Title:
BRUSH AND BRISTLE ASSEMBLY THEREFOR
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A brush with a body portion, an outer surface, and bristle apertures extending from the outer surface into the body portion. Each bristle aperture has a sidewall with a first portion defining an inner portion and a second portion defining an outer portion. Opposing portions of the first portion of the sidewall are parallel. Opposing portions of the second portion of the sidewall extend outwardly from the body portion toward the outer surface. A tuft is anchored in each bristle aperture. During use, the inner portions of the bristle apertures maintain a proximal portion of the tuft in a substantially stationary position, and direct a distal portion of the tuft through the outer portion and beyond the outer surface. The outer portions of the bristle apertures are shaped to maintain a minimum bend radius and allow the distal portion of the tuft to deflect when lateral forces are applied thereto.



Inventors:
Robinson, Dane Q. (Durango, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/234206
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
09/19/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A46D3/00
View Patent Images:
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20060085931Gum-massaging oral brushApril, 2006Roberts et al.
20080028567Cleaning device for fiber optic connectorsFebruary, 2008Hackert
20010004782Plastic bristles for the washing brushes of automatic washing equipmentJune, 2001Hinterkeuser
20070056138HIGH VOLUME BRUSH CLEANING APPARATUSMarch, 2007Baan et al.



Primary Examiner:
JENNINGS, MICHAEL DEANGILO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE, LLP/SEATTLE (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
The invention claimed is:

1. A brush comprising: a body portion with an outside surface, and a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the outside surface and extending into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprising: a sidewall defining a first aperture portion and a second aperture portion, the first aperture portion being within the body portion of the brush and spaced from the outside surface, the second aperture portion being adjacent to the outside surface, the first aperture portion having a substantially constant cross-sectional area, and the second aperture portion having an increasing cross-sectional area that increases toward the outside surface.

2. The brush of claim 1, wherein the substantially constant cross-sectional area of the first aperture portion is defined by an elongated cross-sectional shape having a first longitudinal axis and a width orthogonal to the first longitudinal axis, an outer portion of the increasing cross-sectional area of the second aperture portion adjacent the outside surface is defined by an elongated cross-sectional shape having a second longitudinal axis and a length, the second longitudinal axis being orthogonal to the first longitudinal axis, and the length of the outer portion of the second aperture portion is at least two to three times greater than the width of the first aperture portion.

3. The brush of claim 1, wherein the second aperture portion is one of trumpet shaped, funnel shaped, conically shaped, flared, or tapered.

4. The brush of claim 1, wherein the first aperture portion is cylindrical and the substantially constant cross-sectional area of the first aperture portion is defined by a first cross-sectional shape comprising one of a circle, an ellipse, a portion of a parabola, or a portion of a hyperbola.

5. The brush of claim 1, wherein the first aperture portion is cylindrical and the substantially constant cross-sectional area of the first aperture portion is defined by a cornerless first cross-sectional shape.

6. The brush of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of bristle apertures further comprises: a bottom surface inside the body portion of the brush spaced from the outside surface of the brush, the first aperture portion being adjacent to the bottom portion.

7. The brush of claim 1, wherein the second aperture portion extends from the first aperture portion to the outside surface.

8. The brush of claim 1, wherein the second aperture portion comprises an outwardly extending shoulder portion at the intersection of the second aperture portion and the outside surface.

9. The brush of claim 1, wherein the cross-sectional area of the second aperture portion is constantly increasing from the first aperture portion to the outside surface.

10. The brush of claim 1, wherein the cross-sectional area of the second aperture portion increases non-uniformly from the first aperture portion to the outside surface.

11. The brush of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a total depth, the first aperture portion of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a first depth, and the first depth is approximately 5% to approximately 40% of the total depth.

12. The brush of claim 1, further comprising: a bristle tuft corresponding to each of the plurality of bristle apertures, each tuft comprising a plurality of bristles having a bent portion flanked by a first bristle portion and second bristle portion, each tuft being anchored inside the first aperture portion of a corresponding bristle aperture, the first bristle portion and the second bristle portion extending from the first aperture portion through the second aperture portion, and extending outward beyond the outside surface of the brush, during use, the first bristle portion and the second bristle portion being held in a substantially stationary position within the first aperture portion and being free to deflect within the second aperture portion.

13. The brush of claim 12, wherein the plurality of bristles of each of the bristle tufts has a minimum bend radius, the sidewall of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a smooth wall portion defining the second aperture portion, the smooth wall portion being configured to maintain ones of the plurality of bristles of the bristle tuft anchored inside the bristle aperture and deflected against the smooth wall portion at a bend radius greater than the minimum bend radius of the plurality of bristles.

14. The brush head of claim 12, wherein the plurality of bristles of each of the bristle tufts comprises a minimum radius of curvature, and the sidewall of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises an outwardly flaring sidewall defining the second aperture portion, the outwardly flaring sidewall having a minimum radius of curvature that is larger than the minimum radius of curvature of the plurality of bristles of each of the bristle tufts.

15. The brush of claim 12, wherein the plurality of bristles of each of the bristle tufts is constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire.

16. The brush of claim 12, wherein the sidewall comprises a smooth flared wall portion defining the second aperture portion, the smooth flared wall portion being configured to provide a curved surface against which at least one of the first bristle portion and the second bristle portion may be pressed without being damaged during use.

17. The brush of claim 12, further comprising: a pair of channels formed in the sidewalls of each of the plurality of bristle apertures, the channels being opposite one another along the sidewalls of each of the plurality of bristle apertures and configured to receive a fastener; for each pair of channels formed in the sidewalls of each of the plurality of bristle apertures, a fastener received inside the pair of channels, the fastener being non-removably anchored inside the bristle aperture by engagement between the fastener and the pair of channels, the fastener anchoring the bent portion of the plurality of bristles of the tuft inside the bristle aperture.

18. The brush of claim 1, further comprising: a pair of channels formed in the sidewalls of each of the plurality of bristle apertures, the channels being opposite one another along the sidewalls of each of the plurality of bristle apertures.

19. A brush comprising: a brush head having a body portion and an outer surface; a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the brush head extending from the outer surface into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures having a sidewall with a first portion defining an inner portion of the bristle aperture and a second portion defining an outer portion of the bristle aperture, opposing portions of the first portion of the sidewall being parallel and opposing portions of the second portion of the sidewall extending outwardly toward the outer surface; and a plurality of tufts each anchored in one of the plurality of bristle apertures, each of the plurality of tufts comprising bristles having an proximal portion and a distal portion, during use: the inner portion of each of the bristle apertures maintaining the proximal portion of the bristles of the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture in a substantially stationary position relative to the brush head, and directing the distal portion of the bristles through the outer portion of the bristle aperture and beyond the outer surface, and the outer portion of each of the bristle apertures being configured to allow the distal portion of the bristles of the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture to deflect a predetermine amount in response to lateral forces applied to the tuft.

20. The brush of claim 19, wherein the plurality of tufts are each constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire.

21. The brush of claim 19, wherein the inner portion has an elongated cross-sectional shape having a first longitudinal axis and a width orthogonal to the first longitudinal axis, adjacent the outside surface the outer portion has an elongated cross-sectional shape having a second longitudinal axis and a length, the second longitudinal axis being orthogonal to the first longitudinal axis, and the length of the elongated cross-sectional shape of the outer portion is at least two to three times greater than the width of the elongated cross-sectional shape of the inner portion.

22. The brush of claim 19, wherein each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a total depth, the inner portion of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a first depth, and the first depth is approximately 10% to approximately 40% of the total depth.

23. A brush head for use with a plurality of tufts each constructed from a group of bristles bent back on itself to define a bent portion flanked by first and second end portions, the brush head comprising: a body portion; an outer surface outward of the body portion; and a plurality of bristle apertures extending from the outer surface into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprising an orientation portion and a deflection portion, the deflection portion being closer to the outer surface than the orientation portion, the orientation portion being configured to orient the first and second end portions of the group of bristles relative to the outer surface of the brush head, the deflection portion being configured to receive the first and second end portions of the group of bristles therein and provide a deflection area within which the first and second end portions of the group of bristles may deflect laterally in response to an application of a laterally directed force to the tuft.

24. The brush of claim 23, wherein each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a total depth, the orientation portion of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a first depth, and the first depth is approximately 10% to approximately 40% of the total depth.

25. The brush head of claim 23, wherein the orientation portion is further configured to prevent disengagement of the tuft from the bristle aperture.

26. The brush head of claim 23, wherein the group of bristles of each of the plurality of tufts comprises a minimum radius of curvature, and each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a flared sidewall defining the deflection portion, the flared sidewall having a minimum radius of curvature that is larger than the minimum radius of curvature of the group of bristles of each of the plurality of tufts.

27. A brush comprising a plurality of tufts anchored one each inside a plurality of bristle apertures, each of the bristle apertures comprising an internal deflection area into which the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture may deflect in response to lateral forces applied to the tuft.

28. The brush of claim 27, wherein each of the plurality of tufts comprises a minimum bend radius, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a sidewall defining the deflection area, the tuft anchored inside the bristle aperture is pressed against the sidewall when sufficient lateral forces are applied to the tuft to defect the tuft against the sidewall, and the sidewall is configured to induce a radius of curvature in the tuft that is greater than its minimum radius of curvature.

29. The brush of claim 27, wherein the plurality of tufts are each constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire.

30. The brush head of claim 27, wherein the internal deflection area has a central portion, each of the plurality of tufts comprises a plurality of bristles, and each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a means for positioning the plurality of bristles of the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture in the central portion of the internal deflection area.

31. The brush of claim 27, wherein the internal deflection area of each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprises a filler material.

32. The brush of claim 31, wherein the filler material is a low durometer silicone.

33. The brush of claim 31, wherein the filler material within each of the plurality of bristle apertures extends therefrom along a portion of the plurality of tufts.

34. A brush comprising: a body portion; an outer surface; a plurality of tufts each comprising a plurality of bristles; and a plurality of bristle apertures extending from the outer surface into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprising: means for anchoring the plurality of bristles of one of the plurality of tufts inside the bristle aperture, means for orienting the plurality of bristles of the one of the plurality of tufts anchored inside the bristle aperture by the anchoring means relative to the outer surface, and means for allowing the plurality of bristles of the one of the plurality of tufts anchored inside the bristle aperture by the anchoring means to deflect inside the bristle aperture in response to an application of force to the one of the plurality of tufts.

35. The brush of claim 34, wherein the plurality of tufts are each constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire.

36. The brush of claim 34, wherein each of the plurality of bristle apertures is at least partially filled with a filler material.

37. The brush of claim 36, wherein the filler material comprises low durometer silicone.

38. The brush of claim 36, wherein the filler material extends from the plurality of bristle apertures along a portion of the plurality of tufts.

39. A brush comprising: a body portion with an outside surface, and a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the outside surface and extending into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprising a sidewall defining an aperture portion adjacent to the outside surface, the aperture portion having an increasing cross-sectional area that increases toward the outside surface.

40. A brush comprising: a body portion with an outside surface, and a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the outside surface and extending into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures comprising: a sidewall defining a first aperture portion and a second aperture portion, the first aperture portion being within the body portion of the brush and spaced from the outside surface, the second aperture portion being adjacent to the outside surface, the first aperture portion having a substantially constant cross-sectional area, and the second aperture portion having a substantially constant cross-sectional area that is larger than the substantially constant cross-sectional area of the first aperture portion.

41. A brush comprising: a brush head having a body portion and an outer surface; a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the brush head extending from the outer surface into the body portion, each of the plurality of bristle apertures having a sidewall with a first portion defining an inner portion of the bristle aperture and a second portion defining an outer portion of the bristle aperture, opposing portions of the first portion of the sidewall being parallel and opposing portions of the second portion of the sidewall being parallel; and a plurality of tufts each anchored in one of the plurality of bristle apertures, each of the plurality of tufts comprising bristles having an proximal portion and a distal portion, during use: the inner portion of each of the bristle apertures maintaining the proximal portion of the bristles of the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture in a substantially stationary position relative to the brush head, and directing the distal portion of the bristles through the outer portion of the bristle aperture and beyond the outer surface, and the outer portion of each of the bristle apertures being configured to allow the distal portion of the bristles of the tuft anchored in the bristle aperture to deflect in response to lateral forces applied to the tuft.

42. A brush comprising a plurality of tufts comprising bristles constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire coated with nylon.

43. A brush comprising a plurality of tufts comprising bristles constructed from one of shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, or nitinol wire coated with an elastomeric material.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

Background of the Invention

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention is directed generally to fabricating brushes and more particularly to devices and methods of installing bristles in brushes.

2. Description of the Related Art

Generally, a brush includes tufts each of which is formed from a plurality of bristles. A bristle is a single strand or filament having two ends and middle portion disposed between the two ends. The bristles that form a single tuft are typically arranged longitudinally adjacent to one another into a grouping of substantially parallel bristles.

Brushes have a broad range of uses from household cleaning to dental hygiene. The materials used to construct brushes are as varied as their uses. In particular, the materials used to construct bristles very widely. However, most bristle materials share a couple of common characteristics. First, they are generally stiff and capable of standing upright without lateral support. Second, bristles generally tolerate a great deal of bending.

Bending deforms the bristle material. Deformation can be either plastic or elastic. If the deformation is elastic, the material will return to its original shape after the stress is removed. On the other hand, if the deformation is plastic, the bristle material will not return to its original shape after the stress is removed. In other words, plastic deformation permanently alters the shape of the bristle material. Plastic deformation occurs when the stress applied to the bristle material exceeds the yield strength of the material. If sufficient stress is applied, materials may fail or fracture.

Bending a bristle causes a portion of the bristle to stretch and a portion diametrically opposed to the stretched portion to compress. Strain is a measure of the amount of deformation experienced by the bristle. With respect to the stretched portion, the amount of strain experienced by the material may be determined by dividing the amount the bristle has stretched by the original length of the bristle. If the strain is large enough, the material will experience plastic deformation. If the strain is too great, the material may fracture. If the fracture is large enough, the bristle may break into two separate segments.

Bristles are frequently constructed from materials such as nylon, straw, natural hair, and metal wire that tolerate a great deal of bending. The bendibility of most bristle materials facilitates the manufacture of the brush. Referring to FIG. 1, many modern brushes are manufactured using a technique whereby a tuft 10 is formed from a bristle grouping 12 that is bent about its midpoint 14 to form a bent portion 16.

A staple 40 is used to fasten the bent portion 16 of the bristle grouping 12 to a body or head 42 of the brush. Frequently, the bent portion 16 of the bristle grouping 12 and staple 40 adjacent thereto are disposed within a single bristle aperture 50 in the head 42 of the brush. The bristle aperture 50 in the head 42 of the brush is generally cylindrically shaped and has a constant diameter along its depth. Opposite ends of the bristle grouping 12 protrude from the single bristle aperture 50 and form a single tuft 10. Generally, the diameter of the aperture 50 is approximately equal to or slightly larger than the diameter of the tuft 10 protruding therefrom. The narrowness of the bristle aperture 50 generally maintains a small radius of curvature in the bent portion 16 of each bristle.

Many materials that exhibit excellent qualities such as shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, and nitinol wire are difficult to fabricate into brushes because they cannot tolerate the strain involved in traditional methods of manufacture. As described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,442,785 issued to Robinson incorporated herein by reference, shape memory alloy is an excellent material for making brushes because the material is extremely durable and hydrophobic in nature, which renders it more hygienic. Super elastic memory wire has a composition substantially similar to shape memory alloy; however, super elastic memory wire exhibits somewhat different properties. Specifically, super elastic memory wire is not temperature sensitive. In other words, the temperature of super elastic memory wire need not be increased to produce the shape memory characteristics. Consequently, it may be desirable to use super elastic memory wire to construct bristles for brushes.

However, bristles formed from either super elastic memory wire or shape memory alloy cannot undergo strain exceeding about 8% without experiencing plastic or permanent deformation. This limitation is a particular problem with respect to bending where the tuft exits the bristle aperture. If a laterally directed force is applied to a tuft, such as occurs when the brush is used to clean or scrub a surface, the tuft bends away from the direction of movement of the brush and toward the surface of the brush head. Because the tuft is anchored by its base to the brush head, any lateral (shear) forces applied to the tuft will bend the tuft in an unconstrained manner toward the surface of the brush head. This bending is unrestricted by anything other than the tolerance of the brush material to bending. Under certain circumstances, the forces applied exceed the 8% strain tolerable by super elastic memory wire and shape memory. Therefore, the bristles within the tuft may kink or break near the location of the bend. Consequently, dental brushes with super elastic memory wire or shaped memory alloy bristles cannot be manufactured using traditional brush making methods described above.

Therefore, a need exists for methods and devices related to constructing brushes with bristles that cannot repeatedly tolerate more than a small amount of strain. A need also exists for a method of constructing a brush using bristles constructed from super elastic memory wire, shape memory alloy, nitinol wire, and the like. The present application provides these and other advantages as will be apparent from the following detailed description and accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING(S)

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a tuft constructed using a prior art method.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a brush head and handle of a brush illustrated without tufts to provide a better view of a plurality of bristle apertures formed in the brush head.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged partial sectional view of the brush head of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the brush head of FIG. 2 taken substantially along the line 4-4 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the brush head of FIG. 2 taken substantially along the line 5-5 of FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged, fragmentary top view of the brush head of FIG. 2.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of a bristle aperture formed in a brush head.

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view of the brush head of FIG. 2 taken substantially along the line 4-4 of FIG. 3, including a filler material inserted into one of the bristle apertures, the filler material extending along a portion of the bristles anchored in the bristle aperture.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Aspects of the present invention include a brush and bristle assembly therefor. FIGS. 2-6 provide an exemplary embodiment of a brush 100 to aid the illustration of an embodiment of the present invention. While the brush 100 is depicted as a dental brush, it is appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the brush 100 may include other types of brushes such as hair brushes, cleaning brushes, and the like. Those of ordinary skill appreciate that alternate embodiments of dental brushes and other types of brushes are well known in the art and within the scope of the present invention.

As may best be viewed in FIGS. 2 and 3, the brush 100 includes a brush head 102 integrally formed with a handle 104. The brush head 102 has a body portion 105, at least one surface 106 from which the bristles protrude, and an side portion 108 opposite the surface 106. The bristles have been removed from the brush 100 in FIGS. 2 and 3 to provide a better view of a plurality of bristle apertures 110 formed in the brush head 102. Each of the bristle apertures 110 extends from the surface 106 into the body portion 105 of the brush head 102 and stop before reaching the side portion 108 of the brush head.

In contrast to the prior art cylindrically shaped bristle aperture 50 depicted in FIG. 1, which has a generally cylindrical shape and uniform diameter along its entire depth, each of the bristle apertures 110 has a non-uniform diameter along its depth. Referring to FIG. 3, each of the bristle apertures 110 is defined by a continuous sidewall 112 and a bottom surface 114. The sidewall 112 extends into the body portion 105 from the surface 106 (from which the bristles protrude) and terminates at the bottom surface 114. The bristle apertures 110 do not extend all the way through the brush head 102 to the side portion 108. Instead, the bottom surface 114 of the bristle apertures 110 is located inside the brush head 102 and is spaced apart from the side portion 108 of the brush head.

FIGS. 4 and 5 provide an enlarged view of a pair of the bristle apertures 110 of the brush 100. For illustrative purposes, in each of these figures, bristles 118 have been included in one of the bristle apertures 110 and omitted from the other. In FIGS. 4 and 5, the bristles 118 have been arranged to form tufts 119A and 119B, respectively.

The sidewall 112 has a first portion 120 and a second portion 130. The first portion 120 is inside the brush head 102 and located between the second portion 130 and the bottom surface 114 of the aperture 110. The first portion 120 may have a lower portion 132 adjoining the bottom surface 114 of the aperture 110. However, this is not a requirement. Alternatively, the first portion 120 may be spaced from the bottom surface 114. Optionally, the lower portion 132 may be inwardly radiused, beveled, or otherwise relieved. In embodiments in which the lower portion 132 is radiused, the lower portion 132 of the first portion 120 has a depth “D1.” By way of a non-limiting example, when the brush 100 is configured for use as a dental brush, the depth “D1” of the lower portion 132 of the first portion 120 may be about 0.020 inches to about 0.040 inches. In particular embodiments, the depth “D1” of the lower portion 132 of the first portion 120 is about 0.030 inches.

The second portion 130 is inside the brush head 102 and located between the first portion 120 and the surface 106 from which the bristles 118 protrude. Thus, to form one of the tufts 119A and 119B, the bristles 118 are inserted into one of the apertures 110, and are anchored at or near the bottom surface 114 of the aperture 110. In the embodiment depicted in the figures, the first portion 120 is immediately adjacent to the second portion 130. However, this is not a requirement. The first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 defines a first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 and the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 defines a second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110. A portion of the bristles 118 of each of the tufts 119A and 119B pass through both the first portion 140 and the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110. The lower portion 132 is sized to receive at least a portion of the bristles 118 along a length thereof that is bent to form the tufts 119A and 119B.

Excluding the depth “D1” of the lower portion 132, the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 and the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 defined thereby have a depth “D2.” The second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 and the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 defined thereby have a depth “D3.” Thus, a total depth of the aperture 110 is defined as a sum of the depth “D1,” the depth “D2,” and the depth “D3.” A ratio of the depth “D2” to the total depth of the aperture 110 may range from about 5% to about 40%.

By way of a non-limiting example, when the brush 100 is configured for use as a dental brush, the depth “D2” of the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 may be about 0.025 inches to about 0.045 inches. In particular embodiments, the depth “D2” of the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 is about 0.035 inches. By way of a non-limiting example, when the brush 100 is configured for use as a dental brush, the depth “D3” of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 may be about 0.10 inches to about 0.12 inches. In particular embodiments, the depth “D3” of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 is about 0.11 inches. Using the values above, the total depth of the bristle aperture 110 may range from about 0.127 inches to about 0.169 inches. In particular embodiments, the total depth of the bristle aperture 110 is about 0.143 inches.

The first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 extends toward the second portion 130 from the bottom surface 114 of the aperture 110. The first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 defined by the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 has a substantially constant cross-sectional area. In other words, portions of the sidewall 112 opposite one another are substantially parallel, extending toward the second portion 130 in substantially the same direction. Thus, the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 may have a cylindrical shape with a cross-sectional shape that is circular, elliptic, parabolic, hyperbolic, and the like. However, this is not a requirement. For example, the bristle aperture 110 may have a cross-sectional shape that is triangular, square, rectangular, octagonal, hexagonal, or other non-geometrical shape. However, it may be desirable to avoid cross-sectional shapes that include sharp corners.

Within the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110, the substantially constant cross-sectional area defined by the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 guides the bristles 118 disposed inside the aperture 110 toward the surface 106. This constant cross-sectional area helps maintain the bristles 118 in an ordered bundle (or tuft) in which the bristles 118 extend outwardly toward the surface 106 in substantially the same first direction (i.e., the direction in which the sidewall 112 extends toward the second portion 130 from the bottom surface 114), identified by arrow “A” in FIG. 4. In other words, the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 holds the bristles 118 in a substantially static position with the proper orientation relative to the surface 106 and/or the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110. Further, by compressing the bristles 118 inside the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110, the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 maintains the bristles in a static position preventing bristles constructed from materials resistant to bending, such as shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, nitinol wire, and the like, from failing, kinking, or otherwise deforming in an undesirable manner. Therefore, even though each of the bristles 118 may have a minimum bend radius that is larger than the radius of curvature into which the bristles are bent in the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110, the bristles 118 may be bent within the first portion 140 without experiencing damage.

The second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 extends toward the surface 106 from the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112. The second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 defined by the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 has a cross-sectional area that increases from the first portion 120 to the surface 106. The increasing cross-sectional area provides a deflection area 134 defined between the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 and the bristles 118. In the illustrated embodiment, the deflection area 134 has a central portion 136 with the bristles 118 oriented within the central portion 136 of the deflection area 134. The first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 directs the bristles 118 into the central portion 136 of the deflection area 134.

In the embodiment illustrated, the cross-sectional area increases constantly but non-uniformly from the first portion 120 to the surface 106. In other words, the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 extends outwardly as it extends toward the surface 106. The second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 is smooth and outwardly curved as it extends toward the surface 106. Thus, the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 may have a tapered or flared shape, a conical shape, a funnel shape, a trumpet shape, a bell shape, and the like. However, this is not a requirement. Alternatively, the second portion 142 of the sidewall 112 may have one or more portions (not shown) that have cross-sectional areas that remain constant or decrease provided the deflection area 134 is present between the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 and the bristles 118.

Referring to FIG. 7, an alternate embodiment of a bristle aperture 110′ is illustrated. With respect to the bristle aperture 110′, reference numerals identical to those used with reference to the bristle aperture 110 have been used to identify substantially identical components. A second portion 142′ of the bristle aperture 110′ defined by the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 has a cross-sectional area that remains substantially constant from the first portion 120 to the surface 106. However, the cross-sectional area of the second portion 142′ is larger than the cross-sectional area of the first portion 140 defined by the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112. The larger cross-sectional area of the second portion 142′ provides a deflection area 134′ defined between the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 and the bristles 118. In the illustrated embodiment, the deflection area 134′ has a central portion 136′ with the bristles 118 oriented within the central portion 136′ of the deflection area 134′. The first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 directs the bristles 118 into the central portion 136′ of the deflection area 134′.

By way of a non-limiting example, the second portion 142 may have a cross-sectional shape that is circular, elliptic, partially parabolic, partially hyperbolic, and the like. However, this is not a requirement. For example, the bristle aperture 110 may have a cross-sectional shape that is triangular, square, rectangular, octagonal, hexagonal, and the like. However, it may be desirable to avoid cross-sectional shapes that include sharp corners.

An outer portion 150 of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 intersects the surface 106 of the brush head 102 and forms a rounded shoulder. The smooth outwardly curving outer portion 150 may be outwardly radiused, beveled, or otherwise relieved. An innermost portion 152 of the outer portion 150 of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 has the smallest cross-sectional area of the outer portion 150.

Within the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110, the increasing cross-sectional area defined by the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 allows the bristles 118 disposed inside the aperture 110 to spread apart somewhat as they approach the surface 106 of the brush head 102. The increasing cross-sectional area defined by the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 also allows the bristles 118 disposed inside the aperture 110 to bend and flex during use before contacting the sidewall 112. As the tufts 119A and 119B are moved along a surface to be cleaned or otherwise engaged by the tufts, they may sway or otherwise deflect within the deflection area 134 of their respective bristle apertures 110. Inside the deflection area 134 of the bristle aperture 110 there are no surfaces about which the bristles 118 may be bent.

However, the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 may provide a surface about which the bristles 118 may be bent if the tufts 119A and 119B are pressed by a sufficient amount of laterally directed force into contact with the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112. The shape of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 may be determined at least in part by the bending tolerance of the bristles 118. For example, the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 may be contoured or otherwise configured to provide a surface against which the bristles 118 may be pressed having a large enough radius of curvature to prevent the bristles from failing, kinking, or otherwise deforming in an undesirable manner when pressed against the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112. In other words, the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 limits the bend radius of the bristles 118 and provides for a smooth bend curvature of the bristles along the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 when bent into engagement therewith. Thus, the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 induces a bend radius in the bristles 118 that is greater than their minimum bend radius preventing the bristles from being damaged by laterally directed forces applied to the bristles.

As is apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, after the tufts 119A and 119B contact the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112, the application of additional laterally directed force may bend a portion of the tufts 119A and 119B outside the bristle aperture 110 (not constrained by the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112) toward the surface 106. Thus, during use, a portion of the tufts 119A and 119B inside the deflection area 134 of the bristle aperture 110 may bend without undesirable breakage or deformation before contacting the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112. The second portion 130, which includes the outer portion 150, helps maintain a minimum bend radius in the bristles 118 to inhibit damage to the tufts 119A and 119B.

Optionally, and in the embodiment illustrated, a pair of opposing longitudinal cutouts or channels 160 and 162 may be formed in the sidewall 112. As illustrated, the channels 160 and 162 may also extend into the lower portion 132 of the first portion 120 of the bristle aperture 110. The channels 160 and 162 are configured to receive the edge portions of a staple 170 and guide the staple into the bristle aperture 110 toward the bottom surface 114. In the embodiment depicted, the channels 160 and 162 are tapered and narrow as they approach the bottom surface 114. In other words, the cross-sectional area of the channels 160 and 162 decreases as the channels extend from the surface 106 toward the bottom surface 114. In this manner, the staple 170 may pass readily through portions of the channels 160 and 162 adjacent the surface 106 but become wedged and held by friction in portions of the channels 160 and 162 spaced from the surface 106. During insertion into the channels 160 and 162, the staple 172 may cut into a portion of the sidewalls of one or both of the channels and become embedded in the brush head 102.

During assembly of the brush 100, a middle portion 176 of the bristles 118 is forced into the bristle aperture 110 using any method known in the art. By way of a non-limiting example, the staple 170 may be used to force the middle portion 176 of the bristles 118 into the bristle aperture 110 using any method known in the art. Once inside the bristle aperture 110, the bristles 118 are bent by the sidewall 112 to form a bent portion 178 flanked by a first end portion 180 and a second end portion 182. The first end portion 180 extends outwardly and exits the bristle aperture 110 through a first portion 184 thereof. The second end portion 182 of the bent bristles 118 extends outwardly and exits the bristle aperture 110 through a second portion 186 thereof.

Alternatively, the channels 160 and 162 may be utilized by a bristle insertion tool (not shown) to insert the bristles 118 into the bristle apertures 110. After or before insertion, an adhesive or epoxy may be inserted into the bristle aperture 110 to anchor the bristles 118 therein.

FIG. 6 provides an enlarged view of a section of the surface 106 including a portion of the bristle apertures 110 formed in the brush head 102. In the embodiment illustrated, the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 defined by the first portion 120 of the sidewall 112 has an elongated cross-sectional shape. As discussed above, the cross-sectional shape may comprise an ellipse, parabola, hyperbola, and the like. Alternatively, the cross-sectional shape may not be elongated. For example, the cross-sectional shape of the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 may be circular, square, octagonal, hexagonal, and the like.

The first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 has a length “L1” and a width “W1.” At its intersection with the surface 106, the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 has a length “L2” and a width “W2.” Further, the inner most portion 152 of the outer portion 150 of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 defines a cross-sectional shape having a length “L3” and a width “W3.” When the brush 100 is configured for use as a dental brush, the width “W2” may be at least two to three times greater than width “W1.”

By way of a non-limiting example, the length “L1” of the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 may be about 0.030 inches to about 0.050 inches. In particular embodiments, the length “L1” is about 0.040 inches. By way of a non-limiting example, the width “W1” of the first portion 140 of the bristle aperture 110 may be about 0.016 inches to about 0.03 inches. In particular embodiments, the width “W1” is about 0.023 inches.

At its intersection with the surface 106, the length “L2” of the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 may be about 0.080 inches to about 1.000 inches. In particular embodiments, the length “L2” is about 0.090 inches. By way of a non-limiting example, the width “W2” of the second portion 142 of the bristle aperture 110 may be about 0.08 inches to about 0.10 inches. In particular embodiments, the width “W2” is about 0.09 inches.

The length “L3” of the innermost portion of the outer portion 150 of the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 may be about 0.045 inches to about 0.065 inches. In particular embodiments, the length “L3” is about 0.055 inches. By way of a non-limiting example, the width “W3” of the inner most portion of the outer portion 150 may be about 0.060 inches to about 0.090 inches. In particular embodiments, the width “W3” is about 0.075 inches.

The bristles 118 may be constructed using any suitable material, including materials resistant to bending such as super elastic memory wire, shape memory alloy, nitinol wire, and the like. The number of bristles 118 used to construct the tufts 119A and 119B may vary based on application. By way of a non-limiting example, between 8 and 24 bristles may be used. In the embodiment depicted, 16 bristles have been used to create each of the tufts 119A and 119B by folding the bristles back against themselves. Thus, each of the tufts 119A and 119B has 32 bristles extending outwardly from the bristle aperture 110.

The brush head 102 and the handle 104 may be constructed using any suitable method and material known in the art, including plastic. For example, the handle 104 may be integrally formed with the adjacent generally solid brush head 102. In an alternate embodiment, the handle 104 may be removably attached to the brush head 102. One of ordinary skill of the art will appreciate that many methods for constructing brushes with handles and brush heads exist in the prior art and the manner of attachment or configuration of the handle 104 relative to the brush head 102 does not limit the invention. While the brush 100 is depicted as a dental brush, it is appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that through application of ordinary skill to the present teachings many other types of brushes such as hair brushes, cleaning brushes, and the like may be constructed and that such brushes are within the scope of the present teachings.

Returning to FIGS. 4 and 5, the staple 170 may be constructed using a single metal plate. The staple 170 may have a length “L4,” a width “W4,” and a height “H1.” In the embodiment illustrated, the length “L4” of the staple 170 may be between about 0.01 inches and about 0.08 inches. The width “W4” of the staple 170 may be between about 0.005 inches to about 0.020 inches. The height “H1” of the staple 170 may be between about 0.04 inches and about 0.08 inches. In one exemplary embodiment, the length “L4” is about 0.060 inches, the height “H1” is about 0.060 inches, and the width “W4” is about 0.010 inches.

In alternate embodiments (not depicted), the staple 170 may be omitted. Instead, any alternate fasteners known in the art may be used to non-removably fasten or anchor the bristles 118 within the bristle aperture 110. Alternatively, adhesives, such as an epoxy, may be used to anchor the bristles 118 inside the bristle apertures 110.

Referring to FIG. 8, optionally, the bristle apertures 110 may be at least partially filled with a filler material 200, such as an elastomeric material, configured to provides support to the bristles 118. By way of a non-limiting example, the deflection area 134 defined between the second portion 130 of the sidewall 112 and the bristles 118 may be filled with the filler material 200. The filler material 200 is compressible by the bristles 118 as they deflect within the deflection area 134 during use. Suitable elastomeric materials include low durometer silicone configured to allow the bristles 118 to deflect and flex inside the bristle aperture 110. The filler material 200 may be inserted into the bristle apertures 110 after the bristles 118 have been anchored therein. Optionally, the filler material 200 may extend from the bristle aperture 110 along at least a portion 204 of the bristles 118 located outside the bristle aperture 110 to provide reinforcement to the bristles and help prevent their premature breakage.

Optionally, the bristles 118 may be coated with nylon, an elastomeric material (such as low durometer silicone), and the like. For example, bristles constructed from shape memory alloy, super elastic memory wire, nitinol wire, and the like may be coated with nylon, an elastomeric material, and the like and used to construct the brush 100.

The foregoing described embodiments depict different components contained within, or connected with, different other components. It is to be understood that such depicted architectures are merely exemplary, and that in fact many other architectures can be implemented which achieve the same functionality. In a conceptual sense, any arrangement of components to achieve the same functionality is effectively “associated” such that the desired functionality is achieved. Hence, any two components herein combined to achieve a particular functionality can be seen as “associated with” each other such that the desired functionality is achieved, irrespective of architectures or intermedial components. Likewise, any two components so associated can also be viewed as being “operably connected,” or “operably coupled,” to each other to achieve the desired functionality.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that, based upon the teachings herein, changes and modifications may be made without departing from this invention and its broader aspects and, therefore, the appended claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and modifications as are within the true spirit and scope of this invention. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the invention is solely defined by the appended claims. It will be understood by those within the art that, in general, terms used herein, and especially in the appended claims (e.g., bodies of the appended claims) are generally intended as “open” terms (e.g., the term “including” should be interpreted as “including but not limited to,” the term “having” should be interpreted as “having at least,” the term “includes” should be interpreted as “includes but is not limited to,” etc.). It will be further understood by those within the art that if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is intended, such an intent will be explicitly recited in the claim, and in the absence of such recitation no such intent is present. For example, as an aid to understanding, the following appended claims may contain usage of the introductory phrases “at least one” and “one or more” to introduce claim recitations. However, the use of such phrases should not be construed to imply that the introduction of a claim recitation by the indefinite articles “a” or “an” limits any particular claim containing such introduced claim recitation to inventions containing only one such recitation, even when the same claim includes the introductory phrases “one or more” or “at least one” and indefinite articles such as “a” or “an” (e.g., “a” and/or “an” should typically be interpreted to mean “at least one” or “one or more”); the same holds true for the use of definite articles used to introduce claim recitations. In addition, even if a specific number of an introduced claim recitation is explicitly recited, those skilled in the art will recognize that such recitation should typically be interpreted to mean at least the recited number (e.g., the bare recitation of “two recitations,” without other modifiers, typically means at least two recitations, or two or more recitations).

Accordingly, the invention is not limited except as by the appended claims.





 
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