A zipper pull tab comprises a U-shaped rod containing hooked ends, and a handle assembly. The handle assembly contains rod passageway cavities and rod engagement cavities that will accept the insertion and engagement of the U-shaped rod with the hooked ends. The U-shaped rod is connected to a zipper slider through the connection arch, and then the U-shaped rod and the handle assembly are forcibly joined using complimentary engagement features.
 This application is entitled to the benefit of Provisional Patent Application Ser. Nr 60/255,106 filed Dec. 12, 2000.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to zipper pull tabs, specifically to zipper pull tabs that are attachable to a zipper slider after the manufacture of the zipper slider is complete.
 2. Description of the Prior Art
 A zipper assembly generally includes a slider that is forcibly pushed or pulled via a pull tab along two rows of opposing links called stringers. As the slider is forced over the stringers to effectively close or open the zipper assembly, the links are forced to interlock or disengage respectively. Pull tabs are generally installed onto sliders during the slider and connection arch forming or assembly process. When a pull tab breaks and releases from such a slider, it is generally not possible to disassemble the slider and connection arch in order to install another pull tab. Repairs are costly, complicated and time-consuming as some portion of the zipper assembly itself must be disassembled in order to remove the compromised slider and replace it with a slider that has a pull tab installed. Or as is common, a user will of necessity insert an object such as a paper clip, string, or other such device through the slider, forming a sub-optimal replacement for the missing pull tab.
 Two attachable pull tab designs are disclosed in Jackson et. al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,035,497 (“Jackson”); and Chung et. al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,860,192 (“Chung”).
 Jackson discloses a zipper pull tab that is designed to break away from a zipper assembly upon being subjected to a predetermined force. The invention discloses assemblies with close-tolerance holes and shear pins, mating cavities and protuberances, or super-adhesives. While this invention provides a degree of safeguarding to the slider and stringers, it is likely that the average person would not be able to affect field repairs should the product perform as intended and release under excessive load. Therefore, the quick and simple repair of broken pull tabs has largely been left unresolved by this invention.
 Chung discloses a pull tab mounting arrangement that enables a user to attach or detach the described pull tab at will. The invention discloses an assembly that is comprised of a coupling device, a U-shaped shackle and a hinge that combine to work together to provide the desired functionality. This invention can provide for quick and simple repairs of broken zipper pull tabs but requires precise manufacturing and assembly in order to function properly. It is also likely that certain abuse loads sufficient to deform certain parts of the invention would render the latching features inoperative. Therefore, even though the quick and simple repair of broken pull tabs can be addressed with this invention, the durability afforded by this configuration would be insufficient for many applications.
 Neither Jackson nor Chung address the mode of operating a zipper assembly in which a user applies axial push and pull loads, as well as torsion loads to affect easier operation of worn or difficult zipper assemblies. A combination of such forces are commonly required on zipper assemblies where the stringers are worn, where lubrication cannot be applied, and on larger zippers assemblies that are used to fasten heavy or stiff materials together.
 Both Jackson and Chung disclose pull tabs which have configurations that are asymmetric about the transverse, longitudinal and normal axes. Therefore, rotational or bending loads applied about the longitudinal or transverse axes of the two inventions will tend to cause them to decouple from a zipper slider prematurely or unexpectedly.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 What is needed is a zipper pull tab that is easy to install onto a zipper slider, that provides sufficient strength and durability to outperform the slider and stringers, and that exhibits greater axial and torsional load transmitting characteristics than prior attempts, and is inexpensive to manufacture.
 It is one object of the present invention to provide a pull tab mounting arrangement that can be installed or removed without tools or adhesives.
 It is another object of the present invention to provide a pull tab mounting arrangement that is resistant to abuse loads and conditions that would render prior attempts inoperable.
 It is another object of the present invention to provide a pull tab mounting arrangement that is symmetric about the longitudinal axes enabling a user to transmit axial, bending and rotational operating forces into the pull tab to affect operation of the zipper slider, enhancing overall zipper assembly operating characteristics.
 It is another object of the present invention to provide a simple design for manufacturing a pull tab which accomplishes the goals stated herein.
 In the preferred embodiment, a U-shaped rod containing hooked ends is fed through a connection arch on a slider. A top and bottom handle half are securely joined together by welding, an adhesive, fasteners, pins or other means to form a handle assembly. The handle assembly is then positioned in relation to the U-shaped rod so that the rod passageway cavity in the handle assembly can accept insertion of the U-shaped rod. The U-shaped rod is then pushed into the handle assembly whereby it is progressively compressed by conformance to the rod passageway cavity in a manner that causes the hooked ends to move closer together. Near the end or travel within the rod passageway cavity, the hooked end forcibly engages the rod engagement cavity in the handle assembly as the U-shaped rod springs outward within the handle assembly. The U-shaped rod engaged in the handle assembly thus forms the assembled pull tab.
 The assembled pull tab is resistant to abuse loads as the only one mode of disassembly can be affected. To disengage and remove the U-shaped rod from the handle assembly, the U-shaped rod must be compressed by two, precisely oriented opposing forces that are great enough to cause the hook ends to move closer together and disengage from the rod engagement cavities while a third force acts to extricate the handle assembly from the U-shaped rod. In cases where disassembly of the pull tab assembly cannot be tolerated, an adhesive or other filler can be inserted into the rod passageway cavity to prevent the U-shaped rod from being compressed and removed from the handle assembly.
 The assembled pull tab has a configuration wherein the handle assembly is comprised of plastic, metal, ceramic, or other suitable materials or combinations of materials to provide a high degree of rigidity. The U-shaped rod is comprised of high-strength steel or some other rigid material and is inserted into the handle assembly in such a manner so as to add to the rigidity of the assembled pull tab. In such a configuration, the assembled pull tab is a rigid assembly that can be used to transmit axial, bending and rotational forces into an attached zipper slider, thereby enhancing operation of a slider along a zipper assembly.
 Manufacturing is simplified as the handle top half and handle bottom half can, but need not be identical, thereby reducing complexity. The handle top and bottom halves can be molded, cast, machined, or otherwise formed using a variety of materials. Assembly of the handle top and bottom halves can be accomplished using a variety of joining techniques including welding, gluing, fastening, binding, pinning, and other suitable means. A handle assembly can also be manufactured as a complete unit by injection molding, casting, or other suitable means. The U-shaped rod can be manufactured by cutting and forming, stamping, and molding depending on the material selected. When the U-shaped rod is comprised of a high-strength steel alloy such as stainless steel, a commonly available wire size can be cut to length and formed to the preferred shape on one machine in one setup. Therefore, manufacture and assembly are made simpler and less costly than prior attempts.
 Alternatively, a C-shaped rod containing inwardly hooked ends is fed through a connection arch on a slider. A handle bottom can be distinct and separate from, or attached to, a handle top by means of a hinge. Assembly of the alternative pull tab assembly is accomplished by placing the handle bottom in relation to the C-shaped rod so that the C-shaped rod and the inwardly hooked ends nest into the rod cavity bottom half. The handle top is then positioned over the handle bottom with the nested C-shaped rod in the rod cavity bottom half. Engagement posts on the handle bottom are then forcibly engaged with the engagement holes in the handle top to form the alternate pull tab assembly. Joining can be accomplished with interference fit mating features, interlocking features, fasteners, pins, adhesives, or other means.
 Many other advantages and features of the present invention will become manifest to those versed in the art upon making reference to the following detailed description and the accompanying sheets of drawings in which a preferred structural embodiment and an alternate structural embodiment incorporating the principles of the present invention are shown by way of illustrative example.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of two joined handle halves and the U-shaped rod free of the handle halves but installed through the connection arch on the zipper slider.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the U-shaped rod installed in the handle assembly and the connection arch on the zipper slider.
 FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the separated top and bottom handle halves and the U-shaped rod.
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the U-shaped rod ready for insertion into the joined top and bottom handle halves.
 FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the U-shaped rod ready for insertion into the joined top and bottom handle halves with the top handle half sectioned to depict the rod passageway and engagement cavities.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view illustrating the U-shaped rod installed into and engaged with the bottom handle half which is joined to the sectioned top handle half.
 FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the joined top and bottom handle halves with the U-shaped rod installed and engaged.
 FIG. 8 is a perspective view that illustrates an alternate embodiment of the invention that comprises a different means of joining the handle top and handle bottom to form a continuous cavity to securely retain an installed C-shaped rod.
 FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the alternate embodiment with the C-shaped rod engaged in the handle bottom.
 FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the alternate embodiment with the C-shaped rod engaged and retained by the joined handle top and handle bottom.DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 Referring first to FIG. 1, a U-shaped rod 2 is connected to a zipper slider I connecting arch 11. Separately, a handle bottom half 3a and a handle top half 3b are joined to form the handle assembly 3. The U-shaped rod is preferably made from stainless steel. The handle halves are preferably made from plastic and joined by ultrasonic welding to form the handle assembly. However, all components may be made from other suitable materials and the handle halves may be joined with other materials or techniques without departing from the concept or scope of the invention.
 FIG. 2 illustrates the handle assembly 3 engaged with the U-shaped rod 2 which is connected to the zipper slider 1 by means of the connecting arch 11.
 FIG. 3 illustrates the handle bottom half 3a and handle top half 3b prior to being joined together, both of which contain the rod passageway cavity 32, the rod engagement cavity 31 and the joining surface 4 for affixing the top and bottom halves together. The hooked end 21 on the U-shaped rod 2 comprises a complimentary shape that will conform to the rod passageway cavity 32 and the rod engagement cavity 31 upon assembly.
 FIG. 4 illustrates the handle assembly 3 comprised of the handle bottom half 3a joined to the handle top half 3b and positioned to receive the U-shaped rod 2 with the hooked end 21.
 FIG. 5 illustrates the handle assembly 3 with a cutout that depicts the rod passageway cavity 32 and rod engagement cavity 31 that is formed when the handle halves are joined to form the handle assembly 3. The U-shaped rod 2 with the hooked end 21 is positioned to be received into the formed rod passageway cavity 32.
 FIG. 6 illustrates the U-shaped rod 2 inserted into the handle assembly 3 with the hooked end 21 fully engaged in the rod engagement cavity 31 and the U-shaped rod 2 traversing the length of the rod passageway cavity 32 in the handle assembly 3.
 FIG. 7 illustrates the assembled pull tab 23 comprised of the handle assembly 3 with the U-shaped rod 2 installed and engaged.
 FIGS. 8, 9 and 10 illustrate an alternate embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 8 illustrates the invention comprised of the handle top 60, the handle bottom 50, and the C-shaped rod 40. The C-shaped rod 40 contains the inwardly hooked end 402 that is received into the rod cavity bottom half 502 and rod cavity top half 602 receiving portions of the handle bottom 50 and handle top 60 respectively. The C-shaped rod 40 is preferably made from stainless steel. The handle top 60 and handle bottom 50 are preferably made from plastic and formed to interlock with mating features. However, all components may be made from other suitable materials and the handle halves may be joined with other materials or techniques without departing from the concept or scope of the invention.
 FIG. 9 illustrates the insertion of the C-shaped rod 40 into the rod cavity bottom half 502 just prior to joining the handle top 60 to the handle bottom 50 to entrap the C-shaped rod 40 within. The handle top 60 and the handle bottom 50 are preferably joined by aligning and engaging interlocking or interfering features such as those shown for illustrative purposes as the engagement posts 503 and the engagement holes 603. Alternate joining methods can be accomplished with interference fit mating features, interlocking features, fasteners, pins, adhesives, or by other suitable means.
 FIG. 10 illustrates the handle top 60 joined to the handle bottom 50 with the C-shaped rod 40 captively engaged to form the alternate pull tab assembly 456.
 In the preferred embodiment, the handle assembly 3 is comprised of the handle bottom half 3a and the handle top half 3b joined together by means of adhesive, fasteners, pins or other joining means. The U-shaped rod 2 is then insertably connected to the zipper slider 1 by means of the connection arch 11. The handle assembly 3 is then positioned such that the U-shaped rod 2 can be inserted into the handle assembly 3 by means of the rod passageway cavity 32 until the hooked end 21 of the U-shaped rod 2 engages the rod engagement cavity 31, thus forming the assembled pull tab 23.
 In the alternate embodiment, the C-shaped rod 40 is insertably connected to the zipper slider 1 by means of the connection arch 11. The handle bottom 50 is then mated with the C-shaped rod 40 by nesting the rod with the inwardly hooked end 402 into the rod cavity bottom half 502. The handle top 60 is then positioned relative to the handle bottom 50 such that the engagement posts 503 can be inserted into the engagement holes 603. The handle top 60 is then forcibly engaged with the handle bottom by pressing the engagement posts 503 into the engagement holes 603 or by other suitable engagement means.
 Thus the reader will see that the zipper pull of the invention provides a pull tab mounting arrangement that a user can install without tools or adhesives, is resistant to abuse loads, is of such configuration that large axial, bending and rotational loads can be transmitted to a zipper slider by a user, and is simple to manufacture.
 While my above descriptions contain many specifics, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as an exemplification of one preferred and one alternate embodiment thereof. Many other variations are possible. For example, a formed handle could consist of two handle halves connected by a hinge, and could be made in such a way that one leg of the rod is embedded into and affixed with one handle half while the other leg is free. This variant would operate in a manner similar to a safety pin where a user would insert the free leg of the rod through the connection arch of the slider, then press the free leg into a receiving cavity in one handle half before closing the mating handle half over the free leg to entrap and secure it.
 Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents:
1. A zipper pull comprising:
- a handle assembly; and
- a U-shaped rod, said U-shaped rod being engaged with said handle assembly.
2. The zipper pull of claim 1, wherein the engagement element in said handle assembly is the rod engagement cavity
3. The zipper pull of claim 2, wherein said rod engagement cavity adjoins the rod passageway cavity in said handle assembly.
4. The zipper pull of claim 1, wherein said U-shaped rod contains the hooked end that engages said rod engagement cavity in said handle assembly.
5. The zipper pull of claim 1, wherein said U-shaped rod can be formed to enable or disable a reversible installation of said U-shaped rod in said handle assembly.
6. The zipper pull of claim 5 wherein said handle assembly being engaged with said U-shaped rod comprise the assembled pull tab that is rigid and fit for load transmission.
7. The zipper pull of claim 6 wherein; said assembled pull tab is rigid so as to carry axial, bending and torsion loads equally well.
8. The method of claim 5, wherein said U-shaped rod is formed with bends that prevent said U-shaped rod from being removed from said rod engagement cavity.
9. The method of claim 5, wherein said U-shaped rod is formed with no bends, allowing said U-shaped rod to be removed from said rod engagement cavity.
Filed: Dec 12, 2001
Publication Date: Jun 13, 2002
Inventor: Russell C. McCrum (Redmond, WA)
Application Number: 10021390
International Classification: A44B019/26;