Title:
Body-contoured tub
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A body contoured tub has a reclining surface that is molded to receive a user's reclining or recumbent body. In a first embodiment, the tub's interior contours are defined in a body measurement process that determines the users body contours, and then a custom fabricated tub is made to support the user's reclining body in a manner that permits extended use of the tub without excessive pressure anywhere on the user's body. In a second embodiment, the tub's interior contours are defined using representative body contours for a selected group of intended users of the tub.



Inventors:
Greeno, Scott (Shepherdstown, WV, US)
Application Number:
11/644989
Publication Date:
08/02/2007
Filing Date:
12/26/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/022
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GANEY, STEVEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILLIAM A BLAKE LLC (Laytonsville, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A body-contoured tub, comprising: an enclosed, fluid impermeable tub body having first and second substantially vertical interior sidewalls separated by a selected tub interior width and each having a selected horizontal length and terminating in an upper edge; said tub body having a substantially vertical foot-end wall spanning the tub interior width; said tub body also having an inclined contoured back wall defining a surface adapted to receive a user's body when resting in a recumbent or reclined position within the tub; said inclined contoured back wall having a concave upper back contour terminating at its lower extent in a substantially convex mid-back contour; wherein said convex mid-back contour terminates at its lower extent in a concave lower back contour; wherein said concave lower back contour terminates at its lower extent in a radiused transition to an upwardly angled seat area; said upwardly angled seat area having an upward angle that is greater than five degrees from horizontal; wherein said inclined contoured back wall inclines at a selected back inclination angle, said selected inclination angle being between 20 degrees and 40 degrees from vertical; said upwardly angled seat area having a selected length of bottom/thigh support surface terminating distally in a radiused transition to a seat wall having a selected seat front height; said selected seat front height being greater than one inch; said seat wall terminating at its lower extent in a substantially planar tub floor; wherein said tub floor is a selected tub floor depth beneath said side wall's upper edge, said tub floor depth being greater than twenty inches; and wherein said tub body is sized to fit within a standard bathroom tub's floor space and said tub body includes a floor drain receiving area adapted to receive a drain pipe fitting.

2. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said inclined contoured back wall's selected back inclination angle is 30 degrees from vertical.

3. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said selected tub floor depth beneath said side wall's upper edge is greater than twenty one inches.

4. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said selected tub floor depth beneath said side wall's upper edge is approximately twenty three inches.

5. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said tub body is integrally molded from a hardened flowable material.

6. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said tub body is integrally molded from hardened masonry material.

7. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said tub body is integrally molded from hardened fiberglass material.

8. The body-contoured tub of claim 1, wherein said tub body is integrally molded from hardened acrylic material.

9. A method for making a body-contoured tub including: determining a body profile of a user of a tub; forming a template using said body profile; using said template and forming an initial mold; using said initial mold and forming a rigid mold; and using said rigid mold for forming said body-contoured tub.

10. The method of claim 9 further including determining said body profile as a full-sized profile of a user of a tub.

11. The method of claim 10 further including making said body profile in a recumbent position of a user of a tub.

12. The method of claim 9 further including using a specific user for determining said body profile.

13. The method of claim 9 further including using a representative user for determining said body profile.

14. The method of claim 9 further including using a shadow illumination technique for determining said body profile.

15. The method of claim 12 further including using said specific user and custom fitting said initial mold.

16. The method of claim 9 further including using a flowable material for forming said rigid mold.

17. The method of claim 9 further including forming said body-contoured tub from said rigid mold using vacuum-forming.

18. The method of claim 13 further including determining said representative user using averages of group data.

19. The method of claim 18 further using computer-assisted graphics techniques for forming said template.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION INFORMATION

This application is related to, and claims priority from U.S. provisional patent application no. 60/752,947, also entitled Body Contoured Tub, and filed Dec. 23, 2005, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is directed generally to a method for making a custom-molded, body supporting unit adapted to be incorporated into a bath tub. More particularly, the present invention is directed to a method for making a custom-molded, body supporting unit including obtaining a profile of the user in a desired reclined position, using the profile to form an initial form and then finalizing the form during personal fitting of the form to the person. Most specifically, the present invention is directed to a method for making and providing a custom or a semi-custom body contoured tub that can be substituted for a generally conventional tub. The body-contoured tub has a forward, planar floor and an inclined rear surface that is separated from the floor by an angled seat area. The inclined rear surface is configured in the custom tub, to fit the body contour of a specific user, and in the semi-custom tub, to fit a body contour of an average user in a defined range of user sizes.

2. Description of the Prior Art

The benefits which can be derived from immersion of a person's body in a hot bath are well-known. These benefits are both physiological and psychological and include muscle relaxation, stress reduction, tension dissipation and the promotion of an overall feeling of well-being.

Commercial whirlpool baths and spas are often provided for professional athletes or are available at health clubs and similar commercial establishments. These are certainly effective in promoting healing but are not intended primarily for the relaxation that one may desire at the end of a busy day. The person who would like to avail himself of the benefits of a relaxing session in a warm bath does not want to travel to a health club or spa and may not want to expend the funds that membership in such organizations may entail.

A conventional home bathtub is intended primarily for cleaning one's body, not for relaxation. The overall shape of such a conventional home bathtub is not particularly comfortable. The rear wall of the tub is inclined with respect to the planar tub floor, but itself is generally flat. If a person sits in a generally upright position in a conventional tub, a substantial portion of his upper torso is out of water, even if the tub is filled to its capacity. If the user adopts a more reclined position, so that the majority of his torso is beneath the water, a large part of his back is not supported by the rear wall of the tub. Such a position is not comfortable for even relatively short periods of time.

Hot tubs and whirlpool tubs are also generally known in the art. A typical hot tub is intended to hold a number of users, is typically intended for outdoor use, and often has a plurality of jets and seats or benches. A whirlpool tub may be more intended for use inside the home. It is typically not intended for substitution for a conventional tub and has a size which requires a large amount of space, something that the majority of bathrooms do not have.

A further difficulty with presently available tubs, which are not intended for body soaking is that the water in the tub tends to cool rather rapidly. There are several ways that this can be rectified, such as by draining and refilling but these are typically not convenient. The relaxation of the person using the tub will be interrupted if the water in the tub becomes cool so that the tub will need to be re-filled. Such refilling is also expensive and wastes water.

Many, if not most bathrooms have custom color schemes or decors. It is helpful if the if the components of the bathroom blend with that decor. A tub which is not able to blend in well with the other bathroom fixtures will not be readily accepted.

It will be thus be seen that a need exists for a body-contoured tub which will overcome the limitations of the prior art devices. The body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention provides such a tub and is a substantial advance over the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to provide a method for making a body-contoured soaking tub.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a method for making a custom tub which is contoured to the user's body.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a method for making a custom tub that can include a finish which will match an existing room décor.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a custom tub that can replace or be incorporated with a standard bathtub in an existing or a new bathroom.

In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, a custom, body-contoured tub is fit to the body contours of the user, when the user is situated in a position which he or she finds to be comfortable. A full-sized profile of the recumbent or reclining person is first made. Typically, this is done by a so-called shadow illumination technique. Once a template of that profile has been made, it is used to form an initial framing or mold. Once that framing or mold has been prepared, it is custom fit using the person as a guide. Then a rigid mold is made using a flowable material. The hardened mold is then utilized to fabricate the body-contoured tub.

In another aspect of the present invention, a semi-custom body contoured soaking tub can be structured using essentially the same process as is used in the formation of the custom body-contoured tub. However, instead of basing the tub's contour on the body profile of a specific individual, the tub is molded using a form that is an average for a group of people. For example, one tub may be configured to best accommodate a person with a height of, for example, 4′10″ to 5′3″. Another tub can be configured to more comfortably accommodate a person from 5′4″ to 5′8″. While such a semi-custom tub does not provide quite as great a support of an individually contoured, fully custom tub, it also does not have the costs associated with a fully custom tub. For a wide range of users, the semi-custom tub, in the appropriate size range, will provide very comfortable and satisfactory support.

In either the fully custom or the semi-custom configuration, the contoured body soaking tub in accordance with the subject invention provides individual comfort and support that is simply not available in a conventional bathtub. In either configuration, the body-contoured tub of the present invention provides support to the user's body which is comfortable, secure and relaxing. The body-contoured tub includes a generally planar forward floor portion that is intended to provide easy ingress and egress, as well as use as a shower, if desired. The tub's planar forward floor transitions into an inclined support surface upon which the tub's user can be seated. The rear wall of the body-contoured tub is, as its name suggests, contoured to closely fit and support the torso of the user, from the nape of the neck to the lower spine and buttocks. The entire back of the tub's occupant will thus be fully and comfortably supported while still providing a stable seated position.

The body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention can be fabricated using any of the materials which are used to form conventional tubs. Typically, the mold of either the specific person or of the median or average person in each size range, will serve as the basis for the formation of an acrylic tub that is formed using generally well-known vacuum forming techniques. The acrylic can be reinforced with fiberglass, with various resins or with other reinforcements, as is generally known in the art. If the body-contoured tub is a fully custom tub, it can be colored to suit the particular user's color scheme. Essentially any material that can be conformed to a mold, can be used to form the body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention.

While the body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention is not intended primarily as a hydro-therapy or whirlpool bath, it can be provided with water jets, with a water circulating pump and with a water heater both of which will be of sufficient capacity to insure that the water in the tub is maintained at a comfortable, selectable temperature. The body-contoured tub, since it is intended for relaxation and enjoyment, can also be formed or molded with recesses that are intended to receive a candle or another decorative or comfort affording item.

The body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention provides either a fully custom or a semi-custom contoured soaking tub that is suitable as a replacement for a conventional tub. It overcomes the limitations of the prior devices and is a substantial advance in the art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A full and complete understanding of a body-contoured tub, and of its method of manufacture, in accordance with the present invention may be had by referring to the description of the preferred embodiment, as set forth subsequently, and as depicted in the accompanying drawing in which:

FIG. 1 is a top plan view of a body-contoured tub as made in accordance with the method of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side-elevation view, partly in section, of the body-contoured tub of FIG. 1, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates, in partial cross section, the body-contoured tub of the present invention in use;

FIG. 4 illustrates, in perspective, an alternative embodiment of a molded Acrylic tub sized to fit users in a narrow range of body sizes, in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 5 illustrates a rotated perspective view of the contoured tub of FIG. 4, showing the underside of the reclining surface having the body receiving contours, in accordance with the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention is intended for any home owner who desires the ultimate in comfort in an individually contoured soaking tub that is either custom fit or is semi-custom fit to the person's body.

The initial step is to obtain a body profile of the tub's intended user while the user is situated, in a recumbent or reclined position, which profile will serve as the basis for the fabrication of an initial template. This initial profile is typically made using a shadow silhouette in which the tub owner is positioned in a desired position and his silhouette is formed using a source of light. The silhouette is cut out and can be replicated on a suitable material such as cardboard or a light piece of wooden material. This silhouette or profile is used to make an initial or first form or mold. After the initial or first form has been created, the individual user will serve as a living template so that the initial mold can be custom fit to the user's body profile in its desired position. The molded tub must meet all of the user's body contours or curves, such as neck, lower back, buttocks, thighs and the like. Once the initial mold is finished and is in a three-dimensional form, the next step is undertaken.

Instead of the above-described shadow silhouette process for making an initial profile of the user, it is quite possible to utilize various computer-asserted graphics programs to form the initial profile. The tub's intended user can have his or her recumbent profile determined in any of a variety of procedures that are known.

In the next step, a rigid mold, having a substantial thickness, is created. It is typically wood framed and has cement board sides with a masonry sand mix bottom. A flowable material is placed on a liner and is laid over the material mold, which acts as a template. The intended user of the body-contoured tub is properly positioned on the flowable material, in contact with the flowable material, until that flowable material has sufficiently hardened to form an accurate mold of the person's body contour in his or her desired relaxed position.

The now completed mold is used as the basis to fabricate a masonry and cement-board and tiled tub or as a mold for a hand laid fiberglass/acrylic tub. The resultant, completed body-contoured tub will be an exact duplicate of the intended user's body, in his or her relaxed position.

In accordance with the present invention, the body-contoured tub is individually fit to the intended user's body. It can be made as an insert for, or as a replacement for a conventional bathtub or whirlpool tub. It is custom fabricated and will thus duplicate the user's choice of relaxed position. It can be of any desired size, length, width and depth. Instead of providing support for only one person, the tub can be made to provide support for two or more users.

Throughout the entire build process, the intended user will accomplish a plurality of trial fits. This will ensure that the finished product will fit the individual's body and will provide proper support without points of pressure.

The body contoured tub in accordance with the present invention can be made and finished with a variety of materials, so that it will match, or complement the décor of the room in which it will be used. Such materials may include, but are not limited to stone, tile, glass, granite, mosaic, ceramic or marble. The tub may also be fabricated of a hand laid fiberglass sealed with an acrylic finish in any desired color. A built-in supplemental water heating and circulating system can be included so that the water in the tub will remain warm during a prolonged, relaxing bath. Since the body-contoured tub is custom-made, it can include suitable arm rests, candle holders, cup holders or holders for other comfort enhancing products. Underwater lighting, in a variety of different mood colors can also be included.

As may be seen in FIG. 1, the tub may be constructed using a conventional 2″×4″ framing and in a desired size and shape. A ¾″ marine plywood is used to define the overall shape of the tub and is lined with a suitable liner. A ⅝″ cement board can be placed interiorly of the liner and it, in turn will be covered with a suitable finish, which, as discussed previously, can be a stone, tile, glass, marble, fiberglass or acrylic material.

As seen in cross section in FIG. 2, the body-contoured tub of the present invention includes a mold area which, as described previously, will replicate the user's body contour in a recumbent or reclined position. Steps to facilitate entry into, and exit from the tub can be provided. It will be understood that the tub will be connected with suitable plumbing including water supply and drain connections.

The method for making a body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention results in a custom-fit support which will allow the user to partake of a long, relaxing bath. The provision of a custom fit affords the user a degree of comfort which is not attainable in standard tubs or whirlpool baths. It further provides a great deal of freedom for the use of specific components, textures, colors and shapes that will enhance the user's enjoyment.

A fully custom body-contoured tub is, of course, highly desirable. However, there are factors, such as cost and time, which are associated with such a custom process and which thus may act as an impediment to the general appeal of such a product. To address these concerns, it is also within the scope of the present invention to provide a semi-custom body-contoured tub that is provided with an average user's contour. It is clear that in this situation, a “one size fits all” approach will not be acceptable. However, the provision of the semi-custom, body-contoured tub in three of four, for example, ranges of body sizes, such as small, medium, large and extra-large will accommodate the vast majority of the consuming public. In practice, various databases can be utilized to determine average or medium body profiles for groups of users. For instance, a user range of a height between 4′10″ and 5′3″ could be selected as the “small” dimension. The distance from neck nape to lower spine for people in that size range could be determined. Also determinable are shoulder widths, spinal contours and other physical characteristics. The results can be entered into a computer to generate a representative body profile that can be used, instead of an actual person, to generate a template or to use various modeling techniques to contour the tub. While such a semi-custom body contoured tub, in several ranges of sizes may not accommodate all users, it will accommodate the large majority of users.

Referring again to FIGS. 1-5, the body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention and indicated generally at 10, comprises an enclosed, fluid impermeable tub body 12 having a first substantially vertical interior sidewall 14 opposing a second, spaced apart and substantially vertical interior sidewall 16 separated by a selected tub interior width 18. Each sidewall 14 and 16 has a selected horizontal length 20 and terminates in a sidewall upper edge that optionally includes a substantially horizontal flange segment.

Tub body 12 has a substantially vertical foot-end wall 22 spanning the tub's interior width 18 and also has an inclined contoured back wall 24 defining a surface adapted to receive a user's body (e.g., 30, as best seen in FIG. 3) when that user 30 is resting in a recumbent or reclined position within the tub. Inclined contoured back wall 24 has a concave upper back contour 32 terminating at its lower extent 34 in a substantially convex mid-back bump or contour 36, and convex mid-back contour 36 terminates at its lower extent 38 in a concave lower back contour 40.

The concave lower back contour 40 terminates at its lower extent 42 in a radiused transition 44 to an upwardly angled seat area 46 having an upward angle 48 that is preferably greater than five degrees from horizontal.

Inclined contoured back wall 24 inclines at a selected back inclination angle 50 of between 20 degrees and 40 degrees from vertical. Upwardly angled seat area 46 has a selected length of bottom/thigh support surface 52 terminating distally in a radiused transition 54 to a seat wall 56 having a selected seat front height 58 that is preferably greater than one inch. Seat wall 56 is terminated at its lower extent in a substantially planar tub floor 60.

Tub floor 60 is optionally dimensioned to provide a standing area for users when showering (i.e., instead of soaking while seated), and the tub floor's depth 70 (as measured from the side wall's upper edge) is preferable, but not necessarily significantly deeper than a standard tub's depth, typically being greater than twenty inches. Contoured tub 10 is sized to fit within a standard bathroom tub's floor space and tub body 12 includes a floor drain receiving area 64 adapted to receive a standard drain pipe fitting.

The body-contoured tub preferably has an inclined contoured back wall selected back inclination angle of 30 degrees from vertical, and the selected tub floor depth beneath the side wall's upper edge is at least twenty one inches, but can be as much as twenty three inches.

In an alternative embodiment of the contoured tub of the present invention, as best seen in FIGS. 4 and 5, a semi-custom line of acrylic tubs are built in three or four primary sizes based on selected ranges of user body sizes. In the illustrated embodiments, the range of sizes is based on a user's height, such as, for example, (a) 4′-10″ to 5′-3″, (b) 5′-4″ to 5′7″ (c) 5′-8″ to 6′-0″ above 6′-0″. These ranges of sizes are selected to account for the curvature of the user's spine and the radius of each contour (e.g., 32, 36 and 40) associated with the user's spine. Tub body 12 can be molded in advance to provide a stock replacement item well suited for installation within framing provided in standard US bath rooms while permitting use of the tub as a tub and shower combination unit. The molded acrylic tub of FIGS. 4 and 5 preferably includes an integrally molded substantially planar exterior wall 80 depending from a sidewall flange.

Molded acrylic tubs can optionally be custom made to any configuration or for any number of people and may optionally include air/water jet systems and internal heaters for air or water. As with the full custom contoured tub of FIG. 1, the semi custom tub of FIGS. 4 and 5 may be slightly wider, having a width of 32″, and substantially deeper, with a depth of 21″-23″, than a normal prior art tub as currently seen in most standard bathrooms. However, as discussed previously, the body-contoured tub in accordance with the present invention could also be sized to be a replacement for, or a substitute for the standard-size bathtub which is typically used in new home construction.

Having described preferred embodiments of a new and improved tub and methods for making and installing contoured tubs, it is believed that other modifications, variations and changes will be suggested to those skilled in the art in view of the teachings set forth herein. It is therefore to be understood that all such variations, modifications and changes are believed to fall within the scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.





 
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