Title:
Apparatus and method for regulation of fluid flow from a straw
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A regulating component to regulate fluid flow through the axial passage communicating between the intake end, and mouth engageable distal end, of a drinking straw. The component has an upper wall separated from a lower wall by an engaged sidewall all defining a restriction chamber. When engaged in the axial passage of a drinking straw, fluid traversing the straw all traverses through apertures in the lower and upper wall and thereby through the restriction chamber. Force of the moving fluid on a ball in the restriction chamber acts to raise the ball to seal the aperture in the upper wall. If the fluid reaches too high a speed or continues long enough at a lower speed to move the ball upward it seals the restriction chamber from the exit end of the straw.



Inventors:
Byerly, Jennifer (Lubbock, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/540312
Publication Date:
01/31/2008
Filing Date:
09/29/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
239/571, 137/533.11
International Classes:
A47G21/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BOECKMANN, JASON J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DONN K. HARMS (DEL MAR, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A regulating component apparatus to regulate fluid flow through the axial passage communicating between the intake end, and mouth engageable distal end, of a drinking straw, comprising: an upper wall having a perimeter edge and having a centrally located upper aperture communicating therethrough; a lower wall having a perimeter edge and located a distance from said upper wall and having a centrally located lower aperture communicating therethrough; a sidewall communicating between an engagement said perimeter edge of said upper wall and perimeter edge of said lower wall; a restriction chamber defined by the area between said upper wall, said lower wall, and said sidewall; a ball located in said restriction chamber, said ball having a static position resting upon said lower wall; said ball formed of a material having a density and having an exterior surface area determined by a diameter; said upper aperture adapted for temporary sealed engagement with said ball; said ball having a restricting position, in said sealed engagement with said upper aperture; means for engagement of said restriction chamber in said axial passage in an engaged position; said restriction chamber in said engaged position, providing a conduit for all said fluid flow, communicating between said intake end to said distal end of said straw; and a force exerted on an exterior surface area of said ball by said fluid flow urging it toward said restricting position, during durations of said fluid flow through said restriction chamber; and a means for regulation of a maximum velocity of said fluid flow exiting said distal end of said straw provided by said force equaling or exceeding a force level sufficient to move said ball into said restriction position.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 additionally comprising: said means for regulation of said velocity of said fluid flow also providing means for regulating a total volume of said fluid flow exiting said distal end; and said means for regulating a total volume determined by the total said fluid flow through said restriction chamber, over a time period required for force to move said ball from said static position to said restricting position.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 additionally comprising: means to adjust said maximum velocity provident by one or a combination of, changing the mass of said ball, increasing or decreasing ball dimensions to change said exterior surface area exposed to said force, or changing distance between said upper wall and said lower wall.

4. The apparatus of claim 2 additionally comprising: means to adjust said maximum velocity, and said means for regulating said total volume provided by one or a combination of, changing the mass of said ball, increasing or decreasing ball dimensions to change said exterior surface area exposed to said force, or changing said distance between said upper and lower walls.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 additionally comprising: said lower wall having a top surface and a conical configuration defined by a slope of said lower wall from an interior edge defining said centrally located lower aperture to said perimeter edge of said lower wall engaging said sidewall; a lower seat area for said ball in said static position, defined by an area between said sidewall and said top surface of said lower wall between said perimeter edge and said lower aperture; and said seat area positioning a portion of said ball below said ball lower aperture when said ball is in said static position and said straw is substantially vertical with said distal end above said intake end.

6. The apparatus of claim 2 additionally comprising: said lower wall having a top surface and a conical configuration defined by a slope of said lower wall from an interior edge defining said centrally located lower aperture to said perimeter edge of said lower wall engaging said sidewall; a lower seat area for said ball in said static position, defined by an area between said sidewall and said top surface of said lower wall between said perimeter edge and said lower aperture; and said seat area positioning a portion of said ball below said ball lower aperture when said ball is in said static position and said straw is substantially vertical with said distal end above said intake end.

7. The apparatus of claim 3 additionally comprising: said lower wall having a top surface and a conical configuration defined by a slope of said lower wall from an interior edge defining said centrally located lower aperture to said perimeter edge of said lower wall engaging said sidewall; a lower seat area for said ball in said static position, defined by an area between said sidewall and said top surface of said lower wall between said perimeter edge and said lower aperture; and said seat area positioning a portion of said ball below said ball lower aperture when said ball is in said static position and said straw is substantially vertical with said distal end above said intake end.

8. The apparatus of claim 4 additionally comprising: said lower wall having a top surface and a conical configuration defined by a slope of said lower wall from an interior edge defining said centrally located lower aperture to said perimeter edge of said lower wall engaging said sidewall; a lower seat area for said ball in said static position, defined by an area between said sidewall and said top surface of said lower wall between said perimeter edge and said lower aperture; and said seat area positioning a portion of said ball below said ball lower aperture when said ball is in said static position and said straw is substantially vertical with said distal end above said intake end.

9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means for engagement of said restriction chamber between all said fluid flow communicating between said intake end and said distal end of said straw comprises: said sidewall having an exterior surface defining an exterior circumference; said axial passage of said straw having an internal circumference defined by an interior surface of said straw; and said exterior circumference sized for a frictional engagement of said exterior surface with said interior surface of said axial passage.

10. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said means for engagement of said restriction chamber between all said fluid flow communicating between said intake end and said distal end of said straw comprises: said sidewall having an exterior surface defining an exterior circumference; said axial passage of said straw having an internal circumference defined by an interior surface of said straw; and said exterior circumference sized for a frictional engagement of said exterior surface with said interior surface of said axial passage.

11. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said means for engagement of said restriction chamber in said axial passage in an engaged position: an upper collar engaged to said sidewall adjacent to said upper wall and having an interior collar surface defining an interior collar circumference; and said interior collar circumference sized to provide a frictional engagement with an exterior surface of said straw.

12. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said means for engagement of said restriction chamber in said axial passage in an engaged position: an upper collar engaged to said sidewall adjacent to said upper wall and having an interior collar surface defining an interior collar circumference; and said interior collar circumference sized to provide a frictional engagement with an exterior surface of said straw.

13. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said means for engagement of said restriction chamber in said axial passage in an engaged position: an upper collar engaged to said sidewall adjacent to said upper wall and having an interior collar surface defining an interior collar circumference; and said interior collar circumference sized to provide a frictional engagement with an exterior surface of said straw.

14. The apparatus of claim 9 additionally comprising: a plurality of said regulating components each having a different rate of said fluid flow; and indicia on said regulating components designating each said different rate of said fluid flow, whereby a said regulating component may be chosen from said plurality by viewing said indica, and engaged into said axial passage of a straw to achieve the chosen fluid flow rate through said straw.

15. The apparatus of claim 10 additionally comprising: a plurality of said regulating components each having a different rate of said fluid flow; and indicia on said regulating components designating each said different rate of said fluid flow, whereby a said regulating component may be chosen from said plurality by viewing said indica, and engaged into said axial passage of a straw to achieve the chosen fluid flow rate through said straw.

16. The apparatus of claim 6 additionally comprising: a plurality of said regulating components each having a different rate of said fluid flow; and indicia on said regulating components designating each said different rate of said fluid flow, whereby a said regulating component may be chosen from said plurality by viewing said indica, and engaged into said axial passage of a straw to achieve the chosen fluid flow rate through said straw.

17. The apparatus of claim 13 additionally comprising: a plurality of said regulating components each having a different rate of said fluid flow; and indicia on said regulating components designating each said different rate of said fluid flow, whereby a said regulating component may be chosen from said plurality by viewing said indica, and-engaged into said axial passage of a straw to achieve the chosen fluid flow rate through said straw.

18. The apparatus of claim 1 additionally comprising: said sidewall being provided by a wall surface of said drinking straw.

19. The apparatus of claim 5 additionally comprising: said sidewall being provided by a wall surface of said drinking straw.

20. The apparatus of claim 7 additionally comprising: said sidewall being provided by a wall surface of said drinking straw.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/830,493, filed Jul. 12, 2006. The disclosed device relates generally to a drinking straw. More particularly, the device relates to a straw for consumption of liquids which provides a regulated fluid flow of fluid volume and velocity from the distal end of the straw upon which suction is imparted by a user. The device is particularly useful for users having impaired control of mouth suction such as hospital and ambulatory patients or children who inherently tend to drink too fast and too much which can be dangerous to their health.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Hospital and ambulatory patients frequently need to drink using a straw. While some such patients are able to employ a cup or limited pouring glass device, for many patients a straw is the only means for ingesting liquid from a container. Such patients may suffer from stroke causing facial paralysis to one side of the mouth or other motor function problems inhibiting muscular control of the mouth and throat. For patients suffering from facial paralysis affecting one side of their mouths, or lack of muscle control, or lack of experience using a straw, there is an inherent risk if they are allowed to ingest the total volume of liquid reaching the distal end of the straw on which they are sucking.

As such, within the medical realm there exists a population of patients who, because of inexperience with straws or various congenital or acquired physical disorders, have a deficient, muscular, oropharyngeal or oral motor function which impairs their ability to ingest food and fluids placed in their mouths. Due to such poor control of the pharyngeal muscles, such patients may tend to draw too much fluid through a straw or be too slow to swallow the volume of fluid drawn therethrough and accelerated into the mouth and throat.

As a result of such inherent or acquired disabilities, many patients are in constant danger of ingesting too much fluid when sucking on a straw to drink or being unable to swallow effectively the volume of fluid naturally drawn into their mouths. Either occurrence can result in the patient losing the drawn fluid out of their mouth or nose through choking or coughing, thereby yielding an embarrassing occurrence. Worse yet, patients who ingest too much in a suck of the straw or fail to dispose of the fluid from the nose or mouth during choking may suffer from passage of the fluid into their lungs. Communication of such fluid to the lungs can result in the indignity of medical personnel having to aspirate the fluid from their lungs and throat, or can result in infection from fluid being deposited in their lungs.

To limit or eliminate the danger and embarrassment to patients from such occurrences, a drinking straw is needed that limits the acceleration and volume of fluid a patient can suck into their mouth during each instance. Such a device should be easily deployed inside conventional drinking straws to allow for easy manufacture and to hide the restriction apparatus from patients and from others who might embarrass the patient should they know of the limitation being placed on the patient. Such a device should be easily adjustable to form different devices having different maximum drink volumes during manufacture to allow for the device used to be adapted to the size and ability of the patient using it. Such a device should either be engageable in its different flow rates into a straw, or formed directly into the straws during manufactures, to thereby allow for deployment of a number of different straws with different volume passage of liquid before cessation of flow. A number of prior straw fluid flow limitation devices are taught in prior art.

US Pre-Grant Publication 2005/0092373 (Schafer) teaches a fluid flow restriction apparatus that is adjustable by cutting a portion of a narrowing passageway from the device. However, the device teaches inhibiting the straw from draining to allow easier subsequent suction and only inhibits a flow rate rather than total allowed volume before cessation by employing a narrowing passage adjacent to an outlet. Further, the Schaefer device is deployed primarily external to the straw, thereby inviting removal by patients or embarrassment to patients from third parties viewing and commenting on it.

WO 2005070253 (Stribling) teaches a flexible check valve which is introduced within a fluid path for leakage protection in a drinking straw. However, Stribling much like the Schafer reference is more concerned with a flow rate rather than measured maximum volume per such. Further, Stribling is taught primarily as an external device which inflicts the same problem as Stribling's external device.

US Pre-Grant publication 2004/0222312 (Zuccaro) discloses a squirt and spill resistant straw/fluid delivery passage which employs a tortuous path for a fluid flow. However, Zuccaro much like other art noted, addresses primarily the flow rate rather than the maximum amount dispensed by volume before cessation.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,484,405 (Edstrom) discloses another drinking straw device for disabled persons. However, Edstrom teaches a device adapted to provide a continuous flow so long as the patient sucks on the straw and would not prevent the problems inherent to patients unable to swallow the volume they can suck into their mouths.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,840,153 (Devlin) teaches a drinking container with a valved conduit which creates a valve action to control the flow of the liquid through the tube. However, only the flow rate is controlled rather than the total volume allowed for each suck on the straw.

U.S. Pat. No. 1,813,285 (Galetschky) discloses another type of device adapted to prevent the straw from draining back after being sucked upon. However, Galetschky provides no flow rate control nor any maximum volume per suck on the straw and is solely concerned with preventing drainage from the straw once sucking upon it has ceased.

As such, there exists a need for an apparatus that will limit both the flow rate or acceleration of fluid through the straw, and depending on the flow rate, limit the maximum volume allowed into a user's mouth during each suck upon the straw. Such a device should be easily formed within the straw itself during manufacture, or formed as an insertable device hidden from the user. Such a device should be easily adapted during manufacture for different flow rates and maximum volume passed in relation to flow rate during each suck to allow for different flow rates and maximum potential volume dispensed to a user depending on their ability to swallow. Still further, such a device should preferably be housed inside a conventional appearing straw to both prevent tampering by the user and to prevent embarrassment to the user from viewing third parties.

With respect to the above description, before explaining at least one preferred embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangement of the components or steps set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings, nor just to the preparation of food. The various apparatus and methods of the invention are capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways which will be obvious to those skilled in the art once they review this disclosure. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for designing of other devices, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present disclosed device. It is important, therefore, that the objects and claims be regarded as including such equivalent construction and methodology insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further objectives of this invention will be brought out in the following part of the specification, wherein detailed description is for the purpose of fully disclosing the invention without placing limitations thereon.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The device herein described and disclosed provides a flow rate and dispensed volume restriction, depending on the flow rate initiated by the strength the user suction accelerating the fluid through the straw. A first and particularly favored mode of the device features a restriction chamber, formed in an axial passage communicating through a straw. It can be formed in the straw itself, or, in an insertable component that is insertable into the straw.

The restriction chamber has a volume defined by an upper wall, a lower wall, and a sidewall communicating therebetween. The lower wall has a centrally located aperture communicating between the restriction chamber and an axial passage below the lower surface. In the preferred mode of the device, this lower wall slants upward from a lowest point where the lower wall communicates with the sidewall, to the highest point where the lower wall communicates with the perimeter of the centrally located aperture. This upward slant is designed to keep the ball to one side of the central aperture once suction on the straw ceases allowing reverse fluid flow. It also is designed to narrow the aperture to increase fluid velocity into the fluid chamber at a calculated rate to move the ball upward over a period of time dependent on velocity to block the flow if velocity or time exceeds a predetermined rate. The frusto conical shape of the lower wall has been shown to be particularly well suited to provide both the reduced aperture size to increase velocity, as well as a seat for the ball out of the aperture when fluid flow ceases.

The upper wall has center aperture centered in the upper wall between the sidewall. Adjacent to the center aperture is a curved portion forming a seat in the upper wall surface. This seat is adapted to sealably engage with a ball positioned inside the restriction chamber when the ball is forced against the seat by the force of fluid flowing through the restriction chamber.

The ball size or exterior dimension and mass may be varied to adjust the amount of fluid force required for the ball to be forced into the seat by moving fluid through the restriction chamber. Ideally, the ball is formed of a material having a mass that imparts a density to the ball (density equals mass of materialĂ—volume) that is heavier than the density of the fluid anticipated to flow through a restriction chamber. For example, water has a density of 1.0 and other thin fluids such as juice or soft drinks have a similar low density. The ball would be formed of a material and in diameter to yield a volume which when multiplied by the mass of the ball's material would preferably be more than 1.0 so the ball will tend to sink as fluid fills or drains from the restriction chamber.

The size of the ball as well as the distance of the first wall from the second wall will also affect the rate at which it is forced toward the seat on the upper wall. The flow of fluid past the ball will impart a force against it and around it per Bernoulli's Principle, which will impart lift to the ball in the direction of the fluid stream moving through the straw. This lift will tend to move the ball away from the bottom wall toward the seat.

When calculated properly for distance between the top and bottom walls, density and size of the ball, and the anticipated acceleration of the fluid though the chamber between the two apertures, the ball will only seat when the fluid flow reaches sufficient velocity to force it the distance to the seat. Once seated, fluid flow will cease, causing the ball to drop away from the seat due to a higher density than the fluid. In this fashion, the velocity of the fluid stream exiting the straw can be limited not to exceed a certain speed, thereby providing a means to prevent a user from sucking too hard and having fluid accidentally traverse the throat into the lungs from slow reflexes. Further, the total potential volume allowed per suck on the straw may be reasonably accurately determined by forming the ball of a size and material yielding a density to seat the ball against the spaced top wall and seat, only after a determined period of time, depending on the strength of the user sucking on the straw and accelerating the fluid stream. A hard and quick suck will yield quicker fluid acceleration and a faster sealing of the flow since the ball will be forced up quickly to cease flow. A softer sucking action will yield a slower fluid flow and a longer time for the ball to rise to the seat if the specific gravity of the ball and its exterior dimensions are correctly calculated to cause it to rise in the direction of the fluid stream with minimal fluid acceleration. Further adjustments for volume allowed in any one sucking of the straw may be provided by spacing distance of the top wall from the bottom wall and thus the total volume of the chamber and total distance the ball must travel to seat and cease flow.

As such, the device may be positioned inside of disposable drinking straws during manufacuture, and based on the calculations above for specific gravity, fluid acceleration, and exterior dimensions of the ball causing lift, different flow rates and maximum amounts of fluid may be provided by different straws. The differing straws may be provided with some type of indicia or colorization labeling to let the caretaker know that one straw has a minimum passage while another might have medium allowance or maximum allowance of fluid. Since the device is employed in disposable straws in the preferred mode and not as an attachment thereto, there are no sterility problems of concern as the device and the surrounding straw may be disposed of after each use, thereby providing additional utility which permanent attached devices cannot.

Another embodiment of the device for limiting exiting fluid velocity and volume from a straw can be provided using micro electronics rather than the ball and chamber apparatus noted above. While more expensive from a manufacturing standpoint, this electronic means for limiting fluid velocity and volume exiting the straw may be desirable for a long term user.

In this embodiment, a rotating plate is mounted in an axial passageway which feeds the fluid stream to the mouth of a user. The rotating valve plate would be dimensioned in a size slightly smaller than the circumference of the passageway and would be electronically engaged through its axle to an external computing device which would calculate both fluid velocity and total volume of fluid passed, by counting the number and velocity of the rotations of the plate. The computing device would be miniature and best run by small batteries. It can be programmable through conventional means such as blue tooth or Wifi and would allow the caretaker to adjust the volume and potential velocity of fluid a patient could receive. While this embodiment is adjustable to infinite settings for volume and velocity, it would be more expensive due to higher manufacturing costs so it would best be used as a permanent device for this purpose. Therefore the first embodiment being inexpensive to manufacture would be the preferred mode of the device from a cost and sterility standpoint since the inexpensive ball and chamber device is thrown away after each use.

Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide a drinking straw that provides a mechanism to limit the velocity of fluid exiting the straw into the user's mouth.

Another object of this invention is to provide such an straw that also provides an apparatus to limit the total volume of fluid exiting the straw to a user's mouth during any single suck or drink from the straw.

A further object of this invention is to provide such a fluid flow and volume limiting apparatus for a drinking straw that may be manufactured for different fluid flow and volume levels and marked or colorized to label the level of fluid passage allowed.

Still another object of this invention is to provide such a drinking straw fluid limitation device that is contained inside the straw and not easily identified by user's or third parties observing the user.

These together with other objects and advantages which become subsequently apparent reside in the details of the construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part thereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

In the drawing figures, which are not to scale and which are merely illustrative, and wherein like reference characters denote similar elements throughout the several views:

FIG. 1 is a view of a drinking straw showing the device herein described and disclosed engaged within the sidewall forming the drinking straw.

FIG. 2 is view of the device in a cut-away view of the device shown engaged in the straw of FIG. 1, showing the restriction chamber formed between a top wall separated by a sidewall from a bottom wall and a ball operatively located therein. The internal components are common to all embodiments.

FIG. 3 shows an internal view of the device as employed in all modes, with the ball seated an a side surface of the sloped lower wall when fluid is not flowing through the device.

FIG. 4 is an especially preferred mode of the device as it is formed with an external circumference adapted for insertion into one end of a straw.

FIG. 5 depicts the device in FIG. 4, engaged in the lower end of the straw.

FIG. 6 is a view of the device formed for engagement with the sidewall of a straw.

FIG. 8 depicts an axle mounted rotating plate embodiment of the device which is electronically controlled, monitored, and adjustable for flow and velocity rates.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1-7 disclose modes of the device herein described and disclosed for regulating fluid velocity and volume when exiting a straw to a user's mouth.

In one preferred mode of the device 10 depicted in FIG. 1, with the device 10 disposed in a straw 12 during extrusion of the straw 12, an inexpensive and disposable means to regulate fluid velocity and maximum volume exiting a straw 12 is depicted. Because it is inexpensive to manufacture and install within the straw 12 during extrusion, the device 10 and straw 12 may be disposed once used and replaced to mitigate hygiene and sterility problems that occur with permanent devices for this purpose that collect food and germs thereon.

The straw 12 in all modes in which the device 10 is employed, has an axial passage 14 communicating therethrough in a conventional fashion from a lower end of the straw to the distal end, which would be engaged by the user's mouth. The device provides a restriction chamber 16 which in all modes is positioned in or engaged with, the axial passage 14. As best shown in FIG. 2, the restriction chamber 16 is defined by an upper wall 18, a lower wall 20, and a sidewall 22 communicating therebetween. The sidewall 22 may be the sidewall of the straw 12 in a simple embodiment with an upper wall 18 and lower wall 20 and means to hold them apart prior to insertion into the straw. If using the sidewall of the straw as the device sidewall, it would be inserted during extrusion of the straw 12, or, could be pushed into one open end of the straw with the ball in-between the upper and lower walls. Or, in an easier to handle embodiment, where the device is manufactured separately and inserted in the axial passage 14, or engaged with the straw, the sidewall 22 may be separate and have an outer surface that is adapted in dimension, for sealed engagement in a frictional engagement against or with inside surface of the sidewall of the straw 12.

In a particularly preferred mode of the device 10 shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the device 10 may be manufactured as an engageable component into the axial passage 14, and later inserted into the straw 12. As a separate component, the device 10 can be provided for insertion by user's or caretakers into straws 12 which are purchased separately since the exterior of the sidewall 22 would be adapted for sealed engagement with the interior of the axial passage 14. Also, if provided as a separate component, the device 10 can be manufactured with restriction chambers 16, and balls 26 dimensioned in size and-mass respectively, to allow different velocities and different maximum volumes to the exiting fluids from an engaged straw. The different flow and/or allowed velocity rates can be labeled using indicia 15 or using color coding to indicate those variables. The user could then employ one brand or type of straw 12 and insert the device 10 having the desired fluid flow and volume characteristics for the intended user, thereby providing great means to customize straws 12 at the point of use. This mode of the device has a special advantage over others in that it does allow the device 10 to engage any straw it is sized to engage with, so that the end user need not purchase special batches of straws having flow characteristics. Instead, one type of straw 12 may be used and customized as needed using the device 10 with indica 15 or color coding that indicates a flow rate desired. Finally, in the preferred mode of FIGS. 4 and 5, the device 10 may be provided in kits featuring a plurality of devices 10, each marked with indica 15 or other means to identify different maximum velocity and/or maximum volume disbursement, they will provide to an engaged straw. By providing this plurality of devices 10 marked for differing flow characteristics, the caretaker or user may choose the desired flow rate for themselves or the patient and engage that device 10 into the bottom of the straw shown in figurer 5. This allows great customization of the straw flow rates and hides the device 10 in the case of children or older patients who might not take well to it emotionally.

In a similar fashion, the device 10 as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, would also provide for the device 10 to be engaged with a straw 12 and allow the use of conventional straws 12 with any number of devices of differing flow characteristics. Indica 15 or colorization would signal to the user the velocity and volume of the flow rate of each configured device 10. The device 10 can then be engaged at a central portion of the straw 12 or at the bottom end. This mode of the device 10 may be resisted by patients or children, however, and the mode of the device in FIGS. 4 and 5 is preferable to provide a means to conceal it from the user. Further, the wall thickness of the device in FIG. 4 and 5 would probably be thinner and make it less expensive to manufacture since it will also use the side of the straw 12 for support.

In all modes of the device 10 the lower wall 18 of the restriction chamber 16 has a centrally located aperture 24 communicating between the restriction chamber 16 and an axial passage 14 in the straw below the lower surface 20 when the device 10 is operatively positioned in or with a straw 12. In a particularly preferred mode of the device 10 the lower wall 20 slants upward from a lowest point adjacent to the sidewall 22, to a highest point adjacent to the substantially centered aperture 24. This upward tilt-of the lower wall 20 is designed to position the ball 26, once in the restriction chamber 16, in a seat, to one side of the lower aperture 22 once suction on the straw ceases to impart lift to the ball 26. This is best shown in FIG. 3 where the ball 26 is in a non-use position leaving a clear path for fluid to return to the glass from which it was drawn through aperture 24 and to keep the device 24 from gumming up or otherwise being rendered unuseable if fluid remained in the restriction chamber 16. The frusto conical shape of the lower wall has been shown to be particularly well suited to provide both the reduced lower aperture 22 size to increase fluid velocity to a determined level through the chamber 16, as well as a seat for the ball 26 against the sidewall 22 and a lower portion of the lower wall 20 and out of the aperture when fluid flow ceases. Sizing the lower aperture 22 for desired velocity of fluid in combination with other factors noted herein provides a means to restrict both maximum velocity of fluid flow as well as total volume at a given velocity below maximum over time by blocking flow through the upper aperture 28 if volume over time, or velocity at any given moment exceeds a desired predetermined level.

However, those skilled in the art will realize that a planar rather than slanted lower wall 20 can also be provided allowing the ball to seat and cease back flow of fluid through the aperture 24, which for some patients might make it easier to initiate subsequent drinks from the straw by preventing the straw 12 from totally draining. This alternate embodiment can also be employed; however, currently the slanted version is preferred to allow the fluid to accelerate for a longer but calculable period of time period in the axial passage 14 below the bottom wall 18, and to draw the ball 26 upward to block the exhaust aperture 28 if the velocity of the fluid traversing the chamber 16 is too fast, or if the duration of fluid movement exceeds a time period that would allow too much fluid to reach the intended patient.

As noted, the upper end of the restriction chamber 16 is defined by the upper wall 18 which has an exhaust aperture 28 centrally located therein adjacent to a curved portion adapted in shape to provide a seat 30 for the surface of the ball 26 locating therein when the ball 26 is forced against the seat 30 by the upward force of fluid flowing through the restriction chamber 16.

Means to adjust the time and velocity of permitted fluid flow through the device 10 and hence into the user's mouth is provided by changing the exterior dimension of the ball 24 and/or its mass by changing the material from which it is formed. Changing the mass by using a material that is heavier or lighter depending on the intended fluid provides a means to adjust the amount of fluid force required for the ball 24 to be lifted and forced into the seat 30 ceasing fluid flow. Since force equals mass times acceleration, the speed at which the fluid is pulled through the straw 12 by the patient and which can cause exiting fluid to enter the lungs, nose, and cause choking, is controllable by changing these variables. The size of the ball 24 and hence its ability to be forced by fluid, as well as the distance of the upper wall 18 to the lower wall 20, as well as the mass of the ball 24 in relation to the intended fluid, all may be adjusted to provide both a means to limit the maximum velocity of exiting fluid from the straw 12, and means to limit total volume of fluid exiting the straw 12, during any single draw upon it by the mouth of the user. When calculated properly, one or a combination of adjusting the distance between the top and bottom walls, the density of the ball, the exterior dimension of the ball, and the distance between the ball in a seated position as in FIG. 2 and the upper aperture 28, can be changed to yield the maximum anticipated acceleration of the fluid though the chamber between the two apertures. The changes in these variables also provides a means to limit the total velocity of fluid exiting the straw. Further, depending on the mass of the ball 26 and the distance upward to block the upper aperture 28, the ball will inherently rise in the moving stream from fluid force until it blocks the aperture 28 even at lower velocities of fluid flow. Consequently, this duration at lower velocities can also be taken into consideration; changing any of the above-noted variables also will provide a means to limit total volume drawn during any single draw on the straw as a function of the velocity of the fluid drawn through the device. A very fast and possibly dangerous velocity to a patient will cause an immediate blockage of the aperture 28 by the ball 26. A slower, but longer duration of fluid flow will still cause the ball to rise depending on its mass, and as a function of time, will limit the total fluid dispensed when the ball seats to block the upper aperture 28.

A further means to adjust the dimension of the restriction chamber 16 can also be provided by making the sidewall 22 of the device 10 expandable or contractible. This could be done with a bellows type of construction shown in the straw 12 where it bends, or by some type of translating sidewall that will lengthen or shorten the portion defining the restriction chamber 16.

Another embodiment of the device 10 to limit fluid velocity and volume through a straw 12 is depicted in FIG. 8 as device 11. This embodiment provides means for limiting exiting fluid velocity and volume from a straw 12 electronically. Cost will probably render this embodiment permanent in nature and therefor require that it be cleaned after each use. However, this embodiment can be adjusted before each use if desired for the maximum velocity and volume of fluid exiting the straw 12.

In the embodiment of device 11, a rotating plate 32 is mounted in an axial passage 14 which feeds the fluid stream to the mouth of a user. The rotating plate 32 would be dimensioned in a size slightly smaller than the circumference of the passage 14 and would be electronically engaged through its axle 34 to external computing device 36 which would calculate both fluid velocity and total volume of fluid passed by counting the number and velocity of the rotations of the axle 34. The computing device 36 would be miniature and best run by small batteries. The computing device 36 can be programmed using software over a wireless connection and would allow the caretaker or user to adjust the volume and potential velocity of fluid a patient could receive by causing the computing device 36 to slow or cease rotation of the axle 36 to maintain the plate 32 in a position to block the passage 14.

Although the invention has been described with respect to particular embodiments thereof, it should be realized that various changes and modifications may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. While the invention as shown in the drawings and described in detail herein discloses arrangements of elements of particular construction and configuration for illustrating preferred embodiments of structure and method of operation of the present invention, it is to be understood, however, that elements of different construction and configuration and other arrangements thereof, other than those illustrated and described, may be employed in accordance with the spirit of this invention. Any and all such changes, alternations and modifications as would occur to those skilled in the art are considered to be within the scope of this invention as broadly defined in the appended claims.

Further, the purpose of the attached abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.