Patent application title: Device for Securely Holding Objects in Place
Joel James Everhart (Beavercreek, OH, US)
David Ernest Havens (Bellbrook, OH, US)
Thomas Wood Margraf (Centerville, OH, US)
CORNERSTONE RESEARCH GROUP, INC.
IPC8 Class: AA47K108FI
Class name: Supports brackets article holding means
Publication date: 2009-04-16
Patent application number: 20090095865
Patent application title: Device for Securely Holding Objects in Place
Joel James Everhart
David Ernest Havens
Thomas Wood Margraf
CORNERSTONE RESEARCH GROUP, INC.
CORNERSTONE RESEARCH GROUP, INC.
Origin: DAYTON, OH US
IPC8 Class: AA47K108FI
A device utilizing the unique properties of shape memory materials to
securely hold items of varying geometric shape and size securely in place
is disclosed. This device and process works equally well for securely
holding in place small items, such as would be stored in a cup holder, or
for securely larger items in a cargo container. By deforming the shape
memory material such that it conforms to the outer dimensions of the item
to be held in place a secure and tight fit is assured.
1. A device for securely holding at least one item in place comprising:a.
pre-forming a material into a desired memory shape, said material
comprising a shape memory material and attaching said shape memory
material to a rigid structure or frame, wherein said structure or frame
and said shape memory material can be of similar or different and varying
geometric shapes and sizes;b. activating said shape memory material such
that said shape memory material becomes soft;c. deforming said shape
memory material into a shape adapted for holding said item in securely in
place; andd. de-activating said shape memory material while maintaining
said shape memory material in its deformed state such that said item is
held in place by the deformed shape memory material.
2. The device of claim 1 where said shape memory material is shape memory polymer.
3. The device of claim 2 wherein said shape memory material comprises a composite material formed from at least one layer of fibrous material in combination with a shape memory polymer.
4. The device of claim 3 wherein said fibrous material is embedded in said shape memory polymer.
5. The device of claim 3 wherein said fibrous material is impregnated with said shape memory polymer.
6. The device of claim 3 wherein said fibrous material is carbon nano-fibers, carbon fiber, spandex, chopped fiber, random fiber mat, fabric of any material, continuous fiber, fiberglass, or other type of textile fabric.
7. The device of claim 3 wherein said fibrous material is in the form of a flat weave, two dimensional weave, or three dimensional weave pattern.
8. The device of claim 2 wherein said shape memory polymer is selected from the group consisting of a styrene shape memory polymer, cyanate ester shape memory polymer, maleimide shape memory polymer, epoxy shape memory polymer, or vinyl ester shape memory polymer.
9. The device of claim 8 wherein said shape memory polymer resin is a thermoset resin.
10. The device of claim 3 wherein said shape memory polymer is selected from the group consisting of a styrene shape memory polymer, cyanate ester shape memory polymer, maleimide shape memory polymer, epoxy shape memory polymer, or vinyl ester shape memory polymer.
11. The device of claim 10 wherein said shape memory polymer resin is a thermoset resin.
12. The device of claim 1 wherein said shape memory material comprises an embedded thermal energy generation means.
13. The device of claim 12 wherein said embedded thermal energy generation means comprises thermally conductive fibers.
14. The device of claim 12 wherein said thermal energy generation means comprises an electrical conductor.
15. The device of claim 12 wherein said shape memory material comprises an embedded thermal energy generation means and said heating is by applying electrical current to said embedded thermal energy generation means.
16. The device of claim 1 wherein said activation of said shape memory material is by heating said shape memory material above its transition temperature.
17. The device of claim 16 wherein said heating is by inductive heating, hot air or by heat lamps.
18. The device of claim 1 wherein said activation of said shape memory material is achieved by application of electromagnetic radiation.
19. The device of claim 18 where said electromagnetic radiation is visible light or ultraviolet light.
20. The device of claim 1 wherein said deforming is achieved by mechanical means.
21. The device of claim 20 wherein deforming by mechanical means is accomplished by pressing said item against said shape memory material such that said shape memory material conforms to the outer dimensions of said item.
22. The device of claim 1 wherein said deactivation of said shape memory material is achieved by reducing the temperature of said shape memory material below its activation temperature.
23. The device of claim 1 wherein said deactivation of said shape memory material is achieved by application of electromagnetic radiation.
24. The device of claim 23 wherein said electromagnetic radiation is visible light or ultraviolet light.
25. The device of claim 1 wherein said shape memory material is a shape memory alloy or metal.
26. A process for securely holding an item in place comprising:a. preforming a shape memory material into a desired shape;b. attaching said preformed shape memory material to a rigid structure or frame;c. activating said shape memory material such that said shape memory material becomes soft;d. deforming said shape memory material into a deformed shape adapted for securing said item in place;e. deactivating said shape memory material while maintaining it in its deformed shape.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
Priority benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/746,132 filed May 1, 2006 is claimed.
1. Field of the Invention
Vehicles, such as motor vehicles, boats, and other similar vehicles, frequently include cup holders for holding beverages at a location convenient for use by the vehicle operator or passenger. Such cup holders can typically accommodate a number of containers of various size and shape such as a Styrofoam cup, beverage cans, plastic beverage bottles, and other similar devices. Such cup holders may be positioned in an easily accessible arrangement in a console position between the seats or in any other suitable arrangement. Also, the cup holders may extend from the instrument panel of a vehicle in a retractable mounting arrangement, extend from a drawer from a center console, be positioned in a center console, or pivot outwardly from a console or armrest of a vehicle so as to position the cup holder in a location readily accessible by the vehicle operator or passenger(s).
Due to wide variations in the size and configuration of containers that may be placed in a vehicle cup holder, it is often desirable to provide a cup holder that may be configured to hold all or most of these various cups and sizes. However, in doing so, it is also desirable to provide a cup holder that is relatively compact, effective, and simple to make and use. Unfortunately, conventional cup holders are often limited in the breadth of container sizes that can be held by a cup older. Also, conventional cup holders may exert very little or no pressure on a container as it is placed inside the cup holder, but exert a much larger amount of pressure on the container as it is removed from a cup holder. This may result in the contents of the container been spilled as the user removes it from the cup holder. Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a cup holder that overcomes one or more of these deficiencies.
Additionally, there are numerous cargo containers of various geometric size and shape which are used to ship large quantities of material from one point to another. Normally, in order to prevent the contents of these cargo containers from moving around during shipment the contents must either be strapped in place or the contents must fill the cargo container such that there is no room for movement. Both of these methods requires large amounts of time to either fully pack the cargo container or strap the material down such that it will not move during shipment. It will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art that the presently disclosed device could easily be converted for use in these and other similar cargo containers to minimize the amount of time and effort needed to ensure that the contents of these containers will not move during shipment.
The present device relates generally to the use of shape memory material in the construction of devices which can be used to hold containers or other material of various geometric shapes in place. The present device more specifically relates to automobile cup holders and the use of shape memory polymers to hold cups and other containers of various geometric shapes in place in the automobile while the automobile is in motion. This device and all of its embodiments features the use of shape memory material, specifically shape memory polymers and shape memory polymer composites, to allow the easy adjustment of the interior of a cup holder to match the exterior shape of the container or material, which the device is being used to hold in place.
2. Description of Related Art
Cup holders have been around for a long period of time. Automobiles use cup holders as an attractive feature to encourage purchasers to buy cars. In today's market, cup holders, along with other features, can increase or decrease the chances of a dealer or private owner selling their cars. A cup holder which can adjust to any size cup and tightly hold the cup in place and ensure the cup will remain in place no matter what the vehicle goes through, barring major accidents, is a device much sought after by the industry.
Previous cup holders have tried to use various engineering means to ensure a cup is held in place. Some of these methods include minimizing the size of the cup holders to prevent people from placing cups of the incorrect size in them. However, by minimizing the size of the cup holders manufacturers are limiting the size of cups or devices which can be held in place, thereby decreasing the appeal of an automobile to their customer.
Like cup holders, shape memory polymers, hereinafter referred to as SMPs, have been around for quite a long time. First introduced in the United States in 1984, shape memory polymers are polymers whose qualities have been altered to give them dynamic shape memory properties. SMPs are polymers that derive their name from their inherent inability to return to their original memorize shape after undergoing a shape deformation. The principal method of activating the shape memory effect is by thermal energy. However, other methods can be used and these are described below.
All SMPs have at least one transition temperature, hereinafter defined as TG, at which point the SMP transitions between a hard rigid plastic to a soft, pliable, elastomeric polymer. The process is easiest explained through the most common activation method, which is heat, however, other activation methods can be used and are included within the scope of the present application. When the SMP is above its TG, it is soft and elastic, and below its TG it is rigid. Once the temperature of the SMP is above its TG the SMP generally can be deformed into any desired shape. The SMP must then be cooled below its TG while maintaining a desired deformed shape to lock in the deformation. Once the deformation is locked in, a polymer network cannot return to its memorized or original shape due to thermal barriers. The SMP will hold its deformed shaped indefinitely until it is again heated above its TG. When the SMP stored mechanical strain is released, the SMP will return to its "memorized" shape. It is important to note that the TG represents the average temperature at which the material transitions from a rigid polymer to an elastomeric polymer. Because it is in average temperature the polymer can sometimes exhibit limited shape memory recovery slightly below the TG. Typically this limited recovery is small enough and occurs close enough to the TG that it does not affect the function for which the SMP is designed.
While heated above its TG, the SMP has the flexibility of a high quality dynamic elastomer, tolerating up to 400% or more elongation; however, unlike normal elastomers SMP can be reshaped or returned quickly to its memorized shape and subsequently cooled into a rigid plastic, a change that can be repeated without degradation of the material.
The SMP transition process is a thermal molecular relaxation rather than a thermally induced crystalline phase transformation as typically seen in shape memory alloys, hereinafter referred to as SMAs. In addition, SMPs demonstrate much broader range in versatility that SMAs in shape configuration and manipulation.
SMPs are not simply an elastomer nor simply a plastic. They exhibit characteristics of both materials depending on its temperature. While rigid, SMPs demonstrate the strength to weight ratio of a rigid polymer. However, normal rigid polymers under thermal stimulus simply flow or melt into a random new shape, or simply undergo a significant deterioration. Additionally normal polymers have no memorized shape to which they can return. It is overcoming these disadvantages that are the primary benefit of using SMPs. While heated and pliable SMPs have the flexibility of a high-quality dynamic elastomer, tolerating up to 400% or more elongation; however, unlike normal elastomers SMP can be reshaped or return quickly to its memorized shape and subsequently cooled into a rigid plastic. Depending on the type of SMP used, the base chemistry involved, and the addition of other agents the activation temperature of an SMP can be customized within a wide range of temperatures. Currently the TG of an SMP can be customized to between approximately -40° F. and 600° F. or approximately -40° C. to 350° C.
There are three types of SMP's: 1) A partially cured resin, 2) thermoplastics, and 3) fully cured thermoset systems. There are limitations and drawbacks to the first two types of SMP. Partially cured resins continue to cure during operation and change properties with every cycle. Thermoplastic SMP "creeps," which mean it gradually "forgets" its memory shape over time. A thorough understanding of the chemical mechanisms involved will allow those of skill in the art to tailor the formulations of SMP to meet specific needs, although generally fully cured thermoset resin systems are preferred in manufacturing.
Several known polymer types exhibit shape memory properties. Probably the best known and best researched polymer type exhibiting shape memory polymer properties is polyurethane polymers. Gordon, PROC of First International Conference Shape Memory and Superelastic Technology, 115-120 (1994), and Tobushi et al., Pro. of First Intl. Conf. Shape Memory and Superelastic Tech., 109-114 (1994) exemplify studies directed to properties and application of shape memory polyurethanes. Another polymeric system based on cross-linking polyethylene homopolymer was reported by S. Ota, Radiat. Physical Chemistry 18, 81 (1981). A styrene-butadiene thermoplastic copolymer system was also described by Japan Kokai, JP space 63-179955 to exhibit shape memory properties. Poly-isoprene was also claimed to exhibit shape memory properties in Japan Kokai, JP 62-192440. Another known polymeric system, disclosed by Kagami et al., Macromol. Rapid space Communication, 17, 539-543 (1996), is the class of copolymers of the stearyl acrylate and acrylic acid or methyl acrylate. Other SMP polymers known in the art include articles formed of norbornene or dimethaneoctahydronapthalene homopolymers or copolymers, set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 4,831,094. Finally two other types of SMP that are known in the prior art are a styrene based SMP disclosed in Tong, U.S. Pat. No. 6,759,481 and a cyanate ester based SMP disclosed in PCT application Tong et al., PCT/US 2005/015685, filed May 5, 2005, which are both incorporated herein by reference.
The primary design components of thermally activated SMPs include at least one monomer, possibly a co-monomer, a crosslinker, and possibly an initiator and additional filler material. A polymer engineered with shape memory characteristics provides a unique set of materials qualities and capabilities that enhance traits inherent in the polymer system itself. SMPs can be mechanically formulated with a transition temperature to match most application needs. It can be cast and cured into an enormous variety of "memorized" shapes, from thick sheets and concave dishes to tiny parts or a complicated open honeycomb matrix.
There are other methods besides thermal energy to activate the shape memory properties of SMP. Electromagnetic radiation, UV light and magnetism can be used to activate the SMP. Throughout this application "activation" is defined as transitioning the material from a hard rigid state to a soft pliable and elastic state. Additionally, throughout this application "deactivation" is defined as transitioning the material from a soft pliable state to a hard rigid state.
The term "composite" is commonly used in industry to identify components produced by impregnating a fibrous material with a thermoplastic or thermosetting resin to form laminates or layers. Generally, polymers and polymer composites have the advantages of weight saving, high specific mechanical properties, and good corrosion resistance, which make them indispensable materials in all areas of manufacturing. Nevertheless, manufacturing costs are sometimes detrimental, since they can represent a considerable part of the total costs and are made even more costly by the inability to quickly and easily repair these materials without requiring a complete, and expensive, total replacement. Furthermore, the production of complex shaped parts is still a challenge for the composites industry.
The limited potential for complex shape forming offered by advanced composite materials leaves little scope for design freedom in order to improve mechanical performance and/or integrate supplementary functions. This has been one of the primary limitations for a wider use of advanced composites and cost-sensitive.
Shape memory polymer material is the critical enabling technology for the present device. Multiple corporations provide various SMP materials for various applications. Among them are (A) Composite Technology Development, Inc. (Lafayette, Colo.) www.CTD-materials.com; ILC Dover LP (Frederica, Del.) www.ilcdover.com; mnemoScience GmbH (Aachen, Germany) www.mnemoscience.com; (d) Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Nagoya, Japan) www.mhi.co,jp; and (e) Cornerstone Research Group Inc. (Dayton, Ohio) www.CRGRP.com. Of the above those from Cornerstone Research Group Inc. are particularly preferred.
While there is a plethora of related art discussing cup holders and the various features of cup holders none of the prior art discloses a method for reason for combining SMPs with cup holder technology to increase the ability of cup holders to hold objects of various sizes. The related art of interest describes various cup holders and the various means with which they attempt to hold various objects of size in place but failed to disclose the present device. There is a need for a versatile cup holder that can easily accommodate objects of vastly different geometric sizes and shapes without the use of mechanical means such as springs or pivot points which can easily fail. There is also a need for an effective and versatile device which can securely hold the contents of a cargo container in place without the use of straps or requiring the container to be packed full of material. The related art will be discussed in the relative order of perceived relevance to the present device.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,843,458 issued to Robinson and Herrigas on Jan. 18, 2005, describes a cup holder device of cylindrical design comprising a clustered or arrangement of multiple abutting spring-containing two-piece pins vertically group within the cylindrical container for accepting and holding any size cup which depresses the affected pins. However, this design has several flaws which the present device over comes. First the present device does not use metal springs of any kind. Metal springs can lose their ability to return to their original shape over time more quickly than SMP. Additionally these metal springs pose significant hazards because of their sharp edges. In an accident these metal springs can become hazardous flying missiles, if they become separated from the cup holder. Additionally, because of the force required to keep the springs in place the entire cavity of the cup holder container can not be used thereby limiting the size of the cup that could be held securely in place.
An international patent publication, International Application Number PCT/US2004/028880, International Publication Number WO 2005/023578 A2, describes an insert for cup holders in automobiles to assist the driver or passengers in holding cups of various sizes in place. The presently presented device does not use an insert rather relies on shape memory polymers connected to a rigid structure to help hold containers and cups of various size in place.
And other international patent publication, International Application Number PCT/US2005/001211, International Publication Number WO 2005/073023 A1, describes a cup holder with a plurality of retaining members extending into a cavity wherein said or retaining members are biased towards the inside of the cavity to securely holding container. These retaining members are designed to pivot around a substantially vertical axis utilizing a sprained or other biasing member to provide the retaining force necessary to hold devices in place. This device has the same drawbacks as that discussed in the Robinson '458 patent in that the springs or other biasing members will lose their force more quickly than SMP have the potential to come apart or break more easily. Additionally, the current devices are distinguishable from these applications because the current device is not required the retaining members of SMP or SMP composite to pivot about any axis.
Japan patent publication number 7-227789 A published on Aug. 29, 1995 for Katsuhiko Sugito et al. describes a device comprising a number of parallel vertical pins arranged in a spiral on the supporting frame and held in tension by a coiled spring attach to a winding motor. The device is distinguishable by requiring attention on the pins and for the same reasons mentioned above for the Robinson '458 patent in that springs will more quickly lose their biasing force than SMP.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,634,621 issued on Jun. 3, 1997 to Tomislav Jankovic describes a three stage dual cup holder apparatus for a vehicle comprising a housing having a cavity with a base support Varian, and a gap formed their between. A pair of opposing support members is positioned within the gap in a stowed position, and are moved vertically upwardly and horizontally outwardly through at least two positions of differing height and horizontal spacing. The apparatus is distinguishable for requiring dual holders and a pair of opposing support members. Additionally the present device is distinguishable because it uses shape memory polymers. The Jankovic patent makes it hard to use multiple size cups and a single holder.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,070,844 issued on Jun. 6, 2002 Herman J. Salenbauch et al. describes a variable sized vehicle beverage container holder device comprising hollow cylindrical opera and lower parts connected by a plurality a broad-shaped connecting rods which are tilted by rotation of one of the parts to reduce the inner diameter to clamp the beverage container. This device is distinguishable requiring adjustment of a clamp. The present device does not require the adjustment of any device, all the user is required to do is to insert the cup into a warm SMP or composite matrix.
The prior art discussed is not meant to be inclusive of the entire field of cup holders, but rather provides a general overview of the current state of the art as there are likely dozens if not hundreds of patents which relate to the art of cup holders in automobiles. In general these cup holders are generally rigid and often do not fit containers of desired beverages well. More often than not, cup holders are often oversized, to some degree, to allow more containers to fit within, but this adaptation has limitations as smaller containers will not be well secured and may tend to tip over while in route.
Therefore there is a need in the field of cup holders for an adjustable cup holder that is sufficiently adjustable in size to fit beverage containers of almost all sizes securely. Additionally, there is a need for a device to assist in securing material in a cargo container from moving during transit without the need for time-consuming straps and other devices to be put in place or to force a cargo container to wait until it is completely full before shipment, such delays may cause the containers to not be shipped for several days or even weeks.
The present device at its most basic utilizes shape memory polymers to assist in securely storing devices inside cargo containers adapted for storing materials or other containers. More specifically the present device is directed towards cup holders in automobiles and other vehicles to assist in securing beverage containers and other liquid carrying containers securely in place without regard to the shape or size of the beverage container or liquid container in relation to the size or shape of the cup holder.
The current device can have an outer dimension of any geometric shape. In the preferred embodiments, the outer dimension of the device will be such that it can be easily contained in an automobile to hold the cups of its passengers. However, this device is not limited to its use in automobiles. The present device could be used in cargo containers of all shapes and sizes, including but not limited to cargo containers for ships, containers for highway transportation, railway cars, and the cargo portions of an aircraft. Additionally, those of skill in the art will realize that this device is not limited to securing liquid containing devices as they can be used to hold in place other fragile cargo such as glass, pieces of art, delicate electronic equipment, and other similar devices.
In the preferred embodiment for use in vehicles, the cup holder's outer dimensions are cylindrical to accommodate the vast majority of cups. However, the shape can be square, rectangular, cubic or other geometric size to accommodate any device which the driver or passenger's of an automobile wish to store. In the preferred embodiment the SMP is typically a pure SMP it with an electrical conductor running through the center of the SMP to allow electricity to pass through it. The resistance of the wire, when electricity is passed through it, will create heat, and this heat is used to activate the SMP. However, those of skill in the art will appreciate that it is possible to activate the SMP through other means, such as light, UV radiation, magnetism, and other electromagnetic radiation. Additionally SMP composites can be used in lieu of pure SMP to hold the devices in place depending on the structural and mechanical properties desired. Finally those of skill in the art will appreciate that other shape memory materials may be developed over time and that these shape memory materials can be used in place of the SMP and SMP composites to realize the full potential of the present device.
Therefore, it is an object of the present device to provide a device for holding other devices in place. It is a further object of this device to provide for a device to hold cups or other containers or devices in place in a vehicle. It is a further object of this device to provide for a device to hold cups or other containers and devices in place in an automobile while it is in motion or while it is standing still.
It is also an object of the present device to provide for a device for holding materials inside a cargo container in place. Is a further object of this device to provide for a device to hold objects in place inside a cargo container while it is in motion, whether that cargo container is on a ship, truck, plane, train, or other vehicle.
These and other object of the present device will become readily apparent to those of skill in the art upon further review of the following specification and drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1A shows a perspective view of the cup holder with shape memory polymer strands in the interior of the cup holder so as to prevent cups or other devices from being inserted into the cup holder.
FIG. 1B shows a side view of the same cup holder.
FIG. 2A shows a perspective view of the cup holder with a cup that cannot penetrate into the interior of the cup holder because of the shape memory polymer strands.
FIG. 2B shows a side view of the same cup that cannot penetrate the interior of the cup holder.
FIG. 2c shows a side view of a cup beginning to deform the shape memory polymer strands after the shape memory polymer strands have been activated and how the shape memory polymer strands are beginning to conform to the outer dimensions of the cup.
FIG. 3A shows a perspective view of a cup which has been fully inserted into the cup holder.
FIG. 3B shows a side view of a cup which has been fully inserted into the cup holder and how the shape memory polymer strands have conformed to the outer dimensions of the cup.
FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of the cup holder after the cup has been removed and how the shape memory polymer strands retain the shape of the outer dimensions of the cup while it is removed from the cup holder.
FIG. 5 shows a pair of shape memory polymer strips attached to a rigid base that which is a second embodiment of the device.
FIG. 6 shows how the shape memory polymer strips attached to the rigid base will deform and conform to the shape of a cup inserted between them, thereby tightly gripping the cup.
Cup holders are a desired feature of most motor vehicles including automobiles, trains, and airplanes. These cup holders are used by a variety of people to hold a variety of different sizes of mugs, cups, glasses, and other similar beverage containers and other devices.
The present device is directed towards holding cargo in securely in place inside a container. This is accomplished through the use of a hard exterior in combination with shape memory polymer, hereinafter referred to as SMP, or SMP composites which are attached to the exterior. SMP is a chemical that is rigid and hard while below its transition temperature yet, it becomes a soft and pliable and elastic when it is above its transition temperature. It is this ability to transition from a soft to a hard state easily that makes SMP very useful in this present device.
Referring to the drawings in greater detail, the devices described herein are directed towards securely holding an object in place through the unique properties of shape memory materials. In the preferred embodiment, a cup holder of cylindrical design is placed inside an automobile. As shown in FIG. 1A, the interior of a cup holder, 2, is lined with shape memory polymer, 4, such that the entire interior is inaccessible to a cup or other device, as shown in FIG. 1B, while the shape memory polymer is in its hard rigid state. In the preferred embodiment the SMP or SMP composite is manufactured as multiple thin strips attached at one end to the side of the cup holder with the other end of the SMP strip attached at or near the center of the bottom of the cup holder. It will be apparent to those of skill in the art that the SMP can be manufactured as larger strips of varying size and shape, the cup holder can use more or fewer strips, and the strips can be repositioned to accommodate a specific application. It will be further apparent to those of skill in the art that different types of SMP and SMP composites can be utilized depending on the desired mechanical properties as discussed in more detail below.
Until the SMP or SMP composite is activated it is difficult for any cup to be placed in the cup holder as shown in FIG. 2A and FIG. 2B. As seen in FIGS. 2A and 2B a cup, 20, is unable to force the SMP strips, 4, to move and the cup, 20, cannot penetrate into the interior of the cylindrical cup holder, 2. However, once the SMP or SMP composite is activated, the results of which are seen in FIG. 2c, the SMP or SMP composite, 6, will become soft and pliable and the cup, 20, or other device may be inserted into the container with relative ease. As FIG. 2c shows as the cup, 20, is inserted into the cup holder, 2, the SMP or SMP composite, 6, will begin to conform to outer dimensions of the cup, 20. Finally, as is shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, once the cup, 20, has been inserted into the cup holder, 2, the SMP or SMP composite, 8, has fully and tightly conformed to the outer dimensions of the cup, 20, with little, if any, usable space lost because of the SMP.
Once the SMP or SMP composite has been deactivated, as shown in FIG. 4, the SMP or SMP composite, 8, will retain the shape of the cup or other device that had been inserted into the cup holder, 2. The SMP or SMP composite can be returned to its original shape, as seen in FIG. 1A, simply by activating the SMP or SMP composite once again.
The chemical structure of SMP or SMP composite is such that it remembers its original shape. As previously stated, when an SMP is activated, it is soft and elastic, and when it is deactivated it is hard and rigid. Once the SMP is activated the SMP generally can be deformed into any desired shape. The SMP must then be deactivated while maintaining a desired deformed shape to lock in the deformation. Once the deformation is locked in, the polymer network cannot return to its memorized or original shape due to activation barriers. However, once these barriers are removed, the SMP will freely, and without any additional force, return to its memory shape. It is this process the present application employs to return the SMP or SMP composites to their original shape.
As shown in FIG. 5, a second embodiment of the present application consists of one base, 32, and two gripping arms, 30. The base is most preferably a permanently hard and rigid material. While composite are particularly preferred as the base, other metals, plastics, polymers and other similar material may be used. The base should be rigid enough to support the weight of a full cup and wide enough to stabilize the cup during reconfiguration of the cup holder gripping arms and movement of the vehicle. The gripping arms should be made of SMP. More preferably these arms should be made of SMP composites.
As seen in FIG. 6, upon activation of the SMP or SMP composite gripping arms, 34, a cup may be slid between the gripping arms, 34, to a point where the cup, 40, is firmly secured. Once the cup, 40, is firmly in place, the driver or passenger needs only to deactivate the SMP or SMP composite. The gripping arms will retain the shape of the cup and will revert to their memory shape only after the arms have been activated once again.
In both embodiments it is preferred that these SMPs or SMP composites should have an integrated heating mechanism, as the preferred method of activation is by heat. Preferably the heating mechanism consists of wires embedded into the SMP or SMP composite, which provide resistance heating when a current is passed through them. As mentioned above, heating activates the SMP; however, other methods are available for activating the SMP including light, UV radiation, other electromagnetic radiation, water, and magnetic fields. It will be apparent to one of skill in this art that there are many different ways, besides resistance heating, to heat the SMP or SMP composites, such as convective and radiation heating, which are hereby included within the scope of the present device.
All that would preferably be required to activate the SMP or SMP composites is for the driver or passenger of the vehicle to flip a switch which will pass electricity through the resistive elements embedded into the SMP composite. The electricity is most preferably provided by the internal generator of the vehicle in which the cup holder resides, however, external power supplies could be used. As electricity passes through these resistive elements heat is generated. This heat then activates the SMP or SMP composites, making it soft and pliable. In order to deactivate the SMP or SMP composites the driver or passenger simply needs to flip the switch so that electricity ceases to pass through the internal resistive elements in the SMP or SMP composites. Once electricity has ceased to flow in the resistive elements, the SMP or SMP composite will quickly cool below the activation temperature of the SMP, thereby deactivating the SMP or SMP composite. It will be apparent to those of skill in the art that other methods and sources exist for the needed electricity in any vehicle.
While SMPs are preferred, and SMP composites particularly preferred, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that any shape memory material could be used in the present device. Additionally, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that any method which transitions a shape memory material from its hard, rigid state to a soft, pliable state is covered by this device.
In general, the preferred SMP is a styrene copolymer based SMP as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,759,481, however, other types of SMPs such as cyanate ester, polyurethane, polyethylene homopolymer, styrene-butadiene, polyisoprene, copolymers of stearyl acrylate and acrylic acid or methyl acrylate, norbornene or dimethaneoctahydronapthalene homopolymers or copolymers, malemide and other shape memory polymers are within the scope of the present device. Additionally other shape memory materials, such as shape memory metals are also within the scope of the present device.
Because of the properties inherent in shape memory polymers, composites utilizing shape memory polymer as the resin matrix can be temporarily softened, reshaped, and rapidly hardened in real-time to function in a variety of structural configurations. They can be fabricated with nearly any type of fabric, and creative reinforcements can result in dramatic shape changes in functional structures and they are machinable.
Therefore, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that the present device provides a quick and easy way to utilize composite and shape memory polymer technology to create a cup holder that has the flexibility to easily and quickly deform to closely and tightly match the outer dimensions of a cup or other device with the strength and performance of composites and similar metal substances.
The SMP composites may comprise a composite material formed from at least one layer of fibrous material in combination with a shape memory polymer. In one form, the fibrous material may be embedded within the shape memory polymer or, the fibrous material can be impregnated with the shape memory polymer.
The fibrous material may be chosen from carbon nanofibers, carbon fiber, spandex, chopped fiber, random fiber mat, fabric of any material, continuous fiber, fiberglass, or other types of textile fibers, yarns, and fabrics. For example, the fibrous material may be present in the form of a flat woven article, a two-dimensional weave, or a three-dimensional weave.
The shape memory polymer may be selected from a host of polymer types including styrene, cyanate esters, maleamide polymers, epoxy polymers, or vinyl ester polymers. In some cases, the shape memory polymer will be a thermoset resin.
The SMP or SMP composite, as discussed above, may include a thermal energy generation means embedded therein. Such thermal energy generation means may comprise, for example, thermally conductive fibers or electrical conductors.
In another exemplary embodiment of the invention, activation of the shape memory polymer is achieved by heating the polymer above its transition temperature. The heating may, for example, be done by inductive heating, hot air, or by heat lamps. Additionally, when the repair material comprises a thermal energy generation means embedded therein, it will most preferably be activated by applying electrical current to the thermal energy generation means.
In yet another exemplary embodiment of the invention, activation and deactivation of the shape memory polymer may be achieved by application of electromagnetic radiation such as in the form of visible light or ultraviolet light or other electromagnetic waves. Additionally water activated SMP or SMP composites could be used.
The deformation is preferably achieved via mechanical means by pressing the cup or other device into the cup holder such that the SMP or SMP composites will conform to the outer dimensions of the cup or device.
The SMP or SMP composite can be attached to the cup holder's outer structure via thermally cured or pressure sensitive adhesives, or more preferably, through mechanical means such as screws, bolts, or other similar means.
In addition to shape memory polymers, other shape memory materials such as shape memory alloys may be mentioned as being effective.
In another embodiment, the SMP or SMP composites could be used to securely hold material inside a cargo container such as those used in transporting material via, air, water or land. A cargo container can be constructed such that the SMP or SMP composites will be used to hold material in place during shipping so as to minimize the likelihood of damage occurring to the material during shipment.
Although this device has been described with respect to certain preferred embodiments, it will be appreciated that a wide variety of equivalents may be substituted for those specific elements shown and described herein, all without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.
Patent applications by David Ernest Havens, Bellbrook, OH US
Patent applications by Thomas Wood Margraf, Centerville, OH US
Patent applications by CORNERSTONE RESEARCH GROUP, INC.
Patent applications in class Article holding means
Patent applications in all subclasses Article holding means