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Title:
TOILET SEAT AND LID ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/1999/062392
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A toilet seat (2b) and lid, each comprising a rigid insert (1a) injection molded of reinforced thermoplastic material. Each insert (1a) is then over-molded by injection molding with a thermoplastic elastomeric material which provides the outer surface (10) of seat (2b) and lid. The inserts (1a) are dimensioned with respect to their over-molded surfaces (10) to be smaller than the finished seat (2b) and lid and are designed to give maximum strength to the seat (2b) and lid. Each insert (1a) is shaped to promote the flow of the over-mold material and to minimize shrinking, swelling or distortion of the insert. The elastomeric material is preferably chemically compatible with the inserts (1a) to allow a chemical as well as mechanical bond to take place. The over-molded material provides the desired soft, non-slip, warm to the touch outer characteristics of the seat (2b) and lid.

Inventors:
Hogue, Aaron G. (550 Linne Road Paso Robles, CA, 93447, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US1999/001206
Publication Date:
December 09, 1999
Filing Date:
January 06, 1999
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
Hogue, Aaron G. (550 Linne Road Paso Robles, CA, 93447, US)
International Classes:
A47K13/02; A47K13/30; B29C45/14; (IPC1-7): A47K13/02; B29C45/14; A47K13/30
Domestic Patent References:
WO1996029361A11996-09-26
Foreign References:
DE8909032U11989-11-23
EP0679359A11995-11-02
US4318213A1982-03-09
DE2642316A11978-03-23
US4983647A1991-01-08
DE4420324A11995-12-14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Logan II, Charles C. (8282 University Avenue La Mesa, CA, 91941, US)
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Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED
1. A seat and lid assembly for a toilet, said assembly comprising strong, rigid, lightweight, injection molded seat and lid inserts of reinforced synthetic material and a foaming agent, said seat and lid inserts having an injection overmold comprising the outer surfaces of said seat and lid.
2. A seat for a toilet, said seat comprising a strong, rigid, lightweight injection molded seat insert of reinforced sythetic material and a foaming agent, said insert having an injection overmold comprising the outer surface of said seat.
3. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises a fiberglass reinforced, olefin base, thermoplastic material.
4. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises a fiberglass reinforced polypropylene.
5. The seat and lid claimed in claim 1 wherein said overmold comprises a thermoplastic elastomer.
6. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said overmold comprises a thermoplastic elastomer bondable with said insert.
7. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said overmold comprises an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer.
8. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said overmold includes an antibacterial additive.
9. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises fiberglass reinforced polypropylene containing from about 1% to about 2% of a foaming agent, said overmold comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer bondable with said inserts, said overmold material containing an antibacterial additive.
10. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein an appearance enhancing texture is provided at at least selected areas of said seat and lid.
11. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 including hinge elements for said seat and lid, said hinge elements comprising an integral onepiece part of said inserts.
12. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 including hinge elements for said seat and lid, said hinge elements being embedded in said seat and lid inserts.
13. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 including at least one heating element located in a groove in said seat insert and covered by said overmold.
14. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim I wherein said reinforced synthetic material for said inserts comprises a fiberglass reinforced olefin base thermoplastic, said overmold material comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer chemically bonded to said insert.
15. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises fiberglass reinforced polypropylene, said overmold comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer chemically bonded to said insert.
16. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said overmold is chemically bonded to said seat insert.
17. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said reinforced synthetic material for said insert comprises a fiberglass reinforced olefin base thermoplastic, said overmold material comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer chemically bonded to said insert.
18. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises fiberglass reinforced polypropylene, said overmold comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer chemically bonded to said insert.
19. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said overmold includes an antibacterial additive.
20. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises fiberglass reinforced polypropylene containing from about 1 % to about 2% of a foaming agent, said overmold comprising an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer bondable with said inserts, said overmold material containing an antibacterial additive.
21. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein an appearance enhancing texture is provided at at least selected areas of said seat.
22. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 including at least one heating element located in a groove in said seat insert and covered by said overmold.
23. A method of making a seat assembly comprising the steps of injection molding a rigid insert of reinforced synthetic material containing a foaming agent and overmolding said insert by injection molding using a material which provides the surface characteristics of the seat including softness, durability, superior feel, easy cleaning and nonslip characteristics.
24. The method claimed in claim 23 wherein said overmold material comprises a thermoplastic elastomer.
25. The method claimed in claim 23 wherein said overmold material comprises a thermoplastic elastomer bondable with said insert.
26. The method claimed in claim 23 wherein said reinforced synthetic material comprises a fiberglass reinforced, olefin base thermoplastic material and said overmold material comprises an olefin base thermoplastic elastomer.
27. The method claimed in claim 23 wherein said synthetic reinforced material comprises fiberglass reinforced polypropylene and said overmold material comprises an olefin base elastomer, and including the step of injection over molding said insert with said overmold material at such temperature and pressure as to chemically bond said overmold material to said insert.
28. The seat and lid assembly claimed in claim 1 wherein said insert is bondable with said overmold.
29. The seat assembly claimed in claim 2 wherein said insert is bondable with said overmold.
30. The method claimed in claim 23 wherein said insert is bondable with said overmold material.
Description:
TOILET SEAT AND LID ASSEMBLY TECHNICAL FIELD The invention relates to a seat and lid assembly for a toilet, and more particularly to such a seat and lid comprising injection molded, reinforced plastic inserts injection over-molded with a chemically compatible material which provides the desired outer surface characteristics of the seat and lid.

BACKGROUND ART The invention is directed to the improvement of the feel and comfort of a toilet seat and lid, and to the provision of a comfortable, warm, non-slip seating surface.

This is accomplished by utilizing modern thermoplastic material and high-pressure injection molding techniques. While not intended to be so limited, the invention will be described in its application to a toilet seat and lid. It will be understood that the basic teachings of the present invention can be applied to toilet seats without lids and other types of seats.

Prior art workers have devised many types of toilet seats and lids to improve the comfort, look and convenience thereof. Heretofore toilet seats and lids have been constructed from rigid materials such as wood or plastic, or made from a solid core upholstered in foam padding and/or a vinyl covering. Typical rigid plastic or wood seats are relatively cold to the touch and can be slippery. Upholstered seats and lids, with or without padding, are not particularly durable and are susceptible to cuts and tears. Additionally some people find the feel of padded vinyl seats and lids to be undesirable. Prior art workers have attempted to produce a padded, resilient-type seat using complicated and costly molding methods employing catalyzed materials such as urethane. Molding a seat by using catalyzed low pressure materials requires time- consuming mixing and pouring, resulting in less than satisfactory results and a costly product.

The present invention is based upon the discovery that a seat and lid assembly comprising inserts of reinforced thermoplastic material with or without an appropriate foaming agent, and with over-molded thermoplastic material which determines the characteristics of the outer surface of the seat and lid, can overcome the above noted problems. When a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) over-mold material is used, the seat and lid are provided with soft, comfortable, durable surfaces which will not tear and which have non-slip characteristics, which, nevertheless, allows reasonable mobility while using the seat. The elastomer provides a completely different and arguably superior feel as compared to conventional seats and padded seats. The seat of the present invention is not padded and does not deform when sat upon. The surface also provides an aesthetically pleasing finish which is easily cleaned and is available in many colors.

It is an object of the present invention to provide an injection molded toilet seat and lid which are soft to the touch and relatively warm and non-slip as compared to a conventional hard seat and lid.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a toilet seat and lid with the above features which are both strong and durable.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a toilet seat and lid with the above features which are easy to clean.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a more comfortable and non- slip toilet seat and lid assembly, than is achievable with existing designs and conventional construction techniques.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a toilet seat and lid with antibacterial qualities.

Finally, it is an object of the invention to provide a soft feeling injection molded toilet seat shaped to fit the user comfortably.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION According to the invention there is provided a strong, durable, comfortable toilet seat and lid assembly which is non-slip and easy to clean. The assembly comprises rigid inserts molded of a reinforced thermoplastic material with or without a foaming agent. The inserts are over-molded with a thermoplastic material which provides them with the desired surface characteristics.

The inserts are precisely dimensioned so that their areas to be over-molded are smaller than the finished seat. The inserts are designed to give maximum strength to the seat and lid and are shaped to promote the flow of the over-mold material to minimize flow joint or flow weld problems, to be described hereinafter. Each insert is designed to minimize shrinking, swelling or distortion thereof and, to this end, is provided with strategically located ribs and appropriate cored areas.

When the thermoplastic material of the inserts and the over-mold material elastomer are both of the same chemical base, the over-mold will bond both mechanically and chemically with the inserts and will provide the seat and lid with a soft, comfortable, non-slip surface. The surface may be smooth or textured to enhance the feel and appearance of the seat.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS Figure 1 is an inside elevational view of the lid insert of the present invention.

Figure 2 is a top plan view of a seat insert of the present invention.

Figure 3 is an inside elevational view of an over-molded lid of the present invention.

Figure 4 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along section line 4-4 of Figure 3.

Figure 5 is a top plan view of an over-molded seat of the present invention.

Figure 6 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along section line 6-6 of Figure 5.

Figure 7 is a side elevational view of the lid and seat of Figures 3 and 5.

Figure 8 is an elevational view of the upper surface of the lid of Figure 7 and the bottom surface of the seat of Figure 7.

Figure 9 is a cross-sectional view taken along section line 9-9 of Figure 8.

Figure 10 is a cross-sectional view taken along section line 10-10 of Figure 8.

Figure 11 is a perspective view of the over-molded seat of the present invention together with the hinge elements by which it is hingedly attached to the toilet bowl.

Figure 12 is an exploded view illustrating the outside surface of the lid of the present invention and the bottom surface of the seat of the present invention.

Figure 13 is a top plan view of a seat of the present invention provided with areas or bands of texture.

Figure 14 is a top plan view of the lid of the present invention provided with areas or bands of texture.

Figure 15 is a top plan view of a lid having a sculpture formed by the over- molding.

Figure 16 is an exploded view of a lid and seat of the present invention provided with hinge elements which are embedded in the inserts thereof.

Figure 17 is a bottom plan view of a seat of the present invention provided with a groove to receive a heating element.

Figure 18 is a cross-sectional view of a seat of the present invention provided with a groove and heating element therein covered by the over-mold material.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION.

It will be understood by one skilled in the art that, for each type or model of seat and lid to which the present invention is to be applied, the finished seat and lid, the inserts and the molds must be appropriately designed in accordance with the teaching of the present invention.

The exemplary seat and lid are each made of two major parts, (an insert and an over-mold), in two steps. In some embodiments additional parts may be used such as hinges imbedded in or molded as part of the inserts, as will be described hereinafter.

In the exemplary embodiment, the first step is the injection molding of the inserts.

The inserts are best shown in Figures 1 and 2, and are generally indicated at 1 a and I b. The inserts I a and 1 b constitute substantially the bulk of the finished seat and lid and serve as the skeleton of the over-molded seat 2b and lid 2a of Figures 3 and 5.

The seat portion insert 1 b of Figure 2 comprises a generally oval structure forming the shape of the seat, and is dimensioned to fit the particular toilet for which it is designed. The seat may have any appropriate shape including the well-known"C" shaped, open-front configuration. The lid insert la is generally shaped in an oval to approximate the shape of the finished lid 2a. The rearward portions of the lid insert I a and the seat insert 1 b have either hinges 3 and 3 a molded as part of the inserts as shown in Figures 1 and 2, or hinges imbedded or otherwise appropriately attached to the inserts as shown in Figure 15.

The inside surface of the lid insert 1 a is provided with four integral stand-offs constituting a one-piece part of insert I a and indicated at I c, I d, I e and 1 f. In a similar fashion, the bottom surface of the seat insert I b is provided with four integral stand-offs constituting a one-piece part of insert I b and indicated at 1 g, 1 h, 1 i and Ij.

Inserts I a and I b are preferably molded of a strong, reinforced, synthetic material. Any appropriate synthetic material can be used as long as it is chemically

compatible with the over-molded material. When the preferred thermoplastic elastomer over-mold is used as is described hereinafter, an olefin base thermoplastic material is necessary for the insert because, under these circumstances, the over-mold material will chemically bond with the insert material. Excellent results have been achieved, for example, when the insert is molded of fiberglass reinforced polypropylene. An example of such material is manufactured by DSM Engineering Plastics, Inc. of Evansville, Indiana, and is sold under the trademark FIBERFIL and designation J-60/30/E.

The reinforced synthetic material is preferably combined with an endothermic foaming agent. The foaming agent enables the molding of thick, lightweight portions of the insert without visible"sink"areas, gross warping, or the like. In addition, the foaming agent helps minimize or eliminate"joint"and"weld"problems. Welds, for example, are created when portions of molten plastic, traveling in different directions, meet in the mold and solidify. The insert mold must be designed in such a way to overcome this problem so that the weight of a person sitting or standing on the seat will not cause a failure. A preferred way to overcome or minimize flow joints or flow welds is to introduce the material into the mold from one source through a single gate, when possible. On the other hand, in accordance with conventional molding techniques, the sheer size of the seat would dictate the provision of multiple sources of mold material and multiple gates to guarantee complete fill. Multiple sources and gates, however, potentially cause welds and joints. In the insert embodiments illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, the joint and weld problems were overcome by using the above noted endothermic foaming agent which, when activated, becomes solvent- like, thereby lowering the polymer viscosity during the injection molding process for the inserts 1 and 1 a. Because of the reduced melt viscosity, molds can be made for the lid and seat inserts, each having a single gate resulting in the production of lid and seat inserts free of polymer welds. With other seat designs and configurations multiple gates may by desired or required.

The foaming agent also enhances the inserts overall strength by creating essentially a structural"honeycomb"within the inserts themselves. Excellent results

have been achieved with a foaming agent sold by Reedy International of Keyport, New Jersey, under the trademark SAFOAM and the designation PE-50. The foaming agent constitutes from 1% to 2% of the synthetic material-foaming agent combination.

The inserts are designed to give maximum strength to the finished seat and lid assembly. In addition, the inserts may be cored out in critical thick areas to reduce warping, excessive swelling or other deformation of the insert.

As indicated above, each overall insert is precisely dimensioned so that its areas to be over-molded are smaller than the finished seat. The dimensions are chosen to minimize warpage of the insert and to allow for proper over-molding material flow and bonding.

Once inserts la and I b are molded, the next step is to mount the inserts in final molds and injection mold (over-mold under heat and pressure) thereon the thermoplastic elastomer. As indicated above, the thermoplastic elastomer preferably should be chemically compatible with the material from which the inserts are molded so that a chemical bond occurs between the reinforced synthetic material of the insert and the thermoplastic elastomer of the over-mold. Excellent results have been achieved, for example, with a thermoplastic elastomer provided by Advanced Elastomer Systems of St. Louis, Missouri, under the trademark SANTOPRENE.

An antibacterial additive can be blended with the Santoprene to give the seat surface built-in antibacterial characteristics. Excellent results have been achieved with a antibacterial additive provided by Morton international of Boston Massachusetts under the designation SB-30.

The inside elevational view of Figure 3 illustrates the over-molded lid insert, generally indicated at 2a. Figure 5 is a top plan view of the over-molded seat insert, generally indicated at 2b. Figure 4 is a fragmentary transverse cross-sectional view of the over-molded lid 2a taken along section line 4-4 of Figure 3. Figure 6 is a fragmentary cross-sectional view taken along section line 6-6 of Figure 5. Figure 7 is a side elevational view and Figure 8 is a view of the assembled over-molded lid 2a

and over-molded seat 2b illustrating the top surface of over-molded lid 2a and the bottom surface of over-molded seat 2b. In these Figures, the thermoplastic rubber over-mold is generally indicated at 10. The rearwardmost ends of the lid and seat inserts are over-molded, with the exception of the hinge contact points as is clearly shown in Figures 3,5 and 10. Generally, the entire exterior surface of inserts la and I b are over-molded although on some designs some insert surfaces will be exposed.

For example, in the preferred embodiment, seat ribs l la, l lb, 1 lc and l ld are not over-molded (see Figure 8). In addition, each of the lid stand-offs I c, I d, I e and If and each of the seat stand-offs 1 g, 1 h, l i and Ij has a hole 12 formed in the over- molding material thereon. These are clearly shown in Figures 3 and 8. The holes 12 are formed by the molds for the over-molding process which uses the stand-offs of the lid 2a and seat 2b as contact points for the mold elements which support the inserts la and I b in the over-mold molds. Figure 9 is a cross-sectional view taken along section line 9-9 of Figure 8. The section line passes through stand-off 1 g and clearly shows the hole 12. Figure 10 is a cross-sectional view taken along section line 10-10 of Figure 8. Figure 10 clearly shows that the hinge contact points are not over-molded.

Reference is made to Figures 10 and 11. These Figures show the hinge elements 3a of seat 2b. The Figures also illustrate an additional hinge element 3b for each hinge element 3a by which the seat and lid are affixed to the toilet bowl. Each of the two hinge elements 3b have a base portion 3c and an upstanding hinge member 3d. Each base portion 3c has a perforation 3e formed therein enabling it to be bolted to the toilet bowl. The hinge elements 3b could comprise over-molded elements except for their hinge contact faces. They could also simply comprise metallic or plastic molded members. In Figure 1 l it is clear that the hinge elements 3a of seat 2b lie just inside hinge elements 3d. While the lid 2a and its hinge elements 3 are not shown in Figure 11, it is evident from Figure 5 that the lid hinge elements 3 will lie just outside hinge elements 3d. The hinge elements of each group of three 3,3d, and 3 a have coaxial perforations for the receipt of a hinge pin.

It will be understood that distortion considerations due to shrinkage, warpage, outside forces and the like are unique with respect to each over-molded seat. The

inserts la and I b are first molded at which point minimal shrinkage or warpage may occur and thereafter the insert components become stabilized. Next, the over-molding places a new thermoplastic material over the already stabilized inserts creating stresses not found in single stage molded parts. When the over-mold material is applied to the inserts with the appropriate heat and pressure, and then allowed to cool and stabilize, shrinkage of the thermoplastic rubber will tend to warp certain areas of the lid and seat.

Strategically placed ribs 1 Ib, lie, lid and l le, as shown in Figure 12, can be used to minimize or eliminate this distortion. Since the thermoplastic material of the insert and the thermoplastic rubber are compatible, the materials will chemically bond under the heat and pressure of the injection molding operation.

Again it is desirable to prevent unsightly weld and joint lines in the over-mold material. In the exemplary embodiment of Figures 3 and 5, it was possible to introduce the over-mold material into the mold through a single gate approximately at 17. Theribs llb, llc, lld, lleand 13a, 13b and 13c of Figure 12, and ribs 14a, 14b, 14c and 14d of Figure 2 (which are unique to each seat and lid) are designed and located to minimize the disturbance of the flow of the thermoplastic rubber. At the same time, the flow path of the rubber in the mold must be carefully designed to provide the most efficient rubber-to-insert bonding.

Insert I b is also designed to provide a mechanical bond, wherever possible, between the thermoplastic rubber and the insert. In areas where delamination would be most likely to occur, such as at thin fleeting edges of the insert, the insert is configured to cause the thermoplastic rubber to hook thereabout, forming a permanent melt seal. Such permanent melt seals are indicated at 15 in Figure 6.

Because of the two-step injection molding process of the present invention, specific rheological analysis was made to ensure compatibility between the two processes and to provide critical data such as linear and transverse shrinkage ratios, as well as the impact of a foaming agent on the structural strength, shrinkage, and warpage of the seat assembly.

During the injection molding of the insert la, the reinforced synthetic material, combined with the foaming agent, was introduced into the mold at a point generally indicated in Figure 1 at 16. This, of course, created a sprue which had to be removed.

During the over-molding process the insert 1 a was supported in the second mold primarily by means of pins entering openings indicated at 12 in Figure 3 and also the seat supported by the ribs 11 b, lie, lid and 11 e. Again, a single gate was used, the gate being located at a point generally indicated at 17 in Figure 3. Again a sprue was created and removed.

It is within the scope of the invention to provide selected portions of the surface of the over-molded thermoplastic elastomer with a appearance-enhancing texture. The texture may be of any appropriate and well known type. In Figure 13 and 14, the upper seating portions of the seat and the entire lid are shown provided with textured areas 18 and 19, respectively. The textured surface is of a subtle type which enhances the appearance. At the same time, the textured surface portions 18 and 19 preferably allow the user adequate mobility while seated and also retain easy cleaning characteristics. It will be understood that textured areas may be applied to the entire seat and lid surface or selectively as desired. For decorative purposes some seats and lids may also be molded with sculpted surfaces. The sculpted surfaces may be of any appropriate design. In Figure 15, the top surface of lid 2a is shown provided with one such sculpted area indicated at 20.

As stated above, some seats and lids may be made with the hinges molded as part of the insert and some may use separate decorative hinges made of metal or plastic for example. An exemplary metal hinge is illustrated in Figures 16 and 17 at 20.

When a seat assembly of the present invention is to be provided with metal hinge such as cooperating hinge elements 20a and 20b (see Figure 16), the hinge elements are provided with perforated flanges 21 a and 21 b molded into the inserts providing a secure mechanical bond between each hinge element and its respective seat or lid insert. The over-mold may also incorporate parts of the hinge. Figure 16

illustrates a seat assembly 22a and 22b of the present invention provided with separate molded in hinge elements 20a and 20b. The hinge elements 20a and 20b may be made of metal, rigid plastic, or any other appropriate rigid material.

To further enhance the flexibility in manufacturing specialized seats and take advantage of the unique molding process, Figures 17 and 18 show channels 23 that can be incorporated in the reinforced thermoplastic seat insert lb to allow for the installation of a low wattage heating element or elements 24. The insert with the heating element would then be over-molded thereon with the thermoplastic elastomer totally encasing the heating element. Provisions are made on the over-mold to allow the electrical cord to exit the mold during the molding process. On the finished seat the cord would exit the rear of the seat so that it could be plugged into a convenient electrical outlet.

Modifications may be made in the invention without departing from the spirit of it. For example, the teachings of the present invention are also applicable to toilet seats without lids.




 
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