Title:
Inflatable play structure with integrated air source
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable structure having an integral air pump positioned within a housing at or near an edge of the structure. The housing is generally formed of the same material as the play structure. An orifice within the housing operably connects the air pump to the air chambers of the inflatable device. A flexible hose may be used to connect the air pump to the orifice. An access hatch is provided to facilitate air exchange and allow the air pump to be viewed during operation. This configuration increases safety because it eliminates the likelihood that users, generally children, will touch or come into contact with an externally positioned air pump during use.



Inventors:
Amberg, Ted (Springfield, MO, US)
Application Number:
12/291198
Publication Date:
05/14/2009
Filing Date:
11/07/2008
Assignee:
Amberg Entertainment
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/2.11, 446/220
International Classes:
A63G31/00; A63H3/06; E04H15/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, KIEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LATHROP GPM LLP (Overland Park, KS, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An inflatable play structure having an integral air pump, comprising: a housing formed within the inflatable play structure, an orifice connecting the housing to the inflatable portion of the play structure, a connector interposed the air pump and the orifice such that during operation of the air pump air is forced into the play structure.

2. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 further comprising a removable access hatch.

3. The inflatable play structure of claim 2 wherein the access hatch is formed of netting.

4. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 wherein the housing is provided with a rigid floor.

5. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 wherein the housing is provided with a rigid floor and latches to removably secure the air pump.

6. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 wherein the air pump can be selectively removed from the housing.

7. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 further comprising at least one inflatable baffle positioned between the air pump housing and the usable portion of the play structure.

8. The inflatable play structure of claim 1 wherein the air pump housing is formed in a structural column of the play structure.

9. An inflatable structure comprising an at least one inflatable chamber, a housing formed within the inflatable structure, an air pump positioned within the housing and operably connected to the at least one inflatable chamber to maintain air pressure to the inflatable chamber during operation.

10. The inflatable structure of claim 9 wherein the air pump is connected to the at least one inflatable chamber through an orifice formed in the inflatable chamber near the housing.

11. The inflatable structure of claim 10 further comprising a flexible connector interposed the air pump and the orifice.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the priority of Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/002,358 filed Nov. 8, 2007, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to inflatable play structures. More specifically, the present invention relates to inflatable play structures having an internal or integrated air source.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RELATED ART

Inflatable play structures are well known and take any number of designs and configurations. Inflatable bounce rooms, slides, ball pits and the like were once present only in commercial settings such as restaurants, fin parks, fairs and circuses. In recent years, the popularity of inflatable play structures have spurred an industry for both the commercial businesses and for consumer products. It is possible for individuals to purchase reasonably priced inflatables at any number of retailers. There is also a very popular and well received rental market for inflatables for home use, birthday parties and the like. Party providers, themed restaurants, traveling events utilize inflatable play structures. Inflatable structures are found in other settings as well, such as the inflated bunker systems utilized on paint ball playing fields, temporary obstacle courses and for corporate events.

Commercial and residential inflatable play structures are generally inflated and pressurized using a separate air pump which must continuously provide pressurized air to the structure. The air pumps have historically been positioned external the structure, and is often connected to the inflatable play structure with a flexible tube, hose or similar connection means. The air pump is generally powered by 110 volt household electrical current although some are configured to operate off commercial electrical sources and may, in some instances, even be powered by generators, batteries or other similar sources.

Significant dangers and drawbacks currently exist with the standard and known configuration having externally placed air pump or blowers. For example, the separate air pump provides a trip hazard to users, and often has exposed moving parts such as impellers or fans which are attractive to children. It is not uncommon for children to be injured when playing on or around inflatable play structures by coming into contact with the air pump. Further, the externally positioned air pump is noisy, is susceptible to dust, dirt and elements and is often one of the most abused parts of the inflatable play structure when rented or loaned for consumer use.

Thus, there is a need in the art for an internally positioned air source for inflatable play devices which prevents unwanted and unintended participant contact, protects the air source from the elements, subdues the noise generated from the air source, and otherwise improves the overall desirability and usability of the inflatable play device.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In general terms, the present invention is a contained air source for an inflatable play structure. It is understood that the play structure can take any number of configurations, including many which are currently available in the market. Examples of such inflatable play structures includes slides, ball pits, funhouses, bounce rooms, and the like. The internal air source of the present invention is preferably an electrical air pump operable at low pressure and high volume, powerable with a common 110 v electrical source.

Further, the present invention is directed to an air pump mounted internally or integrally within the inflatable play structure for injecting air into bladders or chambers of the inflatable device. The air pump is placed into a housing formed in the inflatable play structure. The housing includes, at a minimum three walls and a ceiling. The housing is preferred to also include a floor and a closeable access hatch. While the preferred embodiment comprises a housing manufactured of the some material as the overall inflatable play structure, it is contemplated that the housing could be formed of other suitable rigid material to further protect the air pump to protect it from unintended damage during use of the play structure.

The air pump is positioned within a pocket or housing integral the inflatable device itself. The housing is preferably adjacent the lower-most surface of the inflatable device at or near a corner, edge or fold. The housing will generally be manufactured of the same material as the inflatable device, such as canvas, plastic, PVC or similar material. To limit the likelihood that a user will come into contact with the air pump while enjoying the inflatable structure, it is desirable to have at least one inflatable chamber oriented between the air pump housing and the usable portion of the inflatable.

The air pump housing must be formed at or near an edge of the play structure itself for several reasons. First, the pump must be adjacent out an outer wall of the play structure so that air can easily be transferred between the pump and the atmosphere. Further, in circumstances where the pump is reversible to draw air from the inflatable play structure, the air pulled from the structure must be moved outside of the housing. Second, it is recognized that the air pump itself is a hard rigid structure which could cause injury to a user if it were positioned so that users could come into contact with it while enjoying the inflatable play structure. It may be necessary to position multiple baffles between the usable portions of the inflatable play structure and the air pump housing to further separate users from the air pump.

The housing should not be air tight and may be provided with a vent which allows the air pump to draw external air into the housing for operation. An orifice is provided through a wall of the inflatable structure operably connecting the housing to the inflation chambers of the structure. An air inflator tube may be permanently mounted to the orifice or may be manufactured such that it is removable. The provided tube connects the air pump to the orifice which allows air to be passed into the inflation chambers of the inflatable play structure.

Generally, an access hatch is provided at the housing so that the air pump can be accessed. It is preferred that the access hatch creates a barrier to the air pump during operation to diminish the likelihood that children, or other users, can contact the air pump. It should be understood that the access hatch can be a net, mesh, wire, or made of any suitable material. The access hatch may be fastened with Velcro or other suitable fasteners. A lock or latching mechanism may be incorporated on the access hatch to prevent unintended or unwanted access to the air pump during operation. A power cord may be positioned through the access hatch. In one configuration, a separate opening is provided in the housing for placement or storage of power cords and the like.

The air pump can be of any type, size and configuration commonly available in the marketplace. One such example of an air pump is manufactured by Eagle and may be purchased through Ninja Jump. It is understood that the air pump must be compatible with the size and configuration of the inflatable and that the dimensions and exact configuration of the air pump housing must be commensurate with the associated inflatable structure.

In its simplest configuration, the housing is provided with a flooring made of the same material as the remainder of the inflatable play structure. In a second embodiment, however, a small platform is provided on the flooring of the housing onto which the air pump may be removably mounted. This stabilizes the air pump and prevents it from being knocked over during use of the inflatable play device.

It is preferred that the air pump can be removed from the housing for repair, maintenance, and in some instances, transportation of the inflatable play device. The access hatch may be made of netting which allows for the visual inspection of the air pump drain operation and further increases the air exchange capabilities between the housing and the external atmosphere. Depending on the size of the air pump and the configuration of the inflatable, it may be necessary to provide tethers, latches or other mechanisms to secure the pump within the housing to prevent it from tipping during operation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the prior art air pump connection.

FIG. 2 is a partial perspective view of the inventive device.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the inventive device.

FIG. 4 is a partial cut away view of the air pump enclosure of the inventive device.

FIG. 5 is a partial side view of the air pump enclosure of the inventive device.

FIG. 6 is a partial perspective image of the air pump enclosure of the inventive device.

FIG. 7 is another partial perspective image of the air pump enclosure of the inventive device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is drawn to an inflatable structure having an integral air pump positioned within a housing which is substantially encapsulated by the structure. The play structure can be configured in any known shape or size, such as slides, ball pits, bounce room, or accommodations thereof. The overall size, dimensions, configuration and appearance of the play structure itself is not intended to be, in any manner, a limitation to the inventive device disclosed herein. FIG. 1 shows a traditional air pump connection to an inflatable structure. As shown, the air pump is positioned away from the structure and connected by an air hose. This configuration allows users to contact the pump which may cause personal injury or damage to the pump itself.

Turning now to the instant invention, as best shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, an inflatable structure 102 is provided having multiple inflated chambers 104. A housing 106 is formed within the inflatable structure 102, preferably at or near an edge 108 of the structure 102 and adjacent the lower-most surface. The preferred position for the housing 106 is at the lower corner of a column 110 as shown in FIG. 4, such columns 110 generally being provided for overall stability of the inflatable structure. It is understood, however, that the housing 106 may be positioned within any wall, floor member or other portion of the inflatable structure 102. The housing 106 is generally a chamber formed of the same material as the play structure, such as plastic, PVC, cloth or canvas. At least two walls 112, 114 are provided. It is preferred that a floor 116 of the same material is provided. As shown in FIGS. 5, 6 and 7, an access hatch 118 is positioned on the outside wall of the play structure immediately adjacent the housing 106. The access hatch 118 may be made of the same material as the remainder of the housing 106 or may be formed from a netting or other similar material. As shown, the hatch 118 may be a single wall or form both a wall and the ceiling or top of the hatch 118. The preferred access hatch 118 is formed from netting so that the air pump can be visualized during use and to maximize the air exchange capacity between the housing 106 and the external atmosphere. This reduces the air exchange load on the pump during operation.

While the floor 116 may be formed of the same material as the remainder of the inflatable structure 102, it may be necessary to provide a rigid floor to stabilize air pump 120 during use. The rigid floor 116 may further have latch points 122 or securing areas which would allow the air pump 120 to be removably fastened during operation. This minimizes the possibility of the air pump 120 becoming damaged, turning over, or otherwise being harmed while the inflatable play structure 102 is being utilized.

An orifice 124 is created within one wall 114 of the housing. The orifice 124 connects the air chambers or bladders 104 of the inflatable structure 102 with the air pump housing 106. The orifice 124 is of a predetermined size which allows the necessary volume of air to be provided from the pump 124 to the internal air chambers 104 of the structure 102 to maintain a desired rigidity of the structure during use.

The orifice 102 may be bolstered with the same material as the remainder of the structure or may comprise a rigid or semi-rigid coupling device. As shown in Figure ______, a flexible hose 126 is used to connect the air pump 120 to the orifice 124. The flexible hose 126 may be permanently mounted to the orifice 124 or may be removable. The end of the hose 126 can be manufactured in any necessary configuration to attach to commercially available air pumps 120.

During use, the access hatch 118 of the housing 106 is open and the air pump 120 is positioned therein. The air pump 120 may be secured to the floor 116 with any provided latching mechanisms 122. The flexible hosing 126 is first coupled to the orifice 124, if necessary, and then the air pump 120. The flexible hose 126 may be secured to the pump 120 with a drawstring, hook and loop fastener, plastic fasteners or other suitable fastening mechanisms.

The power cord 128 to the air pump 120 can be positioned through the access hatch 118, or optional power cord opening 130 through a wall of the housing.

In a second embodiment, multiple baffles 132 may be positioned between the housing 106 and the usable portion of the inflatable play structure 102. The baffles 132 limit potential damage to the air pump 120 during use of the structure 102. The baffles 132 further limit the possibility of a user coming into contact with the air pump 120 while using the inflatable play structure 102.

During deflation, storage and transport of the inflatable structure 102, the air pump 102 can be removed or left in place within the housing 106.

While the present invention is described herein with reference to the embodiments illustrated for particular applications, it should be understood that the invention is not limited thereto. Those having ordinary skill in the art and access to the teachings provided herein will recognize additional modifications, applications, and embodiments within the scope thereof and additional fields in which the present invention would be of significant utility. It is therefore intended by the appended claims to cover any and all such modifications, applications and embodiments within the scope of the present invention.