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Publication numberUS20170014725 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 14/799,599
Publication date19 Jan 2017
Filing date15 Jul 2015
Priority date15 Jul 2015
Publication number14799599, 799599, US 2017/0014725 A1, US 2017/014725 A1, US 20170014725 A1, US 20170014725A1, US 2017014725 A1, US 2017014725A1, US-A1-20170014725, US-A1-2017014725, US2017/0014725A1, US2017/014725A1, US20170014725 A1, US20170014725A1, US2017014725 A1, US2017014725A1
InventorsIgnacio Marc Asperas, Anthony Klaves
Original AssigneeIgnacio Marc Asperas, Anthony Klaves
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method Of Manufacturing A Light Weight Ball Configured To Adhere & Maintain Snow For A Snowman
US 20170014725 A1
Abstract
A method of manufacturing a ball and product formed thereof is forms light weight frame of a snowman. A core is provided in the shape of a round object. A snow adhering texture is created by winding a malleable wire around the core that forms wire and openings substantially around the core that captures and adheres snow as the ball of wire is rolled in snow. A substantial portion of the core is made of a material that is lighter than snow of the same volume.
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Claims(20)
1. A method of manufacturing a ball that forms a light weight frame of a snowman, the method of manufacture comprising the steps of:
freezing a liquid in the form of a frozen ball;
creating a snow adhering texture by winding a malleable wire around the frozen ball that forms wire and openings substantially around the frozen ball that captures and adheres snow as the ball of wire is rolled in snow; and
unfreezing and evacuating the liquid from the ball of wire leaving the ball of wire that is substantially hollow to create the ball that forms the light weight frame of the snowman.
2. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, further comprising the step of coating the ball of wire with another snow adhering texture that adheres granular snow when the ball is rolled in the snow by coating the ball with a coating material and grit.
3. The method of manufacturing of claim 2, wherein the step of coating the ball of wire further comprises forming patterns with the grit.
4. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein the step of creating a snow adhering texture captures forms the openings to adhere a substantial amount of snow when rolled at least over 90 degrees of rolling of the ball in snow.
5. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, further comprising the step of placing posts in the liquid before freezing and winding the wire around the posts.
6. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein the step of creating a snow adhering texture forms the wire in a pattern selected from the group consisting of a random configuration, a spiral configuration, and a spiral configuration layered on a spiral configuration.
7. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein the step of freezing a liquid further comprises filling a rubber ball with the liquid.
8. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein the step of creating a snow adhering texture forms the openings with a width of about 1 cm to 6 cm.
9. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein the step of creating a snow adhering texture forms the ball with a diameter of about 9.5 inches or greater.
10. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, wherein method of manufacturing forms the ball with snow thereon having a weight that is at least about 5% lighter than a snow boulder made completely of snow of about the same volume.
11. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, further comprising the step of providing a metal core on which the wire is wrapped.
12. The method of manufacturing of claim 10, further comprising the step of creating another snow adhering texture on the metal core that is comprised of nodules that extend away from an outer surface of the metal core.
13. The method of manufacturing of claim 1, further comprising the step of forming LEDs that extend through the openings and at least about 1 mm to 5 mm beyond an outer surface of the ball of wire.
14. A method of manufacturing a ball that forms a light weight frame of a snowman, the method of manufacturing comprising the steps of:
providing a core in the shape of a round object; and
creating a snow adhering texture by winding a malleable wire around the core that forms wire and openings substantially around the core that captures and adheres snow as the ball of wire is rolled in snow,
wherein a substantial portion of the core is made of a material that is lighter than snow of the same volume.
15. The method of manufacturing of claim 14, further comprising the step of removing part of the core to create the substantial portion of the core made of the material lighter than snow of the same volume.
16. The method of manufacturing of claim 15, wherein the step of removing part of the core removes liquid from the core.
17. The method of manufacturing of claim 16, wherein the step of providing a core further comprises filling the core with liquid and freezing the liquid.
18. The method of manufacturing of claim 17, wherein the step of providing a core further comprises providing a rubber ball as the core.
19. The method of manufacturing of claim 14, wherein the core is selected from a material consisting of a rubber ball, a Styrofoam ball or a metal ball.
20. The method of manufacturing of claim 14, further comprising the step of forming LEDs that extend through the openings and at least about 1 mm to 5 mm beyond an outer surface of the ball of wire.
Description
    BACKGROUND
  • [0001]
    The instant inventors have invested significant amounts of time and monetary resources in developing a product in the form of a ball that, when rolled in snow, adheres and maintains the snow as it is being rolled to form a snow boulder of substantially round shape. One or more of the resulting snow boulders may be used, and is designed, as a component to build a snowman or woman.
  • [0002]
    Until now, a cost effective and viable way to manufacture a ball that is both of low cost and also has the sufficient qualities to form a snow boulder has been elusive.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0003]
    FIGS. 1a to d illustrate the ball;
  • [0004]
    FIG. 2a illustrates the ball in use and FIG. 2b shows a geometric sphere;
  • [0005]
    FIGS. 3a to c illustrate problems of manufacture;
  • [0006]
    FIGS. 4a to 4c illustrate diagrammatic flows of embodiments of the method of manufacture;
  • [0007]
    FIGS. 5a to b illustrate a prototype of the product of an embodiment of the method of manufacture;
  • [0008]
    FIGS. 6a to c illustrate implementing LEDs with the product;
  • [0009]
    FIGS. 7a to c illustrate various possible configurations for an embodiment of the product;
  • [0010]
    FIG. 8 illustrates receiving portions of an embodiment of the product;
  • [0011]
    FIGS. 9a to 9c illustrate an embodiment for creating a core for use in the method of manufacture;
  • [0012]
    FIG. 10a illustrates an embodiment of the core;
  • [0013]
    FIG. 10b illustrates assembly of the core of FIG. 10 a;
  • [0014]
    FIG. 10c illustrates the core of FIG. 10a at the beginning of assembly; and
  • [0015]
    FIGS. 11a to b illustrate an embodiment of the product of the method of manufacture.
  • [0016]
    The several drawings are examples and are not meant to be limiting of the invention, and may be combined in any manner.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • [0017]
    A method for making a ball that is hollow and capable to adhere and hold snow when rolled in snow is disclosed herein.
  • [0018]
    A method of manufacturing a ball that forms a light weight frame of a snowman, the method of manufacture comprising the steps of:
  • [0019]
    freezing a liquid in the form of a frozen ball;
  • [0020]
    creating a snow adhering texture by winding a malleable wire around the frozen ball that forms wire and openings substantially around the frozen ball that captures and adheres snow as the ball of wire is rolled in snow; and
  • [0021]
    unfreezing and evacuating the liquid from the ball of wire leaving the ball of wire that is substantially hollow to create the ball that forms the light weight frame of the snowman.
  • [0022]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of coating the ball of wire with another snow adhering texture that adheres granular snow when the ball is rolled in the snow by coating the ball with a coating material and grit.
  • [0023]
    The step of coating the ball of wire of the method of manufacturing may further comprise forming patterns with the grit.
  • [0024]
    The step of creating a snow adhering texture of the method of manufacturing may form the openings to adhere a substantial amount of snow when rolled at least over 90 degrees of rolling of the ball in snow.
  • [0025]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of placing posts in the liquid before freezing and winding the wire around the posts.
  • [0026]
    The step of creating a snow adhering texture method of manufacturing may form the wire in a pattern selected from the group consisting of a random configuration, a spiral configuration, and a spiral configuration layered on a spiral configuration.
  • [0027]
    The step of freezing a liquid of the method of manufacturing may further comprise filling a rubber ball with the liquid.
  • [0028]
    The step of creating a snow adhering texture of the method of manufacturing may form the openings with a width of about 1 cm to 6 cm.
  • [0029]
    The step of creating a snow adhering texture of the method of manufacturing may form the ball with a diameter of about 9.5 inches or greater.
  • [0030]
    The method of manufacturing may form the ball with snow thereon having a weight that is at least about 5% lighter than a snow boulder made completely of snow of about the same volume.
  • [0031]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of providing a metal core on which the wire is wrapped.
  • [0032]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of creating another snow adhering texture on the metal core that is comprised of nodules that extend away from an outer surface of the metal core.
  • [0033]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of forming LEDs that extend through the openings and at least about 1 mm to 5 mm beyond an outer surface of the ball of wire.
  • [0034]
    A method of manufacturing a ball forms a light weight frame of a snowman, the method of manufacturing comprising the steps of:
  • [0035]
    providing a core in the shape of a round object; and
  • [0036]
    creating a snow adhering texture by winding a malleable wire around the core that forms wire and openings substantially around the core that captures and adheres snow as the ball of wire is rolled in snow,
  • [0037]
    wherein a substantial portion of the core is made of a material that is lighter than snow of the same volume.
  • [0038]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of removing part of the core to create the substantial portion of the core made of the material lighter than snow of the same volume.
  • [0039]
    The step of removing part of the core method of the manufacturing method may remove liquid from the core.
  • [0040]
    The step of providing a core of the method of manufacturing may further comprise filling the core with liquid and freezing the liquid.
  • [0041]
    The step of providing a core of the method of manufacturing may further comprise providing a rubber ball as the core.
  • [0042]
    In the method of manufacturing the core may be selected from a material consisting of a rubber ball, a Styrofoam ball or a metal ball.
  • [0043]
    The method of manufacturing may further comprise the step of forming LEDs that extend through the openings and at least about 1 mm to 5 mm beyond an outer surface of the ball of wire.
  • [0044]
    It shall be appreciated that any of the above steps of a method of manufacturing may be combined in any permutation.
  • [0045]
    FIG. 1a of 1, shows the product 100 or ball of the present manufacturing method, wherein there is shown the outer structure 102 that forms the main part of the product 100, covered in snow 104, which is in part removed to reveal the product 100 enclosed therein. FIG. 1 shows three such products covered in snow to form three snow boulders 106 a, b and c in a snowman exploded for to show that each product or ball 102 is a separate free rolling unit, unattached to the others. FIG. 1b illustrates that different sizes of the product 100 may be formed to provide head, 106 a, mid section 106 b and base 106 c (in some cultures like Japan, two spheres are used only to form a snow man or woman). FIG. 1c illustrates the product or ball 100 without snow so that it may be seen that the ball provides an outer structure 108 having an outer surface 110, an inner surface 112 and an inside 114. The actual structure between the outer surface and inner surface 110 and 112 will be described in more detail, but will have a certain thickness as also described in more detail.
  • [0046]
    As discovered through actual prototyping and testing, the ball should be of sufficient rigidity so as not to deform substantially. Deformation is disadvantageous because the snow tends to fall off of the ball when a surface of the ball that holds snow is deformed. In early development, a rubber blow up ball was employed that included a snow adhering texture that adhered snow. It was discovered that the adhering texture would hold snow as the ball is rolled, but that a rubber ball could deform either inwardly or outwardly and the snow would shift with respect to elements of the adhering texture and tend to fall off the ball. FIG. 2a of FIG. 2, shows a rigid ball 200 that does not deform as it is rolled in the counter clockwise direction (as shown by the arrow), for example, in the snow 202 and does not deform at impinging point 204. As a result, the snow at 206 adheres to the ball 200 (shown in hatched lines) and stays on as it is rolled, preferably as the ball 200 is rolled over 90 degrees, so that the snow at the impinging point now is at its most vulnerable point 208 of falling off, that is, on a tangent of the ball 200 that is 90 degrees to the ground as shown.
  • [0047]
    To reiterate, the ball must be sufficiently rigid when it is rolled because it was discovered in testing that a rigid impinging surface is superior to collect snow when it impinges on the ground. A surface that impinges on the ground that deforms will not grip the snow sufficiently to adhere snow. Again, this was tested with a rubber blow up ball and it was discovered that the ball deforms on the ground facing side. This deformation did not allow the surface of the ball to impinge sufficiently with enough pressure for the adhering texture to grab the snow. On the other hand, it was discovered that rigid structures that held their form when rolled on the ground were capable, with a suitable snow adhering texture, to adhere the snow and also maintain the snow on the ball as it was rolled.
  • [0048]
    The ball, on the one hand, adhere snow so that the child or adult can enjoy the product. On the other hand, the product must be cost effective to produce. The ball should also be strong or rigid enough to support the weight of snow on its surface or when other balls are stacked on top. It may also be that a child or adult leans on or puts his/her full weight on the boulder either stationary or as the ball is being rolled. Should the ball not be strong enough, the snow boulder may collapse or break under stress of weight. Further, the ball should be of a certain weight in order to be easily manipulated by the user but also heavy enough to provide enough down force on its own to pick up snow when rolled.
  • [0049]
    The shape of the ball is also important. While shapes other than a sphere are considered within the invention, the ball is preferably in the shape of a sphere as shown in FIG. 2b . This allows the ball to take advantage of the so-called bridge effect that provides support about all degrees in the x, y, and/or z directions as shown in the figure. For example, when the ball is covered in snow, the snow will act as a bridge if the snow boulder is sufficiently round. Furthermore, the resulting boulder is optically pleasing when it is round instead of lop sided or otherwise. It was found that when a sphere is used, a well formed round boulder may be created.
  • [0050]
    In this application, the geometric definition is meant by the word sphere as shown in FIG. 2b by the geometric equation. Although the definition of a sphere is immutable and need not be defined in this specification, the definition of a sphere is disclosed here for clarity as the set of equidistant points around a center point in three dimensions. Of course, the ball in real life need not be a perfect sphere—since a perfect sphere in reality is all but impossible to manufacture. Rather, the ball may be substantially a sphere and may even be a soccer ball shape as will be described. Further, the ball may have some portions removed such as holes therein, which may be placed or drilled through portions of the ball in order to conserve weight, attract snow or provide space for LEDs or nodules to be formed and/or attached therein.
  • [0051]
    Another aspect as mentioned for consideration is the weight of the ball. The ball is designed to be lighter in weight when covered substantially in snow than a snow ball of the same diameter or size that is completely made of snow. One feature of the ball is that it offers children and adults the ability to make snow boulders that are more easily lifted or manipulated so that they may be more easily placed on top of other snow boulders as shown in FIG. 1b or moved around the yard.
  • [0052]
    To that end, the ball is designed to be hollow (as shown in FIG. 1c ) or have an interior filled with a material that is lighter than snow or braced with a material that is lighter than when the ball is covered with snow and filled with snow on the inside as shown by the braces 116 in FIG. 1d . Another option would be fill a substantial portion of the inside with a light weight material 118 as shown in FIG. 1e . This material may be styrofoam, for example. If the ball is too heavy, then one advantage of the ball, namely that it is lighter than an equivalently sized snow boulder of all snow, would be frustrated. In other words, the method of manufacture described herein and its variants in one aspect forms an inside structure of a snowman or woman or part thereof, or put alternatively, forms a fixed structure or frame of snowman. Another way to describe this is that the frame or fixed structure is made of a physical solid, i.e., as opposed to a liquid such as snow or water.
  • [0053]
    It should be noted that the exact ratio between the weight of a snow covered ball of the instant invention and a snow boulder of the same diameter or size or volume are too numerous for the variations of the different sized balls to be mentioned here. It will depend, for one thing, on ergonomics, for one thing. That is, the ball should feel heavy enough for different types of users, such as children of suitable age to use the product ages (for example, toddlers ages 3-5 years, children ages 6-9, young children ages 10-12, teenagers ages 13-16, young adults ages 17-20, adults 20-55, middle age persons ages 56-65, retirees ages 66-80 and elderly ages 81 and upward) yet be light enough for them to manipulate depending on the physical characteristics of the user, ie, small child, size, strength, handicap, elderly.
  • [0054]
    Generally, the ball should be between 1% and 5% lighter with snow covering the surface as a snow boulder of the same size, diameter or volume made completely of snow. The ball should at least 1% lighter than a similar snow boulder completely made of snow by volume and more preferably at least about 2% lighter, 3% lighter, 4% lighter and 5% or more lighter. An optimal case would be that the ball is constructed to be about 10% lighter or 20% lighter than a snow boulder of similar size or volume made completely of snow or compacted snow. A precise set of ranges would not be suitable here since the exact percentage will vary depending on the size of the ball. Smaller balls will tend to be closer in weight to a snow boulder of similar size, whereas larger boulders will be lighter in percentage than their smaller cousins. This may be because volume is cubed and therefore the weight difference would also be an exponent lighter as the ball is made larger.
  • [0055]
    Ergonomics has to be balanced with the consideration that the ball should be of sufficient weight to have enough down-force to attract snow through the pressure of the weight of the ball on the snow as described with respect to FIG. 2a . In one aspect, the ball should be of sufficient weight that its adherence texture adheres snow without significant exertion from the top of the ball by the user. Again, the ball should in one embodiment adheres snow as it is being rolled. In another aspect, the ball should adhere substantially all of the snow it picks up as the ball is rolled by at least 90 degrees, such that snow on the bottom is now vertical. In another aspect, the ball should adhere substantially all of the snow it picks up as the ball is rolled all the way around 360 degrees of one axis x, y or z.
  • [0056]
    The size of the ball has many considerations. For applications for young children the ball is approximately 9.5 to 9.85 inches (24.1 to 25.0 cm) in diameter, about the size of a basketball. This same size is also suitable for a head of a snowman. A next larger size may follow the golden rectangle rule or 1.618 times greater in diameter, or between 15.371 and 15.9373 9 inches in diameter, for the midsection or base. And for the base, an order 1.618 times greater in diameter or 24.870 inches to 25.78655 inches in diameter, and so on. Another set of balls for a larger snowman, for example, as an application for adults and a pro-series, may be 1.5 feet, 2 feet, 3 feet and 4 feet in diameter. It is also envisioned that the ball be used for sport or extreme sport and marketing purposes and the ball may be larger for this purpose, for example, 4 feet, 5 feet and 6 feet proportions or greater for 3 balls to make the head, torso or base and base or a 3 ball snowman. Of course, these ranges of size are exemplary and other sizes and proportions between the head, torso or base and base sizes are within the scope of this invention.
  • [0057]
    Storage is another factor that goes into the design of the manufacture. A user purchasing such a ball in a store will likely find larger sizes inconvenient to carry and transport into a car, particularly when more balls are purchased as shown in FIG. 3a of FIG. 3. For these reasons, a ball as that described above for young children and children are considered a good size. The store owner may also desire to have a smaller size in order to store in a store room and also storing in a warehouse is a consideration when one considers that thousands of balls may be stored as shown in FIG. 3b . Warehouse and store room space can have significant costs and shipping may be based on size as shown in FIG. 3c . Again, the sizes for young children or children are considered good selections. In other embodiments of this solution also includes a collapsible version as will be described further.
  • [0058]
    As already mentioned, the weight of the ball is a factor in the manufacture. The ball must not be too heavy for the application. For applications for young children, the ball should be at least the same weight as, for example, other toy balls. For the young children sizes described above for the head of the snowman, the ball should weigh about the weight of a basketball, for example, which weighs 20-22 ounces fully inflated. The larger sizes would weigh a proportional amount as measured by material.
  • [0059]
    On the other hand, the weight of the ball must be of a certain weight to provide enough down-force to press into the snow and adhere the snow when the ball is rolled without exertion from the top from the user. For this purpose, the ball of about the size of a basketball could weigh roughly between 2-4.4 lbs (roughly between 1 and 2 kilograms). Again, larger balls would be proportionally heavier based on the proportion of material used. In one embodiment, ballast weights may be inserted and optionally fixed inside the ball to provide the correct weight between light enough for manipulation by a particular group of users and providing enough down-force for proper snow adhesion.
  • [0060]
    The ball itself covered with snow in one embodiment should weigh less than a snow boulder of the same size, that is having the same diameter, or if the snow boulder is not substantially a sphere then that of a boulder having the same volume. This allows a user to manipulate the ball, ie, roll, lift, heft, move, etc., more easily than a snow bolder of similar size that is completely made of snow. With a more light weight snow boulder the user is able to place the resulting snow boulder on top of other snow boulders or move them to new locations more easily.
  • [0061]
    Returning now to the weight of the ball, the ball weight is measurable because the weight of snow is a known quantity. At any rate, listing all weights possible would not be appropriate given the virtually unlimited number of snow boulders possible of various shapes and weights. In one aspect, the ball is maintained substantially hollow, that is, the entire inside of the ball has air or another light weight material inside. The material may be, for example, be other light-weight materials other than air such as Styrofoam. The materials may be lighter-than-air materials such as helium or hydrogen in order to lighten the weight of the sphere.
  • [0062]
    Environmental friendliness is another factor in the design of the ball for manufacture. For example, selection of materials that are environment friendly may include using water soluble materials, metals that are proven to be safe for the environment such as steel, aluminum or graphite, materials that have a low social impact, and natural materials found in the normal environment such as sand.
  • [0063]
    For example, the ball's outer structure is made of steel or aluminum, which are non-toxic and used in everyday applications, including toys, and are recyclable. In one embodiment, the outer structure is constituted by wire. Steel or aluminum also have a low social impact since these materials are normally mined from various sources and do not necessarily affect economies of specific areas. By contrast, certain semiconductor materials used in the semiconductor field have shown to cause a high impact on peoples in African nations.
  • [0064]
    The core of the ball used as a frame by which the exterior is formed from in one embodiment of a natural material, such as water, wood, steel or aluminum. This forms the base by which the outer structure is formed. In the embodiment using wire, the wire is wrapped around the base. In one further embodiment, the base is made to be removable. For example, in one embodiment the base is made of ice frozen from water which is completely natural and reusable. After the outer structure is formed, the frozen water may be melted and removed easily. In yet another embodiment the base is formed from a blow up ball that is deflated and removed after the outer structure is formed.
  • [0065]
    The snow adhering texture in one embodiment made from natural materials. As will be explained in more detail with respect to FIG. 4, the main structure of the ball is created in FIG. 4a . In FIG. 4a , the main structure is created by providing an outer structure at step 402. The snow adhering texture in one embodiment is provided by the outer structure that provides pores, holes or grooves for receiving larger portions of snow. In another embodiment described in more detail with respect to FIG. 4b , a second snow adhering texture is created by applying a binding material formed on the outer structure, and a finer material for adhering finer quantities of snow such as granular snow.
  • [0066]
    For the outer structure in step 404 it shall be described that a metal will be used in one embodiment. In an aspect thereof, the metal may be in the form of a wire wrapped around the core as illustrated in step 406 a. As described, the outer structure is formed, for example, the wire is wrapped to leave openings that are suitably wide enough to allow snow to enter but small enough so that the snow gets stuck in the openings and attracts snow to the outer surface (110, FIG. 1b ) by the phenomena that snow attracts other snow as indicated in step 408. The openings also should be frequent enough, that is in the case of the wire that the wire is thin enough, so that snow is more or less covering the enter outer surface (110). Of course, the entire outer surface does not need to be so constructed.
  • [0067]
    The metal is selected from example steel or aluminum. As will be described, a strong outer structure is needed, otherwise the ball will break under load of other snow boulders or underweight of a user should the user sit or lay partially on the ball. Steel is a good choice because it is strong and at the moment is cheaper than Aluminum. However, Aluminum is sometimes easier to source, meaning easier to find a supplier, and is recycled locally. Aluminum sheets are also readily available on the market with holes already in the aluminum. Aluminum is also lighter than steel and this material may be selected in order to save weight. Therefore, Aluminum is another good option. Aluminum could also become cheaper in the future. Both Aluminum and Steel are fairly strong, and are good options, but other similar materials are also suitable. When wire is selected as the form which is used to construct the outer structure, the wire is wrapped around as will be described a round or substantially round object.
  • [0068]
    The method of manufacture also includes providing a second texture. This texture may be suitable for attracting dry or granular snow. The openings in the outer structure, for example when wire is used, tend to adhere fresh or wet snow. The second texture could be added to attract dry or granular snow, for example. FIG. 4b illustrates the steps 410 to apply the second texture. In a step 412 a binding agent or coating is applied. This may be with grit as indicated in step 412 a or without. Thereafter, the grit may be applied in step 414. As an intermediate step, the ball may be turned to evenly coat the ball with the binding agent as indicated by step 416 and as explained in more detail.
  • [0069]
    A water-soluble material such as an elastomer or polymer in one embodiment is used as the binding agent and coated on the outer structure. As explained, the coating may be a complete dipping of the ball into the elastomer. Elastomers are known as non-toxic, inert materials, that have little odor and are safe for the environment. An elastomer product provided on the market are well suited for this use as elastomers are already used in many child areas, are very tough and durable, and do not peel easily. Many elastomers are water soluble, which means they are not dangerous for the environment, and is safe when ingested by animals or humans. Elastomers can also be very durable and last years without wear and in various harsh environmental conditions, which the ball will be subjected to such as repeated use outdoors in the snow. In addition, many elastomers air dry and do not require special curing techniques to dry the elastomer. In step 418 is indicated that the ball is allowed to dry. However, an intermediary drying step to dry the binding agent before grit coating can also be taken in step 420, but not necessary.
  • [0070]
    Liquid Rubber™ made by the Canadian company of the same name is one such elastomer readily available on the market and is available in liquid form that dries within 1 or 2 days in air and with no special curing required. This elastomer works well but others may also be suitable.
  • [0071]
    The ball must be able to adhere snow and maintain that snow as it is being rolled. In at least one embodiment, this means that the snow stays on the surface of the ball while being rolled. If the snow falls off as a result or during rolling, the object of creating a snow boulder with the ball and therefore a snowman is frustrated. In one further aspect described above, the snow adhering texture is created with a granular material or grit, which may be sand. Different sizes of grit are available on the market from 0.2 mm, 0.8 mm to 1 mm to 5 mm and larger and all variations in between. The sand is applied to the elastomer while still wet. For attracting dry or granular snow, it has been found that normal quartz sand works well, but of course other types of sand are also suitable.
  • [0072]
    As explained, the ball should in one embodiment adheres snow as it is being rolled. In another aspect, the ball should adhere substantially all of the snow it picks up as the ball is rolled by at least 90 degrees, such that snow on the bottom is now vertical. In another aspect, the ball should adhere substantially all of the snow it picks up as the ball is rolled all the way around 360 degrees of one axis x, y or z. One or more elements including weight, textures, number of textures, size of holes, materials used, or size of ball may be selected to obtain the right combination that properly adheres snow while being rolled. The various combinations are too numerous to describe here, but one prototype was created and tested and is shown in FIG. 5.
  • [0073]
    FIG. 5 shows a prototype made using the method in FIG. 4A and using a wire medium for the outer structure. The holes or openings measure about 1 cm to 2 cm on average, using wire as the outer structure, being hollow, having a weight about 1 kilogram, a diameter of about 15 inches, and covered with an elastomer and sand texture, proved to be sufficient to attract and adhere snow while being rolled. More parameters on weight and size will be described in more detail. It is of course understood that other arrangements are within the scope of the invention and the manufactured product is not limited to this one exemplary prototype tested. For example, for finer grains of snow, ie, dry or granular snow, perhaps smaller openings are needed.
  • [0074]
    In one aspect, the grit or elastomer is applied in such a manner that a portion of the grit is embedded in the elastomer and another portion, facing outward is exposed to air. It was discovered that the grit exposed to air allows better gripping of snow, ie rather than being completely coated in elastomer. It is theorized that the grit uncovered by elastomer is more faceted and allows granular snow, which is also faceted, to fit better between adjacent grains of grit or sand. Nonetheless, the portions of the ball completely covering the grit or sand also worked because they still provide small nodules that adheres dry or granular snow.
  • [0075]
    Embedding only a portion of the sand or grit into the elastomer can be achieved by forming the elastomer on the outer structure without letting the elastomer gather or form globules. This is trickier than it sounds because the elastomer tends to run downward and one has to rotate the ball semi-continuously or continuously to keep the elastomer from gathering. When the ball is evenly coated, the sand or grit may be applied as explained in more detail. One good way to do this is dip the ball entirely into a tub of grit or sand. Sprinkling the grit or sand works as well and allows for applying designs to the ball if the sand or grit is colored or of different colors. As explained in more detail, allowing the sand to not be completely covered in elastomer allows colored sand to be used. In this manner, different designs may be applied including, for example, a snow flake, snow angel, Santa, reindeer, or any other symbol or figure.
  • [0076]
    In combination with the first texture of the outer structure that forms openings that tends to capture new, fresh or moist snow, the grit or sand texture tends to adhere smaller, granular or dry snow. Together the two texture ball adheres snow in various conditions, that is fresh or wet snow and old or dry or granular snow. It is noted that grit or sand also attracts fresh or moist snow as well. Of course a single texture embodiment is also within the scope of the invention. Also, having one or more textures for different snow conditions is within the scope of the invention. For example, a third or further texture may be provided in the openings of the outer structure, such as nodules or protrusions that extend away from an outer surface of the outer structure. These nodules or protrusions may be fixed through holes in the outer structure using screws or bolts fitted inside the ball with a head that is wider than the hole on the inside and a nut or other stopper, such as a lego block that is screwed or bolted down to hold the nodule or protrusion in place.
  • [0077]
    In addition, LEDs or other lighting elements may be inserted through the holes or other lighting element with a portion thereof extending away from the outer surface of the ball as shown in FIG. 6. LEDs 602 are found to be more effective at projecting light through snow and providing a halo effect inside the snow if they protrude from the outer surface by at least about 1 to 5 mm (604 and 602, respectively), but may be greater, as shown in FIG. 6a . About 1 cm-5 cm is more optimum for light emission through the snow but longer lengths may be subject to breakage. The LEDs or lighting elements may be project through holes 610 as shown in FIG. 6a or through openings 612 when another outer structure is used such as wire as shown in FIG. 6 b.
  • [0078]
    The LEDs 602 may be similarly fixed with a threaded body and nut 606 on either side (top side indicated generally by 608) of the outer structure and tightened down to maintain the LED or nodule in place. The nodules or LEDs may also be glued in place or welded. Any fixing means would be suitable. In addition, the various fixing means will add weight and it will have to be considered in the overall design whether the weight is too much for a particular type of fixing means, such as steel bolts versus aluminum which are lighter than steel. On the other hand, the added weight could be used as ballast in case the construction is too light for the purpose of adding sufficient down-force to adhere snow.
  • [0079]
    Child safe materials are also selected as the ball may be used by children in one application. As explained, use of natural materials such as steel, non-toxic elastomers or sand are useable with the embodiments of the invention. All of these materials are used today in children toys and also in child areas. Elastomers such as Liquid Rubber™ are used to coat slippery surfaces in playgrounds for children. Such elastomers are tough and last years so there is less chance a child will swallow any of the material. From time to time some sand does fall off but this is an inconsequential amount and sand is anyway considered safe for children since it is also used on playgrounds, such as in sand boxes.
  • [0080]
    Further, place of manufacture will have an effect on the sale of the ball, and it may be preferable to make the ball in a particular region, such as made in the USA, for example. Environmental friendliness or place of manufacture impart a reliability and assuredness of the ball. With the use of the present manufacturing method, the construction of the ball is possible all under one roof. That means that the construction of the ball is made in one location, this may include assembly of any component, and absolute control on quality can be maintained. In one embodiment, no sub parts need to be constructed elsewhere, such as injection molded pieces, which would be needed and likely produced in Asia where costs of storage and shipping need to be calculated as well as supply chain issues and costs. In addition, manufacture all under one roof allows for the control of quality assurance and materials. It also prevents or helps to prevent copying since the designs and know how never have to leave the one facility. In at least one embodiment, the raw materials, ie, the wire, elastomer, and sand enter into the facility and finished product exit out of the same facility. Of course, the ball may be made in sub parts in other facilities.
  • [0081]
    Costs of materials are also part of the method of manufacture. As already mentioned, having a single facility where all manufacture takes place saves costs, ie costs of sub assembly, shipping and storage. Using natural materials is also cost effective. Steel, for example, imparts strength needed for a ball used in snowman building applications, and is cheaper than aluminum at present. Graphite may also be used, but may be difficult to source and may be more expensive. Steel, on the other hand, like aluminum is readily available all over the world and is often recycled locally, making these materials an attractive recycled source. For example, the materials may be recycled from old soda cans or cars, which support the marketability of the product as being environmentally conscious. Elastomers, especially quality ones, but only a little is actually needed to coat a ball. The rest of the elastomer is dripped off and recollected for the next ball. This means that the Elastomer is also cost effective. Sand and grit is one of the most abundant materials on the planet or can be made readily by grinding minerals or stone, and therefore is also very cheap.
  • [0082]
    A word here is due on the complexity of the genius simplicity of this method of manufacture. It may seem at first glance that creating a ball used in making snow boulders for snowmen is straight forward—it is anything but that. It has taken years of trial and error to find a method of manufacture that produces a ball sturdy enough to endure outside use, cheap enough to be cost effective and produce a purchasable product, but also can be made under one roof. By contrast, an injection molding concept was first considered, but injection molding requires very expensive steel molds that are cost prohibitive for a small startup company. One mold for a fairly sized ball of say 3 feet in diameter costs at least 100 thousand US dollars. And this is for the mold alone. When one considers that other features must then be added, it is easily seen that such a method would require multiple process steps, ie, multiple providers, storage locations, supply chain requirements, which all add up to end costs.
  • [0083]
    In addition, injection molding uses environmental non-friendly materials and is not scalable, meaning larger and larger balls are not possible. Once a mold is created, a new mold is needed for another size. In fact, a mold for a ball beyond 4 feet I am told by experts in injection molding is impossible and would be impossibly expensive. A 4 foot diameter ball would require a mold of steel at least 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the methods described herein, any size ball is possible because a fixed mold is not used. Further, no expensive molds and startup costs are needed and products can be produced all in one place, thereby eliminating supply chain problems, providing absolute control on quality and secrecy of know how.
  • [0084]
    3D printing was also considered. Perhaps in the future, 3D printing is an alternative. 3D printing affords the ability to create very complex structures. However, 3D printing despite the flashy headlines is years away from providing mass produced goods. 3D printing is still too expensive for mass production and is only appropriate currently for making prototypes. In addition 3D printers still are limited in size. For applications needing solid components, one has to use laser sintering 3D printers which have heat and gas controlled chambers. Such chambers are and will be limited in size for some time, and can only at present product balls on the range of 15 inches in diameters. Since one embodiment of the invention manufactures balls of any size, ie, is scalable in size, 3D printing at present is not a viable method today. In the future, as expenses come down and printers get larger, the 3D printing is possible within the scope of the invention.
  • [0085]
    As explained, the strength of the outer structure is to be considered because a ball that is flimsy or deforms has been discovered to not hold snow. In addition, the ball should be able to attract snow somewhat by simple rolling, ie, without substantial effort by the user applying down force on the top of the ball. Of course, the user may do so if he, she or it pleases. In fact, the ball should be sturdy enough to not deform under the weight or partial weight of an average child of 5. Also, the ball is manufactured to be strong enough not to collapse under pressure of other snow boulders when built as part of a snowman. The round or sphere nature of the ball does help in this matter as a ball or sphere acts as a bridge in all directions x, y and z or about all degrees in the 3 dimensions, x, y and z, either with or without snow covering.
  • [0086]
    In one embodiment it was discovered that metal wire could be wrapped around a spherical core to form a strong enough outer structure. The concept is similar to a kitchen whisk. The wire is very strong when wrapped in a sphere or round configuration. Especially if the wire is wrapped several times over itself. Several configurations of how the wire is wrapped are within the scope of the invention. The configuration 500 shown in FIG. 5a is termed herein as a random configuration because the wire was wrapped in no particular order or pattern. The objective was simply to wrap the wire 504 so that it crosses itself several times creating layers of holes or voids, shown in close up in FIG. 5b , it can be seen that the voids are layered and open to the outside of the ball at various angles and offers sub voids as well as shown generally by 506. In one aspect, this is fortuitous because the voids offer entrapment areas for the snow at several impinging angles to the ground or snow as the ball is rolled. The openings or voids are about 1 cm to 2 cm on average and sometimes about 3 or 4 cms across with even some openings being up to 6 cm and it was found to adhered fresh snow quite well. The larger openings may have further openings underneath that had smaller widths.
  • [0087]
    A steel wire of about 4 mm in diameter was used because it was relatively strong but still easy to bend. The wire was also tucked into openings deemed too wide. The size and shape of the openings was fine tuned based on experience in the field of what is known to wok by the inventors. The wire may of course be of other diameters or thicknesses, but a range of between 1 mm to 4 mm seems appropriate for a ball of about 15 inches in diameter. For this size ball it required 90 meters of 2 mm thick steel wire. The steel wire was covered with the elastomer in part because I discovered that metal is not as good at adhering snow, probably because it is a smooth material, but also likely because metal retains heat very well and may melt snow it comes in contact with.
  • [0088]
    The prototype tested worked well with the deep configuration and wider openings likely because the snow found places to work itself into and provide a place for the snow to stick more snow too. However, while the random configuration for wire worked fine, there was a lot of wire needed (90 meters) and this adds, time of manufacture, cost and weight. Again weight may be a benefit if the ball is too light otherwise. Another problem was that the random configuration required several layers of wire, which means the outer structure formed by wire was about 1 to 1.5 inches deep. This seemed to be suitable for fresh snow, but may be problematic for dry snow, since the wet snow will tend to clump together inside the openings or voids, whereas dry snow tends to crumple and fall out of openings. A deep void of several inches, therefore, would tend to present a problem for dry or granular snow conditions.
  • [0089]
    In order to conserve wire and therefore reduce costs the configurations in FIGS. 7a-c were created. These configurations follow a spiral pattern, the advantage of which is that a single spiral does not intersect itself over the entire surface which it covers and therefore does not create additional thickness. In order to create openings or voids, a second spiral offset in degrees is layered over the first spiral. In the configuration shown in FIG. 7b , the spirals are offset by 90 degrees to each other, thereby creating a 90 degree crossing at each point where the two wires meet on the surface of the core sphere. The width of the openings can also be better regulated by forming each spiral with, for example, an equidistant width. In one aspect, the distance between laid wire of one spiral is set at 1 cm to 2 cm, and this forms 1 cm×1 cm or 2 cm by 2 cm openings. The resulting structure has only two layers of wire at any point around the sphere and is only 8 mm deep when 4 mm wire is used. Other widths are also possible. Further spirals may be added to add strength, complexity and depth, ie, to create layered voids or voids that present openings at different angles. For example, FIG. 7c shows a configuration of 3 spiral wires, forming 3 layers of wire or 12 mm deep.
  • [0090]
    Different configurations are within the scope of the invention for the wire, including shaping the wire in pentagon or hexagon patterns, for example, which would impart a star shape when multiple layers or the wire itself may be bent into shapes such as a star or other shape, such as a snow flake. Having snow flakes is particularly good because of the application to use the ball for forming snow boulders of a snowman. Other patterns that do not overlap are also possible such as straight lines running along the circumference as when one takes several Hoola Hoops™ and align them along one axis and offset the degrees by some amount. Notably, however, the lines of wire would not be evenly spaced from each other as in the case of the spiral along the entire length of the spiral.
  • [0091]
    In addition, the wire may be coiled to form cylinder like projections or receiving portions that are raised from the surface of the outer structure that are wound wide enough and deep enough to form slots to receive rods or other attaching means that can be inserted therein as shown in FIG. 8. As the ball 800 is rolled in the snow, the receiving portions 802 extend beyond the normal surface of the outer structure and would be apparent to the user after the ball is covered in snow. In this manner, the user can easily find the receiving portions and insert rods or other attaching means. The rods can then be used to heft the resulting snow boulder or be used to hold appendages or accoutrements connected to the rod as shown generally by 804. In some aspects, the receiving portions do not attract snow very well and are therefore more observable after rolling. In this case, the receiving portions may be left without a snow adhering texture. For manufacturing purposes it may be more simple to coat the outer structure, receiving portions and all, with the elastomer.
  • [0092]
    The receiving portions may be constructed to allow the rod or attaching means to be inserted deep within the core and also to and through an opposite side to allow better holding of the rod or attaching means, for example, where snow arms are connected to the rod or attaching means. This may be done by winding the wire in a cylindrical patter such that the hole inside the cylinder extends through the surface of the ball with no wire underneath. For this purpose, posts or pegs may be used with a thickness about the diameter or width of the rod to be inserted into the core, and upon construction of the outer core, the wire wrappings around the posts or pegs will create the receiving portions with the required width and extending through and into the inside of the core as shown generally by 806. Using posts that extend to another or opposite side is helpful since the rod can be inserted through the core and to through the other receiving portion formed on the other or opposite side for either additional strength and stability or for extending all the way through so that a user can carry the snow boulder by holding to either end of the rod that extends through the snow boulder. For a ball of about 2 feet in diameter, it is proposed that receiving portions extending about 1 to 5 inches beyond an outer surface of the outer structure is sufficient and a width of the cylinder inside the receiving portion is about the width of a broom stick or about 1 to 2 inches.
  • [0093]
    Again, it will be appreciated that using wires is a very good solution in the alternative to injection molding. Wire is readily available and in abundance and is relatively cheap. Wrapped in consecutive layers, wire is very strong and provides good non-deformation characteristics, ie, it can be made with sufficient layers of wire to prevent deformation. The problem here is that 3 layers of wire may offer too light a weight for down force and adhesion of snow as explained earlier. To offset this, further layers, ballast, or an inner core may be used to provide additional weight. The ballast may simply be attached to the inside of the ball with any fixing means such as welding, wires, or quick ties or the like.
  • [0094]
    In order to keep the wires in place during assembly, the wires were held to each other by using fixation point, in this case plastic zip ties, that are available off the shelf. However, the wires may also be welded, using for example spark welding in order not to use lead based solder, which would be against the environmental aspect of the invention. It is also with the scope of the invention that no fixation points are needed, so long as the wires do not move substantially with respect to each other. The snow needs a rigid base and rigid wires to stay stuck into and the fixation points help to prevent the wires from moving with respect to each other during operation.
  • [0095]
    Further, in order to keep the configuration of the wires, the fixation points were helpful, but posts were inserted into the core sphere to form the 3 axes of a x, y, z Cartesian plane. The wire was wrapped around these posts as starting and way points by which the wires were kept more or less in place during assembly and also to keep the wire tight around the ball, thereby adding strength to the final outer structure. The ball could also be constructed simply by wrapping the wire and later using fixation points to bind various adjacent wires together. In any event, the posts made layout of the wire easier to handle and kept the wire from sliding off the surface of the core sphere. For the random configuration this is easier, whereas the spiral configuration requires more posts to keep the even nature of the spirals during assembly. In the prototype constructed it was observed that wrapping the wire around the posts one or more times and redirecting the wire in an acute angle to the entry of the wire into the post or peg winding tightened the wire around the ball considerably.
  • [0096]
    As will be explained in more detail, the posts may be inserted into preset holes in the core sphere and then removed after the wires are in place or otherwise fixed by fixation points or otherwise. Removing the posts would then make the overall product nd without additional parts that could present a danger to users. On the other hand, leaving the posts in would provide further strength to the wires in terms of tightness and also internal strength in terms of deformation of the ball since the posts would provide resistance against deformation of the ball from impinging force on the ball. This is particularly true if the posts are inserted all the way through the core sphere. However, pegs instead of posts may also be used, which do not go through the core sphere from side to the other side and are more easily removed after assembly of the wire. The posts themselves may be of any material such as wood or metal and may be shaped to fit through holes in the core sphere or have a waist or annular ring that allows the peg to be inserted into a hole up to the waist or annular ring, providing that the peg has an entry portion about the size of the hole in the core sphere.
  • [0097]
    As explained, a core of general spherical shape may be used as a base over which the outer structure is formed. This is useful for the embodiment using wire since the core more or less provides a round shape for the wire to wrap around in more or less a sphere. The core may be any material including wood or metal. In one embodiment the core is corrugated steel or aluminum that provides regular holes. These holes provide less weight and also provide places for the posts, pegs, LEDs or light elements or other snow adhering nodules to fit into and be placed. A core made of a solid material has advantages as it also provides stability which helps against ball deformation or breakage as discussed in detail above. However, it does add weight and it requires that cores be stored somewhere. Given that thousands of balls are expected to be built, this would require a large investment of space and cost in warehouse storage. Also, the balls themselves have to be constructed on site or manufactured by a sub manufacturer.
  • [0098]
    In one embodiment, a removable core is used as the base on which the outer structure is formed as shown by the method of FIG. 4c . In one aspect, the core is made by freezing water (426) or other liquid into a sphere or ball. Water is used because it is natural, abundant and reuseable as a freezing liquid. The outer structure, for example, wire is then wound around the frozen core of water. This must be done either quickly or in a room or area that is relatively cool, otherwise the core of frozen water or liquid will start to melt and interfere with construction, either due to liquid running everywhere or the core losing its round shape. In the case that a rubber ball or liner is used (step 424) as explained in more detail, the rubber ball or liner is then pulled through a hole or opening in the outer structure and may be reused (step 430).
  • [0099]
    However, making a sphere of frozen water is not as straight forward as one might imagine. One can chip or melt a round ball from ice but this takes time and is hard to achieve a proper sphere. One manner provided is to fill an exercise ball (900, FIG. 9 available off the shelf) with water or liquid through an opening and freeze the ball 902. Exercise balls are made to be tough and are very durable, which is suitable for freezing and unfreezing multiple times and also holding the water or liquid in a round shape. Despite the strength of the walls of an exercise ball, the exercise ball does not stay perfectly round when filled with water, especially for exercise balls that are larger, for example, 2 or more feet in diameter. This is because the water inside the exercise ball is much heavier than air which is intended to fill the ball and makes the exercise ball sag. In order to obtain a round shape during freezing, therefore, it is provided here to submerge the exercise ball filled with water in a tub or vat (904, FIG. 9b ) of water while freezing and then exhume the frozen core by knocking away the ice from the exercise ball. The exercise ball submerged in water retains its round shape because the water around it equalizes the pressure with the water inside the exercise ball and the rubber of the exercise ball itself is sufficient to maintain the round shape.
  • [0100]
    In practice the use of an exercise ball submerged and frozen in a vat of water works very well and one needs only a hammer to break the excess ice from the exercise ball. Similarly, a plastic liner or other material in a round shape may be used to form the frozen core. The resulting core sphere of ice inside the exercise ball or like material is much more round than when the ball is frozen in air. When the outer structure is complete, the frozen core is melted, for example, through heating or letting stand in a warmer than freezing temperature, and the melted liquid is let out of the ball through the opening and the melted water leaks out of the outer structure or lead out through a hose or other channel, this helps to keep the outer structure dry for further process steps, for example the elastomer application process which should be applied to a dry surface in order to allow the elastomer to stick best to the outer structure or prevent the elastomer from being watered down.
  • [0101]
    The difficulty with using an exercise ball is that it requires use of more materials. Also, an exercise ball does not provide unlimited amounts of holes to provide posts or pegs 906 or 908 to be inserted. In order to ameliorate that, the exercise ball or similar is constructed with additional inlet holes. This is relatively an easy modification by cutting or pushing a hole into the exercise ball and stopping it with a normal exercise ball stopper. The posts or pegs themselves can be used as the stoppers. For example, the exercise ball is filled with water, either outside the water tub or inside the water tub, and the posts or pegs are inserted into the inlet holes, which may be inserted completely through the core to an inlet hole on another side or opposite side (step 432, FIG. 4c ). The posts or pegs themselves may act as the stoppers and are selected to be thick enough to engage the sides of the inlet and stop water flowing out of the exercise ball or other construct. Notably, it is easier to insert the posts or plugs or stoppers when the exercise ball or construct is submerged in the water or fluid. Also it is noteworthy that the exercise ball or construct submerged in water or fluid does not necessarily require stoppers to keep the fluid inside during freezing.
  • [0102]
    Another option is to fill a box with sphere shaped liner or wooden box 910 that has a sphere mold 912 inside that is filled with water (FIG. 9c ). The box in the tub or liner in the tub is frozen, and thereafter the box or liner is removed by chipping or melting the outer ice and the box is opened revealing the core of ice. The box 910 or liner itself may be entirely submerged in an outer box 914 or other casing as shown in the figure. The core of ice may be produced with posts or pegs in by inserting the posts or pegs before freezing, which may be inserted as described above through the core to another side or opposite side. The embodiment of a frozen core of water or other liquid has the advantage on using only natural and environmental friendly materials and also does not require having to purchase expensive rubber balls and store them. The frozen cores can be generated as needed simply by using refrigeration means, such as meat freezers, and the like, or can otherwise be made simply by manufacturing the core in a cold environment or in cold regions that allow for freezing of the liquid.
  • [0103]
    As explained, the posts or pegs are used to keep the outer structure in place while constructing the outer structure. For example, when wrapping wire around the core, the posts or pegs allow the wire to stay in place and not slip off and become loose so that a tight and therefore strong ball of wire is formed. Again, it is not necessary to use the posts or pegs and the wire can be tightened after wrapping by applying the fixation points after wrapping. In the case where a random configuration is used, it was found that 3 posts inserted through the core is suitable to form the 6 ends of the x, y, z Cartesian plane that stick upward from the core for the wire to wrap around. This is presumed to be the case since the wire has something to tighten around at least every 90 degrees around the surface of the core. However, 5 posts were also found to provide even more posts where the wire can tighten around. For a spiral configuration more posts are required to keep the even nature of the spiral, and may require posts or pegs somewhat continuously along the spiral path around the core. In this case pegs may be preferred since they are more quickly inserted and are not as long, thereby reducing assembly time and reducing material costs. The posts or pegs may be inserted after freezing as well, by melting holes in the frozen liquid and then inserting the posts or pegs.
  • [0104]
    Once the outer structure is constructed, either with the use of posts or pegs, and/or fixation points, the next step is to apply a snow adhering texture. As explained, the snow adhering texture may be comprised of at least one texture. It is within the scope of the invention that the outer structure material itself has snow adhering properties. However, the prototype constructed used an elastomer and sand based layer to create the snow adhering texture. Notably, the elastomer can also be colored, for example, a bright color like yellow to provide a visual indication whereby the user can quickly see what portions of the ball are not yet covered in snow, or otherwise be colored white or a bluish white (the color of snow) to mimic snow or hide the places where snow was not covered or melts from the side of the snow boulder. A bright but subdued color is useful as an elastomer during construction since it also shows the portions that were not covered by grit during application of the grit or sand. Allowing for a more even and quick manner of applying the grit or sand. As explained, the elastomer may be replaced with any polymer or for that matter any rubber.
  • [0105]
    In one aspect, the elastomer or like is coated on the outer structure by dipping the outer structure entirely in the coating liquid. This may be done by suspending the outer structure by string by, for example, tying or hooking the string, chord, chain or like to the outer structure, such as part of the wire, and dangling the outer structure from the string, etc. The entire outer structure is then dunked in the elastomer or otherwise held over a vat and sprayed or coated with the elastomer or like and the residue, after dunking, spraying or coating, is allowed to drip off back into the vat for reuse for coating the same or another ball. The coated ball may be turned at this point so that the bottom portion is elevated such that the elastomer or like does not gather at the bottom. The coated ball may be turned in different directions so as to allow the elastomer or like to evenly coat the outer structure by action of the elastomer dripping or running toward the bottom side. This will tend to give the outer structure elements, for example, the wire, a chance to be coated with elastomer even on the sides and undersides of the wire that do not directly impinge on the snow but can also provide gripping effect since the snow make get shoved or stuffed into any opening from an angle other than 90 degrees to the tangential line of the ball.
  • [0106]
    In another aspect, a liner may be used or rubber ball or like inside the outer structure in order to provide not only a structure to the core ball but also to provide a surface or backing upon which the elastomer can dry. This allows snow to build up on a surface of the ball under the wires or other elements of the outer structure and prevents the snow from falling into the center of the ball. Snow collecting inside the ball is not always desired because it adds weight and can make the ball unevenly heavy. Such a liner may be made of any material and may even be applied without a fluid inside it. In another aspect, after the rubber ball or liner is evacuated of water, the liner or rubber ball remains inside, that is instead of being collapsed and removed, and is then inflated with air to provide the surface for the elastomer or other binding agent to stick to (along with any grit thereafter applied).
  • [0107]
    It shall be appreciated that the manufacturing method described and its variations describe a one step process, meaning the raw materials enter the building and the finished product exits the same building in its simplest form. In fact, the whole process can be done out of a garage or basement hobby room. The advantage of such a method of manufacture should not be lightly taken. For an independent startup with little or no investment funds, the proposed method of manufacture is a true way forward. In another aspect, the formation of the outer structure forms both the ball and the snow adhering texture, that is without a binding agent and or grit, forms the one step procedure. It shall be noted that the outer structure itself forms at least one snow adhering texture because, as described, the openings or gullies provide a place for the wet or fresh snow to collect and be held within, and that snow attracts other snow that tends to lie on the outside of the outer structure.
  • [0108]
    The injection mold techniques mentioned above, while useable in the method of manufacture, it is cost prohibitive and does not provide the flexibility in design needed to arrange the appropriate snow adhering texture. An injection molded ball, for example, would require a second step to apply the snow adhering texture, i.e., drilling holes in the injection mold and plugging nodules in the holes. Whereas the outer structure, for example, the wire, already forms part of the snow adhering structure. In another aspect, the elastomer and or grit may be applied before the wire is wrapped or other elements forming the outer structure is formed. Typical injection molding only allows for a basic sphere to be created and further structure or textures would have to be added later because a mold cannot include complex shapes or shapes that form openings, overhangs or gullies. A hook like structure formed on top of a mold for a sphere, for example, would prevent the mold from being opened. Therefore, the hook or other snow adhering texture would have to be constructed later, and thereafter, a binding agent and or grit.
  • [0109]
    As mentioned, the inside of the ball, or at least a substantial portion of the ball is filled with a material or otherwise has a material that is substantially lighter than snow or compacted snow of the same volume. In another aspect, the ball together with snow adhered to its surface is lighter substantially than a snow boulder of similar size or volume. Substantially here means more than a few grams, and in the another aspect means that the ball is at least 1% lighter than a similar snow boulder completely made of snow and more preferably at least about 2% lighter, 3% lighter, 4% lighter and 5% or more lighter. An optimal case would be that the ball is constructed to be about 10% lighter or 20% lighter than a snow boulder of similar size or volume made completely of snow or compacted snow. A precise set of ranges would not be suitable here since the exact percentage will vary depending on the size of the ball. Smaller balls will tend to be closer in weight to a snow boulder of similar size, whereas larger boulders will be more lighter in percentage than their smaller cousins. This may be because volume is cubed and therefore the weight difference would also be an exponent lighter as the ball is made larger.
  • [0110]
    The liner may also be a metal shell for example, as will now be described, which provides both a hard core and a surface upon which the elastomer and later the snow collects. In one aspect, the metal may be constructed also to be part of the one step methodology. In one solution, the metal is cut out from flat sheet of material. As in other variations described herein, flat sheets of metal are readily available on the market and do not require external construction such as, for example, a metal ball were to be formed using a mold. The material may be hard but flexible, such as a malleable metal, such as thin steel or aluminum. As mentioned, aluminum is lighter, but steel is cheaper and stronger. In this case, the material selection may be selected based on how much extra ballast is needed to create the balance between a ball that is light enough to manipulate but heavy enough to provide a good down force to attract snow by simple rolling of the ball, ie, without substantial effort from the user by applying a down force. Notably, the weight will depend somewhat on the snow conditions, with newer or fluffier or wetter snow being easily attracted to a snow adhering texture and therefore not requiring as much weight. A good weight, however, is desirable for both wet and dry snow conditions and the ranges of weights have already been given in detail. Again, other weights are possible within the invention, noting that the weight of the ball will also depend on the size of the ball.
  • [0111]
    To continue with the metal ball core concept, the metal may be cut out in the form of a shape that when bent or formed, forms a ball or sphere like ball as claimed in copending application U.S. 61/711,178 and counterparts file by Marc Asperas. For example, the metal may be cut out in the shape of an unfolded soccer ball (also called a truncated icosahedron) made up of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons as shown in FIG. 10 c, which resembles a snow flake. Of course, the metal core ball may also be made to form another polygon or like ball. When the flat metal is then bent at the intersections (FIG. 10b ) of the hexagon or pentagon, the ball is then formed into a round shape (FIG. 10a ). Fixing points may be used to secure the polygons or faces to each other, such as weld points, quick ties, or any other fixing means. The flat metal sheet cut out may be cut out using shears or by stamp and also may individually cut out the polygon or faces of the metal ball to be assembled.
  • [0112]
    The metal material may have holes inserted therein or pre inserted or drilled holes. The holes may be either linear or offset. These holes may be used to save or regulate weight, provide opening to receive posts or plugs, or otherwise receive nodules for adhering snow. Having holes that have a common size and offset is helpful in manufacture since alignment and spacing is provided by the holes. For example a flat sheet of aluminum may have 4 or 5 mm holes that are offset with each other at 8 mm spacings.
  • [0113]
    As already mentioned the metal sheet may be cut out in a 2 dimensional or flat pattern from the material. Optionally at least one side joining the polygons is left uncut and attached. The uncut version assists in later maintaining rigidity of the boulder as one side is left attached. Individual polygons or faces, however, may be cut from individual pieces of material and later attached to each other. This last variant makes it cheaper to buy the material. It also makes the holes aligned in the same direction as in each polygon which makes assembly easier and quicker, otherwise patterns have their polygons with varying degrees of orientation that changes the alignment of the holes and makes the later plug or nodule process slower.
  • [0114]
    The cut out is then bent along the adjoining sides so that the angle between adjacent sides is reduced to a minimum. With the soccer ball pattern, this makes the flat surface take on the shape of a sphere or ball. Other patterns that use more polygons may make the ball rounder and more near to a perfect sphere. Otherwise, the finished metal ball or core may be bent or caused to be made more round by either rolling once constructed into a soccer ball or otherwise forming a rubber ball therein and expanding with air or liquid in order to pressure the polygons to obtain a more rounded shape.
  • [0115]
    The non-adjoined sides are joined by, for example, at intermittent points or at continual or continual points or lines. This may be done by sewing the sides together, using for example a high test nylon line such as shark fishing line. This also may be done using quick ties. Or this may be done using welding, soldering or brazing techniques. In welding, a Wolfram Welding technique may be used as no additional metals are used in such technique. Solders may also be used but employ lead or cadmium so it is preferred to use lead free or cadmium free solder materials to preserve usability of the ball as a toy for children use.
  • [0116]
    The metal ball or core may be implemented as the outer structure or provide the core base upon which the outer structure is provided, such as the wire. In the latter case, the posts or plugs are inserted into holes, which may be pre-drilled by the maker of the flat sheets of metal, in the metal core. The metal core is also compatible with all other aspects of the invention already described. For example, the metal core may also include a light or light sources inside the sphere, such as LEDs that are inserted through the holes of the metal core. As discussed, the LEDs have an appropriate diameter that fit within the holes of the metal core and are typically found in the 5 mm diameter ranges. The LEDs may be attached using glue or a glue gun, which is fine for LEDs since they are semiconductors and can withstand high degree of heat, or any other fixing means for that matter. The LEDs may also be set in place by the elastomer. In another example, a lining or liner may also be formed on the inside of the metal core ball. The lining may be to provide a filler for the holes so that a later coating does not drip into the ball. The lining may be applied when the pattern is still flat or before that before the cut out process.
  • [0117]
    A step that may precede joining and or bending or may be incorporated therein is the step of adding a snow adhering texture or plugs or posts into the holes. The snow adhering texture may be bolts or screws inserted into the holes. The bolts may or may not include nuts. A suitable length of bolt short enough may not require a nut, which saves weight of the nuts. Again, the weight of each component may be considered in the balance of the overall weight and can be used to regulate the weight. The plugs or nodules may be spaced according to an optimum distance from each other. This may be based on allowing the snow to enter between the portions that extend away from the surface of the metal core, such as heads or nodules. This may also be based on the type of snow, wet or dry or in between, or fresh or new. This may also depend on type of texture, short profile or deep profile. For short profile, the distance is about every 4th hole in a 8 mm offset with 5 mm hole diam. Plugs also may be inserted after. The plugs or nodules may include a special end that locks into position when inserted such as a clasp or some end that is wider than the holes in the metal core. A quick plug in nodule or plug facilitates insertion production and speeds production.
  • [0118]
    On the side that forms the outside of the metal core on an opposing end of the plug, there is attached a shape. The shape is formed to capture snow underneath the head. These may be overhanging shapes or hooks. When using legos such as a slope inverted 45 1×2, the bolts and holes are 5 mm in diam. The slopes are screwed onto the bolts or screws on the outer facing side. The screwing may be done using a special lego drill. The heads are tightened so that they do not move. The bolts or screws provide excellent strength and resist breakage by children. Using bolts does not require glues and toxic chemicals. Using flat sheet does not require injection molding formation of ball, eliminates need for forming or buying ball. Injectino molding requires high startup investment for mold 30-50K USD plus extra mold for plugs 15-20K. Molds limit size of sphere because mold needs to be made of aluminum or steel. Bigger balls require extra large mold that are expensive and difficult to inject plastic into with the correct resulting sphere. Process does not require different manufacture steps.
  • [0119]
    Again, the metal core can form the outer structure itself or a metal core for the outer structure to be mounted thereon. When nodules are used with the metal core, this would add an additional snow adhering texture and may either be below any outer structure formed thereon or extending away and above a surface of the outer structure, such as formed by wired wrapped around the metal core as described above. As with other parts of the method of manufacture, the metal core and other aspects of the invention can be done all under one roof. The metal cores do not need a mold or need to be first formed at another location or facility. The holes may be pre-formed or drilled by the maker of the flat sheets of metal or otherwise drilled on site. The posts, plugs, nodules or outer structure and or elastomer and or grit can be added also on site.
  • [0120]
    In the case where the metal core forms the outer structure itself, the metal core can be constructed to be collapsible. As shown in FIG. 11a , the metal core could be constructed of rings 1102 that are folded upon another by twisting the rings so that they lie substantially flat as indicated generally by 1104. In the case where the outer structure (FIG. 2) is made of wire, the wire could be tightened upon itself like a coil, and then when released snaps back into the form of a ball at the created size as shown in FIG. 11b , thus conserving storage space. A locking mechanism, such as a latch, can be used to keep the rings or wire from collapsing during use.
  • [0121]
    It shall be appreciated that the many variations discussed above are not limiting of the invention and other aspects of the method of manufacture are also within the scope of the invention.
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Classifications
International ClassificationA63H33/26, A63H3/00, A63H33/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63H9/00, A63H3/16, A63H3/006, A63H33/001, A63H33/26