The present application claims the filing priority and is a continuation of, and incorporates herein by reference, co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 12/855,311, filed on Aug. 12, 2010 and published as US-2011-0049005-A1 on Mar. 3, 2011.
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The present invention relates to protective cases for electronic devices, and more specifically to thermoformed protective cases formed by a two-piece resin technique to ensure high quality registration of features on one or both sides of the item.
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OF THE INVENTION
Previously, to produce thermoformed items having details disposed on one or both sides of the item, using a plastic or other suitable material, required the use of different and multiple molding processes. For example, a sheet of material or fluid material from which an item was to be formed might be initially positioned within or directed into an injection or compression molding device in order to create detail or features required on at least one side of the item. Subsequently, the material sheet would then be positioned or run through a suitable second thermoforming device to complete the formation of the item from the material. The resulting thermoformed item might then be heat-treated under vacuum conditions with a dye printing sheet to print a pre-drawn design onto a surface of the item.
However, these multi-step processes have a number of significant drawbacks. First, the added steps typically slow production time and increase production cost. Second, subjecting the item to repeated high-temperature steps can have a detrimental effect on the item.
As to the first point, to initially print the detailed design on the thermoformed item, the process may require both a detail molding device and step, which can be either an injection molding step or a compression molding step, as well as a final thermoforming step (e.g., melting or sublimation techniques) used to create the final form for the item. Finally, the pre-drawn design needs to be imprinted to the item. The multiple steps and molding devices required for each step significantly increases the complexity of the process and the costs for producing the final item with an image or design printed thereon.
Of no less importance is the integrity of the final item. That is, when a sheet of material is positioned within the heat treatment device to finalize the transfer of the dye printing onto the item, often times the process results in a partial or complete deformation or destruction of the original detail from the initial thermoforming steps. That is, due to the repeated use of high-temperatures necessary to initiate transfer of the dye from a pre-printed film to one or both sides of the thermoformed item, the edges around the item may be unable to withstand such heat for the required duration of the transfer process. However, shortened heat transfer times would fail to ensure consistent transfer of the dye on the entire surface of the item. Thus, the resulting item may often be undesirable or unusable for its intended purpose due to the damage done to the thermoform details on the item.
Therefore, it is desirable to develop a device and method for thermoforming an item which is capable of effectively transferring the image from the printing sheet to a surface of the item in a single step utilizing only the thermoforming device.
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OF THE INVENTION
There is disclosed herein an improved protective carry case for a device, such as a portable electronic device (e.g., computer, tablet, phone, camera, PDA, etc.) which avoids the disadvantages of prior devices while affording additional structural and operating advantages.
Generally speaking, the protective case for a portable electronic device comprises a molded body section having a back surface and upturned sides extending from the back surface, and also having a design printed thereon, and a distinctly molded rim tightly bonded or otherwise affixed to an edge of at least one of either the back surface and the upturned sides of the body section. The rim masks molding and printing imperfections when bonded to the body section and forms a periphery of a cavity configured to house an electronic device.
In an embodiment of the protective case, the body section and the rim are formed of the same material. Further, at least one opening is positioned on an upturned side of the body section. Such opening may be completely or partially enclosed within the body and allows access to control buttons or switches for the electronic device.
In another embodiment, a second molded body section, separate and distinct from the first body section, may be used and configured to conceal another surface of the protected electronic device other than that covered by the first body section. The molded body section and the second molded body section may have contrasting colors.
In an embodiment of the present invention, a protective case for a portable electronic device comprises a first molded body section having a back surface and upturned sides extending from the back surface, a separately molded rim bonded to an edge of at least one of either the back surface and the upturned sides of the first body section, the rim defining an open area, and a second molded body section having a back surface and upturned sides extending from the back surface, wherein the first and second body sections cooperate to form a cavity, and the first and second body sections and the rim are all formed of the same material. In this embodiment, the rim masks molding and printing imperfections when bonded to the first body section and forms a periphery of a cavity configured to house an electronic device.
In the event a camera or other sound or image recording device is provided by the portable device, it is an aspect of an embodiment of the invention to provide a passage having an opening on each of the back surface and the inner surface of one of either the first body section or the second body section, the openings being connected by a sidewall. The sidewall is preferably slanted outward to lessen possible interference with the image and/or sound recording function.
These and other aspects of the invention can be more readily understood from a reading of the following detailed description accompanied by the appended drawing figures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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The invention may be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention. In the drawings, like reference numbers designate corresponding parts throughout.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a the protective case in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the protective case;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the inner surface of the protective case of FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a back plan view of the protective case of FIG. 2;
FIG. 5 is a front plan view of the protective case of FIG. 2;
FIG. 6 is a perspective of the embodiment of FIG. 2 attached to a tablet computer;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a two section protective case in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 8 is a bottom perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 7;
FIG. 9 is a top plan view of the second body section of the embodiment of FIG. 7; and
FIG. 10 is a bottom plan view of the first body section of the embodiment of FIG. 7.