Title:
Actuated inflatable extension
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflation display device comprises an inflation module including an extension portion. An end of the extension portion is connected with the main body of the inflation module. The inflatable display also includes a partition formed where the extension portion is joined with the main body of the inflatable display. Advantageously, one or more aperture(s) are defined in the partition with a circumference smaller than that of the partition. The pressure associated with the air flowing through the extension portion can be varied. By varying the pressure of the air flowing through the aperture, it is possible to animate the extension portion as the air flow travels through the tapered extension portion and exits a free end of the extension portion.



Inventors:
Machala, William (Smithfield, RI, US)
Application Number:
11/128091
Publication Date:
05/25/2006
Filing Date:
05/11/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H3/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ISLAM, SYED A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP (New York, NY, US)
Claims:
1. An inflatable display comprising: an inflation module; an extension portion connected with the inflation module; a fan element, operatively connected to the inflation module; and a partition between the inflation module and the extension portion including an air flow control mechanism.

2. The inflatable display of claim 1, wherein the air flow control mechanism comprises an aperture in the partition.

3. The inflatable display of claim 2, wherein the inflatable display is formed as a character with limbs.

5. The inflatable display of claim 4, wherein the partition is formed in a limb configured as an arm.

6. The inflatable display of claim 5, wherein the partition is formed between a shoulder and distal end of the arm.

7. The inflatable display of claim 6, wherein a fan element is situated outside of the inflatable display.

8. The inflatable display of claim 7, wherein the inflatable display is capable of being unconnected from the fan element.

9. The inflatable display of claim 8, wherein the inflation module and extension portion are made from a permeable material.

10. The inflatable display of claim 9, wherein the partition is made from the same permeable material as the inflation module and extension portion.

11. An inflatable display comprising: an inflation module having a main body portion and an extension portion; a partition between said main body portion and said extension portion having an air flow control mechanism; and a fan element, operatively connected to said main body portion, wherein air pressure/speed varies as air flow is driven by said fan element through said main body portion and said air flow control mechanism.

12. The inflatable display of claim 11, wherein the flow control mechanism comprises an aperture.

13. The inflatable display of claim 11, wherein the flow control mechanism comprises multiple apertures.

14. A partition within an inflatable display comprising an actuation aperture and positioned between a main body and an extension portion of said inflatable display wherein air pressure and speed varies through said actuation aperture.

15. A method for actuating an inflatable extension of an inflatable display comprising: a first step of driving air through a main body of said inflatable display; a second step of driving air through an actuation aperture of said inflatable extension; a third step of driving air through said inflatable extension; and a fourth step of driving air through said free end of said inflatable extension.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority from provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/630,540 entitled ACTUATED INFLATABLE EXTENSION filed in the name of William Machala on Nov. 23, 2004, the entirety of which is incorporated by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The apparatus and method of the present invention relate to inflatable air displays formed with animated extensions.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Inflatable displays have become increasingly popular in recent years. These types of displays have a wide range of application, shape and size, including, but not limited to, figures for holiday and seasonal, general lawn decoration, marketing, advertising, entertainment, and event attraction. The inflatable displays are made from a permeable fabric that allows air to pass through the fabric at approximately the same rate as the air being blown into the inflatable display. The process of continuously blowing air being supplied from a fan or other inflation device occurring at substantially the same rate as air escaping the fabric allows the display to maintain a three-dimensional shape without the use of an internal or external frame or structure. These are known in the industry as “cold-air” inflatable displays.

Typically, the cold-air inflatable display is a static figure formed from an inflation module which represents an individual figure when inflated. For example, a consumer may decide to decorate their house with a jack-o-lantern inflatable display for the Halloween season, a snowman inflatable display for the holiday season, or an Uncle Sam inflatable display for Independence Day. However, the inflatable display is generally a static element that is representative of a holiday or seasonal display. There is no present apparatus or method utilizing a fan element or other inflation device to inflate an inflation module that is capable of actuating an extension portion of the display dynamically, as described herein.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is directed to an inflatable display that has an inflation module formed with an extension portion. The inflation module is inflated by a fan element or other inflation device. More specifically, an inflation module is formed from a permeable material and configured to represent a predetermined shape or design when inflated, such as a ghost, a snowman, or any other type of character or design.

The inflation module includes an extension portion with a proximate end of the extension portion joined with the main body of the inflatable display, wherein a distal end of the extension portion is free-floating (not attached to any part of the inflatable display) and open-ended (allowing air from inside the inflation device to escape). According to an embodiment of the invention, the extension portion is formed from a piece of the permeable material and is configured as a tube. The inflatable display includes a partition formed at the point where the extension portion is joined with the main body of the inflatable display. Advantageously, by defining an aperture in the partition with a circumference smaller than that of the partition, the flow of air through the extension portion is impeded. This results in air pressure and air speed of an air flow varying as the flow passes through the extension portion from the partition to the free-floating end of the extension portion. By varying the air pressure/speed at these points, the extension portion is actuated.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the foregoing brief description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory of this invention, but are not intended to be restrictive thereof or limiting of the advantages which can be achieved by this invention. Thus, the accompanying drawings, referred to herein and constituting a part hereof, illustrate preferred embodiments of this invention, and, together with the detailed description, serve to explain the principles of this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features and advantages of the present invention, both as to its structure and operation, will be apparent from the following detailed description, especially when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a front view of an embodiment of the present invention illustrating an embodiment of the invention configured as a ghost inflation module, wherein the ghost's arms are formed as extension portions.

FIG. 2 illustrates a close-up perspective view of the attachment point of the extension portion and the main body of the inflatable device as identified by reference character “A” in FIG. 1.

FIGS. 3A-3G illustrate an actuation of the extension portion illustrated in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The apparatus and method of the present invention will now be discussed with reference to FIGS. 1-3G. As first illustrated in FIG. 1, the invention is directed to inflatable display unit 10. More specifically, according to an embodiment of the invention, inflatable display unit 10 will be discussed herein with regard to its component pieces that include inflation module 30, extension portion 20, fan element 35, lighting apparatus 40, and partition 50. An object of the invention is to actuate free end 23 of extension portion 20, thereby animating the inflatable display as indicated by arrows 75.

As illustrated according to an embodiment of the invention, inflation module 30 is shown in the figures as a ghost. It is to be understood that while the figures illustrate a ghost, inflation module 30 may be configured in any character, shape or size, depending on the specific need and purpose of the display. By way of example, alternative embodiments of the invention may include such characters as a popular cartoon character, in which the arms may be formed as the extension portion and animated, or an animal wherein the tail or ears may be formed as the extension portion and animated.

The inflatable display may include interior lighting arrangement 40 that includes one or more light bulbs 41 secured to a power cord and disposed within inflation module 30. Protective covers are secured around each light bulb 41 to protect the permeable fabric of inflation module 30 from heat produced from each light bulb 41. Interior lighting assembly 40 is attached to fan assembly 35 through an electrical connector on the bottom end of a power cord that mates with fan assembly 35. Advantageously, if an operator does not want to illuminate the interior of the display, the operator may simply detach the electrical connector from the fan assembly element to remove power from interior lighting arrangement 40, without necessarily removing lights 41 from the interior of the display.

Inflation module 30 is preferably made from a permeable fabric that allows air to escape at approximately the same rate as air being blown into inflatable display 10 by fan element number 35. Similarly, extension portions 20 and partitions 50 are formed from the same material as the main body of inflatable device 10. Inflatable display 10 is held in position by a securing mechanism, such as a ballast 55 situated at the bottom of the inflation module 30 or a tether to either the ground or another structure and is secured to said inflatable display 10 by securing devices, such as a securing ring attached to inflatable display 10.

As illustrated, reference character 50 refers to a partition formed between the main body of the inflation module 30 and the extension portion 20, which acts as an attachment point for the extension portion. Defined in the surface of partition 50 is an actuation aperture 51. Assuming that partition 50 was not included in the inflatable device 10, air would simply be directed though the free ends 23 of the extension portions 20, which would stay substantially in the same position. However, by forming partition 50 with actuation aperture 51, the air pressure/speed varies as an air flow is driven by fan element 35 through the main body of inflation module 30, through the actuation aperture 51, into and through extension portion 20 and out of inflatable display 10 through free end 23. The size, shape, number and location of actuation aperture 51, as well as the attachment point of extension portion 20, may be varied between various implementations of the invention in order to achieve a wide range of actuation characteristics.

The fan element may be situated either within the inflation device or implemented as an external fan element 35. As illustrated in the figures, fan element 35 is preferably implemented as a lightweight plastic sleeveless bearing fan. The lightweight of the electric fan assembly and the plastic housing enables the fan assembly to be secured to the fabric of the inflatable display at a position elevated above the surface-touching bottom of the display without distorting the shape of inflatable display 10. Moreover, implementing this type of assembly inflates device 10 without the need for a base to support and elevate the fan above the ground to achieve sufficient air intake. Advantageously, fan element 35 can be easily removed from its respective housings for cleaning or replacement whenever necessary. Fan element 35 is covered with a safety grill to guard against unwanted debris from entering the display as well as contacting fan blades. Further, it is possible for fan element 35 to be configured with a variable air speed control, which provides a consumer the ability to adjust the degree of animation of the extension portions. Also, depending on the actual implementation, the fan element may be configured with a stand that raises the fan element off of the ground.

FIG. 2 illustrates a close-up perspective view of the attachment point of extension portion 20 and the main body of inflatable device 30 as identified by reference character “A” in FIG. 1. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the air flow is in the direction of the arrows from the main body of the inflation module toward the free end of extension portion 20. Actuation aperture 51 defined in partition 50 is the primary method of actuating extension portion 20.

Air is blown by fan element 35 into inflation portion 30 and achieves a certain air pressure that is higher than the air pressure outside of inflatable display 10. The air flows from a high pressure environment (inside device 10) to a low pressure environment (outside device 10). Accordingly, air will flow from the inflatable module 30 through extension portion 20 and into the surrounding environment.

However, partition 50 impedes the air flow into extension portion 20. More specifically, air can only flow through actuation aperture 51. There is an increase in air speed as the air flows from the greater volume in the inflation module 30 through the actuation aperture 51, which has a circumference that is significantly smaller than the circumference of the inflation module leading up to the attachment point. Therefore, as the air is forced through the actuation aperture 51 and tapered extension portion 20, the air speed is increased until the air flow exits from the extension portion 20. Upon exiting the free end 23, the dramatic shift in air pressure/speed acts to animate the free end 23 of extension portion 20.

FIGS. 3A-3E are a series of illustrations that detail how the air pressure builds within the inflatable device 30 and actuates the extension portion 20. More specifically, FIG. 2A illustrates a base position wherein the air pressure in both device 30 and extension portion 20 are substantially equal. FIG. 3B illustrates a point at which the air pressure builds on the interior portion of the partition 50. FIG. 3C illustrates a point just before the air pressure flows from within the device 30 through the actuation aperture 51 to make the extension portion 20 move. FIG. 3D illustrates a point at which the air pressure equalizes across the partition 50. There is an effective sharp increase in the air speed of the air flow through the proximal end of extension portion—initiating extension portion 20. FIG. 3E illustrates the actuation of the extension portion 20 as the air flow/air pressure equalization continues to move toward the distal end of extension portion 20. FIG. 3F illustrates fully actuated extension portion 20, while FIG. 3G illustrates extension portion 20 returning back to the initial position when the air pressure equalizes across entire extension portion 20.

It is to be understood that although the embodiments disclosed herein are directed to actuation aperture 51, variation of the air pressure/speed associated with an airflow may be achieved by a variety of methods, including, but not limited to, variations in the size, shape, number and location of actuation aperture 51 or incorporating a valve or a series of slits into partition 50, in place of or in addition to actuation aperture 51, or any other type of method for varying the air pressure/speed. In an embodiment of the invention, the size of the actuation aperture is approximately one inch. However, by adjusting the size, shape, number, and location of actuation aperture(s) 51, it is possible to adjust the degree of animation associated with extension portion 20.

Although illustrative preferred embodiments have been described herein in detail, it should be noted and will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that numerous variations may be made within the scope of this invention without departing from the principle of this invention and without sacrificing its chief advantages. The terms and expressions have been used as terms of description and not terms of limitation. There is no intention to use the terms or expressions to exclude any equivalents of features shown and described or portions thereof and this invention should be defined in accordance with the claims which follow.