Title:
RESERVOIRS WITH SHAPED, CONNECTED, AND HINGED SPOUTS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed flexible fluid reservoirs include a front sheet and a rear sheet that are sealed around their mutual perimeters to form a bladder, and include at least one fluid port in an upper portion of the front sheet. The reservoirs can include rigid structural portions in combination with flexible bladder wall portions to provide increased stiffness in desired portions of the reservoirs. Some disclosed reservoirs include a rigid spout portion that is coupled to the front bladder wall and forms the upper fluid port. Such rigid spout portions can provide a gripping portion to hold and manipulate the reservoir, can provide an enlarged surface area that connects to the bladder wall to distribute forces applied between the bladder and the spout portion, can provide a desired size, shape and orientation of the port, can help counteract torque applied while twisting the cap, and/or can help shape and flatten the bladder.



Inventors:
Smith, Robert (Bend, OR, US)
Hoskins, Matthew (Bend, OR, US)
Application Number:
15/344334
Publication Date:
05/11/2017
Filing Date:
11/04/2016
Assignee:
TSI Manufacturing, LLC (Bend, OR, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45F3/20; B65D33/02; B65D33/06; B65D47/06
View Patent Images:
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20140307986CHIPZIPOctober, 2014Hudspeth
20030202718Resealable package having slider device; and methodsOctober, 2003Tomic
20160167833SOFT FOLDABLE CASEJune, 2016De Cordova
20050238262Recloseable bag and method of productionOctober, 2005Jenkins
20080193060Flexible Container Designed to Contain Food Products and Process for Manufacturing the Said Flexible ContainerAugust, 2008Paradiso
20130202223BIODEGRADABLE RESIN AND METHOD FOR MANUFACTURING SAMEAugust, 2013Kang et al.
20040139704Apparatus and method for aseptically filling a containerJuly, 2004Savage



Primary Examiner:
CHU, KING M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KLARQUIST SPARKMAN, LLP (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
1. A fluid reservoir comprising: a flexible bladder including a front sheet and a rear sheet sealed together around their perimeters; a rigid front body coupled to the front sheet, the rigid front body defining a fill port that provides access into the flexible bladder through the front sheet; a rigid rear body coupled to the rear sheet; and a connector that that extends around an edge of the flexible bladder and couples the rigid front body to the rigid rear body.

2. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, wherein the connector is rigid and maintains a spacing between the rigid front body and the rigid rear body.

3. The fluid reservoir of claim 2, wherein the front body, the rear body, and the connector cooperate to hold the front sheet apart from the rear sheet when no fluid is contained in the flexible bladder.

4. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, wherein the connector is detachable from the front body and the from the rear body, such that the flexible bladder can collapse when empty.

5. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, wherein the connector comprises a hinge that allows the rigid front body and the rigid rear body to pivot relative to each other.

6. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, wherein the rigid front body is shaped such that the fill port is tilted upwardly toward the connector.

7. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, wherein the rigid front body also defines a raised handle portion adjacent to the fill port that allows a user to grip the rigid front body and manipulate the fluid reservoir.

8. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, further comprising a cap that couples to and decouples from the fill port to selectively close and open the fill port.

9. The fluid reservoir of claim 1, further comprising a fluid exit port coupled to the flexible bladder separate from the fill port.

10. A fluid reservoir comprising: a flexible bladder including a front sheet and a rear sheet sealed together around their perimeters; a rigid front body coupled to the front sheet, the rigid front body defining a fill port that provides access into the flexible bladder through the front sheet; a cap that couples to and decouples from the fill port to selectively close and open the fill port; and a fluid exit port coupled to the flexible bladder separate from the rigid front body; wherein the rigid front body comprises a main portion that includes the fill port and the rigid front body further comprises one or more hinged portions that are hingedly coupled to the main portion.

11. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions comprise two or more hinged portions that are positioned on opposing sides of the main portion.

12. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions fold relative to the main portion toward the rear sheet.

13. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions form gripping locations at one or more sides of the main portion.

14. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions are coupled to the main portion via one or more curved hinges.

15. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions comprise two hinged portions that are coupled to the main portion via two hinges that are positioned on opposite sides of the fill port and are not parallel with each other.

16. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions comprise four hinged portions that are coupled to four sides of the main portion.

17. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the one or more hinged portions are resiliently biased toward a flexed position in which the one or more hinged portions are folded relative to the main portion toward the rear sheet and inhibit the flexible bladder from collapsing when empty.

18. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the main portion of the rigid front body includes one or more apertures separate from the fill port, the one or more apertures providing finger gripping locations in the rigid front body.

19. The fluid reservoir of claim 10, wherein the main portion comprises an upper main portion that includes the fill port, and the one or more hinged portions comprise a lower main body that includes or is rigidly coupled to the fluid exit port.

20. The fluid reservoir of claim 19, wherein the one or more hinged portions further comprises two upper lateral hinged portions hingedly coupled to lateral sides of the upper main portion and two lower lateral hinged portions hingedly couple to lateral sides of the lower main portion; wherein the upper lateral hinged portions can be attached to the lower lateral hinged portions via releasable fasteners to hold the rigid front body in a flexed, three-dimensional shape that inhibits the flexible bladder from collapsing when empty; and wherein the rigid front body has a flat configuration when the releasable fasteners are not engaged.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application 62/252,100, filed Nov. 6, 2015, and U.S. Provisional Application 62/258,818, filed Nov. 23, 2015, both of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

Wearable personal hydration systems are used by athletes, recreationalists, workers, military personnel, and others, to provide convenient access to fluid while in action. For activities requiring more than a liter of fluid, for example, a soft-sided fluid reservoir carried in a backpack or waistpack is often used. Hydration systems such as this can consist of a pack and a soft-sided reservoir paired with a flexible drink tube ending in a closable mouthpiece. Fluid capacities for pack-mounted reservoirs typically range from 1 to 3 liters. They feature a sealable fill port and an exit port at the base of the reservoir which connects to the drink tube. Fill and exit ports can be integrated into the edge of the soft-sided reservoir or more commonly, sealably attached to the reservoir's flat top surface. The drink tube ends in a mouthpiece which can be activated by the user to initiate fluid flow.

Pack-mounted bladders can have a number of strengths in regards to providing fluid access for longer-term physical activity. The reservoirs can be light in weight, yet durable. With their soft sides they can be relatively comfortable to wear and they have the added benefit of collapsing flat when they are empty. Their collapsibility also helps minimize fluid sloshing. The mouthpiece can be tethered to the chest area for easy access and drinking can be largely hands-free.

While the collapsibility of soft sided reservoirs provides convenience and lightweight, their shape when full and their ease of cleaning are problematic. A typical flat reservoir will take a cylindrical shape when filled with fluid, making it uncomfortable to carry next to the user's body. When empty of fluid, the reservoir returns to its totally flat shape, trapping residual liquid between the front and back sheets. Accordingly, it would be advantageous to have a hydration reservoir featuring the benefits of collapsibility, comfort, and lightness while providing body and/or carrying pack conforming shapes and the capability to air dry the interior of the bladder without the bladder walls collapsing into each other.

SUMMARY

Disclosed flexible fluid reservoirs include a front sheet and a rear sheet that are sealed around their mutual perimeters to form a bladder, and include at least one fluid port in an upper portion of the front sheet. The reservoirs can include rigid structural portions in combination with flexible bladder wall portions to provide increased stiffness in desired portions of the reservoirs. Some disclosed reservoirs include a rigid spout portion that is coupled to the front bladder wall and forms the upper fluid port. Such rigid spout portions can provide a gripping portion to hold and manipulate the reservoir, can provide an enlarged surface area that connects to the bladder wall to distribute forces applied between the bladder and the spout portion, can provide a desired size, shape and orientation of the port, can help counteract torque applied while twisting the cap, and/or can help shape and flatten the bladder.

Some embodiments comprise a soft-walled bladder having thin-walled polymeric sheets where the sheets have been molded or heat formed, or otherwise formed, to create a desired 3D structure. The bladder can include a front bladder sheet and rear bladder sheet that are sealed together around their perimeter where either the front bladder sheet or the rear bladder sheet, or both, are formed in a shaped, non-planar, configuration. The sheets can exhibit sufficient strength and form such that when the reservoir holds a certain shape, close to it, when containing air and/or fluid, yet the sheets are still flexible enough such that the reservoir can generally collapse under vacuum as fluid is drawn from it. The disclosed shaped reservoir can include a means for filling and cleaning the reservoir, such as any one or more of various fill ports on the front sheet, rear sheet, and/or in the top or side seam of the bladder. Disclosed shaped reservoirs can include at least one exit port for drawing fluid from the reservoir. The exit port(s) can be fluidly connected to a dispensing valve or drink tube with dispensing valve.

The shaped sheet or sheets can have varying thicknesses to provide a pre-determined amount of structure. For some embodiments, the structure can take a shape that provides the reservoir with a body conforming profile on the back side and a second profile optimizing the fluid distribution and pack compatibility on the front side. Additionally, the formed bladder sheets can be formed with creases that guide the reservoir to collapse in a predictable fashion.

The reservoir sheets can be shaped via any of a variety of methods. These include: extruding, molding, heat-forming, vacuum/heat forming, and/or welding.

The shaped reservoir may include additional structural elements that further facilitate the ability of the reservoir to take and maintain a certain shape when full and collapse efficiently as it is drained. In some embodiments these structural elements are comprised of ribs, plates, or other pieces that are attached to the reservoir and formed such that they provide additional strength and/or reservoir collapsibility. Alternatively the structural elements can comprise sealed channels integrated with the reservoir sides that can be pressurized to shape the reservoir. These structural elements can exist separately from the reservoir and be attachable to the reservoir, or can be integrated into other reservoir components, such as a reservoir handle, baffle, column strength support member, exit port, hang loop, fill port, and/or fill port closure.

The shaped reservoir may include bladder sheets that are formed and/or comprise multiple panels of sheets of various 2D shapes that are fluidly sealed together such that when full, the bladder takes certain shape. These panels can be made of plastic sheets of varying thicknesses, flexibility, and surface parameters to provide a desired effect upon reservoir filling, carrying, collapsibility, and reservoir maintenance. Other suitable materials can also be used.

In some embodiments, the shaped bladder comprises a collapsible reservoir whose perimeter is shaped to fit comfortably on the user's back and in a backpack. The profile of the back sheet for these embodiments is curved to generally match a human's back, while the front sheet can feature a pre-formed generally convex shape. Such embodiments can include a fill and exit port, drink tube, and/or dispensing valve. A handle or handles to facilitate reservoir filling, pack loading/unloading, and/or reservoir drying can also be included.

In some embodiments, the front and back sheets would be formed via a vacuum heat forming process where the plastic sheets are heated and vacuum formed over a pattern. The sheets' gauge and properties can be selected such that the material strength and thickness is not compromised when the sheets are drawn over the pattern. The form sheets can be die-cut, for example, or otherwise formed, to leave a weldable strip around the reservoir perimeter. The ports, handles, and other bladder features may be attached to the front and/or back sheets pre- or post-thermoforming.

The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the disclosed technology will become more apparent from the following detailed description, which proceeds with reference to the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is front view of an exemplary fluid reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 3 and 4 are perspective views of a rigid spout portion of the reservoir of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a front view of another exemplary fluid reservoir.

FIG. 6 is a rear view of the reservoir of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 is a front view of a portion of another exemplary fluid reservoir.

FIG. 9 is a rear view of the reservoir of FIG. 8.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a rigid connector of the reservoir of FIG. 1.

FIG. 11 is a front view of the reservoir of FIG. 8 including the connector.

FIG. 12 is a rear view of the reservoir of FIG. 8 including the connector.

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view of the reservoir FIG. 8 including the connector.

FIG. 14 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 15 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 14.

FIGS. 16 and 17 are perspective views of rigid portions of the reservoir of FIG. 14.

FIG. 18 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 19 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 18.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of a rigid portion of the reservoir of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 22 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 21.

FIGS. 23 and 24 are perspective views of a spout portion of the reservoir of FIG. 22.

FIG. 25 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 26 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 25.

FIGS. 27 and 28 are perspective views of a spout portion of the reservoir of FIG. 26.

FIG. 29 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 30 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 29.

FIG. 31 is a perspective view of a rigid spout portion of the reservoir of FIG. 29.

FIG. 32 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 33 is a front view the reservoir of FIG. 32 in a shaped configuration.

FIG. 34 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 33.

FIG. 35 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with drink tube.

FIG. 36 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 25.

FIG. 37 is a front view of another exemplary reservoir with a rigid support member.

FIG. 38 is a side view of the reservoir of FIG. 37.

FIG. 39 is a rear view of the reservoir of FIG. 37.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Disclosed herein are embodiments of flexible fluid reservoirs that include a front sheet and a rear sheet that are sealed around their mutual perimeters to form a bladder. The disclosed reservoirs include at least one fluid port in an upper portion of the front sheet and at least one fluid port in a lower portion of the reservoir. The upper fluid port can be relatively larger than the lower port and can be used to fill the reservoir with fluid and/or solids (e.g., ice), dispense the contents from the reservoir, and to clean the reservoir by inserting objects into the reservoir. The lower port can be used as an exit port, such as by coupling the exit port to a tube and/or outlet valve.

While the front and rear walls of a bladder-type reservoir are normally flexible to allow the bladder to expand and contract as the fluid volume changes, the reservoirs disclosed herein can include rigid structural portions in combination with flexible bladder wall portions to provide increased stiffness in desired portions of the reservoirs. Some disclosed reservoirs include a rigid spout portion that is coupled to the front bladder wall and forms the upper fluid port. The spouts disclosed herein can also include a removable and resalable cap, such as a threaded screw-type cap, to open and close the upper fluid port. Such rigid spout portions can provide a gripping portion to hold and manipulate the reservoir, can provide an enlarged surface area that connects to the bladder wall to distribute forces applied between the bladder and the spout portion, can provide a desired size, shape and orientation of the fluid port, can help counteract torque applied while twisting the cap, and/or can help shape and flatten the bladder.

Some disclosed embodiments include a rigid spout portion forming the upper fluid port and also include a rigid back plate coupled to and/or forming the rear wall of the bladder. The back plate can provide overall rigidity to the reservoir and can define a specific shape or curvature of the bladder. The back plate can also be coupled to the spout portion with a connector that extends around the top of the bladder. In some embodiments, the connector can form a graspable loop at the top end of the reservoir. In some embodiments, the connector can maintain the spout portion and the back plate at a desired spacing apart from each other, such as to hold the front and rear walls of the bladder apart for easier filling, cleaning, and drying. The connector can also provide a grasping location for counter torque applied to the cap. The connector can be rigid or flexible, and can be a separate component or an integral element of one or both of the spout portion and the back plate. For example, the spout portion, the connector, and the back plate can be parts of one continuous rigid body, or the connector can be a separate piece that attached to the spout and back plate. In some embodiments, the connector can include or form a hinge that allows the back plate and the spout portion to pivot relative to each other.

In some embodiments, the spout portion can include hinges or flexible zones to help shape the bladder, to allow increased flexibility of the bladder, and/or to provide grasping means. In some embodiments, the spout portion can include pre-set hinge stop angles configured to control the bladder shape. In some embodiments, the hinges may be biased so that the bladder naturally takes a three-dimensional shape for drying when empty.

FIG. 1 is a front view and FIG. 2 is a side view of an exemplary reservoir 10 comprising a bladder 12 having a front sheet 14 and a rear sheet 16, a rigid spout portion 20 with a cap 22, and a lower fluid exit port 24. FIGS. 3 and 4 show the spout portion 20 in isolation with the cap 22 spaced from the fluid port 24. The spout 22 can include a raised gripping portion 26 that extends from the port 24 and provides a place to grip the reservoir with your hand to open and close the cap 22 or to otherwise manipulate the bladder. The spout 22 also includes a generally flat base 28 that can extend partially or all the way around the port 24 and gripping portion 26. The base 28 can be coupled to the front wall 14 of the bladder, such as via welding or adhesive. As shown in FIG. 2, the spout 20 is shaped to orient the port 24 and cap 22 angled upwardly (e.g., about 20° from horizontal) as well as outwardly away from the front of the bladder. The angled orientation can help when filling the bladder, for example while the reservoir is inside a pack. The base 28 can have any shape and dimensions and can help define the shape of the bladder. The base 28 can be arched or curved impart an arched or curved shape to the bladder, or the base can be flat. The exit port 24 can be coupled to a tube 30 and an outlet valve 32, such as a bite-valve that can be operated by biting on the valve.

FIGS. 5-7 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 40 that is similar to the reservoir 10. The reservoir 40 includes a flexible bladder 42, a rigid spout portion 44 having a raised gripping portion 46, an upwardly angled (e.g., about 20° from horizontal) upper port with a removable cap 48, a tether 50 coupling the cap to the upper perimeter of the bladder, and a lower exit port 52. The bladder 42 can also include a welded inner perimeter 54 extending around the spout portion 44 and/or welds 56 coupling the front and rear walls at locations in the bladder that are spaced from the spout portion, the exit port, and the outer perimeter of the bladder. The welds 56 can act as baffles and can help maintain a flatter shape of the bladder when filled.

FIGS. 8-13 illustrate an exemplary reservoir 60 that includes a flexible bladder 62, a rigid, shaped spout portion 64, a rigid back plate 68, and a connector 76 that is coupled to both the spout portion and the back plate. The spout portion 64 is secured to the front wall while the back plate 68 is secured to the rear wall of the bladder. The bladder 62 can comprise a single sheet of flexible material that is folded to form a fold at the top end of the bladder. The front wall and rear wall of the bladder extend downward from the fold at the top end of the bladder. The side edges and lower edges of the two walls can be welded together to form a sealed perimeter 72. This construction of the bladder can allow the spout portion 64 and the back plate 68 to be secured to the single bladder sheet before the sheet is folded. For example, with the bladder sheet lying flat, the spout portion and the back plate can be secured to a common side of the sheet, and then the sheet can be folded at the upper edge to place the spout and back plate on opposite sides of the bladder. Similarly, in other embodiments, a single bladder sheet can be folded about the bottom end of the bladder or about one of the lateral edges of the bladder. Alternatively, the bladder can be formed from two separate sheets welded together around their entire perimeter.

The spout portion 64 can include a raised portion that forms the upper port of the reservoir and a cap 74 can be included to open and close the port. The spout portion 64 can also include a peripheral base portion extending around the raised portion that is coupled to the front wall of the bladder. The spout portion 64 can also include an upper engagement portion 66 that is couplable to the connector 76, such as with a clip 78 or other fastener.

The back plate 68 can also include an upper engagement portion 70 that is couplable to the connector 76, such as with a clip 80 or other fastener. The back plate 68 is secured to the rear wall of the bladder and can be broad and generally flat, or can include any degree of curvature. The shape of the back plate 68 helps define the shape of the bladder and thus the whole reservoir. When the spout portion 64 is coupled to the back plate 68 with a rigid connector 76, the spout portion, connector, and back plate can form a unified rigid body 82 (see FIG. 13) that provides even more rigidity and shape to the reservoir. In other embodiments, the connector can be flexible so that the back plate can move relative to the spout portion.

The connector 76 can provide a gripping location to hold and manipulate the reservoir. For example, a user can hold the looped portion of the connector 76 with one hand to provide counter-torque while turning the cap 74 with the other hand to open or close the upper port. A user can also hold the connector to fill or clean the reservoir, or use the connector to hang the reservoir.

In some embodiments, the connector 76 is detachable and re-attachable to the engagement portions 66 and 70.

In some embodiments, when the connector 76 is rigid, the spout-connector-back plate assembly 82 (FIG. 13) can hold the front and rear walls of the bladder apart from each other, which can aid in drying the bladder, for example.

In some embodiments, the spout portion 64 is coupled to the front wall of the bladder and the back plate is coupled to the rear wall of the bladder, and then the connector 76 is attached to the upper engagement portion 66, 70 with the clips 78, 80. In some embodiments, the spout portion and the back plate are coupled to the same side of a bladder sheet first, then the sheet is folded, and then the connector 76 is attached to the engagement portion 66, 70 to define a spacing between the front and rear walls of the bladder.

In some embodiments, when the connector 76 is flexible, the spout portion, back plate and the connector can be formed as a single, hinged unit prior to attachment to the bladder. The hinged unit can be secured to the bladder sheet while the sheet is flat, then the sheet and the hinged unit can be folded to plate the spout on one side and the back plate on the other.

FIGS. 14-17 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 100 similar to the reservoir 80. The reservoir 100 comprises a flexible bladder 102, a rigid spout portion 104 coupled to a front wall of the bladder, a back plate 106 coupled to the rear wall of the bladder, and a connector 108 coupled to upper engagement portions of both the spout portion and the back plate. The spout portion 104 can be similar to the spout portion 20 shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, but with the inclusion of an upper engagement portion for attaching the connector 108. The spout portion 104 includes a raised central region that defines an upper port for the reservoir and an elongated gripping portion 114 that extends down from the port. A cap 112 can be included to open and close the upper port. The back plate 106, connector 108, and spout portion 104 can form a combined unit 110, as shown in FIGS. 16 and 17. As discussed above, the connector 108 can be rigid or flexible to impart different properties to the reservoir 100. The back plate 106 can have any shape, such as the irregular, polygonal shape shown in FIG. 17.

FIGS. 18-20 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 120 that includes a flexible bladder 122 and a rigid spout portion 124 coupled to the front wall of the bladder. The spout portion 124 (FIG. 20) includes a raised portion 126 that defines an upper port 127 that can be closed with a cap 128. The raised portion 126 causes the upper port 127 to be angled upwardly, as shown in FIG. 19. The spout portion 124 can have a broad, flat base 125 around the raised portion 126 that is coupled to the bladder 122. The spout portion 124 can also include one or more cut-outs 130 in the base portion. The cut-outs 130 can provide locations for a user to insert fingers/thumbs to grasp the spout portion to hold and manipulate the reservoir 120. The front wall of the bladder 122 can extend across the cut-outs 130 and be sealed around the cut-outs to prevent leakage. The reservoir 120 also includes a lower exit port 132 with optional connection to a tube and valve.

FIGS. 21-24 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 140 that is similar to the reservoir 120, except that the rigid spout portion 144 has curved shape. The curved shape of the spout portion 144 imparts a curved shape to the bladder 142.

FIGS. 25-28 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 150 that includes a flexible bladder 152 and a hinged rigid spout portion 154. The spout portion 154 includes a central base portion 155, a raised portion 156 forming an upper port with a cap 158, an upper hinged portion 160, lateral hinged portion 162, a lower hinged portion 164, and a cut-out 166 in the central base portion. The central base portion 155 can be generally flat and four-sided, with the four hinged portions hingedly coupled to each of the four sides. The four hinges allow the four hinged portions to pivot relative to the central base portion 155, allowing the spout portion 154 as a whole to flex even when the parts are rigid. In alternative embodiments, the rigid spout portion can include any number of hinged portions (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or more hinged portions) that are hingedly coupled to a base portion in any orientation. In some embodiments, the central base portion can itself be hinged, include a flexible zone, etc. The hinges allow the bladder to assume a more convex shape under the spout portion 154. A user can also use the hinged portions to grasp the reservoir, for example by folding the two lateral hinged portions down and pinching the central base portion from its two lateral sides. The cut-out 166 also allows a user another option for grasping and manipulating the reservoir.

FIGS. 29-31 illustrate another exemplary reservoir 170 that includes a flexible bladder 172 and a hinged rigid spout portion 174. The spout portion 174 includes a central base portion 176, a raised portion 178 forming an upper port 180 that can be closed by a cap, and two lateral hinged portions 182. The central base portion 176 can be generally flat, with the two lateral hinged portions 182 hingedly coupled to opposite lateral sides. The central base portion 176 can have curved lateral sides that form curved hinges coupled to the lateral hinged portions 182. The two later sides of the central base portion can become closer together at the lower end of the spout portion, providing a somewhat trapezoidal shape to the central base portion. The two hinges allow the two lateral hinged portions 182 to pivot relative to the central base portion 176, allowing the spout portion 174 as a whole to flex even though the parts are rigid. In alternative embodiments, the rigid spout portion can include any number of hinged portions (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or more hinged portions) that are hingedly coupled to a base portion in any orientation. In some embodiments, the central base portion can itself be hinged, include a flexible zone, etc. The hinges allow the bladder to assume a more convex shape under the spout portion 174. A user can also use the hinged portions to grasp the reservoir, for example by folding the two lateral hinged portions 182 down and pinching the central base portion 176 from its two lateral sides.

In the reservoirs with hinged rigid spout portions, such as reservoirs 150 and 170, the hinges can be configured to allow the hinged portions to only pivot a preset angle (e.g., 90° or less, 45° or less, 30° or less, etc.) from parallel with the central base portion, which can help to control the shape of the bladder and provide resistance when a user grasps them to handle the reservoir. In some embodiments, the hinges can be biased toward a flat shape (hinged portions parallel with central base portion) or biased toward a bent shape (hinges at an angle relative to the central base portion). For example, the hinges are biased toward a bent shape to cause the bladder to assume an open, three-dimensional shape for drying when empty. The hinges can comprise thin, weakened, and/or more flexible regions of the spout portion material, and/or can comprise additional components that couple the central base portion to the hinged portions (e.g., other flexible materials, springy materials, etc.), and/or can comprise disconnections between the hinged components (e.g., a complete separation, disconnected but abutting surfaces, perforations or slots or other incomplete separations, etc).

FIGS. 32-34 illustrate an exemplary reservoir 200 that includes a flexible bladder 202, an upper rigid, hinged portion 204 coupled to the bladder that forms a raised spout 206, and a lower rigid, hinged portion 208 that is coupled to the bladder and is hingedly coupled to the upper portion 204 via a generally horizontal hinge 216 near the center of the bladder. The upper portion 204 includes lateral hinged portions 212 that can pivot relative to the central base portion 211 that forms the spout 206. Similarly, the lower portion 208 includes lateral hinged portions 214 that can pivot relative to central base portion 213 that is coupled to the lower exit port 210. The hinge 216 couples the two central base portions 211 and 213 to allow the entire reservoir to fold about the horizontal line of the hinge 216, as shown by arrows 218. When all of the rigid plate bodies are flattened (FIG. 32), the bladder can take a flattened shape with minimal volume. When the lateral hinged portions 212, 214 are folded down relative to the central base portions 211, 213, they can cause the bladder to take a three-dimensional shape (FIGS. 33, 34), for example to hold the bladder open for drying and to accommodate higher capacity filling of the bladder. When the lateral hinged portions 212, 214 are folded down and/or the horizontal hinge is folded to some degree, the lower ends of the portions 212 and the upper ends of the portions 214 can overlap, abut, and/or move closer to each other to facilitate being attached together. For example, the overlapping, abutting, and/or adjacent portions can be spot welded together, bonded together, fastened together, and/or linked together, such as at locations 220, 222 shown in FIGS. 32-34, to form a permanent or semi-permanent 3D shape for the rigid portions 204, 208 and the bladder 202. In other embodiments, the overlapping, abutting, and/or adjacent portions can be releasably secured with clips, snaps, ties, loops, Velcro, fasteners, etc., to allow adjustment of the bladder between a fixed 3D shape (FIGS. 33, 34) and a flattened configuration (FIG. 32). The large coverage of the bladder by the rigid portions 204, 208 can also help protect the bladder from damage and/or provide increased column strength to facilitate pack loading. The horizontal hinge 216 can allow the reservoir to be folded in half to reduce its size for packaging and storage.

FIGS. 35-39 illustrate exemplary embodiments of personal hydration systems comprising a flexibly collapsible reservoir with shaped support members that provide additional support for the shaped structure. An exemplary shaped fluid reservoir 10 is shown in FIG. 35 which comprises a front sheet 312, back sheet 314, fill port 316, exit port 318, drink tube 320, and/or dispensing valve 322. FIG. 36 shows a side view of the shaped reservoir 310 and shows a seam 324 along the perimeter between the sheets 312 and 314. Front sheet 312 features a bulbous, or convex, shape that varies in depth dimension (e.g., the left-right direction in FIG. 36, or the direction perpendicular to the plane of the sheet 312) across the reservoir face. Back sheet 314 can be bulbous and/or S-shaped along its longitudinal cross-section (e.g., as seen in FIG. 36) to conform to the wearer's back, other body contour, or other curved surface.

FIGS. 37-39 show shaped reservoir 310 with additional support members. Front support member 326 comprises an X-shaped plate attached to and spanning front sheet 312. Front support member 326 can be pre-formed to match the curved shape of front sheet 312. Front support member 326 can include handle 327. Back support member 328 can be semi-rigid and can provide column strength for shaped reservoir 310.

In the embodiments disclosed herein, any flexible and waterproof material can be used for the bladder, such as various polymeric materials. The rigid components (e.g., spout portion, hinged portions, back plate, connector, exit port, etc.) can comprise any sufficiently rigid material, such as polymers, metals, etc. The disclosed reservoirs can have any dimensions and fluid capacities. The relative dimensions provided as examples herein are not limiting. Any of the disclosed reservoirs can be part of a system that also includes various other components, such as drink tubes, dispensing valves, back packs to hold the reservoirs, cleaning instruments, etc. The components of the disclosed reservoirs can be secured together in any suitable manner, such by using adhesives, by welding, by using mechanical fasteners, etc.

For purposes of this description, certain aspects, advantages, and novel features of the embodiments of this disclosure are described herein. The disclosed methods, apparatuses, and systems should not be construed as limiting in any way. Instead, the present disclosure is directed toward all novel and nonobvious features and aspects of the various disclosed embodiments, alone and in various combinations and sub-combinations with one another. The methods, apparatuses, and systems are not limited to any specific aspect or feature or combination thereof, nor do the disclosed embodiments require that any one or more specific advantages be present or problems be solved.

Integers, characteristics, materials, and other features described in conjunction with a particular aspect, embodiment, or example of the disclosed technology are to be understood to be applicable to any other aspect, embodiment or example described herein unless incompatible therewith. All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of such features and/or steps are mutually exclusive. The invention is not restricted to the details of any foregoing embodiments. The invention extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.

Although the operations of some of the disclosed methods are described in a particular, sequential order for convenient presentation, it should be understood that this manner of description encompasses rearrangement, unless a particular ordering is required by specific language. For example, operations described sequentially may in some cases be rearranged or performed concurrently. Moreover, for the sake of simplicity, the attached figures may not show the various ways in which the disclosed methods can be used in conjunction with other methods.

As used herein, the terms “a”, “an”, and “at least one” encompass one or more of the specified element. That is, if two of a particular element are present, one of these elements is also present and thus “an” element is present. The terms “a plurality of” and “plural” mean two or more of the specified element. As used herein, the term “and/or” used between the last two of a list of elements means any one or more of the listed elements. For example, the phrase “A, B, and/or C” means “A”, “B,”, “C”, “A and B”, “A and C”, “B and C”, or “A, B, and C.” As used herein, the term “coupled” generally means physically coupled or linked and does not exclude the presence of intermediate elements between the coupled items absent specific contrary language.

In view of the many possible embodiments to which the principles of the disclosed technology may be applied, it should be recognized that the illustrated embodiments are only examples and should not be taken as limiting the scope of the disclosure. Rather, the scope of this disclosure is at least as least as broad as the scope of the following claims. We therefore claim as our invention all that comes within the scope of these claims and their equivalents.





 
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