Title:
DRINKING STRAW PUMP APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR USING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a disposable drinking straw pump apparatus and method for using the apparatus. The apparatus contains a manual pump device and two unidirectional valves, which enable the user to direct the flow of liquid through the apparatus and into the user's mouth by compressing and releasing the pump device. In addition to its functional value for those with orofacial disabilities, the drinking straw pump apparatus has entertainment value for those who prefer to manually pump liquid into their mouths, and also as a training tool in developing the muscles and dexterity involved with the suction creation process.



Inventors:
Hockemeier, Farrell (Richmond, MO, US)
Application Number:
12/578827
Publication Date:
04/15/2010
Filing Date:
10/14/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
239/33, 417/472
International Classes:
F04B43/00; A47G21/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BERTHEAUD, PETER JOHN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Boudwin Intellectual Property Law, LLC (Swedesboro, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A drinking straw pump apparatus comprising: a. a liquid-receiving section; b. a mouth-receiving section; c. a pump device, the pump device located between the liquid-receiving section and the mouth-receiving section; d. a first valve located between the liquid-receiving section and the pump device; and e. a second valve located between the pump device and the mouth-receiving section.

2. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is fabricated using a lightweight, durable, and pliable material, generally impermeable to liquids and solutions.

3. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 2, wherein the material is plastic.

4. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the liquid-receiving section comprises an elongated, cylindrical portion located most distally to a user's mouth and is capable of creating a vacuum-suction to facilitate the transfer of a liquid from within a liquid-containing vessel proximally from the liquid-containing vessel toward a user's mouth.

5. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pump device is designed to withdraw a liquid from a liquid-containing vessel into the pump device and then eject the liquid from the pump device into the mouth-receiving section.

6. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the pump device is generally spherical in shape and is capable of manual compression by a user.

7. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the mouth-receiving section comprises an elongated, cylindrical portion located proximally to a user's mouth and is capable of creating a vacuum-suction to facilitate the transfer of a liquid proximally from the pump device to the user's mouth.

8. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first valve comprises a one-way flow device capable of allowing a liquid to flow proximally from a liquid-containing vessel to the pump device.

9. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the first valve further comprises a cylindrical valve chamber housing a ball capable of moving between a lower first valve opening and a lower second valve opening.

10. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 9, wherein the lower first valve opening comprises an aperture capable of being sealed by the ball when the pump device is compressed creating positive pressure towards the lower first valve opening, thereby moving the ball distally and preventing liquid within the pump device to flow back into the liquid-containing vessel.

11. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 9, wherein the lower second valve opening is constructed to prevent blockage by the ball housed within the valve chamber when the pump device is released, thereby creating a negative pressure towards the pump device, which moves the ball proximally and allows liquid to be transported through the lower first valve opening, the valve chamber, and the lower second valve opening.

12. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second valve further comprises a second cylindrical valve chamber housing a ball capable of moving between an upper first valve opening and an upper second valve opening.

13. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, wherein the second valve further comprises a one-way flow device capable of allowing liquid to flow proximally from the pump device to a user's mouth.

14. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 12, wherein the upper first valve opening comprises an aperture capable of being sealed when the pump device is released creating negative pressure towards the pump device, thereby moving the ball distally, preventing liquid within the mouth-receiving section to flow back into the pump device.

15. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 12, wherein the upper second valve opening is constructed to prevent blockage by the ball housed within the second valve chamber when the pump device is compressed, which creates positive pressure toward the upper second valve opening, and allows liquid to be transported through the upper first valve opening, the second valve chamber, and the upper second valve opening.

16. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a lower intermediate straw section located between the first valve and the pump device, allowing for a larger volume of liquid to be stored between the first valve and the second valve.

17. The drinking straw pump apparatus of claim 1, further comprising an upper intermediate straw section located between the pump device and the second valve, allowing for a larger volume of liquid to be stored between the first valve and the second valve.

18. A method for transferring liquid from a liquid-containing vessel to a user's mouth without the need for suction using a drinking straw pump apparatus, the method comprising: a. placing a liquid-receiving end of the drinking straw pump apparatus into a liquid-containing vessel; b. compressing a pump device located on the body of the drinking straw pump apparatus; c. releasing the pump device; and d. repeating the compression and the release as needed to deliver an adequate amount of liquid to the user's mouth.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the drinking straw pump apparatus further comprises two one-way flow valves located distally and proximally to the pump device, which prevent liquid from flowing out of the pump device into the liquid-containing vessel.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/105,299 filed on Oct. 14, 2008, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF INVENTION

The invention relates to a novel drinking straw pump apparatus and method for using the apparatus that utilizes a manual pump to transport liquid from a vessel to the user's mouth. In particular, the drinking straw pump apparatus contains a pump device and at least two valves, on opposite ends of the apparatus. The valves effectively prevent the liquid from flowing back into the vessel and keep the liquid flowing towards the user's mouth upon compression and release of the pump device by the user.

BACKGROUND

With the rising demographics of the elderly population within the United States, a great deal of time and resources are being spent on the care of this patient population. The need for such care may arise out of many potential causes, but one issue involves patients with orofacial problems such as dysphagia, whether inherited or due to a secondary cause, such as a stroke. These patients tend to have difficulty performing even the simplest of tasks, such as drinking liquids from a cup or similar apparatus or controlling the suction of a liquid through a straw.

The basic straw device used for generations consists of a cylindrically shaped tube, typically made of plastic or the like, which facilitates fluid consumption by means of the vacuum created when the user initiates the suction process on the mouth receiving end. Fluid consumption assistance devices are well known in the art and range from variations on the basic straw design to more complex systems incorporating an automated fluid delivering mechanism. Some straw designs are strictly utilitarian, while others provide an entertainment value in addition to their practical use. However, no previous straw design discloses an easy to use, disposable fluid consumption option that the user can easily transport wherever he or she may go, and does not require suction from the users mouth or creation of a vacuum to facilitate use.

Fluid consumption assistance, as well as methods to facilitate such consumption, are well known in the art. Prior inventions have disclosed a variety of devices to assist the user in consuming the liquid, including both manual (non-electric, as in powered by the user) and electric devices. One such electric device is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,878,954 granted to Lyons, which teaches a switch-activated device that provides fluids through the pumping of a motor, in set intervals. Given the demands of a power source, this device is not practical for users who are typically outside of their home, or traveling to destinations where an applicable power source is not readily available.

Furthermore, manual devices for fluid consumption assistance are known in the art. U.S. Pat. No. 7,189,134 issued to Nugent et al. discloses a beverage bottle top that can utilize a vertical pumping action to move fluid from the bottle through the device. However, the disclosed invention requires that the bottle top be placed or secured on the top of the bottle, so that the top may rest securely and provide resistance for the pump to be moved descendingly, initiating fluid removal from the bottle through the device. This limitation may be undesirable for users if they do not want to carry around the device-compatible bottle all of the time. Rather, a device that can be used on all fluid-containing vessels is more desirable. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,282,557 granted to McCook, discloses a harness support bag worn by the user, which can be filled with fluid and which may be delivered to the user's mouth via the use of a squeeze bulb. This invention is also very cumbersome, as it requires that the apparatus be worn by the user, and would also require the user to fill the harness support bag with any fluids desired to be consumed, which also could be undesirable.

Although the art has many examples of drinking straw devices, most are designed for the entertainment of the user, and none adequately address the specific needs of users who suffer from orofacial disabilities such as dysphagia. Thus, there is a long-felt but unmet need for a drinking straw pump apparatus that is disposable, can be completely powered by the efforts of the consumer or other individual, is easily transportable, and can be adapted to all liquid-containing vessels. Such a device would allow the user to carry the apparatus with him or her at all times, and to lead a less restrictive, more versatile lifestyle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the invention to provide a disposable, user-powered (manual powered), easily transportable, and adaptable drinking straw pump apparatus to provide consumers suffering from orofacial problems, which prevent the user from being able to drink normally from a drinking vessel or from a straw, with the ability to drink from a straw without any required mouth suction.

A further object of the invention is to provide entertainment to the user by allowing him or her to consume a liquid by means of manually pumping the liquid from the liquid-containing vessel to the user's mouth.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a means by which a user may be able to take advantage of the set quantity of liquid housed within the upper chamber of the drinking straw pump apparatus, and delivered to the user's mouth in segmented quantities. Such an advantage is apparent in helping the user such as a child, or individual recovering from an injury, to learn how to develop the mouth suction process or to rehabilitate the user's mouth suction muscles and routine, and to prevent the user from receiving too much or too little liquid.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The patent or application file contains at least one drawing executed in color. Copies of this patent or patent application publication with color drawing(s) will be provided by the Office upon request and payment of the necessary fee.

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic view of the drinking straw pump apparatus.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the valve member.

FIG. 3 is a diagrammatic view of other embodiment of the drinking straw pump apparatus.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a drinking straw pump apparatus 10 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, and a method for using the apparatus 10.

The drinking straw pump apparatus 10 is fabricated using a lightweight, durable, and pliable material, which is most preferably polypropylene plastic, but can be any other material known in the industry that is generally impermeable to liquids and solutions.

The apparatus is comprised of a liquid-receiving section 12 that is placed into a liquid and a mouth-receiving section 14 that is placed into the mouth of a user. Both the liquid-receiving section 12 and the mouth-receiving section 14 are comprised of an elongated cylindrical portion that is hollow and facilitates the unobstructed passage of liquid or a solution through.

The apparatus 10 is further comprised of a pump device 16, which is located between the liquid-receiving section 12 and the mouth-receiving section 14. In one embodiment, the pump device is located in the center of the apparatus 10, at an equal distance between the liquid-receiving section 12 and the mouth-receiving section 14. Alternative embodiments of the present invention may include the pump device located at any point between the liquid-receiving section and the mouth-receiving section. The purpose of the pump device is to withdraw liquid from a vessel, up through the liquid-receiving section 12, and into the pump device when manually compressed and released by a user. And upon subsequent compression by the user, the liquid is ejected from the pump device 16 and flows into the mouth-receiving section 14, at which point the liquid is deposited into the user's mouth. Upon repeated compressions of the pump device, liquid is continually withdrawn from the vessel and ejected into the user's mouth. The liquid is solely transferred by the action of the pump device. In one embodiment, and as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3 the pump device 16 is a spherical squeeze bulb, but alternative embodiments may include a pump device in other shapes and sizes that can easily be manually compressed by a user. The pump device 16 is further comprised of a lightweight, durable, and pliable material, which is most preferably polypropylene plastic, but can be any other material that is generally impermeable to liquids and solutions and is capable of being compressed by a user. The pump device 16 is hollow and is comprised of a first opening 18 and a second opening 20. The first opening 18 connects the pump device 16 to the liquid-receiving section 12 and the second opening 20 connects the pump device 16 to the mouth-receiving section 14.

The apparatus 10 is further comprised of a first valve 22 located between the liquid-receiving section 12 and the pump device 16 and a second valve 24 located between the pump device 16 and the mouth-receiving section 14. A one embodiment of the valves 22, 24 is illustrated in FIG. 2. The first valve 22 comprises a one-way flow device capable of allowing a liquid to flow proximally from a vessel to the pump device 16. The second valve 24 comprises a one-way flow device capable of allowing a liquid to flow proximally from the pump device 16 to the mouth-receiving section 14 and into a user's mouth. The first valve 22 contains a lower first valve opening 21 and a lower second valve opening 23. The first valve 22 is connected to the drinking straw pump apparatus 10 by inserting the end of the liquid-receiving section 12 distal from the vessel into the lower first valve opening 21. In an alternative embodiment, any valve 50, FIG. 3, used in the industry that controls flow of liquids can be used with the apparatus 10.

In a one embodiment of the claimed invention, a lower intermediate straw 29 is inserted at one end 35 into the lower second valve opening 23 and at the other end 17 into the first opening of the pump device 16. The second valve 24 is attached to the apparatus 10 by inserting the end of the mouth-receiving section 14 distal from the user's mouth into the upper second valve opening 27. Additionally, in one embodiment, an upper intermediate straw 30 is inserted at one end 31 into the upper first valve opening 25 and at the other end 19 into the second opening 20 of the pump device 16. The use of the intermediate straws 29, 30 enable the apparatus to hold larger volumes of liquid. Alternative embodiments of the claimed invention do not require the intermediate straws or can include any number of intermediate straws, extending or decreasing the length of the apparatus. In addition, FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of the present invention as being composed of individual elongated cylindrical portions that are attached together by any means known in the industry at the valves 22, 24 and at the pump device 16 to form the straw pump apparatus. Alternative embodiments, FIG. 3, of the present invention may be constructed such that the valves and the pump device are built directly into the elongated cylindrical portions, rather than pieced together, thereby making the apparatus a single piece of material having the same features as described herein.

In one embodiment, each valve 22, 24 is comprised of a cylindrical valve chamber 26 in which a small ball 28 is contained. The balls 28 are of a sufficient size to seal and unseal both first valve openings 21, 25 depending on whether the pump device 16 is compressed or released by the user. Additional embodiments, FIG. 3, may contain any other shape or size of material in place of the balls to perform the same valve sealing function including moveable flaps, or any type of valve used in the industry. When the pump device 16 is compressed by the user, a pressure is created towards both first valve openings 21, 25, which moves each ball 28 in the valves 22, 24 away from the pump device 16. This seals the bottom valve 22, while opening the upper valve 24. The compression and release of the pump device 16 causes the liquid within the pump device 16 to flow into the vessel, (in the liquid-receiving section 12 of the apparatus 10) then into the pump device 16 (in the mouth-receiving section 14 of the apparatus 10), and ultimately into the mouth of the user. When the pump device 16 is released by the user following a compression, a negative pressure is created towards both second valve openings 23, 27, which moves each ball 28 in the chambers 26 towards the pump device 16 allowing liquid to be transported through the chambers 26 towards the pump device 16 (at the liquid-receiving section 12 of the apparatus 10) and seals the upper valve 24. The flow of liquid through the apparatus is depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7. In a preferred embodiment of the claimed invention, the end 35 of the liquid-receiving section 12 distal from the vessel and the end 33 of the mouth-receiving section 14 distal from the user's mouth are constructed to prevent blockage by the ball 28 housed within each valve chamber 26 when the pump device 16 is released from compression.

The method for using the apparatus is also disclosed. This method generally includes placing the liquid-receiving section 12 of the apparatus 10 into a liquid-containing vessel and the mouth-receiving section 14 of the apparatus 10 into a user's mouth. The user then manually compresses the pump device 16 to activate the flow of liquid from the vessel and into his or her mouth. With each compression and release of the pump device 16, pressure is created and released within the pump device 16 and the valves 22, 24. This pressure within the apparatus alleviates the need for the user to utilize the traditional mouth suction method for drinking through a straw, which either may not be possible for example, if a user has orofacial problems such as dysphagia, a child who has not developed the muscle control, or it can simply be a fun and different way for a user to drink through a straw. The valves 22, 24 assist by regulating the unidirectional flow of the liquid whereby the balls 28 contained in each valve chamber 26 prevent the backflow of liquid through the apparatus 10. When the pump device is compressed, the resulting pressure closes the first valve 22 and forces the contents of the valve chamber 26 to exit through the second valve 24. When the pump device 16 is released, a vacuum is created which forces the second valve 24 to close and the first valve 22 to open whereby liquid is suctioned up through the apparatus. The opening and closing of the first and second valves 22, 24 regulates the flow of liquid through the apparatus and prevents any liquid in the apparatus from flowing back into the liquid-containing vessel. The pump device 16 can be compressed and released as many times as desired by the user.

One embodiment of the present invention describes using the apparatus as a drinking straw. Additional embodiments may utilize the apparatus for various other functions in commercial, residential, or industrial environments, for example, as a siphoning mechanism to transport liquid from one vessel to another or to drain water from a pool or pond.

Thus, there has been described a drinking straw pump apparatus and a method for using. It is apparent to those skilled in the art, however, that many changes, variations, modifications, other uses, and applications to the drinking straw pump apparatus and method for using are possible, and also such changes, variations, modifications, other uses, and applications which do not depart from the spirit and scope of the invention are deemed to be covered by the invention, which is limited only by the claims which follow.