Title:
Cushioned Basin and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides cushioned basins for immersion of a user in comfort. In preferred embodiments, a substantially rigid basin is used to provide structural support and for bearing the weight of the basin contents. A cushioning layer is affixed to the rigid basin and is encapsulated by a tactile layer of material having one or a combination of properties such as flexibility, durability, waterproofness, and/or smooth, stippled, or woven texture. Methods for assembling a cushioned basin include steps for providing a structural support basin, permanently affixing a cushioning layer thereto, and encapsulating the cushioning layer within a tactile layer.



Inventors:
Abesingha, Buddhika Jaliya (Frisco, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/534067
Publication Date:
03/27/2008
Filing Date:
09/21/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
YOUNKINS, KAREN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL T. KONCZAL, PATENT ATTORNEY (PLANO, TX, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A cushioned basin comprising: a rigid basin for providing structural support and for bearing the weight of basin contents; an attachment layer affixed to the rigid basin; a cushioning layer affixed to the attachment layer; and a tactile layer encapsulating the cushioning layer.

2. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the tactile layer further comprises a flexible material.

3. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the tactile layer further comprises a waterproof material.

4. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the tactile layer further comprises an upholstery fabric material.

5. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises a waterproof material.

6. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises a closed foam material.

7. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises flexible polyurethane foam material.

8. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises material having a compression modulus within the range of about 1.5 to 3.5.

9. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises flexible polyurethane foam material having a density of more than about 1.6 PCF (Pounds per Cubic Foot).

10. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 wherein the cushioning layer further comprises material having a firmness the range of about 10 to 40 IFD25 (25% Indentation Force Deflection).

11. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 further comprising a bath tub.

12. A cushioned basin according to claim 1 further comprising a spa.

13. A cushioned basin comprising: a rigid basin for providing structural support and for bearing the weight of basin contents; an attachment layer affixed to the rigid basin; a flexible polyurethane foam cushioning layer affixed to the attachment layer, the cushioning layer having a compression modulus within the range of about 1.5 to 4, density within the range of about 1.6 to 2.0 PCF (Pounds per Cubic Foot), and firmness the range of about 10 to 40 IFD25 (25% Indentation Force Deflection); and a flexible tactile layer encapsulating the cushioning layer.

14. A method for assembling a cushioned basin comprising the steps of: providing a basin for structural support and for bearing the weight of basin contents; permanently affixing a cushioning layer affixed to the rigid basin; and encapsulating the cushioning layer within a tactile layer.

15. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of providing a textured tactile layer.

16. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of providing a smooth tactile layer.

17. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of selecting the layers for a combined compression modulus of approximately 1.5 to 3.5.

18. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of selecting flexible polyurethane foam cushioning layer having a density of more than about 1.6 PCF (Pounds per Cubic Foot).

19. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of selecting cushioning layer material having a firmness the range of about 10 to 40 IFD25 (25% Indentation Force Deflection).

20. A method according to claim 14 further comprising the step of selecting a flexible basin material.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates to basin structures designed for retaining fluid for bathing, such as bathtubs, spas, hot tubs, pools and the like. More particularly, the invention relates to basins having a rigid structure cushioned for comfort and to methods for assembling the same.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The activities of reclining and bathing have both been known as long as man himself. Furniture to facilitate comfortable reclining has been under continuous development for thousands of years. Advancement continues in the development of apparatus for sitting and reclining in terms of comfort, durability, aesthetic qualities, and the use of new materials. With few exceptions, basins used for bathing, whether bathtubs, spas, or hot tubs, remain similar to those used in ancient times. These fixtures are generally sized for one, or possibly more as in the case of spas, adult users. Smaller versions are also made with infants in mind. Generally, such basins are designed for sitting or reclining, and especially since the age of the shower, are often intended primarily for relaxation or therapy rather than strictly for washing. One of the primary problems remaining in the art is that the basin remains a hard and unyielding structure unable to cradle the body of a user in comfort. Many of the current designs, despite the use of potentially appealing shapes and modern materials, retain a stiff unbending nature very similar to early stone or wooden tubs in terms of feel and hardness. One known effort to address this shortcoming of the prior art is found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,715,546 to Kvalvik. The bathtub cushion of the '546 patent provides a resilient liner for removable insertion into a conventional tub. It is believed that removable cushions present additional problems of their own such as potential movement during use and lack of durability. It is perceived that there remains a need in the art for further development and improvement to the cushioning of basins useful for comfortable bathing and relaxation. Due to these and other problems, it would be useful and advantageous to provide permanently cushioned basins made from materials selected for their possession of properties more apt to provide comfort than traditionally hard surfaces.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In carrying out the principles of the present invention in accordance with preferred embodiments thereof, a cushioned basin includes a substantially rigid basin for providing structural support and for bearing the weight of the basin contents. An attachment layer is affixed to the rigid basin holding a cushioning layer. Also included is a tactile layer encapsulating the cushioning layer.

According to one aspect of the invention, various embodiments may include a tactile layer of material having one or a combination of properties such as flexibility, waterproofness, and a smooth, textured, or woven texture.

According to another aspect of the invention, a waterproof cushioning layer may be used.

According to another aspect of the invention, a closed foam cushioning layer may be used.

According to yet another aspect of the invention, methods for assembling a cushioned basin include steps for providing a structural support basin, permanently affixing a cushioning layer thereto, and encapsulating the cushioning layer within a tactile layer.

The invention has advantages including but not limited to providing cushioned basins having pleasant tactile properties and an improved ability to support a user's body weight comfortably over the area of the basin. These and other features, advantages, and benefits of the present invention can be understood by one of ordinary skill in the arts upon careful consideration of the detailed description of representative embodiments of the invention in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be more clearly understood from consideration of the following description and drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a cushioned basin according to the invention; and

FIG. 2 is a partial sectional view of the example of the cushioned basin of FIG. 1 taken along line 2-2.

References in the description correspond to like references in the various drawings unless otherwise noted. Descriptive and directional terms used in the written description such as top, bottom, upper, side, etc., refer to the drawings themselves as laid out on the paper and not to physical limitations of the invention unless specifically noted. The drawings are not to scale, and some features of embodiments shown and discussed are simplified or amplified for illustrating the principles, features, and advantages of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In general, the invention provides cushioning and texturing for increased comfort and appearance in a basin suitable for bathing, relaxation, recreation, or therapy. Embodiments of the invention may be used in the construction of new basins or in retrofitting existing basins. The principles of the invention may be applied in many contexts, such as for example, spas, tubs, bathtubs, specialized bathtubs for infants, therapeutic tubs, and the like.

Now referring to the drawings, a cushioned basin 10, in this case a bathtub, is shown in an exemplary embodiment of the invention. The cushioned basin 10 is preferably made on a foundation of a rigid basin 12. The rigid basin 12 is made from substances sufficiently rigid to provide structural support to enable the cushioned basin 10 to retain its shape and to support the contents of the basin, e.g., water and one or more occupants. Materials such as metal, resin-impregnated fibers, plastic or other structurally strong material, many of which are familiar in the arts, may be used. In order to secure a cushioning layer 14 between the rigid basin 12 and a user, the rigid basin 12 is preferably lined with an attachment layer 16. The attachment layer 16 has an adhesive selected for its compatibility with, and adhesion to, the rigid basin 12 and cushioning layer 14, such as for example, curable epoxy resin, silicone adhesive, or other adhesives known in the arts. In some instances, where the cushioning layer 14 and/or rigid basin material 12 possess suitable adhesive properties and chemical compatibility, the adjacent surfaces of the rigid basin 12 and cushioning layer 14 may be fused together to serve as the attachment layer 16. The composition of the attachment layer 16 is not critical to the practice of the invention as long as a permanent attachment is maintained between the cushioning layer 14 and the rigid basin material 12. The cushioning layer 14 is preferably affixed to the rigid basin 12 via the attachment layer 16 in a manner that prevents movement. One example of an alternative embodiment is the use of injection molding techniques wherein the cushioning layer may be made from a layer of injection-molded foam capable of adhering to the rigid layer.

The cushioning layer 14 is made from a semi-rigid material, for example, a synthetic foam material such as flexible polyurethane foam (FPF). Preferably, the cushioning layer 14 is selected for its properties relating to durability, comfort, and support. Preferably, to assure sufficient durability and firmness, a density of, or equivalent to, about 1.6 PCF (Pounds per Cubic Foot) or above may be used. In order to allow the cushioning layer 14 to distribute the weight of a basin-user in comfort, a compression modulus in the range of about 1.5 to 3.5 is preferred, although higher or lower compression modulus materials may also be used. In order to provide a comfortable surface feel to a user, it is believed preferable to use a material having a firmness within the range of about 10 to 40 IFD25 (25% Indentation Force Deflection), according to the particular application, and depending on such factors as the anticipated water depth and weight distribution for the intended use. The thickness of the cushioning layer 14 may also be varied within the scope of the invention depending upon the application. Preferably, a typical thickness will fall within a range on the order of approximately 1 to 4 inches. The dimensions and numerical specifications given herein are used to indicate examples of preferred embodiments and are intended to quantify material attributes within a broad range and are not intended to be overly restrictive in interpretation.

Overlying the cushioning layer 14, a tactile layer 18 is provided. The primary function of the tactile layer 18 is to provide a comfortable interface between a user and the supporting cushioning layer 14. The tactile layer 18 may be smooth or textured according to the perceived desires of the user. The tactile layer 18 may also be provided in various textures, patterns and colors in order to appeal visually and tactilely to users. A woven fabric material, for example similar to the synthetic materials found in wet suits, upholstery, or a suitable combination thereof, may be used in order to provide an appealing “hand”. In some cases, the tactile layer 18 may also be used to provide waterproofing in order to protect the underlying cushioning layer, but in some cases, for example, where it is desirable to use a non-waterproof tactile layer, a waterproof cushioning layer, such as closed foam, may be used. It should be understood that the materials selected for particular applications of the invention may have various qualities without departure form the principles of the invention. Waterproof materials may be used for the tactile or cushioning layer, for example, in applications where it is desirable to permit the basin to dry out between uses. In other applications, it may be desirable to use a tactile layer and/or cushioning layer made from material suitable for long term immersion in water or possibly other fluids.

The methods for assembling a cushioned basin according to the invention may be used for the construction of new basins or may be adapted for retrofitting existing basins such as those already permanently installed in a building. In retrofitting existing basins, a drain, jet, or other fitting may be installed in alignment with a pre-existing fitting, preferably by first completing the basin, and then drilling a hole and installing a suitable fitting. In terms of providing a basin for structural support and for bearing the weight of basin contents, it is not essential that the rigid basin component of the invention be absolutely unbending, some flexion is permissible as long as sufficient structural and load-bearing strength are provided. Additionally, the amount of flexion should be taken into account when selecting the attachment layer in order to assure long-term durability.

The methods and apparatus of the invention provide advantages including but not limited to one or more of the following: increased comfort; increased safety; improved appearance; and durability in a cushioned basin. While the invention has been described with reference to certain illustrative embodiments, those described herein are not intended to be construed in a limiting sense. For example, the invention may be adapted to provide cushioned basins of various sizes and shapes for residential or institutional use. Modifications and combinations of the illustrative embodiments as well as other advantages and embodiments of the invention will be apparent to persons skilled in the arts upon reference to the drawings, description, and claims.