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1. (WO2019023733) BODYBOARD
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Bodyboard

Field of the Invention

[0001 ] The present invention relates generally to water sports equipment and more particularly to the recreational water sport of bodyboarding.

Background of the Invention

[0002] The following discussion of the prior art is intended to facilitate an understanding of the invention and to enable the advantages of it to be more fully understood. It should be appreciated, however, that any reference to prior art throughout the specification should not be construed as an express or implied admission that such prior art is widely known or forms part of common general knowledge in the field.

[0003] Body boards, like surfboards, are used by a rider to ride down the crest or face of the wave. In contrast to traditional surfboards however, bodyboards are generally designed to support a rider lying or kneeling on the board although standing on a body board is not unknown.

[0004] Bodyboards are commonly formed of a short rectangular generally planar board body having an upper deck surface for supporting the rider and a water contacting lower surface. Nowadays the body of the bodyboard is commonly constructed with a relatively rigid foam core made of expanded polystyrene, polyethylene, polypropylene and/or materials such as Arcel ®, which may be covered in other foams and materials for protection and performance.

[0005] Bodyboards are made with specific uses and rider preferences in mind such as rider height, weight, form of riding and conditions. For instance bodyboards may be designed with characteristics which favour the rider in either prone, kneeling or standing positions, similarly, body boards can be designed for the rider's experience and riding style. Even wave size and water temperature may be a consideration when selecting materials, shaping, and constructing a board. Generally the attributes of speed across the water and manoeuvrability are extremely desirable in bodyboards, particularly as both are critical in providing the rider greater control to position the board on the wave and perform tricks. [0006] The shape and stiffness of the board, are important as to the way it rides and handles in use. The core is often strengthened with one or more rods orientated longitudinally within the board and known as stringers. Selection of the number, material and shape of the stringers allows the designer one means to optimise the stiffness characteristics of the board and enhance riding performance.

[0007] Along with the stiffness characteristics, board shape and is a key factor determining board performance. The length, width, thickness, "curve" of the sides and lower surface flatness all affect board handling. For instance, while boards generally have a largely flat bottom with a gentle taper towards the nose to aid the board riding over the water, the longitudinal curvature of the board known as "rocker" will impact on the board's speed.

[0008] Early body boards were often equipped with small fins or skegs extending from the lower surface at the rear of the board. Skegs provide directional stability and reduce slippage down the face of the wave allowing the rider to hold a line across the wave. While skegs are extremely effective in this respect, they tend to limit the ability to yaw and slide laterally - a trait known as "looseness", thereby preventing the rider from performing particular manoeuvres and tricks such as "spins". Thus, nowadays most prone bodyboard riders favour a combination of the shape of the side edges of the board, known as "rails" and blind channels on the bottom at the rear end of the board in place of skegs. By leaning the board to increase engagement of a rail with the water or "bite" or allowing the board to ride flat, the rails and blind channels allow the rider greater control between gripping the face of the wave whilst retaining manoeuvrability and looseness.

[0009] As noted above, another important trait sought in bodyboard design is speed, which is predominantly restricted due to hydrodynamic drag between the water and the board's lower surface. One well known and significant development to reduce drag has been to cover the lower surface of the board in a thin skin of relatively hard and slippery plastic known as a slick. The slick reduces hydrodynamic skin friction thereby allowing the board to attain higher relative speeds across the water. However, while slicks significantly minimise drag, the relatively large wetted surface area still produces noticeable drag.

[0010] One solution proposed has been to provide the slick with a textured surface of depressions designed to further reduce skin friction drag. However such textured slicks have not proved particularly popular.

[001 1 ] It is an object of the present invention to overcome or substantially ameliorate one or more of the deficiencies of the prior art, or at least to provide a useful alternative.

Summary of the Invention

[0012] Accordingly, in a first aspect the invention provides a bodyboard comprising an elongate body extending longitudinally between a nose at the front of the body and a tail at the rear and including:

an upper surface forming a deck for supporting a rider;

a lower surface for planing on water, said lower surface including a channel system comprising:

a central longitudinal entry channel disposed at a forward portion of the lower surface; and

a pair of longitudinal side channels disposed at a rear portion of the lower surface and open at a trailing edge;

wherein said entry channel joins said pair of side channels at a position between the nose and tail thereby providing a bifurcated channel system for directing water air and foam from the entry channel under the bodyboard and into the side channels.

[0013] Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, throughout the description and the claims, the words "comprise", "comprising", and the like are intended to be construed in an inclusive sense as opposed to an exclusive or exhaustive sense; that is to say, in the sense of "including, but not limited to".

[0014] In an alternative aspect the invention provides a bodyboard comprising an elongate body extending longitudinally between a nose at the front of the body and a tail at the rear and including:

an upper surface forming a deck for supporting a rider;

a lower surface for planing on water, said lower surface including a channel system comprising:

a pair of longitudinal side channels, wherein said side channels begin at a common inlet disposed at forward portion of the board at or adjacent the nose, said side channels diverging toward the tail to open at respective channel outlets at a trail edge thereby providing a bifurcated channel system for directing water from the inlet into the side channels.

[0015] Preferably, said entry channel extends over a front third of the length of the lower surface.

[0016] Preferably, each side channel extends between the entry channel and an open outlet at the trailing edge of the body.

[0017] Preferably, each side channel extends over a mid and rear thirds of the length of the lower surface between the entry channel and an open outlet at the trailing edge of the body.

[0018] Preferably, the entry channel includes an inlet adjacent a leading edge at the nose of the body.

[0019] Preferably, the inlet is relatively narrow and the entry channel widens progressively down its length.

[0020] Preferably, the side channels diverge away from a centreline CL of the body toward respective peripheral side edge.

[0021 ] Preferably, each side channel runs generally parallel to and closely space from said respective peripheral side edge to form a peripheral ridge over the rear third of the length of the lower surface.

[0022] Preferably, the side channels converge towards the board centreline over the rear third of the length of the lower surface.

[0023] Preferably, each side channel forms an outwardly curved path from the entry channel to the trailing edge.

[0024] Preferably, the channel system provides a smooth and continuous transition from the central channel into the side channels so as to minimise hydrodynamic turbulence of water following in the channel system.

[0025] Preferably, the side channels together define a central wedge-shaped land which interrupts and bifurcates the central channel as it widens into the side channel.

[0026] Preferably, the entry channel and side channels are formed as shallow valleys in the lower surface.

[0027] Preferably, the entry channel and side channels are provided with a channel wall having parabolic cross-section.

[0028] Preferably, the channel wall provides a continuous gradual contour from the lower surface of the body towards a channel floor.

[0029] Preferably, the entry channel and side channels have a depth to width ratio of less than 0.25 and more preferably less than 0.1 when depth is measured at the deepest point.

[0030] Preferably, the bodyboard includes a gripping surface adjacent each side rail, at a rear portion of the deck.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[0031 ] Preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

[0032] Fig. 1 is perspective view of a bodyboard in accordance with the invention;

[0033] Fig. 2 is a top plan view of the bodyboard illustrated in Fig. 1 ;

[0034] Figs 2A - 2B are sectional side views of the bodyboard of Fig. 1 taken on section planes as indicated in Fig. 2;

[0035] Fig. 2C is a side view of the bodyboard of Fig. 1 ;

[0036] Fig. 3 is a bottom plan view of the bodyboard illustrated in Fig. 1 ;

[0037] Figs. 3A - 3 J are sectional end views of the bodyboard of Fig. 1 taken on section planes as indicated in Fig. 3;

[0038] Fig. 4 is a bottom plan view of another bodyboard exemplifying dimensions of the board and channel system in accordance with another embodiment of the invention;

[0039] Figs. 4A - 4J are sectional end views of the bodyboard of Fig. 4 taken on section planes as indicated in Fig. 4;

[0040] Fig. 5A is a bottom plan view of the bodyboard illustrated in Fig. 1 showing a schematic indicative of water flow across the board lower surface, in use during generally straight and level; and

[0041 ] Fig. 5B is a bottom plan view of the bodyboard illustrated in Fig. 1 showing a schematic indicative of water flow across the board lower surface, in use wherein the board is leaning to engage the left rail into the water.

[0042] Certain examples are shown in the above-identified figures and described in detail below. In describing these examples, like or identical reference numbers are used to identify the same or similar elements. The figures are not necessarily to scale and certain features and certain views of the figures may be shown exaggerated in scale or in schematic for clarity and/or conciseness. Additionally, several examples have been described throughout this specification. Any features from any example may be included with, a replacement for, or otherwise combined with other features from other examples.

Preferred Embodiments of the Invention

[0043] Referring to Fig. 1 , a bodyboard 1 is shown in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention. The bodyboard includes a substantially planar and elongate board body 2 extending longitudinally between a nose 3 at a forward end of the body 2 and a tail 4 at a rear end of the body. On one face of the board body, a substantially planar upper surface 5 provides a deck 6 for supporting a rider while a second face on a lower side 7 of the body, opposite the first face, provides a lower planing surface 8 allowing the board to plane on water.

[0044] While the board shaped body 2 is substantially flat and planar, it may include a small amount of curvature. Thus, the term "substantially planar" indicates that while the board is generally flat, it may not be perfectly so and any small amount of longitudinal curvature is known as "rocker". In the embodiment illustrated in the figures and described herein, as shown in Fig. 2A, the board has a rocker R of 5mm in the forward third of the body, indicating the nose of the board curves 5mm from the rear and mid thirds. In other embodiments, the amount of rocker may be varied as required, for instance in still further embodiments, the body may have no rocker ("flat rocker") or even a negative lift or reverse rocker.

[0045] The upper and lower surfaces (5 & 7 respectively) of the body are generally parallel except for at the forward third of the length of the body where the lower surface 7 converges towards the deck 6 thereby resulting in the board reducing in thickness progressively toward the nose 3. It will be appreciated that the convergence or taper combined with the effective rocker of the nose, assists the board to ride over and plane on the water and reduce the possibility of nose-diving, particularly when riding on the generally concave surface of a wave.

[0046] Referring to Fig. 2, the board body is preferably symmetrical down a central longitudinal centreline CL. In the embodiment shown, the nose and tail of the body respectively include peripheral leading and trail edges (9 & 10) which are joined by a pair of approximately parallel, longitudinal peripheral edges forming side rails 1 1 . The rails diverge inwardly toward one another at the nose and to a lesser degree at the tail to meet the leading and trailing edges at respective pairs of forward and rear corners. The board body is thus provided in plan with a blunt but relatively tapering nose, a slightly wider tail, and a widest dimension approximately midway between the nose and tail. In the exemplary embodiments shown in the figures, the nose and tail are respectively approximately 60% and 90% the maximum width of the board. However, it will be appreciated that a board's relative dimensions will be adjusted to tailor handling traits as desired. For instance, the curvature of the side rails may be reduced to be straight or almost straight, or increased to be significantly bowed. The widest part of the board may be moved either forward toward the nose or rearward near or at the tail thereby altering handling characteristics and/or tailoring the board for a particular style of use.

[0047] In this embodiment, as can most easily be seen in the cross-sectional views displayed in Figs 3A - 3J, each rail 1 1 includes upper and lower rail surfaces (1 1 a & 1 1 b) which meet at line of intersection forming a mid-rail hard chine 12. The upper rail surface 1 1 a joins the deck 6 along a rounded edge 13 while the lower rail surface 1 1 b joins the lower planning surface 8 forming a lower hard chine 14. In this embodiment illustrated in the figures, the rails have a 60:40 rail ratio whereby the height of the lower portion of the rail is approximately 60% of the height of the height of the board and the upper portion makes up the remaining 40%. It is possible to vary the handling characteristics of the board by varying the rail ration.

[0048] The board shown in the figures has a crescent tail 15 whereby the trailing edge 10 is concave and includes a chamfer 15a extending from the trailing edge adjacent the lower planning surface to meet the upper deck. The chamfer and concave edge thereby accommodating the hips or torso of a rider lying prone with their chest on the deck and legs trailing behind the board. However the invention is not limited to this design of board tail. For instance, the board may include other tails configurations such as a straight tail or a bat tail.

[0049] The leading edge 9 forms a gentle convex curve between each of the side edges providing the body with a generally blunt nose. At or adjacent each forward corner, handle formations 16 are provided. Each handle formation comprises an upper hand bulb and a lower finger bulb, which together providing an ergonomic handle for the rider to grab hold while manoeuvring the board.

[0050] Adjacent each rail 1 1 , at a forward portion of the body, the deck 6 is provided with a pair of wedge formations 17. In use, the wedge formations 17 allow the rider to position an elbow and/or forearm against the wedge formation and to push against the formation during manoeuvring in particular, to hold one or other of the rails down and bite the water when riding across a wave. In this embodiment, each wedge formation 17 is formed as a peripheral wall of an elongate, shallow depression 18 in the deck 6 adjacent to and generally parallel with the forward part of a respective side rail 1 1 . Each elongate depression 18, which is shaped to accommodate a respective forearm of the rider, extends from the leading edge 9 of the board to a point roughly midway between the nose and tail of the body. In this embodiment, each of the depressions is around 10mm in depth providing a wedge formation 17 wall of similar height. In other embodiments the wedge formations may be embodied in one or more protrusions which extend proud of the generally planar, surrounding deck surface. For example, the wedge formations may be provided as an elongate ridge or an array of formations.

[0051 ] Adjacent each side rail 1 1 , at a rear portion of the body, the deck 6 is contoured to provide a gripping surface 19. While it will be appreciated that the gripping surfaces 19 may be embodied in a variety of forms, in this embodiment each gripping surface includes an array of protrusions, formed as parallel ridges 19a separated by corresponding valleys 19b. The ridges 19a extend forwardly and inwardly from the rail toward the centreline at an oblique angle such that the valleys 19b may locate a forward-facing thumb of a rider's hand when the rider grips the side rail of a rear portion the board body. In this embodiment, the ridges 19a terminate approximately 75mm from the rail, are 30mm wide and protrude from the surrounding deck by around 5mm.

[0052] Referring now to Fig 3 and 3A to 3J, the lower surface 8 of the body is generally flat however as previously noted, the forward section gently rises toward the nose to aid the board riding over the water. By way of example, the embodiment of the invention shown in Figs. 4 and 4A to 4J the board body has a 5mm rocker.

[0053] In addition, the lower surface 8 includes a contoured channel system for directing and controlling the water, air and foam adjacent the board lower surface to reduce board drag and increase manoeuvrability. Referring to the drawings and in particular to the bottom plan view in Fig. 3 and corresponding section end views Figs. 3A to 3J, the channel system begins at or near the nose, runs along the length of the lower surface of the body to open at the trailing edge 10. For ease of reference, the system may be divided into forward, mid and rear sections. Each section extends over approximately one third the length of the board however, as with many features of body board design, the exact dimensions and proportions of the channel sections are variable from board to board depending on the performance traits required.

[0054] In general terms, the channel system includes an inlet at the forward section of the board which forks into a pair of longitudinally orientated, side channels disposed through the mid and rear sections of the board and continue to the trailing edge 10 and a pair of respective channel outlets.

[0055] In this embodiment a central channel 20 includes a narrow, rounded inlet 23 adjacent the leading edge of the body which deepens and widens in a rearward direction through the forward section of the board before smoothly bifurcating into the side channels 21 . Through the middle section, the side channels 21 diverge away from the centreline CL of the body toward respective side rails 1 1 at each peripheral side. Through the rear section of the board, each side channel 21 runs generally parallel to and closely space from a respective rail 1 1 forming a peripheral ridge 24 over the last portion of the lower surface 8 directly inboard of the rail 1 1 . The bowed curvature of each channel 21 and corresponding ridge 24 provide complementary turning forces to those provided by the rail 1 1 assisting with manoeuvrability of the board and enhancing directional responsiveness.

[0056] The side channels 21 together define a central wedge-shaped land 25 which interrupts and bifurcates the central entry channel 20 as it widens, into the two side channels 21 . Since the tail of the board narrows, the side channels 21 converge towards the board centreline over the rear third section.

[0057] In this embodiment, the channel system is symmetrically disposed about body centreline CL. However, in other embodiments the channels may be asymmetrically disposed. Furthermore, while in this embodiment the centre entry channel 20 divides into a pair of side channels 21 , this does not preclude that the centre entry channel may split into more than two channels such as three or four channels.

[0058] The channel system provides a smooth and continuous transition from the central channel 20 into the side channels 21 so as to reduce hydrodynamic turbulence of the water following in the channel system. For instance, a continuous lateral boundary 26 defines each side of the channel system and runs from the central rounded inlet 23 toward a respective rail 1 1 at the rear section where it follows the rail 1 1 to the respective outlet 22 at the trailing edge. Each lateral boundary 26 thereby further defines a respective side of the central channel 20 and the outer boundary of a corresponding side channel 21 .

[0059] The depth and cross-sectional shape of the channels is pre-determined depending on the required handling traits of the board. In the embodiments shown in the figures, the entry channel and side channels are formed as shallow depressions or valleys in the lower surface with a channel wall 27 having generally parabolic cross-section. As such, the channel walls provide a continuous gradual contour from the lower surface 8 of the body towards a channel floor 27a without forming any sharp change of surface or distinct side walls. For instance, in this embodiment, any tangential plane to the channel wall will form an angle with the lower surface of the body of no more than 15 degrees.

[0060] Furthermore, the channels 20, 21 have a depth to width ratio of less than 0.25 and more preferably less than 0.1 when depth is measured at the deepest point. Referring to the one embodiment shown in Figs. 4 and 4A - 4J, each side channel has a maximum channel depth of around 7 mm over the mid-section with a width of around 70 mm; and a maximum depth of around 10mm at the open outlet trailing edge where the channel is 100mm wide, thereby providing a depth to width ratio of 0.1 . The entry channel has a maximum depth of around 15 mm at a central location.

[0061 ] In other embodiments however, any one or more of the channels may have a more aggressive profile. For instance, the channels may be formed with steeper or even stepped sides and have a larger height to width ratio and/or depth, particularly where the bodyboard is designed to favour grip on the water. The channels may also be deeper. In general, deeper and/or more aggressively profiled channels will provide the board with superior lateral traction on the water at the expense of looseness, while shallower channels tend to provide reduced grip, but also reduced drag and superior manoeuvrability. The channel shape will also affect handling whereby channels with hard and steep side walls and/or abrupt surface contour changes forming hard chines may increase grip at the expense of increased drag.

[0062] It will be noted with reference to the cross-sectional views in Figs. 3A to 3J and 4A to 4J that for the most part each channel wall 27 has a relatively symmetrical cross-section. However, portions of the side channels 21 may include a more aggressive profile at the outer side adjacent the rail and ridge. By way of example, the more aggressive profile may include a steeper sidewall and sharper rather than contoured transition between the outer side wall and the flat lower surface resulting in a defined chine. This aggressive profile is intended to further enhance effective contribution of the channel to turning the board when on a rail.

[0063] State of the art boards tend to displace water passing under the board forcing it to wash out the sides thereby causing turbulence and drag. Furthermore, in the case of contemporary board design having blind channels, water passing under the board is required to flow back into the channels having been displaced by the front and mid sections of the board further increasing drag and reducing the effectiveness of the channels in providing grip.

[0064] It will be appreciated the channel system of the invention may be used to affect the hydrodynamic behaviour of the water passing under the board adjacent the lower surface thereby advantageously providing the board with improved handling characteristics. In contrast to contemporary board design, the channel system described herein provides a path of lower resistance from the entry channel into the side channels and out from under the rear of the board, thus reducing the volume of water displaced to the sides, but also assisting the board to remain elevated on the face of the wave. Furthermore, by smoothly feeding into the side channels 21 with less impingement to flow, turbulence and drag are reduced and the water in the side channels maintains a higher relative speed with respect to the board. Thus, in turn the "gripping" effectiveness of the channels is enhanced, which allows the board designer to select either greater controlled directional stability, a comparatively less aggressive channel profile for the same grip, which further reduces drag, or a balance between the two. Schematics indicating the flow of water adjacent the lower surface of the board and within the channel system are shown in Figs. 5A and 5B.

[0065] When riding the board flat water, water entering the inlet of the entry channel is guided by the channel system substantially evenly into each of the side channels as schematically shown in Fig 5A. However, since the board maintains a relatively flat surface over the mid and read sections, the "looseness" of the board, or the ability of the board to yaw and slide at the discretion of the rider is not lost.

[0066] When the rider and board travel across the face of the wave it is usual for the rider to lean the board into the face of the wave so that the wave side rail of the board "bites" the water to provide grip. In the case of the channel system of the invention, leaning the board into the water simultaneously opens the entry channel to direct water to the channel on that side thereby enhancing the channels effectiveness to provide grip. Together with the rail, and corresponding ridge, traction on the face of the wave is improved enabling the ride to maintain position high on the wave face, if desired. A schematic representation of water flow under these circumstances is shown in Fig. 5B where it can be seen that water is guided into the left channel (noting that in the figure the board is shown upside down). It will also be appreciated that the combination of the curved side channel and the corresponding curved ridge and rail, enhance responsiveness of the board to change direction.

[0067] In addition, it will be appreciated that forward section of the channel system and in particular the central entry channel, is formed on the upward tapering portion of the lower surface. With reference to Fig. 2A which displays a side cross-sectional view, through a section plane running along the board centreline CL, it can be seen that the deepening and widening entry channel offsets the nose taper without significantly increasing the nose rocker. Thus, the lower surface of the board within the entry channel is positioned higher in the water than it is on either side of the entry channel thereby providing the inlet to the channel system. While this inlet directs the water into the channel system as discussed above, a bi-product is that in conjunction with the surface of the water, air and foam sitting on the water surface may be captured and funnelled into the channels. The captured air and foam adds lift, and reduces the wetted surface area, thereby providing reduced friction and drag and allowing for an increased speed. Furthermore, the air and foam directed into the channels and under the board advantageously provides a lower friction layer thereby increasing the slipperiness of the board enhancing manoeuvrability off the face of the wave.

[0068] The body of the board includes a foam core which may be formed from any conventional materials used in the manufacture of bodyboards or surfboards. Preferably the materials used to make the board in combination have a specific gravity of less than 1 such that the board is buoyant in water and floats. Materials include but are not limited to hard or soft grade polypropylene, expanded polystyrene, Arcel ®, polyethylene or a composite or laminate thereof. The core is covered in a protective but relatively softer foam on the deck and sides while the lower surface is covered in a slick 28 for reducing hydrodynamic skin friction as is known. Slick materials include but are not limited to high density polyethylene, and polymers and resins such as Surlyn® and Bixby®.

[0069] In this embodiment, the channel system is moulded into the board core and the slick bonded to the core, either by adhesives or by heat welding, the slick thereby taking on the shape of the moulded channels. Alternatively, the slick may also be moulded to include the channel system before being bonded to the core.

[0070] In use, the rider is positioned on the top of board in a prone or procumbent position with their chest on the deck and legs trailing behind the board in the water. Particularly when riding across the face of a wave the rider may be partially propped up on the elbow of one arm optionally with the forearm against the respective wedge formation and the hand gripping the front handle formation or nose. This allows the rider to hold the corresponding rail of the board down with the forearm to "bite" the water. The opposite hand may grasp the other front handle formation or the rear of the rail on the opposite side of the board with fingers disposed under the board and the thumb on the gripping surface. The front and rear spaced hand positions thereby giving the rider leverage to manoeuvre the bodyboard by twisting and manipulating the board. In this way, along with the rider leaning to move their weight to the side (and forward and rear), and using their legs a high degree of manoeuvrability can be achieved.

[0071 ] As noted previously, the channels system captures air and foam under the board thereby providing reduced friction and drag allowing for greater speeds. It will be appreciated that in these and other respects, the invention represents a practical and commercially significant improvement over the prior art.

[0072] Reference throughout this specification to "one embodiment" or "an embodiment" means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases "in one embodiment" or "in an embodiment" in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, but may. Furthermore, the particular features, structures or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner, as would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from this disclosure, in one or more embodiments.

[0073] Similarly, it should be appreciated that in the above description of exemplary embodiments of the invention, various features of the invention are sometimes grouped together in a single embodiment, Figure, or description thereof for the purpose of streamlining the disclosure and aiding in the understanding of one or more of the various inventive aspects. This method of disclosure, however, is not to be interpreted as reflecting an intention that the claimed invention requires more features than are expressly recited in each claim. Rather, as the following claims reflect, inventive aspects lie in less than all features of a single foregoing disclosed embodiment. Thus, the claims following the Detailed Description are hereby expressly incorporated into this Detailed Description, with each claim standing on its own as a separate embodiment of this invention.

[0074] Furthermore, while some embodiments described and/or illustrated herein include some but not other features included in other embodiments, combinations of features of different embodiments are meant to be within the scope of the invention, and form different embodiments, as would be understood by those skilled in the art. For example, in the following claims, any of the claimed embodiments can be used in any combination.

[0075] In the description provided herein, numerous specific details are set forth. However, it is understood that embodiments of the invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known methods, structures and techniques have not been shown in detail in order not to obscure an understanding of this description.

[0076] The terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular example embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting. As used herein, the singular forms "a," "an," and "the" may be intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. The terms "including," "having," "comprises," and "comprising" are inclusive and therefore specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps,

operations, elements, and/or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components, and/or groups thereof.

[0077] When an element or layer is referred to as being "on," "engaged to," "connected to," or "coupled to" another element or layer, it may be directly on, engaged, connected or coupled to the other element or layer, or intervening elements or layers may be present. In contrast, when an element is referred to as being "directly on," "directly engaged to," "directly connected to," or "directly coupled to" another element or layer, there may be no intervening elements or layers present. Other words used to describe the relationship between elements should be interpreted in a like fashion (e.g., "between" versus "directly between," "adjacent" versus "directly adjacent," etc.). As used herein, the term "and/or" includes any and all combinations of one or more of the associated listed items.

[0100] Although the terms first, second, third, etc. may be used herein to describe various elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections, these elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections should not be limited by these terms. These terms may be only used to distinguish one element, component, region, layer or section from another region, layer or section. Terms such as "first," "second," and other numerical terms when used herein do not imply a sequence or order unless clearly indicated by the context. Thus, a first element, component, region, layer or section discussed below could be termed a second element, component, region, layer or section without departing from the teachings of the example embodiments.

[0101 ] Spatially relative terms, such as "inner," "outer," "beneath," "below," "lower," "above," "upper," and the like, may be used herein for ease of description to describe one element or feature's relationship to another element(s) or feature(s) as illustrated in the figures. Spatially relative terms may be intended to encompass different orientations of the device in use or operation in addition to the orientation depicted in the figures. For example, if the device in the figures is turned over, elements described as "below" or "beneath" other elements or features would then be oriented "above" the other elements or features. Thus, the example term "below" can encompass both an orientation of above and below. The device may be otherwise oriented (rotated 90 degrees or at other orientations) and the spatially relative descriptors used herein interpreted accordingly.

[0102] Thus, while there has been described what are believed to be the preferred embodiments of the invention, those skilled in the art will recognize that other and further modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention, and it is intended to claim all such changes and modifications as falling within the scope of the invention.