GROOTE, Joyce (3806 W. 33 Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia V6N 2H6, CA)
WHAT IS CLAIMED:
1. A hat comprising: a skull encompassing portion for substantially encircling a user's head, and having a first surface, a second surface, a forward portion, a rear portion and a periphery; and a bill portion extending from at least a forward peripheral portion of the skull encompassing portion, and having a first surface, a second surface, a forward portion, a rear portion, first and second lateral portions and a periphery, wherein the bill portion at least predominantly comprises a closed cell foamed plastic.
2. The hat of claim 1 wherein the first surface of the bill portion is exposed to the environment.
3. The hat of claim 1 wherein the second surface of the bill portion is exposed to the environment. 4. The hat of claim 1 wherein the first surface of the bill portion comprises a substantially even surface, free of significant protrusions or depressions.
5. The hat of claim 1 wherein the first surface of the bill portion is an upper surface, and comprise at least one of a protrusion, a depression or an orifice.
6. The hat of claim 1 wherein the bill portion comprises a stiffening element. 7. The hat of claim 1 wherein the bill portion is joined to the skull encompassing portion an attachment means.
8 The hat of claim 7 wherein the attachment means permanently joins the bill portion to the skull encompassing portion.
9. The hat of claim 7 wherein the attachment means temporarily joins the bill portion to the skull encompassing portion.
10. The hat according to any previous claim wherein the bill portion is formed from a foamed ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) compound.
11. A visor comprising:
a first surface, a second surface, a forward portion, a rear portion, first and second lateral portions and a periphery, wherein the visor comprises a closed cell foamed plastic and further comprises attachment means for linking the visor to a headgear. 12. The visor of claim 11 wherein the linkage between the visor and the headgear is permanent.
13. The visor of claim 11 wherein the linkage between the visor and the headgear is temporary.
HEADGEAR WITH FOAMED PLASTIC BILL
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
While fashion trends are subject to the winds of pubic opinion, oftentimes innovations in materials science leads to new fashions. For example, in the early part of the 21 st century, a plastic injection process leading to lightweight foam footwear allowed certain purveyors of shoes to introduce a variety of products that incorporated playful designs. While the designs were the subject of much attention, the primary material used in the construction of the footwear exhibited numerous advantages over the existing state of the art, including exception light weight, acceptable durability, high water resistance, buoyancy, ease of manufacture, low cost, etc. A preferred material for the noted footwear and processes for making and using the same can be found in United States published application number 20060048407 A1 , which is incorporated herein by reference. In the field of headgear for humans, there are several competing criteria for creating functionally acceptable designs. One criterion relates to the environment in which the headgear is to be used. Thus, headgear for wet or cold environments will have different design results than headgear used for light shielding purposes in warm environments. Generally speaking, the body of a hat, i.e., the skull portion, should be constructed from a flexible and breathable material to permit the evaporation of perspiration, yet shield the skull from the elements. This portion of most headgear is therefore most often constructed from a fabric, knit, weave, mesh or similar material, often from textiles. Either this material or a feature of the headgear permits the headgear to be effectively worn by many users, each having differing head sizes.
The bill portion (also referred to herein as the "peak" portion) of headgear having such a feature is not constrained by the same criteria as is the skull portion. The bill portion of a headgear is intended to be durable, flexible but not elastic - per say, resistant to the elements such as sunlight and water, and easily cleaned, to identify a few of the more common features.
The prior art is replete with examples of hats having foam or hard plastic bills. However, headgear incorporating foam bills usually use open cell foam and
cover the same with fabric or other material to, for example, protect the foam from the environment. Similarly, hard plastic bills are also usually covered, although more for aesthetic reasons. While open cell foam bills may have exceptional resiliency, they lack strength, and must therefore be augmented by stiffeners or the deficiency tolerated. Hard plastic bills have stiffness or rigidity, but lack pliancy and "hand".
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The invention is directed to headgear that incorporates a foamed plastic bill or peak, preferably without a fabric or other covering. The headgear comprises a skull encompassing portion and a bill portion. At least the bill portion comprises a closed cell foamed material while the skull encompassing portion comprises at least one material other than the bill material. Unlike headgear of the prior art, the closed cell foam material comprising the bill portion is exposed to the environment in a first series of embodiments. Also in this first series of embodiments, the skull encompassing portion is constructed, at least in part, from a natural or synthetic material other than that used for the bill portion, such as polyester, cotton, nylon, rayon, viscose, tree pulp/paper, linen, silk, microfiber, acetate, acrylic, spandex/cotton blend, wool, etc. The interface between the bill portion and the skull encompassing portion need only be durable, and depending upon external considerations, may be either permanent or temporary. Thus, the interface may be accomplished via mechanical fasteners such as rivets, grommets, snaps (for non-permanent embodiments), stitching, etc. as well as chemical fasteners such as adhesives, glues (reactive or hot melt), etc. Moreover, the skull encompassing portion may only contact the outer portion of the bill portion, the inner portion of the bill portion, or both the outer and inner portions of the bill portion. By limiting the interface to the outer portion of the bill portion, the hat head band may comprise the bill portion if the bill portion comprised a sweatband portion. In this manner, user perspiration will not soil the material used for the skull encompassing portion.
In a second series of embodiments, the skull encompassing portion comprises two layers of material, namely, an inner layer material and an outer
layer material. Depending upon embodiments, one and/or more intermediate layers can be used. Not only does such an arrangement facilitate construction of the headgear and attachment of the bill portion to the skull encompassing portion, but it also provide a means for reducing or eliminating contact between the user's head and the outer layer. In this manner, stains resulting from contact with the user's head will not transcend to the outer side of the outer layer.
A feature of the two layer embodiments of the invention relates to the reversibility of the headgear. In such embodiments, two different materials can be used for the skull encompassing portion. The differences in material can be physical, e.g., weave types, texture, etc.; functional, e.g., moisture transport abilities, moisture resistance, air permeability, etc.; visual, e.g., color, embroidery, lettering, graphics, etc. or any combinations of the above. By the same token, the bill portion may also be bicolor.
While two layer embodiments are particularly suited for reversibility, headgear according to the invention need not have two layers in order to be reversible. In addition, incorporation of a closed cell foamed plastic, preferably without external covering material and with constant sectional thickness, minimizes the bill's tendency to bias towards one form of the headgear over the other. Unlike prior art bills, reversal of headgear according to the invention will not create stress in the bill, which ultimately forms a bias towards the previous form. The closed cell foam is sufficiently stiff to maintain a given geometry, but sufficiently pliable to accept another.
Another feature of the invention relates to the incorporation of stiffening elements or ribs in the bill portion of the headgear. The extent and orientation of such stiffening elements or ribs is selected based upon design considerations such as the forward length of the bill portion, the innate curvature of the bill portion after attachment to the skull encompassing portion (which increases the bill's beam strength), anticipated collapsing geometries, and other considerations known to practitioners skilled in the art. The stiffening elements or ribs may have the same generally sectional thickness as the non-ribbed portions of the bill portion, or may constitute areas of increased sectional thickness.
Another feature, related to the stiffening elements or ribs, provides for the incorporation of relief features, graphics and indicia. Because the bill is formed from a molding process, and in view of its exceptional light weight, it is possible to easily incorporate relief features for either function or aesthetic purposes, without significantly adding to the weight of the headgear. Moreover, because in selected embodiments there is no fabric or similar covering of the bill, designers of headgear according to the invention can exercise a relatively high level of creativity. With respect to functional features beyond stiffening ribs, additional embodiments may include fluid directors (similar to pavement curbing on a micro scale), apertures of constant or variable size and geometry to permit the passage of air to reduce the "sail effect" or increase ventilation, and the like. With respect to graphics and indicia, any form of logo or advertising can be established in relief form one either or both sides of the bill portion.
In yet another series of embodiments, skeletal frame elements extend from the sweatband area of the bill portion and may be integrated into the skull encompassing portion. These frame elements can serve to provide an alternative or additional means for linking the skull encompassing portion to the bill portion, or may serve other purposes, including aesthetic. The frame elements may further serve to create a gap between two layers of the skull encompassing portion, or may be disposed between the user's head and the encompassing portion to provide a physical displacement there between. It should be noted that the thickness of the frame elements is not limited to the thickness of the bill portion.
In a presently preferred series of embodiments, the bill portion or peak is constructed from an injection molding process involving ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymer resin, in combination with other adjuncts such as a growth additive and pigment. Commercial sources of these components include the resin LEVIREX sold by FinnProject of Italy, and the growth additive ENGAGE sold by DuPont DeNemours, Inc.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Fig. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention; Fig. 2 is a front elevation view of the embodiment of Fig. 1;
Fig. 3 is a rear elevation view of the embodiment of Fig. 1 ;
Fig. 4 is a first side elevation view of the embodiment of Fig. 1 ; Fig. 5 is a second side elevation view of the embodiment of Fig. 1; Fig. 6 is a top plan view of the embodiment of Fig. 1 ; and Fig. 7 is a bottom plan view of the embodiment of Fig. 1.
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION EMBODIMENTS
The following discussion is presented to enable a person skilled in the art to make and use the invention. Various modifications to the illustrated embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the generic principles herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments show, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein. Turning then to the several drawings wherein like numerals indicate like parts, and more particularly to Fig. 1 , a perspective view of hat 10 according to the invention is shown. Hat 10 includes skull encompassing portion 20 and bill portion 40 attached to one another to form a common "baseball" style cap. Skull encompassing portion 20 is shown as having first surface 22, which corresponds in the several drawings to an outer surface, and second surface 24, which corresponds in the several drawings to an inner surface. Panels 30a-f collectively form skull encompassing portion 20 when edges 32a of one panel are abuttingly joined to edges 32b of an adjacent panel, as is customary in the trade. Periphery 28 results from the adjacent placement of edges 32c. While panels 30a-f can be constructed from any flexible material, natural or synthetic material other than that used for the bill portion, such as polyester, cotton, nylon, rayon, viscose, tree pulp/paper, linen, silk, microfiber, acetate, acrylic, spandex/cotton blend, wool, etc. are considered desirable choices. Naturally, skull encompassing portion 20 can be constructed from a unitary piece of material. An optional opening 34 is formed in skull encompassing portion 20, defined by perimeter 36 and elastic band 38 to provide a means for the exit of excess hair
from under hat 10. Band 38 comprises a resilient and/or elastic material to permit hat 10 to accommodate differing user head sizes, and may circumscribe skull encompassing portion 20 or may only partially do so. In the illustrated embodiment, As noted above, the intended use of hat 10 will largely dictate the selection of base materials and assemblage there of for skull encompassing portion 20. Water repellant yet breathable fabrics (either in singularity or in aggregate) can be used in some applications where insulation from water (rain, drizzle or spray) is desired, while UV resistant materials can be used for environments that are predominantly sunny or have reduced atmospheric UV filtering, e.g., southern New Zealand. Of course, combinations of such materials are considered within the scope of the invention. Moreover, skull encompassing portion 20 need not be constructed from flexible or soft material. Impact resistant materials such as metals or plastics can be used, with bill portion 40 being temporarily or permanently attached thereto, to provide a desired degree of element deflection (sun, rain, etc.). Thus, conventional protective helmets may also be considered a suitable skull encompassing portion.
Joined to and extending from a majority of periphery 28 is previously referenced bill portion 40. Bill portion 40 is constructed from a closed cell injection molded EVA polymer, as previously described. Adjuncts or admixtures can be introduced during the manufacturing process to create, for example and without limitation, bill portions that are UV resistant, have bactericide and/or fungicide properties, and/or have color variations and/or patterns. In addition, the physical characteristics of bill portion 40 can be easily modified by using different molds to provide protrusions, depressions, and/or other relief features, as well as holes and other discontinuities.
From a physical perspective, bill portion 40 comprises first surface 42, which corresponds in the several drawings to an outer surface, and second surface 44, which corresponds in the several drawings to an inner surface. Each surface includes forward portion 46 and rear portion 48, as well as lateral portions 50a and 50b, as shown. Visually separating first surface 42 from second surface 44, and as best shown in Fig. 2, is periphery 52, which forms a generally circular contour. Bill portion 40 is joined to skull encompassing portion 20 in such a
manner so as to create a camber about the fore-aft axis of hat 10. This camber also enhances the bill's beam strength, thereby providing desirable rigidity. Additionally, and as best shown in Figs. 4 and 5, bill portion 40 preferably has a downward slope. Bill portion 40 may be attached to skull encompassing portion 20 through any conventional means suited for the intended application of hat 10. Thus, bill portion 40 may be formed as a planar piece of material and contoured such that profile of periphery 52 of rear 48 and lateral 50a/b portions matches that of perimeter 36. If skull encompassing portion 20 is constructed from a flexible material, then hat 10 may assume a flat posture when not in use, and bill portion 40 assume a curved or contoured posture when hat 10 is worn. In such embodiments, conventional sewing and/or equivalent forms of attachment, including the use of adhesives, solvents and/or welding (e.g., radio frequency welding), may be used to permanently secure bill portion 40 to skull encompassing portion 20. Some of these means of attachment can also be used in conjunction with other skull encompassing material, such as impact resistant plastic, again, if a more permanent association is desired.
Embodiments of the invention further contemplate the non-permanent association of bill portion 40 will skull encompassing portion 20. In such embodiments, a temporary attachment means is selected, and includes, without limitation, mechanical means such as snaps, hooks, two part attachment means such as hook and loop fasteners, buttons and hoes, tabs and slots, etc.; chemical means such as zones of cohesives, double-sided tapes, (rubber) glues, etc.; and electric/magnetic means such as complementary magnetic strips, complementary magnetic materials with opposing ferromagnetic materials, etc. Non-permanent embodiments permit a user to replace worn or damaged bill portions without requiring the replacement of the skull encompassing portion, which may be intentionally more durable than the bill portion. Because of the lightweight nature and relatively low cost of the bill portion according to the invention, such an environment screen is particularly suited for adaptation and use with existing skull encompassing portions such as hard hats, and safety helmets used in skating, bicycling, etc. Moreover, the orientation of the bill portion need not be towards the
front of the hat, but may be towards the rear, or two or more used to create a greater protective zone for the user.
As briefly described above, bill portion 40 need not be without relief features. In certain embodiments of the invention, a sweatband portion (not shown) is formed at least at the rear portion of periphery 52, and preferably coextensively with that portion of periphery 52 that is in contact (actual or proximate, as the case may be) with edges 32c of panels 30. Extending generally 45° to 90° there from, the sweatband provides a convenient attachment interface with skull encompassing portion 20, and, if exposed to the user with second surface 24, functions as a suitable shield against user perspiration.
Additional relief features, not shown, include functional enhancements to bill portion 40 such as stiffening ribs, rain channels to direct surface fluids to specific portions of the bill, ventilation holes, visual holes to aid in user perception of their surroundings (such holes may be also occupied by clear or tinted films), advertisements and other matter. Such features may be incorporated during the molding process of bill portion 40, or subsequently such as by hot press or platens.
Yet another feature of the invention embodiment shown herein is its ability to involute, where first surface 22 becomes the inner side, second surface 24 becomes the outer side, first surface 42 becomes the lower surface and second surface 44 becomes the upper surface. While the use of separate materials for first and second surfaces 22 and 24 respectively is desirable, it is not necessary. Moreover, given the pliable nature of bill portion 40, such involution is simple and relatively effortless.