Title:
Modular straw with secure connection
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An extendible flexible drinking straw segment (10) fabricated so as to be collapsible after having been extended and capable of being bent into many different configurations. The drinking straw segment (10) has male and female tubular end sections (14) and (12) respectively, capable of being joined together in liquid-tight junction (20) or to other like drinking straw segments to form a longer structure. The segment (10) provides a flexible, accordion-like, tubular zone (18) intermediate the end sections (14) and (12). In a further embodiment the male end 34 would be externally threaded and the female end 32 would be internally threaded. Like drinking straw segments are connected using a threaded connection.



Inventors:
Shakur-jenkins, Shailendria (Canyon Country, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/218635
Publication Date:
10/01/2009
Filing Date:
07/16/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G21/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
JONAITIS, JUSTIN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HOFFMAN PATENT GROUP (Valencia, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A flexible drinking straw segment comprising: a male end element; a flexible zone joined to said male end element at one end thereof; and a female end element amenable to the insertion of said male end element so as to form a liquid-tight junction and joined to the other end of said flexible zone.

2. The flexible drinking straw segment of claim 1 wherein said male end element may be used as a mouthpiece.

3. The flexible drinking straw segment of claim 1 wherein said female end element may be used as a mouthpiece.

4. A flexible drinking straw structure comprising: at least one flexible drinking straw segment comprising; a male end element; a flexible zone joined to said male end element at one end thereof; and a female end element amenable to the insertion of said male end element so as to form a liquid-tight junction and joined to the other end of said flexible zone.

5. The flexible drinking straw structure of claim 4 wherein said drinking straw segments are joined together in liquid-tight junction.

6. A flexible drinking straw structure comprising: at least two flexible drinking straw segments, each of said at least two drinking straw segments comprising; a male end element; a flexible zone joined to said male end element at one end thereof; a female end element joined to the other end of said flexible zone; and liquid-tight junctions formed by insertion of said male end elements into said female end elements.

7. A flexible drinking straw segment comprising: a male end element having external threading; a flexible zone joined to said male end element at one end thereof; and a female end element being internally threaded so as to connect with the male end element being externally threaded.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

This application claims priority from International Application No. PCT/US2006/001359 filed on Jan. 17, 2006 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/072,298 filed Mar. 28, 2008, and which are incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to extendable, collapsible, flexible drinking straws. The invention is, however, more particularly directed to the further extensibility of flexible drinking straw structures as realized by connecting the end elements of successive flexible drinking straw segments. Various forms and configurations may be realized through the applications of the flexibilities and extensibilities of the drinking straw segments as provided by the invention.

2. Description of the Related Art

Much effort has been directed to the provision of intermediate flexible portions in otherwise rigid tubular drinking straws. These efforts have been pursued from the earliest paper-wound drinking straws through the modern thermal setting plastic or thermoplastic drinking straws and preferably food grade plastic. The early straight, rigid tubular drinking straws exhibited the unwanted difficulty of kinking when an attempt was made to bend one into a more convenient configuration and position for the benefit of a user. Much of the early innovative activity was, therefore, directed to the alleviation of this unwanted kinking and the provision of bendability of drinking straws.

The relevant prior art related to drinking straws includes U.S. Pat. No. 2,557,411, to A. G. Butsch for Child's Drinking Tube issued Jun. 19, 1951. In a specific embodiment, rigid portions of tubular material are formed into a desired configuration and a swivel joint provided so as to bring the mouthpiece into convenient access for a user. No flexible or extendable portions have been provided by the inventor.

A flexible portion in a drinking straw has been provided in the invention by H. L. Levi in Flexible Drinking Straw for which U.S. Pat. No. 3,025,004 was issued on Mar. 13, 1962. The drinking straw so provided is made up of three tubular segments, connected end to end. The drinking end is described as being of a smooth, relatively stiff tube which is then connected to the intermediate portion which is flexible, accordion-like and which in turn is connected to the segment that is dipped into the material to be drunk by the user.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,168,982 was issued Feb. 9, 1965 to H. E. Davis for Drinking Straw and described a tubular straw made of a helically wound strip having reinforcing wrinkles that provide flexibility to the body of the straw without kinking.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,094,268 and 2,550,797 were issued Sep. 28, 1937 and May 1, 1951 for Drinking Tube and Flexible Drinking Straw respectively to J. B. Friedman. The '268 patent describes a method and apparatus for fabricating a flexible section in a tubular drinking straw positioned so that the tube may be bent without substantially reducing the diameter of the straw.

The '797 patent describes a solution to a problem encountered when the drinking straws were attempted to be withdrawn from a package in which they were contained.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,346,187 was issued Oct. 10, 1967 to M. Mueller for Flexible Drinking Straws and describes a flexible tubular thermoplastic resinous drinking straw having sufficient resiliency to return substantially to its normal straight position after release of a bending force.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,409,224 was issued Nov. 5, 1968 to H. J. Harp, et al. for Flexible Drinking Tube. The Harp, et al. patent describes a method and apparatus for forming a flexible zone in tubes formed of thermoplastic material.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,438,578 was issued Apr. 15, 1969 to G. E. Peterson, et al. for Flexible Drinking Tube and describes a thermoplastic drinking tube including a flexible zone and a method for its manufacture.

These prior art innovations and their methods are commendable and show a creative spirit for their times. The quest to optimize ease of use for users of drinking straws including children, invalids and all others has been long and varied and many creative ideas have been contrived. The originators and their methods have contributed remarkably to the technology involved. These prior art innovations and systems, however, do not include those elements of the instant invention that provide a long felt but unmet need in the art. None of the prior art discovered has included highly longitudinally extensible drinking straw segments with the added capability of being serially connected end-to-end to form a much longer construction.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the instant invention there is provided a modular, collapsible, flexible drinking straw segment which is capable of retaining its form whether collapsed or extended and when subjected to a tortuous shaping force. That is, when retracted or collapsed, the drinking straw segment may be stretched, the drinking straw segment may be collapsed. In either the stretched or collapsed state, the drinking straw segment will be responsive to bending forces and will retain a configuration caused thereby. The drinking straw segment so provided has the additional capability of being joined end-to-end, by a friction fit to other like segments so as to form a structure of any desired length.

In a further embodiment, the straws are joined together using a threaded connection with one end of each straw being internally threaded and one end being externally threaded for fitting inside the internally threaded end of another straw.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a drinking straw segment as contemplated by the invention in its fully retracted or collapsed form.

FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration showing the drinking straw segment slightly extended.

FIG. 3 shows a much more extended illustration of the extendible drinking straw segment.

FIG. 4 is an illustration intended to show the extendible drinking straw segment in a fully extended condition.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective illustration intended to show details of the flexible zone and the accordion-like structure, of the convolutions providing flexibility and bendability to the drinking straw segments.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged perspective illustration showing how the accordion-like convolutions expand on the outer bend and contract on the inner bend as the drinking straw segment is bent.

FIG. 7 is a schematic illustration showing how one segment may be attached to another for purposes of creating longer composite structures.

FIG. 8 is a schematic illustration showing the capability of the drinking straw segment to be bent upon itself.

FIG. 9 is a fanciful illustration showing a possible contortion of joined segments to make a desired configuration.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a straw in accordance with a further embodiment of the invention, having threaded ends.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view showing two straws of the type of FIG. 10 connected together.

FIG. 12 is an enlarged sectional view of FIG. 11 showing details of a threaded connection of the straws.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

Referring to the drawing and to FIGS. 1 through 4 with greater particularity, an extendible, collapsible, flexible drinking straw segment is denoted generally by the numeral 10 and is shown in various stages of extension. A straight, tubular, cylindrical female end element or section has been identified by the numeral 12 while the numeral 14 denotes a straight; tubular, cylindrical male end section or element. A flexible, accordion-like, tubular zone, 18 is shown intermediate the two end sections or elements. Either end section, 12 or 14, is capable of being used by a drinker as a mouthpiece. Additionally, a male end section 14 of one drinking straw segment can be inserted into an amenable female end section 12 of another drinking straw segment in liquid-tight connection so as to create longer overall drinking straw structures. As many drinking straw segments as desired may be so connected in tandem thus to form longer structures. Alternatively, a drinking straw segment may be connected to itself to form an O structure, if desired.

FIG. 5 shows enlarged detail of the convolutions 16 forming the accordion-like structure of the flexible, tubular zone 18 and illustrating how these convolutions may be collapsed upon one another to shrink the segment into its collapsed or retracted form.

In FIG. 6 indication of the action of the convolutions 16 in response to a bending force is illustrated showing contraction of the convolutions on the inner bend and expansion on the outer bend.

Referring now to FIG. 7, one drinking straw segment is shown above with its male element 14 about to be inserted into the female element 12 of a lower-shown companion drinking straw segment. The resulting drinking straw structure will be longer than either of the component segments alone. It is, of course, to be understood that the conjoining of successive drinking straw segments may be repeated in accordance with the desires of a user so as to make as long a structure as is wanted. The lower-shown companion drinking straw segment is shown as bent into a substantially right angled configuration.

FIG. 8 shows a drinking straw segment as bent and constrained to form a loop. Both male 14 and female 12 ends are free so that they might be each attached to companion segments to form other desired shapes. The male and female ends of the segment shown could just as easily be joined together to form a closed O shape.

FIG. 9 illustrates a possible application showing serially connected drinking straw segments, connected at connection junctions 20 and forming a numeral.

In another embodiment, shown by FIGS. 10, 11 and 12, an extendible, collapsible, flexible drinking straw segment is denoted generally by numeral 30. Straw 30 has a straight, tubular, cylindrical female end element or section 32 and a straight, tubular, cylindrical male end element or section 34. A flexible, accordion-like, tubular zone 38 is shown intermediate the two end sections. Female end section 32 is capable of being used by a drinker as a mouthpiece as it preferably has a smooth outer surface. Male end section 34 of one drinking straw segment can be inserted into a female end section 32 of the same or of another drinking straw segment in a threaded connection to create a longer overall drinking straw. Female end section 32 has internal threads 40, while male end 34 has external threads 42. As many drinking straw segments as desired may be so connected to form longer structures, such as in FIG. 7 or 9.

Preferably, especially in this embodiment, the straw is made out of plastic, such as thermoset or thermoresin plastic, so that threading can be readily molded. The plastic is preferably food grade plastic.

Although the invention has been described using specific terms, devices, and/or methods, such description is for illustrative purposes of the preferred embodiment(s) only. Changes may be made to the preferred embodiment(s) by those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the scope of the present invention, which is set forth in the following claims. In addition, it should be understood that aspects of the preferred embodiment(s) generally may be interchanged in whole or in part.