Title:
Impact Absorbing Frame and Layered Structure System for Safety Helmets
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
To be embedded within most customizable strong yet flexible safety helmet shells, is a strong, lightweight, impact absorbing “Frame” and a multi-layered impact absorbing cushioning “structure”. Two combined yet independent components designed to protect the user's head and cranium and to reduce the violent sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head and brain after impact. One aspect consists of a solid, continuous and unbroken “Frame” The frame comprises a number of semi-circular arched segments or “panels” with several other smaller semi-circular arched panels placed facing opposite the larger panels within the frame. The additional cushioning in the structure comprises several layers and levels of cushioning protection. These layers consist of a cushioning interior impact liner, a soft silicone gel material, a form fitting inner liner, and optional cloth liners.



Inventors:
Del Rosario, John A. (New York, NY, US)
Application Number:
12/105394
Publication Date:
10/22/2009
Filing Date:
04/18/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/171.3, 2/411, 2/425
International Classes:
A42B3/00; A42C5/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NASH, BRIAN D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
John Alexander Del Rosario (New York, NY, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A protective headgear system to be embedded within most safety helmet shells. Incorporated within said customizable, strong yet flexible helmet shell is a strong, lightweight and impact absorbing “Frame” herein referred to as “frame” and a multi-layered impact absorbing cushioning “structure” herein referred to as “structure”. Said assembly herein collectively referred to as “system” or “Impact Absorbing Frame and Layered Structure System for Safety Helmets.” The system may be manufactured as an integrated, standalone protective layer that could be universally adapted and incorporated onto any modifiable safety helmet shell design shaped to correspond with the system and the user's head. Two combined yet independent components designed to protect the user's head and cranium and to reduce the violent sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head and brain after impact.

2. The invention according to claim 0001 wherein any strong yet flexible helmet shell would be the first protective layer. The outer shell of the helmet can be contoured to fit the parameters of the subsequent frame and layered structure.

3. The invention according to claim 0002 wherein the outermost layer or “outer shell” can be made up of a strong yet flexible construction preferably of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics or the like with the unique quality of minimal sliding friction.

4. The invention according to claim 0001 wherein one component consists of a solid, continuous and unbroken “Frame”

5. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein the frame comprises a plurality of semi-circular arched segments or “panels” which are shaped to extend over and about the skull.

6. The invention according to claim 0005 wherein the semi-circular arched design of the panels within the frame allows them to dissipate and absorb impact forces due to their capability of spanning a space while supporting significant weight.

7. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein the frame is preferably made of lightweight and flexible yet strong and durable material made of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics or the like.

8. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a horizontal front panel which extends about the Frontal region of the skull.

9. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a horizontal base panel which extends horizontally about the Frontal Base region of the skull.

10. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there are two vertical base panels which extend vertically about the Frontal Base region of the skull.

11. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a horizontal rear panel which extends horizontally about the Occipital region of the skull.

12. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there are two vertical rear panels which extend vertically about the Occipital region of the skull.

13. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein two semi-circular arched top panels extend about the Parietal region of the skull.

14. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a vertical cross-panel which extends about the Temporal and Parietal regions of the skull.

15. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a curved mid-segment which extends throughout the Base region of the skull.

16. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a plurality of inner opposite-facing arched panels.

17. The invention according to claim 0016 wherein said several smaller semi-circular arched segments being of approximately but not limited to equal degrees of curvatures are placed facing opposite the larger segments within the frame.

18. The invention according to claim 0016 wherein these arches are firmly coupled together at each end to the main unbroken part of the frame.

19. The invention according to claim 0018 wherein in a preferred embodiment, the ends of the inner opposite-facing arched panels are attached by way of tight fitting clamps or by other suitable means of attachment that would provide a firm hold yet allow the arches the freedom of movement to compress and expand.

20. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein the panels are spaced apart to provide for ventilation, with spacing between them of approximately but not limited to one inch or more. Thus, adequate ventilation is provided to dissipate heat and achieve a reasonable level of comfort while protecting the wearer.

21. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein the width of a panel is to be approximately but not limited to three quarters of one inch.

22. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein there is a cross-sectional thickness selected to provide the desired degree of impact protection

23. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein The panels are preferably single-layered, having one layer of approximately but not limited to one-eighth of one inch of density.

24. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein in a preferred embodiment, said frame is to be made continuous and unbroken with the exception of the inner opposite-facing arched panels.

25. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein also in a preferred embodiment, the frame is to be symmetrical from all sides.

26. The invention according to claim 0004 wherein Providing rigid protection under most circumstances, but upon impact the panels move relative to one another around the user's head and helmet compressing and expanding depending on the severity of the impact forces thereby permitting impact forces to be dissipated and/or redirected away from the cranium and brain within.

27. The invention according to claim 0001 wherein the additional layers in the structure comprises several levels of cushioning protection.

28. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein said layers would encase the “frame” so as not to come in contact with the user's head or helmet.

29. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein subsequent layers consist of a commercially available soft silicone gel material or the like, whose elasticity will allow for shock absorption, gently dispersing energy.

30. The invention according to claim 0028 wherein said layer would encase the entirety of the inner and outer portions of the frame, with exclusion to any sections designated for ventilation and/or visibility.

31. The invention according to claim 0028 wherein said layer would also encase the entirety of the inner and outer portions of the inner opposite-facing arched panels.

32. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein further subsequent layers are comprised of several levels of impact absorbing polymer material. These layers consist of a cushioning, impact absorbing material of a commercially available polymer structure such as polystyrene or polypropylene or the like, which further absorbs the impact energy and reduces the generated shockwave and simultaneously lowers the deceleration rate of the user's head.

33. The invention according to claim 0031 wherein said layer would encase the entirety of the inside of the helmet shell as well as the outer regions of the frame, with exclusion to any sections designated for ventilation and/or visibility.

34. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein the subsequent and last layer designated for contact with the head of a user may consist of a form fitting inner liner.

35. The invention according to claim 0034 wherein said liner is preferably made of a polymer material such as a commercially available foam material or the like, or a synthetic rubber polymer or the like.

36. The invention according to claim 0034 wherein in a preferred embodiment, said layer may contain optional detachable pads made of the same polymer material, a soft durable foam or the like that can be strategically placed inside the helmet by the wearer to accommodate different head shapes and sizes.

37. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein optional detachable inner liners to be worn for contact with the head of a user made of commercially available soft flexible cloth or the like may also be used.

38. The invention according to claim 0037 wherein in a preferred embodiment said liner may be made of commercially available soft flexible cloth or the like.

39. The invention according to claim 0037 wherein alternatively, a fire-retardant material or the like for contact with the head of a user may also be used.

40. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein each layer has a different density than the other layers.

41. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein in a preferred embodiment, the outermost layer farthest from the skull has the highest density to deflect impact forces and retain shape, while the subsequent inner layer has a lower density to absorb impact forces to minimize transmission of these forces through the helmet. Accordingly, the next and subsequent layer preferably has a lower density than the preceding layer. Finally the inner most layer has the lowest density so that it is pliable enough to conform to a users head.

42. The invention according to claim 0041 wherein while preferably, the layered structure may have a plurality of recurrent layers, other density/layer arrangements, additions and/or omissions are also useful.

43. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein there is a cross-sectional thickness selected to provide the desired degree of impact protection

44. The invention according to claim 0043 wherein said layers are preferably of approximately but not limited to one-eighth of one inch of density.

45. The invention according to claim 0027 wherein in a preferred embodiment, said layers are bonded or held together by way of commercially available processes.

46. The invention according to claim 0045 wherein said processes may include but are not limited to applying commercially available adhesive compounds, fabric hook-and-loop fasteners and/or commercially available stitching processes.

47. The invention according to claim 0031 wherein in a preferred embodiment of the invention, the layers are made of polystyrene or polypropylene, the aforementioned may be used in conjunction with other polymers and plastics to form the segments of the present invention. In addition to polystyrene or polypropylene, the segments may be made from, without limitation, a polybutylene, a polyvinyl (including polyvinyl chloride), a polyester, a polycarbonate, a polyurethane, a polyamine, a polyacrylic, a polyamide, a polyurea, and any other suitable polymer.

48. The invention according to claim 0028 wherein in a preferred embodiment of the invention, said layers are made of soft silicone gel material or the like, the aforementioned may be used in conjunction with other polymers and plastics to form the segments, said layers may be made with any other suitable polymer.

49. The invention according to claim 0001 wherein the frame and helmet shell are preferably made of lightweight and flexible yet strong and durable material made of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics or the like, the aforementioned may be used in conjunction with other suitable composites and thermoplastics or any other suitable polymer to form the segments of the present invention.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to protective headgear and, more specifically, to an impact absorbing frame and cushioning structure that prevents injury and reduces damage to the user.

Protective headgear or helmets have been worn for a long time now, by individuals to protect against head injuries. The use of helmets is often a mandatory requirement for driving bicycles and certain other motor vehicles, in high impact sports and in material handling and other potentially hazardous locations.

The use of safety helmets has been just that—to reduce or completely protect the user from any top, lateral and penetration impact to the user's head. However, commonly used protective headgear use a hard outer casing with an impact-energy absorbing padding placed between the outer casing and the user's head. The flaw in these hard casing helmets is that they actually permit the generation of a high-impact shock wave and only after this shock wave is generated are they designed to minimize the strength of the shock wave and reduce its effects by the use of shock absorbing material between the hard casing and the user's head. If a rider wearing such a typical helmet falls off from a bicycle or a motorbike from any angle and hits the surface hard with the helmet, the impact of the hard shell meeting the hard surface generates a shockwave and a high impact force, which is then absorbed (to a limited extent) by the inner shock-absorbing material inside the hard casing and in contact with the rider's head. Although these and other conventional helmet liners have worked well, they have failed to provide protection against both high and low degrees of impact imparted on a helmet over the extended life of said helmet. The impact force is often so great that the rider's helmet may even initially bounce back upon contacting the surface and the head may be thrust backwards subjecting the head and neck regions to additional injury causing forces. If the impact is severe enough, it may lead to a concussion (striking of the brain matter to the skull with moderate force) or even a contusion (striking of the brain matter to the skull with high force) and may also lead to skull fracture.

Published research suggests that the human skull can fracture at decelerations as low as 225 G's and that a concussion can occur at substantially lower decelerations. Research has shown that to offer maximum protection to the head, the rate of deceleration should be as low as possible.

Further, mandatory rules by industry organizations and/or government regulations often obligate the work force of specific industries such as the construction industry to wear ‘hard hats’, which again carry the limitations mentioned above—that of permitting the initial generation of a shockwave and ensuing attempts by shock absorbing padding in the headgear to absorb the said impact forces that cause this shockwave.

Helmets from their first use to today have essentially been an artificial skull over the human skull and thus only duplicate the same protection the natural skull is already providing, without adding any more safety dimensions. In fact, the extra “skull” serves to increase the weight of the head relative to the neck muscles, which is well-researched cause of both soft tissue and bone injuries. More important for injuries, this additional weight increases the acceleration potential ((increased) mass×velocity) of the brain inside the cranium, after impact.

There is an important disadvantage and negative safety feature inherent with conventional helmet styles In order to provide sufficient protection from impact forces, heretofore it has been the practice of the helmet manufacturers to form the cushioning shell layer with a thickness of one inch or more, and if the padding is for comfort it is often of similar thickness. As a result, when worn, these sports helmets project outwardly a distance of two inches or more from the wearer's head, increasing the diameter of the natural skull and adding physical disproportion of head to shoulder/torso, for optimal muscular control.

Upon impact from anything other than a true perpendicular force vector, the skull/helmet combination acts as a fulcrum as the neck and body ‘bends’ around it. With increased diameter, the range and magnitude of ‘bend’ at the fulcrum is dramatically increased and ultimately, the quantity and quality of associated injuries. This is one of the most common ways for avulsion of bone, discs and muscles and it is the classical method for cervical nerve root stretch, rupture or avulsion. Termed a ‘zinger’ in its mild, temporary form, permanent total nerve loss results when the ‘bending’ injury is more severe. Larger diameter and/or added weight invariably increase rotational force potential and rotation, according to whiplash research, is the most destructive.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,561,866 to Ross discloses a safety helmet for motorcyclists. An outer shell of the helmet is formed as a sandwich, with outer and inner composite layers made from impact-resistant resinous material. Each composite layer is separated from the other by an intermediate layer of resilient material. The impact-resistant material is preferably a cloth of high tensile strength fiber such as KEVLAR™, DYNEMA™, glass fiber, or carbon fiber. Cork, foamed or other resilient plastic can be used to form the resilient material. Preferably, the resilient material is a honeycomb material composed of paper or aluminum. The helmet is made by sequentially laying up, in or over a former, a first composite layer of resin and sheets of impact-resistant material, an intermediate layer of honeycomb material, and a second composite layer of resin and sheets of impact-resistant material. The outer shell has a polyhedral form comprising a plurality of polygonal faces with abutting edges. Presence of high strength outer and inner layers sandwiched with a resilient layer allows movement of the outer and inner layers.

This process does not absorb impact shock. The thin outer layer may crack under impact load, Adding to the shortcomings of this patent are the legal hurdles that will arise when trying to approve such a design for commercial use. Current specifications for some regulatory agencies require helmets have smooth, rounded outer surfaces and no straight or sharp edges. Furthermore, aerodynamic problems would be a significant issue with this design.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,794,271 to Hastings discloses a helmet shell structure utilizing a first inner layer of epoxy resin shaped into a head covering of a desired size and configuration. A second layer of woven fabric is placed atop the first layer of epoxy. A third outer layer of epoxy resin is laid atop the second layer and is cured to a transparent state such that the second layer of woven fabric is visible through the third outer layer of cured epoxy. The disclosure details helmet shell structure for crash helmets. Such crash helmets are formed by a first epoxy layer, a second layer of woven fabric followed by a third layer of transparent epoxy. Plugs composed of epoxy are used to maintain integrity of the three layers. Critical areas of the helmet, such as flanges, receive a fourth layer of fiberglass adjacent to the first layer.

Crash helmets disclosed by the '271 patent does not seem likely to provide a significant improvement over current safety helmet shells.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,154,889 to Moore discloses a protective helmet for skiing, snowboarding, bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, rock climbing and the like. The protective helmet comprises a resilient shell having a plurality of slits. Each slit has a first end located at a lower edge of the shell and an adjustable width effective for adjusting the size of the shell. The helmet also has an energy absorbing liner disposed inside the shell. Such a shell is very stiff, to effectively distribute an impact force. The '889 patent discloses a protective headgear for use by cyclists and other recreational sports. Both the helmet shell and the foam lining are serrated, so that the size of the helmet can be reduced by tightening the belt. The helmet is molded with a thermoplastic or thermosetting resin having predominantly glass fibers to produce a stiff helmet.

Since fibers are high in volume and are distributed randomly during the compression molding process, a shock absorbing structure is not created. Consequently, the protective helmet disclosed by the '889 patent would provide little or no protection to the wearer.

Both Johnson, U.S. Pat. No. 3,946,441, and Marker, U.S. Pat. No. 4,006,496 show a safety helmet with a hard outer shell, and a shock-absorbing inner shell made of two different materials. The different materials each appear to have different impact absorbing properties, for performance during a range of different impact loads. The helmets also have a fitting pad to encircle the wearer's head for increased fit and comfort. Likewise, Mitchell et al., in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,534,068 and 4,558,470, appear to disclose a shock attenuation system for use with protective headgear wherein on outer shell is lined with a shock absorbing layer, a layer of flexible slow recovery foam, and a layer of rapid recovery foam.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,343,385 to Katz discloses a helmet for protection against non-motorized injuries comprises a number of arched segments with ventilation spaces between them, the arched segments being shaped to extend about and engage the skull. The helmet is constructed to cover the apical as well as the frontal, temporal and occipital basilar skull. The arched segments are convex on their outer surfaces, have flat, curved inner surfaces, and are made of a cushioning, impact absorbing material such as plastic foam. Reinforcing elements extend in longitudinal passages in the arched segments to provide resistance against forces which are only partly absorbed by the cushioning material. In an alternate embodiment, support straps extend over the apical skull, and an impact resistant helmet is worn over the apical skull. This helmet seems geared toward non-motorized injuries, limiting the potential for wide commercial use and would provide little to no impact protection in high impact events.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,254,843 to Talluri discloses an impact absorbing; modular helmet that uses impact absorbing layers outside the hard casing of the helmet to prevent and/or reduce injury to the user is described. The protective layers on the outer side of the hard casing increase the time of impact and thereby reduces the intensity of the impact forces to reduce their injury potential. The outermost layer would preferably be made of lightweight yet rigid, durable material made of polymers, composites or metal alloys with a low friction coefficient. Subsequent layers may be made up of a polymer honeycombed structure and a uniformly consistent impact absorbing polymer material. These impact-absorbing layers may also be made and used as an independent, detachable, external protective cover that may be attached universally over hard casing helmets.

This would provide little to no improvement over current protective helmets of similar designs or size.

Moreover, U.S. Pat. No. 5,930,840 to Arai discloses a pad for an interior body of a helmet includes a shaped cushion material made of foamed urethane or the like, a stretchable first cloth on one side of the cushion material for contact with a head of a user, a non-stretchable second cloth disposed on a side of the cushion material opposed to the cloth. The interior body includes a plurality of pads connected to form a band shape around the head of a user and so as not to bend in a vertical direction.

This design would only cover a limited amount of the head area, leaving other critical areas vulnerable.

Lastly, Gameau, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,351,342 appears to disclose a safety helmet which comprises of a hard outer shell, a shock absorbing insert for contact with the wearer's head, and a hard inner shell embedded in the shock absorbing insert for additional impact protection. The hard inner shell has fingers which project through the inner face of the shock absorbing insert so as to come flush with the inner face of the insert, to better anchor the hard inner shell within the insert. Finally, both Morgan, U.S. Pat. No. 5,669,079 and Broersma, U.S. Pat. No. 5,309,576, appear to disclose a protective helmet with a hard outer shell, an impact absorbing liner, and a material with separate impact absorbing characteristics imbedded or inserted into the liner material.

All these aforementioned helmets do not seem likely to provide a significant improvement over current safety helmet shells.

Hence, it is the object of the present invention to overcome the aforementioned problems and create a novel and improved, versatile, impact absorbing protective system.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the present invention strives to overcome some of the disadvantages of prior safety helmets by a) providing a protective system that is closer in weight and size to the user's anatomical head, thereby minimizing resultant disproportion between the head with helmet and the neck/torso and by b) redirecting or dissipating injurious forces away from the head and brain, by using an internal frame and a cushioning structure that will move relative to each other in predetermined directions and increments.

An inner frame and an impact absorbing structure, collectively referred to as “system”, to be contained within any strong yet flexible bonnet is provided. This system is particularly for protection of the skull, in order to protect the skull in accidents, the frame comprises a number of semi-circular arched segments or “panels”, each of which has an outer flat surface and an inner flat surface for engaging a generally curved surface of the skull. Along certain inside segments of said frame are a plurality of inner opposite-facing arched panels of smaller length but mostly of equal degrees of curvature (to the large part). These smaller panels are joined or coupled firmly to the larger part of the frame, yet at the same time shall be allowed to compress and expand in a predetermined fashion in conjunction with the larger parts of the frame. The panels are of strong yet flexible material, capable of yielding under substantial impact forces to absorb some of the energy of these forces. This frame shall be contained within a “sandwiched” or layered cushioning structure to resist impact on the skull from forces which are partly absorbed by the cushioning movements of the frame.

A very important safety feature of this design is that because of the frame absorbing or re-directing force vectors along predetermined incremental stages, any rotational vectors at the time of impact will be decreased or actually changed to linear vectors, thereby reducing the risk of the very damaging rotational injuries to the nerve roots and/or brain stem. Coupled with the cushioning structure, this system is designed to absorb kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain.

A practical consideration is that this frame and structure design will be lightweight, comfortable and versatile enough to accommodate most recreational and sporting activities including but not limited to bicycling, snowboarding, skateboarding, rollerblading, horseback riding and with minimal modifications to protect the face, more aggressive activities such as hockey and football. Thoughts have been given to aesthetics, since a helmet cannot protect if it is not worn and thus, especially for the high risk, energetic youths, this system allows for a wider range of outer shell designs to provide “visual appeal”.

There has been a desperate call from the professional community treating head injuries, for a radically different safety helmet design, away from the 'skull over the skull’ concept, to one that incorporates current knowledge of how head, neck and especially ‘contre’ coup’ injuries occur. The design of this system focuses first on accepted injury mechanisms and then simulates some of the effective structural features commonly used in architectural and engineering physics to reduce concentrated loads and earthquake damage in large structures. Capable of spanning a space while supporting significant weight, the arch is significant because, in theory at least, it provides a structure which eliminates tensile stresses in spanning an open space. All the forces are resolved into compressive stresses.

The characteristics of this system design are accomplished through overlapping levels of protection, where each aspect addresses a specific range of impact magnitude which when exceeded, transfers the forces to the next level of protection. The outer shell of the helmet contoured to fit the parameters of the subsequent frame and layered structure contribute to the first level. The “sandwiched” or layered impact absorbing structure with its' many redundant levels contribute to the second and subsequent levels of protection following the frame. The frame, with its many arched segments and opposite facing inner segments contribute to the third level. All of these levels of protection function within the helmet structure and design, leaving the head and skull inside as little involved as possible.

The frame's panels will consist of one layer. Each panel is separated by space but contained or “sandwiched” within the cushioning structure. The frame shall also be continuous and unbroken with the exception of the inner opposite-facing arched panels.

With impact at either the Frontal, Occipital, Temporal, Parietal or Base regions of the skull, it is to be appreciated that the relative movement and gradual contraction and or expansion of the frame act to gradually dissipate the energy of the impact force, without translating the energy to the wearer's skull and more importantly the brain.

Current testing standards for helmets is to drop them from a height and if they do not crack or break, they are approved, but as previously mentioned, most head injuries from recreational or sporting activities are not associated with skull fractures. It is easy to visualize what would happen to the egg or egg yolk simulating the human brain when tested in this fashion. Internationally, the medical experts and professionals who treat head trauma are calling for a revolutionary new approach to protecting the head and brain. This system design offers one. While enhancing the inherent protection provided by the human skull, this unique system also addresses the need to protect the brain inside the skull by dampening forces, not transferring them across the cranium and by re-directing force vectors across the skull, not through it.

By means of a force re-directing frame and an impact absorbing structure, this system design remains closer to the natural head size and weight thereby; a) avoiding the increased injury risks noted above and b) providing equitable skull protection for simple direct impact and most important of all c) uniquely minimizing the most common and destructive ‘contre coup’ injuries.

These and other objects of the invention will be apparent from the following drawings and detailed description of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 01 is a front elevational view upon a human form and helmet outline,

FIG. 02 is a side elevational view upon a human form and helmet outline,

FIG. 03 is a front elevational view thereof;

FIG. 04 is a rear elevational view thereof;

FIG. 05 is a side elevational view thereof,

FIG. 06 is a top plan view thereof.

FIG. 07 is a bottom plan view thereof,

FIG. 08 is a perspective view of an Inner opposite-facing arched panel coupled onto the main part of the frame and

FIG. 09 is a detailed view of portions of elements on a larger scale.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings wherein like or corresponding reference numerals are used for like or corresponding parts throughout the several views. The present invention incorporates a frame 1, herein referred to as “frame”, This frame is firmly attached and encapsulated on the entirety of its surface by an energy-absorbing structure No's 11, 12, 13 and 14, herein referred to as “structure” FIG. 09. Said assembly herein collectively referred to as “system” or “Impact Absorbing Frame and Layered Structure System for Safety Helmets.” The system may be manufactured as an integrated, standalone protective layer that could be universally adapted and incorporated onto any modifiable safety helmet shell design shaped to correspond with the system and the user's head. The following examples illustrate the benefits of such a multi-layered protective system.

A strong yet flexible helmet shell 16 would be the first protective layer. This layer increases the impact time (duration of impact) by subjecting itself to deformation. The outer shell of the helmet can be contoured to fit the parameters of the subsequent frame and layered structure.

The outermost layer or “outer shell” 16 can be made up of a strong yet flexible construction preferably of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics or the like with the unique quality of minimal sliding friction. The reason for this material having a low friction coefficient is that the helmet is supposed to slide along, i.e. move the head of the user along with the rest of the body. Researchers have remarked that while the helmet should protect the user's head from impact forces, the helmet (when in contact with the ground or any other large object) should not impede or resist the movement of the head as compared to the rest of the body, which might be carrying or moving forward with a good momentum when the user has fallen off a moving vehicle or other impact event. Such a restriction to the movement of the user's head vis-a-vis the user's body had shown detrimental results with damages to the neck and head region of the user—as the body would be moving with a higher momentum and if the head's momentum is slowed by the helmet it would induce severe stress on the neck region. As such, the outer layer 16 would be made of a material that would protect the user's head from the impact forces yet have a very low friction coefficient with potential contact surfaces.

The helmet shell then comes in contact with the next layer FIG. 07 such as a commercially available soft silicone gel material or the like 12, whose elasticity will allow for shock absorption, gently dispersing energy. This layer would encase the entirety of the frame, with exclusion to any sections designated for ventilation and/or visibility.

There is shown in FIGS. 03,04,05,06 and 07 the preferred embodiment of separate views one significant part of the present invention which consists of a single layered continuous and unbroken frame. Also, in accordance with the present invention, adjacent to a human form FIGS. 01 and 02. The frame comprises a plurality of semi-circular arched segments 1 which extend over and about the skull. There is a horizontal front panel 2, a horizontal base panel 3, two vertical base panels 4, a horizontal rear panel 5, two vertical rear panels 6, arched top panels 7, vertical cross-panel 8, mid-segment 9, and a plurality of inner opposite-facing arched panels 10. In a preferred embodiment, the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10 are firmly coupled or attached at each end to the main unbroken part of the frame FIG. 08. In another preferred embodiment the ends of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10 are attached by way of tight fitting clamps 17 or by other suitable means of attachment that would provide a firm hold yet allow the arches the freedom of movement to compress and expand. Providing rigid protection under most circumstances, but upon impact the panels move relative to one another around the user's head and helmet compressing and expanding depending on the severity of the impact forces thereby permitting impact forces to be dissipated and/or redirected away from the cranium and brain within. Upon impact to the helmet there are sequential stages of movement of the panels relative to each other, these movements being recoverable.

As shown in FIG. 06 in particular, the panels are spaced apart to provide for ventilation, with spacing between them of approximately but not limited to one inch or more. Thus, adequate ventilation is provided to dissipate heat and achieve a reasonable level of comfort while protecting the wearer. In another preferred embodiment, the width of a panel is to be approximately but not limited to three quarters of one inch.

The semi-circular arched design of the panels within the frame allows them to dissipate and absorb impact forces due to their capability of spanning a space while supporting significant weight. The arch is significant because it provides a structure which eliminates tensile stresses in spanning an open space. All the forces are resolved into compressive stresses. When the wearer of this system experiences an event where severe impact is incurred, the panels 1 and its inner opposite-facing inner panels 10 undergo elastic deformation and compress and expand, dissipating the impact throughout its semi-circular nature. When the impact force is no longer in effect, such as when the helmet is no longer in contact with the ground or other object, the flexible nature of the arches comes into play and the panels regain their original shape. Unlike foam, the frame responds differently, to low, medium and high impact, the arches start to collapse after the initial impact. As the pressure builds the arches have the ability to compress more completely than dense foam, this allow for the energy to dissipate over a longer period, which reduces the impact force.

In a preferred embodiment, the material of the frame is preferably of strong yet flexible construction, preferably of fiber-reinforced composites or thermoplastics or the like. These materials would provide for the frame to be rigid or semi-rigid and have a cross-sectional thickness selected to provide the desired degree of impact protection FIG. 09. The panels are preferably single-layered, having one layer of approximately but not limited to one-eighth of one inch of density FIG. 09.

In a preferred embodiment, this frame is to be made continuous and unbroken with the exception of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10. Also, in a preferred embodiment, the frame is to be symmetrical from all sides.

In FIGS. 02 and 05, there is shown, respectively, a side elevational view of a frame which comprises the aforementioned panels which extend about the skull. In this view, a curved and arched mid-segment panel 9 extends from the front Base region of the skull where it is connected to a vertical frontal panel 4, continues around the Temporal and Occipital regions of the skull in a semi-circular manner where it connects again to the opposite vertical frontal panel 4. It is also evident from this view that the vertical cross-panel 8 which connects to the mid-segment panel 9 at approximately the mid section and extends in an arched manner over and above the Temporal and Parietal regions of the skull where it meets and crosses the arched top panels 7.

Also in FIGS. 02 and 05, there is shown, respectively, a side elevational view of the horizontal base panel 3, a side cross-sectional thickness view of the vertical base panels 4 and a side cross-sectional thickness view of the vertical rear panels 6. The arched nature of these panels would allow for adequate compression and expansion during a frontal and or rear impact. Additionally, in case of a severe frontal or rear impact event, any additional forces on the these areas of the skull would then be redirected towards the mid-segment panel 9, thus redirecting them from the skull and absorbing a substantial amount of kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain.

Also in FIGS. 02 and 05, there is shown, respectively, a side elevational view of the horizontal front panel 2 and a side elevational view of the horizontal rear panel 5. Respectively, in case of a severe frontal or rear impact event on the Frontal and Occipital areas of the skull, any additional stresses on these areas would then be redirected towards the arched top panels 7. The cohesive nature of these panels acts to gradually dissipate the energy of the impact force without translating the energy to the wearer's skull and more importantly the brain.

Also in FIGS. 02 and 05, there is shown, respectively, a side cross-sectional thickness view of a plurality of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10. These panels are of equal width yet of smaller size in comparison to the main panels of the frame 1. These inner panels are also at approximately but not limited to equal degrees of curvature in comparison to the main part of the frame 1. These panels would act as an integral part in impact absorption. In the event of a frontal, side or rear impact where the skull is thrust onto the inner wall of the helmet shell 16, these inner opposite-facing arched panels 10 would compress and expand, thus re-directing force vectors towards the main part of the frame 1, which in turn would serve to reduce concentrated loads by dampening forces, not transferring them across the cranium and by re-directing force vectors across the skull, not through it.

In FIG. 08, there is shown, respectively, a perspective view of an inner opposite-facing arched panel 10 coupled onto the frame 1. In this particular preferred embodiment, the ends of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10 are attached by way of tight fitting clamps 17. In another preferred embodiment these panels may be coupled by any other suitable means of attachment that would provide a firm hold yet allow the arches the freedom of movement to compress and expand.

In FIGS. 01 and 03, there is shown, respectively, a front elevational view of the vertical base panels 4, a front elevational view of the horizontal base panel 4, a front elevational view of the horizontal front panel 2, a partial front elevational view of the arched top panels 7, and a side cross-sectional thickness view of the vertical cross-panel 8. Also evident from this perspective is a side cross-sectional thickness view of a plurality of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10, the arched nature of all these panels would allow for adequate compression and expansion during a frontal impact event. Additionally, in case of a severe frontal impact on the frontal or base areas of the skull, any additional forces on the these areas of the skull would then be redirected towards the mid-segment panel 9 and the arched top panels 7, thus redirecting them from the skull and absorbing a substantial amount of kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain. Also evident from this view is the approximate manner in which the vertical cross-panel 8 extends in a semi-circular arched manner over and above the Temporal and Parietal regions of the skull where it runs perpendicular to the arched top panels and connects to the mid-segment panel 9. Additionally, evident from this view is the spacing between each panel so as not to impede overall vision and to provide for ventilation.

In FIG. 04, there is shown, respectively, a rear elevational view of the vertical rear panels 6, a rear elevational view of the horizontal rear panel 5, a partial rear elevational view of the arched top panels 7, and a cross-sectional thickness view of the vertical cross-panel 8. The arched nature of all these panels would allow for adequate compression and expansion during a rear impact event. Additionally, in case of a severe rear impact on the occipital areas of the skull, any additional forces on the these areas of the skull would then be redirected towards the mid-segment panel 9 and the arched top panels 7, thus redirecting them from the skull and absorbing a substantial amount of kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain.

In FIG. 06, there is shown, respectively, a top plan view of the arched top panels 7 and a partial view of the vertical cross-panel 9 which runs perpendicular to the arched top panels 7.Also evident from this perspective is a side cross-sectional thickness view of a plurality of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10. In addition, the arched nature of the horizontal front panel 2 and the horizontal rear panel 5 along with a perspective of their approximate cross-sectional thickness can also be seen. The arched nature of all these panels would allow for adequate compression and expansion during an impact event. Additionally, in case of a severe impact on the parietal areas of the skull, any additional forces on the these areas of the skull would then be redirected towards the vertical cross-panel 8, thus redirecting them from the skull and absorbing a substantial amount of kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain.

In FIG. 07, there is shown, respectively, a bottom cross-sectional thickness view of the horizontal base panel 3 as well as the arched nature of the mid-segment 9 along with a perspective of its' cross-sectional thickness. Also evident from this perspective is a bottom plan view of the vertical base panels 4. The arched nature of all these panels would allow for adequate compression and expansion during an impact event. In case of a severe impact on the skull, this system would absorb a substantial amount of kinetic and/or potential energy at the time of the fall/impact, and transfer it along more controlled, less damaging vectors away from the head and brain.

In FIG. 01, there is shown, respectively, a front elevational view of a frame 1 surrounding a human form 15 and within an outline of a helmet shell 16. This view illustrates the relationship of the construction of the frame 1 to the anatomy of a human skull 15 and how the frame 1 protects all parts of the skull

In FIG. 02, there is shown, respectively, a side elevational view of a frame 1 surrounding a human form 15 and within an outline of a helmet shell 16. This view illustrates the relationship of the construction of the frame 1 to the anatomy of a human skull 15 and how the frame 1 protects all parts of the skull

In FIG. 09, there is shown, respectively, a detailed view of portions of elements on a larger scale the preferred embodiment of the multi-layered impact absorbing cushioning “structure.” This view illustrates the preferred arrangement of said structure, comprising a plurality levels and layers which extend over and about the skull. Also evident from this view is the preferred placement of the frame panels 1 &10 in accordance with said layered structure. The apparent difference in material composition and the impact absorbing nature of all these layers would allow for adequate compression and expansion during an impact event, further increasing the time of impact and further reducing the force of the impact.

Following the frame 1 is the next layer within the structure 12, such as a commercially available soft silicone gel material or the like FIG. 09, whose elasticity will allow for shock absorption, gently dispersing energy. This layer would encase the entirety of the inner and outer portions of the frame. These layers would encase the “frame” structure so as not to come in contact with the user's head or helmet. Accordingly, the inner and outer portions of the inner opposite-facing arched panels 10 would also be encased by this layer, with exclusion to any sections designated for ventilation and/or visibility.

If the impact force is higher than that can be handled by the preceding layers, the impact is then transferred to the next inner layer 11, which being another energy absorbing layer further increases the time of impact and further reduces the force of the impact. In a preferred embodiment these subsequent layers are comprised of several levels of impact absorbing polymer material 11. These layers consist of a cushioning, impact absorbing material of a commercially available polymer structure such as polystyrene or polypropylene or the like, which further absorbs the impact energy and reduces the generated shockwave and simultaneously lowers the deceleration rate of the user's head. This layer would also encase the entirety of the inside of the helmet shell 16 as well as the outer regions of the frame 1, with exclusion to any sections designated for ventilation and/or visibility FIG. 09.

The subsequent and last layer designated for contact with the head of a user may consist of a form fitting inner liner FIG. 09. In a preferred embodiment this layer may be made of a polymer material such as a commercially available foam material or the like 13, or a synthetic rubber polymer or the like 13. In a preferred embodiment, this layer may contain optional detachable pads made of the same polymer material of a soft durable foam or the like that can be strategically placed inside the helmet by the wearer to accommodate different head shapes and sizes.

Optional detachable inner liners 14 made of commercially available soft flexible cloth or the like may also be used to be worn under this last layer FIG. 09. Alternatively a fire-retardant material or the like for contact with the head of a user may be used.

In a preferred embodiment, the layers in the structure are bonded or held together by way of commercially available processes which may include but are not limited to applying commercially available adhesive compounds, fabric hook-and-loop fasteners and/or commercially available stitching processes.

When the impact force is no longer in effect, the walls, with the possible exception of the impact absorbing polymer material 11 regain their original shape.

In a preferred embodiment each layer has a different density than the other layers. In another embodiment of the invention as depicted in FIG. 09, layer 16 has the highest density to deflect impact forces and retain shape, while inner layer 12 has a lower density to absorb impact forces to minimize transmission of these forces through the helmet. Accordingly, layer 11 preferably has a lower density than the preceding layer. Finally the inner most layer 13 has the lowest density so that it is pliable enough to conform to a users head. The preferred layered segments may have a plurality of layers. Preferably, as explained above, but other density-layer arrangements, additions and/or omissions are also useful.

While in a preferred embodiment of the invention, the segments in layers 11 are made of polystyrene or polypropylene, the aforementioned may be used in conjunction with other polymers and plastics to form the segments of the present invention. In addition to polystyrene or polypropylene, the segments may be made from, without limitation, a polybutylene, a polyvinyl (including polyvinyl chloride), a polyester, a polycarbonate, a polyurethane, a polyamine, a polyacrylic, a polyamide, a polyurea, and any other suitable polymer.

In the foregoing specification, the invention has been described with reference to an illustrative embodiment thereof. However, it will be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention. The specification and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense. Therefore, it is the object of the appended claims to cover all such modifications and changes as come within the true spirit and scope of the invention.

Although the preferred embodiment may at certain points describe the system construction as preferably a motorsports safety system, the invention is not so limited. It is to be appreciated that the system construction of the present invention could be modified for almost any sports or non-sports application where a protective head covering could be required, including without restriction its use as a horseback riding helmet, construction helmet, football helmet, skateboard or snowboard helmet, a motorcycle or race car driver helmet, and the like.