facial spacer sufficient to allow the chin to move without contacting the facial spacer. Such a configuration allows a subject to move the chin during speaking and breathing without having the chin contact the facial spacer.

In yet another specific aspect, the facial spacer has a peripheral supporting wall operable to support the facial covering away from the mouth and nose, and wherein the facial spacer is substantially open proximal to the peripheral supporting wall. In one aspect, the peripheral supporting was is discontinuous.

The present invention additionally provides methods of reducing breath condensation on a facial covering. Such a method can include pulling a facial covering way from a contact position with a subject's mouth and nose, and inserting a facial spacer between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose. Thus the facial spacer maintains the facial covering in position away from the subject's mouth and nose. In one aspect, the facial spacer is held in a position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose by pressure between the facial covering and the subject. Furthermore, the method can also include removing the facial spacer from between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose to allow the facial covering to return to the contact position. Once removed, the facial spacer can be collapsed to reduce the effective volume of the facial spacer for storage.

In another aspect, a method of reducing breath condensation on a facial covering can include observing breath condensation on a facial covering adjacent a subject's mouth and nose, pulling the facial covering way from a contact position with the subject's mouth and nose, and inserting a facial spacer between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose. In this case the facial spacer maintains the facial covering in position away from the subject's mouth and nose. The method can further include observing a reduction in the breath condensation on the facial covering, removing the facial spacer from between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose to allow the facial covering to return to the contact position, and collapsing the facial spacer to reduce the effective volume of the facial spacer for storage.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention so that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and so that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. Other features of the present invention will become clearer from the following detailed description of the invention, taken with the accompanying drawings and claims, or may be learned by the practice of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a facial spacer and a facial covering associated with a user according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a facial covering associated with a user according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a facial spacer, a facial covering, and goggles associated with a user according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a facial spacer according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a facial spacer associated with a user according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a facial spacer associated with a user according to a further embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a facial spacer according to another embodiment of the present invention.

The drawings will be described further in connection with the following detailed description. Further, these drawings are not necessarily to scale and are by way of illustration only such that dimensions and geometries can vary from those illustrated.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Before the present invention is disclosed and described, it is to be understood that this invention is not limited to the particular structures, method steps, or materials disclosed herein, but is extended to equivalents thereof as would be recognized by those ordinarily skilled in the relevant arts. It should also be understood that terminology employed herein is used for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting.

It must be noted that, as used in this specification and the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to “a material” includes one or more of such materials, and reference to “the vent” includes reference to one or more of such vents.

Definitions

In describing and claiming the present invention, the following terminology will be used in accordance with the definitions set forth below.

As used herein, the term “substantially” refers to the complete or nearly complete extent or degree of an action, characteristic, property, state, structure, item, or result. As an arbitrary example, an object that is “substantially” enclosed is an object that is either completely enclosed or nearly completely enclosed. The exact allowable degree of deviation from absolute completeness may in some cases depend on the specific context. However, generally speaking the nearness of completion will be so as to have the same overall result as if absolute and total completion were obtained. The use of “substantially” is equally applicable when used in a negative connotation to refer to the complete or near complete lack of an action, characteristic, property, state, structure, item, or result. As an arbitrary example, a composition that is “substantially free of” particles would either completely lack particles, or so nearly completely lack particles that the effect would be the same as if it completely lacked particles. In other words, a composition that is “substantially free of” an ingredient or element may still actually contain such item as long as there is no measurable effect thereof.

As used herein, the term “about” is used to provide flexibility to a numerical range endpoint by providing that a given value may be “a little above” or “a little below” the endpoint.

As used herein, a plurality of items, structural elements, compositional elements, and/or materials may be presented in a common list for convenience. However, these lists should be construed as though each member of the list is individually identified as a separate and unique member. Thus, no individual member of such list should be construed as a de facto equivalent of any other member of the same list solely based on their presentation in a common group without indications to the contrary.

Concentrations, amounts, and other numerical data may be expressed or presented herein in a range format. It is to be understood that such a range format is used merely for convenience and brevity and thus should be interpreted flexibly to include not only the numerical values explicitly recited as the limits of the range, but also to include all the individual numerical values or sub-ranges encompassed within that range as if each numerical value and sub-range is explicitly recited. As an illustration, a numerical range of “about 1 micrometers to about 5 micrometers” should be interpreted to include not only the explicitly recited values of about 1 micrometer to about 5 micrometers, but also include individual values and sub-ranges within the indicated range. Thus, included in this numerical range are individual values such as 2, 3, and 4 and sub-ranges such as from 1-3, from 2-4, and from 3-5, etc.

This same principle applies to ranges reciting only one numerical value. Furthermore, such an interpretation should apply regardless of the breadth of the range or the characteristics being described.

The Invention

The present invention provides systems and methods for improving comfort while wearing various face and neck garments that are often used in outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and the like. As has been described, such head and neck garments (e.g. balaclavas, neck garments, “neck gators,” etc.) provide facial and neck protection from the cold, but moisture from exhaled air can penetrate the material and freeze, leaving the frozen or moist garment wrapped tightly around the user's face. The present invention provides methods and systems for reducing the moisture being absorbed into the material of these garments as well as keeping moist and/or frozen material away from the face of a user, while at the same time allowing for garment adjustments to be performed as temperatures and/or conditions change.

As is shown in FIG. 1, a user 12 of a facial garment or covering 14 can insert a facial spacer 16 in accordance with the present invention between the face and the facial covering to provide a breathing space sufficient to allow breath to be distributed therethrough. Breath, and the condensation carried by the breath, can thus be expelled out through a larger surface area of the facial covering as compared to having the facial covering resting directly on the mouth and nose. As the temperature conditions change (FIG. 2), the facial spacer 16 can be easily removed from between the facial covering 14 and the face of the user to allow the facial covering to rest on the mouth and nose. The size and, in some cases, the collapsibility of the facial spacer allows it to be quickly removed and stored in, for example, a pocket to await further use.

As is shown in FIG. 3, the facial covering 14 and the facial spacer 16 can be utilized with protective eyewear 18, such as goggles, glasses, sunglasses, etc. The facial spacer can be configured to cover the mouth and nose in such a way that fogging of protective eyewear is greatly reduced. More specifically, an improved seal beneath the eyes and along the cheeks reduces breath impinging on the protective eyewear, and thus reduces fogging as compared to breath rising through the facial covering without the facial spacer in place. It should be noted, however, that although cold weather garments and activities are described, the methods and systems of the present invention can be readily applied to garments and/or protective gear used in warm temperatures and activities.

Accordingly, in one aspect of the present invention, a system for creating a breathing space between a facial covering and a subject's mouth and nose is provided. Such a system can include a facial covering operable to at least partially encircle at least a portion of a subject's head and/or neck and a facial spacer operable to be removably positioned between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose, wherein the facial spacer is free to move relative to the facial covering when the facial covering is in position adjacent the subject's mouth and nose. Because the facial spacer can move relative to the facial covering, head and neck movements cause the facial covering to slide across the facial spacer, thus reducing feelings of restricted movement of the head and neck. Additionally, in one aspect, the facial spacer can be removable from between the facial covering and the subject while the facial covering remains on the subject.

Thus a variety of mechanisms for maintaining the facial spacer in position are contemplated, depending upon the specific configuration and use of the system. For example, the facial spacer can be placed over the mouth and nose and be held in place by pressure exerted by the facial covering itself. This is particularly applicable if the facial spacer has elastomeric qualities that apply a downward pressure over the facial spacer toward the mouth and nose. It is also contemplated that the facial spacer can be held in place by an elastomeric strap coupled to the facial spacer, where the elastomeric strap is configured to surround the head and/or neck and is independent of the facial covering. Additionally, a similar configuration could include two or more straps, whether elastomeric or not, that surround the head and/or neck and fasten to one another to hold the facial spacer in place.

Numerous facial coverings are known, and any of a variety of these facial coverings that could benefit from the use of a facial spacer as described herein should be considered to be within the present scope. The facial spacers can be made from a variety of materials, including, without limitation, elastomeric and nonelastomeric materials, including cloth, polymeric materials, and the like. Facial coverings can include cold weather garments such as ski masks, neck gators, balaclavas, scarves, mufflers, and the like. As has been described, some materials and facial covering configurations can hold the facial spacer in place, while others may require an additional supporting component such as a strap or other fastening mechanism. Facial coverings can cover primarily the facial area, or they may encircle portions of the head and neck.

The facial spacer itself can be of a variety of configurations. Any of a variety of physical configurations that lift the facial covering from the face as is describe herein should be considered to be within the present scope. Thus the facial spacer can be substantially enclosed with breathing vents, substantially open with minimal structure to support the facial covering, or structure intermediate these extremes. In one aspect, as is shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, a facial spacer 40 is shown. The facial spacer has one or more breathing vents 42 to disperse exhaled air and to allow fresh air into the spacer's interior. The facial spacer can have lateral wall structures 44 and a front structure 46 to lift and support the facial covering away from the face. Support tabs 48 can be coupled to the wall structures 44 of the facial spacer 40 to facilitate manipulation and sealing of the spacer on the face, as well as to provide additional protection to the user's cheeks from the surrounding cold environment. Many types of balaclavas and gators leave a gap that exposes the cheek and nose of the user to the environment. By positioning the support tabs on the facial spacer in a location that covers these vulnerable areas, the environmental protection of the facial covering is enhanced.

The facial spacer 40 of FIG. 5 is configured such that it fits over the mouth and nose of the user. In some aspects, a good seal around the eyes and cheeks can reduce protective eyewear fogging. The breathing vents 42 allow the dispersion of moist breath air away from the face through the facial covering (not shown) in a direction shown by the arrow at 50. Thus any moisture from the breath air that is retained in the facial covering will be located away from the face along the front structure 46.

In another aspect, as is shown in FIG. 6, a facial spacer can have breathing vents 62 that are located generally orthogonally to the direction of the breath in a lateral wall structure 64. By locating breathing vents in such a manner, the moist air exiting the facial spacer 68 will be generally distributed around the sides of the face rather than in front of the mouth and nose. In other words, the breathing ports are oriented substantially orthogonally to an axis running dorsally to ventrally through the subject's head. It is also contemplated that breathing vents can be located in the front structure 66 and in the wall structure 44 to allow breath to be dispersed in multiple directional planes (not shown).

It may also be desirable for a facial spacer to have a more open structure to improve breathing, speech, etc. For example, the facial spacer can have a space, opening, indentation, etc., that is created in front of the user's chin when the spacer is positioned over the mouth and nose. Such a space, opening or indentation can be sufficient to allow the chin to move without contacting the facial spacer when the user is speaking, breathing, chewing, etc. In one aspect, the facial spacer has a peripheral supporting wall that is oriented to support the facial covering away from the mouth and nose, where the facial spacer is substantially open proximal to the peripheral supporting wall. In other words, the facial spacer can be open in front of the mouth and nose when positioned over the face. One example of such a spacer is shown in FIG. 7. In this case, the facial spacer 70 can have a peripheral supporting wall 72 and an opening 74 located in front of the mouth and nose. The opening 74 can be created in the front structure 76. In some aspects, however, the facial spacer can include a peripheral supporting wall and little if any front structure. The peripheral supporting wall can be left open at the chin 78 to allow chin movement as has been described.

As has been described, the facial spacer can be removed, collapsed, and stored when not in use. A number of mechanisms can be utilized to facilitate the collapsibility of the spacer device. For example, in one aspect the spacer can be made of a rigid material or a rigid frame that is capable of collapsing to a smaller size when not in use. In another aspect, the material from which the spacer is constructed can be collapsed, compressed, or folded to reduce the size of the facial spacer when not in use. In one specific aspect, the facial spacer can be laterally collapsible.

The facial spacer can be made from any material that is capable of being formed into a spacer and used as described herein. As has been described, collapsible materials can be particularly useful in some aspects. Such materials can include, without limitation, polymeric compounds, natural rubbers, synthetic rubbers, thermoplastic elastomers, and combinations thereof In one specific aspect, thermoplastic elastomers can be used. In another aspect, collapsible materials can include silicone, chloroprene polymers, thermoplastic polyurethanes, and combinations thereof In another specific aspect, the collapsible material can include a thermoplastic polyurethane.

Examining thermoelastic polymers in more detail, there are a variety of materials that can be useful in making the facial spacers of the present invention. Non-limiting examples of thermoelastic polymers include styrenic block copolymers, polyolefin blends, elastomeric alloys, thermoplastic polyurethanes, thermoplastic copolyester, and thermoplastic polyamides. Nonlimiting examples of thermoelastic polymers materials derived from block copolymers STYROFLEX® (BASF), KRATON® (Kraton Polymers), PELLETHANE® (Dow chemical), PEBAX®, ARNITEL® (DSM), HYTREL® (Du Pont), and the like. Nonlimiting examples of elastomer alloys include SANTOPRENE®& (ExxonMobile), GEOLAST® (ExxonMobile), SARLINK® (DSM), FORPRENE(® (So.F.ter. spa), ALCRYN(® (Du Pont), and the like.

The present invention additionally provides methods for reducing breath condensation on a facial covering. Such a method can include pulling a facial covering way from a contact position with a subject's mouth and nose, and inserting a facial spacer between the facial covering and the subject adjacent the subject's mouth and nose, wherein the facial spacer maintains the facial covering in position away from the subject's mouth and nose. Thus as has been described, the facial covering is lifted away from the user's mouth and nose to allow a reduction in the breath condensation forming on the facial covering, or at the least, that moist facial covering material is lifted away from the user's face. When temperature or other environmental conditions change, or when the facial covering material has dried, or when the user encounters a situation where it is desireable, the facial spacer can be removed from between the facial covering and the subject's mouth and nose to allow the facial covering to return to the original position on the user's face.

Of course, it is to be understood that the above-described arrangements are only illustrative of the application of the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications and alternative arrangements may be devised by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention and the appended claims are intended to cover such modifications and arrangements. Thus, while the present invention has been described above with particularity and detail in connection with what is presently deemed to be the most practical and preferred embodiments of the invention, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications, including, but not limited to, variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use may be made without departing from the principles and concepts set forth herein.





 
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