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United States Patent [i9]
Beastall et al.
[ii] Patent Number: 5,087,239  Date of Patent: Feb. 11,1992
 TAMPON APPLICATOR
 Inventors: Alan L. Beastall, Havant; Malcolm G.
Guest, Drayton, both of United w Kingdom
 Assignee: Tampax Limited, United Kingdom
 Appl. No.: 631,205
 Filed: Dec. 21,1990
Related U.S. Application Data
 Division of Ser. No. 484,434, Feb. 16, 1990, abandoned, which is a continuation of Ser. No. 563,977, Dec. 21, 1983, abandoned.
 Foreign Application Priority Data
Dec. 23, 1982 [GB] United Kingdom 8236603
 Int. C1.5 A61F 13/20
 U.S. CI 604/14
 Field of Search 604/14, 15, 11;
206/529, 530, 438
 References Cited
U.S. PATENT DOCUMENTS
3,204,635 9/1965 Voss et al 128/263
3,760,808 9/1973 Bleuer 604/14
3,895,634 7/1975 Berger et al 604/14
4,412,833 11/1983 Wiegner et al 604/14
4,453,925 6/1984 Decker 604/14
4,479,791 10/1984 Sprague 604/14
4,508,531 4/1985 Whitehead 604/14
FOREIGN PATENT DOCUMENTS
6213580 9/1980 Australia .
52-30800 7/1977 Japan .
52-131898 10/1977 Japan .
55- 23619 6/1980 Japan . 55-125321 9/1980 Japan . 55-155647 12/1980 Japan . 55-155648 12/1980 Japan . 55-166149 12/1980 Japan . 55-171028 12/1980 Japan .
58-9129 7/1981 Japan .
56- 31221 7/1981 Japan .
56-51853 12/1981 Japan .
57-4258 1/1982 Japan .
The ease of vaginal insertion experienced with roundedged petal-format tampon applicators can be achieved without the user comfort problems experienced in exist; ing such application by a tampon applicator which has an expulsion end portion of unique structure. Thus, the invention provides an elongate hollow tampon holder shaped for vaginal insertion and having a tampon expulsion end portion and a plunger mounted in the holder and adapted to expel a tampon through the expulsion end portion from the holder interior. The expulsion end portion comprises a dome-shaped portion having an appreciable substantially central aperture therein and comprising a plurality of contiguous segments defined by a plurality of radial slits extending from said aperture through said dome-shaped portion to the base of the dome but no farther. In some embodiments, the expulsion end portion comprises a weakened region around the periphery of the tampon holder functioning as a preformed hinge.
15 Claims, 1 Drawing Sheet
This is a continuation of copending application Ser. No. 07/484,434 filed on Feb. 16, 1990, abandoned, 5 which is in turn a continuation of application Ser. No. 05/563,977 filed on Dec. 21, 1983 now abandoned.
This invention relates to a new concept in tampon applicators.
Tampon applicators comprising a plurality of tele- 10 scopically-arranged tubes are known. Such applicators are, however, either blunt ended at the end which is intended for vaginal insertion (the "expulsion end") or, in recent years applicators have been developed which are rounded at that end, having a plurality of separated 15 "petals" which are further spaced upon the expulsion through the end of a tampon. The telescopic tube arrangement permits one tube to be used as a plunger to force the expulsion of the tampon from another tube in which the plunger tube is slidably positioned. Although 20 the petal format is more convenient for vaginal insertion, the prior art structures suffer from a number of disadvantages, the most significant of which is probably the tendency of the expanded petal arrangement (after expulsion of a tampon) to catch or nip tissue and hair. 25 By way of example, a petal-type tampon applicator made from plastics material is known in which the rounded tampon expulsion end is constituted by a number of separated petals integrally formed with the remainder of the upper part of the tampon applicator. The 30 petals each come to a point so that the rounded end, before expulsion of a tampon, is closed and has the appearance in end-on view of a circle split into a number of segments. Unfortunately, the petals of this structure have a tendency to nip or catch tissue or hair there- 35 between when the applicator is in use which tendency is exacerbated by the petals readily springing back to the original configuration after expulsion of a tampon. Existing long petal arrangements also exhibit a problem which arises from the less stable expulsion end configu- 40 ration produced by long petals. The resulting less stable formed end may produce user discomfort because of the increased risk of the petals being bent back during vaginal insertion.
The present invention aims to provide a structure 45 with the advantages of petal-type applicators but minimizing the disadvantages noted above.
According to the present invention there is provided a tampon applicator comprising an elongate hollow tampon holder shaped for vaginal insertion and having 50 a tampon expulsion end portion and a plunger mounted in the holder and adapted to expel a tampon through the expulsion end portion from the holder interior, the expulsion end portion comprising a dome-shaped portion, having an appreciable substantially central aperture 55 therein and comprising a plurality of contiguous segments defined by a plurality of radial slits extending from said aperture through said dome-shaped portion to the base of said dome-shaped portion but not beyond.
In some embodiments of the invention, such as those 60 in which the tampon applicator is for use with relatively large tampons and includes a relatively thick-walled tube for holding the tampon, it is highly desirable to form a weakened region around the periphery of the tampon holder, positioned at the base of the dome- 65 shaped portion, as described below. In such an embodiment there is provided a tampon applicator comprising an elongate hollow tampon holder shaped for vaginal
insertion and having a tampon expulsion end portion and a plunger mounted in the holder and adapted to expel a tampon through the expulsion end portion from the holder interior, the expulsion end portion comprising a weakened region around the periphery of the tampon holder and a dome-shaped end the base of which dome is defined by the weakened region and the dome having an appreciable substantially central aperture therein and comprising a plurality of contiguous segments defined by a plurality of radial slits extending from the aperture to the weakened region but not beyond.
For tampon applicators wherein the structure of the tampon holder is for smaller tampons and includes a relatively thin-walled tube, it is not essential to include the aforementioned weakened region at the base of the dome-shaped portion.
In the applicators described herein, the dome segments (the petals) preferably have truncated ends (when the aperture is polyhedral). The preferred aperture shape is hexagonal.
It is preferred that the tampon holder be in the form of a tube carrying, as the plunger, an inner tube slidably mounted therein. The wall of the tampon holder tube can be supplied with a plurality of grooves and the plunger tube with external nibs which are adapted to engage the grooves thereby to hold the two tubes in predetermined positions with respect to each other. Such features are described and claimed in British Patent Specification No. 1347029 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,696,812.
In embodiments including the weakened region around the periphery of the tampon holder, this region acts as a preformed hinge for the petals. This region preferably comprises a groove or other thinning of the tampon holder wall. Alternatively, in order to produce the hinge function the weakening can take the form of slots or perforations. In the case of a groove, for example, it is not necessary for the groove to be continuous provided that appreciable reduction of stiffness of the structure at this point is achieved.
In embodiments for use with relatively large tampons wherein the tube for holding the tampon is made of paper, the thickness of the tube wall being greater than 0.018 inch, the use of such a weakened region is highly advantageous. It is preferred that for embodiments in which a weakened region is used, the tube wall thickness be in the range from 0.018 to 0.022 inch.
In embodiments for smaller tampons, in which a paper tube for holding the tampon has a tube wall which is relatively thin, for example, in the range 0.012 to 0.015 inch, it is not essential to include such a weakened region.
It will be appreciated that the "expulsion force", i.e., the force required for tampon expulsion, is very important. A structure having an expulsion force below about 300 grams greatly increases the risk of premature tampon expulsion. On the other hand, the expulsion force must be reasonably low to permit proper functioning. A figure of 350 to 450 grams can be quite acceptable, although the invention is not, of course, restricted to this particular range of force. In tampon holders having the above-mentioned weakened region, it should be such as to achieve a satisfactory compromise between weakening of the petals to achieve an acceptably low expulsion force and weakening the petals to the extent that individual petals may drop off during use.