Title:
Self-propelled cleaner rechargeable traveling system and rechargeable traveling system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a rechargeable traveling system which enables a self-propelled machine to be charged properly without fail. Since a charging terminal, located on the back of the body of a self-propelled cleaner, is horizontally wider than a feeding terminal of a battery charger, even if the cleaner comes close to the feeding terminal somewhat horizontally out of alignment with the center of the battery charger, the charging terminal and the feeding terminal are connected properly without fail and thus charging is carried out properly without fail.



Inventors:
Tani, Takao (Osaka, JP)
Application Number:
11/229880
Publication Date:
03/30/2006
Filing Date:
09/19/2005
Assignee:
Funai Electric Co., Ltd. (Osaka, JP)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
H02J7/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
REDDING, DAVID A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Yokoi & Company U.S.A., INC. (13700 Marina Pointe Drive, Suite #723, Marina Del Rey, CA, 90292, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A self-propelled cleaner rechargeable traveling system comprising: a self-propelled cleaner having a body with a cleaning mechanism, a drive mechanism for steering and driving, and a charging terminal for charging; and a battery charger provided with a feeding terminal to be connected with the charging terminal, wherein the charging terminal of the self-propelled cleaner is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal of the battery charger; wherein the charging terminal of the self-propelled cleaner is located in a concave which is made in the self-propelled cleaner body and V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally, and the feeding terminal of the battery charger is located on a convex which is made in the battery charger and V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally; and wherein, when the charging terminal is connected with the feeding terminal, the convex is fitted into the concave.

2. A rechargeable traveling system comprising: a traveling machine having a drive mechanism for steering and driving, and a charging terminal for charging; and a battery charger provided with a feeding terminal to be connected with the charging terminal, wherein the charging terminal of the traveling machine is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal of the battery charger.

3. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the charging terminal of the traveling machine is located in a concave which is made in the traveling machine and the feeding terminal of the battery charger is located on a convex which is made in the battery charger; and wherein, when the charging terminal is connected with the feeding terminal, the convex is fitted into the concave.

4. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the concave and the convex are V-shaped as viewed vertically cross-sectionally.

5. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the traveling machine is a self-propelled cleaner with a cleaning mechanism.

6. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the traveling machine has an almost cylindrical body and the charging terminal is located on the peripheral surface of the body.

7. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 6, wherein a concave which is V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally is made on the back of the body on the peripheral surface of the cylindrical body and the charging terminal is located in this concave.

8. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 7, wherein the concave stretches for a given angle on the back face of the body BD, which takes the shape of a short cylinder, and its height is horizontally constant.

9. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 8, wherein the charging terminal is held on each of an arched upper face and an arched lower face.

10. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 9, wherein the charging terminal is an almost arched, flat metal strip with regularly spaced sharp-pointed claws extended therefrom, and the strip surface is made to fit the curved surface of a concave of the body by bending, or raising, the peripheral edge together with the claws in a given direction 90 degrees, and the terminal is fixed by letting previously formed claws bite into the curved surface of the body, and a narrow slit is previously formed in a location which is to face the claws, on the curved surface of the body.

11. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein a mark for positioning is provided at the center bottom of the battery charger.

12. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 3, wherein the battery charger is installed on a wall surface at a given height from a floor surface.

13. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 12, wherein the convex takes the shape of a thin box and is horizontally held protruded from a given wall surface.

14. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 13, wherein the cross section of the convex is horizontally long and vertically short, and almost rectangular and at a point where it protrudes from the wall surface by a given distance, the thickness begins to gradually decrease so that a slanted surface is made from its upper face and lower face toward its tip.

15. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 14, wherein the convex consists of an upper face and a lower face which are flat and a flat feeding terminal is held so as to cover them.

16. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 15, wherein the upper face and lower face of the convex coincide with the curved surface of the concave which stretches for a given angle on the peripheral surface of the body and is V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally.

17. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the body has a cleaning mechanism.

18. The rechargeable traveling system according to claim 2, wherein the drive mechanism has two drive wheels on the bottom of the almost cylindrical body and the two drive wheels are driven individually to enable forward movement, backward movement or rotation.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a self-propelled cleaner rechargeable traveling system and a rechargeable traveling system, and more particularly to a system which has a self-propelled cleaner including a body with a cleaning mechanism and a drive mechanism for steering and driving, and a battery charger which charges the self-propelled cleaner.

2. Description of the Related Art

A rechargeable traveling system has been known which has a self-propelled machine with a drive mechanism for steering and driving and a battery charger which charges the self-propelled machine (for example, JP-A No. 330543/2003).

The above conventional rechargeable traveling system having a self-propelled machine and a battery charger has the following problem: when a charging terminal in the self-propelled machine is connected with a feeding terminal in the battery charger for charging, it is difficult to align the charging terminal in the self-propelled machine with the feeding terminal in the battery charger. Particularly, when the system is designed to perform homing control by letting the self-propelled machine travel by itself and make the above connection according to a previously stored program, etc. or when the self-propelled machine can be controlled by the use of a remote controller and the user carries out the above connection using the remote controller, particularly the abovementioned alignment is difficult and the system may fail to charge the cleaner properly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention has been made in view of the abovementioned problem and provides a self-propelled cleaner rechargeable traveling system and a rechargeable traveling system that enable a self-propelled machine to be charged properly without fail.

In order to achieve the above object, according to one aspect of the invention, in a rechargeable traveling system which includes a traveling machine having a drive mechanism for steering and driving and a charging terminal for charging, and a battery charger provided with a feeding terminal to be connected with the charging terminal, the charging terminal of the traveling machine is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal of the battery charger.

In the above constitution, the rechargeable traveling system includes a traveling machine having a drive mechanism for steering and driving and a charging terminal for charging, and a battery charger provided with a feeding terminal to be connected with the charging terminal.

In addition, the charging terminal of the traveling machine is wider than the feeding terminal of the battery charger. Thanks to this constitution, in carrying out charging, even if the traveling machine is horizontally somewhat out of alignment with the battery charger, the charging terminal and the feeding terminal are connected and thus the self-propelled machine is charged properly without fail.

According to another aspect of the invention, the charging terminal of the traveling machine is located in a concave which is made in the traveling machine body and the feeding terminal of the battery charger is located on a convex which is made in the battery charger; and when the charging terminal is connected with the feeding terminal, the convex is fitted into the concave.

In the above constitution, since the connection between the charging terminal and the feeding terminal can be covered, it is possible to prevent someone from touching the connection and getting an electric shock.

According to another aspect of the invention, the concave and the convex are V-shaped as viewed vertically cross-sectionally.

In the above constitution, when the charging terminal and the feeding terminal are connected, the convex which has the same cross-sectional shape as the concave can be fitted into the concave which is V-shaped as viewed vertically cross-sectionally.

According to another aspect of the invention, the traveling machine is a self-propelled cleaner with a cleaning mechanism.

In the above constitution, cleaning can be done without the need for carrying the cleaner, so that the burden on a user who does cleaning is reduced.

According to another aspect of the invention, the traveling machine has an almost cylindrical body and the charging terminal is located on the peripheral surface of the body.

In the above constitution, since the body of the traveling machine is cylindrical and the charging terminal is located on the peripheral surface of the body, even when the traveling machine approaches the battery charger obliquely, the charging terminal and the feeding terminal can be connected properly without fail.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the external appearance of a self-propelled cleaner according to this invention;

FIG. 2 is a bottom view of the self-propelled cleaner as shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a back view of the self-propelled cleaner as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken along the line A-A of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 shows how the battery charger according to this invention is installed;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along the line B-B of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 shows that the self-propelled cleaner is approaching the battery charger for charging; and

FIG. 8 is a sectional view showing that the charging terminal and the feeding terminal are connected.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Next, a preferred embodiment of this invention will be described. Although the explanation given below assumes that the traveling machine as a constituent of the rechargeable traveling system according to this invention is a self-propelled cleaner which has a drive mechanism and a cleaning mechanism, this invention is not limited thereto; for example, it may be a traveling machine with a security function which patrols a room and detects an intruder. FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the external appearance of a self-propelled cleaner according to this invention and FIG. 2 is a bottom view of the self-propelled cleaner as shown in FIG. 1. In FIG. 1, the direction indicated by arrow A is the direction in which the self-propelled cleaner goes straight ahead. As shown in FIG. 1, the self-propelled cleaner 10 according to this invention has an almost cylindrical body BD and can go forward or backward or rotate by means of two drive wheels 12R and 12L (see FIG. 2) which are provided on the bottom of the body BD and individually driven. An infrared CCD sensor 73 as an imaging sensor is provided in the center on the front face of the body BD. This infrared CCD sensor 73 can take an image of an intruder or the like which appears in front of the body BD.

Below the infrared CCD sensor 73 are seven ultrasonic sensors 31 (31a to 31g) as distance measuring means. The ultrasonic sensors 31 include a transmitter which generates ultrasonic waves and a receiver which receives ultrasonic waves which are emitted from the transmitter and reflected by a wall ahead so that the distance to the wall can be calculated based on the time which it takes from emission of ultrasonic waves from the transmitter until the receiver receives them. Among these seven ultrasonic sensors 31, the ultrasonic sensor 31d is located in the center on the front face of the body BD; the ultrasonic sensors 31a and 31g are symmetrical; the ultrasonic sensors 31b and 31f are symmetrical; and the ultrasonic sensors 31c and 31e are symmetrical. When the direction of advance of the body BD is perpendicular to a wall ahead, the distance calculated by one of the symmetrical ultrasonic sensors 31 should be the same as the distance calculated by the other sensor.

In addition, pyroelectric sensors 35 (35a and 35b) are provided on the left and right sides near the front face of the body BD. The pyroelectric sensors 35a and 35b sense infrared rays emitted from a human body and thereby detect the presence of a human being near the body BD. Also, pyroelectric sensors 35 (35c and 35d) are provided on the left and right sides near the back face of the body BD though not shown in FIG. 1, so that detection can be made 360 degrees around the body BD.

In FIG. 2, two drive wheels 12R and 12L are located at the right and left sides of the center of the bottom of the body BD. In addition, three auxiliary wheels 13 are provided in the frontward area (advance direction side) of the bottom of the body BD. The number of auxiliary wheels 13 may be decreased as necessary; for example, only the central one may be left. Also step sensors 14 which detect an evenness of the floor surface or a step or level difference are provided on the upper right, lower right, upper left and lower left of the bottom of the body BD. A main brush 15 is provided beneath the center of the bottom of the body BD. This main brush 15 is rotated by a main brush motor 52 (not shown) so that rubbish can be swept away from the floor surface. The opening in which the main brush 15 is fitted is a suction hole, so that while the main brush is sweeping away rubbish, the swept rubbish is taken into the suction hole. Side brushes 16 are provided in the upper right and left positions of the bottom of the body BD.

FIG. 3 is a back view of the self-propelled cleaner as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 and FIG. 4 is a sectional view taken along the line A-A of FIG. 3. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, a charging terminal 27a which is to be connected with a battery charger 100 (stated later) for charging is formed on the peripheral surface of the cylindrical body BD and on its back face. A battery 27 is located inside the body BD as shown in FIG. 4. At the rear end of the battery 27 is a concave 27b which is V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally and the charging terminal 27a is located in this concave 27b.

The concave 27b stretches for a given angle on the back face of the body BD, which takes the shape of a short cylinder, in a way that its height is horizontally constant. Its cross section is a V-shaped concave and it is like an arc. Charging terminals 27a, 27a are stuck to the upper face and lower face of the arc respectively and held there.

Needless to say that it is possible to use a method other than the above “sticking” method. For example, the charging terminal may be an almost arched, flat metal strip with regularly spaced sharp-pointed claws extending therefrom, and the strip surface is made to fit the curved surface by bending, or raising, the peripheral edge of the strip together with the claws in a given direction 90 degrees, and the terminal is fixed by letting previously formed claws bite into the curved surface of the body BD. It is recommended that a narrow slit be previously formed in a location which is to face the claws, on the curved surface of the body BD.

In this case, since the peripheral edge of the charging terminal 27a is bent 90 degrees and its surface is curved, advantageously the battery charger's terminal (stated later) is unlikely to be caught by it. In addition, the terminal is fixed firmly by the bite of the claws and never comes off nor becomes loose.

FIG. 5 shows how the battery charger according to this invention is installed and FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along the line B-B of FIG. 5. As shown in FIG. 5, the battery charger 100 is installed on a wall W at a given height from a floor surface F. This battery charger 100 has a plug (not shown) and is plugged in by inserting the plug into an outlet (not shown) in the wall W and stands by for charging. A mark for positioning 102 is provided at the center bottom of the battery charger 100. As shown in FIG. 6, the battery charger 100 has, at its tip, a convex 103 which is V-shaped as viewed cross-sectionally and a feeding terminal 101 is provided on this convex 103.

The convex 103, which takes the shape of a thin box, is horizontally held protruded from a given wall surface. In other words, its cross section is horizontally long and vertically short and almost rectangular. At a point where it protrudes from the wall surface by a given distance, the thickness begins to decrease gradually so that a slanted surface is made from its upper face and lower face toward its tip.

Accordingly, this portion of the convex 103 has a V-shaped cross section. The convex 103 consists of an upper face 103a and a lower face 103b which are both flat. Flat feeding terminals 101, 101 are stuck so as to cover the upper and lower faces.

Since the convex 103 is flat, even if the center of the body BD is not in alignment with the center of the convex 103, they can touch each other in the same way within the width of the convex 103.

On the other hand, it is also possible to make the convex 103 fit the curved surface of the body BD. Namely, the surface of the convex 103 is curved so as to closely fit the charging terminal 27a fixed in the concave 27b with a V-shaped cross section which is formed on the peripheral surface of the body BD. When the curved surface of the convex 103 coincides with that of the concave 27b, it is expected that even if the center of the body BD is not in alignment with the center of the convex 103, by thrusting the body BD against the battery charger the position of the body BD is adjusted so that the convex 103 is more deeply inserted into the concave 27b. When the center of the body BD is in alignment with the center of the convex 103, the area of contact between their metal surfaces will be wide and thus charging will be done efficiently with low electric resistance.

It is needless to say that the same technique as used to fix the charging terminal 27a with claws may be used to make the curved surface of the feeding terminal 101.

FIG. 7 shows that the self-propelled cleaner is approaching a battery charger 100 to charge it and FIG. 8 is a sectional view showing that the charging terminal is connected with the feeding terminal. FIG. 7 illustrates the body BD of the self-propelled cleaner 10 which is moving back to approach the battery charger 100. As shown in the figure, the charging terminal 27a, located on the back of the body BD, is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal 101 of the battery charger 100. Therefore, when the self-propelled cleaner 10 is designed to perform homing control to travel by itself in order to charge its battery or when it is designed to be remotely controlled via a remote controller in order to charge its battery, even if it comes close to the feeding terminal 101 with the center of the charging terminal 27a horizontally somewhat out of alignment with the feeding terminal 101, the charging terminal 27a and the feeding terminal 101 are connected properly without fail and thus charging is carried out properly without fail.

The slanted surfaces of the charging terminals 27a, 27a and the slanted surfaces of the feeding terminals 101, 102 respectively constitute V-shaped cross sections in the vertical direction, so that even when the body BD moves back toward the battery charger 100 with some discrepancy between their heights, they can touch each other smoothly by pushing the body BD against the battery charger 100. Since the feeding terminals 27a, 27a are flush with the cylinder surface, even when the angle of the body BD is somewhat inadequate, they are always in touch with the normal line and contact failure is unlikely to occur.

When the charging terminal 27a of the body BD is connected with the feeding terminal 101 of the battery charger 100, the convex 103 of the battery charger 100 is fitted into the concave 27b of the body BD, as shown in FIG. 8. This covers the connection between the charging terminal 27a and the feeding terminal 101, which prevents someone who touches the connection from getting an electric shock.

Although the above embodiment assumes that the charging terminal of the body BD of the self-propelled cleaner 10 is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal 101 of the battery charger 100, this invention may be embodied as a rechargeable traveling system in which the feeding terminal of the battery charger is horizontally wider than the charging terminal of the traveling machine.

As explained so far, in the rechargeable traveling system according to an embodiment of the invention, since the charging terminal 27a, located on the back of the body BD of the self-propelled cleaner, is horizontally wider than the feeding terminal 101 of the battery charger 100, even if the body comes close to the feeding terminal 101 with the center of the charging terminal 27a horizontally somewhat out of alignment with the feeding terminal 101, the charging terminal 27a and the feeding terminal 101 are connected properly without fail and thus charging is of the self-propelled cleaner 10 carried out properly without fail.