Title:
Multifunction hair appliance
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multifunction hair styling appliance is described which includes a base unit having at least one heating element; and at least one styling attachment, wherein the at least one styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit and is capable of styling hair.



Inventors:
Higgins, Francine (Sanford, FL, US)
Hertenstein, Elizabeth (Debary, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/333923
Publication Date:
09/14/2006
Filing Date:
01/18/2006
Assignee:
Sage Communications, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45D2/40
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DOAN, ROBYN KIEU
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FLASTER/GREENBERG P.C. (Philadelphia, PA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising: a base unit comprising at least one heating element; and at least one styling attachment, wherein the at least one styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit and is capable of styling hair.

2. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 1, wherein the base unit has a first base unit portion having a first end and a second end and a second base unit portion having a first end and a second end and the first and second base unit portions are connected at their first ends such that their second ends are capable of being moved away from and toward each other.

3. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 2, wherein the first ends of the first and second base unit portions are connected by a fastening system under tension such that when the second ends of the first and second base unit portions are moved towards each other under the application of pressure, the first and second base unit portions close in facing engagement.

4. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 3, wherein the fastening system comprises a spring-loaded clamp.

5. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 3, wherein the fastening system comprises a hinge.

6. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 2, wherein the first base unit portion has an upper and lower surface and the second base unit portion has an upper and lower surface and the first and second base units are configured such that the lower surface of the first base unit portion and the upper surface of the second base unit portion are mating surfaces configured to fit together in facing engagement.

7. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 2, wherein the at least one styling attachment comprises a first heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface and a second heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface, and the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate are configured to meet in facing engagement when compressed against one another and at least one of the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate are heat conductive surfaces.

8. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 7, wherein both the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate are heat conductive surfaces.

9. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 7, wherein the heat conductive surface is at least one of ceramic and metallic.

10. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 9, wherein the metallic surface is at least one of gold plate and stainless steel.

11. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 9, wherein the heat conductive surface is a non-stick surface.

12. The multifunction hair styling appliance according to claim 1, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment comprises a pair of heat styling plates configured to meet in facing engagement when compressed against one another and the pair of heat styling plates are selected from two hair straightening plates, a curling iron barrel and mating curved clamping plate, two curved plates for forming a bop or flip, and two mating crimping or wave forming plates.

13. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 1, further comprising a aperture configured for receiving at least one extension attachment selected from a mirror, a misting sprayer, and a handle.

14. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 1, wherein the at least one styling attachment comprises at least one heat conductive surface.

15. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 1, wherein the at least one styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit by use of a male-female snap-in electrical plug attachment and a USB-type electrical connection and the base unit is capable of electrically communicating with a power source.

16. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 15, wherein the power source is an electrical outlet and the base unit comprises an electrical cord and plug for plugging into the electrical outlet.

17. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 15, wherein the power source is a battery pack attachable to a housing of the base unit and the base unit is capable of being plugged into a battery charging unit.

18. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 1, wherein the base unit is a one-piece unit capable of communicating with a power source and having at least one female receptacle for receiving an electrical connector from the at least one hair styling unit.

19. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 18, wherein the at least one hair styling unit is attachable by an electrical cord having sufficient length to allow for free use of the at least one hair styling attachment when the base is securely positioned on a flat surface.

20. The multifunction hair appliance according to claim 18, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment has a first hair styling component having a first end and a second end and a second hair styling component having a first end and a second end, the first ends being connected such that the second ends of the first and second hair styling components are capable of being moved away from and toward each other, the first hair styling component comprises a first handle portion and a first heated styling plate and the second hair styling component comprises a second handle portion and a second heat styling plate and the first and second heat styling plates are configured so as to meet in facing engagement when the first and second styling components are moved toward each other.

21. A multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising: a base unit capable of electrically communicating with a power source and comprising at least one heating element, a first base unit portion having a first end, a second end, an upper surface and a lower surface and a second base unit portion having a first end, a second end, an upper surface and a lower surface wherein the first and second base unit portions are connected at their first ends such that their second ends are capable of being moved away from and toward each other and the base unit portions are configured such that the lower surface of the first base unit portion and the upper surface of the second base unit portion are mating surfaces configured to fit together in facing engagement; and at least one styling attachment comprising a first heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface and a second heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface, and the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate are configured to meet in facing engagement when compressed against one another and at least one of the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate is a heat conductive surface, wherein the at least one styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit and is capable of styling hair.

22. A multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising: a one-piece base unit having a heating element and being capable of communicating with a power source and having at least one female receptacle for receiving an electrical connector; and at least one styling attachment having a first hair styling component having a first end and a second end and a second hair styling component having a first end and a second end, the first ends being connected such that the second ends of the first and second hair styling components are capable of being moved away from and toward each other, the first hair styling component comprises a first handle portion and a first heated styling plate and the second hair styling component comprises a second handle portion and a second heat styling plate and the first and second heat styling plates are configured so as to meet in facing engagement when the first and second styling components are moved toward each other, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit by an electrical cord having sufficient length to allow for free use of the hair styling attachment when the base unit is securely place on a flat surface and the at least one hair attachment is capable of styling hair.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/644,689, filed Jan. 18, 2005, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A variety of different devices and methods are known for straightening, curling or styling hair. Styling can occur with one or two-handed operation. For example, a hairbrush can be used to brush or style hair while heating the hair using a hair dryer. Alternatively, hair may be styled using a hair dryer with a styling attachment. Such appliances include brushes, combs or diffusers that attach to the heated end of the hair dryer nozzle and allow for heated air styling. While this allows for a more one-handed styling technique, such appliances have several drawbacks. In some models in which the air outlet is larger than a normal hair dryer to accommodate the styling device, the air velocity is lower. While this can be gentler on the hair, it takes much longer to dry and style the hair. Further, such styling appliance combinations tend to be heavier than a standard hair dryer requiring the user to hold the heavier appliance aloft for longer periods of time. This is a particular nuisance to full time hair stylists and users with longer hair requiring longer styling time.

Electric hair straightening devices and curling irons can also be used separately from a hair dryer. Such appliances separately plug in and have independent hand-held handles permanently attached to the heat styling units. The unit heats up and the heated portion can be used to style the hair. Electric straighteners function by compressing hair between flat, heated surfaces that “iron” the hair. Similar devices can be used for “crimping” or created waves to hair surfaces. Straighteners or crimpers typically employ a scissors-like or kitchen tong design in which opposing arms of the device (having internal heated surfaces - either flat or crimped) are spring loaded so as to come together to compress hair when force is applied against the outer surfaces of the opposing arms (or through use of extended handles that act on the spring-loaded opposing arms). Such devices require the user to hold the device handle and apply force simultaneously.

Curling irons have a hand-held end or handle and include a smooth, elongated tubular barrel which includes a heating element generally located inside the device tube of the barrel. The unheated clamp extends along the heated barrel portion and clamps down to hold portions of a user's hair against the heated barrel. Heat from the heated barrel causes the hair on the barrel to retain its shape and curl after loosening the clamp. The clamp sometimes causes a flat portion on the curl.

To style some naturally wavy hair, it is necessary to dry, straighten and then curl the user's hair in order to undo the natural wave and then apply a new style to the hair. Styling with a curling brush or other attachment typically can perform a similar function, but not as effective for already wavy and/or ultrafine hair.

Also available in the prior art are heated curling brushes that act in a manner similar to a curling iron, but include elongated teeth extending from the barrel which brushes or combs the hair while styling without the use of a clamp. Such devices do not form tight curls like a curling iron, but create softer waves or curls. For fine hair or very thick hair, such devices can tangle and/or break hair readily and can be difficult to use in a hurry, since placing too much hair on the barrel tends to increase the risk of breakage or tangling. It is also more difficult to control the ultimate styled look when using a heated brush-type curling iron.

Still another method of hair styling includes the use of heated curlers or rollers. Heat rollers can be effective, but tend to “over-curl” hair for current styles and take longer to use than conventional curling irons and other hand-held styling tools, since hair needs to be not only evenly rolled up on the rollers while heat is applied, but additional time is needed for removing the rollers. Further, such devices are not useful for traveling users, since they are large in size and not very portable. While there are smaller units that are steam heated curling stations, each roller needs to be heated individually, which takes longer and the user still has the time constraints of having to roll up and unroll the rollers for styling. In addition, some of such steam driven units also require salt for use, requiring the user to pack salt as well as all the components of the styling unit for travel.

Thus, while there are many different appliances available for hair use and styling, there is a need in the art for a light-weight, portable styling tool which is not overly heavy for extended use, is acceptable for travel and can accomplish all necessary styling functions.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention includes a multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising a base unit comprising at least one heating element; and at least one hair styling attachment, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit and is capable of styling hair.

The invention further includes a multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising a base unit capable of electrically communicating with a power source and comprising at least one heating element, a first base unit portion having a first end, a second end, an upper surface and a lower surface and a second base unit portion having a first end, a second end, an upper surface and a lower surface wherein the first and second base unit portions are connected at their first ends such that their second ends are capable of being moved away from and toward each other and the base unit portions are configured such that the lower surface of the first base unit portion and the upper surface of the second base unit portion are mating surfaces configured to fit together in facing engagement; and at least one hair styling attachment comprising a first heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface and a second heat styling plate having an upper surface and a lower surface, and the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate are configured to meet in facing engagement when compressed against one another and at least one of the lower surface of the first heat styling plate and the upper surface of the second heat styling plate is a heat conductive surface, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit and is capable of styling hair.

In one embodiment, the invention includes a multifunction hair styling appliance, comprising a one-piece base unit having a heating element and being capable of communicating with a power source and having at least one female receptacle for receiving an electrical connector; and at least one hair styling attachment having a first hair styling component having a first end and a second end and a second hair styling component having a first end and a second end, the first ends being connected such that the second ends of the first and second hair styling components are capable of being moved away from and toward each other, the first hair styling component comprises a first handle portion and a first heated styling plate and the second hair styling component comprises a second handle portion and a second heat styling plate and the first and second heat styling plates are configured so as to meet in facing engagement when the first and second styling components are moved toward each other, wherein the at least one hair styling attachment is detachably electrically connected to the base unit by an electrical cord having sufficient length to allow for free use of the hair styling attachment when the base unit is securely place on a flat surface and the at least one hair attachment is capable of styling hair.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of the invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings embodiments which are presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a base unit in the closed position in accordance with an embodiment of the hair appliance of the invention;

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of the base unit of FIG. 1 when the base unit is in the open position;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a pair of narrow hair straightening plates for attachment to a base unit as hair styling attachments in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2A is an enlarged cross-sectional view of one of the hair straightening plates in FIG. 2 taken along line II-II;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a pair of wide hair straightening plates for attachment to a base unit as hair styling attachments in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3A is an enlarged cross-sectional view of one of the hair straightening plates in FIG. 3 taken along line III-III;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a curling iron barrel and mating curved clamping plate for attachment to a bse unit as hair styling attachments in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4A is a cross-sectional view of the barrel of FIG. 4 taken along line IV-IV;

FIG. 5 is a rear perspective view of an attachable mirror for attachment to a base unit in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a pair of curved plates, for example, for forming a flip or bob or the like, for attachment as hair styling attachments to a base unit in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6A is a cross-sectional view of one of the curved plates of FIG. 6 taken long line VI-VI;

FIG. 7A is a side cross-sectional view of a pair of small-sized, waved crimping plates for attachment to a base unit as hair styling attachments in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7B is a side cross-sectional elevational view of a pair of large-sized, wave forming plates for attachment to a base unit as hair styling attachments in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 a battery charging plate for charging a base unit in accordance with one embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a rear view of a user operating a one-piece base unit and an attached hair styling attachment on hair tresses according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 9A is an enlarged rear perspective view of the hair styling attachment of FIG. 9; and

FIG. 9B is an enlarged front perspective view of a portion of the one-piece base unit of FIG. 9.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Certain terminology is used in the following description for convenience only and is not limiting. The words “lower” and “upper” and “top” and “bottom” designate directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The terminology includes the words above specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof and words of similar import.

Referring now to the drawings in detail, there is shown in FIGS. 1 and 1A an exemplary base unit, referred to generally as 10, for use in a multifunction hair appliance described herein. FIG. 9 shows an alternative base unit 10′ and is described further below. Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 1A, the base unit has a first base unit portion 12 having a first end 30 and a second end 32 and a second base unit portion 14 having a first end 34 and a second end 36. The first and second base unit portions 12, 14 are connected at their first ends 30, 34 such that their second ends 32, 36 are capable of being moved away from each other as shown by the directional arrows in FIG. 1A and toward each other until they fit substantially close together, and preferably in facing engagement as shown in FIG. 1. It is most preferred that the lower surface 22 of the first base unit portion and the upper surface 24 of the second base unit portion are configured so as to meet in facing engagement and that the upper surface 26 of the first base unit portion and the lower surface 28 of the second base unit portion provide an ergonomic design for being held comfortably in the user's hand which will operate the base unit by moving the portions 12, 14 away from each other using opposing hand force and toward each other under compressive hand pressure.

The first ends 30, 34 of the first and second base unit portions 12, 14 are connected by a fastening system 18 which is preferably under tension such that when the second ends 32, 36 of the first and second base unit portions 12, 14 are moved towards each other under the application of compressive hand pressure, the first and second base unit portions close in facing engagement. Most preferably, the fastening system is a spring-loaded clamp 38. However, other fastening systems may be used including, but not limited to, a hinge, molded movable edge portion, snap fitting or other compressible fastening system. Spring-loaded tension is preferred because it allows the base unit portions to snap back toward each other using less force.

The multifunction hair appliance includes one or more hair styling attachments which are detachably electrically connected to the base unit and are capable of styling hair. The base unit may include any electrical attachment 35 capable of providing electrical power from a power supply 37 such as an outlet (not drawn to scale) or, alternatively, electrical attachment 35 and power supply may be omitted and/or used in addition to a battery source (not shown). The power supply 37 or other energy source, such as a battery, should be sufficient to be able to deliver sufficient energy to enable (i) conductive heat energy to be released from a heat element 39 shown in block form in phantom lines in the base unit in the drawings; (ii) to operate controls 41 on the hair appliance for adjusting the output of the heating element and/or (iii) for operating any quick release mechanism 53 that may be optionally used for unplugging the hair styling attachment from the base without touching the attachments while hot. Such controls or quick release mechanisms are optional and are shown in FIG. 1 for exemplary purposes only. The heating element used is not critical which is why it is shown in block format, and may be any suitable heating element known in the art or to be developed, suitable for use in hair appliances such that no particular heating element is required. Such heating elements are well known. While the heating element is shown in the base unit in the Figures in electrical communication with the heatable surfaces in the hair styling attachments, it will be understood to those skilled in the art, based on this disclosure, that the heating element may also be located in the hair styling attachment(s) themselves so long as the heating element can be powered by an energy source such as the power source 37, a battery or the like. Further, while controls are mentioned for adjusting the heat levels of the hair styling attachments through the heating element in a manner well known in the art, for example, as occurs in most commercial curling irons, it should be understood that the heat level can be preset to a moderate or other desired styling level and made to be not adjustable for reducing manufacturing costs.

The hair styling attachment may be electrically detachable from the base unit by using a male-female plug of either a regular single prong or multi-prong variety or any other suitable plug-in capable of providing energy to an electrical heating element of the type generally used in hair care appliances. In any type of plug or electrical connection, the base unit generally would include a female electrical inlet 16 (shown in FIG. 1 as a broken line of generally rectangular configuration) that extends into the base. Such inlet 16 is preferably located in each of the first and second base unit portions 12, 14, (see 16A, 16B of FIG. 1, 1A) and each extends into, i.e., is recessed below the surface of, the second ends 32, 36 of the respective base unit portions. The inlets 16 are in electrical communication through any suitable method with the heating element 39 (shown in phantom in FIG. 1).

The at least one styling attachment can be seen in various embodiments in any of FIGS. 2, 3, 4, 6, 7A or 7B and will be generally referred to as 40 in FIGS. 2 and 2A, 240 in FIGS. 3 and 3A, 340 in FIGS. 4 and 4A, 440 in FIGS. 6 and 6A, 540 in FIG. 7A and 640 in FIG. 7B. In FIG. 2, the hair styling attachment 40 includes a first heat styling plate 42 having an upper surface 44 and a lower surface 46. The attachment 40 also has a second heat styling plate 48 having an upper surface 50 and a lower surface 52. The lower surface 46 of the first heat styling plate 42 and the upper surface 50 of the second heat styling plate 48 are preferably inwardly facing surfaces configured to meet in facing engagement when they are compressed against one another by action of a user's hand on the base unit. At least one of the lower surface 46 of the first heat styling plate 42 and the upper surface 50 of the second heat styling plate 48 are heat conductive surfaces. The multifunction hair appliance described herein can be made so as to have only one heating surface (by having only one plug-in electrically connected to the heating element) or to have dual heating surfaces because each of the surfaces can be separately electrically connected to the heating element. This provides the ability to have different devices for different hair styling effects which can be achievable using heat on only one or both surfaces of the hair tresses to be styled which are placed within the hair styling attachment 40.

The first hair styling plate has a first end 54 and a second end 56. The second hair styling plate has a first end 58 and a second end 60. When the base unit 10 is operated by hand so that the first and second base unit portions 12, 14 move away from each other, the second ends 56, 60 of the first and second hair styling plates 42, 48 also move away from each other. When the base unit portions are compressed together, the pair of styling plates 42, 48 are preferably configured so as to meet in facing engagement when compressed against one another. The outer surfaces 44, 52 as well as the surrounding side surfaces 64, 66 of the first and second styling plates 42, 48 can, but need not, include heat resistant material surrounding the heat conductive surface(s) 46 and/or 50 as shown for example in FIG. 2A in order to allow the user to remove the hair styling plates without waiting for the unit to cool or burning their hands. Accordingly, the hair styling plates may also be ergonomically shaped so as to provide ease of use. This is particularly important in embodiments of the invention in which the base unit may not be directly attached to the hair styling attachments and the user would then be gripping the hair styling attachments instead of the base unit (see FIG. 9).

Alternatively, as noted above, the base unit can be easily detachable from the hair styling attachments in those cases when the attachments are too hot to touch using any suitable quick-release mechanism, for example, the quick-release mechanism 51 as shown in FIG. 1 which may be operable by a slide switch or button mechanism (for example the button 53 of FIG. 1) to eject the styling plates from the base without touching the styling plates (such as to eject them onto a counter or other safe area). Such mechanisms are well known in the art and in other small appliance designs, for example, to eject blender blades from a hand mixer using a slide eject button. Any suitable quick-release mechanism may be used as is known in the art or to be developed as an optional feature herein. It is also contemplated within the scope of the invention that extending handles or other finger gripping surfaces such as rings, handles, cords and the like (not shown) may be provided to the ends 56, 60 of the various embodiments of the hair styling attachments to enable a user to pull the attachments from the base unit using a tugging or pulling force. Such gripping surfaces or handles may be made of any suitable material such as plastics, cord, elastomers and the like, provided that it is preferred that such material does not unnecessarily absorb heat from the unit to enable a user to safely remove the attachments without harm.

As shown in FIG. 2, the hair styling plates preferably include a male connector piece 62 which is compatible with the electrical connection inlet 16 of the base unit. In FIG. 2, the pair of hair styling plates are two hair straightener plates of a more narrow configuration for use with shorter hair or for use on only a portion of a user's hair (such as bangs or hair ends). The ends may be rectangular or have curved or softer comers depending on the desired design. FIGS. 2 and 3 demonstrate variations in such straightening plates based on width and edges all of which and other variations thereon are within the scope of this disclosure. However, it should be understood, based on this disclosure, that other variations in these designs for forming waves or for hair styling plates are within the scope of the invention and such examples are intended to be illustrative only.

In FIG. 3, the hair styling plates 242, 248 are two straightening plates which are of a wider size for use on longer hair or larger hair sections. Preferably for both the straightening plates 42, 48 in FIG. 2 and the straightening plates 242, 248 in FIG. 3, the heat conductive surfaces such as surfaces 46, 246 are formed of a ceramic-type surface to avoid trapping moisture, but this is not necessary and any acceptable straightening surface that can be used for heated hair straightening may be used in the appliance, including metals, heat-resistant plastics, porcelain materials or any other material capable of retaining sufficient heat and operable safely as a hair styling surface.

In FIG. 4, the first and second styling plates 342, 348 are now configured as a curling iron barrel 342 and a mating curved clamping plate 348. However, unlike the embodiments of FIGS. 2 and 3, the upper surface 344 and lower surface 346 of the curling iron barrel 342 are preferably fully heated so that when hair is wrapped around the barrel 342, it encounters heat along the entire periphery of the barrel. The lower plate or clamping plate 348 may or may not be a heat conductive surface, however, unlike traditional curling irons, it may be made to be heated. Because a heat resistant surface is typically not placed around a curling iron type styling attachment, the user will generally have to wait for the unit to cool to detach the styling attachment from the base unit or the appliance will have to be fitted with a quick release mechanism. However, it is also optionally within the scope of the invention to provide a protective, heat resistant, end portion to the end of the curling iron farthest from the base unit that can be used for removing the curling iron. Also advantageous in this embodiment is that both the barrel 342 and the clamping plate 348 will move away from each other a further distance by operation of the base unit instead of leaving a closely pinched portion between the clamp and barrel as in traditional curling irons. This helps to prevent the pulling and winding of hair around the portion where the barrel and clamping plate meet. It is also preferred that for use in the curling iron embodiment, that the heat conductive surfaces 344, 346, 350 such as the barrel 342 and at least the inner surface 350 of the clamping plate (preferably the whole clamping plate) are formed of a conductive metal such as stainless steel and may also be coated with a non-stick surface such as polytetrafluoroethylene polymers (PTFEs) available under the tradename, Teflon® from DuPont or similar materials. However, other materials, including other metals such as gold-plated metals may be used and the type of metal or other material used is not restricted herein. The barrel may be solid in cross-section or hollow as shown in FIG. 4A for cost savings and lighter weight.

As shown in FIG. 6, the styling plates are in the form of two, exemplary waved or curved plates 442, 448 which may be used for forming a bop or flip or other curved or waved styles. Other plate and styling configurations are contemplated within the invention, however, the waved plates shown are used for demonstrating a preferred embodiment of the invention. Such plates 442, 448 are along the lines of straightening plates that form a soft wave along the bottom of the hair tresses to create a flip up or turned down hair as in a bob or page-boy style. It is possible to straighten the hair using attachments as in FIGS. 2 and 3, and then to straighten, but softly curve the bottom of the hair tresses up or down using the attachment of FIG. 6. In this embodiment, the outer surfaces 444, 452, 464 and 466 can, but need not, be formed of heat-resistant material for use in easily removing the hair styling attachments without waiting for the styling plates 442, 448 to cool. However, this is not necessary. As noted in FIG. 6, the second heat styling plate 448 in this embodiment can have an outer flanged portion 468 which extends beyond the edges of the first styling plate 442 so as to maintain the hair leading into the curve in a straightened configuration and assist the device in keeping the hair inside the plates 442, 448. The first styling plate 442 is preferably formed in transverse cross section in a parabolic, “C” or generally semicircular configuration. The second styling plate 448 is curved so as to mate within the first styling plate 442 in facing configuration when the plates 442, 448 are compressed. Preferably, in this embodiment, at least the lower surface 446 of the first styling plate 442 and the upper surface 450 of the second styling plate 448 are formed of heat conductive materials similar to those used in the embodiment shown in FIG. 4, but can be made of any suitable surface, including, but not limited to, ceramic, metallic, porcelain and similar materials.

FIGS. 7A and 7B show two similar embodiments differing only in the size (length of undulations) of the wave cross-sectional configuration of the lower surfaces 546, 646 of the first styling plates 542, 642 and the upper surfaces 550, 650 of the second styling plates 548, 648. In FIG. 7A, the wave configuration is of a smaller wavelength than the wave configuration of FIG. 7B, such that the hair attachment in FIG. 7A can form two mating wave-forming or crimping surfaces 546, 550 and the hair attachment of FIG. 7B can form two mating looser wave forming or crimping surfaces 646, 650. The crimping and waving hair styling attachments 540, 640 can include heat conductive surfaces made of any of the materials noted above, and preferably are a non-stick coated metallic surfaces. The outer surfaces 544, 644, 552, 652 and side surfaces 564, 566, 664, 666 can be, but need not be formed of heat resistant materials.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 5, the multifunction hair appliance can include an aperture 20 which may be a hole into which an attachment may snap, insert or otherwise be mounted. More preferably, the aperature 20 is a threaded hole configured for receiving at least one extension attachment such as, but not limited to a mirror, a misting sprayer, or an additional handle for additional holding support. FIG. 5 shows a mirror attachment 70 as an example in which a mirror 72, which may be a standard mirror, a polished metal, or the like and having a post, stem or the like (which may be flexible or rigid) such as post 74. At the end 76 of the post 74 the mirror may be configured so as to fit into the aperture 20 through a quick connect, snap-in, threaded screw or other attachment function. A detachable mirror enables the user to view the back of the head while holding the appliance for better styling results and for safety purposes. A spray mist attachment can also be provided and may include, for example, a plastic bottle which may screw or otherwise attach to the base unit and have a periodic misting function. For example, if damp styling is desired or to reduce static electricity on the hair, the user could activate the spray to apply a mist to the hair. Styling products, such as spray-on mousse and similar gels, etc. can also be applied during styling using such an attachment. It is within the scope of the disclosure and should be understood based on the description herein that a kit could be prepared that allows a user to attach a component of choice to the base unit and/or to have variable styling attachments

The base unit 10 is preferably capable of electrically communicating with a power source. Any suitable appliance power source 37 may be used. For example, the power source may be a standard household electrical outlet 75 for use with and adapted to work with a plug capable of use in the U.S. or adaptable for use in various countries. The base unit preferably has an electrical cord and plug 35 for plugging into a standard electrical outlet. Alternatively, a portable or travel unit is within the scope of the invention in which the power source is a battery pack (not shown) attachable to a housing 78 of the base unit 10. The battery pack may also fit within or be housed within the base unit. The base unit can also be made so as to be capable of being plugged into a battery charging unit 80 such as that shown in FIG. 8. In such an embodiment, fold out charging plug male extensions (not shown) may be provided to the base unit having a battery pack inside the base unit housing 78 that are compatible electrically with female receiving inlets 82 in the battery charging unit 80. However, it should be understood that any suitable power supply and/or rechargeable system can be used with the multifunction hair appliance of the invention and that such power supplies and rechargeable systems are well known in the small appliance and hair care appliance arts.

The multifunction hair appliance described herein is a unique appliance that will allow the user to attach the component of choice to a base unit, so as to use various hair styling mechanisms such as straightening irons and curling irons. It eliminates the need for two separate appliances and includes options for different hair types and lengths. The base unit can be made so that the base unit portions include a spring hinge or similar mechanism to enable the user to be able to push the appliance handles together under application of user pressure. Both portions of the base unit can include power sources and/or heating elements capable of heating the unit, and can provide various options and a variety of controllable settings for use with variable power supplies and different levels of heat during styling. A single controller may be used for the entire unit or individual controllers 41 which may be similar to or different from those shown in FIG. 1 (and located at different positions along the base) can be provided on each base unit portion 12, 14 to enable different heating levels (or no heat) to be applied on either hair styling plate. The controllers themselves may be any suitable heat control controllers known or to be developed for use with small appliances and hair care appliances generally which are safe and acceptable for use in hair styling appliances. In addition, the invention provides the advantages of attachments that are useful for short or thin hair or for thick or long hair. The styling plates may be coated with gold plate, stainless steel, or ceramic so that the surfaces can be variable to keep hair from frizzing if it is damp (ceramic) or keep hair from sticking to the surface (metallic and non-stick).

The plates can be made in variable sizes as well so as to optimize sizes for different uses. Further, in some embodiments, such as the curling iron embodiment, the barrel and clamp of the curling iron can be made so that both conduct heat which is advantageous for those with thicker hair or optionally heat is conducted on only one side. Further, a curling iron set could be provided (or straightening set) in which the length, width or surface type of the barrel and clamp and/or plate material can be varied for different styles or different hair within a family or other group of appliance users. In wave-making attachments, both sides can be heated to produce a longer lasting wave on the hair. In the bob or flip attachment, the curvature can be varied so as to produce different size flips which is advantageous for different length or style hair.

By separating the base unit 10 from the hair styling attachment, the base unit or handle can house all the electronics necessary to produce the desired conductive heat and/or variable heat settings once the unit is supplied by a power source.

The appliance further provides the advantage of an ergodynamically designed base unit (and in some embodiments, styling attachments) for ease of handling and use, which can be especially beneficial for hair stylists who use the appliance for longer periods of time and more frequently. This base unit can be made of any suitable material, including inexpensive, standard molded thermoplastics used in many hair appliances. Heat can be variably controlled using simple slide or dial mechanisms which can be located anywhere along the housing of the base unit on one or both of the base unit portions.

For additional safety concerns a mechanical device or elbow can be provided at the first ends of each of the base unit portions that can act as a dial to produce either a wide or narrow opening for a hair styling attachment. This would keep a large attachment from being joined on one arm with a narrow one on the other to avoid the possibility of burning a user who might try to put non-mating attachments in the appliance. Further, the attachments themselves may be color coded and/or sized accordingly to correspond with the opening of the base unit.

The disclosure includes a further embodiment 10′ shown in FIGS. 9, 9A and 9B in which the base unit is not a two- or multi-piece unit, but is a one-piece unit 10′ also capable of communicating with a power source. In this embodiment, the base unit 10′ has at least one female receptacle 16′ as shown in FIG. 9B for receiving an electrical connector from the at least one hair styling unit 40′. The hair styling unit is preferably attachable to the one-piece base 10′ by an electrical cord 84′ having sufficient length to allow for free use of the at least one hair styling attachment when the base is securely positioned on a flat surface such as a dresser or vanity 86′. Preferably a no-tangle or non-twist cord such as a telephone-type coil is used, but it should be understood that other types may be used without departing from the invention.

The at least one hair styling attachment 40′ has a first hair styling component 88′ having a first end 90′ and a second end 92′ and a second hair styling component 94′ having a first end 96′ and a second end 98′, the first ends 90′, 96′ are preferably connected such that the second ends 92′, 98′ of the first and second hair styling components 88′, 94′ are capable of being moved away from and toward each other in a manner similar to the hair styling attachment 40 described above. The first hair styling component 88′ comprises a first handle portion 100′ and a first heated styling plate 102′. The second hair styling component 94′ comprises a second handle portion 104′ and a second heat styling plate 106′. The first and second heat styling plates 102′, 106′ are configured so as to meet in facing engagement when the first and second styling components are moved toward each other. The handle portions 100′, 104′ are preferably formed of heat resistant material and can be attached by a fastener system 38′ such as a spring clamp noted above or other similar mechanism to facilitate close fit when the device is closed and ease of use.

The benefits of this embodiment include allowing for a lighter weight hand-held piece because the bulk of the electrical components are found in the one-piece base unit 10′ and the hand-held portion only includes the heat-resistant handle and styling plates 102′, 106′. The styling plates may be formed in the same manner as any of the heat styling plates noted in the prior embodiments described herein. The electrical cord 84′ can include on the side that attaches to the styling components a two-headed plug on one end, wherein each plug fits independently into each of the handle portions 100′, 104′ that include female inlets 108′ instead of male plugs as in the other embodiments noted herein. Alteratively, two cords 84′ (only one is shown for convenience in FIG. 9A) can be used that connect into two separate inlets in the base unit 10′. Another advantage of this embodiment, is that other hair appliances or other personal care attachments can be made to plug into the one-piece base unit such as hair dryers, clippers, shavers and the like (not shown).

The handle portions can also include snap-in electrical fittings 62′ which may be configured to fit into optional inlets 16′ in the handle portions. If such snap-in electrical fittings are used, they are preferably in electrical communication through the handle to the plug inlets 108′ so as to communicate the power from the heating unit to the plates 102′, 106′. A user P can safely use the hand-held portion by holding the handle portions 100′, 104′ in the user's hand H as shown.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes could be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the broad inventive concept thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but it is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.