Title:
Ventilation vest
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A wearable garment for providing passive ventilation to a wearer such as when worn under an over-garment such as body armor. In at least one embodiment, a vest-configured garment constructed from a three-dimensional, flexible, honeycomb-type configured material having a compressible thickness.



Inventors:
Tomann, Andrea (Arlington, VA, US)
Zemach, Ken (Redwood, CA, US)
Mcdonough, Bill (Narberth, PA, US)
Smith, Tim (Berwyn, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/090946
Publication Date:
01/04/2007
Filing Date:
03/24/2005
Assignee:
Exponent, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41H1/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PATEL, TAJASH D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pequignot + Myers (Del Mar, CA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A wearable garment for capable of effecting passive ventilation when worn under an over-garment, said wearable garment comprising: a sheet of three-dimensional fabric configured as a torso covering garment, said sheet of three-dimensional fabric being constructed as a combination of layers including a top layer, a bottom layer, and a middle layer located in between and connecting said top and bottom layers; wherein said top, bottom, and middle layers each include a plurality of openings interconnected with openings in adjacent layers, said interconnection of openings thereby forming a plurality of air pathways interwoven throughout said wearable garment and through which air passively travels; and wherein at least said middle layer is comprised of a plurality of elements spatially separating and extending between said top and bottom layers, said elements having semi-rigid, semi-flexible characteristics.

2. A wearable garment according to claim 1 wherein said top and bottom layers are spatially separated so as to define a thickness of said three-dimensional fabric sheet, and wherein said middle layer elements are sufficiently rigid to selectively maintain said spaced condition between said top and bottom layers.

3. A wearable garment according to claim 2 wherein said middle layer elements are at least partially compressible and therefore said thickness of said three-dimensional fabric is at least partially compressible; and wherein said middle layer elements possess a memory such that if they are compressed by a force, said middle layer elements will return substantially to their original configuration when the force is removed.

4. A wearable garment according to claim 3 wherein said garment is constructed from a sheet of said three-dimensional fabric trimmed into a torso covering-outline configuration, said torso covering-outline configuration comprising: a generally rectangular three-dimensional fabric sheet including an aperture cut into a portion of said fabric sheet proximal a center thereof, said aperture being sized to accommodate entry and egress of a wearer's head; and said configuration including two pairs of generally oppositely located scalloped cuts in perimeter sides of said fabric sheet; and wherein said three-dimensional fabric sheet is comprised of a material which is capable of being folded in half proximal a cross-section of said aperture thereby to assume a configuration of a wearable vest.

5. A wearable garment according to claim 4 wherein said three-dimensional fabric has such a configuration and said air pathways are so configured and so located within said thickness of said three-dimensional fabric so as to permit passive air flow through said garment in at least two dimensions of space.

6. A wearable garment according to claim 5 wherein said three-dimensional fabric has such a configuration and said air pathways are so configured and so located within said thickness of said three-dimensional fabric so as to permit passive air flow through said garment in at least three dimensions of space.

7. A wearable garment according to claim 6 wherein said three-dimensional fabric includes a first category of openings extending generally vertically between said top and bottom layers and includes a second category of openings interconnected with said first category of openings extending generally non-vertically between said top and bottom layers.

8. A wearable garment according to claim 7 wherein said first and said second categories of openings are so configured and interconnected with one another to form said air pathways so as to allow passive air flow in a plurality of directions and at random angles throughout said thickness of said three-dimensional fabric.

9. A wearable garment according to claim 8 wherein said air pathways are so interconnected and located within said thickness of said three-dimensional fabric sheet so as to allow air flow from one end of said sheet of fabric to any other end of said fabric sheet.

10. A wearable garment according to claim 9 wherein said three-dimensional fabric is substantially flexible throughout a majority of said fabrics surface area.

11. A wearable garment according to claim 10 wherein said three-dimensional fabric possesses flame retardant properties.

12. A wearable garment according to claim 10 wherein said three-dimensional fabric is comprised of a material which a general resistance to ballistic projectiles.

13. A wearable garment according to claim 10 further including at least a first and a second pair of user fastenable and unfastenable connectors located on generally opposite sides of said garment proximal a perimeter surface thereof, said first and second pairs of connectors being so located on said garment such that said connectors are capable of securing said garment to a user.

14. A wearable garment according to claim 13 wherein said first and second pairs of connectors are a type selected from the group consisting of: hook and loop fasteners, male/female connectors, elastic strapping, and rubber fasteners.

15. A wearable garment according to claim 9 wherein said top and bottom layers of said three-dimensional fabric are each comprised of a layer of flexible fibers woven into a pattern having apertures therein.

16. A wearable garment according to claim 9 wherein said apertures in said top layer are staggered in location with respect to said apertures in said bottom layer.

17. A wearable garment according to claim 9 wherein said apertures in said top layer have axes extending vertically through centers thereof, and said apertures in said bottom later have axes extending vertically through centers thereof; and wherein said axes of said top layer are each offset a selected distance from said axes of said bottom layer, respectively.

18. A wearable garment according to claim 17 wherein said apertures of said top and bottom layers are generally uniform in size and perimeter configuration, and wherein said selected distance of said offset of said axes of said top and said bottom layers is generally equal in numerical value, plus or minus twenty percent, to an average numerical value of a length of radii of said top and bottom apertures.

19. A wearable garment according to claim 15 wherein said elements of said middle layer are interwoven with said fibers of said top and bottom layers.

20. A wearable garment according to claim 19 wherein said elements of said middle layer are comprised of a first material and said fibers of said top and bottom layers are comprised of a second material; and wherein said first material is different in composition than said composition of said second material.

21. A wearable garment according to claim 3 wherein said garment is integrally attached to a body facing side of an overgarment for providing passive ventilation under said overgarment.

22. A wearable garment according to claim 3 wherein said garment is integrally attached to a non-body facing side of an undergarment for providing passive ventilation over said undergarment.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/556,060, filed Mar. 25, 2004, similarly titled, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to a wearable garment capable of providing passive ventilation to a wearer such as when worn under an over-garment such as body armor. In at least one embodiment, the invention relates to a vest-type garment constructed from a three-dimensional, flexible honeycomb-like configured material. In at least one preferred embodiment, this invention relates to a garment having a predetermined thickness and memory thereof such that the garment is capable of maintaining an over-garment at a selected spatial distance from the body of the wearer.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Due to its effectiveness, use of body armor by military and law enforcement personnel has become increasingly common during recent years. In some cases, for example, body armor is part of the standard issue uniform and its use by law enforcement and military personnel may, in fact, be required in some circumstances. Although the use of such equipment provides important safety benefits, principally protection from gunfire, conventional body armor (e.g., bulletproof vests) are heavy and constructed from thick, non-breathable materials which are uncomfortable and/or do not allow the wearer's body to cool itself naturally (due to the inhibition of evaporation of perspiration). Compounding this problem it has been common in recent years for U.S. soldiers to be deployed to countries with high average temperatures and/or humidity (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq). In such climates, the use of conventional body armor, combined with the wearing of backpacks and other equipment, subjects soldiers to risks related to high body temperatures such as heat exhaustion and/or heat casualties (in addition to simply being uncomfortable). As a result, despite the obvious safety benefits of body armor, it is not uncommon for a soldier or law enforcement officer, lulled into a false sense of security, to simply not wear the body armor at all in some scenarios. This, in turn, puts the soldier or police officer, for example, in substantial danger should ballistic-type conflict be encountered.

In view of the above issues related to convention body armor, it would be advantageous if there were available a garment which could be worn in combination with body armor, which would decrease discomfort levels as well as aid in cooling the body for safety reasons. Addressing related problems in the art, various patents, such as U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,515,543; 5,925,441; 6,473,910 and 6,526,862, have attempted to provide a garment which provides some measure of cooling or ventilation to the wearer. Nevertheless, known garments which have attempted to address such needs (such as described in the above-listed patents or otherwise), typically employ some mechanism to actively pump air to and from chambers of a garment, for example. For example, in order to provide active circulation or pumping functions, some prior art garments utilize a fan and associated power supply and, therefore, are more expensive and complicated to manufacture, as well as susceptible to failure during field use. Furthermore, such active-type garments, because of the components they employ, add significant weight which is extremely disadvantageous to a soldier, in particular, because of their already heavy pack loads. Known passive-type (i.e., non-power operated) garments, conversely, have typically utilized sealed air chambers through which no air circulation can take place or limit passive air circulation due to other structural drawbacks.

In view of such issues related to cost, weight and reliability, it is contemplated that there is a need for a garment which does not suffer such drawbacks, but which when worn under body armor provides safety and comfort to the user.

In view of the above enumerated drawbacks, it is apparent that there exists a need in the art for apparatus and/or methods which solve and/or ameliorate at least one of the above problems. It is a purpose of this invention to fulfill these needs in the art as well as other needs that will become more apparent to the skilled artisan once given the following disclosure.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Generally speaking, this invention fulfills the above-described needs in the art by providing:

A wearable garment capable of effecting passive ventilation when worn under an over-garment, said wearable garment comprising:

a sheet of three-dimensional fabric configured as a torso covering garment, said sheet of three-dimensional fabric being constructed as a combination of layers including a top layer, a bottom layer, and a middle layer located in between and connecting said top and bottom layers;

wherein said top, bottom, and middle layers each include a plurality of openings interconnected with openings in adjacent layers, said interconnection of openings thereby forming a plurality of air pathways interwoven throughout said wearable garment and through which air passively travels; and

wherein at least said middle layer is comprised of a plurality of elements spatially separating and extending between said top and bottom layers, said elements having semi-rigid, semi-flexible characteristics.

In at least one embodiment, passive air flow is possible through the garment in at least two dimensions of space, but more preferably, in three dimensions thereof. In such an embodiment or embodiments, the openings in the top and bottom layers extend between the top and bottom layers and may be joined to openings extending perpendicularly (or extending at some other angle or combination of angles predetermined or random) thereto. Such embodiments exhibit excellent passive air flow properties.

In at least one further embodiment, the garment is substantially flexible such that it can be folded for storage or packing and/or so that it is comfortable to the wearer.

In a still further embodiment, the middle portion elements have a memory such that if they are compressed by a force, the middle portion elements will return substantially to their original configuration when the force is removed. In some embodiments, this memory helps maintain the spacing between the top and bottom layers during extended use.

In yet further alternative embodiments, the three-dimensional fabric or a portion thereof may be flame resistant or retardant or may offer protection from projectiles (alone or in combination with armor, for example) and/or may be melt resistant.

In yet still further preferred embodiments, the wearable garment is configured in the form of a vest. In such embodiments, the vest may be manufactured (cut or formed) from a single piece of three-dimensional material. In other embodiments, the vest may be constructed from two or more separate pieces or cuts of material joined together by one or more of various means (conventional or otherwise). Moreover, when worn, the vest may be joined at the sides (loosely or securely as desired) via elastic straps, Velcro, plastic clips, Hypalon® or rubber-type fasteners, sewing, or any combination of the above, or via any combination of alternative connectors. Preferred embodiments of vest closure mechanisms (connectors) are illustrated in the drawings that accompany this application.

Although, in some embodiments, it is preferred that the utilized connectors be adjustable in order to adjust the vest size to individual users, in at least one embodiment, a one-size-fits-all design is contemplated.

In further embodiments which may or may not employ connectors depending on design considerations, the garment may be integrally connected (e.g. sewn) to the body facing side of an over-garment to provide passive ventilation under the over-garment. In similar embodiments, the garment may be integrally connected, such as sewn, to the non-body facing side of an undergarment (for providing ventilation over the undergarment when an over-garment is worn thereover).

In particularly preferred embodiments, the garment has a predetermined thickness (with or without a memory) so that the garment is capable of thereby spacing an over-garment at a selected distance from the body of the wearer. In a preferred embodiment, the predetermined thickness is between ⅛ and ½ inch. In a more preferred embodiment, the predetermined thickness is approximately ¼ to ½ inch. In a still more preferred embodiment, the predetermined thickness is approximately 6/8 inch +/− approximately 10%.

This invention will now be described with respect to certain embodiments thereof as illustrated in the following drawings wherein:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a three-dimensional, front view of a ventilation garment according to one embodiment of the subject invention, the garment being illustrated in a folded position with the fasteners therefore being illustrated fastened.

FIG. 2 illustrates a detailed, three-dimensional view of the fabric comprising the garment illustrated in FIG. 1 viewed at an orientation substantially normal to the plane thereof.

FIG. 3 illustrates a two-dimensional, profile view of a cross section of the fabric illustrated in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 illustrates a three-dimensional, partial view of the garment depicted in FIG. 1 as well as illustrates the environment in which such garment finds utility.

FIG. 5 illustrates a two-dimensional, overhead view of the garment illustrated in FIG. 1 shown unfolded with the fasteners therefore being illustrated unfastened.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENTS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention and advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following description of various illustrative and non-limiting embodiments thereof, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings submitted herewith.

Referring initially now to FIG. 1, therein is illustrated ventilation garment 1 as one exemplar embodiment of the subject invention. As can be seen in FIG. 1, garment 1 generally comprises a quantity of three-dimensional fabric 3 configured in the shape of a wearable vest. In this regard, garment 1 includes a neck aperture 23 as well as two opposing arm apertures 25a and 25b. Additionally, garment 1 includes a set of fasteners 27 for securing garment 1 to a user as well as for adjusting the fit of the garment according to various body sizes.

Turning now to FIGS. 2 and 3, an example of a specific three-dimensional configuration of fabric 3 can be seen therein. Specifically, as seen most clearly in FIG. 3, fabric 3 includes a top layer 5, a bottom layer 7, and a middle layer 9 sandwiched between the top and bottom layers. Additionally, fabric 3 includes a plurality of spaced apart vertically oriented openings 29 as well as a plurality of randomly spaced apart non-vertically oriented openings 31. (It is noted that the terms related to orientations used herein, e.g., “vertically” are only used in reference to the orientations as they are illustrated in specific figures. They are not intended to describe any orientations as will be experienced in field use.) These apertures or openings 29 and 31, in particular, allow passive air flow through a plurality of air passageways “a” disposed throughout the generally honeycomb-like structure.

In preferred embodiments as can be seen in FIG. 3, middle layer 9 comprises a plurality of randomly oriented flexible elements 13 which is characterized by having resilient properties and which are capable of substantially maintaining a desired spatial relationship between top layer 5 and bottom layer 7. Maintaining such a relationship is important, in this regard, because when such a spatial relationship is preserved, passive air flow through the various air passageways “a” is substantially optimized (thus providing excellent ventilation properties to the vest). In more preferred embodiments, the specific degree of resilience (e.g., combination of flexibleness and stiffness) of elements 13 is specifically chosen to accomplish various goals. For example, in at least one embodiment of the subject invention, elements 13 are constructed of a material that provides a cushioning barrier between layers 5 and 7. When designed as such, when body armor, for example, is worn over garment 1, the subjective comfort level of the armor is substantially increased as compared to if the body armor was worn alone, i.e., without a cushioning undergarment.

In addition to choosing a material for elements 13 that provides such cushioning characteristics, the material or combinations thereof (e.g., polyesters) chosen to construct elements 13 can be additionally selected so that the elements possess a “memory”. In this regard, the term “memory”, for the purposes of construing the specification and claims, is intended to indicate the tendency or ability of the middle layer of fabric 3 to spring-back to its (substantially) original shape or configuration when such shape or configuration is modified (e.g., compressed) by an external force. More specifically, “memory”, as it relates to elements 13, is principally related to the ability (or least tendency) of elements 13, as comprising middle layer 9, to maintain the spaced apart relationship between top layer 5 and bottom layer 7. In this manner, passive airflow capabilities are not substantially compromised when a compressive force is applied to garment 1 because, for example, after the compressive force is removed or lessened, the garment will “seek to” return to its original thickness and/or configuration. Of course, if a force greater than a specific threshold force is maintained against a surface of fabric 3, the fabric will remain compressed until such force is removed. During such interim period, the ability of passive air exchange to happen between various air passageways “a”, e.g., through and between apertures 29 and 31 and the surrounding ambient atmosphere may be compromised.

Although in order to accomplish one or more of the objectives of the invention, no specific thickness of garment 1 (and hence fabric 3) is required, certain exemplar thicknesses have proven subjectively and objectively effective in field testing and are, therefore, utilized in preferred embodiments. In some cases, these exemplar thicknesses have been chosen as effective primarily because of their ability to adequately space a body armor garment from the body of a wearer (e.g., for proper ventilation). In this regard, it is generally desirable to maintain a user-body to body armor distance between approximately ⅛ inch and ½ inch (e.g., when not under load), and preferably between approximately ¼ inch and 6/8 inch.

With regard to the above descriptions of desirable fabric characteristics, although it is preferable that garment 1 have both flexible or resilient characteristics while also possessing at least a partial “memory” (at least as to thickness), neither of these features is required, and one feature may, of course, be adopted without utilizing the other.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a specific, example application in which garment 1 finds utility is illustrated in detail therein. In this regard, garment 1 is shown being worn by a military or law enforcement-type personnel 101 under a body armor vest 103 (e.g., for ballistic-type protection). Importantly, as can be seen clearly in FIG. 4, garment 1 is specifically sized so that a pre-selected length of material “d” extends outwardly beyond the boundaries of body armor 103 so that portions of fabric 3 are in unobstructed contact with the ambient atmosphere. This, in turn, ensures that maximum passive air flow is permitted between the surrounding atmosphere and the air passageways of garment 1. In particularly preferred embodiments (such as shown), in order to maximize the airflow through the passageways defined by apertures 29 and 31, garment 1 is specifically sized so that substantially the entire outline or perimeter (i.e., the fabric edges) of the garment remains exposed to the surrounding atmosphere, i.e., is not enclosed or otherwise covered or obstructed by body armor 103. Nevertheless, it is certainly contemplated that, in some embodiments, garment 1 will have different sizes and configurations in which portions of its perimeter or outline are obstructed or covered by body armor 103 or some other garment, for example. Notwithstanding such embodiments, even if a substantial majority portion of the perimeter or outline of garment 1 is obstructed by a secondary garment (e.g., body armor), improved ventilation as well as overall comfort is achieved (e.g., because of the cushioning feature) such as when compared to not utilizing a garment, such as described herein, at all.

While still now referring to FIG. 4, a particularly effective length “d” for achieving excellent passive ventilation is illustrated therein (not to scale). In this regard, in the instant example, the illustrated length “d” is selected to be approximately one inch. However, as aforementioned above, various alternative lengths can be selected (by selecting larger or smaller garment sizes) and certainly such exposed lengths “d” will naturally vary upon movement or shifting of garment 1, e.g., due to the disturbance of the garment and body armor during normal “field” activities. Utilizing approximately ½ to 3 inches of fabric length “d” as such, exemplar air pathways “a” are obtained (such as illustrated in FIG. 4), such pathways exemplifying the bidirectional movement of air into and out of the various apertures of garment 1.

Turning now to FIG. 5, a particularly preferred configuration of garment 1 is illustrated therein which has proven efficient to manufacture as well as demonstrated desirable performance characteristics when used in the field. In this regard, as can be seen in FIG. 5, a single rectangular sheet of fabric 3 lying flat can be die-cut to form neck aperture 23 as well as arm cutouts 25a and 25b (or cut by any other mechanism or method, conventional or otherwise). Employing such a manufacturing method, the manufacturing process for garment 1 is reduced to a single, simple cutting or trimming step in which a sheet or roll of fabric (e.g., fabric 3) is simply fed through appropriately configured cutting machinery for, preferably simultaneously, cutting the centrally located neck hole as well as the two scalloped arm cutouts. Afterwards, fasteners 27 are connected to the various side or edge portions of fabric 3 (with conventional sewing methods), each pair of fasteners 27 being located opposite another pair e.g., one pair having a male type connector and the opposite pair having a female type connector (or some other combination thereof). For achieving the various objectives or combinations thereof as described herein, a variety of connector types are contemplated as useful with the present invention. Illustrative examples of such connectors are Velcro®-type closures, elastic straps, plastic male/female-type fastening clips, Hypalon® or rubber-type fasteners, or any combination of the above, or via any combination of alternative connectors. In preferred embodiments of the invention, using connectors as described, garment 1 can be joined at the respective sides of a user employing fasteners 27 (loosely or securely as desired) with no further steps required for the garments assembly.

Utilizing a garment configuration such as described above, garment 1 can be easily added to the uniform of a user by simply placing neck aperture 23 over the head of user 101 with the remaining material then covering the chest and back portions of the user. Thereafter, opposing fasteners 27 are fastened one to another and body armor 103 can be pulled thereover.

Once given the above disclosure, many other features, modifications, and improvements will become apparent to the skilled artisan. Such other features, modifications, and improvements are therefore considered to be part of this invention, the scope of which is to be determined by the following claims: