Title:
Material Dispensing Device and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dispensing device having a wheel that is made up of a plurality of independent strips of a first material rolled end-to-end and concentrically around a central hub, wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are not connected; a housing that houses the wheel; and a dispensing opening through which the strips exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.



Inventors:
Alaimo, Greg (Bonita Springs, FL, US)
Alaimo, Jeffrey (St. Petersburg, FL, US)
Application Number:
12/233092
Publication Date:
03/18/2010
Filing Date:
09/18/2008
Assignee:
Acor Orthopaedic, Inc. (Cleveland, OH, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/894.2
International Classes:
B65H16/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
COLLINS, MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HAHN LOESER & PARKS, LLP (Cleveland, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A dispensing device comprising: a wheel that is made up of a plurality of independent strips of a first material rolled end-to-end and concentrically around a central hub, wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are not connected; a housing that houses the wheel; and a dispensing opening through which the strips exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

2. The dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are not connected but are substantially touching.

3. The dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the strips of material that are separated from one another in a direction radial to the central hub and are at least partially separated by a second material.

4. The dispensing device of claim 3, wherein the second material is a film.

5. The dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the strips of a first material are foam strips having a width ranging from about 4 to about 6 inches.

6. The dispensing device of claim 5, wherein the strips of material that are separated from one another in a direction radial to the central hub and are at least partially separated by a second material that is a plastic film.

7. The dispensing device of claim 1, wherein a plurality of end-to-end strip lengths creates a repeating strip-length pattern.

8. A method for making a dispensing device, the method comprising the steps: creating a sheet roll by rolling a plurality of sheets of a first material end-to-end and concentrically around a hub; creating a wheel by cutting the sheet roll along a plane that is substantially perpendicular to the sheet-roll longitudinal axis; enclosing the wheel in a housing that has a dispensing opening through which a strip can exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the plurality of sheets are joined together via butt welding.

10. The method of claim 8, wherein the rolled up sheets that are radially adjacent to one another relative to the sheet-roll hub, are at least partially separated by a second material.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the second material is a film.

12. A dispensing device comprising: a wheel that is made up of a plurality of independent strips of a first material rolled substantially end-to-end and concentrically around a central hub, wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are connected with cement, heat fusion, or both; a housing that houses the wheel; and a dispensing opening through which the strips exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

13. The dispensing device of claim 12, wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are not connected but are substantially touching.

14. The dispensing device of claim 12, wherein the strips of material that are separated from one another in a direction radial to the central hub and are at least partially separated by a second material.

15. The dispensing device of claim 14, wherein the second material is a plastic film.

16. The dispensing device of claim 12, wherein the strips of a first material are foam strips having a width ranging from about 4 to about 6 inches.

17. The dispensing device of claim 16, wherein the strips of material that are separated from one another in a direction radial to the central hub and are at least partially separated by a second material that is a plastic film.

18. The dispensing device of claim 12, wherein a plurality of end-to-end strip lengths creates a repeating strip-length pattern.

19. A dispensing device comprising: a wheel that is made up of a plurality of independent foam strips of a first material rolled end-to-end and concentrically around a central hub, the strips having a width ranging from about 4 to about 6 inches, the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips not connected but substantially touching, the strips of material being separated from one another in a direction radial to the central hub and at least partially separated by a second film material; a repeating strip-length pattern within the wheel that results from a plurality of end-to-end strip lengths; a housing that houses the wheel; and a dispensing opening through which the foam strips exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

Description:

BACKGROUND

It is well known to manufacture devices having utility in the orthotic prosthetic, podiatric, and pedorthic industry.

It is common for taw materials used in manufacturing these devices to be shipped in large continuous rolls, often times many feet in length. Because these rolls are relatively large, they are awkward to handle and often create unnecessary shipping expense due to weight and dimensional shipping charges.

During the manufacturing process, the manufacturer must either consume the entire roll of material in a single manufacturing operation, which is typically unlikely, or must devise a method to store the unused portion of the roll and any unused cut portions of the roll, which is often times both time consuming and inefficient. As a non-limiting example, because orthotic and prosthetic devices can be manufactured from different types of raw materials in different dimensions (e.g., thickness), a manufacturer may be using more than one roll of material at any given time. These multi-raw-material manufacturing processes compound the problem of storing and further dispensing of the unused portions of raw materials. Unfortunately, the large amounts of unused raw material, often times consisting of relatively large and bulky roles measuring many feet in length, results in either cluttered workspaces that can be dangerous, or the consumption of additional warehousing space that is expensive and undesirable.

Further, the unused portions of material that are no longer connected to the raw-material roll present their own unique storage and further dispensing challenges. More specifically, as portions of material are cut from the large continuous roll of material during the manufacturing process, not all of the cut material is consumed in the immediate manufacturing process, and must then be stored for future use or discarded as scrap. This too is inefficient and undesirable. Because of the relatively large number of different raw materials used to manufacture orthotic devices, storing and retrieving the smaller portions of material can be both time and space consuming and inefficient. For example, when a manufacturer requires a smaller portion of a particular material, the manufacturer must search through numerous pieces and types of materials to find the desired material in the desired size. The inefficiency associated with storing various unused cut portions of material results in increased manufacturing costs, which is undesirable.

Therefore a need exists in the art to improve these known manufacturing inefficiencies.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 3 is a side cross-sectional view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 4 is a perspective cross-sectional view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 5A is an end view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 5B is a front view of a dispensing device.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of rolled sheets that have been cut into a wheel.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments relate to a material dispensing device that provides a user with ready access to strips of material. In particular, embodiments are directed to a dispensing device that is useful for dispensing manufacturing materials that are useful in the orthotic prosthetic, podiatric, and pedorthic industry. The device is durable, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

A dispensing device has a wheel that is made up of a plurality of independent strips of a first material rolled end-to-end and concentrically around a central hub, wherein the strips preferably have substantially uniform dimensions, and wherein the end portions of end-to-end adjacent strips are not connected; a housing that creates an enclosure for the wheel; and a dispensing opening through which the strips exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

A method for dispensing material has the steps of creating a sheet roll by rolling a plurality of sheets of a first material end-to-end and concentrically around a hub; creating a wheel by cutting the sheet roll along a plane that is substantially perpendicular to the sheet-roll longitudinal axis; enclosing the wheel in a housing that has a dispensing opening through which a strip can exit the housing upon being unrolled from the wheel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A dispensing device and related methods are described below with reference to the Figures. Dispensing device 2 dispenses predefined lengths of material that may be referred to herein as strips 10. Strips 10 are dispensed from dispensing device 2 by being unrolled from the outer perimeter of wheel 16 and then dispensed from dispensing-device housing 22 via dispensing opening 8. Wheel 16 must effectively unwind in order to release and dispense strip 10 from its outer perimeter.

With reference to FIGS. 3 and 4, dispensing device 2 is made up of wheel 16 within housing 22. In an embodiment, wheel 16 is made up of a plurality of strips 10 that are rolled concentrically around hub 14 and are layered upon one another in directions that are radial to wheel 16's central hub 14. An embodiment provides for housing 22 having sidewalls 4, perimeter walls 6, dispensing-opening flap 12, and dispensing opening 8.

In an embodiment, dispensing device 2 dispenses strips 10 that are of a predefined length, width, and thickness. Because an embodiment provides for strips 10 being dispensed from dispensing device 2 in predefined lengths, a cutting device may not be needed in order to separate a first strip 10 from an end-to-end adjacent second strip 10. An embodiment provides for wheel 16 having regions 30 of adjacent end-to-end strips 10.

Embodiments provide for wheel 16 being made up of a plurality of strips 10 having substantially uniform lengths, widths, and thicknesses Other embodiments provide for wheel 16 being made up of strips 10 having substantially non-uniform lengths, widths, and thicknesses While considering the intended end uses of strips 10, persons of ordinary skill in the art will be able to determine useful dimensions for strip 10 without having to exercise undue experimentation. As a non-limiting example, in manufacturing foam shoe insoles, useful dimensions for strip 10 are 58 inches (length) by 4.5 inches (width) by 1/16 inches (thickness). In another embodiment, useful dimensions for strip 10 are 58 inches (length) by 4.5 inches (width) by ⅜ inches (thickness). Another embodiment provides for useful dimensions for strip 10 to be about 58 inches (length) by about 4.5 inches (width) by about 1/16 inches (thickness). Another embodiment provides for useful dimensions for strip 10 to be about 58 inches (length) by about 4.5 inches (width) by about ⅜ inches (thickness). In yet another embodiment, any useful width can be employed up to about 10 inches. An embodiment provides for strip 10 or strips 10 having a width that is less than or equal to the width of a full sheet of the subject raw material. An embodiment also provides for useful heights or thicknesses to range from about 1/16 inches to about ⅜ inches. Any combination of the above dimensions are useful.

Any known flexible material can be dispensed from dispensing device 2. None of the invention embodiments are limited by a specific material that can be dispensed from dispensing device 2. A non-limiting list of useful materials that can be dispensed from dispensing device 2 includes ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, polyurethane (PU) foam, polyethylene (PE) foam, and other foams known in the art. Additional non-limiting examples of useful materials include: vinyl, nylon, polypropylene fabric, polyolefin alloy, and bamboo impregnated fabric. Any of the inventive embodiments can be used in a manufacturing application that uses one or more strips of material during the manufacture of a particular product.

Strips 10 can be dispensed from dispensing device 2 either manually or using automation. In an embodiment, strips 10 can be dispensed manually from dispensing device 2 by pulling strip 10 from dispensing opening 8. Alternatively, manual turning of wheel 16 or central hub 14 can also result in strip 10 being dispensed through dispensing opening 8. In another embodiment, automation can be used to pull on strip 10, rotate wheel 16, rotate central hub 14, or combinations thereof and thereby dispense strip 10 from dispensing opening 8.

In an embodiment, central hub 14 is substantially cylindrical and embodiments provide for substantially solid or hollow central hub 14 configurations. Useful dimensions of central hub 14 can be determined by persons of ordinary skill in the art without having to exercise undue experimentation. As a non-limiting example, in those embodiments having a substantially cylindrical configuration, useful dimensions for central hub 14 include a longitudinal length of about 4 to about 6 inches. In another embodiment, central hub 14 has a longitudinal length that is substantially equal to the width of strip 10. An embodiment provides for hub 14 having a diameter of about 2 inches. Another embodiment provides for central hub 14 having a diameter ranging from about ½ inches to about 3 inches. In another embodiment provides for a central hub 14 having a diameter ranging from about ½ inches to about 6 inches. In those embodiments wherein central hub 14 is hollow, non-limiting examples of wall thickness of central hub 14 range from about an ⅛ inches to about ¼ inches.

An embodiment provides for hub 14 having a diameter of about 2 inches. Alternate embodiments provide for hub 14 having a diameter ranging from about 0.5 inches to 3 inches, depending on the material being wrapped.

An embodiment provides for wheel 16 to have a diameter ranging from 8 inches to 17.5 inches before any material is dispensed.

Any useful material can be used to manufacture central hub 14, and a non-limiting list of useful materials includes cardboard, wood, and plastic.

Although embodiments provide for housing 22 having a generally box-like shape, other substantially enclosed shapes can be used for housing 22. FIGS. 1 and 2 show embodiments of housing 22 having two sidewalls 4 and four perimeter walls 6. Methods for manufacturing boxes and box-like shapes are well-known in the art and any of these methods can be used to manufacture housing 22. Embodiments provide for housing 22 having enclosure dimensions that accommodate wheel 16. In an embodiment, the width of perimeter walls 6 is at least equal to the width of wheel 16. Furthermore, in an embodiment, the height and width of sidewalls 4 is at least equal to the diameter of wheel 16. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will be able to construct housing 22 with useful dimensions based upon the dimensions of wheel 16.

Sidewalls 4 and perimeter walls 6 can be manufactured from the non-limiting list of materials that include cardboard, plastic, wood, and glass.

With reference to FIGS. 1-5, dispensing opening 8 provides the exit through which strip 10 leaves dispensing device 2. Dispensing opening 8 can have any dimensions that allow for strip 10 to exit dispensing device 2. In a non-limiting embodiment, useful dimensions for dispensing opening 8 include a length of about 5.5 inches and a height of about 5 inches. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will be able to determine useful dimensions for dispensing opening 8 in light of the dimensions of strip 10 that will be dispensed from dispensing device 2.

In an embodiment, dispensing opening 8 is created by pressing dispensing-opening flap 12 into the interior of housing 22. Embodiments provide for dispensing-opening flap 12 being at least partially defined by perforations in a perimeter wall 6. The perforations allow for dispensing-opening flap 12 to be partially or completely torn away from the respective perimeter wall 6. Embodiments provide for flap 12 to be defined by perforations that create a U-shape in a perimeter wall 6.

Dispensing-opening flap 12 can have useful dimensions selected by persons of ordinary skill in the art. Embodiments provide for the width of dispensing-opening flap 12 to be substantially equal to the width of perimeter wall 6. Alternate embodiments provide for the width of dispensing-opening flap 12 to be less than the width of perimeter wall 6. Any height can be useful, and embodiments provide for dispensing-opening flap 12 to have a height that is about equal to its width. Other embodiments provide for dispensing-opening flap 12 to have a height that is greater than its width. Embodiments provide for removing dispensing-opening flap 12 from housing 22 in order to begin or during the dispensing of strips 10 from dispensing device 2.

Sheet roll 18 can be manufactured by rolling a plurality of sheets 26 of a first material end-to-end and concentrically around sheet-roll hub 24. Any known method for manufacturing sheet roll 18 can be used. As a non-limiting embodiment, sheets 26 of the first material can be rolled into a continuous sheet roll 18 using a second material 28 as a carrier. An embodiment provides for second material 28 to be a film, and another embodiment provides for second material 28 to be a plastic film. In an embodiment, sheet-roll hub 24 can be placed on a machine shaft and plastic wrap can then be wound the entire width of sheet-roll hub 24. One by one, separate sheets 26 awe rolled onto and held tightly against the sheet-roll hub 24 using second material 28. And when the appropriate amount of sheets 26 are finally wrapped onto the sheet-roll hub 24, second material 28 is then wound onto the perimeter of sheet roll 18 one or two more times in older to secure sheets 26.

In another embodiment, sheet roll 18 can be manufactured by using a butt-welding process. In an embodiment, “butt welding” can be understood as describing a process that can involve heating the ends of two separate sheets and fusing them together; the fused sheets then form one continuous sheet. Using this general method, the end portions of full sheets 26 are first joined together using cement, heat fusion, or both. Then, the cemented or heat-fused sheets 26 are rolled up around a sheet-roll hub 24 and finally secured with second material 28 on the outer perimeter of sheet roll 18.

In an embodiment, a plurality of wheels 16 are cut from sheet roll 18 using a vertical roll slitting machine. Sheet roll 18 can be cut into individual wheels 16 of any useful width. In an embodiment, sheet roll 18 is cut into individual wheels 16 having widths of about 4.5 inches. Relatively wider or narrower wheel 16 widths can be produced as needed. Regions 30 of adjacent end-to-end strips 10 can include butt-welded or non-butt-welded adjacent-strip end portions.

Although terms have been used above for brevity, clearness, and understanding, no additional limitations should be implied to the embodiments. Because the above terms were used for descriptive purposes, they are intended to be broadly construed. Moreover, the embodiments are by way of example, and the scope of the invention is not limited to the exact details of the described embodiments. Any of the above embodiment-specific limitations can be used in combination with any other disclosed embodiment.