Title:
Inflatable Construction Set
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable construction set comprising a plurality of inflatable modular blocks in various shapes and sizes for easy construction of various structures is provided. Each inflatable modular block has substantially planar top and bottom surfaces and an attachment means on each of the top and bottom surfaces so that a plurality of inflatable modular blocks are capable of being stably stacked in any orientation. Preferably, each inflatable modular block has at least one interior rib inside the modular block to reinforce the structure of the substantially planar top and bottom surfaces of the modular block. An inflatable construction set in accordance with the present invention may further include various accessory modules such as inflatable doors, windows, turrets, roof system, and other construction components.



Inventors:
Yanagita, Roger Mitsuo (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/063995
Publication Date:
10/02/2008
Filing Date:
08/11/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H3/06
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TROJAN LAW OFFICES (BEVERLY HILLS, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. 1-3. (canceled)

4. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an interior rib located inside each modular block, and an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces of each modular block such that a bottom surface of any modular block is capable of being placed on a top surface of any other modular block in any orientation.

5. The inflatable construction set of claim 4, wherein each modular block further comprises a top plastic film and a bottom plastic film, peripheral edges of the top plastic film and the bottom plastic film being adhered together to form an enclosed air chamber.

6. The inflatable construction set of claim 5, wherein the top plastic film and the bottom plastic film of each modular block are transparent.

7. The inflatable construction set of claim 5, wherein the interior rib comprises a main plane, side edges, a top longitudinal edge, and a bottom longitudinal edge, the top longitudinal edge of the interior rib adhered to the top plastic film of the modular block and the bottom longitudinal edge of the interior rib adhered to the bottom plastic film of the modular block.

8. The inflatable construction set of claim 7, wherein a space is formed between at least one of the side edges of the interior rib and the peripheral edges so that air can freely flow around the side edge and be evenly distributed inside the modular block.

9. 9-10. (canceled)

11. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces of each modular block such that a bottom surface of any modular block is capable of being placed on a top surface of any other modular block in any orientation, and at least one inflatable roof module, the roof module having a substantially inverted-V shape and terminal surfaces, each terminal surface being substantially flat so that the roof module is capable of being placed on top of the modular blocks.

12. The inflatable construction set of claim 11, wherein the inflatable roof module further comprises an attachment device, the attachment device located on at least one of the flat terminal surfaces of the roof module.

13. The inflatable construction set of claim 12, wherein the attachment device is a hook and loop fastener.

14. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces of each modular block such that a bottom surface of any modular block is capable of being placed on a top surface of any other modular block in any orientation, and a plurality of inflatable roof modules, each roof module having a substantially inverted-V shape and terminal surfaces, each terminal surface of each roof module being substantially flat so that each roof module is capable of being placed on top of the modular blocks, each roof module having at least one attachment device located on a side surface such that the roof modules can be stacked in series.

15. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces of each modular block such that a bottom surface of any modular block is capable of being placed on a top surface of any other modular block in any orientation, and a door module, the door module comprising an inflatable door, an extension, and a hinge, the extension having a first end and a second end, the hinge joining the first end of the extension and the inflatable door, the inflatable door being capable of rotating about the hinge, an attachment device being located on the second end of the extension.

16. The inflatable construction set of claim 15, the inflatable door having an interior support member located inside the inflatable door, a hole being formed in the interior support member so that air can freely flow through the hole in order to be evenly distributed inside the inflatable door.

17. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces of each modular block such that a bottom surface of any modular block is capable of being placed on a top surface of any other modular block in any orientation, and a turret module, the turret module comprising an inflatable turret and an extension, the extension having a first end and a second end, the first end of the extension being attached to the inflatable turret, an attachment device being located on the second end of the extension.

18. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, an interior rib located inside each modular block, a first attachment means located on the substantially planar top surface of each modular block and a second attachment means located on the substantially planar bottom surface of each modular block so that the modular blocks are capable of being stacked in any orientation.

19. The inflatable construction set of claim 18, wherein each modular block further comprises a valve for allowing air in and out of the modular block for inflation and deflation.

20. An inflatable construction set comprising: a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, each modular block having substantially planar top and bottom surfaces, a plurality of interior ribs positioned at spaced intervals within each modular block, a first attachment means located on the substantially planar top surface of each modular block and a second attachment means located on the substantially planar bottom surface of each modular block so that the modular blocks are capable of being stacked in any orientation.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an educational device and play structure and, more particularly, to an inflatable construction set comprising a plurality of inflatable blocks or modules in various shapes and sizes to form structures of different configurations.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Inflatable construction toys are valuable tools for educational play because children can develop creativity and imagination while they have fun constructing various structures.

There are different types of inflatable construction toys known in the art. In particular, U.S. Pat. No. 6,679,007 B1 to David Russell Minchew discloses a plurality of inflatable tubular elements having a plurality of external attachments such as Velcro™, wherein inflatable tubular elements are held together by external attachments and stacked by a plurality of rigid brackets. Since each inflatable tubular element in the U.S. Pat. No. 6,679,007 B1 has a cylindrical shape, a plurality of rigid brackets must be utilized to hold the stacks of tubular elements. The use of such rigid brackets is complicated and cumbersome, and thus is not suitable for little children. Moreover, the additional element of rigid brackets in the inflatable play structure may cause relatively high manufacturing costs.

In addition, the way of stacking the inflatable tubular elements in U.S. Pat. No. 6,679,007 B1 is very limited. The inflatable tubular elements can only be lined up and cannot be stacked in any other way.

For the foregoing reasons, there is a need for a new and improved inflatable construction set for easy construction of various structures.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The purpose of the present invention is to provide an inflatable construction set that can easily be constructed in a variety of structures and overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art.

An inflatable construction set in accordance with the present invention comprises a plurality of inflatable modular blocks. Each modular block has substantially planar top and bottom surfaces and an attachment means located on each of the top and bottom surfaces. The substantially planar top and bottom surfaces of each modular block with the attachment means on each of the substantially planar surfaces enable a plurality of inflatable modular blocks to be stably stacked such that a bottom surface of one modular block is placed on a top surface of another modular block. Since the inflatable modular blocks can be stacked to be lined up or stacked in any orientation, the present invention allows a user to construct a variety of structures in various ways.

Each inflatable modular block has also a valve for inflation and deflation. An inflatable modular block can be easily stored or transported in its deflated form.

In a preferred embodiment, each inflatable modular block has at least one interior rib inside the modular block to reinforce the structure of the substantially planar top and bottom surfaces of the modular block. A top longitudinal edge of the interior rib is adhered to a top plastic film of the modular block, and a bottom longitudinal edge of the interior rib is adhered to a bottom plastic film of the modular block, such that a main plane of the interior rib is substantially perpendicular to the substantially planar top and bottom surfaces of the modular block. At least one of side edges of the interior rib does not extend to peripheral edges of the top and bottom plastic films of the modular block so that air can freely flow around the side edge and be evenly distributed inside the modular block.

In an inflatable modular block having a plurality of interior ribs, the interior ribs are positioned at spaced intervals within the modular block to further reinforce the structure of the modular block.

An inflatable construction set in accordance with the present invention may also include various accessory modules such as inflatable doors, windows, turrets, roof system, and other construction components. Such accessory modules can be attached to inflatable modular blocks by attachment devices such as hook and loop fasteners.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature and objects of the present invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description and accompanying drawings:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an inflatable construction set comprising a plurality of inflatable modular blocks constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an inflatable modular block of the inflatable construction set of FIG. 1, wherein the inflatable modular block has an interior rib.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the inflatable modular block of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the inflatable modular block of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a top view of another embodiment of an inflatable modular block of FIG. 2.

FIG. 6 is a top view of another embodiment of an inflatable modular block, wherein the inflatable modular block is substantially round shaped.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an inflatable modular block, wherein the inflatable modular block has a plurality of interior ribs.

FIG. 8 is a top view of a plurality of inflatable modular blocks, illustrating various modes of assembling the inflatable modular blocks.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an inflatable roof module of an inflatable construction set of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a plurality of inflatable roof modules and inflatable modular blocks, wherein the inflatable roof modules are stacked in series on top of the inflatable modular blocks.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a door module of an inflatable construction set of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a turret module of an inflatable construction set of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a top view of another embodiment of an inflatable modular block, wherein an attachment means is adhered to a planar member located on a surface of an inflatable modular block.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates an inflatable construction set 10 comprising a plurality of inflatable modular blocks 20, 22 assembled to form a building structure. Each modular block in accordance with the present invention has a substantially planar top surface 30 and a substantially planar bottom surface 32. An attachment means 50 is located on each of the top and bottom surfaces 30, 32 of each modular block. The substantially planar top and bottom surfaces 30, 32 of each modular block enable a plurality of inflatable modular blocks to be stacked such that a bottom surface 32 of one modular block is placed on a top surface 30 of another modular block. When the inflatable modular blocks are stacked in such a way, they can be held together by attachment means 50 located on each of adjacent modular blocks. The inflatable modular blocks can be stacked to be lined up as shown in FIG. 1 or stacked in any orientation as shown in FIG. 8. The ability of stacking the inflatable modular blocks in any orientation enables a user to construct a variety of structures in various ways.

The attachment means 50 on the inflatable modular blocks 20, 22 are preferably hook and loop fasteners such as Velcro™ or any other similar devices known in the art that are attachable to and detachable from each other. Due to the attachable and detachable property of the attachment means 50, the inflatable modular blocks can be assembled and reassembled to form structures of different configurations. The attachment means 50 may be adhered or heat welded to a surface 30, 32 of an inflatable modular block. Alternatively, as illustrated in FIG. 13, a planar member 300, such as a cardboard or a light plastic material, may be attached to a surface 30, 32 of an inflatable modular block, with an attachment means 50 attached to the planar member 300. The size of the planar member 300 may be similar to or slightly larger than that of the attachment means 50. The number of attachment means 50 on each surface 30, 32 of an inflatable modular block varies depending on the size and/or the shape of the inflatable modular block or as for any intended purpose. Generally, a bigger and/or longer inflatable modular block may have more attachment means 50 than a smaller and/or shorter inflatable modular block, in order to provide a more stable structure.

Each inflatable modular block has a valve 60 for allowing air in and out of the inflatable modular block for inflation and deflation. Air can be blown in the modular block through the valve 60 by a user's mouth, an air pump, or any similar device. When an inflatable modular block is deflated, it can be easily stored or transported. Preferably, when a user depresses the valve 60, the valve 60 is capable of being recessed so that the valve 60 does not protrude from a surface of the inflatable modular block.

The inflatable modular blocks 20, 22 may be of various shapes and sizes. For example, FIG. 6 shows an inflatable modular block 22 that is substantially round shaped. FIGS. 2 through 4 show an inflatable modular block 20 having an elongated form with curved terminal ends 100. The elongated inflatable modular blocks 20 may be any length. As an example, the inflatable modular block in FIG. 5 is longer than the inflatable modular block shown in FIGS. 2 through 4. The use of inflatable modular blocks of different shapes and sizes allows a user to create a variety of features, such as a tunnel or a window, in various constructions.

The inflatable modular blocks 20, 22 may be transparent and/or of various colors. Also, the inflatable modular blocks 20, 22 may be decorated with flexible fabric or plastic sheets or any other decoration.

Each inflatable modular block is preferably made of flexible plastic. One of skill in the art would recognize that the same or similar method of making conventional inflatable swimming pool rafts or swim rings can be used in making the inflatable modular blocks in the present invention. Preferably, each inflatable modular block in the present invention comprises a top plastic film 70 and a corresponding bottom plastic film 80. Peripheral edge 90 of the top plastic film 70 and peripheral edge 95 of the bottom plastic film 80 are adhered or heat welded together to form an enclosed air chamber.

In a preferred embodiment, each inflatable modular block has an interior rib 40 inside the inflatable modular block to reinforce the structure of the inflatable modular block, particularly the structure of the substantially planar top and bottom surfaces 30, 32 of the modular block. The interior rib 40 may be made of the same material as those for the top and bottom plastic films 70, 80 of the inflatable modular block, and may be transparent. The interior rib 40 comprises a main plane 42, side edges 44, a top longitudinal edge 46, and a bottom longitudinal edge 48. The top longitudinal edge 46 of the interior rib 40 is adhered to the top plastic film 70 of the inflatable modular block, and the bottom longitudinal edge 48 of the interior rib 40 is adhered to the bottom plastic film 80 of the modular block, such that the main plane 42 of the interior rib 40 is substantially perpendicular to the top and bottom plastic films 70, 80 of the modular block. At least one of the side edges 44 of the interior rib 40 does not extend to the peripheral edges 90, 95 of the modular block such that a space is formed between the side edge 44 of the interior rib 40 and the peripheral edges 90, 95 of the modular block. Due to the space, air can freely flow around the side edge 44 and be evenly distributed inside the modular block.

An inflatable modular block may have only one interior rib 40 as shown in FIG. 2 or a plurality of interior ribs 40 as illustrated in FIG. 7. In an inflatable modular block having a plurality of interior ribs 40, the interior ribs 40 are positioned at spaced intervals within the modular block to further reinforce the structure of the modular block.

An inflatable construction set in accordance with the present invention may also include various accessory modules such as inflatable doors, windows, turrets, roof system, and other construction components. Examples of such accessory modules are illustrated in FIGS. 9 through 12.

FIG. 9 shows an inflatable roof module 110. The inflatable roof module 110 has a substantially inverted-V shape and terminal surfaces 120. Each terminal surface 120 of the inflatable roof module 110 is substantially flat such that the roof module 110 is capable of being placed on top of the inflatable modular blocks as shown in FIG. 10. An attachment device 52 is located on each terminal surface 120 of the inflatable roof module 110 so that the attachment device 52 of the roof module 110 engages the attachment means 50 of an inflatable modular block, thereby providing a stable construction. One or more attachment devices 52 may also be located on a side surface 130 of each roof module 110 so that a plurality of roof modules 110 can be stacked in series as illustrated in FIG. 10.

The attachment devices 52 on the inflatable roof module 110 are preferably hook and loop fasteners such as Velcro™ or any other similar devices known in the art that are attachable to and detachable from each other. The attachment device 52 may be adhered or heat welded to a surface 120, 130 of the inflatable roof module 110. Alternatively, a planar member (not shown), such as a cardboard or a light plastic material, may be attached to a surface 120, 130 of the inflatable roof module 110, and an attachment device 52 attached to the planar member. The size of the planar member may be similar to or slightly larger than that of the attachment device 52.

The inflatable roof module 110 may have a valve for inflation and deflation, which can be recessed by a user. The inflatable roof module 110 is preferably made of flexible plastic and may be transparent.

FIG. 11 illustrates a door module 140. The door module 140 comprises an inflatable door 150, at least one extension 160, and a hinge 155. The extension 160 has a first end 162 and a second end 164. The first end 162 of the extension 160 is attached to the inflatable door 150 by the hinge 155. The inflatable door 150 is capable of rotating about the hinge 155. An attachment device 52 is located on the second end 164 of the extension 160 for engaging an attachment means 50 of an inflatable modular block so that the door module 140 can be attached to inflatable modular blocks. In order to provide a stable construction, the door module 140 may have a pair of extensions 160, each if which is attached to the top and bottom of the inflatable door 150 respectively as shown in FIG. 11.

The inflatable door 150 of the door module 140 may have an interior support member 170 inside the inflatable door 150. The configuration and arrangement of the interior support member 170 in the inflatable door 150 can be substantially same as that of an interior rib 40 in an inflatable modular block. Similar to the interior rib 40 in an inflatable modular block, the interior support member 170 in the inflatable door 150 may have at least one side edge that does not extend to peripheral edges of the inflatable door 150. Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 11, the interior support member 170 that extends to peripheral edges of the inflatable door 150 may have a hole 180 so that air can freely flow through the hole 180 in order to be evenly distributed inside the inflatable door 150.

The inflatable door 150 may also have a valve 60 for inflation and deflation, which can be depressed by a user. The inflatable door 150 is preferably made of flexible plastic and may be transparent. The extension 160 and the hinge 155 may be made of somewhat rigid material such as rigid plastic. The attachment device 52 on the extension 160 of the door module 140 is preferably a hook and loop fastener such as Velcro™ or any other similar device known in the art.

FIG. 12 illustrates a turret module 190. The turret module 190 comprises an inflatable turret 200 and at least one extension 160. The inflatable turret 200 has a conical top and a cylindrical body. An interior support member 210 is located between the conical top and the cylindrical body of the inflatable turret 200, and a hole 180 is formed in the interior support member 210 to allow air to flow freely through the hole 180 and be evenly distributed inside the inflatable turret 200. The extension 160 has a first end 162 and a second end 164. The first end 162 of the extension 160 is attached to the inflatable turret 200. An attachment device 52 is located on the second end 164 of the extension 160 for engaging an attachment means 50 of an inflatable modular block so that the turret module 190 can be attached to inflatable modular blocks. In order to provide a stable construction, the turret module 190 may have a pair of extensions 160, each of which is attached to the top and bottom of the cylindrical body of the inflatable turret 200 respectively as shown in FIG. 12.

The inflatable turret 200 may also have a valve 60 for inflation and deflation, which can be depressed by a user. The inflatable turret 200 is preferably made of flexible plastic and may be transparent. The extension 160 may be made of somewhat rigid material such as rigid plastic. The attachment device 52 on the extension 160 of the turret module 190 is preferably a hook and loop fastener such as Velcro™ or any other similar device known in the art.

The present invention has been described in an illustrative manner, and it is to be understood that the terminology used is intended to be in the nature of description rather than of limitation. Many modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. Therefore, it is to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described.