Title:
Foldable lotion applicator
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A foldable lotion applicator for applying body, suntan and medicinal lotions, including creams, gels, ointments, oils and other preparations. The applicator is comprised of a beveled I-beam two-part folding shaft with a one-hand operable locking hinge and a ribbed non-slip grip handle with a removable, replaceable cosmetic foam applicator pad with a snap-on cover to protect the applicator pad from contamination and the unwanted distribution of lotions and the like, with the applicator shaft sufficiently long to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of the back and all other areas of the body.



Inventors:
Sommers, Erich J. (San Mateo, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/113533
Publication Date:
12/08/2005
Filing Date:
04/25/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/144.1, 15/144.3, 15/185
International Classes:
A45D34/04; A47K7/00; A47K7/02; (IPC1-7): A47K7/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GUIDOTTI, LAURA COLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
H. Michael Brucker (Emeryville, CA, US)
Claims:
1. In a lotion applicator, the combination comprising: a handle shaft having a handle at one end and a handle shaft hinge member at its other end; an applicator head shaft having an applicator head hinge member at one end rotatably attached to said handle shaft hinge member wherein said shaft members can rotate relative to each other such that in a first rotated position, said shafts are aligned along a common axis and in a second rotated position, said handle shaft is generally parallel to and overlying, said applicator head shaft; an applicator head at the other end of said applicator head shaft wherein said applicator head includes an open applicator pad compartment; an applicator pad compartment cover which attaches to said applicator head enclosing said applicator pad compartment; wherein said handle shaft is of a length that said handle extends beyond said applicator head shaft and over said applicator pad compartment when said shafts are in their second rotated position whereby said handle overlies said applicator pad compartment cover when said cover is attached to said applicator head, thereby helping to keep said applicator pad compartment cover attached to said applicator head.

2. The lotion applicator of claim 1 wherein said applicator head hinge member and said handle shaft hinge member include complementary parts of a locking mechanism by which said shafts are automatically locked in the first rotated position forming a unitary structure.

3. The lotion applicator of claim 2 wherein said locking mechanism is releasable using just one hand whereby said shafts can be reconfigured from the first rotated position to the second rotated position.

4. The lotion applicator of claim 3 further comprising: an absorbent lotion pad sized to fit in said open applicator pad compartment and be fully enclosed therein when said applicator pad compartment cover is attached to said applicator head.

5. The lotion applicator of claim 4 wherein said applicator pad compartment is partially formed by a surrounding wall member and said absorbent lotion pad is thicker than the height of the wall whereby said pad extends above said wall when said pad is in said compartment.

6. The lotion applicator of claim 4 wherein said absorbent lotion pad includes a notch and said open applicator pad compartment has a raised alignment guide of the same shape as said pad notch whereby when said notch is aligned with said guide, said pad is properly situated within said applicator pad compartment.

7. The lotion applicator of claim 1 wherein said shafts have an I-beam structure formed by side walls attached by an intermediate web defining an upper channel and a lower channel.

8. The lotion applicator of claim 4 wherein said shafts have an I-beam structure formed by side walls attached by an intermediate web defining an upper channel and a lower channel.

9. The lotion applicator of claim 8 wherein said applicator shaft upper channel opens into said pad compartment and said applicator pad includes a tab that fits into said head shaft upper channel when said pad is properly situated in said pad compartment.

10. The lotion applicator of claim 1 wherein said handle shaft, handle and handle shaft hinge member are a single molded piece and said head shaft, said applicator head and said head shaft hinge member are a single molded piece.

11. The lotion applicator of claim 10 wherein said molded pieces are molded from polypropylene.

12. The lotion applicator of claim 10 wherein said molded pieces are molded from nylon.

13. The lotion applicator of claim 10 wherein said molded pieces are molded from acetal polyoxymethylene (POM) resins.

14. The lotion applicator of claim 4 wherein a space exists between said applicator pad compartment cover and said absorbent lotion pad when said cover is on said applicator pad compartment.

15. The lotion applicator of claim 1 wherein said handle is formed by spaced-apart ribs.

16. The lotion applicator of claim 1 further comprising: a latch affixed to said handle shaft; a latch keeper attached to said applicator head shaft, which keeper engages and secures said latch when the shafts are in their first rotated position, preventing the shafts from rotation in a direction toward their second rotated position.

17. A quick-release locking hinge providing a rotatable connection between a first shaft and a second shaft wherein each shaft has an end comprising: a hinge connecting the ends of the shafts whereby said shafts can rotate relative to one another in a first direction which brings the shafts into alignment along a common axis and the ends of said the shafts abut, preventing further rotation in the first direction; a latch affixed to the first shaft; a latch keeper attached to the second shaft which keeper engages and secures said latch when the shafts are rotated in the first direction and brought into alignment along a common axis wherein the shafts are prevented from rotation in a direction opposite to the first direction.

18. The quick-release locking hinge of claim 17 wherein said hinge comprises: a pair of post bearing holes adjacent the end of the first shaft; a pair of posts adjacent the end of the second shaft and disposed in said post bearing holes.

19. The quick-release locking hinge of claim 17 wherein pressure applied to said latch keeper releases said latch and permits rotation of the shafts in the direction opposite to the first direction.

20. The quick-release locking hinge of claim 18 further comprising: a pair of spaced-apart bearing support members at the end of said first shaft each containing one of said cylindrical post bearing holes; a pair of post mount members at the end of said second shaft wherein one of said posts is carried by each of said mount members; a ramped channel in each of said support members leading into said post bearing holes; whereby when said posts are disposed in said ramped channels and forced toward said post bearing holes, said bearing support members are forcibly flexed apart until said posts enter said post bearing holes, after which they return to their original spaced apart positions.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to lotion applicators and, in particular, to a lotion applicator that can be folded into a size convenient for carrying in a purse or pocket, yet long enough, when unfolded, to assist in spreading creams, liquids, gels, oils, medications or other substances (lotions) to the body and, in particular, areas of the body that are otherwise difficult to reach, such as a user's back.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

With the increased publicity about the potential health risks from exposure to the sun, there is a need for a convenient and effective lotion applicator. Because prior art lotion applicators are either inconvenient to carry and/or create a high potential for spreading lotion where it is unwanted and/or are not easy to use or clean, lotion is typically applied directly from the hands to the body. Given that certain areas of the back are difficult to reach, the drawback of not using an applicator is that certain parts of the body are frequently missed. Where the lotion being applied can stain the hands, the applicator of the present invention provides a means for applying the lotion without staining the hands or having to use gloves.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a lotion applicator that folds into a size convenient to carry, but, at the same time, is able to reach all parts of the body.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a lotion applicator that, when not in use, encloses the lotion-carrying head such that lotion is not spread to unwanted areas while the applicator is being carried or transported and, further, prevents dirt, sand or other contaminants from coming in contact with the pad's surface.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a lotion applicator that is formed by just three snap-together injection molded parts that are strong, lightweight, durable and can be sterilized without losing structural integrity.

Another object of the invention is to provide a hinge mechanism which releases and comes apart when lateral force is exerted on either part, preventing breakage.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a hinge mechanism that can be easily snapped together by aligning parts of the handle and pressing them towards each other.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a foldable lotion applicator that has a ribbed handle that has good gripping qualities, that resists slippage when hands are either wet or oily, and can be used as a back scratcher.

These and other objects, aspects and features of the present invention will be better understood from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments when read in conjunction with the appended drawing figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a lotion applicator that can be folded into a convenient size that can be easily carried in a purse, bag or even a pocket. In addition, the applicator head that carries a lotion-applying absorbent pad has a cover that protects the pad and prevents any residue lotion on the pad from being spread to unintended areas or surfaces.

In one embodiment, the invention is comprised of three injection-molded parts. The first part is a handle shaft having a handle at one end and a hinge member at the other end. A second part is an applicator head shaft having an applicator head at one end and a hinge member at its other end. When the two hinge members are joined, they create a snap-lock hinge which permits the shafts, when aligned, to be locked into and form an essentially unified shaft and, when released, allow the shafts to overlay each other to reduce the overall size of the applicator for storage and carrying. The third part is a cover for the applicator head which carries a lotion-applying pad. When the cover is in place, the pad is protected from any contamination and, at the same time, any residue on the pad is prevented from being accidentally applied to surfaces while the applicator is being stored or carried. The hinge has a quick-release which permits the shafts to easily rotate relative to each other to assume the compact position. When the shafts overlie each other, the handle extends over the applicator head and provides an extra layer of assurance that the cover does not get dislodged and expose the pad. The handle is formed from a plurality of spaced-apart ribs which provide for an excellent grip that resists slippage when hands are either wet or oily and also can be used as a back scratcher.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the lotion applicator of the present invention shown in its unfolded position;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view showing the applicator head, lotion pad and head cover of the applicator of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing a lotion pad in the applicator head;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the applicator head with the head cover attached and covering the lotion pad;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the inside of the head cap;

FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of the applicator of the invention in its folded position;

FIG. 7 is a bottom perspective view of the applicator of the invention in its folded position;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the hinge ends of the applicator shafts prior to assembly;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the assembled hinge ends of the applicator shafts prior to being locked in the extended position; and

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the assembled hinge ends of the applicator shafts locked in the extended position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIG. 1, a lotion applicator 11 has an applicator head member 12 joined to a head shaft 13 which terminates in a head shaft hinge member 14. A handle shaft 16 is joined to a ribbed handle 17 and terminates in a handle shaft hinge member 18. The handle shaft hinge member 18 and the head shaft hinge member 14 rotatably join the handle shaft 16 to the head shaft 13, allowing the shafts 13 and 16 to rotate relative to one another. In a first rotated position, as shown in FIG. 1, the shafts 13 and 16 are aligned along a common axis 19 so the applicator 11 can be used to apply lotions to difficult-to-reach portions of a person's back.

In the preferred embodiment, the handle shaft 16, the handle 17 and the handle shaft hinge member 18 are a single injection-molded part of polypropylene, nylon, acetal polyoxymethylene (POM) resins, such as DuPont's Delrin®, and any other materials having similar characteristics. The head shaft 13, the head member 12 and the head shaft hinge member 14 are a second single injection-molded part of polypropylene, nylon, Delrin or Acetel. Such materials provide strength and durability and can be easily cleaned and sterilized where needed. It is within the scope of the invention, however, for the parts to made by other methods and/or of other materials as may be available, cost-effective and functional to meet the objectives of the invention.

To provide a sure grip that will be durable and can be molded, the handle 17 is advantageously formed by a plurality of spaced-apart ribs 17a. The hard-ribbed grip handle 17 is waterproof and can be readily cleaned or scrubbed without causing any damage to the applicator. The ribbed handle 17 has all ribs and edges beveled sufficiently for optimal plastic injection-mold production removal from the die mold and yet retains right angle edges on the applicator handle 17 sufficiently to provide a comfortable yet non-slip grip for the lotion applicator user's hand. The parallel applicator handle ribs 17a are spaced far enough apart so that there are sufficient non-slip gripping characteristics, and yet close enough together so that the gripping area feels fairly continuous to the user so loosening one's grip and re-gripping the applicator does not require any particular attention to the orientation of hand placement on the grip. The rib structure also provides a surface that can be used for a satisfying back scratch.

Shafts 13 and 16 are advantageously formed as I-beam structures, with shaft 13 having side members 13a and 13b joined by a web 13c, forming an upper shaft channel 13d and a lower shaft channel 13e (see FIG. 7). Similarly, handle shaft 16 has an I-beam structure formed by side members 16a and 16b joined by a web member 16c, forming an upper shaft channel 16d and a lower shaft channel 16e (see FIG. 6). The I-beam structures reduce the amount of injection-molding material required to achieve the desired stiffness and, at the same time, provide a lightweight lotion applicator.

While the head member 12 is illustrated as generally rectangular in shape, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art, and others, that other shapes, including, without limitation, circular, oval and multi-sided shapes could also be used.

Referring to FIG. 2, head member 12 is formed by a head base 21 surrounded by a side wall 22, forming a shallow pad compartment 23 having a depth 24. The side wall 22 has a gap 26 where shaft 13 joins head 12 whereby compartment 23 is open to upper shaft channel 13d at gap 26.

Referring also to FIGS. 2 and 3, a generally absorbent pad 31 sized and shaped to fit snugly within pad compartment 23 has a thickness 32 which is greater than the depth 24 of compartment 23 whereby when pad 31 is placed into compartment 23, its upper surface 33 is above the side wall 22. In the preferred embodiment, the pad 31 extends approximately one-quarter of an inch above side wall 22 when seated in pad compartment 23. This assures that only the pad contacts the skin during the application of lotion. When pad 31 is placed in compartment 23, a pad tab 34 extending from one end of pad 31 extends through gap 26 into the upper channel 13d of head shaft 13. The undersurface of pad 31 (not shown) can be coated with a releasable adhesive material that secures the pad to the head base 21 so that the pad 31 stays securely within compartment 23. The adhesive material extends to the pad tab 34. Tab 34 can be conveniently grasped and pulled away from head 12 in order to remove pad 31 from pad compartment 23.

A generally V-shaped alignment tongue 36 extends from head side wall 22 into compartment 23. A V-shaped notch 37 in pad 31 is sized and located to receive tongue 36 for easy alignment of pad 31 in compartment 23.

Referring also to FIGS. 4 and 5, in order to protect pad 31 in compartment 23 and to prevent any residual lotion on pad 31 from being accidentally dispensed to unintended surfaces, an applicator head cover 41 is provided. Cover 41, which is also advantageously injection-molded of the same materials as the other parts, snaps onto head member 12 along side wall 22 where it is held in place. When the cover 41 is snapped in place on head member 12, a tab 42 extending from one end of cover 41 both covers the pad tab 34 and provides a purchase where force can be applied to release the cover 41 from the head member 12 in order to expose pad 31 for use.

A plurality of spacers 44 are distributed at spaced-apart locations around the inner edge of the cover 41 against the cover's side wall 46 and extending from the cover inner surface 47. The height of spacers 44 is slightly greater than the difference between the thickness 32 of pad 31 and the depth 24 of side wall 22 of head 12. When the cover 41 is snapped into place over head member 12, the spacers 44 engage the upper surface of side wall 22 of head 12 whereby the inner surface 47 of cover 41 is disposed above the upper surface 33 of pad 31 so that any lotion on the upper surface 33 is not transferred to the inner surface 47 of cover 41. Cover 41 is sized to have a snug fit so that when the cover 41 is placed on head 12, some force (preferably on tab 42) is required to remove the cover 41 from head 12.

Referring to FIGS. 6, 7 and 8, one of the outstanding features of the present invention is its ability to assume a compact size. The handle shaft 16 can be rotated about hinge members 14 and 18 from a position where the shafts 13 and 16 are aligned along axis 19 (FIG. 1) when used to apply lotion, to a folded position, as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, where handle shaft 16 lies over head shaft 13 when the applicator is to be stored or transported. In this folded position, the applicator 11 can be conveniently carried in a purse, beach bag or even a pocket.

The combined length of handle shaft 16 and handle 17 is such that when the handle shaft 16 is folded onto head shaft 13 (FIG. 6), handle 17 extends over the head member 12 and, when in place, cover 41. By locating handle 17 over cover 41, additional assurance is provided that cover 41 will not accidentally be dislodged and expose the applicator pad 31.

The applicator 11 will typically be stored in its folded condition with cover 41 in place, as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. When applicator 11 is to be used to apply lotion, the handle 17 is rotated about the hinge members 14 and 18 until the shafts 13 and 16 are aligned along the common axis 19 and locked in that position (as shown in FIG. 1 and described more fully below). The cover 41 is then removed by applying pressure to the head cover tab 42 to expose the applicator pad 31. Lotion can then be applied to the pad 31 and then applied to the body by grasping the applicator at handle 17 and directing the head member 12 to those locations where it is desired to apply lotion. When the application of lotion has been completed, the cover 41 is replaced over the pad 31 and the shaft 16 rotated about hinge members 14 and 18 to overlay the handle 17 onto the covered head member 12 (FIGS. 6 and 7). At all times, the lotion on the pad 31 is either being applied or protected by cover 41 and, thus, is not distributed to unwanted or unintended surfaces.

Referring to FIGS. 8, 9 and 10, hinge member 14 at the end of head shaft 13 includes a pair of spaced-apart, depending bearing support members 51 and 52 having cylindrical post bearing holes 53 and 54, respectively. Bearing support members 51 and 52 are constructed to elastically flex during assembly and disassembly when a force is applied that pushes the members apart.

The hinge member 18 which extends from the end of shaft 16 includes a pair of depending post mount members 61 (only one of which is shown), each having a cylindrical post 62 attached to and extending outwardly therefrom (the posts 62 are most advantageously formed as an integral part of the mount members 61). The end surfaces 62a of posts 62 are not perpendicular to the post body, as in a right cylinder, but rather at an angle thereto. The post mount members 61 are dimensioned to be rigid so they do not flex during assembly of the hinge.

Support member 51 has a ramped channel 51a extending from the distal end 51b of member 51 to bearing hole 53. Likewise, support member 52 has a ramped channel 52a extending from the distal end 52b of member 52 to bearing hole 54. The channels 51a and 52a are sized to receive posts 62 with the angled ends 62a engaging the ramped surfaces of channels 51a and 52a. As the posts 62 are forced up the ramped channels 51a and 52a, the bearing support members 51 and 52 are forced apart enough to allow posts 62 to enter post bearing holes 53 and 54. Once the posts 62 are in the bearing holes 53 and 54, there is no longer a force flexing the supports 51 and 52 apart and the members 51 and 52 return to their unflexed position in which posts 62 are securely held in bearing support members 51 and 52 and rotatable in bearing holes 53 and 54 whereby the hinge members 14 and 18 are rotatably connected and can rotate, one relative to the other, through approximately 180 degrees.

The novel design of the hinge members as described above not only facilitates assembly of the hinge, but also has the unexpected advantage that excessive torque applied to the assembled hinge will result in the hinge members separating without any damage to any hinge part. The hinge can then be reassembled by inserting the posts 62 into channels 51a and 52a and pushing the posts toward the holes 53 and 54.

A latch keeper 56 is cantilevered from the end of head shaft 13 to between support members 51 and 52 and has a cam surface 57 that faces into the space between support members 51 and 52. Pressure applied to the cam surface forces the keeper 56 away from the space between support members 51 and 52, but returns to its original position when the pressure is released.

A latch member 63 is supported on the upper surface of the hinge member 18 at a location slightly beyond the end of handle shaft 16. Latch 63 has a cam follower surface 63a which terminates in a latch step 63b.

As best seen in FIG. 9, as the shafts 13 and 16 are rotated towards alignment, the latch surface 63a engages the latch cam surface 57 applying pressure thereto, causing the latch keeper 56 to flex away from the space between support members 51 and 52 until the step 63b engages the latch keeper step 58, at which point, the pressure on latch keeper 56 is released and latch keeper 56 snaps back to its original location. When the latch keeper 56 and latch 63 are so engaged, rotation towards the folded position is prevented. At the same time that the steps of latch 63 and latch keeper 56 lock, the ends 13f of shaft 13 abut the ends 16f of shaft 16, preventing any further rotation of the hinge members beyond the aligned position shown in FIGS. 1 and 10. Thus, when the hinge is latched, the shafts 13 and 16 form a unified structure which remains aligned, regardless of force that is applied to the head 12 until such time as the latch keeper 56 is released from the latch 63.

When it is desired to fold the applicator 11, the latch keeper 56 is simply urged away from the latch 63 (most conveniently using the nail of the thumb of the hand holding the handle 17), which permits the weight of head member 12 to rotate the head shaft 13 to rotate away from handle shaft 16 and assume the folded position illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7.

To unfold the applicator in order to place the shafts 13 and 16 in their locked, aligned position, it is only necessary to grasp the handle 17 and, in one motion, flip the head upwardly, causing the latch 63 to engage and catch the latch keeper 56, at which point, the shafts become a unified structure. The head cap can then be removed and lotion applied to the pad for application to the body.

Of course, various changes, modifications and alterations in the teachings of the present invention may be contemplated by those skilled in the art without departing from the intended spirit and scope thereof. As such, it is intended that the present invention only be limited by the terms of the appended claims.