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Title:
PROCESS FOR MAKING DECORATIVE TILES, AND TILES MADE ACCORDING TO THE PROCESS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/203293
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A process for making tiles with embedded gemstones, in particular decorative ceramic tiles. The gemstone is mounted in a holder and embedded in the tile along with the holder, so that the holder defines a light penetrable space at one or more locations in the boundary region between the gemstone and the ceramic to allow the embedded gemstone to sparkle. A mold block to make the tiles comprises a block surface for placing ceramic within a frame, holes in the surface for each gemstone required, and supports within the hole. The supports move between a retracted position in which the support surface is inside the hole and an extended position wherein the support surface is flush with the block surface. The support embeds the gemstone and holder into the ceramic against the pressure of the press forming the tile.

Inventors:
HUYNH KHANH TAN (AU)
Application Number:
IB2018/053112
Publication Date:
November 08, 2018
Filing Date:
May 04, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HUYNH KHANH TAN (AU)
International Classes:
B44C5/04; B28B3/00; B28B7/16; B44C3/12; E04C1/42; E04F13/08; E04F13/14
Foreign References:
US20080263914A12008-10-30
CN103967244A2014-08-06
US20130251934A12013-09-26
CN202703083U2013-01-30
US7743568B12010-06-29
KR100879812B12009-01-22
KR20050027782A2005-03-21
KR20020021656A2002-03-21
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Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A mold block for forming tiles with embedded gemstones using a press, the gemstones held in holders, the mold block comprising:

a block surface for placing ceramic within a frame;

at least one hole in said surface;

a support within said hole, said support having a support surface, said support extending between a retracted position wherein said support surface is inside said hole at a finite depth and an extended position wherein said support surface is flush with said block surface, thereby to embed a gemstone in a holder which is placed in said hole into said ceramic against pressure of said press, the holder to define a light penetrable space between said gemstone and said ceramic.

2. The mold block of claim 1, wherein said block comprises first and a second facing parts, wherein said hole is in said first part and said support is constructed in said second part to extend through said hole and said first and second parts are moved towards and away from each other to move said support between said retracted and said extended position.

3. The mold block of claim 2, comprising at least one spring to tension said first and second parts away from each other, and an arm to lock said first and second parts together.

4. The mold block of any one of the preceding claims, comprising said frame placed around said block surface and ceramic placed within said frame.

5. The mold block of any one of the preceding claims, with a gemstone placed in said at least one hole and resting on said support surface.

6. The mold block of claim 5, wherein said support surface is flush with said block surface, said gemstone thereby being embedded into said ceramic.

7. The mold block of claim 5 or claim 6, wherein the holder in which said gemstone is mounted is a conical holder, the conical holder having a receptable part towards said support surface and a conical base, the conical base extending outwardly from said support surface.

8. The mold block of claim 7, placed within a press and configured to undergo a pressure of a plurality of tonnes against said block surface while said support surface holds said gemstone and said conical base into said ceramic.

9. The mold block of claim 1, wherein said pressure is between 50 and 200 tonnes or between 80 and 100 tonnes.

10. A ceramic tile embedded with at least one gemstone and having a holder lying between the gemstone and the ceramic to form a light penetrable space around said gemstone.

11. The ceramic tile of claim 10 wherein said holder comprises plastic.

12. The ceramic tile of claim 10 or claim 11, wherein the holder comprises a transparent or a translucent wall between said gemstone and said ceramic.

13. The ceramic tile of any one of claims 10 to 12, wherein said holder comprises a conical base extending into said ceramic.

14. A holder for embedding a gemstone into a ceramic tile in a pressure mold, the holder comprising:

a gemstone receptacle, the gemstone receptacle having an outline for a predetermined shape of gemstone; and

a base extending under said gemstone receptacle to extend into a ceramic layer of said tile, the holder thereby bringing about a light penetrable space at one or more locations between said gemstone and said ceramic.

15. The holder of claim 14, further comprising a rim extending inwardly from said outline to secure a gemstone therein.

16. The holder of claim 14, wherein said holder comprises a gemstone of said predetermined shape contained in said gemstone receptacle.

17. The holder of any one of claims 14 to 16, wherein said base is conical.

18. A method of manufacturing a ceramic tile with at least one embedded gemstone, the method comprising:

providing a tile mold block having at least one hole;

placing a gemstone in a holder;

placing the gemstone in the hole;

placing ceramic in the tile mold block;

pressing the gemstone and the holder through the hole into the ceramic;

applying pressure onto the ceramic in the tile mold block from a side opposite said hole while said gemstone is being pressed into said ceramic, thereby to form a ceramic tile with said gemstone embedded therein through said holder, wherein walls of said holder define a light penetrable space at one or more locations between said gemstone and said ceramic.

Description:
PROCESS FOR MAKING DECORATIVE TILES, AND TILES MADE ACCORDING TO

THE PROCESS

RELATED APPLICATION/S

This application claims the benefit of priority under 35 USC ยง 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/501,209 filed May 4, 2017, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention, in some embodiments thereof, relates to a process for making decorative tiles and tiles made according to the process and, more particularly, but not exclusively, to a process for making decorative tiles that incorporate gemstones.

Decorative tiles are widely used for such purposes as lining bathrooms. Furthermore decorative tiles with embedded gemstones are available. The tiles are generally ceramic and may be made by combining ceramic of different colors, or they may be painted. Typically, the end result is glazed, and gemstones if used, need to be embedded prior to drying.

In current processes, gemstones may be pushed into wet cement by hand, or into holes made in the tiles. The gemstones may then be stuck in with glue, however the tile is not especially hard-wearing.

Hence the method of making tiles that is currently used, and which was developed over a hundred years ago in France, is to use a tile shaped mold where the ceramic is pressed at between 50 and 120 tonnes pressure and this method provides a very hard-wearing tile. Such high pressure molds can in principle accommodate gemstones, but the ceramic is pressed hard up against the gemstone. What makes a gemstone sparkle is the way in which light can reflect and refract in response to the cutting of the gemstone and this requires some space around the gemstone for the light to play. The high pressure press presses ceramic right up against the gemstone on all sides and thus cannot provide a way to mount the gemstone in which light can move around the gemstone.

One solution that avoids the problem is one in which the gemstones are hand-embedded into concrete tiles. Concrete tiles are hard-wearing without needing the pressure, but the result is much more expensive than the pressed ceramic tiles.

Decorative tiles with embedded gemstones are used at exclusive restaurants and hotels around the world and there is a need for a method of making a hard wearing ceramic tile that holds the gemstone easily and naturally and allows the light to play so that the gemstone is able to sparkle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present embodiments allow for embedding of gemstones into tiles made of ceramic where the tile manufacture process uses heavy pressures of many tonnes. A holder wraps the gemstone as it is embedded into the cement of the ceramic and withstands the pressure. The gemstone is held more naturally and in particular the gemstone may be held more loosely around the upper edge, so that more light can travel around the top of the stone and allow the stone to sparkle. That is to say the gemstone may be wrapped in a material as it is being embedded which defines a transparent or translucent space at least around the top of the gemstone so that light can move around the gemstone and produce a sparkle. The holder may for example be cone shaped, where the cone extends into the ceramic as pressing occurs and the tile is made. The use of the holder may thus define a light penetrable space, at least around the top of the gemstone where the holder allows the gemstone to be held more loosely.

The present embodiments thus provide a modified process of manufacture, as well as a modified mold block, a gemstone holder for holding the gemstone in the modified mold block, and the tile which is the result of the process.

According to an aspect of some embodiments of the present invention there is provided a mold block for forming tiles with embedded gemstones using a press, the gemstones held in holders, the mold block comprising:

a block surface for placing ceramic within a frame;

at least one hole in the surface;

a support within the hole, the support having a support surface, the support extending between a retracted position wherein the support surface is inside the hole at a finite depth and an extended position wherein the support surface is flush with the block surface, thereby to embed a gemstone in a holder which is placed in the hole into the ceramic against pressure of the press, the holder loosely holding the gemstone at the top, and thus allowing or defining the formation of a light penetrable space between the gemstone and the ceramic, which space may extend at least around the top of the gemstone.

In an embodiment, the block comprises first and a second facing parts. The hole is in the first part and the support is constructed in the second part to extend through the hole and the first and second parts are moved towards and away from each other to move the support between the retracted and the extended position. Embodiments may comprise a spring or springs to tension the first and second parts away from each other, and an arm to lock the first and second parts together.

The frame may be placed around the block surface and ceramic placed within the frame.

A gemstone may be located in the or each hole and may rest on the support surface.

The support surface may be flush with the block surface, so that the gemstone is pushed into the ceramic.

In an embodiment, the holder in which the gemstone is mounted is a conical holder, the conical holder having a receptacle part towards the support surface and a conical base, the conical base extending outwardly from the support surface.

The mold may be placed within a press and configured to undergo a pressure of multiple tonnes against the block surface while the support surface holds the gemstone and the holder wrapped around it into the ceramic.

The pressure may be between 50 and 200 tonnes or between 80 and 100 tonnes.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a ceramic tile embedded with at least one gemstone and having a holder lying between the gemstone and the ceramic to form a light penetrable space at least around the top of the gemstone.

The holder may be plastic, and/or may have a transparent or a translucent wall between the gemstone and the ceramic.

The holder may have a conical base extending into the ceramic.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided a holder for embedding a gemstone into a ceramic tile in a pressure mold, the holder comprising:

a gemstone receptacle, the gemstone receptacle having an outline for a predetermined shape of gemstone; and

a base extending under the gemstone receptacle to extend into a ceramic layer of the tile, to provide a light penetrable space between the gemstone and the ceramic, at least around the top of the gemstone.

The holder may comprise a rim extending inwardly from the outline to secure a gemstone therein.

The holder may comprise a gemstone of the predetermined shape contained in the gemstone receptacle.

In embodiments, the base of the holder is conical.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of manufacturing a ceramic tile with at least one embedded gemstone, the method comprising:

providing a tile mold block having at least one hole; placing a gemstone in a holder;

placing the gemstone in the hole;

placing ceramic in the tile mold block;

pressing the gemstone and the holder through the hole into the ceramic;

applying pressure onto the ceramic in the tile mold block from a side opposite the hole while the gemstone is being pressed into the ceramic, thereby to form a ceramic tile with the gemstone embedded therein through the holder, wherein walls of the holder define a light penetrable space between the gemstone and the ceramic, at least around the top of the gemstone.

Unless otherwise defined, all technical and/or scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention pertains. Although methods and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of embodiments of the invention, exemplary methods and/or materials are described below. In case of conflict, the patent specification, including definitions, will control. In addition, the materials, methods, and examples are illustrative only and are not intended to be necessarily limiting.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING(S)

Some embodiments of the invention are herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings. With specific reference now to the drawings in detail, it is stressed that the particulars shown are by way of example and for purposes of illustrative discussion of embodiments of the invention. In this regard, the description taken with the drawings makes apparent to those skilled in the art how embodiments of the invention may be practiced.

In the drawings:

Fig. 1 is a simplified diagram showing a decorative tile with embedded gemstones according to embodiments of the present invention;

Figs. 2A and 2B are simplified diagrams of a mold block that forms the base of a mold for making tiles according to the present embodiments;

Fig. 3 is an exploded diagram of the mold block of Figs 2A and 2B;

Fig. 4 is a simplified diagram showing three different views of a gemstone held in a gemstone holder according to the present embodiments; and

Figs. 5 to 38 show successive stages in a method of manufacturing a tile with embedded gemstones using the mold block of Figs 2A to 3 and the holder of Fig. 4, according to embodiments of the present invention. DESCRIPTION OF SPECIFIC EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

As explained above, the present invention, in some embodiments thereof, relates to a process for making decorative tiles and tiles made according to the process and, more particularly, but not exclusively, to a process for making decorative tiles that incorporate gemstones.

The present embodiments extend to a method of making a tile with one or more embedded gemstones, in particular decorative ceramic tiles. The gemstone is mounted in a holder and embedded in the tile along with the holder, so that the holder defines a light penetrable space between the gemstone and the ceramic, at least around the top of the gemstone where the gemstone can be held more loosely, to allow the embedded gemstone to sparkle. The tile may be made at high pressure, typically using a press that applies somewhere in the region of 50 to 120 tonnes or 80 to 100 tonnes. A modified mold block is used and the gemstones are mounted, inside holders, into a profile hole which has a support surface inside on the end of a stem. The support surface is moved between a retracted position inside the hole and an extended position wherein the support surface is flush with the block surface. The support surface embeds the gemstone and the holder into the ceramic against pressure of a press, and the holder defines a space between the ceramic and the gemstone, through which light can play, thus giving a sparkle to the embedded gemstone. Thus a pressure formed ceramic tile includes one or more embedded gemstones that sparkle. The space may be formed at one or more locations in the boundary region between the gemstone and the ceramic.

There is a concept in gems of the life of the stone that is to do with the way in which light plays around the stone. In the prior art tile making methods placing rubies, sapphires, etc. into wet cement or glue the surface of the back of the stone, would reduces the life of the stone dramatically.

By contrast, the present method may increase the life of the stone by avoiding direct contact with the wet cement, etc. particularly before the cement dries. The present method sets the stones into the cone and the back of the stone does not have complete contact with the cement, which thus increases the life of the stone. Such a result is not recognized with hand-made concrete tiles, and the present embodiments provide an additional advantage in that the cone protects the stone from the 50-120 tonnes pressure environment of the press.

The life of the stone resides in that light travels from the top of the stone being directed by the angles of the facets in a path through multiple facets and back to the eyes. The holder may be shaped in cross section for the particular gemstone being used, say heart, oval, round, square etc. and may have a conical base that extends into the cement, and may be made of transparent or translucent material.

The mold may have a mold divider with different sections so that each section may have different colored cement, thus forming a multi-colored tile.

Before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not necessarily limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of the components and/or methods set forth in the following description and/or illustrated in the drawings and/or the Examples. The invention is capable of other embodiments or of being practiced or carried out in various ways.

Referring now to the drawings, Figure 1 is a view from above of a tile 10 according to embodiments of the present invention. Tile 10 includes patterning 12 using different colors of ceramic and also having embedded gemstones 14. The gemstones need not be placed randomly but may be incorporated into the patterning. In accordance with embodiments of the present invention, the gemstones are embedded within holders that define a light penetrable space between the gemstone and the ceramic, at least around the top of the gemstone, where the holder helps the gemstone to be held more loosely. The pressure pushes downward on the ceramic, and the cone shape may help to deflect the pressure sideways to a small extent, in this way ensuring that at the surface of the ceramic the tile is more loosely held. As will be appreciated the light penetrable space can be very small indeed and still have the necessary effect.

Fig. 2A is a simplified view of a mold block 16 for making the tile of Fig. 1, with arm 18 for closing and opening the block between an open position and a locked position. Fig. 2B is a view of the same block 16 with arm 18 in a different position.

Fig. 3 is a simplified diagram showing an exploded view of the mold blockl6. The mold consists of a top part A 22 and a bottom part B 24. The top part 22 has a top surface or "A" surface 26 with profile holes 28. Within the bottom part 24 are coiled springs 30 and profile inserts 32 having tops or upper surfaces 34. In the present embodiments the profile inserts do not move but the top part A 22 does move, effectively changing the distance between upper surface 34 and top mold surface 26.

Arm 18 is connected to rotary axis 36 to operate rotary arm 38 which acts on transition shaft 40. Lock arm 42 rotates onto lock pin 44 and is tensioned by pull spring 46. Lock arm 42 rotates about the C axis 48.

Referring now to Fig. 4 and gemstones 50 are placed in a gemstone holder 52 which is shown from an upper perspective view 54, where "upper" refers to the side that pokes out of the tile. Further views are from the front 56 and from the side 58. It will be seen that the holder is a container with a keel- shape in its depth. It will be appreciated that the shape of the holder may be altered for different types of gemstones and may include a lip or ledge 60 to hold the gemstone in position. The cone or keel extends into the depth of the cement as will be discussed in greater detail hereinbelow and the upper surface extends into the profile hole 28 of the mold 16.

The process of using the mold to make tiles is now described with reference to Figs 5 - 51, which show successive stages of the manufacture of a tile. In Fig. 5, the mold is in the lock position, in which the top part "A" 22 sits closely above the "B" part 24 which is held by the lock arm 18. The A top surface 26 and the tops 34 of "B" profile inserts 32 are at the same level, the arm 18 is in the upward position.

The lock arm 42 is pivoted from the "C" axis anchor 48. The lock pin 44 holds the "A" block 22 and "B" block 24 together.

A tray 70 of gemstone holders 50 is provided, as well as oil 72, color mix 74 and towel

76.

As shown in Fig. 6, oil is provided on the A top surface 26. The arm 18 remains in the lock position. The oil is spread over the surface - Fig. 7 and wiped with towel 76 - Fig. 8. "So when the completed tile has been pressed and finished, the oil, thoroughly spread over the surface, may make it easier to remove the completed tile.

Referring now to Fig. 9, and a steel frame 80 is placed over the A top surface 26. The steel frame provides a tile-shaped depth over the surface 26 and is attached to steel mold arm 82. In Fig. 10 the steel mold arm 82 is lowered to lock the steel frame onto the A surface 26. Fig. 11 is another view with the steel mold arm 82 in the downward position amd insert 84 shows the tops 34 of the B profile inserts reaching the level of the A top surface 26. Now with the arm 82 pressed downwards, gemstone holders 52 with the gemstones inside, are inserted into the profile inserts. The cone part points upward.

Fig. 12 is the identical view to Fig. 11 but the arm 18 is pressed further down. In insert 84, the profile in depth of profile hole 28 can be seen in greater detail. The gemstone holder 52 is inserted into profile hole 86 so that the upper surface of the holder 52 lies on the upper surface 34 of profile insert 32.

Figs. 13 and 14 show successive rotations and movements of the lever parts as the arm 18 is lowered. Steel frame 80 is removed to provide a clear view. Arm 18 is lowered, and through rotary axis 36, operates rotary arm 38 which acts on transition shaft 40. Lock arm 42 rotates about C axis 48 onto lock pin 44 against tension of pull spring 46. Lock arm 42 rotates about the C axis 48 thus locking the A 22 and B 24 parts together. Arm 18 is pressed downward from the lock position, which then rotates the rotary X axis transition 36 and connects the rotary arm 38 which pivots from the X axis and pulls the lock arm 42 which pivots from the C axis 48 via the transition shaft 40 to release the lock arm from the lock pin 44. Lifting the A Block 22 may push up the A top surface thus leaving the profile holes 86 below the level of the A top surface 36. The A block may be pushed up by the coiled springs 30 (Fig. 3) leaving spaces in the tops of the holes in order to place the gemstone holders 52 in the profile holes 28 so as to sit flat on top of the "B" Profile insert 32

Reference is now made to Fig. 15, which shows the gemstone holder 52 being placed in the profile hole 28. Numeral 90 indicates a profile hole with a gemstone holder fitted in over the top of the B profile insert. Inset 92 is a cross-sectional view of a gemstone holder fitted into a profile hole 28 above the top 34 of the profile insert 32.

Fig. 16 illustrates continued placement of the gemstones in the holders into more of the holes 28. Two gemstones have been placed and as shown in inset 92, they are at different orientations.

In Fig. 17, three gemstones are placed, and insert 92 shows three different orientations. The cone base of the gemstone holder may be visible above the surface 26.

In Fig. 18, about half of the tray 70 is used.

Fig. 19 is the same as Fig. 18 with gemstones placed, but with the steel mold shown. In Fig. 20 a divider mold 100 is inserted into the space within the steel mold 80. Then, as shown in Figs 21 to 23, a mixture of color with white cement and water is added to each space in the mold. In Fig. 24 the process is completed and all spaces in the divider mold 100 are filled. In Fig. 25 the divider mold is removed. Fig. 26 shows the patterned cement mix 102 after the mold has been removed.

As shown in Fig. 27 a dry non-colored cement mix powder 104 is added over the color after the color mix is complete, to form the back of the tile.

Fig. 28 shows a pressing buffer 106 which is placed over the frame and over the dry cement powder to flatten the back of the tile.

As shown in Fig. 29, a press arm 108 is brought into contact with the pressing buffer 106 by pushing the block with the tile and gemstones into a pressing machine. The pressing arm may typically provide between 80 and 100 tonnes of pressure to the tile, depending on the size of the tile, in order to compress the cement mix.

Fig. 30 is a cross section of the block with the press arm on top and with the gemstones being held in position from below, that is from outside the block. As shown in Fig. 30, the tile is made up of cement layer 105, which is held from underneath by the A upper surface 26. The gemstones 50 are embedded within the tile and held from below by the holders 52 which sit in the holes 28 on tops 34 of the profile inserts 32. The top 110 of the gemstone holder may be flush with the A upper surface 26. Thus the gemstones are held in position by the profile inserts against the application of pressure from the press and the cones of the holders ensure that the ceramic is spaced from the edge of the gemstone. As before, arm 18 is in the open position to operate rotary arm 38 which acts on transition shaft 40. Lock arm 42 rotates onto lock pin 44 and is tensioned by pull spring 46. Lock arm 42 rotates about the C axis 48.

Reference is now made to Figs. 31, 32 and 33, which together show from different angles the block in the lock position. With the press arm 108 over the pressing buffer 106, the arm 18 is rotated to the lock position. The effect is shown in the side view in Fig. 32. As press arm 108 presses the pressing buffer 106 down, the A Block is brought down to the Lock position. The top 34 of the B profile insert 32 and the "A" surface are brought to the same level, in contrast with the previous figure where the top of the gemstone holder 52 was flush with the A surface but the top 34 was below. Thus the top 110 of the gemstone holder may sit flat on the same level as the "A" surface 3. At this point, the gemstone holder 52 sets into the cement tile. The holder is shown as Fig. 33 in the top left. Holder 52 has a cone- shape design which is intended to handle the force of the high pressure machine and cone shaped base 111 is embedded into the cement. The lock arm 42 automatically pivots from the "C" axis 48 to anchor the lock pin 44 helped by the Pull Springs 46. The lock arm 42 goes upwards to a lock position.

Reference is now made to Fig. 34, which is a perspective view of the mold block after the pressing process is complete. Arm 18 is in the lock position. The pressing buffer 106 is still in position over the steel frame 80.

Figure 35 illustrates removal of the pressing buffer 106 to reveal the newly formed tile 112 underneath, held within the bounds of the steel frame 80. Subsequently the arm 18 is moved from the lock position to release the steel frame and Fig. 36 illustrates the tile 112 on the block 16 after removal of the frame.

Figure 37 shows the tile 112 being carefully lifted from the block 16. The decorative surface is downward towards the block. The gemstones lift together with the tile, to produce a decorative tile surface 114 as shown in Fig. 38, with the gemstones 50 embedded into the pattern. The gemstone holder 52 is embedded under the gemstone and provides a transparent space for light to move and allow the gemstone to sparkle.

It is expected that during the life of a patent maturing from this application many relevant tile pressing technologies, ceramics and other tiling materials and tile-making methods will be developed and the scopes of the corresponding terms are intended to include all such new technologies a priori.

The terms "comprises", "comprising", "includes", "including", "having" and their conjugates mean "including but not limited to".

The term "consisting of means "including and limited to".

The term "consisting essentially of" means that the composition, method or structure may include additional ingredients, steps and/or parts, but only if the additional ingredients, steps and/or parts do not materially alter the basic and novel characteristics of the claimed composition, method or structure.

As used herein, the singular form "a", "an" and "the" include plural references unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

It is appreciated that certain features of the invention, which are, for clarity, described in the context of separate embodiments, may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features of the invention, which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment, may also be provided separately or in any suitable subcombination or as suitable in any other described embodiment of the invention. Certain features described in the context of various embodiments are not to be considered essential features of those embodiments, unless the embodiment is inoperative without those elements.

Although the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments thereof, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims.

All publications, patents and patent applications mentioned in this specification are herein incorporated in their entirety by reference into the specification, to the same extent as if each individual publication, patent or patent application was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated herein by reference. In addition, citation or identification of any reference in this application shall not be construed as an admission that such reference is available as prior art to the present invention. To the extent that section headings are used, they should not be construed as necessarily limiting.