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Title:
A TIE ARRANGEMENT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2013/114126
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A tie arrangement (100) for use with a body support unit (50), the body support unit comprising a plurality if columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid- tillable substantially spherical cells (2) connected together, the tie arrangement comprising a tie member (101) having at least one retention aperture (102) configured to be releasably connected to eaa column at point of reduced diameter between two neighbouring cells.

Inventors:
KATAN JOE (GB)
Application Number:
GB2013/050230
Publication Date:
August 08, 2013
Filing Date:
February 01, 2013
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BALLUGA LIMITED (21 Valley Avenue, London, N12 9PG, GB)
International Classes:
A47C27/08; A47C27/10
Domestic Patent References:
WO1982003319A11982-10-14
WO2012049481A12012-04-19
Foreign References:
US6990701B12006-01-31
US5044515A1991-09-03
CA2330220A12002-07-05
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A tie arrangement for use with a body support unit, the body support unit comprising a plurality of columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid-fillable substantially spherical cells connected together, the tie arrangement comprising a tie member having at least one retention aperture configured to be releasably connected to a column at a point of reduced diameter between two neighbouring cells. 2. A tie arrangement according to claim 1 , wherein the tie member comprises a retaining sheet having a plurality of retention apertures.

3. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein the diameter of the retention aperture is substantially equal to or larger than said reduced diameter of the portion of the column between two neighbouring cells but smaller than the diameter of the cells of the column, such that upon inflation of the column, removal of the tie arrangement is restricted.

4. The tie arrangement according to claim 1 comprising a plurality of tie members, each tie member configured to be releasably connected to a first column and having at least one connector for releasably connecting the tie member to a second column of the body support unit.

5. A tie arrangement according to claim 4, wherein the connector is configured to releasably connect the tie member to at least one other tie member removably attachable to a second column.

6. A tie arrangement according to any of claims 4 and 5, releasably connectable to a plurality of other tie members each removably attachable to a respective one of a plurality of neighbouring columns. 7. A tie arrangement according to any of claims 4 to 6, wherein the tie member comprises a ring configured to be releasably connected to a column.

8. A tie arrangement according to claim 7, wherein the ring is a split ring. 9. A tie arrangement according to claim 8, where the respective ends of the split ring are releasably attachable to one another.

10. A tie arrangement according to any of claims 4 to 9, wherein the connector is one of a pair of co-operating connectors.

11. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, configured to be removably connected to a neighbouring tie arrangement.

12. A tie arrangement according to claim 11 , wherein said neighbouring tie arrangement is releasably connectable to the columns of a neighbouring body support unit.

13. A tie arrangement according to claim 12, wherein the two tie arrangements are connectable to one another by overlapping the respective edges of the two tie arrangements.

14. A tie arrangement according to claim 11 , wherein said neighbouring tie arrangement is releasably connectable to the same columns of the same body support unit. 15. A tie arrangement according to claim 14, comprising at least one connector configured to connect the tie arrangement to a parallel tie arrangement retaining the same columns.

16. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, comprising at least one connector, formed integrally with the tie arrangement.

17. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein the tie arrangement is formed from polypropylene. 18. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein the tie is flexible but inextensible.

19. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein the retention apertures are arranged in a lattice across the surface of the tie arrangement.

20. A tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein, the tie arrangement further comprises a plurality of ventilation apertures across its surface.

21. A body support unit comprising:

a plurality of columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid-fillable substantially spherical cells connected together; and at least one tie arrangement according to any preceding claim, wherein the columns are received in the retention apertures and releasably connected to the column at a point of reduced diameter between two neighbouring cells. 22 A body support platform comprising a plurality of body support units according to claim 21.

Description:
A tie arrangement

The present invention relates to a tie arrangement for use with a body support unit comprising a plurality of columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid-fillable substantially spherical cells connected together. Further, the present invention relates to a body support unit and a body support platform incorporating the tie arrangement.

There is a requirement to provide a comfortable body support platform for human beings. The most common body support platforms are furniture including beds, couches, sofas, seats, benches, chairs, sofas etc. Other body support platforms can include operating tables, physiotherapist's tables, dentist's chairs, sun-beds etc. Thus the term body support platform encompasses any construction having a support surface on which a human being lies or sits for a period of time.

Conventional mattresses are formed from a number of springs linked to form the mattress. Such springs are not able to move independently. More expensive mattresses attempt to overcome this by placing the springs in individual pockets. However, the pockets need to be contained and a significant layer of padding material is placed over the springs to enhance comfort. This layer prevents the springs from truly acting independently. To provide for different weight people, mattresses can be provided with different spring tensions e.g. soft, medium and firm. However, the spring tension is applied across the whole of the mattress and hence cannot compensate for different user's body shapes. Also, if, after time, certain springs of the mattress become damaged or worn, or if the body shape or weight of the person changes, it is not possible to replace the springs. The mattress is a sealed unit. It can only be turned to offer a different spring region to the user's body regions.

Once a mattress is worn, the only option is for it to be disposed of. Recycling of conventional mattresses is difficult because of the unitary nature of the mattress and the mixture of types of material used. This presents a significant environmental issue.

The unitary nature of conventional mattresses provides a barrier to providing bespoke mattresses for users. The construction of spring pockets with layers of wadding on top make it difficult to offer a bespoke bed design.

Further, since conventional mattresses are formed of springs and fabric material they are difficult and expensive to clean when they become soiled or infested with bed lice or other human disease agents.

Recently, a body support platform comprising a plurality of columns, each column comprising a stack of fluid-fillable substantially spherical resilient balls, has been developed, as described in WO2012/049481 to the inventor. Each ball of a respective column is physically and fluidly connected to the adjacent ball(s) within said column, such that a column may be compressed substantially independently of a neighbouring column. A base provides a primary fluid reservoir and the columns are arranged in an array across the base. The columns are connected to the base such that the lowermost ball of each respective column is directly fluidly connected to the primary fluid reservoir. The uppermost ball of respective columns collectively define a body support surface.

The body support platform has significant advantages over a conventional mattress. For example, since the body support platform is comprised of individual columns of balls, each column acts substantially independently of the other. Further, the columns or even the individual balls can be removed from the body support unit, either for cleaning, maintenance or replacement. Still further, the behaviour (e.g. firmness etc) may be altered by configuring individual balls or columns. One embodiment of the present invention provides a tie arrangement for use with a body support unit, the body support unit comprising a plurality of columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid- fillable substantially spherical cells connected together, the tie arrangement having at least one retention aperture configured to be releasably connected to a column at a point of reduced diameter between two neighbouring cells.

The present invention further provides a tie arrangement as claimed.

Another embodiment of the present invention provides a body support unit comprising a plurality of columns arranged substantially parallel to one another, each column comprised of a plurality of fluid-fillable substantially spherical cells connected together, the body support unit further comprising a tie arrangement comprising a tie member having at least one retention aperture releasably connected to a column at a point of reduced diameter between two neighbouring cells of the column.

Another embodiment of the present invention provides a body support platform incorporating at least one body support unit according to the invention.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, with reference to the accompanying figures, in which:

Figure 1 illustrates a bed (body support platform) with which the tie arrangement of the present invention may be used; Figure 2 schematically illustrates a column of cells of the bed shown in Figure 1 ;

Figure 3 illustrates a tie arrangement according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 4 illustrates one connection arrangement of a plurality of the tie arrangements of Figure 3; Figure 5a illustrates a connector for use with a tie arrangement embodying the present invention;

Figure 5b illustrates another connector for use with a tie arrangement embodying the present invention;

Figure 6a illustrates another connector forming part of a tie arrangement embodying the present invention;

Figure 6b shows the connector of Figure 6a lifted from the retaining sheet;

Figure 6c illustrates two tie arrangements embodying the present invention being connected together by connectors according to Figures 6a and 6b;

Figure 7 illustrates a tie member of a tie arrangement according to a second embodiment of the invention;

Figure 8 illustrates a number of the tie members of Figure 7 connected in a lattice to form a tie arrangement; Figures 9 and 10 schematically illustrate other tie members of a tie arrangement embodying the present invention. Figure 1 1 shows a schematic representation of a bed incorporating a plurality of tie arrangements embodying the present invention; and

Figure 12 shows part of a body support platform incorporating a support frame. Embodiments of the present invention will be described with reference to a bed. It should however be understood that the embodiments are equally applicable to any body support platform.

Figure 1 illustrates a bed 1 formed from a plurality of balls 2 (cells). The balls 2 in Figure 1 are arranged generally in four layers 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d and in columns 4. An upper surface of the uppermost layer 3a of balls defines a body support surface. Although in this embodiment four layers of balls are shown, any number of layers can be used. For example, an embodiment comprising columns of three balls 2 is illustrated in figure 2.

As shown in Figure 1 , the bed 1 is formed of a bed frame 51. The columns 4 of balls 2 are arranged into a plurality of body support units 50. In Figure 1 , the units 50 are depicted with different shading. Each unit 50 comprises a plurality of columns 4 of balls 2. As depicted in figure 2, each ball 2 of a respective column 4 is physically and fluidly connected only to the adjacent ball(s) 2 within said column 4, such that a column 4 may be compressed substantially independently of a neighbouring column 4. The unit 50 comprises a base 52 which provides a primary fluid reservoir. The columns 4 are arranged in an array across said base 52; and each of said columns 4 is connected to said base 52, such that the lowermost ball 2 of each respective column 4 is directly fluidly connected to said primary fluid reservoir. Preferably, the balls 2 are arranged in a regular grid pattern across the base 52, in an N x M matrix.

The balls 2a, 2b and 2c can be physically connected together in any convenient fashion such as by fusing (e.g. by application of heat or a chemical), by gluing or by a mechanical fixing arrangement. In one embodiment, the column is a unitary item, shaped during manufacture to define a series of linked balls. The column may be moulded as one item or as multiple parts fused or glued together to define a column.

When the uppermost ball in a respective column 4 is compressed, the pressure of the fluid inside the ball 2 increases and fluid is caused to flow freely into the primary fluid reservoir. When the uppermost ball 2 of column 4 is compressed, the pressurised fluid is transmitted to the second ball which, in turn, is transmitted to the third ball. Subsequently, the pressurised fluid passes into the reservoir until the pressure between the column and the reservoir is balanced. Fluid will not necessarily flow into other columns 4. One benefit of this arrangement is that it promotes a balancing of pressure in the balls 2 across the body support surface. Preferably, the volume of the reservoir is far higher than the volume of an individual ball 2. The use of a reservoir substantially removes any resistance to the compression of the ball 2 or column 4. By comparison, connecting a plurality of columns 4 with a network of connecting conduits increases resistance to fluid flowing therethrough and creates back pressure.

The lowermost ball 2 in each column 4 is preferably removably connected to the base 52. For example, the base 52 could be provided with a bayonet spigot to which a corresponding fitting on the lowermost ball 2 of the column 4 is releasably connectable. Alternatively, the column 2 could be releasably connected by means of a screw fitting, resilient fitting or other suitable means.

With reference to figures 1 and 2, it will be appreciated that since the columns are only attached to the base by the lowermost ball (3d), the columns can have a tendency, in use, to move apart from one another, creating a space between the columns. Such relative movement may adversely affect the behaviour of the bed and/or cause damage to the columns or connections between the columns and the base. The provision of a sleeve or band around the outside of a number of columns, body support unit, or the bed, will alleviate the issue but might adversely affect the behaviour of the bed.

A tie arrangement embodying the present invention serves to constrain relative movement of the columns away from one another, without adversely affecting the behaviour of the individual columns.

Two embodiments of a tie arrangement will be described with reference to the figures. First embodiment With reference to figures 3 to 6c, a tie arrangement 100 according to the first embodiment is shown.

The tie arrangement 100 of figure 3 includes a tie member 101 comprising a thin retaining sheet 101 having a plurality of retention apertures 102, each retention aperture 102 to receive a part of a respective column therethrough,

As illustrated in figure 3, the tie member 101 is generally rectangular, corresponding to the rectangular shape of the base of the body support unit. In the example shown, the retention apertures 102 are arranged in a 3 x 4 matrix, comprising twelve retention apertures 102 in total. The tie member 101 is therefore suitable for use with the body support unit shown in Figure 1. The tie member 101 can have a different number of retention apertures 102. It is preferred that the number of retention apertures 102 is equal to the number of columns in a body support unit, so that each body support unit defines one discrete assembly incorporating a tie member 101. A plurality of the members 101 may be used with a body support unit or plurality of body support units.

With reference to figure 2, during assembly of the body support unit, before the columns are filled with fluid, the columns are inserted through the retention apertures 102 of a number of tie members 101 and positioned at the intersection of two neighbouring cells. With the column shown in figure 2, two parallel tie members 101 may be provided - one at the intersection of cells 2a and 2b, and the other at the intersection of cells 2b and 2c. The diameter of each retention aperture 102 is smaller than the diameter of a cell in the column. Preferably, there is a substantially loose fit between the retention aperture and the column. The tie members 101 together define a tie arrangement for that body support unit. When the column is filled with fluid (inflated), the diameter of the retention apertures

102, the diameter of the cells and the pressure in the cells, is such that the tie member 101 cannot easily be removed from the columns. The tie arrangement 100 serves to constrain relative sideways movement of the columns of cells. Preferably, the tie member 101 is flexible. This flexibility and/or the loose connection allows each column be compressed substantially independently of other columns, at least up to a predetermined limit. The tie member 101 further comprises a plurality of ventilation apertures 103 across its surface, to allow ventilation fluid (as discussed above) to flow between the cells of the body support unit. The ventilation apertures 103 also serve to reduce the amount of material of the tie member, increasing flexibility and reducing weight.

The tie member 101 is attachable to another tie member 101 by means of connectors. In the embodiment shown in Figure 3, the retaining sheet further comprises a plurality of connector apertures 104. Preferably, the tie member 101 further includes at least one connector, for connecting the tie member 101 to a neighbouring tie member 101.

Figure 4 shows a number of substantially co-planar tie members 101 connected to one another. Each of the tie members 101 shown in figure 4 is associated with a respective body support unit 50. The neighbouring tie members 101 are connectable to one another by overlapping a respective edge of each tie member 101 and directly connecting one tie member 101 to the neighbouring tie member 101. Figure 5a shows an exemplary connector 105 for use in connecting two neighbouring tie members 101 together. The connector is preferably releasable and re-usable. The connector 105 comprises a male part 106 and a female part 107. The male part 106 is received in the female part 107. The connector 105 passes through the connector apertures 104. Alternatively, the male 106 and female 107 parts may be integrally formed with the tie member 101. An alternative connector 108 is shown in figure 5b. Rather than a separate connector, the edge 109 of each tie member 101 is provided with a flange 110. In use, two tie members 101 are connected to one another by means of a connecting strip 11 1 having an i-shaped cross-section. In use, two tie members 101 are connected to one another by positioning the flanges 110 next to one another, and sliding in the connecting strip 11 1. Preferably, the flanges 110 are received in the connecting strip 11 1 with an interference fit, so as to avoid inadvertent release of the two tie members 101.

A tie member may additionally or alternatively be connectable to parallel tie member above or below within the same body support unit. Preferably, the at least one connector is formed integrally with the retaining sheet.

Figure 6a shows one embodiment of a connector 115 for use with a tie arrangement embodying the present invention, in which the connector 115 is formed integrally with the tie member 101. Advantageously, the tie member 101 with integral connectors may be manufactured by punching out a pattern from a single sheet of planar material.

The connector 115 comprises an elongate member 1 16, connected at one end 117 to the tie member 101 and provided at the other end 118 with a male connecting feature 119. When the male connecting feature 1 19 is lifted from the retaining sheet, it forms a corresponding female connecting feature 120 in the tie member 101 , as shown in Figure 6b. The male connecting feature 1 19 has an aperture 121.

As demonstrated in figure 6c, when two ties members 101 of a body support unit are arranged vertically spaced apart from one another, in a parallel relationship, the male connecting feature 119 of one tie member 101 may engage with the corresponding female connecting feature 120 of the neighbouring tie member 101.

Connecting parallel and neighbouring tie member 101 together serves to reinforce the body support platform and reduce or prevent lozenging. The top of the base reservoir of a body support unit is also represented in figure 6c, the upper surface of which is provided with male connectors 122. In use, the aperture 121 in the male connecting feature 1 19 is retained on the male connector 122, to anchor the tie member to the base.

Preferably, the tie is formed from polypropylene and is flexible but inextensible.

Second embodiment

According to a second embodiment of the present invention, the tie arrangement comprises a plurality of tie members, each tie member configured to be releaseably connected to a first column and having at least one connector for releaseably connecting the tie member to a second column of the body support unit.

The tie member 10 shown in Figure 7 comprises a ring 1 1 which is removably attachable to a first column. Preferably, the internal diameter of the ring 1 1 is sized so as to be larger than the connections between adjacent balls 2 in a column 4, but preferably smaller than the diameter of the balls 2. As such, the ring 1 1 will be retained in place between two balls 2. In one embodiment, the tie member 10 may be positioned before the balls 2 are inflated and/or before the balls 2 are connected to one another. In another embodiment, the ring 11 can be forced over the balls 2 and retained in place, either by virtue of the resiliency of the ball(s) 2 and/or the resiliency of the ring 11.

In one embodiment, as with the first embodiment described above, the internal diameter (retention aperture) of the ring 11 is such that it maintains a loose connection with the column 4. Accordingly, the column 4 may move by a predetermined extent with respect to a neighbouring column 4 before the tie member 10 serves to constrain its movement.

The tie member 10 comprises four link members 12 radially distributed around and connected at one end to the ring 11. The other end of each link member 12 is provided with a one of a pair of co-operating connectors 13. As will be seen in Figure 7, the connector 13 at the end of a first link member 12 is of the opposite (co-operating) type to that at the end of the second link member 12 opposite to the first link member 12. The male connector 13B comprises a plate 14 having a hook 15, the hook 15 facing towards the ring 11. The female connector 13A comprises a plate 16 having an aperture 17, which receives the hook 15. The plane of the plate 16 of the female connector is spaced from that of the link member 12, such that, when the male 13B and female 13A connectors are connected to one another, the link members 12 of the connected ties 10 are substantially co-planar, to avoid twisting or warping of the ties 10 when installed between columns 4.

Although a hook and 'loop' connecting mechanism is shown, any other suitable connector can be used, including, for example, hooks, poppers, Velcro ®, magnets etc. Accordingly, multiple members 10 may be provided, each removably attached to a respective column and each releasably connected to one another. Thus, a connector 13 of a first tie member 10 is connected to a co-operating connector 13 on a second, adjacent, tie member 10. A plurality of tie members 10 may be connected together in a lattice work, as shown in Figure 8, to form a tie arrangement.

As a result, by releasably connecting columns 4 to one another using the tie member 10, relative movement of the columns 4 is constrained. A benefit of the tie members of the present invention is that they can be removed when needed, for example during cleaning or maintenance of the body support unit. If a body support unit, column or individual ball needs to be removed the tie can first be unfastened to allow the removal. In another embodiment, the ring is a split ring (not shown) to aid the attachment of the retaining member to a column. In this embodiment, the split ring is made of resilient material. To attach the split ring to a column, the ends of the split ring are urged apart from one another, and the column introduced into the gap formed between the ends. The ends are then released, with the resiliency of the ring causing it to return to its original shape. The resiliency of the ring then retains the column within the ring. The resiliency is such that, in normal use, the column will not be released from being held within the split ring. At least a predetermined manual force is required to release the column. Alternatively or additionally, the ends of the split ring may be releasably securable to one another using any suitable connector.

Schematic representations of further embodiments of tie member are shown in Figures 9 and 10. With reference to Figure 9, the retaining members each comprise a half-ring, and a connector is provided at each end of the half-ring. When two of the tie members are connected together at one corner, the two adjacent half-rings form a composite ring attachable to a respective first column. Figure 10 is a variation on figure 9, where the half-rings are connected using link members in a different configuration. A schematic representation of a body support platform using the tie members of either the first and second embodiments is shown in Figure 11. A plurality of tie members 'D' are provided, releasably connecting the columns to one another. It will be noted that there are two rows of ties members, each removably connected between respective neighbouring cells or the columns '.

In use, if a lateral force is applied to the balls, particularly the upper balls in a column, the force may cause the body support unit(s) to 'lozenge'. In other words, whilst the top surface of the body support unit may remain substantially horizontal, the sides of the body support unit are caused to slant. Accordingly, as shown in Figure 11 , additional tie connectors 'C may be provided, attached at one end 'A' to a column at the intersection between two of the balls of the column, and removably attached at the other end 'B' to the base. As a result, the body support unit is anchored more firmly to the base, to reduce or prevent any lozenging. Alternatively, the tie may be anchored to the bed frame.

As shown in figure 11 , two columns may be connected using multiple tie members. For example, with reference to figure 2, a first tie may be removably attached to the column between balls 2a and 2b and a second tie removably attached to the column between balls 2b and 2c. It will also be noted that the tie is releasably connected between a column of a first body support unit and a column of a second body support unit.

The balls used in the bed are formed of washable material to facilitate easy cleaning of the bed. The balls can also be colour coded to indicate their intended fluid pressure and/or their elasticity.

The decouplable nature of the balls enables the bed to be made in a modular manner and on a ball by ball or column by column basis. The columns can be prefabricated by, for example gluing the balls into stacks. The bed can then be fabricated by assembling columns having balls having the appropriate gas pressure and elasticity to meet the customer's requirement. The bed, body support platform or body support unit may be provided with an outer cover. Preferably, the cover is substantially non-elastic to constrain the balls and/or columns.

In the embodiments described, the columns are comprised of balls. The balls are generally spherical since this is the shape that provides the best characteristics. This should be interpreted not in a true geometrical sense but in a functional sense in accordance with this invention and this includes shaped with multiple surfaces which are near spherical as well as extended spherical shapes. The spherical 'ball' shape of a cell may only be realised upon inflation. Prior to inflation, the cell may be non-spherical, such as a cuboid, ovoid etc. In one embodiment, the provision of the tie serves to constrain the shape of the cells during inflation into a spherical shape. Preferably, the tie member is flexible but substantially inextensible. In one embodiment, the tie member is made of polypropylene. When the tie member is flexed and subsequently released, it preferably returns to its original, substantially planar, condition. Figure 12 schematically illustrates a part of a body support platform having a support frame 18, according to one embodiment of the invention. The support frame 18 surrounds at least a part of the body support units of the body support platform to provide lateral support to the columns of the body support units, whilst not adversely affecting the compressibility and normal behaviour of a column. Additionally, as illustrated in figure 12, the tie arrangement of the present invention is configured to retain the columns with respect to the support frame 8. Accordingly, the tie members of the tie arrangement are operable to be releasably connected to the support frame 18. Although two parallel tie arrangements are shown in figure 12, it will be appreciated that only one layer of tie arrangements may alternatively be used.

Preferably, the support frame is closed or open cell foam.

The releasable connection of the tie arrangement to the columns conveniently allows for the tie arrangement to be removed for cleaning, replacement, repair and reconfiguration of the columns and/or ties.

When used in this specification and claims, the terms "comprises" and "comprising" and variations thereof mean that the specified features, steps or integers are included. The terms are not to be interpreted to exclude the presence of other features, steps or components.

The features disclosed in the foregoing description, or the following claims, or the accompanying drawings, expressed in their specific forms or in terms of a means for performing the disclosed function, or a method or process for attaining the disclosed result, as appropriate, may, separately, or in any combination of such features, be utilised for realising the invention in diverse forms thereof.