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The present invention refers to a clothes washing machine of the top loading type that is provided with a fixed tub, in whose interior is housed a rotative basket mounted in a vertical drive shaft passing through the bottom of the tub and inferiorly coupled to a motor unit.
In the clothes washing machines of the top loading type mentioned above, the motor unit, which is generally defined by an electric motor coupled to the drive shaft, directly or by transmission means, is affixed under a support frame that is secured or incorporated in a single piece to the external lower face of a lower wall of the tub, whereby the assembly defined by the motor unit, vertical drive shaft and rotative basket remains affixed to the tub, transmitting to the latter all the vibrations and oscillations caused by rotation of the basket during the washing and spinning operations, particularly upon spinning with eccentric masses resulting from a non-homogeneous distribution of the load of clothes in the interior of the basket. In this usual construction, the tub vibrates and oscillates jointly with the basket and the motor unit.
In this type of construction described above, the tub is defined by a structure that cannot be directly seated onto the floor, since it is caused to move during the machine operation. Thus, a need exists to provide suspension means which are able to absorb or dissipate at least part of the vibratory energy transmitted to the tub.
A known solution to overcome the problem above necessarily requires the provision of a cabinet surrounding both the tub and the motor unit and which is directly seated on the floor. This constructive arrangement includes the provision of suspension means generally in the form of springs or other elastic elements, mounted in rods that are secured, at one end, in the lower wall region of the tub and, at the other end, in the inner upper region of the cabinet.
Although being widely used, this prior art constructive solution requires the provision of a cabinet to operate as a support structure for the remaining part of the machine and also as a fixed housing, surrounding the oscillating parts of the machine and operating as an element that defines the esthetic aspect of said machine. Apart from being one more element in the construction of these machines, the cabinet leads to an increase in the dimensions of the assembly, since it must internally accommodate the suspension means, also providing a circumferential gap to be maintained in relation to the tub and which is also sufficient to prevent the latter from colliding against the cabinet during spinning operations with an eccentric load of clothes.
Another known solution is described in the patent document PCT/AU97/00334. In this constructive solution, the motor unit is affixed to the vertical drive shaft passing through the bottom of the tub and carrying the rotative basket, the motor unit being affixed to a support frame, which on its turn is seated on a base structure that is seated on the floor by suspension means comprising springs and dampening means. In this construction, the tub is affixed onto the support frame and oscillates and vibrates jointly with the basket and the motor unit upon machine operation. While the suspension means are provided under the support frame, allowing the structural function of the cabinet to be limited to the level of the support frame, a need still exists for the provision of a cabinet with sufficient height to surround the whole tub, in order to visually and operationally protect it during the machine operation, since the tub oscillates and vibrates jointly with the basket and the motor unit.
On account of the inconveniences mentioned above related to the known constructive arrangements, it is an object of the present invention to provide a clothes washing machine of the top loading type, whose washing liquid containing tub is able to define a corresponding cabinet portion of the machine, further giving more options to the esthetical design of said machine.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a clothes washing machine, such as defined above, which presents suspension means with reduced dimensions and simple construction, disposed under the washing liquid containing tub.
These and other objects of the invention are achieved with the provision of a clothes washing machine of the top loading type and which comprises: a base structure to be inferiorly seated on a floor; a tub to contain a washing liquid and which is affixed to the base structure; a support frame suspended in the interior of the base structure; suspension means to absorb the vibratory and oscillatory movements and which connect the support frame to the base structure, so as to maintain the former suspended in the interior of the latter; a motor unit disposed in the interior of the base structure, affixed to the support frame and carrying a drive shaft extending vertically upwardly to the interior of the tub; and a rotative basket disposed in the interior of the tub and operatively and selectively associated with the drive shaft.
The construction generically defined above allows the machine motor unit to be affixed under the support frame, which is maintained suspended by a plurality of suspension means in the interior of the base structure to be seated on the floor and which usually takes the form of a tubular body with its upper region defined by at least one medianly open wall portion for the passage of the drive shaft in its upper extension which penetrates into the interior of the tub. Thus, the rotative basket, the drive shaft, the support frame and the motor unit constitute an assembly that oscillates and vibrates during the washing and spinning operations of the machine, the vibratory and oscillation movements of said assembly being absorbed by the suspension means inferiorly affixed to the upper wall portion of the base structure.
With the arrangement cited above, the base structure remains fixed, supporting the whole moving assembly and also the elastically deformable suspension means. Thus, the tub of the clothes washing machine can be directly attached to the base structure, remaining affixed thereto while the moving assembly of the machine vibrates during the operation of the latter. Since the tub is fixed and free of the vibratory and oscillatory movements resulting from the machine operation, it may be constructed in such a way as to define a corresponding portion of the usual machine cabinet, dispensing the formation of an additional cabinet to surround the usual tub, as well as the mechanical elements associated with the motor unit of this type of equipment. This constructive solution considerably simplifies the construction of the clothes washing machine, further allowing the cabinet to be configured in different manners, increasing the options to define different ornamental plastic forms for the clothes washing machine.
The construction proposed herein further allows to utilize suspension means of extremely simple construction and with reduced dimensions, once they need only to maintain the support frame suspended in the interior of the base structure.
The invention will be described below, with reference to the attached drawings, given by way of example of a constructive form of the invention and in which:
FIG. 1 represents a rather simplified vertical sectional view of a clothes washing machine constructed according to the present invention, taken in the direction of line I-I in FIG. 2;
FIG. 1a represents a partial sectional view of the machine base structure of FIG. 1, illustrating, in an enlarged scale, a suspension means and its coupling to both the base structure and the support frame;
FIG. 2 represents a bottom plan view of the clothes washing machine illustrated in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 represents a bottom perspective view of the base structure, without the motor unit, the drive shaft, and the support frame, but carrying the suspension means;
FIG. 3a represents an enlarged detail of one of the suspension means illustrated in FIG. 3;
FIG. 4 represents a top perspective view of the base structure illustrated in FIG. 3, provided with the suspension means;
FIG. 5 represents a top plan view of the base structure, without the suspension means;
FIG. 6 represents a rear bottom perspective view of the machine tub;
FIG. 7 represents a bottom plan view of the support frame illustrated in FIGS. 1, 1a and 2; and
FIG. 8 represents a sectional view of the support frame, taken according to line VIII-VIII in FIG. 7.
As mentioned above and as illustrated in the attached drawings, the invention relates to a clothes washing machine of the top loading type and comprising a base structure 10, defining a generally tubular body to be inferiorly seated on a floor P defined in the site in which the machine will be installed. The base structure 10 may be constructed in different manners, preferably in the form of a tubular body comprising a surrounding housing 11, which in the illustrated embodiment is formed by a front wall portion 11a with a generally semi-cylindrical contour and extending to the rear region of the machine, by means of two opposite parallel lateral wall portions 11b, tangent to the front wall portion 11a. The base structure 10 superiorly carries an upper wall portion 12 incorporated, preferably in a single piece, to an upper edge of the front wall portion 11a and of the lateral wall portions 11b and being provided with a central opening 12a for the passage of other elements of the machine. The base structure 10 can be made in any appropriate material, such as for example, stamped metal sheet or otherwise shaped, or also in injected plastic material, so as to preferably constitute a bottom portion of the machine cabinet, making unnecessary the provision of another cabinet portion surrounding said base structure 10.
In the illustrated embodiment, the base structure 10 further comprises a vertically disposed rear frame having end edges internally affixed to the lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10 and also an upper edge inferiorly affixed to the upper wall portion 12, assuring strength to the base structure 10. Thus, the rear frame 13 operates as an open rear wall portion of the base structure 10, being further shaped in a generally semi-cylindrical form. It should be understood herein that the base structure 10 may be constructed in different manners and with different shapes, as long as it carries out the multiple functions of supporting the rest of the component parts of the machine and further preferably operates as a housing for the driving elements, as described hereinafter.
Still according to the illustrated construction, the front wall portion 11a and lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10 internally and inferiorly affix bed plates 14, each provided with a generally threaded bore 14a for receiving a respective foot 15 of the machine, as illustrated in FIGS. 1, 1a, 2 and 3. In the illustrated construction, there are provided four bed plates 14, in each being mounted a foot 15. It should be understood that the feet 15 can be in the number of three or more and constructed in different manners, this aspect however not being relevant to the novel constructive concept aimed by the present invention, the same occurring regarding the shape and material of the parts that form the base structure 10. For example, in case the base structure 10 is obtained in injected material, generally plastic, it can be formed in a single piece, to which the feet 15 are mounted.
Still according to the illustrated construction, the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 presents four semi-spherical recesses 16 that are angularly spaced from each other along a circular alignment, each semi-spherical recess 16 being provided, in its central region, with a bore 16a that is radially connected, through a slot 17, to a respective window 18 provided in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, in a radially internal position and close to the respective semi-spherical recess 16. It should be understood that the number of semi-spherical recesses 16 corresponds to the number of suspension means to be provided in the machine, the number of four semi-spherical recesses 16 corresponding only to the construction exemplified in the drawings, and this number can be different from four. The function of said semi-spherical recesses 16 will be discussed ahead.
The present machine further comprises a tub 20, dimensioned and shaped to contain a certain amount of washing liquid and which is constructed to be affixed on the base structure 10, esthetically harmonized with the latter. As already described in relation to the base structure 10, the tub 20 can be formed in metal sheet or in injected plastic material and shaped to define a washing liquid containing means that is adequate to the design of the clothes washing machine. In the constructive form illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 6, the tub 20 is defined by an independent element, comprising a cylindrical lateral wall 21, a pair of opposite parallel lateral shields 22 to be vertically aligned with the lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10, and a bottom wall 23 provided with a central opening 23a. In this construction, the tub 20 is affixed onto the base structure 10 by appropriate fixation means, generally in the form of screws 25, clips or any other elements that permit the solid and reliable fixation of the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, without jeopardizing the tightness of the tub 20. In the illustrated construction, the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 inferiorly incorporates a plurality of tubular axial projections 24, which are internally threaded and disposed in a circular arrangement and to be aligned with respective bores 12b provided in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, through which are ascendingly mounted the screws 25, whose body is threaded in the interior of a respective tubular axial projection 24 of the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20. There are also provided bores 24a on the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20, which are aligned with respective bores 12c of the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 and through which screws 25 are mounted.
According to the illustrated construction, in which the tub 20 is defined by a component independent from the base structure 10, the upper wall portion 12 of the latter incorporates a pair of upper ribs 19, which are fitted in respective slots 29 provided on the lower wall 23 of the tub 20, when the latter is seated on the base structure 10. This constructive arrangement facilitates the relative horizontal locking between the tub 20 and the base structure 10, guaranteeing the vertical alignment of the two parts.
It should be understood that the tub 20 may comprise a bottom wall 23 that is shaped so as to define an upper wall portion for the base structure 10. In a possible non-illustrated constructive form, the tub 20 can be incorporated to the base structure 10, forming a single piece therewith, in which condition the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 defines itself the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10.
As it can be noted, the present construction allows the tub 20 to be solidly incorporated to the base structure 10, defining with the latter the structure of the machine cabinet and making unnecessary the provision of any other additional housing that is generally defined by the usual cabinets of the prior art clothes washing machine. In the illustrated embodiment, the tub presents a cross-section contour equal to that of the base structure 10.
The construction proposed by the present invention further provides a support frame 30 generally formed in a cast metallic piece which is mounted in the interior of the base structure 10, so as to remain suspended therewithin by elastically deformable suspension means 40 that connect the support frame 30 generally to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10.
In the illustrated embodiment, the support frame 30 comprises, in a single piece, a central hub 31 incorporating four radial arms 32, angularly spaced from each other in 90 degrees, each provided with a lower projection 33. Beneath each lower projection 33 is affixed, through screws 34, a support plate 35 to which is mounted a motor unit 50, which in the illustrated constructive form comprises an electric motor 51, whose outlet shaft carries a drive pulley 52, a driven pulley 53 and a belt 54 operatively coupling the drive pulley 52 and the driven pulley 53.
The support plate 35 affixed to the support frame 30, or incorporated to the latter in a single piece, carries a bearing 37 in which journals the lower end portion of a drive shaft 55 extending vertically upwardly through the tubular hub 31 of the support frame 30, the driven pulley 53 being affixed to the lower end portion of the drive shaft 55, generally under the bearing 37.
However, it should be understood that the electric motor 51 may be directly coupled to the drive shaft 55, with or without an intermediate transmission defined by pulleys and belts or by other transmission means.
The drive shaft 55 extends vertically upwardly to the interior of the tub 20, penetrating into the interior of the latter.
In the illustrated construction, each radial arm 32 of the support frame 30 further presents a semi-spherical lower recess 36, similar to the spherical recesses 16 of the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 also provided with a bore 36a, and whose function will be described below.
A generally cylindrical and perforated rotative basket 60 is mounted in the interior of the tub 20 and secured in an upper end portion of a tubular shaft 56 mounted to journal around the drive shaft 55, so as to rotate jointly with said drive shaft 55 upon the rotative coupling between said shafts in the spinning operations of the machine, as taught in the prior art. The upper end of the drive shaft 55 carries an impeller 57 disposed in the interior of the basket 60.
In a possible construction of the invention, there are provided at least three suspension means 40 which are equally and angularly spaced from each other around the motor unit 50. Each suspension means comprises: a rod 41 having an upper end 41a articulated to the base structure 10, generally to an upper wall portion 12 of the latter; a median portion 41b disposed through a respective bore 36a of the lower recess 36 of a respective radial arm 32 of the support frame 30, and a preferably threaded lower end 41c, securing, for example through a threaded nut 42a and washer 42b, a stop means 42 in any adequate material. The lower end 41c of the rod 41 can be also deformed to define a retaining element for the stop means 42, eliminating the need of threading the end of the rod 41 and the provision of the nut 42a. Each suspension means 40 further comprises a generally helical support spring 43 disposed around the median portion 41b of the rod 41 and having its opposite ends respectively seated onto the stop means 42 and under the respective radial arm 32 of the support frame 30, making the latter remain seated onto the support springs 43 of the suspension means provided in the machine. In the illustrated construction, four suspension means 40 are provided, each being associated to a respective radial arm 32 of the support frame 30, the upper end of the support spring 43 being seated against a pad 43a, preferably in an anti-friction polymeric material whose upper portion is in the form of a spherical calotte to be seated in the interior of the semi-spherical lower recess 36 of a respective radial arm 32 of the support frame 30, allowing an articulated coupling to be defined between the upper end of the support spring 43 and the support frame 30, as the central bore 36a of each lower recess 36 is dimensioned to permit the free and radially loose passage of the median portion 41b of the rod 41.
Each suspension means 40 may further comprise a dampening spring 44 disposed around the rod 41 and having its opposite ends respectively seated, through pads 44a, 44b, onto the support frame 30 and under an upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. The provision of the dampening spring 44 in each suspension means 40 allows both springs of each suspension means to work in opposite directions, with the dampening spring 44 constantly forcing the respective portion of the support frame 30 against the support spring 43 of the same suspension means 40. This construction using double springs acting in opposite directions in each suspension means 40 gives to the latter a higher capacity to absorb the vibratory energy and the oscillating motions coming from the motor unit during the washing and spinning operations of the machine. In a constructive form illustrated in the drawings, the stop means 42 of each suspension means 40 carries a cylindrical tubular sleeve 45, generally in plastic material and which is designed to surround at least part of the longitudinal support spring 43 of the respective suspension means 40.
In the illustrated construction, the upper end 41a of each rod 41 is disposed through the bore 16a of a respective spherical recess 16 of the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. To the upper end 41a of each rod 41 is fixed, for example by threading, a spacer pad 46, preferably made of an anti-friction material whose lower portion has the form of a spherical calotte to be seated and rotatably affixed in the interior of the semi-spherical recess 16, constituting an articulated coupling between the upper end 41a of each rod 41 and the base structure 10.
Due to the provision of the windows 18 and the radial slots 17 in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, the spacer pad 46 can be attached to the upper end 41a of the rod 41 before being mounted in the interior of a respective semi-spherical recess 16, since the spacer pad 46 can be passed upwardly through a window 18 and conducted to the adjacent semi-spherical recess 16, by displacing the rod 41 along the radial slot 17. It should be noted that the windows 18 present an area that is sufficiently open to allow the passage of the spacer pads 46.
As illustrated in FIG. 1, the central opening 23a of the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 receives, through any well known mounting means of the art, a sealing means 70 dimensioned to provide a seal between said bottom wall and the tubular shaft 56 to whose upper end is secured the basket 60.
While only one possible way of carrying out the present clothes washing machine has been illustrated herein, it should be understood that alterations can be made in the form and arrangement of the different elements that constitute the equipment, without departing from the inventive concept defined in the claims that accompany the present disclosure.