AUTOMATICALLY OPERATED SPRING-TYPE PROJECTILE PROJECTING DEVICE
United States Patent 3610223
A tennis ball launcher described wherein one ball at a time is selected from a hopper containing a supply of balls and positioned in a ball feed mechanism on a pair of spaced parallel supports. A mounted rotatable cylinder through which the balls pass from the hopper to the ball feed assembly has a spiral selector fixedly connected thereto. The selector extends into the hopper. The ball feed assembly is mounted independently of the rotatable cylinder and is vertically adjustable. A spring-loaded striker is released from a cocked position and passes between the parallel supports to impact the ball and propel the ball from the launcher. The striker is moved to a cocked position by a striker trigger assembly having a trigger actuator which engages a pin on the striker to move the trigger to a cocked position where the striker is released by the trigger actuator being cammed out of contact with the pin.
A63B69/40; A63B47/00; (IPC1-7): F41B7/00
Field of Search:
Pinkham, Richard C.
Browne, William R.
What is claimed is
1. A tennis ball launcher comprising a hopper for a supply of tennis balls, a selector for selecting one ball at a time from said hopper, a hollow ball feed mechanism for receiving a selected ball from said selector, means on said ball feed mechanism for holding a ball in launching position, a spring-loaded striker engageable with the ball in the launching position, means for moving the striker to a cocked position, and means for releasing said striker from a cocked position whereby the released striker propelled by spring energy impacts the ball in the launching position to propel the ball from the launcher, a rotatably mounted cylinder positioned below the hopper for receiving balls from the hopper, said ball feed mechanism being cylindrical and in a substantially vertical position with the upper end thereof opening into said hopper and said ball-holding means being at the lower end of said ball feed mechanism, said selector being an upright spiral and fixedly connected to the upper end of said rotatably mounted cylinder and extending into the hopper, and means drivingly connected to said rotatable mounted cylinder and the selector for rotating said cylinder and selector on a common vertical axis.
2. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 1 with said means for moving the striker comprising a rotatably mounted shaft, a striker trigger assembly fixed on said shaft and extending radially therefrom, and means on said striker trigger engageable with said striker to move the striker into a cocked position.
3. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 2 with a trigger actuator on said striker trigger assembly to disengage said striker-moving means whereby said striker is released to impact a ball.
4. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 3 and comprising a pin on said striker engageable by said trigger actuator to operate the striker.
5. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 4 wherein said pin has a plurality of adjustable positions so as to cause the striker to be released at different angular degrees of rotation of the striker.
6. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 2 with said shaft rotating continuously so that said striker is moved into a cocked position after each ball is released.
7. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 1 with said ball feed mechanism being vertically adjustable.
8. A tennis ball launcher as claimed in claim 1 and comprising means on said ball feed mechanism actuable by said means for moving the striker for feeding a ball to the ball-holding means.
The present invention relates to an apparatus for propelling balls, more particularly, to a machine for launching tennis balls in either lobs or line drives.
In order for an individual to improve his tennis game it is necessary that he practice continuously to return different types of tennis shots. These shots are generally line drives which have a relatively low trajectory and lobs which are highly arched shots. It is difficult for such an individual to persuade a fellow tennis player to continuously deliver such shots so that the individual may practice returning them. Further, it is difficult for another tennis player to continuously make shots to the individual practicing of sufficient force for the long periods of time required in order for the individual to properly practice such shots. While various forms of apparatus have been proposed for propelling tennis balls such apparatus have been generally unsatisfactory since they are unduly complicated in structure, difficult to operate and cannot be adjusted to vary the force and direction in which various tennis balls are propelled to the individual practicing.
It is therefore the principal object of the present invention to provide a novel and improved apparatus for launching tennis balls.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a tennis ball launcher which can propel repetitively a number of tennis balls at an individual from different directions and with different force.
According to one aspect of the present invention a tennis ball launcher may comprise a hopper for retaining a supply of tennis balls and a selector for selecting one ball at a time from the hopper. A ball feed mechanism receives a selected ball from the selector and is provided with means for holding a ball in a launching position. A spring-loaded striker is engageable with the ball in the launching position and is moved into a cocked position by a releaseable means. Means are provided for releasing the striker from a cocked position so that the released striker impacts the ball in the launching position to propel the ball from the launcher.
Other objects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent upon reference to the accompanying description when taken in conjunction with the following drawings, which are exemplary, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of the tennis ball launcher of the present invention with a cover panel being removed and a portion of the hopper being cut away;
FIG. 2 is a sectional view taken along the line 2--2 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a sectional view but in enlarged scale of detail A indicated in FIG. 2;
FIG. 4 is a side elevational view but in enlarged scale of the trigger assembly for releasing the striker;
FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along the line 5--5 of FIG. 1 and showing the rod and roller for operating the trigger actuator; and
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of one end of the striker shaft and the energizing spring for cocking the striker.
Proceeding next to the drawings wherein like reference symbols indicate the same parts throughout the various views a specific embodiment of the present invention will be described in detail.
The tennis ball launcher of the present invention is indicated generally at 10 in FIG. 1 and comprises a frame 11 mounted upon a pair of wheels 12 at one end of the frame. At the other end of the frame there extends a handle 13 and a screwjack 14 is provided as a stand for positioning the launcher and for adjusting the direction and height in which balls will be launched. The handle 13 functions to both transport and move the launcher to different positions on a tennis court and also to change the direction in which a ball is launched.
The frame 11 as shown in the drawings is covered by removable panels which are not shown.
In the upper portion of the frame 11 there is provided a hopper 15 having an opening 16 in its lower end. Rotatably mounted in the lower end of the hopper is a spiral selector 17 extending upwardly from a rotatably mounted cylinder 18 upon which is secured a gear 19 meshing with a horizontally positioned worm gear 20. Rotation of the worm gear 20 will cause the selector 17 to rotate about a vertical axis. The constantly rotating selector will select one ball at a time and also agitates the supply of balls in the hopper to prevent any jamming of the balls therein.
The worm gear 20 is mounted on a horizontal shaft 21 upon which is mounted a pulley 22 for a V-belt 23. The driving of this V-belt will be subsequently described.
Immediately below the ball selector there is positioned a ball feed mechanism 24 which is substantially cylindrical in shape and vertically positioned within the framing. The ball feed mechanism is vertically adjustable to "straight shot" and "lob" positions. At the lower end of the ball feed mechanism there is provided a pair of spaced parallel supporting rods 24 which support a ball in the launching position.
Pivotally mounted on the side of the ball feed mechanism is a ball-retaining rod 26 at the upper end of which there is a retaining arm portion 27 which extends into the ball feed mechanism so as to retain a ball in the position as shown in FIG. 2 until the striker is cocked. At the lower end of the rod 26 there is provided an actuating arm 28 which is engageable by a pine 29 so as to be rotated and release a ball so the ball drops into the ball-launching position. The pin 29 is mounted upon a gear 30 which in turn is fixed upon a rotatable shaft 31. This shaft and gear structure will be further described in detail.
The shaft 31 which supports the gear 30 has one end journaled at 32 and its other end is provided with a socket 33 as may be seen in FIG. 3 in which is mounted a bearing 34 for journaling one end of a striker shaft 35. The other end of the striker shaft is journaling a pillow block 36 shown in FIG. 6. A striker 37 is fixed to the shaft 35 by a pin 38. The upper end of the striker is bevelled as shown at 39 and passes between the parallel supports 25 to impact a ball 40 which is supported in the ball-launching position.
The gear 30 is driven by a worm 41 fixed upon a horizontal shaft 42 which is driven through a V-belt drive 43 by an electric drive motor 44. The shaft 42 is also provided with a pulley 45 which supports the other end of the V-belt 23. The V-belt 23 passes around idlers 46 as may be seen in FIG. 2.
The striker 37 is spring loaded by means of a spiral spring 47 which has one end fixed to a pin 48 in the framework of the apparatus and the other end 49 fixed to the end of the striker shaft 35.
As may be seen in FIG. 3 the striker shaft 35 is rotatably mounted but is free wheeling with respect to the driven gear shaft 31. Also fixedly mounted to the gear shaft 31 by means of a pin is a striker trigger assembly indicated generally at 50 and shown in greater detail in FIG. 4. The striker trigger assembly comprises a trigger actuator 51 which is in the form of a crank lever and pivotally mounted at 52. The other end of the actuator is notched at 53 and receives a pin 54 extending from a spring-biased rod 55 having an arm 56 which is engageable with the striker 37. The trigger actuator 51 is engaged by a pin 56 which is in the form of a rod as may be seen in FIG. 5 and may be set in several different positions as shown in FIG. 1 in order to release the striker from one of several predetermined positions with each position representing a different degree of cocking.
In operation, the ball feed mechanism is first vertically adjusted so that the ball will be launched in either a straight shot as indicated by the arrows 60 in FIG. 1 or in a lob shot as by the arrow 61 in the same FIG. The rotation of the worm gear shaft 31 and the gear 30 in the clockwise direction as indicated by the arrows 62 in FIG. 1 will carry the striker trigger in the same direction with the actuator 56 engaging the striker 37 and carrying the striker in the clockwise or cocking direction. The cocking of the striker will continue until the trigger actuator 51 contacts a pin 57. At this time the trigger will be actuated so that the arm 56 is released from engagement with the striker 37 and the striker under the force of the coil spring is pivoted rapidly in a counterclockwise direction so that the upper end of the striker impacts the ball 40 and propels the ball from the apparatus. The striker 37 continues this movement until it engages a cushion 63 mounted on a damper air cylinder 64. The striker 37 will remain upon the cushion 63 until the striker trigger rotates sufficiently so that the trigger actuator arm 56 again engages the striker and carries the striker in a clockwise direction to cock the same.
With this arrangement it can be seen that the tennis balls will be propelled successively from the launcher.
By the use of suitable controls it is possible to stop the operation of the apparatus immediately after the striker has impacted a tennis ball so that the striker is not cocked.
Thus it can be seen that the present invention has disclosed a tennis ball launcher which is simple in structure and operation and can deliver a succession of tennis balls in different directions and with different degrees of force.
It will be understood that this invention is subject to modification in order to adapt it to different uses and conditions.