Title:
LANDSCAPE EDGE COVER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Provided is a landscape edging cover, related methods for covering a sharp-edged landscape divider and methods for producing safe landscape edging. In an embodiment the cover has a tapered interior volume that deforms in such a manner so as to tightly receive a landscape divider, and particularly at least a portion of the divider's exposed sharp-edge. The covers can be used to retrofit deployed landscape edging or for landscape edging that has not been deployed.



Inventors:
Wilson, Scott A. (Brighton, CO, US)
Long, Dennis R. (Westminster, CO, US)
Sullivan, Scot E. (Loveland, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/847708
Publication Date:
03/06/2008
Filing Date:
08/30/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02D17/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KREINER, MICHAEL B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Leydig, Voit & Mayer, Ltd. (GS BOULDER) (Boulder, CO, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A landscape edging cover comprising: a. an elongated strip having a longitudinal vertical-taper slot for tightly receiving a sharp-edged landscape divider, said divider having a substantially rectangular cross-section, wherein said elongated strip has a curved top surface and a discontinuous bottom surface; b. a groove located at said discontinuous bottom surface for mating with a top surface of the sharp-edged landscape divider; and c. a plurality of recesses wherein each recess is capable of flushably-receiving a stake.

2. The cover of claim 1 further comprising an orifice through said elongated strip in a direction perpendicular to said slot, wherein said orifice is capable of receiving a fastener.

3. The cover of claim 1 further comprising an opening through said elongated strip in a direction perpendicular to said slot, wherein said opening is capable of receiving a burr located on a landscape edging surface.

4. The cover of claim 1 wherein the discontinuous bottom surface comprises a pair of surfaces, each having an angle relative to horizontal.

5. The cover of claim 4 wherein the pair of surfaces are in physical contact with each other to form a groove apex.

6. The cover of claim 5 wherein the groove apex comprises an angle less than or equal to about 100° and greater than or equal to about 10°.

7. The cover of claim 1 wherein the vertical taper slot has a minimum separation distance of zero.

8. The cover of claim 7 wherein the vertical taper slot has a maximum separation distance equal to or greater than the landscape divider thickness.

9. The cover of claim 8 wherein the maximum separation distance is about twice the landscape divider thickness.

10. The cover of claim 1 wherein the elongated strip is made from polyethylene or polypropylene.

11. The cover of claim 1, wherein the stake is capable of securing the divider directly to a ground surface without said cover.

12. The cover of claim 1, further comprising: a. a resting internal cross-sectional shape that is substantially triangular; and b. a deformed internal cross-sectional shape when the landscape divider is received, wherein said deformed cross-sectional shape is substantially rectangular.

13. In combination, a landscape edging cover and a landscape divider comprising: a. a landscape divider comprising: i. an upper section having a cross-section that is substantially rectangular; and ii. a sharp-edged top surface located at said upper section top surface; b. an elongated cover having a cross-section with a resting internal shape and a deformed internal shape when the cover covers at least a portion of the sharp-edged top surface, said resting internal shape having a taper for tightly receiving said landscape divider upper section, said deformed internal shape having a substantially rectangular cross when said divider upper section is received.

14. The landscape edging cover and landscape divider of claim 13 further comprising a plurality of recesses on said landscape edging cover and an at least one stake positioned within the at least one recess for securing the cover and divider to a surface.

15. The landscape edging cover and landscape divider of claim 13 further comprising an orifice through said cover and a fastener positioned within the orifice and passing through the landscape divider for securing the cover to the divider.

16. The landscape edging cover and landscape divider of claim 13, wherein the landscape divider is metallic.

17. A method of covering a sharp-edged landscape divider comprising: a. providing the cover of claim 1; b. providing a landscape divider having a sharp-edge; c. mating the bottom surface of the cover with the sharp-edge of the landscape divider; and d. applying a force so that the sharp-edged landscape divider is covered by the cover.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein at least a portion of the landscape divider is positioned within the ground.

19. The method of claim 18 further comprising positioning a stake within a recess and forcing the stake within the ground to anchor the cover and the divider to the ground.

20. The method of claim 18 further comprising attaching the cover to the divider with a fastener.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/824,308, filed Sep. 1, 2006 and is incorporated by reference to the extent not inconsistent with the disclosure herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The field of this invention is landscaping, in particular as applied to a safety cover for sharp-edged landscape dividers to avoid injury generated by inadvertent contact with sharp-edged dividers.

Landscape dividers are used as a boundary separation or edging for a variety of lawn, garden or other landscaped areas. These dividers are useful for separating adjacent areas having distinct landscaping, such as grass and garden, for example. Some common dividers are made of metal with a lower portion inserted into the ground and an upper portion exposed above the ground. This above and below-ground barrier restricts plant growth to one side or holds a material, such as mulch or rocks, to one side. Normally, the divider is inserted at least a couple of inches into the ground to prevent root growth and provide sufficient anchoring of the divider to the ground. Further stability can be provided by staking the divider to the ground with stakes that curve around the upward-facing edge of the divider.

The above-ground portion of the landscape divider can present a safety hazard. The edges can be very sharp, especially for a metal divider that has a rectangular-shaped cross-section. Such dividers have an upward-facing edge that can seriously injure a person or an animal that steps, falls, or otherwise comes into contact with the edge. The present invention is a safety cover for sharp-edged landscape dividers that prevents serious injury by ensuring the sharp-edge is not exposed.

Other covers for landscaping dividers known in the art suffer drawbacks and disadvantages including not being durable and stable, as well as being relatively complicated, thereby increasing manufacturing expense. If a cover is not durable or stable relative to the divider, constant upkeep, maintenance and replacement are required to ensure sharp-edges do not become exposed over time. This is particularly true as the sharp edges of the landscape divider can abrade commonly used covers, thereby exposing the sharp edges to people or animals. Important cover properties are installation ease, but after installation, restriction in the tendency of the cover to move, as well as durability, thereby removing the need for upkeep and maintenance. A cover should also readily install in those areas having overlapping dividers. Commonly available covers, for example, are difficult to install in overlapping areas where a first divider ends and a second divider continues. It is particularly beneficial for the cover to not pull off or slide relative to the divider, especially in playgrounds or playing fields where children may manipulate covers by pulling the cover off or sliding the cover along the landscape divider, thereby exposing sharp-edges. Because landscapes are often maintained for their aesthetic beauty, it is also important that the covers be aesthetically pleasing and integrate with the overall landscape appearance.

Covers known in the art do not address all these needs. U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,526,606 and 5,715,628, for example, are for repairing and protecting the divider from harm by lawn mowers and garden tools and have a design that is relatively difficult to install and have no built-in mechanism to prevent cover sliding. They are not suitable to protect injury arising from sharp edges presented by metal landscaping. Other covers are also more difficult to install (U.S. Pat. No. 5,588,262) or are more complicated and, therefore, more expensive (U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,535,545, 5,768,824, 5,857,493) and do not adequately address the safety-related issues posed by sharp-edged dividers (U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,021,599, 6,449,897, 6,324,782, 5,568,994, 5,771,631, 6,226,934). These covers cannot be readily installed in overlapping divider regions.

The cover of the present invention meets these needs, and can retrofit already installed landscape dividers as well as be incorporated with landscape dividers prior to installation. The design of the divider incorporates features that ensure the divider is easily installed, but once installed is not as easily pulled off the divider and is difficult to slide along the divider. The cover is aesthetically pleasing while being relatively simple and of low-cost.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is broadly, in an aspect, a cover for a landscape divider. In an embodiment, the invention is a safety cover and in particular a landscape divider cover that covers at least a portion of a sharp-edged landscape divider, thereby preventing injury associated with a person or animal (e.g. a pet) contacting the sharp-edge. The cover is aesthetically pleasing, easy to install, tight-fitting after it is installed and is relatively inexpensive.

In an embodiment, the landscape edging cover comprises an elongated strip having a longitudinal vertical-taper slot for tightly receiving a sharp-edged landscape divider, including a pair of adjacent landscape dividers, a curved top surface and a discontinuous bottom surface. The divider can have a substantially rectangular cross-section such that an exposed surface is capable of damaging tissue that comes into physical contact with the sharp edge. The cover has a groove located at the discontinuous bottom surface for mating with a top surface of the sharp-edged landscape divider, and a plurality of recesses wherein each recess is capable of flushably-receiving a stake so that the stake does not present sharp edges capable of producing an injury.

In a further aspect of the invention, the cover can have an orifice or an opening through the elongated strip in a direction perpendicular to said slot, wherein the orifice or opening is capable of receiving a fastener or a burr that is located on a landscape edging surface.

In an embodiment, the discontinuous bottom surface of the cover assists in mating and installing the cover to the divider. In an embodiment, the discontinuous bottom surface comprises a pair of surfaces, each having an angle relative to horizontal. These non-zero angles provide a space or volume for initially receiving the sharp-edge top surface of the divider. In an embodiment, the pair of surfaces is in physical contact with each other to form a groove, wherein the groove has an apex angle. In an aspect of the present invention, the groove apex comprises an angle less than or equal to about 100° and greater than or equal to about 10°, or between about 30° and 50°.

In an embodiment, the vertical taper slot has a minimum separation distance and a maximum separation distance, wherein the distances are measured between opposing inward facing surfaces. In an embodiment, the minimum separation distance corresponds to the opposing inward facing surfaces that are physically in contact with each other so that the minimum separation distance is zero.

In an embodiment, the maximum separation distance is equal to about the landscape divider thickness, or equal or greater than the landscape divider thickness. In an embodiment, the maximum separation distance is equal to about twice landscape divider thickness. Typical landscape divider thickness for a metal landscape divider having a rectangular cross-section is less than about ½″, including less than about ¼″, or between about 0.05″ to 0.09″. A common thickness is 1/16″ (16 gauge). The total height of the landscape divider is typically 4″ or 6″, greater than about 3″, greater than about 4″, or between about 4″ and 12″. The cover can have any height so long as the sharp-edge of the divider is covered. In an embodiment, the cover is about less than 2″ in height, or about 1⅝″ in height. In an embodiment, the cover has a longitudinal slot that is tapered, with a maximum separation distance of about twice the thickness of the landscape divider. Such a configuration permits the cover to be installed on overlapping divider sections. Any of the covers disclosed herein can comprise an elongated strip made by injection molding. The covers can be made by other means such as plastic extrusion and post-extrusion manipulation such as machine rolling to generate appropriate recesses and relief features on the cover surface.

Another aspect of the invention is a landscape edging cover and a landscape divider in combination. The landscape divider can have an upper section having a cross-section that is substantially rectangular with a sharp-edged top surface. At least a portion of this upper section corresponds to the above-ground portion when the divider is forced into the ground. The cover comprises an elongated cover or strip having a cross-section including a resting internal shape and a deformed internal shape. The resting internal shape corresponds to the shape when the cover does not have any forces acting on it. The deformed internal shape corresponds to the internal shape when the cover is exposed to an external force, such as when the cover is covering at least a portion of a landscape divider, or at least a portion of two landscape dividers having opposed and adjacent surfaces. In this aspect of the invention, the resting internal shape of the cover is tapered and the deformed internal shape has a cross-sectional shape corresponding to the cross-section of the landscape divider, including a rectangular shape for two received landscape dividers (such as at positions corresponding to overlapping divider sections) or a substantially rectangular shape for one received landscape divider. In an embodiment, one cover strip is capable of simultaneously tightly covering two regions, with one region corresponding to overlapping dividers and the other region a single divider.

In an aspect, the cover has a resting internal cross-sectional shape that is different from the deformed internal cross-sectional shape corresponding to the cover having received a landscape divider. In an embodiment the resting and deformed cross-sectional shapes correspond to substantially triangular and substantially rectangular, respectively. As used herein, substantially reflects corners not having to be sharp, tolerance in 90° angles defined by rectangles, and sides that can be curved, without significantly deviating from the overall triangle or rectangle shape. Substantially rectangular is used broadly to refer to a cross-section of the cover slot that is able to be defined with a four-sided geometry.

The landscape edging cover optionally comprises a plurality of recesses on at least a portion of the cover's outer facing surface for receiving a stake and can further comprise at least one stake positioned within the at least one recess for securing the cover and divider to a surface. In an aspect, the stake may be a stake that is originally used to secure the divider directly to the ground (e.g., without the cover). In this aspect, the invention is particularly useful for retrofitting a preexisting divider that has been secured to the ground with a plurality of stakes. To minimize potential dangerous edges corresponding to the stake surface, the recesses preferably reduce the profile of the stake top surface by flushably receiving the stake in the plurality of recesses.

The combination landscape edging cover and landscape divider of the present invention optionally further comprises an orifice through the cover and a fastener positioned within the orifice and passing through the landscape divider for securing the cover to the divider. In an embodiment, the landscape edging cover and landscape divider of the present invention comprises a landscape divider that is metallic.

In an embodiment, the present invention encompasses methods of making and methods of installing landscape edging covers. In an embodiment, a method of covering a sharp-edged landscape divider comprises providing any of the landscape covers disclosed herein; providing a landscape divider having a sharp-edge; mating the bottom surface of the cover with the sharp-edge of the landscape divider; and applying a force so that the sharp-edged landscape divider is covered by the cover. For a divider already installed in the ground, this force can be applied to the top surface of the cover when the cover is positioned or mated to the divider. If the divider has not been installed, the force can alternatively, or in addition, be applied to the divider from below.

In an embodiment, the method of covering is for when at least a portion of the landscape divider is positioned within the ground. In an aspect, the method further comprises positioning a stake within a recess and forcing the stake within the ground to anchor the cover and the divider to the ground. To further ensure secure attachment of the cover to the divider, the method can further comprise attaching the cover to the divider with a fastener that attaches to the divider or transits through the divider. Alternatively, burr may be made on a surface of the divider that fasteningly engages the cover, such as with a hole on the face of the cover.

In an aspect, the invention encompasses a method of making any of the landscape edging covers of the present invention comprising injection molding, as known in the art. Alternatively, the cover can be made by plastic extrusion followed by machine rolling.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1: Schematic view of a landscape edging cover. A. Side view of the cover. B. End view of the cover showing a resting internal cross-sectional shape.

FIG. 2: Schematic illustration of a cover mating with a landscape divider. The arrow labeled F shows a direction a force can be applied so that the cover engages the landscape divider and covers the sharp-edge.

FIG. 3: Illustration of the landscape cover in position to cover the top sharp-edged surface of a landscape divider.

FIG. 4: Close-up view of the landscape divider and cover showing an optional orifice useful for securing an optional fastener or edging burr.

FIG. 5: End cross-sectional view of the landscape edging and cover showing the cover covering the sharp-edged upper portion of two adjacent dividers and the deformed internal cross-sectional shape of the cover.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention may be further understood by the following non-limiting examples. All references cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the extent not inconsistent with the disclosure herewith. Although the description herein contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of the invention. For example, thus the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their equivalents, rather than by the examples given.

An embodiment of the invention is shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B. The landscape edging cover 15 comprises an elongated strip 20 having a longitudinal vertical taper slot 22 that runs the length of the strip 20. “Vertical taper” refers to the slot 22 having a minimum separation distance and a maximum separation distance defined by the horizontal distance between inward facing surfaces 21. FIG. 1B shows maximum separation distance 70 and minimum separation distance 74 of zero. The edge of the slot is defined by a pair of inward facing surfaces 21. Surfaces 21 can be curved (as shown), a straight line, or a combination of a curve and a straight line. In this example, the resting interior cross-sectional shape of slot 22 is substantially triangular (e.g., three-sided). The strip 20 has outer facing surfaces comprising a curved top surface 24, front 23 and back surfaces 29 and discontinuous bottom surface 26. As used herein, “top surface” refers to the surface of the cover that is encountered by persons or animals that step on the cover from the top. As used herein, “curved” refers to shaping of the top surface such that there are no exposed sharp-edges or corners likely to cause injury (e.g., a cut) to a person or animal. The inner facing surface 21, in contrast, can optionally contain edges or corners, so long as slot 22 is capable of a tight-fit to the landscape divider portion to be inserted into slot 22. The inner facing surface 21 can comprise three distinct inner surfaces (e.g. two sides and one top) with two corners. The corners can be angled or curved corners. In an embodiment, the corners are curved (fillet).

The elongated strip 20 has a discontinuous bottom surface 26 whose edges define groove 28 (see FIGS. 1B and 2). As used herein, “discontinuous” refers to a bottom surface that is capable of separating to expose slot 22 to a landscape divider, such as under an applied force, F. The groove 28 facilitates placement and mating of landscape divider 10, and in particular sharp-edge surface 50, to strip 20 when a force (F) is applied from above to the top surface 24, for example. Application of such a force, as shown by the arrow F in FIG. 2, causes strip 20 to cover the sharp-edge 50 of landscape divider 10. In an embodiment, the top of groove 28 is defined by a pair of slanted edges on bottom surface 26 to form a groove apex 32 having an angle to help guide placement of cover 20 over landscape divider 10.

The strip can have one or more recesses 25 for receiving a stake 27 that is forced into the ground, thereby hindering removal of the cover 15 from the landscape divider, movement relative to the divider, and ensuring divider 10 remains anchored to the ground (see FIGS. 1A and 3). To further anchor the cover 15 to a landscape edging, orifice 30 traversing both the back 29 and front faces 23, or alternatively only one of back 29 or front 23 faces, can receive a fastener such as a rivet, screw, bolt or any other fastener. Alternatively, or in addition to orifice 30, a burr-receiving orifice 40 can anchor cover 15 to landscape edging 10 by burr 45 (see FIGS. 3 and 4).

FIGS. 3-5 show strip 20 covering the top surface 50 of landscape divider 10, wherein the landscape divider has a rectangular cross-section. The cover 15 is particularly useful for preventing injury by covering a sharp-edged top surface 50. Accordingly, the invention can be used on metal landscape edging 10 that has a rectangular cross-section upper portion, as shown in FIG. 5. As used herein, “substantially rectangular” refers to a landscape divider whose height is greater than the distance between the front and back faces (e.g., thickness) including, for example a height that is at least 10 times greater than the thickness. A rectangular cross-section has a top edge 50 length equal to the bottom edge length. “Substantially rectangular” refers to minimum separation distance 74 that is within about 50%, 30% or 10% (plus or minus) the maximum separation distance 70 when slot 22 receives divider 10.

As used herein, “sharp-edged landscape divider” refers to a landscape divider having a geometrical configuration and physical make-up that is capable of cutting or otherwise injuring a person or animal. Common sharp-edged dividers are metal and have a rectangular cross-section as shown in FIGS. 2 and 5. Injury can occur when a person or animal steps on or otherwise impacts surface 50 or associated corners and/or edges. FIGS. 2 and 5 also illustrate that slot 22 has a resting geometry that is tapered (e.g., triangular or substantially triangular, see FIG. 2) and a deformed geometry that is substantially not tapered (e.g., rectangular or substantially rectangular, see FIG. 5). The deformed geometry is rectangular when two landscape dividers are within slot 22 (e.g., see FIG. 5), whereas the geometry is substantially rectangular when only one landscape divider is within slot 22 (e.g., as for the cover and divider shown in FIG. 2) so that minimum separation distance at bottom of slot 22 is equal to 50% of maximum separation distance at top of slot 22. The geometry of the taper to slot 22, however, ensures that even if the cover is entirely mated to a single edging (e.g., nonoverlapping edging), the cover remains secure and tight to the edging, while remaining capable of covering an overlapping (e.g., two dividers) section.

FIGS. 3 and 4 show an optional burr 45 capable of engaging optional opening 40 for anchoring strip 20 to landscape divider 10. In an embodiment, opening 40 is present before installation of the cover. In an embodiment, opening 40 is made by a device after the cover 15 is installed over edging 10. Optional orifice 30 is shown without any fastener. To further anchor strip 20 to divider 10 a fastener can be placed in orifice 30 and connected to or driven through divider 10. The fastener can be a permanent fastener such as a rivet, for example, or a removable fastener such as a screw, for example. Instead of or in addition to fasteners and/or burrs, curved stakes 27 can be driven into the ground and located within recess 25. These stakes anchor both the cover 15 and landscape divider 10 to the ground. The stakes also help prevent movement of cover 15 with respect to divider 10. FIG. 5 shows an embodiment where cover 15 is capable of receiving two longitudinally-adjacent landscape dividers 10. Particularly when retrofitting dividers already staked to the ground with preexisting stakes, stakes 27 may correspond to those preexisting stakes. This decreases costs and waste that is otherwise generated by a need for purchasing new stakes.

The present invention is preferably made of material exhibiting appropriate thermal expansion characteristics so as to minimize disruptions and stresses during extreme temperature fluctuations. In addition, the material should be sufficiently flexible without breaking at extreme temperatures. In an embodiment, the material exhibits less than about ⅛″, or less than about 1/16″ change in length per foot of cover over a temperature range of about −11° F. to 160° F. At the most extreme temperature range, there is preferably less than about ¼″ exposed sharp-edge gap attributed to thermal expansion. Because landscape covers can be typically exposed to an extreme temperature range, the covers are preferably made in shorter sections, such as a three-foot long cover, rather than relatively longer sections. The material that is injection molded to form a cover of the present invention can be a plastic, and can be a thermoplastic as known in the art (see Modern Plastics Handbook, 2000) such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or copolymers thereof. To further reduce issues associated with thermal expansion, the cover can be fastened to the landscape edging and/or staked to the ground. Typical thermal expansion values for the covers of the present invention, over a range of −11° F. to 160° F. is about ⅛″/foot or 1/16″/foot for a cover made by polyethylene or polypropylene injection molding, respectively. In an embodiment, the cover is made of recycled polypropylene.

The landscape cover of the present invention is readily installed onto the top surface of a landscape divider. Once installed, the cover is relatively tightly mated to the divider because of the mechanical properties of the cover. For example, the cover 15 is constructed such that it is relatively difficult to separate the two bottom surfaces that comprise discontinuous bottom surface 26 by hand. This is generated by constructing the strip 20 from a stiff material such as plastic and having a tapered geometry in the vertical direction, wherein the width of the slot 22 at a resting geometry, increases from about zero at the bottom surface 26 to about the width of the top surface of the landscape divider at the top of the slot. In an embodiment, the top 70 of slot 22 has a separation distance of about two times the thickness of the landscape divider (see FIG. 5). Such geometry facilitates cover placement on overlapping landscape dividers, as is commonly found in regions where one landscape divider ends and a second divider starts. The tapered geometry of slot 22 results in a tight-fit of slot 22 and divider 10, even in regions where only a single divider 10 is within slot 22. FIG. 2 shows separation of bottom surface 26 is facilitated by contacting a portion of the sharp edge of the landscape edging 10 into the groove and applying a force to the top surface 24 of the cover. Mating, as used herein, refers to the initial contact between landscape divider 10 and bottom surface 26. The slanted edge of groove 28 helps force the front 23 and back 29 faces of cover 15 over the top edge 50 and down the front and back surface of the landscape divider, thereby covering the landscape divider 10. The front and back surfaces of the cover have a tendency, when the bottom surface is separated by the landscape divider, to try to recover back to the resting geometry (e.g., tapered non-separated configuration) which generates a perpendicular force that acts to maintain a tight-fit between the divider and edging. This tight fit assists in ensuring the cover remains in place with respect to the divider even in the absence of stakes or any other fastening means. “Tightly receiving” refers to this tight fit whereby sliding and motion of the cover 20 relative to divider 10 is minimized by the generated perpendicular forces.

All references throughout this application, for example patent documents including issued or granted patents or equivalents; patent application publications; unpublished patent applications; and non-patent literature documents or other source material; are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entireties, as though individually incorporated by reference, to the extent each reference is at least partially not inconsistent with the disclosure in this application (for example, a reference that is partially inconsistent is incorporated by reference except for the partially inconsistent portion of the reference). In general the terms and phrases used herein have their art-recognized meaning, which can be found by reference to standard texts, journal references and contexts known to those skilled in the art.

Where the terms “comprise”, “comprises”, “comprised”, or “comprising” are used herein, they are to be interpreted as specifying the presence of the stated features, integers, steps, or components referred to, but not to preclude the presence or addition of one or more other feature, integer, step, component, or group thereof. Separate embodiments of the invention are also intended to be encompassed wherein the terms “comprising” or “comprise(s)” or “comprised” are optionally replaced with the terms, analogous in grammar, e.g.; “consisting/consist(s)” or “consisting essentially of/consist(s) essentially of” to thereby describe further embodiments that are not necessarily coextensive. For clarification, as used herein “comprising” is synonymous with “having,” “including,” “containing,” or “characterized by,” and is inclusive or open-ended and does not exclude additional, unrecited elements or method steps. As used herein, “consisting of” excludes any element, step, component, or ingredient not specified in the claim element. As used herein, “consisting essentially of” does not exclude materials or steps that do not materially affect the basic and novel characteristics of the claim (e.g., not affecting an active ingredient). In each instance herein any of the terms “comprising”, “consisting essentially of” and “consisting of” may be replaced with either of the other two terms. The invention illustratively described herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element or elements, limitation or limitations which is not specifically disclosed herein. It is recognized that regardless of the ultimate correctness of any mechanistic explanation or hypothesis believed or disclosed herein, an embodiment of the invention can nonetheless be operative and useful.

Whenever a range is described in the present application, for example, a temperature range, a time range, or a dimension range, all intermediate ranges and subranges, as well as all individual values included in the ranges given are intended to be included in the disclosure.

The invention has been described with reference to various specific and preferred embodiments and techniques. However, it should be understood that many variations and modifications may be made while remaining within the spirit and scope of the invention. It will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art that compositions, methods, devices, device elements, materials, optional features, procedures and techniques other than those specifically described herein can be applied to the practice of the invention as broadly disclosed herein without resort to undue experimentation. All art-known functional equivalents of compositions, methods, devices, device elements, materials, procedures and techniques described herein; and portions thereof; are intended to be encompassed by this invention. This invention is not to be limited by the embodiments disclosed, including any shown in the drawings or exemplified in the specification, which are given by way of example or illustration and not of limitation. The scope of the invention shall be limited only by the claims.





 
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