Title:
Decorated spa & tub construction and method of manufacture
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub having a preferably vinyl, decorative film disposed over at least a portion of the underside of the spa shell, subsequent to the molding thereof; a coating of an adhesion accelerator disposed over at least the portion of the spa shell underside that is not covered by a decorative film, with optional hand painted indicia applied to the spa body underside upon at least decorative film uncovered areas of the spa body, prior to the application of the fibreglass lay up to the spa body. The method of manufacture of the spa is also disclosed.



Inventors:
Fidel, David (Walnut Grove, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/741898
Publication Date:
08/05/2004
Filing Date:
12/19/2003
Assignee:
FIDEL DAVID
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B29C69/00; B29C70/08; B29C70/30; B29C51/10; (IPC1-7): A47K3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HUYNH, KHOA D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mark C. Jacobs, Esq. (Sacramento, CA, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. An aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub comprising a spa body having a topside and an underside, which spa body has a decorative film applied to at least a portion of the underside of said spa body, subsequent to the formation of the spa body, the underside thereof, and a fibreglass lay up disposed over the seal coat.

2. An aesthetically pleasing spa comprising a spa body having a topside and an underside, which spa body has a decorative film applied to at least a portion of the underside thereof subsequent to the formation of the spa body, a seal coat placed over the film, and a fibreglass lay up disposed over the seal coat.

3. An aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub comprising a spa body having a topside and an underside, which spa body has a decorative film applied to at least a portion of the underside of said spa body, subsequent to the formation of the spa body, the underside thereof, an adhesion accelerator coating is placed over at least the portion of the underside of the spa body that does not have decorative film thereon, wherein painted indiciums are added to at least one area of the spa body not covered by film over the adhesion accelerator coating, and a fibreglass lay up is disposed over the seal coat.

4. The spa of claim 3 wherein the decorative film is vinyl film and a seal coat is placed over the entire underside of the spa body prior to the fibreglass lay up.

5. The spa of claim 1 wherein the spa body is vacuum formed acrylic plastic.

6. The spa of claim 3 wherein further including painted indicia on at least one area of the spa body not covered by film and the film itself.

7. An aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub comprising a vacuum formed acrylic spa body having a topside and an underside, which spa body having a decorative vinyl film adhered to at least a portion of the underside of the spa body, said vinyl film, being sealed in place by a seal coat, and a fibreglass lay up disposed against the seal coat.

8. The spa body of claim 2 wherein painted indicia are added to at least one area of the spa body not covered by film and the film itself.

9. The spa body of claim 1, wherein painted indicia are added to at least one area of the spa body not covered by film and to the film itself

10. A process for preparing an aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub which process comprises: a] vacuum forming a plastic sheet to create a spa body having a topside and an underside; b] applying a front surface adhesive bearing decorative film to the underside of at least a portion of the underside of the previously formed spa body; c] applying a fibreglass lay up to the spa body containing decorative film; and d] plumbing the completed spa for installation.

11. A process for preparing an aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub which process comprises: a] vacuum forming a plastic sheet to create a spa body having a topside and an underside; b] applying a front surface adhesive bearing decorative film to at least a portion of the underside of the spa body, and leaving a portion of the underside of the spa body uncovered by decorative film; c] applying an adhesion accelerator to at least the part of the spa body uncovered by decorative film, d] applying paint by any mode of application to create indicia on at least one area of the spa body not covered by decorative film; d] applying a fibreglass lay up to the spa body; and e] plumbing the completed spa for installation.

12. The process of claim 8 including the step of applying a seal coat to the underside of the spa body prior to the fibreglass lay up step.

13. The process of claim 10 including the step of applying a seal coat to the film prior to the fibreglass lay up step.

14. The spa of claim 6 wherein the paint in the paint layer is sign maker's paint.

15. A process for preparing an aesthetically pleasing spa or jetted bath tub which process comprises: a] vacuum forming an acrylic plastic sheet to create a spa body having a topside and an underside; b] applying a front surface adhesive bearing decorative vinyl film to the underside of at least a portion of the underside of the spa body; c] applying a layer of adhesion accelerator to the entire underside of the spa body, both film covered and uncovered by film; d] optionally painting at least one portion of uncovered underside of the spa body to place indicia thereon, and the vinyl film; e] applying a fibreglass lay up to the spa body; and e] plumbing the spa unit for installation.

16. The process of claim 14 further including the steps of sanding the formed underside of the spa body, washing the underside of the spa body and air-drying the spa body prior to applying a film layer thereto.

17. The process of claim 16 further including the additional step of sealing the applied vinyl film to the spa body.

Description:

RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation in part of my co-pending application Ser. No. 09/974428 filed Oct. 9th, 2001.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention pertains to the manufacture of acrylic and fibreglass spas & tubs for home and business.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Acrylic spas or hydro spas, as they are sometimes called, with Fibreglass underlayment have been on the market for many years. These spas utilize, as the spa body, acrylic sheets available from Rohm and Haas, DuPont and perhaps other vendors. The acrylic sheets that are used to form the body of the spa by vacuum forming have been available in solid colors and clear-water white, and in marbleized colors. Manufacturers have not used colorless material or water white sheets very much as the fibreglass underlayment sometimes shows through, and whether this does or does not happen, the appearance of the spa is basically blah. So, the clear material has been generally avoided.

[0004] Others have tried to create painted and decorated spas, sinks and the like but the marketplace has granted them little or no success. Typical of such prior art is the patent to Nakagawa, U.S. Pat. No. 4,179,760 issued Dec. 25th, 1979. He applied a printed marble pattern to the back side of a generally flat unmolded sheet of acrylic, and then thermoformed the acrylic sheet into the desired configuration. A layer of opaque primer was then applied over the marble pattern covering the acrylic, now thermoformed into the desired shape. The last large step was to add a layer of resin impregnated fibreglass, known as FRP for structurally rigidity. Since Nakagawa was using only a marble pattern he was generally unconcerned with the fact that distortion arises from molding pre-decorated flat sheets of acrylic plastic.

[0005] Applicant has devised a new method making vacuum formed spas that take advantage of the substantially clear colorless material to provide aesthetically extremely pleasing spas that can be mass-produced or one of a kind works of art for individual use. In essence, what has been deemed, in general, to be a negative characteristic has been turned around to become a positive one.

[0006] The process of achieving these art masterpieces forms the subject matter of this patent application. The patent application also covers the end products of the mass-produced and individual one of a kind spas and jetted bath tubs. Thus, theme spas & tubs can be produced having a big G clef, for example, for a musician or a scale of justice for a lawyer or even a flag.

[0007] The invention accordingly comprises the device possessing the features properties and the relation of components which are exemplified in the following detailed disclosure and the scope of the application of which will be indicated in the appended claims.

[0008] For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the invention reference should be made to the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] A process for making mass-produced decorated spas &jetted bath tubs and a process for making individual uniquely decorated specimen spas and tubs that are one of a kind are recited. The pre-formed acrylic spa shell is covered over at least in part on the underside thereof, after formation as by vacuum molding, with a decorative film. All or at least the uncovered area(s) on the underside of the spa shell are coated with an adhesive accelerator to enable any individually added creative paint art to achieve a better bond to the spa shell.

[0010] The vinyl may be used as is or it may be custom-made for a one of a kind creation. To add individuality to each spa, as mentioned certain areas of the undersurface may be left uncovered from the vinyl and these unfilled areas may be left blank or hand painted. Thus, it is seen that:

[0011] It is a first object to provide a process for the manufacture of unique one of a kind spas & jetted tubs.

[0012] It is a second object to provide a process for manufacturing uniquely decorated mass-produced spas & jetted tubs.

[0013] It is a third object to provide spas & tubs that carry a theme related to the purchaser.

[0014] It is a fourth object to provide spas & tubs that use standard fibreglass lay up techniques to achieve uniquely decorated spas by adding special decorative vinyl reproducible graphics and hand painting to the spa shell prior to the addition of the polyester fibreglass combination to the under surface of the acrylic therrmoformed shell.

[0015] By the term hand painted as used herein is meant, hand applied, as by spray can, brush, rag, airbrush or any other technique that requires individual creative effort. Any indicia such as fish, flags stars, names, logos etc. can be deemed to be “indicia”.

[0016] Other objects of the invention will in part be obvious and will in part appear hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0017] FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of a prior art spa.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a side sectional view of a typical spa prior to installation.

[0019] FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic view illustrating the mode of construction of the mass-produced spas of this invention.

[0020] FIG. 4 is a diagrammatic view illustrating the layers used in the construction of one of a kind personalized spas according to the invention.

[0021] FIG. 5 is a plan view of a typical hand painted betta decoration used in preparation of custom spas of this invention.

[0022] FIGS. 6, 7, and 8 all illustrate typical custom hand painted indicia used in the decoration of spas made according to this invention.

[0023] FIG. 9 is a bottom plan view of a vacuum formed acrylic spa body prior to the overlay of fibreglass, but subsequent to the application of decorative vinyl film carrying decorative indicia.

[0024] FIG. 10 is a similar bottom plan view of a vacuum formed acrylic spa body prior to the overlay of fibreglass, but this one contains unique one of a kind decoration applied prior to the fibreglass step.

[0025] FIG. 11 is a diagrammatic view illustrating the process of this invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0026] In FIG. 1, there is shown a sectional view of a typical prior art spa. This same prior art spa is shown in top view in FIG. 2. Thus spa 10 has two main layers, the outer acrylic layer, 11, and the inner or underneath fibreglass layer 12. As with almost all spas, it features a set of steps 15 that double as a seat with a back and a second seat 17. A drain 18 in the bottom connects to piping 19 for both discharge and recycling. Jets 20 are shown at various arbitrary locations on the visible acrylic outer layer. There is no criticality for the purposes of this invention as to the location of the jets.

[0027] In FIG. 3, there is shown a diagrammatic view of the layers used in the construction of the mass-produced spas of this invention. The physical aspects will be described presently but the process will be described supra. After a sheet of clear acrylic is vacuum formed into a spa body or spa shell, and the desired vinyl film decorative material added, a thin film layer of an adhesion accelerator 54 is applied to any area of the spa shell not covered by the vinyl film, that will be subjected to a hand paint treatment. Thus, spa 50 has as its main layers a vacuum formed acrylic layer 51, and a fibreglass buildup layer 52 with a preferably vinyl film layer 53 adhered to the acrylic layer's reverse side, and therefore it is deemed to be interposed between the fibreglass and the acrylic. Next is the adhesive accelerator 54.

[0028] The front face side of the vinyl containing indicia is coated with the adhesive which is designated 55. Here and in all of the text supra, when the word spa or spas is used, the reference equally applies to a jetted bath tub. It being understood that the difference between a spa and a jetted bath tub is the fact that the water recycling and water treatment capability of the spa is not found in the jetted bath tub. To the contrary, the tub is drained after usage while the water is retained in the spa. The adhesive accelerator is seen to help prevent bubble formation when the decorative vinyl film is applied. These sheets of decorative material are not to be classified as decals, since the adhesive is placed over the decorative layer and not on the underside thereof.

[0029] In FIG. 4, for the one of a kind spa, the acrylic vacuum formed spa body 60 has the same acrylic layer as is used in the manufacture of the spa 10 or the spa 50, but here the body is designated 61 and the accelerator which is applied subsequent to any vinyl film decorative treatment is designated 64. To the acrylic shape is adhered the adhesive layer being designated 65 on the art side of the the vinyl film 62 which carries a printed indicia thereon in the manner to be described supra. Once the vinyl has been found to be adhering to the acrylic, any open areas that are to hand painted is first coated with an adhesive accelerator prior to the treatment with special paints to the vinylized spa shell, to eventually become a unique one of a kind spa after the fibreglass buildup 62 is added.

[0030] It is important to understand that it is not necessary to mask off the vinyl treated areas of the underside of the acrylic spa shell. This is because it has been found that the adhesive accelerator that aides the bonding of the paint, has no detrimental effect on the rear side of the vinyl film. Thus it is preferred to have the entire spa shell underside,, both those areas covered over by vinyl film and those areas left open and untreated, to be sprayed with adhesive accelerator.

[0031] A suitable adhesive accelerator is sold under the brand name Bulldog and comprises styrene and other resins dissolved in a mixture of solvents which includes toluene, butyl acetate, xylene, and ethanol-mono-butyl ether. Other adhesion accelerators are available in the marketplace.

[0032] The piping, plumbing, and other construction features such as the mode of fibreglass buildup and the original vacuum forming of the acrylic layer, are deemed conventional for the purposes of this invention.

[0033] In FIG. 5 a hand painted by airbrush or regular paintbrush Siamese Betta fish 73 is shown on PVC [polyvinyl chloride, i.e., vinyl] film 74. This fish can serve as a focal point of a spa floor and is protected from damage from the elements due to the nature of the construction employed. The fish is just indicative of the flora, fauna and other items that can be painted on the clear vinyl film as opposed to using a large printed background. Clear polyvinyl chloride film of 2 mil. seems to give excellent results, though a thicker or thinner mil. may be employed with similar suitable results. Unlike the marble pattern of the prior art, the specifically configured objects found on the vinyl film used by applicant would become distorted as by stretching if applied prior the vacuum formation of the spa shell. Thus even though Nakagawa was unable to figure out how to apply decorative material post vacuum forming, applicant achieves huge success by doing so post shell formation. Applicant also is of the belief that any attempt to mold after application of the vinyl film would cause the film to tear and break.

[0034] In FIGS. 6, 7, and 8, airbrushed indicia of other typical marine life are seen. A master can be preformed by an artist and then the images are produced en masse as silkscreens on a polyvinyl chloride film base FIG. 6 depicts a stylized starfish, FIG. 7 a stylized anemone, and FIG. 8 a stylized angel fish. These figures represent just one theme of indicia that can be placed on the vinyl film layer according to the invention.

[0035] All of these indicia, may be the background such as 63 or a silk screened star fish such as 37.

THE PROCESS ASPECT

[0036] The discussion now moves to the process aspect of this invention. Reference is made to FIG. 11. The first step 115, as with the prior art is the vacuum forming of the spa body out of sheet acrylic. This first step of the invention for both the mass-produced and the individual spas is to vacuum form the sheet acrylic plastic to the desired shape in a mold. This is a conventional step in spa making. The sheets of acrylic and methacrylic resins are generally available in the marketplace.

[0037] The second step, 116, involves the sanding of the backside, the side not exposed to the user, with fine sandpaper such as 100 grit or finer, to roughen the surface slightly for better adhesion of the adhesive of the next layer.

[0038] The third step, 117, is to wash the now sanded surface with any suitable washing agent such as an alcohol-based agent, of which members include isopropyl and ethyl alcohol, among others; these being named because they are low in price and readily available. Alcohol is a preferred wash agent, as it does not dissolve the plastic and it volatilizes fast.

[0039] The fourth step, 118, is to air-dry the surface of the plastic. Air-drying avoids the addition of lint or dust. This is followed by a removal of the cover coat from the large or small self-adhesive front side coated vinyl sheets containing indicia on them and applying the vinyl film artwork to the underside of the spa body (119). These backgrounds are of no set configuration and are available in a multitude of themes. Reference is made to FIG. 9 wherein a vacuum formed acrylic spa body is seen from the underside with a large vinyl film overlay 63 adhered thereto. This vinyl film has a printed background thereon and is of a freeform shape and when applied, covers most of the formed area, i.e., the trough of the spa. The trough is defined as that part of the spa covered by water when the spa is filled. Small additional vinyl film pieces shaped like a starfish 37, can be added to locations where desired as seen here at 37 and 37A. Since the decorative material is intended to be viewed through the acrylic, it is important that the adhesive be disposed on the front face, which is the decorated face of the vinyl film having the printed background indicia thereon.

[0040] Thus, it is seen that the vinyl film can be added in large areas as a background 63 and that small area as well, such as starfish 37 seen both in FIGS. 9 and 10 can also be added to the overall appearance of the spa by the addition of vinyl film at the same time, prior to the fiberglass step. While the adhesive accelerator is not specifically designated in FIGS. 9 & 10, it is to be presumed to have been added prior to the hand painting. In point of fact the adhesive accelerator utilized is colorless to allow the true color of the hand painting to shine through.

[0041] While the addition of the vinyl film alone is intended as a basis for the preparation of a unique series of spas that can be customized even more by the addition of painted indicia, it is also within the skill of the art to prepare a custom-made one of a kind art piece spa by the application of specially created, individually tailored, vinyl films, according to this process, either with or without additional paint on the film or the acrylic spa body.

[0042] Subsequent to the application of the vinyl self-adhesive film, any bubbles that may have formed must be removed (120). This can be done by the use of a soft roller to ease the air pocket to the edge of the applied film. The removal of air bubbles is carried out using conventional techniques to the handling of decals and other self-adhesive decorative films such as Contact brand plastic decorative film which has the adhesive on the underside which is used by many homemakers.

[0043] A layer off adhesive accelerator 125 is applied as by spraying or painting over any open areas of the acrylic shell underside that have not been covered over by vinyl film adhered thereto as well to those areas that have been covered over. Over-spraying or brushing onto the previously applied vinyl film is not detrimental to the film and in fact helps to seal over and prevent any film edges from delaminating from the acrylic shell. Of course if the open areas to be hand painted are small, it is only necessary to overcoat those areas of the sap shell that are not covered over with vinyl, rather than waste time and materials over-coating the entire shell. Since masking is labor intensive a judgment must be made as to which way to go, all of the shell rear or only the needed open areas to be hand painted.

[0044] The next step, 121, consists of the application of paint to either the applied vinyl film or directly to the vacuum formed uncovered areas of the acrylic spa body. This can be done by brush or airbrush, or even spray can as may be desired. It is this painting step that differentiates the one of a kind spas from the mass-produced spas, because each hand-decorated spa is an entity unto its own, a work of art, unique and different from all others.

[0045] The differences between FIGS. 9 and 10 lies in the addition of the painted additional decorative indicia shown in FIG. 10. Here, the owner's name, sign 68, has been hand painted as the indicia over the vinyl decorative artwork while the little fish 69, of a variety different from the betta illustrated in FIG. 5, is hand painted within a decorated area without film. That is, it is painted directly upon the accelerator treated acrylic plastic. It has been found that the pre-coating with the accelerator prevents or at limits the formation of paint bubbles of air between the paint and the acrylic as time goes on. This bubble formation is due to the different expansion rates from heat and cold of the two materials, the paint and the acrylic. While the need for the accelerator is not immediately seen, the lack of the use thereof is clearly visible in the long term, which is about 6 months subsequent to the installation of the spa. The periodic expansion and contraction of the two different materials, the paint and the acrylic, will cause the delamination of the paint from the acrylic plastic, previously referred to as “bubbles” in the paint over time. This leads to customer complaints which can not be resolved as the fibreglass lay up prevents access to the hand painted areas.

[0046] Of course, there is no limit upon the imagination as to the nature of the decorative information that can be added either by hand or applied directly onto the acrylic or painted over the vinyl film as may be desired.

[0047] Research has shown that the best type of paint to use is not acrylic paint, as used by artists, but sign maker's paint as this paint is UV light resistant and can withstand heat without degradation. Sign maker's paint comes in a plethora of colors and is available at art supply stores and specialty stores nationwide. The paint may be applied as noted by various known techniques as maybe desired. This type of paint is quite bright, and appears so even through the water of the filled spa, from the vantage point of the spa users.

[0048] Subsequent to the addition of any custom paint, as discussed infra, the next step, 122, is to seal the overlaid film and painted areas to prevent peeling and scratching due to possible rough handling during the fibreglass lay up. Reference to FIGS. 3 and 4 reveal the presence of a sealed layer 57, and 67 respectively having been applied prior to the fiberglass lay up step. Mention may be made of Kelly Moore™ latex white paint or any latex paint which is a suitable chemical sealer that can be used as the seal coat not only to protect the paint from being chipped, but also to keep the vinyl film from peeling, and to prevent interaction between the solvents used in the fiberglass lay up with the vinyl film or hand decorative paint that may have been applied. Sealers as noted above are available in the marketplace.

[0049] The next step 123, is to apply the fibreglass to the decorated spa body using conventional industry techniques. It is within the skill of the art to determine the layout of the sheets of the fibreglass, resin, and the application thereof.

[0050] Subsequent to the fibreglass lay up, the next step 124, involves the plumbing of the spa for the jets, skimmer, and water entry. The plumbing aspect is deemed conventional as is the attachment of the pump or pumps, therefore, no further discussion is required on these topics.

[0051] Subsequent to inspection, a “skirt”—the wood frame that holds the spa, is made for the spa, if the spa is to be used above ground. If the spa is to be put into the ground, a skirt is not needed. Of course electrical and plumbing connections are made in conventional manners as is known to the art.

[0052] It is seen that I have disclosed a method for providing aesthetically pleasing spas that differ from anything made previously. These spas can be mass-produced as discussed, by the use of the same vinyl film overlay. The spas can also be custom-made one of a kind art pieces created either with the addition of painted areas on the vinyl and/or on the uncovered acrylic spa body as well as by the use of one of a kind specially created vinyl films to be applied to the acrylic with or without paint.

[0053] While the term vinyl film has been utilized herein, such term is not intended to be limiting. Indeed, any type of self-supporting polymeric printable film capable of receiving indicia such as Saran or polyester that will adhere to acrylic, and which is suitable for the spa environment may be employed.

[0054] In the discussion herein, the thrust of the invention has been for use with spas and jetted bath tubs. The technology of this invention is also suitable for regular non-jetted bath tubs. But since their mode of use is generally for shorter periods of time than jetted tubs, the market may not be as accepting of the technology as will be the market of those who purchase spas and jetted bath tubs. Therefore, in the claims wherever the word spa is used it is intended to equally apply to jetted bath tubs.

[0055] Since certain changes maybe made in the described apparatus without departing from the scope of the invention herein involved, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.