Title:
Flotation collar for water park craft
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flotation collar for a water park craft has a flexible outer wall and an inflatable outer chamber. A number of containment bags within the outer chamber define a plurality of inner chambers containing buoyant material, such as foam, that partially fill the outer chamber.



Inventors:
Millhollin, Jon B. (Lakewood, CO, US)
Application Number:
10/263140
Publication Date:
06/24/2004
Filing Date:
10/02/2002
Assignee:
MILLHOLLIN JON B.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B7/08; B63B35/613; B63B35/76; (IPC1-7): B63B35/58
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
AVILA, STEPHEN P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Dorr, Carson & Birney, P.C. (Greenwood Village, CO, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A flotation collar for a water park craft comprising: a plurality water-tight inner chambers containing a buoyant material; and an inflatable outer chamber having a flexible outer wall surrounding the inner chambers, so that the inner chambers partially fill the outer chamber.

2. The flotation collar of claim 1 wherein the buoyant material comprises foam.

3. The flotation collar of claim 1 wherein the buoyant material comprises gas-filled balls.

4. The flotation collar of claim 1 wherein the buoyant material comprises beads.

5. The flotation collar of claim 1 wherein the outer chamber extends around the periphery of a water park craft.

6. The flotation collar of claim 1 further comprising a plurality of water-tight containment bags within the outer chamber defining said inner chambers.

7. The flotation collar of claim 1 wherein the outer chamber is inflated to a pressure of about 2 to 4 psig.

8. A flotation collar for a water park craft comprising: a flexible outer wall defining an inflatable outer chamber; a plurality containment bags within the outer chamber partially filling the outer chamber; and a buoyant material filling at least a portion of each containment bag.

9. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the buoyant material comprises foam.

10. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the buoyant material comprises gas-filled balls.

11. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the buoyant material comprises beads.

12. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the outer chamber forms an annular collar surrounding a water park craft.

13. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the outer chamber is inflated to a pressure of about 2 to 4 psig.

14. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein the containment bags substantially fill the outer chamber leaving a void adjacent to the outer wall.

15. The flotation collar of claim 8 wherein at least one of the containment bags further comprises a filling valve extending through the outer wall for filling the containment bag with the buoyant material, said filling valve also securing the containment bag in position relative to the outer wall.

16. A flotation collar for a water park craft comprising: a flexible outer wall defining an inflatable outer chamber extending around at least a portion of the periphery of a water park craft; a plurality of inflatable containment bags arranged in a pattern within the outer chamber around the periphery of the water park craft; and buoyant foam filling at least a portion of the containment bags.

17. The flotation collar of claim 16 wherein the outer chamber is inflated to a pressure of about 2 to 4 psig.

18. The flotation collar of claim 16 wherein at least one of the containment bags further comprises a filling valve extending through the outer wall for filling the containment bag with foam, said filling valve also securing the containment bag in position relative to the outer wall.

19. The flotation collar of claim 16 wherein the containment bags substantially fill the outer chamber leaving a void adjacent to the outer wall.

20. A flotation collar for a water park craft comprising: a plurality of containment bags containing buoyant foam arranged in a pattern around at least a portion of the periphery of a water park craft; and a flexible outer wall defining an inflatable outer chamber extending around at least a portion of the periphery of the water park craft and containment bags.

21. The flotation collar of claim 20 wherein the outer chamber is inflated to a pressure of about 2 to 4 psig.

22. The flotation collar of claim 20 wherein the containment bags are within the outer chamber.

23. The flotation collar of claim 20 wherein the containment bags are between the water park craft and the outer chamber.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to the field of water park rides. More specifically, the present invention discloses a flotation collar for water park craft.

[0003] 2. Statement of the Problem

[0004] Flotation collars have been used for many years in conjunction with water park rides to provide buoyancy and to serve as a bumper. The prior art in this field includes collars having a series of baffled chambers integrated within the main body of the collar. However, if a baffled chamber is compromised, that chamber will fill with water and cause the craft to list. This also creates the possibility of capsizing the craft.

[0005] Another prior art approach uses a series of internal bladders that fit within a main body cover. The cover itself is not typically buoyant or air-tight. This approach relies on the bladders to fill the cavity within the cover, create the desired overall shape, and provide buoyancy. Each bladder is like a balloon within the cover. Each bladder is allowed to expand to fill gaps and voids internally, but relies heavily on adjacent bladders for support. If one bladder fails, the adjacent bladders will try to fill the void and therefore often rupture. Unfortunately, this design is plagued with such failures.

[0006] Another prior art approach uses a collar filled with a polymer foam. This approach also tends to fail if the collar chamber is compromised. The foam tends to take on water and will break down from repeated impacts with the walls of the water park ride.

[0007] Thus, a need exists for a flotation collar that can survive a breach in the outer wall of the collar without significant listing.

[0008] 3. Prior Art

[0009] The prior art in this field also includes the following: 1

InventorPatent No.Issue Date
Francois4,021,873May 10, 1977
Marbach4,360,396Nov. 23, 1982
Spieldiener et al.European Publ. 0155778Feb. 26, 1985
Walters et al.4,520,746Jun. 4, 1985
Spieldiener et al.4,696,251Sep. 29, 1987
Hopkins5,299,964Apr. 5, 1994
Salmons5,331,914Jul. 16, 1994
Robinson5,617,808Apr. 8, 1997
Hempfield et al.6,371,040Apr. 16, 2002

[0010] These references show a wide variety of flotation collars and pontoons that are either air-filled or foam-filled. For example, Salmons, Robinson, and Marbach show foam-filled flotation collars or pontoons. Spieldiener et al. and Hopkins show air-filled flotation collars.

[0011] U.S. Pat. No. 6,371,040 (Hemphill et al.) shows a hybrid structure that uses both an inflatable bladder 14 and a foam material 18. In particular, the inflatable bladder 14 is surrounded by an annular layer of foam 18. This assembly is covered by a protective sleeve 22, which may contain reinforcing material such as aramid fibers.

[0012] 4. Solution to the Problem

[0013] None of the prior art references discussed above show a flotation collar having the structure of the present invention. In particular, the present invention involves a flotation collar having an inflatable outer chamber that contains a series of containment bags containing a buoyant material, such as foam. Under normal conditions, the outer wall of the flotation collar and the outer chamber protect the foam in the containment bags from mechanical impact or taking on water. In the event the outer chamber fails, the containment bags provide sufficient buoyancy to prevent listing. In addition, the containment bags prevent the foam from taking on water.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0014] This invention provides a flotation collar for a water park craft that has a flexible outer wall and an inflatable outer chamber. A series of containment bags within the outer chamber define a plurality of foam-filled inner chambers that partially fill the outer chamber.

[0015] These and other advantages, features, and objects of the present invention will be more readily understood in view of the following detailed description and the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] The present invention can be more readily understood in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0017] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a water park craft 10 with a flotation collar 20 incorporating the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the flotation collar 20.

[0019] FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the flotation collar 20 with the containment bags 30 within the outer wall 22 shown in dashed lines. A portion of the flotation collar 20 is shown in cross-section.

[0020] FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of a containment bag 30.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the flotation collar 20 taken along lines 5-5 in FIG. 3.

[0022] FIG. 6 is a detail exploded cross-sectional view of filling valve 37 of a containment bag 30

[0023] FIGS. 7 through 11 are cross-sectional views of the flotation collar 20 illustrating the steps of inflating and filling the chambers of the flotation collar 20.

[0024] FIG. 12 is a vertical cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of the flotation collar 20.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0025] Turning to FIG. 1, a perspective view is provided showing a water park craft 10 with a flotation collar 20 incorporating the present invention. FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the flotation collar 20 by itself. The water craft 10 can be of any desired shape and size. Many water craft 10 are generally circular and can accommodate a number of passengers in seats arranged in a circular pattern. The flotation collar 20 extends around the periphery of the water craft 10 to provide buoyancy and serve as a bumper if the water craft encounters a wall or obstacle. For example, FIGS. 1 and 2 show a flotation collar 20 that is generally annular in shape to surround the water craft 10. The flotation collar 20 can be secured to the water craft 10 by any number of means. For example, the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1 employs a series of elasticized straps.

[0026] The flotation collar 20 has a flexible, resilient outer wall 22 made of an air-tight material such as rubber, polymer, or rubberized fabric, that can be filled with air to form an inflatable outer chamber 25 within the flotation collar 20. For example, the outer chamber 25 can be inflated to a pressure of about 2 to 4 psig via an inflation valve 27. In the preferred embodiment shown in the drawings, the flotation collar contains a single outer chamber 25 that surrounds the entire water craft 10. However, this could be subdivided by baffles or dividers into a plurality of outer chambers spaced around the periphery of the water craft 10. Alternatively, a series of separate, discrete outer chambers can be spaced at intervals around the water craft 10. This would enable each outer chamber to function independently for flotation purposes.

[0027] A plurality of containment bags 30 are placed within the outer chamber 25 defined by the outer wall 22, as illustrated in FIG. 3. FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of a containment bag 30. Each containment bag 30 has an inner chamber filled, at least in part, with a buoyant material 35. FIG. 5 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the flotation collar 20 taken along lines 5-5 in FIG. 3 showing a containment bag 30 filled with buoyant material 35. For example, the buoyant material 30 can be polymer foam, beads, or gas-filled balls. The containment bags 30 are generally water-tight to help prevent the buoyant material 35 from taking on water, and to help prevent degradation of the buoyant material 35 due to long-term exposure to water. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the containment bags 30 are completely filled with buoyant material 35. Alternatively, the containment bags 30 could be partially filled with buoyant material with the remainder of the inner chamber inflated with air.

[0028] In the embodiment shown in the drawings, the containment bags 30 are arranged in a radial pattern within the outer wall 22 around the periphery of the water park craft 10. The containment bags 30 are preferably closely packed within the outer wall 22, similar to the segments of an orange, so that the side walls of each containment bag 30 are adjacent to, or in contact with the side walls of the neighboring containment bags. The containment bags 30 substantially fill the outer chamber 25 leaving a void adjacent to the outer wall 22. This helps to hold the containment bags in place within the outer wall 22, and also helps to define a desired overall shape for the flotation collar 20. The outer wall 22 and the air-filled void between the outer wall 22 and the containment bags 30 serve as a bumper to help protect the foam from damages caused by impact with walls or other obstructions along the water park ride. However, other arrangements and configurations of the containment bags 30 could be readily substituted.

[0029] In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, each containment bag 30 also has a filling valve 37 that extends through the outer wall 22 and into the inner chamber of the containment bag 30, as depicted in FIG. 6. The filling valve 37 is initially used to inflate the containment bag 30 within the outer chamber 25, as will be discussed below, and then to fill the containment bag 30 with the buoyant material 35. The filling valve 37 also secures the containment bag 30 in position relative to the outer wall 22.

[0030] FIGS. 7 through 11 are cross-sectional views of the flotation collar 20 illustrating the steps of inflating and filling the inner and outer chambers of the flotation collar 20. The containment bags 30 are first inserted into the outer chamber 25 within the outer wall 22 of the flotation collar 20 in an uninflated state, as shown in FIG. 7. The fill valves 37 serves to hold each containment bag 30 in place. Each containment bag 30 is then inflated via its fill valve 37 as illustrated in FIG. 8. As previously discussed, inflation of all of the containment bags 30 brings them into contact with one another and substantially fills the entire outer chamber 25 as shown in FIG. 3. This helps to define the overall shape of the flotation collar 20 and ensures proper positioning of each containment bag 30 within the outer chamber 25. Each containment bag 30 is then filled via the filling valve 37 with the buoyant material 35, as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10. Finally, the outer chamber 25 is inflated via its inflation valve 27, as depicted in FIG. 11. The complete flotation collar 20 can then be attached to the water park craft 10 as shown in FIG. 1.

[0031] FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of the flotation collar 20. The containment bag 30 is filled with a buoyant material 35 as before, but the containment bag 30 is not located within the outer chamber 25 as shown in the previous figures. Instead, the containment bags 30 are sandwiched between the water park craft 10 and the outer chamber 25. The outer wall 22 and outer chamber 25 continue to serve as a protective bumper for the containment bags 30.

[0032] The above disclosure sets forth a number of embodiments of the present invention. Other arrangements or embodiments, not precisely set forth, could be practiced under the teachings of the present invention and as set forth in the following claims.