In this article, we’ll be discussing an Insulating Container by Yeti, US publication 20220024675. The publication date is Jan. 27th, 2022 and the filing date is July 27th, 2021.
While this isn’t a bike document, it’s from a bike manufacturer. This suggests a very different business path they may be taking in the future.
Brief Summary (tl;dr)
Looks like Yeti Design are looking to make a cooler. No, this is not the Yeti Coolers we all know and… love? This is Yeti Design out of Golden, CO, and the inventors are the CTO and Director of Engineering of Yeti. The special part about this cooler (at least the first example) is the fact that it’s made of a “…fiber-reinforced thermoplastic including a reinforcing fiber…”, likely meaning carbon fiber-impregnated plastic. Yeti don’t do nothing if it ain’t carbon.
All in all, as with any cooler/container such as this, improvements are aimed at more beneficial heat transfer. You want your cold stuff to stay cold when the ambient temperatures are getting toasty.
The primary advantage here is weight and durability. Yeti want a lighter, stronger cooler.
In accordance with the various examples provided herein, this construction may offer decreased weight and or improved durability versus existing construction methods and materials.
The way these claims are written shows some balls in Yeti’s counsel. This isn’t granted, and I’d be amazed if this is granted in its current form without taking a dependent claim and throwing it up top. It literally says this cooler includes:
- A bottom container has an outside and an inside layer that contains some insulation between the layers.
- The bottom container is “…constructed at least partially of a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic including a reinforcing fiber,  wherein the reinforcing fiber comprises at least one of a carbon fiber, a glass fiber, or an aramid fiber.’
This just reads as “This is a container made of thermoplastic with carbon, glass, or aramid (Kevlar) fiber”. Pretty broad.
Like I said, this idea is incredibly “Yeti”, even this document is based Yeti. There are 100+ figures and 21,000ish words describing multiple cooler ideas, but I’m just going to talk about the first one. Typically companies will include multiple embodiments in the same document, but almost always put the most important one first (and it’ll be the first in the claims).
FIG. 1 shows the three primary components: a lid, a container, and a seal. It looks like a cooler… These components will likely be made Continuous Reinforced Thermoplastic (CFRTP).
Examples of continuous fiber in CFTRP include, but are not limited to, carbon fiber, glass fiber, aramid fiber, or other suitable fibers.
Some background: if you add a fiber material to a setting material, it’ll likely be much stronger. Fiberglass-impregnated Bondo has existed for years, and it’s awesome.
Yeti want to use a prepreg thermoplastic, which is a sheet of plastic that is impregnated with a thermoplastic resin and some kind of fiber. When you heat it up, the resin sets and hardens.
CFRTP is commonly found in pre-impregnated tape and sheet formats or “prepreg”… Some advantages of a prepreg are: prepreg may not require refrigeration; the material may be recyclable; and thermoplastics typically have greater impact strength (e.g. toughness) than other materials, which may be advantageous for an insulating container that may be dropped or slid against an abrasive surface.
FIG. 3 shows inner housing 100 and outer housing 200. ‘Insulating material’ goes between these housings, meaning foam or vacuum. Yeti say the inner and outer housing can be different materials:
…the construction of the insulating container uses a combination of both a fiber reinforced composite and a non-fiber reinforced material. The outer housing of the insulating container may be more durable than the inside of the container since it may be exposed to the most physical abuse from its surroundings during use.
Yeti talk about the manufacturing process here. This is a simplification, but we have a tool 2, die 3, and material 1. The material are the sheets of prepreg plastic/tape oriented in alternating directions. The fiber stands can be seen pointing in one direction for each sheet. When they set, the strands are then in a pseudo-lattice structure, adding to it’s strength.
Here’s a side view of the process, which is pretty typical of any plastic manufacturing processes. The tool presses and heats the thermoplastic against the die. The thermoplastic sets, and you’re good to go. Obviously the tool/die will be different for each component.
These pieces will then be welded, glued, bonded, adhered, or mechanically attached together. They have a lot of options as to how they’ll connect the pieces. It sounds like they’ll use fusion bonding.
Some examples of welding are laser welding, ultrasonic welding, friction stir, and resistance welding. Fusion bonding or welding may reduce or replace mechanical fasteners (e.g., screws, bolts, nails, rivets, and the like) as a joining mechanism thus reducing weight, complexity and the openings in the structure. Another advantage of the fusion bonding or welding technique of the joining process is that it may be performed robotically, reducing error and human labor and increasing layer position accuracy and repeatability.
It’s possible it’ll end up being manufactured in pieces, like so.
In another example, they’ve got a whole different modular cooler with stackable pieces. Might write about this one at a later date. The advantage here is the use of a single die to make each piece, and each piece doesn’t include a ‘draft’. A draft is a shape where one side is narrower than the other side, which allows for a piece to be removed easily. The cooler in the first example is a draft shape, so it can be removed from the die more easily, but also reduces the interior size of the cooler.
There are literally 100 figures in this. If you need a bedtime story, please open this one.
While this is interesting, I’m much more intrigued at the business side of this idea. Why are Yeti doing this? Will it be a promotional thing, where you get a cooler with a bike? Are they simply expanding their product line for revenue’s sake? Do they see a hole in the cooler-space where people want a ‘performance cooler’? Very interesting indeed.
I will be blown away if no one has figured out they can make a cooler with a fiber-included thermoplastic. And I’m really interested in seeing how the Yeti Coolers vs. Yeti Design cooler works out in real life. I’m not a trademark expert, but are there going to be branding issues? Will this be sold under another name to avoid confusion or conflict? Or are Yeti just going to license this out. Or does it even matter? Time will tell.
I would probably think of partnership product with YETI COOLERS that are based in Texas. Would be quite difficult to hit the market with a Yeti Cooler when there’s already a brand named YETI doing exactly that…
Not only that; it would run into trademark issues unless it was a partnership.