Title:
Tent and its components
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tent having one or more features including a condensation barrier, removable insulated floor, reinforced portions, retractable vestibule, vent elements and vent cowling, insulated walls, and split outer vent is disclosed. The condensation barrier restricts frozen condensation to only a small portion of the tent. The removable insulated floor is efficiently installed in the tent to provide added comfort and safety for the occupants. The reinforced portions facilitate assembly of the tent poles from the inside of the tent and provide an efficient means of installing the removable insulated floor. The retractable vestibule may be extended to provide added shelter and retracted in extreme weather to protect the tent from damage. The vent elements facilitate the circulation of air through the tent and reduce stress on the tent seams during higher winds. The insulated walls provide added warmth in extremely cold climates without compromising the weather resistance of the tent. The split outer door vent provides ventilation without adding significant additional weight or complexity to the tent or allowing precipitation to enter the tent.



Inventors:
Brensinger, Cam (Nashua, NH, US)
Application Number:
11/183144
Publication Date:
02/02/2006
Filing Date:
07/15/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04H15/04
View Patent Images:
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20070283989Safe umbrella frameDecember, 2007Kuo



Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BOURQUE & ASSOCIATES (MANCHESTER, NH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tent comprising: a tent having at least sidewalls and a bottom region, said sidewalls and bottom region defining an interior region of said tent; and a condensation barrier, coupled to said sidewalls and dividing said tent interior region into first and second compartments, said condensation barrier for generally preventing moisture in said first compartment from condensing on said sidewalls in said second compartment.

2. The tent of claim 1 wherein said moisture emanates from one or more occupants of said tent.

3. The tent of claim 1, wherein in use, an occupant's upper torso region is initially disposed in said first compartment.

4. The tent of claim 1, wherein said condensation barrier is releasably attachable to said sidewalls of said tent.

5. The tent of claim 1, wherein said condensation barrier is releasably attachable using hook and loop fasteners.

6. A method of providing a tent compartment generally free from condensed moisture from one or more occupants, said method comprising the acts of: providing a tent having at least sidewalls and a bottom region, said sidewalls and bottom region defining an interior region of said tent; providing a condensation barrier, coupled to said sidewalls of said tent and extending proximate said tent bottom region and dividing said interior region of said tent into first and second compartments, said condensation barrier for generally preventing moisture in said first compartment from condensing on said sidewalls of said second compartment; and locating a moisture generating item in said first compartment.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein said moisture generating item includes a human tent occupant, hiking gear and expedition gear.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein said moisture generating item includes a human tent occupant's face.

9. The method of claim 8, further including the act of causing said moisture generating item to retreat from said first tent compartment containing said moisture to said second tent compartment generally not containing said moisture.

10. A retractable tent extension, comprising: a tent extension having a first end generally coupled to said tent and a second end; a frame creating element, disposed on or in said second end and serving to define an opening created by said tent extension, said frame creating element having first and second ends hingedly attached to said tent proximate said first and second ends, for allowing said tent extension to move between a first deployed position and a second retracted position; and a supporting element, removably coupled to said frame creating element, for causing said tent extension to be maintained in said deployed position and for allowing said tent extension to be moved to said retracted position.

11. The retractable tent extension of claim 10, wherein said tent extension includes a tent vestibule.

12. The retractable tent extension of claim 10, wherein said frame creating element includes a tent pole.

13. The retractable tent extension of claim 10, wherein said supporting element includes at least one guy out and fastener.

14. The retractable tent extension of claim 10, further including a plurality of tent extension vent elements, disposed in said first end of said tent extension proximate said tent, for relieving air forces striking said tent extension when in said deployed position.

15. The retractable tent extension of claim 14, further including a vent element cover, disposed over said plurality of vent elements, for preventing any precipitation from passing through said vent elements.

16. A retractable tent vestibule, comprising: a tent vestibule having a first end generally coupled to said tent and a second end, said first end including a plurality of tent vestibule pressure relief elements, disposed in said first end of said tent vestibule proximate said tent, for relieving air forces stressing said tent vestibule when said tent vestibule is in a deployed position; a vestibule pole, disposed on or in said second end of said vestibule and serving to define an opening created by said vestibule, said vestibule pole having first and second ends hingedly attached to said tent proximate said first and second ends of said pole, for allowing said vestibule to move between a first deployed position and a second retracted position; and a pressure relief opening cover, disposed over said plurality of vent elements, for preventing precipitation from passing through said pressure relief elements.

17. A split outer tent vent, comprising: a two piece tent venting device having a first portion and a second portion, said first portion including one edge which overlaps one edge of said second portion, for preventing precipitation from entering said vent; and a split tent vent opener, operatively connectable between said one edge of said first portion and said one edge of said second portion, for forming and maintaining an opening to create said vent.

18. The tent vent of claim 17, wherein said vent is a tent door.

19. The tent vent of claim 17, wherein said vent is a tent window.

20. The tent vent of claim 17, further including a vent closure preventor, coupled between said one edge of said first portion and said one edge of said second portion of said vent, for ensuring an opening between said first and second portions when said split vent opener is in place.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional patent application No. 60/618,359 filed Jul. 16, 2004, and No. 60/618,359 filed Oct. 13, 2004, both of which are fully incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to tents and their components and more particularly, to a tent having a condensation barrier, removable insulated floor, reinforced corner portions, a retractable vestibule, pressure relief openings, insulated walls, and split outer door vent.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

One classic problem with tents in the winter season or cold climates is waking up after a cold night with frozen condensation or frost on the inside of the tent. A person can loose as much as a liter of water or more through the moisture in their breath when exhaling during a normal night's sleep in a cold, dry environment. As a result, the tent may be lined with frozen condensation in the morning. Even in a well-ventilated tent with breathable fabrics, much of this moisture ends up condensing and freezing to the inside of the tent walls. In the morning, when the tent occupants awake, this frozen condensation is both a nuisance and potential hazard. Even a slight shaking or disturbance of the tent walls will likely cause ice crystals to fall, melting on contact with any warm surface, including the inside of sleeping bags or the occupant's clothing. This causes the inside of the tent and items in the tent to get wet, which can be very dangerous in extreme environments. It is also uncomfortable to wake up to ice crystals falling on your face.

Most approaches to solving these problems in the prior art have involved trying to improve the breathability of the fabrics and the air circulation within the tent. However, even the most breathable fabrics cannot prevent vapor from freezing to the inside tent walls when the tent occupants are asleep in highly insulative sleeping bags. The sleeping bags trap body heat, the only source of heat in the tent in a mountaineering situation, so that the air inside the tent will be about the same temperature as the air outside. Therefore, if it is below freezing outside, the tent walls will likely be below freezing, causing vapor inside the tent to condense and freeze before it can pass through a breathable fabric membrane.

Another problem with prior art tents is that they often are set up in very cold environments, such as on snow. In those conditions, there is nothing between the occupant's sleeping bag and a thin fabric covering the snow.

Many tents are provided with vestibules or other structures which extend from the outer shell of the tent. Although vestibules serve a useful purpose in protecting the opening of the tent from snow and wind, they may also add vulnerability to the tent by catching the wind and exposing the seams of the tent to high stress. Especially in the case of a partial vestibule, which does not extend to the ground, high winds could lead to stresses on the seams of the tent severe enough to ultimately tear the tent apart. Accordingly, what is needed is a pressure relief method, such as an opening at the seams, which serves to release air pressure on cowlings, canopies, vestibules or other wind catching portions of the tent to relieve strain on tent seams and mitigate the risk of the tent being torn apart.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a tent having one or more of a condensation barrier, removable insulated floor, reinforced corner portions, retractable vestibule, pressure relief openings, insulated walls, and split outer door vent. In one embodiment, the present invention is a more effective and novel approach to prevent or at least reduce frozen condensation or frost from forming on the inside of a significant portion of the tent. A condensation barrier or curtain is operatively attached to the inside of the tent, which isolates the moisture exhaled or generated by the tent occupants. An area of the tent above the occupants' heads is isolated or separated from the remaining portion of the tent when the occupants are in the tent usually in the sleeping position. When the occupants are lying down, the condensation barrier or curtain is deployed and hangs down proximate a predetermined position on the occupant, such as proximate the upper torso area or roughly shoulder level of the occupants. The condensation barrier or curtain is operatively connected to the ceiling and walls of the tent and hangs down and loosely over the occupants, sleeping bags, and the floor of the tent. Vents in the tent walls on both sides of the curtain keep air circulating throughout the entire tent.

Although frozen condensation, or frost, may form on the inside of the tent on colder days, the condensation barrier or curtain contains or isolates most of the frozen condensation to only a portion of the tent. When the tent occupants wake up in the morning, they simply move into the larger, dry area of the tent by sliding under the curtain or they can carefully roll up the curtain and secure it to the inside wall of the tent. In this way, they are able to get dressed and pack their equipment without the annoyance and hazard of the falling condensation. After they exit the tent, they can roll up the detachable condensation barrier or curtain, remove it from the tent and shake it out. This will serve to remove most of the frost from the inside of the tent, which is very difficult to do with ordinary tents when the entire inside of the tent is covered with ice crystals. During a longer expedition, this will reduce the overall weight of moisture trapped in the fabrics of the tent.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the removable insulated floor is efficiently installed in the tent to provide added comfort and safety for the occupants. The floor is constructed of first and second thin sheets of material which encapsulates a foam core. The corners of the insulated floor include circular holes with grommets which are reinforced to receive tent poles. In this embodiment, the tent has internal poles, which in addition to speeding up the setup of the tent, also allow the ends of the poles to be inserted into the grommets on the removable insulated floor, spreading the floor pad out and holding it in place inside the tent. The reinforced inside corners of the tent protect the tent from the ends of the poles, facilitating setup and use of the removable insulated floor. The retractable vestibule may be extended to provide added shelter and retracted in extreme weather to protect the tent from damage, or in nicer weather to allow sunlight into the tent. The tent vent elements facilitate the circulation of air through the tent. The insulated walls provide added warmth in extremely cold climates without compromising an outer layer of the tent. The split outer door vent provides ventilation without allowing precipitation or snow to enter the tent.

It is important to note that the present invention is not intended to be limited to a device, which must satisfy one or more of any stated objects or features of the invention. It is also important to note that the present invention is not limited to the preferred, exemplary, or primary embodiment(s) described herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be better understood by reading the following detailed description, taken together with the drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a tent with a condensation barrier operatively attached therein according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a removable insulated floor being secured by tent poles according to one aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a tent with removable insulated floor secured inside the tent which has reinforced portions according to the present invention;

FIG. 4a is a perspective view of a tent with a retractable vestibule in an extended or use position, showing the pressure relief openings at the seams according to yet another aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 4b is a perspective view of a tent with a retractable vestibule in a retracted or nonuse position according to one aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 5a is a perspective view of a tent having insulated walls according to the present invention;

FIG. 5b is a cross-section of the insulated walls shown in FIG. 5a; and

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a tent with a split outer door vent therein according to the yet another embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention includes a tent 10, FIG. 1, having one or more of a condensation barrier or curtain 12, removable insulated floor 20, reinforced portions 30, retractable vestibule 40, pressure vents or vent cowlings 50, insulated walls 60, and a split outer door vent 70.

The condensation barrier 12 is operatively attached to inside surfaces of the tent 10, FIG. 1 in one or more regions. In the preferred embodiment, the condensation barrier 12 is made of very lightweight, thin material that does not readily absorb water and dries quickly in the sun. For example, the condensation barrier 12 may be a lightweight fabric such as a 40 denier polyester ripstop.

The condensation barrier 12 is attached to a top surface 14 and sides 16 of the tent 10. In one embodiment, the condensation barrier 12 is attached to the top surface 14 and the sides 15 with fasteners 18. In one embodiment, the fasteners 18 are hook & loop fasteners; however, other types of fasteners, such as snaps, buttons, zippers, etc., may be substituted. In one embodiment, the condensation barrier 12 hangs down to an area 68 proximate the occupants' upper torsos or heads although this is not a limitation of the present invention as the condensation barrier can be moved anywhere within area 69 within the tent 10 as the user or occupants desire.

The condensation barrier 12 thus segregates the tent 10 into two portions. A first portion 22 is a “moisture chamber” that confines or isolates the moisture exhaled by the occupants. In use, the occupants' heads or other moisture producing items such as the openings of the occupants' sleeping bags are positioned in the first portion 22 of the tent 10. A second or remaining portion 24 of the tent 10 is separated from the first portion 22 by means of the condensation barrier 12. Normally, however, it is desirable to have a smaller area 22 to contain the frost and a larger area 24 into which the user(s) can withdraw to continue their activities without fear of getting their clothes or equipment wet from the frost, or frozen condensation. In addition, it is not necessary to have a perfect seal between the condensation barrier 12 and the tent sidewall as it is only necessary that the condensation barrier 12 prevent the majority of the moisture from migrating to the second interior tent portion.

When the occupants are lying down in the tent 10, the condensation barrier 12 is deployed and hangs down on the upper torso area or at roughly shoulder level of the occupants. The condensation barrier 12 hangs down from the tent 10 over the occupants, sleeping bags, and the floor of the tent 10. The occupants' heads are contained in the first portion 22 of the tent 10 and the remaining portion of the occupants are contained in the second portion 24 of the tent 10.

The condensation barrier 12 causes the moisture exhaled from the occupants to be contained in the first portion 22. In colder climates, the exhaled moisture will freeze on the inside surface of the first portion 22 of the tent 10. The remaining or second portion 24 of the tent 10 remains relatively free of frozen condensation. When the occupants of the tent 10 awake in the morning, they move into the second portion 24 that is larger and dryer than the first portion 22 of the tent 10. In this way, they are able to get dressed and pack their equipment without the annoyance and hazard of the falling or melting condensation.

After exiting the tent 10, they can detach the condensation barrier 12 from the tent 10 by unfastening the fasteners 18. The condensation barrier 12 may be rolled up to avoid the condensation or moisture from falling into the tent 10. Thereafter, the condensation barrier 12 may be shaken out and hung out to dry while the remainder of the tent can be left to be aired out and dry. This is much less feasible with ordinary tents when the entire inside of the tent 10 is covered with ice crystals. The tent 10 material in the first portion 22 will also dry quickly from any condensation.

Moisture producing items in a tent are not limited to human occupants. As previously described, this embodiment of the present invention is directed at containing moisture from breathing and evaporation into a first compartment. Moisture can also come from hiking and or expedition gear which is placed inside the tent, especially in the case where it is placed inside the sleeping bag with the occupant in order to dry it out. In addition, although the present invention illustrates using a condensation barrier 12 that is attached generally straight from the top or sidewall regions of the tent to the bottom portion, this is not a limitation of the present invention as the bottom portion of the condensation barrier 12 may be moved within the interior of the tent to be closer to the occupant's face or further away from the occupant's face extending further down the torso of the occupant. As long as two generally isolated compartments are formed, moisture in one compartment will be generally restricted or prevented from traveling to the other compartment and condensing and freezing on those surfaces.

Vents 26 may be located throughout the tent 10 in order to reduce the overall level of moisture trapped in the tent 10. These vents 26 keep air circulating through the tent 10. In one embodiment, the moisture reducing vents 26 have a mesh fabric to maintain breathability while keeping out snow and insects. A cover or cowling is placed over the mesh fabric to preclude rain, snow, or the like from entering the tent 10. In other embodiments, a zipper or hook and loop fastener is used to secure the cover or cowling to the tent 10 to close the vents and reduce airflow.

The tent 10 in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention has a removable insulated floor 20, FIG. 2. The removable insulated floor 20 is readily integrated with the tent 10. The removable insulated floor 20 is constructed of two “halves” 21, 23 separated by a sewed region 25. The insulated floor 20 also has four corners 28. The four corners 28 have grommets 32 into which ends of poles 72 for the tent 10 are inserted. After the ends of the poles 72 of the tent 10 are inserted into the grommets 32, the poles 72 extend from one of the corners 28 across the ceiling to the diagonally opposite corner 28a or 28b of the tent 10.

When setting up the tent 10, the ends of the tent poles 72 tend to extend to the corners 28 of the tent 10. This is because the longest dimensions inside the tent 10 are diagonally from corner 28 to corner 28a and 28 to 28b. Further, because the grommets 32 are placed in the corners 28 of the removable insulated floor 20, the ends of the poles 72 are easily placed in the grommets 32 of the removable insulated floor 20, such that the poles 72 hold the removable insulated floor 20 in the proper position from corner 28 to corner 28.

Each half of the removable insulated floor 20 is, preferably, made of a thin layer of closed-cell EVA foam 27 placed between two layers 29, 31 of thin synthetic fabric, such as nylon or polyester. The layers of synthetic fabric are sewn or bound together around outer edges of the foam and along the center line 25. In the preferred embodiment, the top layer 29 of the fabric is made from an abrasion resistant material to withstand abrasion from occupants weight and gear on top of the floor pad. The bottom layer 31 may also be made of an abrasion resistance material although this may not necessary. The grommets 32 may be metal or plastic and are added to the removable insulated floor 20 by punching holes in the four corners 28. The tent poles 72 have locking end tips for attaching to the grommets 32.

To store or pack the insulated floor 20, after all of the tent poles 72 have been removed, the first floor portion 21 is folded on top of the second floor portion 23 as shown by arrow 33. Next, the two floor halves are rolled into a small cylindrical package and inserted into a stuff sack for storing and carrying to the next location.

The tent 10, FIG. 3, has corners 34 on the inside of the tent 10 that have the reinforced portions 30 thereon. The reinforced portions 30 are liners made of a highly abrasion resistant and very strong material, such as Hypalon. The reinforced portions 30 protect the tent 10 from the ends of the tent poles 72. There are tents 10 in the prior art that use pockets or the grommets 32 to locate the poles 72 in the corners 34 of the tent 10, but it is not efficient to locate the poles 72 in the grommets or pockets. The present invention provides efficient installation of the tent poles 72 because the poles 72 tend extend to the corners 34. The reinforced portions 30 improve setup time of the tent 10 and improve the durability and strength of the tent 10 especially during extreme winds or when the tent is setup on abrasive terrain.

It is known in the art to use fixed vestibules to shield the tent's 10 entryway, to provide a protected area for packs and gear, or to allow the user a place to cook protected from the rain or snow. The fixed vestibules offer ideal protection from the elements, but they add weight to the tent and, during nice weather conditions, the fixed vestibule may block out sunshine and inhibit air circulation. Further, these fixed vestibules are prone to damage during high winds. Specifically, in extremely windy conditions, the fixed vestibules, canopies, and vent cowlings may be torn off the tent or even worse, may provide so much stress at their attachment point to the tent that the entire tent is torn apart by the wind, seriously endangering the lives of its occupants.

In accordance with another feature of the present invention, the present invention incorporates a retractable vestibule 40, FIG. 4a, that may be extended into a use position (FIG. 4a) and subsequently folded up and secured against the tent 10 in a nonuse position, FIG. 4b. Although the retractable vestibule 40 is shown in the drawings, the present invention also includes and contemplates other retractable elements such as retractable canopies and vent cowlings.

The retractable vestibule 40 prevents precipitation from entering the tent and allows a user to sit in the tent 10 with the door open when cooking a meal. This is especially useful in cold or inclement weather, when the protection of the tent 10 provides a more comfortable cooking area. When the weather is nice, the retractable vestibule 40 may be retracted to allow sunshine in through the door and to improve air circulation. Also, during stormy or windy weather, the retractable vestibule 40 may be retracted and secured to the tent 10, FIG. 4b reducing the overall profile of the tent 10 and mitigating risk of wind related damage.

The retractable vestibule 40 has one or more supporting poles or frame element(s) 36 operatively mounted to the tent 10 by means of hinges 38. The supporting pole(s) 36 help define the edge or opening of the vestibule or cowling which is freestanding and away from the tent. The hinges 38 may be sleeves having pockets for receiving the supporting pole(s) 36. One feature of this invention is that the vestibule or other structure can be retracted with the pole 36 in place. One or more guy-outs 42 and fasteners 44 are operatively connected between the ground and the retractable vestibule 40 to hold the retractable vestibule 40 in the use or extended position. The guy-outs 42 are staked to the ground providing stability to the retractable vestibule 40.

Alternatively, a pole or other device could be utilized between the tent sidewall and the frame 36 to hold the vestibule in the extended position. If a high wind should quickly materialize, the user simply needs to unfasten fastener 44 and while remaining under cover of the tent, push the vestibule 40 flat against the tent and secure the vestibule with a securing strap(s) 39, FIG. 4b.

The present invention also includes pressure relief openings 50 on the retractable vestibules 40, canopies, and vent cowlings or other tent extensions. The pressure relief openings 50 for the retractable vestibule 40, canopies, and vent cowlings or the like are scalloped or other similar shaped openings in seams 48 between the tent extension and the tent wall. To prevent rain or snow from passing through the pressure relief openings 50, a flap of fabric 49 is sewn over them. The openings 50 allow air (especially high wind or wind gusts) coming up from under the vestibule or other tent extensions 40 to partially escape, reducing the stress on the tent seams, and potentially preventing the tent from being torn apart or at the very least, ripped. The flow of air under the retractable vestibule 40 moving through the relief openings 50, creates a local low-pressure area in front of the tent 10 door or vents, which if open, will help draw air out of the tent 10.

The present invention also includes, in another embodiment, a tent 10 having insulated walls 60, FIG. 5a. The insulated walls 60 include three layers of material 52, 54, 56, FIG. 5b. An outer or first layer 52 is made from a waterproof/breathable material. A middle or second layer 54 is made of 3M Thinsulate, Aerogel, or another type of thin insulation. An inner or third layer 56 is made from a breathable nylon ripstop. In alternative embodiments, the materials may vary and one or more layers may be combined into one layer.

The layers of material 52, 54, 56 are joined together in a novel way. Specifically, the layers of materials 52, 54, 56 are joined together without stitching through the outer layer 52 of the tent 10. This is significant because it does not compromise the waterproofness of the tent 10.

The inner layer 56 is stitched to the middle layer 54. The stitched inner and middle layers 54, 56 are welded, heat taped or otherwise fastened 74 without stitching to the outer layer 52. Bemis tape may be used in the heat taping process. The combined layers 52, 54, 56 form the insulated walls 60 without any stitching through the outer layer 52.

Achieving good ventilation in a single wall tent design is difficult. Single wall tents are potentially lighter and easier to use than double wall designs, but they are more difficult to make waterproof and well ventilated than tents with rain flies. To achieve this, single wall tents may have several different types of vents, double doors, and vestibules to incorporate rainproof venting.

In yet another embodiment, the present invention features a split outer tent vent 70, FIG. 6 for a tent 10 to provide improved ventilation and/or access. The split outer vent 70 has a first section 62 and a second section 64. The first section 62 is strutted or otherwise kept open by means of a plastic or similar “strut” 67 which creates an opening 65 between section 62 and section 64 to a mesh screen/door 66. The split outer vent 70 is advantageous because there is already a mesh layer underneath, so the split outer vent 70 does not require a significant amount of material or complex design. The split outer vent 70 allows air to enter the tent 10 while precluding rain from entering the tent 10. The vent may include a window or a door. In a variation of this embodiment, the split outer vent 70 may also be incorporated into a doorway. In order to get into the tent in the case where the vent is used as a door, the two portions are displaced apart and the user crawls into or out of the tent. When not entering the tent, the split nature of the opening provides good ventilation while preventing precipitation from entering the tent.

This embodiment also includes a support strap 69 which is attached from the top portion of lower section 64 to the inside upper seam of section 62. The purpose of the support strap 69 is to prevent the strut 67 from simply pushing down the lower section 64 and not causing an effective opening 65. The strap 69 is typically made from webbing material approximately ½ to ¾ inches in width.

As mentioned above, the present invention is not intended to be limited to a system or method which must satisfy one or more of any stated or implied object or feature of the invention and should not be limited to the preferred, exemplary, or primary embodiment(s) described herein. Modifications and substitutions by one of ordinary skill in the art are considered to be within the scope of the present invention, which is not to be limited except by the allowed claims and their equivalents.