System and Method for Accurate Application and Curing of Nail Polish
1. A nail polish application system comprising:
- a nail polish applicator configured to apply a curable nail polish to a nail of a user; and
an energy source configured to emit energy to selectively cure the curable nail polish on the nail.
A nail polish application system may include a nail polish applicator to apply a curable nail polish to a nail of a user. An energy source may emit energy to selectively cure the curable nail polish. A sensor may be provided to detect a boundary of the nail of the user. The energy source may be configured to direct the energy to (i) the detected boundary of the nail during a first curing stage or (ii) to an area within the detected boundary of the nail during the first curing stage, and to (iii) avoid directing the energy to an area outside the detected boundary of the nail during the first curing stage.
- 1. A nail polish application system comprising:
a nail polish applicator configured to apply a curable nail polish to a nail of a user; and an energy source configured to emit energy to selectively cure the curable nail polish on the nail.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- 13. A nail polish application mechanism comprising:
a housing having a first side and a second side opposite the first side; a first applicator coupled to the first side of the housing and being impregnated with a nail polish resin configured to be cured by an electromagnetic energy; and a first seal coupled to the housing, the first applicator being positioned within a closed volume defined between the housing and the first seal, the first seal adapted to block the electromagnetic energy from striking the first applicator while the first seal is coupled to the housing.
- View Dependent Claims (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/791,930, titled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ACCURATE APPLICATION AND CURING OF NAIL POLISH” and filed on Jan. 14, 2019, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 62/657,138, titled “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR ACCURATE APPLICATION AND CURING OF NAIL POLISH” and filed on Apr. 13, 2018, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.
Nail polish is typically applied to finger and/or toe nails by hand using various coats. A first base coat is applied to the nail plate, which may serve to protect the underlying nail, as well as to facilitate adhesion of upper nail polish coats to the nail plate. Following the base coat, one or more color layers are then applied to the base coat on the nail plate. Then, a top coat is applied over the color coat(s) to strengthen and protect the nail polish, which may help the nail polish from chipping, flaking, or otherwise being damaged. When applied in the manner described above, the nail polish typically lasts between two days and a week before beginning to chip and/or flake. Further, when applying a base coat, intermediate color coat(s), and a top coat, the underlying layer may need to mostly or fully dry prior to applying the next layer, which may result in a significant amount of time between application of the base coat and drying of the top coat.
Curable nail polish, which may be referred to as gel nail polish or gel coats, is a type of nail polish that is cured instead of air-dried. For example, an ultraviolet (“UV”) curable gel coat may be applied manually and then exposed to UV source, such as a UV lamp or a UV light emitting diode(s) (“LED”) to polymerize or otherwise cure the gel coat. The resulting cured gel coat is often stronger than traditional nail polishes, lasting anywhere between one and four weeks before chipping, flaking, and otherwise being damaged. Typically, gel coat applications are performed at salons or other places of business rather than in the home, at least in part due to the additional hardware required to cure the gel polish.
In view of the above, it would be desirable to have a system that provides for easy, rapid, and accurate application and curing of gel polish to desired areas, such as the nail plates of the fingers, either for at-home or in-salon use.
According to a first aspect of the disclosure, a nail polish application system includes a nail polish applicator configured to apply a curable nail polish to a nail of a user, and an energy source configured to emit energy to selectively cure the curable nail polish on the nail. The system may include a sensor for detecting a boundary of the nail of the user, and the sensor may be operatively connected to the energy source. The energy source may be configured to direct the energy to (i) the detected boundary of the nail during a first curing stage or (ii) to an area within the detected boundary of the nail during the first curing stage, and to (iii) avoid directing the energy to area outside the detected boundary of the nail during the first curing stage. In some instances, during the first curing stage, the energy source is configured to apply energy only to positions on the detected boundary of the nail. During a second curing stage after the first curing stage, the energy source may be configured to apply energy to all positions within the detected boundary of the nail.
The nail polish applicator may be configured to apply droplets of the nail polish to the nail of the user. During the first curing stage, the energy source may be configured to apply energy only to positions on the detected boundary of the nail. During the first curing stage, the energy source may be configured to sweep a beam of the energy along the detected boundary. During the first curing stage, the energy source may be configured to apply a constant projection of energy along the detected boundary. The nail polish applicator may be configured to apply the droplets of the nail polish as atomized droplets so that at least a portion of a leading end of the atomized droplets of nail polish is configured to cross the applied energy during the first curing stage. During a second curing stage after the first curing stage, the energy source may be configured to apply energy to all positions within the detected boundary of the nail.
The nail polish applicator may include a reservoir having an interior volume for receiving the nail polish therein and a tip at a distal end of the reservoir. A first lead may be electrically coupled to the nail polish to provide a first charge to the nail polish. A second lead may be configured to have a second charge different than the first charge. A third lead may be positioned proximate the reservoir. The first lead and the second lead may be configured to create an electrical field above a threshold voltage to atomize nail polish exiting the reservoir. The third lead may be configured to be charged so as to direct the nail polish in a direction different from a gravitational direction. Alternatively, the first lead and the second lead may be configured to create an electric field below a threshold voltage to maintain nail polish exiting the reservoir in a non-atomized form.
The energy source may include a UV energy source and the nail polish may be at least partially UV curable. The energy source may include at least one mirror capable of movement in at least one degree of freedom. The energy source may further include a UV energy source to apply UV energy in all directions to non-selectively cure the nail polish. The energy source may include a projector.
The nail polish system may include a structured light system having a projector and light sensor configured to detect energy projected by the projector. The projector of the structured light system may function as the energy source, and the light sensor of the structured light system may functions as the sensor. The structured light system may be configured to assist in detecting curvature of the nail in a depth direction. The sensor may be configured to detect the boundary of the nail of the user periodically to update the detected boundary of the nail over time. The sensor may be configured to detect motion of a finger of the user, the finger containing the nail of the user, in order to (i) update a position of the boundary or (ii) update a shape of the boundary.
According to an aspect of the disclosure, a nail polish application mechanism includes a housing, a first applicator, and a first seal. The housing may have a first side and a second side opposite the first side. The first applicator may be coupled to the first side of the housing and may be impregnated with nail polish resin that is curable by an electromagnetic energy, such as UV light. The first seal may be coupled to the housing, and the first applicator may be positioned within a closed volume defined between the housing and the first seal, the first seal adapted to block the electromagnetic energy, such as UV light, from striking the first applicator while the first seal is coupled to the housing. The first applicator may be directly attached to the first side of the housing. A second applicator may be coupled to the housing and may be impregnated with a wiping solution. The solution may be one in which the nail polish resin is at least partially soluble. In one example, the solution may be an alcohol solution. The second applicator may be directly attached to second side of the housing. The first applicator may extend between a first applicator base and a first applicator tip, the first applicator base being coupled to the first side of the housing.
The housing may include a plurality of first side walls and a first base that together form a first recess, the first applicator base being at least partially positioned within the first recess, and the first applicator tip extending beyond the plurality of first side walls. The first applicator base may be substantially rectangular and the first applicator tip may be rounded or pointed. If included, the second applicator may extend between a second applicator base and a second applicator tip. The second applicator base may be coupled to the second side of the housing. The housing may include a plurality of second side walls and a second base that together form a second recess, and the second applicator base may be at least partially positioned within the second recess, and the second applicator tip may extend beyond the plurality of second side walls. The second applicator base may be substantially rectangular and the second applicator tip may rounded or pointed. The first applicator and/or the second applicator may be an open-cell foam. If the second applicator is included, a second seal may be coupled to the housing, and the second applicator may be positioned within a closed volume defined between the housing and the second seal.
The housing may include a mating mechanism configured to releasably couple to a corresponding mating member of a nail polish application system. The mating mechanism may include three cylindrical protrusions arranged in a triangular configuration. The mating mechanism may alternately include three cylindrical recesses arranged in a triangular configuration.
A nail polish application system may include the nail polish application mechanism described above, and a system housing. A movable member may be movably coupled to the system housing. A mating member may be coupled to the movable member. The housing of the nail polish application mechanism may include a mating mechanism configured to releasably couple to the mating member. Upon coupling the mating mechanism of the nail polish application mechanism to the mating member, the first seal may be broken or otherwise removed. The mating mechanism may include one of a plurality of cylindrical recesses or cylindrical protrusions, and the mating member may include the other of the plurality of cylindrical recesses or cylindrical protrusions. The mating member may be rotatably coupled to the movable member, so that in an installed condition in which the nail polish application mechanism is coupled to the mating member, rotation of the mating member relative to the movable member causes rotation of the nail polish application mechanism about a longitudinal axis of the nail polish application mechanism. The movable member may be movable in one, two, three, or more degrees of freedom of motion.
A system for accurately applying and curing a gel coat to the nail plates of the fingers or toes may include a housing 10, as shown in
Preferably, camera 20 is operatively connected, e.g. by wires or wirelessly, to an application, such as an application running on a mobile phone or other suitable device with a display. Upon insertion of a finger into housing 10 via entry 18, the user may initiate an application to begin a method for applying and curing gel polish to the fingernail. For example, camera 20 may provide a live feed (or static picture) to a mobile application on a mobile device 30, as shown in
Once the outline of the fingernail is confirmed or otherwise detected, an applicator 40 within housing may spray a base coat of photo-curable gel polish onto the fingernail within housing 10. In one embodiment, applicator 40 may include a cartridge or other container housing a volume of the base coat polish that is operatively connected to a nozzle 42 pointed toward the fingernail. The applicator may spray a base coat, for example via aerosol atomization, onto the fingernail, although other methods of application may be suitable, such as electrospray which is described in greater detail below. In some embodiments, nozzle 42 may be configured to spray a volume of base coat to cover a large area sufficient to ensure complete coverage of the fingernail, without taking into account the boundary of the fingernail detected using camera 20. In other embodiments, the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 may be operatively connected to the shape detection software to direct the volume and spray area of the nozzle to specifically direct the base coat toward the detected fingernail, and away from the skin. In both cases, it is preferable to ensure coverage of the entire fingernail. As will be described below, any excess spray, for example on the skin of the finger, can be simply wiped off after the base coat is cured. However, it is preferable that the application and curing of the nail polish, as described in greater detail below, is accurate enough to minimize and/or eliminate the need for such wiping of uncured nail polish. If nozzle 42 is operatively connected to the shape detection software to direct the spray of the base coat, it may be coupled to a motor to facilitate the movement of the nozzle. In embodiments in which the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 are capable of moving in order to more precisely direct the polish, the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 may be coupled to a two- or three-axis motor driven gantry that provides for positioning of the applicator 40 and/or nozzle in any direction in the X and Y axes, for a two-axis gantry, and also in the Z axis, for a three-axis gantry system. It should be understood that any combination of up to three linear degrees of freedom and up to three rotational degrees of freedom may be provided in such positioning systems in order to allow for desired positioning of the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42.
The applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 may have any suitable form. For example, the applicator 40 may include one or more re-fillable cartridges that may be filled with the desired polish. In other embodiments, pods or other containers intended for individual use may be used instead. Single-use pods may provide certain advantages. For example, re-usable applicators may encounter issues with fluid remaining in the nozzle or in other portions of the applicator following a first use, which may result problems during second and later uses. Single use applicators avoid such issues. Further, single use applicators may useful in terms of color choice, as a desired polish and/or colors may be selected for each individual application.
With the fingernail coated with a layer of uncured base coat, a UV source 50 operatively connected to the shape detection software directs UV energy toward the entire detected area of the fingernail, with the limits of the UV energy application being precisely directed within the detected boundaries. Although source 50 is described as a UV source, it should be understood that other energy sources may be suitable depending on the type of energy required to cure the various gel polish coats. In one example, UV source 50 may be an apparatus (e.g. a stereolithography apparatus, selective light apparatus, laser curing apparatus, etc.) which includes a static UV source directed onto one or more scanning mirrors (preferably two scanning mirrors), the scanning mirrors being motorized and operatively connected to the shape detection software. The scanning mirrors, which may take the form of high speed mirror galvanometers, may move quickly through various positions to reflect UV energy from the UV source toward all positions on the fingernail within the detected fingernail boundary, such that only the base coat within the detected fingernail boundary is cured, and all other base coat (for example any base coat inadvertently applied to the skin of the finger) remains uncured. In other examples, UV source 50 itself may be motorized and moveable such that the UV sources is directed to a single position, with the UV source physically moving along a track or system of tracks such that UV energy is directed to each point within the detected fingernail boundary as the UV sources moves along the track or system of tracks. In this embodiment, the UV source itself (or a component connecting the UV source to the track or system of tracks) may be operatively coupled to the shape detection software in order to direct the UV energy to only the positions within the detected fingernail boundary. It should be understood that the relative positioning of camera 20, applicator 40, nozzle 42, and UV source 50 shown in
Since the curing of the UV-curable base coat may be near instantaneous (e.g. thousands or hundredths of a second) following application of UV energy, the amount of time it takes to cure all of the base coat within the detected fingernail boundaries may mostly be limited by the speed with which the UV source is able to direct UV energy to each point within the detected fingernail boundary. However, it should be understood that other variables, including the power of the energy source (e.g. the power of the laser) and the reactivity of the nail polish, may also affect the curing rate. Once the base coat has been cured by the UV source 50, an indication may be sent to the user. For example, housing 10 may be operatively coupled to an audible signal or a visual signal to indicate completion of the curing. If coupled to a display, such as device 30, software running on the device may display a prompt, as shown in
If the user removes his or her finger from the housing 10 to remove uncured base coat from the finger, and then re-positions the finger within the housing, the camera 20 may interact with the shape detection software to once again determine the boundary of the fingernail, in the same manner as described above. If the user leaves his or her finger within housing 10, the camera may not need to again detect the boundary of the fingernail, especially if the finger has remained in substantially the same position. In either case, once the finger is within housing 10 and the base coat has been cured and the boundaries of the fingernail are again determined (or otherwise remain determined from a previous step), applicator 40 may spray a second coat, such as a color coat, of photo-curable polish toward the fingernail. Similar to as described above with respect to the application of the base coat, the application of the color coat is preferably completed so that at least the entire detected area of the fingernail is covered with the color coat, with or without aid of a motor to direct nozzle 42 to spray toward the detected fingernail boundary. With the color coat sprayed on top of the cured base coat, UV source 50 again operates to direct curing energy precisely to the areas within the detected boundary of the fingernail. It should be understood that, in some instances, it may be desirable to provide for more than one color coat, in which case the procedure for the second color coat would be substantially identical to the procedure for the first color coat, and so on.
It should be understood that housing 10 may include multiple applicators 40, one for each coat, including the base coat, one or more color coats, and a top coat. Similarly, each applicator 40 may include a dedicated nozzle 42, or a single nozzle may be operatively connected to each applicator. In some embodiments, applicators 40 may be configured to receive pre-filled cartridges of the base coat, color coat(s), and top coat.
Once the color coat has been cured by the UV source 50, the user optionally may remove his or her finger from housing 10 and wipe off any uncured color coat, re-insert the finger into the housing, and confirm that the camera 20 and connected software again detects the appropriate boundaries of the fingernail. If this step is to be performed, the user may be provided instructions, for example via device 30 as shown in
The process may be repeated for a photo-curable top coat, with the top coat being sprayed from an applicator 40 via nozzle 42 to cover at least the areas of the detected fingernail boundary in the same fashion described above for the base coat and color coat. Again, based on the detected fingernail boundaries, UV source 50 may be precisely directed to cure top coat only within the detected boundaries of the fingernail. When the top coat curing is complete, the user may be instructed, for example via device 30 as shown in
In the example provided above, a single fingernail is completed after application, curing, and wiping away uncured base coat, color coat(s), and top coat. After completion of a first finger, the user may be instructed to insert the next finger into the housing, with the process described above completed for the second finger, and the remaining fingers desired to be polished. In other examples, two or more fingers may be inserted into housing 10 at the same time, with the shape detection software detecting each fingernail boundary, and the coats may be applied to and cured for all fingers within the housing prior to proceeding to the next coat. In other words, the base coat may be sprayed onto all fingernails and cured prior to spraying the color coat onto any finger. Still further, although the exemplary method described above is described as requiring user interaction following each coat application, such user interaction may not be required. For example, once the user'"'"'s finger is positioned within housing 10, the user may perform a single action, such as pressing a button, after which the base coat, color coat(s), and/or top coat may be applied without requiring user interaction between each application. In still other embodiments, the procedure may be fully automated such that the user need not interact with the system at all once the user places his or her finger in the appropriate position.
As should be understood from the above description, the precision of the UV source 50 coupled with the detection of the fingernail boundary and the spray of the various coats to cover at least the entire detected boundary, facilitates an extremely fast and accurate curing of the various nail polish coats that may not otherwise be possible with more conventional gel polish systems.
Further, the precision of the UV source 50 may help facilitate various designs within the color coat. For example, as shown in
Still further, it should be understood that various other designs may be cured by directing the UV source to cure only areas of the most recently applied color coat that are desired to remain in the final design. For example, a first red color coat could be applied and cured on the entire fingernail. A second green color coat could be sprayed over the entire area within the fingernail boundary, but the UV source 50 directed to cure only certain portions of the second green coat to match a particular design. The uncured second green coat within the fingernail boundary may be wiped away, and then either a top coat applied and cured, or a third color coat applied with the UV source 50 being directed to cure only desired portions of the third color coat into the desired design. As should be clear from the above, as many color coats as desired could be applied, with the UV source 50 precisely curing only the desired portions of the relevant color coat to achieve essentially any desired design.
Although any desired color may be available for use in the systems described herein, various methods of color mixing may be used to achieve a large range of colors with various mixing techniques. For example, one or more partially transparent color pigments may be layered on top of one another to achieve a desired mix. In other example, a neutral density transparent layer of polish may be applied on top of a color layer in order to achieve a shade different from the underlying color. For example, a bright red base pigment may be provided in a single-use container, and one or more neutral density transparent layers may be applied over the bright red base to achieve a desired shade different from the base pigment.
It should be understood that, in some embodiments, one or more of the coating steps described herein may be omitted from the process. In other words, skipping or otherwise omitting one or more of the base coat step, the color coat step(s), and the top coat step is still within the scope of the invention. For example, although the base coat and top coat may be generally useful, it is envisioned that the processes described above and below may be performed with only a curable color coat in order to even further reduce the amount of time required to apply a color gel coat to the finger and/or toe nails.
The system(s) and method(s) described above may be modified in various ways in order to provide alternative functionality. For example, two alternative methods of controlling the curing of one or more polish coats are described below and may be referred to as the “border control” method and the “light curtain” method. These embodiments will be described only in the context of application of a single photo-curable color coat, but it should be understood that, similar to the embodiments described above, additional color coats, base coats, and/or top coats would be available for use in addition to a single color coat.
The border control method is at least partially predicated on the fact that photo-curable nail polish can cure rapidly, particularly if the polish composition includes enough reactants (e.g. the amount of photo-initiator in the formulation), although the entire formulation may be relevant to curing speed. For example, it is feasible to photo-cure some curable nail polishes on the order of milliseconds upon application of the appropriate energy source, such as UV light.
The droplet(s) 44 of nail polish remain in liquid form as it traverses the space between the applicator 40 and the fingernail, since at no point during the path between the applicator 40 and the fingernail does the droplet(s) 44 become cured via the beam 52 of UV energy. Once the liquid droplet(s) 44 contacts the fingernail (e.g. near the center), the droplet(s) 44 will begin to flow toward the edges of the fingernail, as shown in
Although in some embodiments of the border control method (and in some embodiments of other methods described herein), the finger of the user may be generally parallel to the floor of housing 10 or otherwise positioned in a plane substantially orthogonal to the direction of gravity, other positions of the finger relative to the floor may be desirable. For example, there may be certain benefits to orienting the user'"'"'s finger at a downward angle, in other words, at an angle at which the proximal portion of the nail plate closer to the knuckle is positioned higher than the distal portion of the nail closer to the fingertip. Although any angle may be suitable, positioning the nail plate in a plane (or substantially in a plane due the curvature of the nail plate) that is oriented between about 30 and about 60 degrees, including about 45 degrees, relative to the floor may be desirable. With such a downward angle of the fingernail, droplet(s) 44 will tend to advance toward the tip of the finger nail due to gravity, although some amount of the droplet(s) will also likely migrate toward the edges of the nail plate. With such a configuration, any excess droplet(s) 44 may tend to pass beyond the distal tip of the nail plate and runoff the nail plate, including without contacting the skin of the fingertip. If the finger is held fully parallel to the floor, excess droplet(s) 44 may tend to pool up at or adjacent the cured border 46, and positioning the finger at a downward angle may minimize and/or eliminate that possibility. Still further, in some embodiments it may be desirable to apply the uncured polish to the finger nail while the finger is inverted, or in other words where the nail plate is pointing downward in the direction of gravity. With the inverted position, any runoff will fall downward to the bottom of housing 10, which may also minimize and/or eliminate the likelihood of any nail polish contacting the user'"'"'s skin outside the nail plate. However, it should be understood that in such embodiments, droplet(s) 44 would be applied from a position below the user'"'"'s finger, and may require propulsion, for example via atomization or other suitable methods described herein. It should be understood that these various finger positions may be applicable not only to the border control method, but the light curtain method described below and any other methods described herein.
It should be understood that, although multiple droplets 44 are shown in
Still further, it should be understood that the particular composition of the nail polish (including the color coat and any base and/or top coats) may be modified to enhance the results of the border control method. For example, for the border control method which applies one or more liquid droplets, it is desirable that the droplet evenly spreads over the surface of the finger nail. One way to control this characteristic, which may be referred to as “sheeting,” is to add wetting agents to the nail polish in order to reduce the surface tension of the nail polish. Another characteristic of the nail polish that may be modified is the viscosity. Viscosity generally refers to the internal friction within a fluid causing resistance to flow. If the viscosity of the nail polish is too low, it may flow quickly upon contact with the finger nail which may be undesirable, particularly if the flow is so fast that the polish is able to flow beyond the boundaries of the fingernail prior to the UV beam 52 being able to fully cure the nail polish at the nail boundary. However, low viscosity may only be problematic if the curing process is too long. Thus, if the nail polish has low viscosity, additional reactants (e.g. UV-curable photo-reagents) may be provided in the nail polish to help increase the rate of curing.
Although the border control method described above is described in relation to a two-stage curing method for a single nail polish, it should be understood that the two-stage process may be repeated multiple times for a single nail. For example, the border control method may include a two-stage curing of a base coat, followed by a two-stage curing of one or more color coats, a two-stage curing of a top coat, or any desired combination.
As noted above, a second alternative method of applying and curing nail polish is referred to herein as the light curtain method. As with the border control method, the light curtain method is at least partially predicated on the fact that photo-curable nail polish can cure rapidly.
Whereas the border control method is preferably used with one or more relatively large droplets 44 of liquid nail polish, the light curtain method is preferably used with atomized nail polish, such that the nail polish can be sprayed in a mist 45 of fine particles or droplets. As shown in
After the initial spray of nail polish in mist 45, a second curing stage may be performed similar to the border control method. For example, a flash cure event may be provided in which a UV bulb or other device indiscriminately cures all of the remaining uncured nail polish within housing 10, or otherwise the high speed mirror galvanometers may pass a UV beam along all the areas at and interior to the detected nail boundary. The result of the second stage curing with all polish in a cured state 49 is represented schematically in
Some conventional photo-curable nail polish gel formulations rely on a free radical curing process that is subject to oxygen inhibition. In conventional nail polish gel applications and curing, this oxygen inhibition may result in the top-most layer of the gel to have a tacky texture because it has been exposed to oxygen which at least partially inhibits the curing, whereas the polish beneath the surface cures more readily as it is exposed to a lower amount of oxygen. As a result, in conventional nail polish gel applications and curing, the top layer may need to be wiped off with a wipe such as an alcohol wipe to remove the top tacky layer, leaving the fully cured underlying gel as the outermost layer. If the system of
In the embodiments described above, the applicator 40 may be used to provide relatively large liquid droplets of nail polish or to propel atomized nail polish in a spray or a mist of very fine particles. In either case, if it is desired to direct the liquid droplets or the atomized spray, a motorized gantry system may be used to move the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 in up to six degrees of freedom of motion to a desired position within housing 10. However, in some circumstances it may be desirable to reduce and/or eliminate as many moving parts are possible, while still retaining the ability to direct the nail polish as it exits the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42. Any of the nail polish application systems described above may include what will be referred to herein as an “electrospray applicator,” although it should be understood that the electrospray application is capable of depositing either relatively large liquid droplets as described in connection with the border control method, or an atomized spray of relatively fine particles as described in connection with the light curtain method. However, to be clear, the electrospray concept described below may be applied to any system described herein for depositing nail polish, and may have particular benefits including its relatively low complexity.
The general concept of the electrospray method is that, by providing a first charge to a liquid in a container or reservoir such as a syringe, and by placing that charged liquid in proximity to a second object having the opposite charge, the liquid in the syringe may effectively be drawn out of the tip of the container and turned into a mist without requiring a propellant.
The second main component of the electrospray system is shown as base 150 in
As shown in
As shown in
Providing leads 130L, 130R with electrospray applicator 100 may provide the additional ability to direct the nail polish in a particular direction without requiring any moving parts. For example, as shown in
Still further, it should be understood that if the voltage supplied to nail polish 120 and/or charge plate 150 is small enough, the electric field created may not result in the nail polish 120 turning into a mist 124 as explained in connection with
Electrospray applicator 100, and similar alternatives (for example including more leads or different mechanisms of securing the leads and/or container) may be implemented with any of the nail polish systems described above, for example in place of the applicator 40 and/or nozzle 42 described in housing 10. The electrospray applicator 100 may further be used with any of the methods of depositing and curing nail polish described above, including methods which use relatively large droplets and methods that use relatively fine particles or mists/sprays. Still further, electrospray applicator 100 may be formed in different configurations to provide similar results. In one example, instead of having a charge plate 150 for the purpose of creating a mist, and separate leads 130L, 130R for the purpose of directing charged liquid in a desired direction, these features could be combined. For example, a single charge element in the shape of ring or another similar shape with an open interior may be provided in a position between the user'"'"'s finger nail and the container 140. With such ring element, voltage may be applied in sufficient quantity to cause the nail polish 120 (which has an opposite charge) to turn into a mist upon exiting the container 140. The open interior space of the ring element would allow the mist to pass through the ring element and to be deposited onto a user'"'"'s finger nail positioned below. Still further, the ring element could be provided with a non-uniform charge around the circumference in order to direct the mist passing through the ring. This may be achieved in any suitable way, for example by providing various individual anode elements along the circumference of the ring that can be individually charged to create any desired charge gradient along the ring.
It should be noted that the electrospray concept may be used with relatively large voltages, for example in the thousands of volts, which may be generally atypical of consumer electronics. However, it should be noted that high voltages may not create a significant safety issue, as the electrospray system may be used with very small amounts of current that do not pose danger to the user. However, there may be a minimal concern of applying a charged particle to the nail and/or skin of a user. In the examples described above, nail polish 120 is illustrated as having a positive charge. However, as noted above, the electrospray system would work effectively in the same way if the nail polish 120 is provided with a negative charge and the charge plate 150 (and/or leads 130L, 130R) are provided with a positive charge. In order to reduce and/or eliminate the concern about depositing a charged particle onto a user, the charges of the nail polish 120 and charge plate 150 may be oscillated such that, during one or more portions of the application, nail polish 120 has a positive charge and charge plate 150 has a negative charge, and then in one or more other portions of the application, nail polish 120 is reversed to have a negative charge and charge plate 150 is reversed to have a positive charge. With this configuration, the net charge of particles of nail polish 120 applied to the user may be zero or near zero to reduce and/or eliminate any concern of a charge buildup occurring by deposition of a charged particle onto the user.
Although the various embodiments of curing a photo-curable nail polish have been described above as a flash curing process or curing via an energy source having a scanning pattern, other curing methods are possible. For example, in any of the embodiments described above, a first polish (e.g. a base coat or a polish having a first color) may be only partially cured, with a second polish (e.g. a top coat or a polish having a second color) being applied to the partially-cured first polish, followed by a complete cure. This process may provide for different aesthetics, for example swirling-type of color patterns. In other examples, particular scanning patterns of the curing energy may be applied to achieve different results, for example different textures. In one example, the polish may be cured via a laser scan pattern that cures as it sweeps along a first “line,” and then cures along a second “line” parallel to the first line, leaving a gap between the two lines. The uncured polish between the two cured “lines” may form a meniscus, and if that uncured polish is then cured while having the meniscus, a different texture quality may result compared to, for example, a flash curing process.
Various mechanisms for depositing uncured nail polish resin onto a user'"'"'s nail have been described above, for example including aerosol and electrospray techniques. However, still other mechanisms may be suitable.
Each applicator 240, 260 may be formed of any suitable material that is capable of absorbing, retaining, and/or dispensing the particular component that the applicator is intended to apply. For example, the first applicator 240 may be used to apply curable nail polish resin, including color, base, and/or top coats as described above. The second applicator 260 may be used to apply a wiping solution, such as an alcohol solution, to remove uncured nail polish resin from a user'"'"'s nail and/or skin surrounding the user'"'"'s nail.
First applicator 240, when used to apply a curable nail polish resin, is preferably an open-cell foam that can be soaked, impregnated, or saturated with the curable nail polish resin so that the first applicator 240 absorbs the resin and is able to deposit the resin on a user'"'"'s nail when the applicator is brought into contact with the user'"'"'s nail. When the first applicator 240 is an open-cell foam, the particular type of foam material, as well as the cell structure and/or size of the foam, may be tailored to the particular resin being used with the foam. In one example, a polyurethane or similar material may be suitable for many types of nail polish resin. Whatever material is used to form the first applicator 240, it is preferable that the first applicator 240 is capable of absorbing enough nail polish resin for the desired use, and that the shape and the material of the first applicator 240 allows for deposition of the resin to the user'"'"'s nail with substantially even coverage of the nail. The shape of the first applicator 240 may include a rounded or “V”-shaped tip that is intended to contact the user'"'"'s nail, with the tip extending across the entire surface of the nail in a direction orthogonal to the direction of the user'"'"'s finger, so that dragging the applicator 240 along the nail in a direction parallel to the user'"'"'s finger evenly coats the entire surface of the nail with resin. However, it should be understood that applicator 240 could be moved in any desired direction relative to the user'"'"'s finger, including toward or away from the direction in which the finger points, transverse that direction, with any desired rotational motion, or any other motion configured to provide the desired deposition from the applicator 240 to the nail. In some uses, described in greater detail below, a single application mechanism is intended for use with a single manicure, which may encompass a total of ten nails, and thus the first applicator 240 preferably contains enough nail polish resin for application to ten nails total, including, for example, one, two, or three coats of nail polish resin per nail. In some embodiments, the first applicator 240 may be configured to retain additional nail polish resin to provide enough resin for additional rounds of application to allow for fixes, for example if a user chips the nail polish shortly after performing the manicure (or pedicure). In addition, first applicator 240 is preferably saturated with the particular nail polish resin intended for use with the first applicator 240 so that minimal or no air remains in the first applicator 240, otherwise compression of the first applicator 240 during deposition of resin to the user'"'"'s nail could also cause air bubbles to form in or on the deposited resin, which is undesirable.
Second applicator 260, when used to apply a wiping solution such as an alcohol solution, may also be an open-cell foam that can be soaked, impregnated, or saturated with the wiping solution. The particular wiping solution may be any solution that is effective at removing uncured nail polish resin, including, but not limited to, isopropyl alcohol, with or without acetone. Second applicator 260 may have a similar or different shape than first applicator 240, and may be made from similar or different materials. As with first applicator 240, second applicator 260 should be formed from a material that is capable of absorbing and depositing the particular wiping solution to be used with the second applicator 260. Because second applicator 260 is intended for use in wiping the user'"'"'s nail and surrounding skin after resin has been cured onto the nail, it is preferable that the second applicator 260 is formed from a soft material that will not cause scratches or other damage to the cured resin on the user'"'"'s nail. It should be understood that applicator 260 could be moved in any desired direction relative to the user'"'"'s finger to provide the desired wiping or cleaning action, including toward or away from the direction in which the finger points, transverse that direction, with any desired rotational motion, or any other motion configured to provide the desired deposition/wiping from the applicator 260 to the nail. Still further, it should be understood that the wiping solution may be specific to the type of resin being used. For example, if the resin is water soluble or partially water soluble, the wiping solution may be water or water-based. If the resin is alcohol soluble or partially alcohol soluble, the wiping solution may be alcohol or alcohol-based.
It should be understood that, although a housing with two applicators is illustrated and described, the same or a different housing may be used with a single applicator that includes curable nail polish resin impregnated therein for application to a user'"'"'s nail, without any corresponding second applicator. In such an embodiment, the steps of wiping away uncured nail polish with an alcohol solution described below may be completely omitted, or otherwise performed manually. Similarly, although the housing is illustrated and described as including two applicators at opposite sides of the housing, this is not necessary. For example, in some embodiments, two (or more) applicators could be on the same side of a housing, or otherwise positioned on different sides of the housing that are not necessarily opposite one another. When two applicators are used, including one that functions to apply curable nail polish resin to a user'"'"'s nail, and one that functions to wipe away uncured nail polish resin from the user'"'"'s nail and/or surrounding skin, the two applicators should be positioned and/or spaced apart relative to one another so that one applicator does not interfere with use of the other applicator. In other words, both applicators could be positioned on the same side of a housing and spaced apart from one another, so that the first applicator applies the nail polish resin, and the second applicator wipes away uncured nail polish resin, with a space in between the two applicators to allow for UV light or other curing energy to cure the resin deposited by the first applicator before the second applicator contacts the portion of the user'"'"'s nail which the first applicator has already contacted. In other words, the first and second applicator, if a second applicator is included, may have any positioning relative to one another that allows for performance of the main functions of depositing nail polish resin, curing the resin on the nail, and wiping away uncured nail polish. Although embodiments with one or two applicators are described above, it should be understood that any number of applicators may be used, for example including a system having one applicator for a base coat, one applicator for a color coat, one applicator for a top coat, and another applicator for a wiping solution. Similarly, applicators for other components (e.g. additional color coats) may also be suitable for use in a single housing or within a single application mechanism.
When the application mechanism 200 is coupled to mating member 232, once the manicure process is initiated, the movable member 236 may move in a direction toward the user'"'"'s nail to bring the tip of the first applicator 240 into contact with the user'"'"'s nail, preferably at or near the proximal end of the user'"'"'s nail, as shown in
It should be understood that linear movements of application mechanism 200 may be provided by any desired system, and in some embodiments, as described in greater detail below, linear movements may omitted entirely. For example, the moveable member 236 and/or arm 234 may be part of a two-axis motor driven gantry that provides for movement in the left-right and up-down direction of
It should also be understood that, although the application system 200 is described as having three cylindrical protrusions arranged in a triangular shape that mate with three corresponding recesses in mating member 232, this is merely one example and other mating structures may be sufficient. For example, the housing 220 of application system 200 may instead include three cylindrical recesses in a triangular shape, with mating member 232 including three corresponding cylindrical protrusions in a corresponding triangular shape. More broadly, members other than cylindrical protrusions and corresponding cylindrical recesses, as well as members being positioned in configurations other than triangular configurations, may be equally suitable for use in allowing coupling of application mechanism 200 to mating member 232. Preferably, any connection mechanism used to couple application mechanism 200 to mating member 232 allows for rotational movement of mating member 232 to be translated to application mechanism 200 to allow for switching between the first applicator 240 and the second applicator 260 facing the user'"'"'s nail.
It should be understood that any of the linear movements of application mechanism 200 shown in
Referring still to
Application mechanism 200 is described in connection with
Still referring to
As noted above, because first applicator 240 dispenses a curable resin and second applicator dispenses a wiping solution, the first and second applicators may have a limited use before needing to be refilled or replaced. Referring back to
In some embodiments, seals 242 and/or 262 may be manually removed prior to use of the application mechanism 200. For example, one or both seals could be removed by the user prior to connecting application mechanism 200 to the system that will assist in applying and curing the nail polish. However, in other embodiments it may be preferable to partially or fully automate the removal of one or both seals 242, 262 by the nail polish application and curing system. For example, it may be preferable to configure seals 242 and/or 262 and housing 220 so that, upon connection of the mating mechanism of the housing to the corresponding mating member of the housing 10, one or both seals or punctured, broken, or otherwise modified so that the applicators become at least partially exposed and able to perform their functions of applying resin and/or alcohol wiping solution. For example, the seals or the housing of the application mechanism may include sliders that are forced to slide along the length of the seals as the application mechanism is coupled to the corresponding mating structure in the housing, causes the seals to tear or otherwise disconnect from the housing as the sliders move along the seals. Other devices may be provided, such as blades or other mechanism that can cut the seal and roll the seal to remove the seal, or that can skewer or scrape the seal away from the application mechanism. Still in other embodiments, a plastic or similar shell may be provided around the applicators, with the plastic shell being broken upon connection to the mating structure of the housing. For example, such a housing may be perforated or otherwise structured to be readily forced open, for example in a clam-shell type action, upon connection with the mating structure of the housing.
For any of the embodiments described above that incorporate a curable resin nail polish, it may be desirable to regulate the temperature of the resin during or prior to deposition onto a user'"'"'s nail. When UV or other curing light or energy contacts the curable resin, the temperature of the resin may affect how the resin cures. For example, when curing energy (e.g. UV light) interacts with a curable resin that has not yet cured, free radicals in the resin may be released to allow monomers within the resin to link or cross-link. If the temperature of the resin is higher, the amount and/or strength of the cross-linking may become correspondingly higher. In practice, curing a curable nail polish resin at a relatively low temperature may result in a cured nail polish with a matte finish or appearance, as opposed to a glossy finish or appearance which may be more desirable. The reason for the matte finish or appearance may be a result of the cross-linking of the resin being relatively low or weak. By curing the resin while the resin is at a higher temperature, the cured nail polish may have a more glossy finish or appearance, which may be a result of better or stronger cross-linking of the resin. Regulating the temperature of the curable resin may be achieved by any one of a number of mechanisms. For example, for any embodiments described above with a nozzle, a heating element may be provided in, on, or near the nozzle in order to heat the resin as it passes through the nozzle. In addition or alternatively, for any embodiments described above in which resin is stored within a cartridge or similar housing prior to deposition onto the user'"'"'s nail, a heating element may be provided in, on, or near the cartridge or other resin storage component in order to heat the resin prior to deposition onto the user'"'"'s nail. In addition or alternatively, a heating element may be provided in, on, or near any other component of any of the embodiments described above to provide general radiant heating to the space in which the resin will be prior to curing. For example, a radiant heating element may be provided in housing 10 at any desired location in order to heat the air within the housing, such that the resin may be heated, for example if the resin is stored within a container within the housing, or as the resin is being deposited while it contacts air within the housing that has been heated by the heating element.
A number of different mechanisms for depositing nail polish onto a user'"'"'s nail have been described above. For example, the use of droplets dropping onto a user'"'"'s nail, with or without assistance from an electric field, is described above. Similarly, the spraying the resin as a mist or otherwise in fine particles is also described above, for example using an aerosol spray or an electrospray technique. Still further, coating foam or another deposition mechanism with resin, and physically contacting the foam or other mechanism to a user'"'"'s nail to deposit the resin has been described above. However, it should be understood that other deposition mechanisms may be suitable for use with the curing concepts described above. For example, uncured resin may be provided in a container in which the user may simply dip her fingernail into to ensure coverage of the entire nail, with the covered nail inserted into a system that selectively cures the resin deposited on the nail, without curing resin deposited outside the nail, using any of the suitable curing mechanisms described above. Although this technique may be relatively messy compared to other more precise techniques, the precision of the curing will allow the user to easily wipe away any of the uncured resin after the resin covering the nail is cured. Still further, other mechanisms may be used to apply uncured resin to the user'"'"'s nail. For example, uncured resin may be stored in bottle or other storage mechanism that could be squeezed or otherwise actuated to deposit uncured nail polish to the user'"'"'s nail. Such a bottle may be similar to a typical shampoo bottle, which may result in a less precision of deposition than some of the other mechanisms described above, but as also described above, the precision of the curing process may allow for any uncured resin to be readily cleaned from the user'"'"'s skin following curing of the resin deposited on the user'"'"'s nail. The deposition mechanisms described in this paragraph may be generally messy or imprecise relative to other embodiments described herein, but these mechanisms may be relatively simple and effective in ensuring that the user'"'"'s nail is fully covered by resin prior to the curing stage. It should be understood that the deposition mechanisms described in this paragraph may be used with any suitable curing system described herein.
In some embodiments described above, an applicator device includes uncured resin stored therein, with the resin being applied to the user'"'"'s nail via movement of the applicator so that the applicator contacts the user'"'"'s nail to deposit the resin onto the nail. For example,
In the embodiments described above, the uncured nail polish resin is typically stored in a liquid form prior to deposition onto the user'"'"'s nail. However, in some circumstances, for example depending on the viscosity of the uncured resin, after deposition of the resin onto the user'"'"'s nail but prior to curing, the thickness of the resin on the user'"'"'s nail may be somewhat inconsistent, which may be undesirable. One way to address the issue of potentially inconsistent thickness of the deposited resin is to deposit the resin in a form other than from a bulk liquid container. In one example, instead of using a consumable applicator such as that shown in and described in connection with
Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.