Title:
Inflating and deflating cellular support cushion and methods of use thereof
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to inflating and deflating cellular support cushions and methods of use thereof for providing comfort and protecting against the development of pressure sores and bedsores for persons who are bed ridden or use a wheelchair for long periods of time. The present invention is particularly adaptable as a support cushion in the form of a mattress, mattress cover, seat cushion, or seat cushion cover. The present invention can be combined with any mattress or seat, including wheelchair seat, to provide inflating and deflating cellular support cushions.



Inventors:
Glass, Leonard W. (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/046358
Publication Date:
08/03/2006
Filing Date:
01/28/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/713, 5/654
International Classes:
A47C27/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CONLEY, FREDRICK C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TDFOSTER (SAN DIEGO, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A cushion comprising: a) a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, wherein said plurality of flexible and hollow cells comprise a first, a second, a third, and a fourth distinct interfitting groups capable of interfitting with each other which when interfitted, comprise repeating sections of four separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells to form a uniform surface wherein each of said repeating sections comprises one of said flexible and hollow cells from each of said first, said second, said third, and said fourth interfitting groups to form said uniform surface so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted; b) one or more manifolds capable of directing said fluid to and from said plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and c) one or more pumping means connected to said one or more manifolds for filling and depleting said plurality of flexible and hollow cells with said fluid.

2. (canceled)

3. The cushion of claim 1, wherein each of said interfitting groups of said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells are connected to a separate manifold for directing said fluid to and from said interfitting group.

4. The cushion of claim 1, wherein the top surface of each of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells is substantially in a shape of a dome.

5. The cushion of claim 1, wherein the height of said flexible and hollow cells of said four distinct interfitting groups are configured to be tallest for the bottom positioned interfitting group to shortest for the top positioned interfitting group.

6. The cushion of claim 1, wherein said one or more pumping means is capable of filling and depleting groups of cells at certain programmed intervals.

7. The cushion of claim 1, wherein said one or more pumping means is capable of filling and depleting each of said interfitting groups said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells at different programmed intervals.

8. A cushion comprising: a) a cushioning means for support comprising a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid; wherein said plurality of flexible and hollow cells comprise a first, a second a third, and a fourth distinct interfitting groups capable of interfitting with each other, which when interfitted, comprise repeating sections of four separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells to form a uniform surface, wherein each of said repeating sections comprises one of said flexible and hollow cells from each of said first said second, said third and said fourth interfitting groups to form said uniform surface so that cells that are being depleted are not next to or contiguous with other cells that are being depleted; b) means for directing said fluid to and from said plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and c) one or more pumping means connected to said one or more manifolds for filling and depleting said plurality of flexible and hollow cells with said fluid.

9. (canceled)

10. The cushion of claim 8, wherein each of said interfitting groups of said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells are connected to a separate means for directing said fluid to and from said interfitting group.

11. The Cushion of claim 8, wherein the top surface of each of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells is substantially in a shape of a dome.

12. The cushion of claim 8, wherein the height of said flexible and hollow cells of said four distinct interfitting groups are configured to be tallest for the bottom positioned interfitting group to shortest for the top positioned interfitting group.

13. The cushion of claim 8, wherein said pumping means is capable of filling and depleting groups of cells at certain programmed intervals.

14. The cushion of claim 8, wherein said pumping means is capable of filling and depleting each of said interfitting groups said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells at different programmed intervals.

15. A method of providing cushioning support comprising the steps of: a) providing a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, wherein said plurality of flexible and hollow cells comprise a first, a second, a third, and a fourth distinct interfitting groups capable of interfitting with each other, which when interfitted, comprise repeating sections of four separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells to form a uniform surface wherein each of said repeating sections comprises one of said flexible and hollow cells from each of said first, said second, said third, and said fourth interfitting groups to form said uniform surface so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted; b) providing one or more manifolds capable of directing said fluid to and from said plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and c) providing one or more pumping means connected to said one or more manifolds for filling and depleting said plurality of flexible and hollow cells with said fluid; d) depleting said fluid from a fraction of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells for a period of time; e) filling with said fluid said depleted fraction of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells after said period of time; whereby, each time a different fraction of said plurality of said flexible and hollow cells are depleted for a period of time and filled again until all of said different fractions of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells are depleted and filled again, and said depleting and said filling steps begin again.

16. (canceled)

17. The method of claim 15, wherein each of said interfitting groups of said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells are connected to a separate manifold for directing said fluid to and from said interfitting group.

18. The method of claim 15, wherein the top surface of each of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells is substantially in a shape of a dome.

19. The cushion of claim 15 wherein the height of said flexible and hollow cells of said four distinct interfitting groups are configured to be tallest for the bottom positioned interfitting group to shortest for the top positioned interfitting group.

20. The method of claim 15, wherein said one or more pumping means is capable of filling and depleting groups of cells at certain programmed intervals.

21. The method of claim 15, wherein said one or more pumping means is capable of filling and depleting each of said interfitting groups said spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells at different programmed intervals.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to the field of cushions, and particularly to inflating and deflating cellular support cushions and methods of use thereof.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A variety of cushions, including cellular cushions, are commercially available. These cushions can be used for supporting part or all of a person in various in different poses and configurations, such as for example, mattresses or seat cushions.

Many of the available cushions are not effective in protecting against pressure sores or bedsores, which may occur to the body tissue of a person who is confined to a bed or a wheelchair for long periods of time without much movements. People who suffer from quadriplegia or partial paralysis, or people who are bed ridden or use a wheelchair for long periods of time, run the risk of developing pressure sores or bedsores. When the body weight of a person puts pressure on the body tissue against the surface of the supporting cushion for long periods without frequent movement, the blood to the tissue under pressure decreases or stops causing the tissue to ulcerate or die. While there has been a trend to produce more comfortable and effective support cushions in order to reduce the development of pressure sores or bedsores, further improvements for comfort and effectiveness of support cushions, especially for persons who are confined to bed or wheelchair for long periods of time is desirable, and the present invention addresses the existing problems and provides related benefits.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to inflating and deflating cellular support cushions and methods of use thereof for providing comfort and protecting against the development of pressure sores and bedsores for persons who are bed ridden or use a wheelchair for long periods of time. The present invention is particularly adaptable as a support cushion in the form of a mattress, mattress cover, seat cushion, or seat cushion cover. The present invention can be combined with any mattress or seat, including wheelchair seat to provide inflating and deflating cellular support cushions.

The present invention recognizes that support cushions, for persons who are bed ridden or use a wheelchair for long periods of time, can be made more user-friendly, comfortable, and effective by providing cellular support cushions that are able to inflate and deflate in order to periodically release the steady pressure of body weight on certain areas of body tissue. The present invention can be adapted to automatically and programmably inflate and deflate the cellular cushion by deflating and inflating single cells at a time for a period of time, or inflate and deflate groups of cells at a time for a period of time.

A first aspect of the present invention includes a support cushion, including a) a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted; b) one or more manifolds capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and c) one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid.

A second aspect of the present invention includes a cushion, including a) a cushioning means for support comprising a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are not next to or contiguous with other cells that are being depleted; b) means for directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and c) one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid.

A third aspect of the present invention includes a method of providing cushioning support, including the steps of a) providing a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted; b) providing one or more manifolds capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; c) providing one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid; d) depleting the fluid from a fraction of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells for a period of time; e) filling with the fluid the depleted fraction of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells after the period of time; whereby, each time a different fraction of the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells are depleted for a period of time and filled again until all of the different fractions of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells are depleted and filled again, and the depleting and the filling steps begin again.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A shows a top view of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells and manifold connections.

FIG. 1B shows a perspective view of a single flexible and hollow cell having a dome-shaped top surface.

FIG. 2 shows top views of a preferred embodiment in which the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells comprise four separate interfitting groups of cells.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Introduction

The present invention recognizes that support cushions, for persons who are bed ridden or use a wheelchair for long periods of time, can be made more user-friendly, comfortable, and effective by providing cellular support cushions that are able to inflate and deflate in order to periodically release the steady pressure of body weight on certain areas of body tissue.

As a non-limiting introduction to the breadth of the present invention, the present invention includes several general and useful aspects, including:

1. A cushion comprising:

    • a) a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted;
    • b) one or more manifolds capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and
    • c) one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid.

2. A cushion comprising:

    • a) a cushioning means for support comprising a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are not next to or contiguous with other cells that are being depleted;
    • b) means for directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and
    • c) one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid.

3. A method of providing cushioning support comprising the steps of:

    • a) providing a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted;
    • b) providing one or more manifolds capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells; and
    • c) providing one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with the fluid;
    • d) depleting the fluid from a fraction of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells for a period of time;
    • e) filling with the fluid the depleted fraction of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells after the period of time;
    • whereby, each time a different fraction of the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells are depleted for a period of time and filled again until all of the different fractions of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells are depleted and filled again, and the depleting and the filling steps begin again.

Further objectives and advantages of the present invention will become apparent as the description proceeds and when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. To gain a full appreciation of the scope of the present invention, it will be further recognized that various aspects of the present invention can be combined to make desirable embodiments of the invention.

Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. Where a term is provided in the singular, the inventor also contemplates the plural of that term. The nomenclature used herein and the procedures described below are those well known and commonly employed in the art.

I. An Inflating and Deflating Cellular Support Cushion

The present invention relates to inflating and deflating cellular support cushions and methods of use thereof wherein the cellular support cushion is able to inflate and deflate in order to periodically release the steady pressure of body weight against the support cushion on certain areas of body tissue.

The present invention includes a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted. The plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be constructed with any suitable material, such as for example, plastic, rubber, fabric, paper, or a combination thereof, so long as the interior volume of the hollow cells are made impermeable to air or other fluids with respect to the exterior of the hollow cells. The plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be configured in any suitable shape, such as for example, circular cells, oval cells, square cells, or similar shapes, that together, are able to form a substantially uniform surface. It is an important aspect of the present invention that the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells be capable of becoming repeatedly filled and then depleted with a fluid. The fluid may be any suitable fluid for comfortable body or tissue support, such as for example, air, gases, liquids, oils, or similar fluids. Another important aspect of the present invention is that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted, meaning that the cells which are being depleted are not next to or contiguous with other cells that are being depleted, but the cells that are being depleted are substantially surrounded, next to, and contiguous only with cells which remain filled and are not being depleted. The plurality of the flexible and hollow cells can be configured to be depleted one at a time so that the depleting cell is not next to or contiguous with any other cell that is being depleted. Also, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be configured to be depleted in separate fractional groups of cells, wherein, the fluid is depleted from a group of cells at a time in such a way that the depleting cells of the depleting group or groups are next to or contiguous only with cells of other group or groups that are not being depleted.

The present invention also includes one or more manifolds, such as for example tubes, channels, or other suitable manifolds, capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells. For example, a separate manifold may be provided for directing the fluid to and from each individual cell, however it is more preferred to provide a separate manifold for directing the fluid to separate and different groups of cells. A manifold that directs the fluid to a group of cells may provide the fluid to each cell of the group individually, but it is preferred that the manifold direct the fluid to one or more of the cells in a group wherein the interior volume of the hollow cells of that particular group are configured to be in fluid communication with one another, for example with channels or tubes, and the directing of the fluid to the one or more of the cells of that group causes the fluid to be directed to all of the cells of that group. The present invention also includes one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with fluid.

In a preferred embodiment of the present inventions, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells comprise four distinct interfitting groups of cells, wherein each of the interfitting groups of cells include spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells that are capable of interfitting with each other to form a uniform surface of a plurality of flexible and hollow cells. In such as preferred embodiment, once the four distinct interfitting groups of cells are interfitted to form a uniform surface, the surface of the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells includes repeated sections, wherein each section includes four cells with each cell being a member of a different group of cells that are able to inflate and deflate separately. As shown in FIG. 1, by way of example, Group A may include 25 cells, Group B may include 20 cells, Group C may include 20 cells, and Group D may include 16 cells.

In certain preferred embodiments, the present invention can be configured so that each of the interfitting groups of the spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells are connected to a separate manifold for directing the fluid to and from the interfitting group. As mentioned before, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be deflated individually or in groups. If cells are to be inflated and deflated individually, then a different manifold can be connected to each individual cell for inflation and deflation, however, it is preferred that cells be inflated and deflated in groups. If cells are to be inflated and deflated in groups, it is preferred that the interior volume of the hollow cells of a particular group be in fluid communication with one another, for example with channels or tubes, and a different manifold be connected to each group for inflating and deflating the cells of each group separately.

Preferably, the top surface of each of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells is substantially in the shape of a dome. This is a preferred embodiment because as body weight applies pressure to the top surfaces of the cells, the top surfaces of the cells will have a tendency to be pressed downward and flatten out under the weight and pressure of the body, much like a round balloon flattens out when a downward pressure is applied. With a dome-shaped top surface, the cells will flatten out slightly under pressure and produce a more uniform support surface. In some embodiments of the present invention, the height of the cells in each interfitting group of cells may be configured so that when the one or more interfitting groups are assembled, the interfitted groups of cells form a more substantially uniform top surface. The height of the cells in each interfitting group may be configured based on the position of the group in assembly and any loss of height due to the interfitting process. For example, the interfitting group of cells that is positioned is at the bottom can have taller cells than the cells of the next interfitting group and so on. By way of example, the height of the cells in Group A may be 3 3/16 inches, the height of the cells in Group B may be 3 2/16 inches, the height of the cells in Group C may be 3 1/16 inches, and the height of the cells in Group D may be 3 inches.

In certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, the one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds is capable of filling and depleting the cells with fluid either individually or in groups of cells at certain programmed intervals. It is preferred that the duration of deflation for the groups that include a larger number of cells be longer than the duration of deflation for groups that include fewer number of cells. By way of example, the duration of deflation of cells of Group A may be 6 minutes, Group B may be 5 minute, Group C may be 5 minutes, and Group D may be 4 minutes.

II. Methods for Providing Cushioning Support

The present invention relates to inflating and deflating cellular support cushions and methods of use thereof wherein the cellular support cushion is able to inflate and deflate in order to periodically release the steady pressure of body weight against the support cushion on certain areas of body tissue.

The methods of the present invention include the step of providing a plurality of flexible and hollow cells capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted. The plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be constructed with any suitable material, such as for example, plastic, rubber, fabric, paper, or a combination thereof, so long as the interior volume of the hollow cells are made impermeable to air or other fluids with respect to the exterior of the hollow cells. The plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be configured in any suitable shape, such as for example, circular cells, oval cells, square cells, or similar shapes, that together, are able to form a substantially uniform surface. It is an important aspect of the present invention that the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells be capable of becoming repeatedly filled and then depleted with a fluid. The fluid may be any suitable fluid for comfortable body or tissue support, such as for example, air, gases, liquids, oils, or similar fluids. Another important aspect of the present invention is that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted, meaning that the cells which are being depleted are not next to or contiguous with other cells that are being depleted, but the cells that are being depleted are substantially surrounded, next to, and contiguous only with cells which remain filled and are not being depleted. The plurality of the flexible and hollow cells can be configured to be depleted one at a time so that the depleting cell is not next to or contiguous with any other cell that is being depleted. Also, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be configured to be depleted in separate fractional groups of cells, wherein, the fluid is depleted from a group of cells at a time in such a way that the depleting cells of the depleting group or groups are next to or contiguous only with cells of other group or groups that are not being depleted.

The methods of the present invention also include the step of providing one or more manifolds, such as for example tubes, channels, or other suitable manifolds, capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells. By way of example, a separate manifold may be provided for directing the fluid to and from each individual cell, however it is more preferred to provide a separate manifold for directing the fluid to separate and different groups of cells. A manifold that directs the fluid to a group of cells may provide the fluid to each cell of the group individually, but it is preferred that the manifold direct the fluid to one or more of the cells in a group wherein the interior volume of the hollow cells of that particular group are configured to be in fluid communication with one another, for example with channels and/or tubes, and the directing of the fluid to the one or more of the cells of that group causes the fluid to be directed to all of the cells of that group. The methods of the present invention also includes the step of providing one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells with fluid.

In a preferred embodiment of the methods of the present invention, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells comprise four distinct interfitting groups of cells, wherein each of the interfitting groups of cells include spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells that are capable of interfitting with each other to form a uniform surface of a plurality of flexible and hollow cells. In such as preferred embodiment, once the four distinct interfitting groups of cells are interfitted to form a uniform surface, the surface of the plurality of the flexible and hollow cells includes repeated sections, wherein each section includes four cells with each cell being a member of a different group of cells that are able to inflate and deflate separately. As shown in FIG. 1, by way of example, Group A may include 25 cells, Group B may include 20 cells, Group C may include 20 cells, and Group D may include 16 cells.

In certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, the methods of the present invention can be configured so that each of the interfitting groups of the spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells are connected to a separate manifold for directing the fluid to and from the interfitting group. As mentioned before, the plurality of flexible and hollow cells can be deflated individually or in groups. If cells are to be inflated and deflated individually, then a different manifold can be connected to each individual cell for inflation and deflation, however, it is preferred that cells be inflated and deflated in groups. If cells are to be inflated and deflated in groups, it is preferred that the interior volume of the hollow cells of a particular group be in fluid communication with one another, for example with channels or tubes, and a different manifold be connected to each group for inflating and deflating the cells of each group separately.

Preferably, the top surface of each of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells is substantially in the shape of a dome. This is a preferred embodiment because as body weight applies pressure to the top surfaces of the cells, the top surfaces of the cells will have a tendency to be pressed downward and flatten out under the weight and pressure of the body, much like a round balloon flattens out when a downward pressure is applied. With a dome-shaped top surface, the cells will flatten out slightly under pressure and produce a more uniform support surface. The height of the cells in each interfitting group may be configured based on the position of the group in assembly and any loss of height due to the interfitting process. For example, the interfitting group of cells that is positioned is at the bottom can have taller cells than the cells of the next interfitting group and so on. By way of example, the height of the cells in Group A may be 3 3/16 inches, the height of the cells in Group B may be 3 2/16 inches, the height of the cells in Group C may be 3 1/16 inches, and the height of the cells in Group D may be 3 inches.

In certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, the one or more pumping means connected to the one or more manifolds is capable of filling and depleting the cells with fluid either individually or in groups of cells at certain programmed intervals. It is preferred that the duration of deflation for the groups that include a larger number of cells be longer than the duration of deflation for groups that include fewer number of cells By way of example, the duration of deflation of cells of Group A may be 6 minutes, Group B may be 5 minute, Group C may be 5 minutes, and Group D may be 4 minutes.

EXAMPLES

Example I

An Inflating and Deflating Cellular Support Cushion

This Example provides one embodiment of the inflating and deflating cellular support cushion of the present invention having a plurality of plurality of flexible and hollow cells 100 capable of being repeatedly filled and depleted with a fluid, the cells being arranged so that cells that are being depleted are next to or contiguous only with cells that are not being depleted. The present invention also includes one or more manifolds 101 capable of directing the fluid to and from the plurality of flexible and hollow cells 101. The present invention also includes one or more pumping means 102 connected to the one or more manifolds 101 for filling and depleting the plurality of flexible and hollow cells 100 with the fluid.

As shown in FIG. 2, the present invention may comprise four distinct interfitting groups, each of the interfitting groups comprising spatially separate and non-contiguous flexible and hollow cells capable of interfitting with each other to form a uniform surface of the plurality of flexible and hollow cells 100. The top surface of each of said plurality of flexible and hollow cells 100 is preferably substantially in a shape of a dome 103.

All headings are for the convenience of the reader and should not be used to limit the meaning of the text that follows the heading, unless so specified. Various changes and departures may be made to the present invention without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited to that specifically described in the specification or as illustrated in the drawings, but only as set forth in the claims.