Title:
Contracting spinner for clothes washer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The washing machine is provided with an inner rotatable drum which can be expanded for the wash and rinse cycles of the machine and contracted for the spin cycle of the machine. The drum includes front and rear end walls, and a plurality of wall segments connected to the end walls so as to define the side wall of the drum. The movement of the sidewall segments is controlled by a linkage assembly and a shaft actuated with a motor. By contracting the sidewall of the rotatable drum during the high speed spin cycle, unbalanced loads are eliminated or minimized.



Inventors:
Wunderlich, Daniel F. (Newton, IA, US)
Application Number:
11/117044
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
04/27/2005
Assignee:
Maytag Corporation (Newton, IA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
68/139, 68/142, 8/159
International Classes:
D06F37/00; D06F21/00; D06F25/00; D06F39/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PERRIN, JOSEPH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCKEE, VOORHEES & SEASE, P.L.C.;ATTN: MAYTAG (801 GRAND AVENUE, SUITE 3200, DES MOINES, IA, 50309-2721, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A washing machine having a rotatable drum for holding articles to be washed, the drum comprising: first and second end walls; a plurality of wall segments connected to the end walls and defining a sidewall extending 360°; and the segments being movable between expanded and contracted positions such that the diameter of the sidewall is variable.

2. The washing machine of claim 1 wherein the segments are pivotally connected to the end walls.

3. The washing machine of claim 1 wherein the segments include first ends pivotally connected to the end walls and second ends which are moveable inwardly and outwardly with respect to an axis of rotation of the drum.

4. The washing machine of claim 3 further comprising a linkage assembly connected to the first ends of the segments to pivot the second ends about the first ends.

5. The washing machine of claim 4 further comprising a shaft to drive the linkage assembly between a first position wherein the segments are expanded and a second position wherein the segments are contracted.

6. The washing machine of claim 4 wherein the linkage assembly resides outside one of the end walls.

7. The washing machine of claim 3 wherein the inner ends of each segment engages an adjacent segment in both the expanded and contracted positions.

8. The washing machine of claim 1 wherein the segments are moved from the expanded position to the contracted position for a spin cycle of the machine.

9. The washing machine of claim 8 wherein the segments are in the expanded position for wash and rinse cycles of the machine.

10. The washing machine of claim 1 further comprising a stationary outer tub surrounding the drum.

11. A method of washing laundry in a washing machine having a drum with an adjustable sidewall, the method comprising: moving wall segments of the sidewall to an expanded position for wash and rinse cycles of the machine; moving the wall segments to a contracted position for a spin cycle of the machine; and maintaining adjacent wall segments in contact with one another in both the expanded and contracted positions.

12. The method of claim 11 wherein the movement of the wall segments is by pivoting action.

13. The method of claim 11 wherein the wall segments move simultaneously.

14. The method of claim 11 wherein the wall segments move equally.

15. The method of claim 11 further comprising controlling movement of the wall segments with a linkage assembly.

16. The method of claim 11 further comprising actuating the movement of the wall segments with a rotatable shaft.

17. A washing machine, comprising: a drum rotatably mounted within the machine; a plurality of wall segments defining a sidewall of the drum; adjacent wall segments overlappingly engaging one another; and the sidewall of the drum being expandable and contractible.

18. The washing machine of claim 17 wherein the wall segments are pivotal so as to expand and contract the sidewall of the drum.

19. The washing machine of claim 18 further comprising a linkage assembly to control pivotal movement of the wall segments.

20. The washing machine of claim 18 further comprising a reversibly rotatable shaft to pivot the wall segments between expanded and contracted positions.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Top loading and front loading washing machines typically have a rotatable drum for holding the clothes to be washed. The drum has a fixed perimeter defined by the sidewall of the drum. After the wash and rinse cycles are complete, the machine normally goes into a spin cycle to extract water from the clothes. During the spin cycle, the drum rotates at relatively high rpms so as to extract water by centrifugal force. An unbalanced condition of the clothes in the drums, causes undesirable vibrations of the washing machine. The larger the diameter of the drum, the more accentuated the vibrations become. Various mechanisms are provided in the prior art-to overcome or reduce the vibrations, including dampers, balance rings, and the like.

Accordingly, a primary objective of the present invention is the provision of a washing machine having a drum which can be expanded for the wash and rinse cycles and contracted for the spin cycle to minimize the effect of unbalanced conditions in the drum.

Another objective of the present invention is the provision of a washing machine having a drum with an adjustable sidewall to reduce the diameter of the drum for the spin cycle.

Still another objective of the present invention is the provision of a washing machine having a rotatable drum with a sidewall comprised of pivotal wall segments to alter the diameter of the drum.

Another objective of the present invention is the provision of a method of washing laundry in a washing machine including the steps of expanding the diameter of the drum for the wash and rinse cycles and contracting the diameter of the drum for the spin cycle.

A further objective of the present invention is the provision of a clothes washing method comprising simultaneously and equally pivoting wall segments of the drum sidewall to reduce the drum diameter for the spin cycle of the machine.

Yet another objective of the present invention is the provision of a washing machine having a contracting drum to minimize vibrations from unbalanced conditions during the spin cycle.

These and other objectives will become apparent from the following description of the invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The washing machine of the present invention includes a rotatable drum for holding the clothes or articles to be washed. The drum includes first and second end walls, and a plurality of wall segments connected to the end walls so as to define a continuous sidewall extending 360°. The wall segments are moveable between expanded and contracted positions such that the diameter of the sidewall is variable. The wall segments include first ends pivotally connected to the end walls and second ends which are moveable inwardly and outwardly relative to the axis of rotation of the drum. The inner ends of the wall segments are pivoted inwardly by a rotating shaft and a linkage assembly so as to contract the drum diameter for the spin cycle, thereby minimizing the vibration effects of an unbalanced load condition in the drum.

The laundry washing method of the present invention involves the steps of moving the sidewall segments of the drum to an expanded position for the wash and rinse cycles of the machine, and moving the wall segments to a contracted position for a spin cycle of the machine. Adjacent wall segments are maintained in contact with one another in both the expanded and contracted positions. The wall segments are moved simultaneously and equally during expansion and contraction. Movement of the wall sections is controlled by a linkage assembly and actuated by a rotatable shaft.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front elevation schematic view of a washing machine of the present invention with a contractible inner drum in an expanded position.

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of the inner drum in the expanded position, but without the linkage assembly for clarity.

FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of the drum in a contracted position.

FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of the inner drum in a contracted position, but without the linkage assembly for clarity.

FIG. 5 is a rear view of the inner drum showing the linkage assembly for controlling movement of the drum sidewall segments in the expanded position.

FIG. 6 is a view similar to FIG. 5 showing the linkage assembly with the sidewall segments in the contracted position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

A clothes washing machine 10 includes an outer drum 12 and a rotatable inner drum 14. The outer drum 12 is conventional. As shown in FIGS. 1-4, the machine 10 is shown to be a front loading machine, though it is understood that the present invention can also be directed towards a top loading machine.

The inner drum 14 has an adjustable diameter which can be expanded and contracted during operation of the washing machine 10. More particularly, the inner drum includes a front end wall 16 and a rear end wall 18. The front end wall 16 has an opening 17 to provide access into the drum 14. The sidewall of the inner drum 14 is defined by a plurality of wall segments or flaps 20A-D, each of which have an outer end 22 and an inner end 24. The outer ends 22 of the segments 20A-D are pivotally connected to the end walls 16, 18, such that the segments 20A-D are pivotal about the pivot points 28A-D. Thus, the sidewall segments 20 are moveable between an expanded position for the wash and rinse cycles of the washing machine 10, as seen in FIG. 1, and a contracted position for the spin cycle of the washing machine 10, as seen in FIG. 3. By collapsing or contracting the sidewall segments 20A-D prior to the spin cycle of the machine 10, the load in the inner drum 14 will be moved closer to the rotational axis 25 of the drum 14 so as to eliminate or minimize the effect of an unbalanced load. The end walls 16, 18 function as inertial masses or flywheels so as to help stabilize the drum 14 during the spin cycle. By eliminating and minimizing unbalanced loads, higher spin speed can be achieved with the washing machine 10 of the present invention, as compared to machines wherein the inner drum or spinner has a fixed diameter. Due to the centering of the load, high water extraction performance can be consistently achieved. This extraction performance can result in lower energy usage and faster drying times in subsequent processing in a clothes dryer.

Adjacent segments 20 engage one another in both the expanded and contracted positions. The inner drum 14 has a substantially cylindrical shape in both the expanded and contracted positions.

Movement of the segments 20 between the expanded and contracted positions is controlled by a linkage assembly, as seen in FIGS. 5 and 6. The outer end 22 of each wall segment 20A-D is fixed to a pivot pin 28A-D extending through the front and rear end walls 16, 18. A pivot plate 30A-D is fixed on each pivot pin 28A-D, respectively. Each plate 30A-D includes opposite connection points 32A-D and 34A-D. The first connection point 32A-D of each plate is pivotally connected to the second connection point 34A-D on an adjacent plate by a straight arm or bar 36. Thus, the first connection point 32A of plate 30A is connected to the second connection point 34B of the plate 30B by one of the arms 36. The first connection point 32B of plate 30B is connected to the second connection point 34C of plate 30C by another connection arm 36. Thus, the arms 36 tie the plates 38A-D together such that the plates 38A-D, and thereby the wall segments 20A-D, move simultaneously. As seen in FIGS. 5 and 6, two of the arms extend beneath the plates 30A-D, and the other two arms extend above the plates 30A-D, such that the arms 36 do not interfere with one another.

The linkage assembly also includes an actuation shaft 38 rotatably mounted in a bearing on the rear wall 18. The shaft 38 has a bar 42 fixed thereto extending opposite directions from the shaft 38. A pair of arms 44 are pivotally connected to the opposite ends of the bar 42 and the second connection points 34A and 34C of the plates 30A, 30C. The arms 44 are shown to be L-shaped in FIGS. 5 and 6, but may take other configurations.

The shaft 38 is rotated in opposite directions by a reversible motor (not shown). The motor is operatively connected to the controls of the washing machine 10 such that the shaft 38 is rotated in a first direction to move the wall segments 20A-D to the contracted position, via the linkage assembly, just prior to the spin cycle. At the completion of the spin cycle, the motor rotates the shaft 38 in the opposite direction so as to move the wall segments 20A-D to the expanded position. It is understood that the wall segments 20A-D may be moved between the expanded and contracted positions using other means, without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the segments 20A-D could each have separate drive motors which would move the wall segments 20A-D between the expanded and contracted positions, either simultaneously or sequentially.

The invention has been shown and described above with the preferred embodiments, and it is understood that many modifications, substitutions, and additions may be made which are within the intended spirit and scope of the invention. From the foregoing, it can be seen that the present invention accomplishes at least all of its stated objectives.