Title:
Safety and interlock system for use with an automatic bowling pinsetter
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A safety and interlock system for use with an automatic bowling pinsetter is provided. In one embodiment, a safety interlock system is provided comprising a bowling pinsetter, a masking unit, a sensor configured to provide an indication after the masking unit is moved from a first position, and circuitry configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor. In another embodiment, a safety interlock system is provided comprising a bowling pinsetter defining a bowling pinsetter area, a sensor positioned to detect movement into the bowling pinsetter area, and circuitry configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to an indication provided by the sensor.



Inventors:
Recknagel, Troy A. (Muskegon, MI, US)
Sella, David M. (Spring Lake, MI, US)
Resterhouse, Michael R. (Muskegon, MI, US)
Prinz, Robert J. (Muskegon, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/698806
Publication Date:
07/31/2008
Filing Date:
01/26/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63D5/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
PIERCE, WILLIAM M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL (P.O. BOX 10395, CHICAGO, IL, 60610, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A safety interlock system for a bowling pinsetter, the safety interlock system comprising: a bowling pinsetter; a masking unit disposed in a first position near the bowling pinsetter, wherein the masking unit is movable from the first position; a sensor in communication with the masking unit, wherein the sensor is configured to provide an indication after the masking unit is moved from the first position; and circuitry in communication with the sensor and configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor.

2. The safety interlock system of claim 1, wherein the bowling pinsetter comprises a controller, and wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter by disrupting a communications loop connected to the controller.

3. The safety interlock system of claim 1, wherein the circuitry comprises a switch.

4. The safety interlock system of claim 1, wherein the circuitry comprises a controller.

5. The safety interlock system of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises an opto-electrical sensor comprising at least one of a transmitter and a receiver.

6. The safety interlock system of claim 5 further comprising a reflector disposed on the masking unit and positioned to receive a light beam generated by the transmitter when the masking unit is in the first position.

7. The safety interlock system of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises a mechanical sensor.

8. A method for providing a safety interlock system for a bowling pinsetter, the method comprising: positioning a sensor in communication with a masking unit when the masking unit is in a first position near a bowling pinsetter, wherein the masking unit is movable from the first position, and wherein the sensor is configured to provide an indication after the masking unit is moved from the first position; and positioning circuitry in communication with the sensor and the bowling pinsetter, wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the bowling pinsetter comprises a controller, and wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter by disrupting a communications loop connected to the controller.

10. The method of claim 8, wherein the circuitry comprises a switch.

11. The method of claim 8, wherein the circuitry comprises a controller.

12. The method of claim 8, wherein the sensor comprises an opto-electrical sensor comprising at least one of a transmitter and a receiver.

13. The method of claim 12 further comprising positioning a reflector on the masking unit to receive a light beam generated by the transmitter when the masking unit is in the first position.

14. The method of claim 8, wherein the sensor comprises a mechanical sensor.

15. A safety interlock system for control of a bowling pinsetter, the safety interlock system comprising: a bowling pinsetter defining a bowling pinsetter area; a sensor positioned to detect movement into the bowling pinsetter area, the sensor configured to communicate an indication representative of movement into the bowling pinsetter area; and circuitry in communication with the sensor and configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor.

16. The safety interlock system of claim 15, wherein the bowling pinsetter comprises a controller, and wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter by disrupting a communications loop connected to the controller.

17. The safety interlock system of claim 15, wherein the circuitry comprises a switch.

18. The safety interlock system of claim 15, wherein the circuitry comprises a controller.

19. The safety interlock system of claim 15, wherein the sensor comprises an opto-electrical sensor comprising at least one of a transmitter and a receiver.

20. The safety interlock system of claim 19 further comprising a reflector disposed on the masking unit and positioned to receive a light beam generated by the transmitter when the masking unit is in the first position.

21. The safety interlock system of claim 15, wherein the sensor comprises a mechanical sensor.

22. A method for integrating a safety system into a bowling pinsetter, the method comprising: positioning a sensor to detect movement into a bowling pinsetter area of a bowling pinsetter, the sensor configured to provide an indication representative of movement into the bowling pinsetter area; and positioning circuitry in communication with the sensor and the bowling pinsetter, wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor.

23. The method of claim 22, wherein the bowling pinsetter comprises a controller, and wherein the circuitry is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter by disrupting a communications loop connected to the controller.

24. The method of claim 22, wherein the circuitry comprises a switch.

25. The method of claim 22, wherein the circuitry comprises a controller.

26. The method of claim 22, wherein the sensor comprises an opto-electrical sensor comprising at least one of a transmitter and a receiver.

27. The method of claim 26 further comprising positioning a reflector on a masking unit to receive a light beam generated by the transmitter.

28. The method of claim 22, wherein the sensor comprises a mechanical sensor.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Automatic bowling pinsetters automatically organize, orient, and position bowling pins without the need for manual intervention or control. Some automatic bowling pinsetters are mechanically driven and controlled and include one or more cams, gears, and pulleys to control the timing and movement of the pinsetter. Other automatic bowling pinsetters are computerized or electrically-controlled and include a controller or logic system that is programmed to monitor and direct the mechanical components of the pinsetter. Both mechanically-driven and computer-controlled automatic bowling pinsetters have numerous moving parts and elements that may be dangerous to maintenance personnel, machine operators, casual observers, and others who are in proximity to the equipment. While some automatic bowling pinsetters have manual switches to turn off these moving parts, injury may still occur when a person is in proximity of the moving parts and is unaware of or chooses not to use the switch.

SUMMARY

The present invention is defined by the claims, and nothing in this section should be taken as a limitation on those claims.

By way of introduction, the embodiments described below provide a safety and interlock system for use with an automatic bowling pinsetter. In one embodiment, a safety interlock system is provided comprising a bowling pinsetter; a masking unit disposed in a first position near the bowling pinsetter, wherein the masking unit is movable from the first position; a sensor in communication with the masking unit, wherein the sensor is configured to provide an indication after the masking unit is moved from the first position; and circuitry in communication with the sensor and configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor. In another embodiment, a safety interlock system is provided comprising a bowling pinsetter defining a bowling pinsetter area; a sensor positioned to detect movement into the bowling pinsetter area, the sensor configured to communicate an indication representative of movement into the bowling pinsetter area; and circuitry in communication with the sensor and configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor. Other embodiments are disclosed, and each of the embodiments can be used alone or together in combination.

The embodiments will now be described with reference to the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 illustrates a side view of one embodiment of an automatic bowling pinsetter;

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of a masking unit that may be utilized with the automatic bowling pinsetter shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 illustrates a top view of one embodiment of a safety system that may be utilized with the automatic bowling pinsetter shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 illustrates an enlarged top view of the safety system shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 illustrates a schematic view of one embodiment of a safety system;

FIG. 6 illustrates a flow chart representative of one operational embodiment of the safety system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present disclosure provides examples and embodiments of safety systems and/or interlocks that may be designed or retrofitted into new or existing automatic bowling pinsetters. It will be understood from the examples discussed below that the safety systems and interlocks may be implemented individually or may be implemented cooperatively depending on the type of pinsetter equipment, the safety applications, and/or the applicable regulations or standards.

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of an automatic bowling pinsetter (or “pinsetter”) 100. The pinsetter 100 is mounted adjacent to the end of an elevated bowling lane surface 102. The pinsetter 100 includes a sweep 104 configured to push one or more bowling pins 106 towards a ball pit conveyor 108 disposed substantially adjacent to, and below the level or plane defined by, the elevated bowling lane surface 102. A pin elevator 110 is arranged to receive and vertically transport the individual bowling pins 106a supplied by the ball pit conveyor 108. The individual bowling pins 106a are supplied by the pin elevator 110 to a pivotable tray or shark switch 112 that guides or directs bowling pins 106 to a desired station on a pin distributor 114. The bowling pins 106 may be supported within the pin distributor 114 until they are required by a pin table 116 for placement on the elevated bowling lane surface 102.

In operation, a player (not shown), from a position distal to the pinsetter 100, rolls a bowling ball (not shown) along the lane surface 102 towards a rack, i.e., grouping of bowling pins 106, disposed within a pin or pinsetter area PA. The impact of the bowling ball and the bowling pins 106 may knock or scatter one or more of the individual bowling pins 106a out of the pinsetter area PA along the surface of the bowling lane 102 or out of the pinsetter area PA towards the ball pit conveyor 108. The sweep 104 may be deployed along the surface of the bowling lane 102 to slide the remaining displaced bowling pins 106 towards the bowling pit conveyor 108 and to protect against the possibility of additional balls thrown by the player. The individual bowling pins 106a are moved towards the pin elevator 110 where they are supported and carried between a base position B toward a top position T.

The bowling pins 106, upon nearing the top position T, are delivered to the pivotable tray 112. The pivotable tray 112 shifts or indexes to deliver the pins 106 to an appropriate or desired location within the pin distributor 114. The bowling pins 106 may then be transferred to the pin table 116 for placement onto the surface of the bowling lane 102. In particular, the pin table 116 and the supported bowling pins 106 vertically shift in the direction indicated by the arrow A from the retracted position shown in FIG. 1 to a position adjacent to the bowling lane surface for placement of the rack. Upon placement of the rack of bowling pins 106, the pin table 116 retracts towards the pin distributor 114 and clears the lane for the next cycle.

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of a masking unit 200 that may be mounted in front of the pinsetter 100 to camouflage the mechanism and provide an aesthetically-pleasing display or fascia to the player. The masking unit 200, as shown in FIG. 1, is mounted away from the pinsetter 100 and the pinsetter area PA along the lane surface 102. The illustrated masking unit includes a vertical frame 202 configured to support or carry a first panel 204 and a second panel 206 above the lane surface 102. In this exemplary embodiment, the first and second panels 204, 206 are slideably mounted relative to each other. In particular, the second panel 206 is fixedly attached or mounted to the frame 202, and the first panel 204 is slideably mounted to the frame 202. Thus, when access is desired to the pinsetter 100, the first panel 204 may be raised vertically to a position adjacent to the second panel 206.

Alternatively, the first panel 204 could be hinged or pivotable along a top edge 208 to a position above and substantially parallel to the lane surface 102 such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,356,346, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference. Similarly, the first and second panels 204, 206 could be replaced with a single panel (not shown) and pivotable in the manner described above. In yet another alternative, the first panel 204 could include or be divided to include a pair of sub-panels (not shown) hingedly attached to the frame 202 along the sides edges 210, 212. In this configuration, the sub-panels (not shown) could swing away from each other to provide access to the pinsetter 100.

As noted above, the pinsetter 100 has numerous moving components that may be dangerous to a person if he were in proximity to those moving components. The masking unit 200 acts as a barrier to prevent a person from entering into the pinsetter area and potentially being injured by those moving components. However, because the masking unit 200 is movable, a person can move this barrier and expose himself to danger. While some automatic bowling pinsetters have manual switches to turn off these moving parts, injury may still occur if the person is unaware of the danger or chooses not to employ the switch.

To address this concern, a safety interlock system can be used to automatically disable the pinsetter 100 after the masking unit 200 is moved from a first position. The “first position” can be the position of the masking unit 200 when it is properly mounted in a “normal” position or otherwise disposed to act as a barrier to the pinsetter 100. In general, the safety interlock system includes a sensor that is in communication with the masking unit 200 and is configured to provide an indication after the masking unit 200 is moved from the first position. The safety interlock system also includes circuitry in communication with the sensor and configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor. In this way, whenever the masking unit 200 is moved from the first position, thereby exposing a person to potential harm from the moving parts of the pinsetter 100, the safety interlock system will automatically disable the pinsetter 100 to prevent injury.

It should be noted that any type of sensor can be used in the safety interlock system. For example, the sensor could be an opto-electric sensor such as, for example, an infrared (IR) energy source and (separate or integral) receiver. In some embodiments, a reflector 304 is attached to the back of the masking unit 200 to reflect the energy beam sent or provided by the energy source back to the receiver. However, in other embodiments, the back of the masking unit 200 can be made of a reflecting material, thereby eliminating the need for a separate reflector. As another example, the sensor can be a mechanical switch in communication with the masking unit 200 via a wire or other mechanical connection (e.g., attached to a frangible coupler). For instance, a mechanical or spring-loaded plunger sensor can be used. As yet another example, the sensor can be a magnetic or Hall-effect switch mounted to the frame 202 in a position substantially in contact with one or more of the panels 204, 206 of the masking unit 200. A metallic portion of the panels 204, 206 can cooperate with the magnetic sensor to indicate the presence or absence of the panels 204, 206 in a desired location. Since many different types of sensors can be used, the term “sensor” used in the claims should not be interpreted as requiring a specific type of sensor unless explicitly recited in the claims. Also, while a single sensor can be used, more than one sensor can also be used, as described below.

The sensor provides an indication after the masking unit 200 is moved from the first position. This indication may take any suitable form. For example, the sensor may be configured to provide a signal only when it receives a reflected light beam (indicating that the masking unit 200 is in the first position). In this situation, the “indication” provided by the sensor would be the absence or lack of the signal. As another example, the sensor may be configured to provide a signal only when it does not receive a reflected light beam (indicating that the masking unit 200 was moved from the first position). In this situation, the “indication” provided by the sensor would be the presence of the signal.

As mentioned above, the safety interlock system comprises circuitry that is configured to disable the bowling pinsetter in response to the indication provided by the sensor. The circuitry can disable the pinsetter 100 in any suitable manner. In one embodiment, the circuitry disables only some of the components of the pinsetter 100, e.g., some or all of the moving parts that can cause injury, while, in another embodiment, the circuitry disables all of the components of the pinsetter 100, e.g., by removing power to the pinsetter 100.

It should be noted that “circuitry” can take any form. For example, circuitry may take the form of a simple switch that is opened in response to the indication from the sensor. “Circuitry” can take other forms, such as, but not limited to, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a programmable logic controller, an embedded microcontroller, a single-board computer, or, more generally, a processor and computer-readable medium storing computer-readable program code that is executable by the processor. Accordingly, the term “circuitry” should not be limited to any particular type of implementation, described herein or otherwise. Further, “circuitry” should not be limited to performing the functions described herein. For example, when circuitry takes the form of a processor executing software, it should be understood that the processor can perform functions in addition to the ones described above.

It should also be noted that the safety interlock system can be provided along with the pinsetter 100 and/or masking unit 200, to be installed at the same time as those components, or can be provided separately and retrofitted to a previously-installed pinsetter and/or masking unit. Accordingly, “positioning” the various components, as that term is used herein, is intended to cover both situations. Examples of pinsetters that can be used or retrofitted with a safety interlock system include, but are not limited to, a Model GSX Automatic Pinsetter and a Model A Automatic Pinsetter, both manufactured Brunswick Corporation. U.S. Pat. No. 5,429,554, which is also assigned to Brunswick and is hereby incorporated by reference, discloses another suitable pinsetter. Of course, the safety interlock system of these embodiments can be used with other pinsetters by Brunswick or other different manufacturers. As mentioned above, “circuitry” can take any suitable form. Accordingly, for older pinsetters that may use a very simple control system and not have a controller, the “circuitry” can include a controller that would cut power to the pinsetter.

Returning to the drawings, FIGS. 3 to 5 illustrate an example of a safety system 300 of an embodiment. The exemplary safety system 300 includes a sensor 302 mounted or positioned adjacent to the pinsetter 100 and the pinsetter area PA. The sensor 302 in this embodiment is an opto-electric sensor such as, for example, an infrared (IR) having an integral transmitter 502 and receiver 504 (see FIG. 5). The sensor 302 is arranged and aligned in communication with a reflector 304 positioned on the masking unit 200. As noted above, other types of sensors can be used, such as a mechanical switch in communication with the masking unit 200 via a physical component, such as a wire.

The illustrated embodiment depicts the sensor 302 communicating a beam or emitted signal 306 to the reflector 304 disposed or carried by the back surface of one or more of the masking unit panels 204, 206. The beam or emitted signal is, in turn, passively reflected back to the sensor 302. In this way, the presence or absence of one or more of the panels 204, 206 can be determined. For example, if the beam is emitted and received by the sensor 302, it can be assumed that the reflector 304, and the panel 204 to which it is mounted, is present and in a desirable location (i.e., the “first position”). Alternatively, if the beam is emitted but is not received by the sensor 302, it can be deduced that the panel 204 is absent or in an undesirable position (i.e., a position other than the first position).

The sensor 302 may be a normally opened device or contact that provides an indication or signal, such as a change in current, when the emitted beam is not returned or detected. In other words, when one of the panels 204, 206 is removed or misaligned, the sensor 302 will not detect the beam 306. The failure to detect the beam 306, in turn, causes the normally open sensor 302 to prevent or change the flow of current therethrough. Thus, if the first panel 204 were vertically displaced to a position adjacent to the second panel 206, the connection or communication established by the beam 306 between the sensor 302 and the reflector 304 would be severed or broken. This loss of communication provides an indication of a disturbance related to the masking unit 200 and may be utilized by circuitry to disable or shut down the moving components or elements of the pinsetter 100, as described below.

A similar indication can be provided when a mechanical sensor is used. For example, a spring-loaded plunger sensor can be placed in physical contact with the panel 204 of the masking unit 200, such that the spring-loaded plunger is depressed. The depressed plunger, in turn, can generate a signal or close a circuit to transmit a current that provides an indication that the panel 204 is in a desired location. Alternatively, the removal or displacement of the panel 204 (e.g., by accident or for maintenance reasons) can release the plunger to generate or transmit the indication. Regardless of how the signal is generated, the indication may be utilized to disable or shutdown the pinsetter 100 upon removal or movement of one or more of the panels 204, 206. For example, the indication, signal, or simply the change of state of the sensor 302 may be utilized by circuitry to disable the pinsetter 100.

As mentioned above, the sensor 302 is in communication with circuitry, which is configured to disable the pinsetter 100 in response to the indication provided by the sensor 302. FIG. 5 illustrates one example of this circuitry and how it disables or controls the pinsetter 100. Before turning to these specifics, an overview of the overall system 400 is provided. As shown in FIG. 4, in this system 400, a pair of pinsetters 100 are arranged in a side-by-side relationship and identified as the pinsetters 100A and 100B, respectively. The system 400 includes a controller 402, which is configured to control the operation of some or all of the components of both the first and second pinsetters 10A, 10B. The controller 402 is, in this exemplary embodiment, communicatively coupled to a first safety (or communications) loop 404 corresponding to the pinsetter 100A and a second safety loop 406 corresponding to the pinsetter 100B. In order to clearly identify like components within the safety loops 404, 406, “A” and “B” identifiers are appended to the components based on their connection or cooperation with individual pinsetters 100A and 100B.

The first safety loop 404 is configured to communicatively couple the controller 402 to the sensor 302A, a first interlock 408A (the “division interlock”), a second interlock 410A (the “elevator interlock”), and a third interlock 412A (the “return interlock”). These interlocks 408A, 410A and 412A are serially arranged to ensure that the failure or opening of any one of the interlocks 408A, 410A, and 412A will disrupt communications along the entire first safety loop 404. The controller 402 may monitor a ground signal provided via the first safety loop 404 such that a change in state of any of the interlocks 408A, 410A, and 412A can be utilized to disrupt the ground signal. Accordingly, these interlocks disrupt the operation of the pinsetters 100A, 100B in response to a detected problem with the division, elevator, and return components, respectively. The second safety loop 406 operates in a like manner to the first safety loop 404. In this configuration, an error or indication provided by the sensor 302B that trips any one of the interlocks 408B, 410B, and 412B in either of the safety loops 404, 406 allows the controller 402 to disable both of the bowling pinsetters 100A and 100B.

In this embodiment, the safety system 300 is provided as an additional interlock in the first and second safety loops 404, 406. FIG. 5 illustrates an electrical schematic of a safety configuration or system 500 illustrating how the safety system 300 is integrated with the other interlocks 408, 410, 412. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the sensor 302 (specifically identified as the sensor 302A cooperatively coupled to the first safety loop 404) includes an emitter 502 configured to generate and transmit an energy beam 306 towards the reflector 304. The sensor 302 further includes a receiver 504 configured to receive the reflected beam 306 returned from the reflector 304. As previously discussed, transmission and reception of the beam 306 indicates that the reflector 306, the panel 204, or other movable object to which the reflector 304 may be attached is in a desired (“first”) position.

The change of state of the sensor 302A in the safety loop 404 is initiated by a disruption of the beam 306 adjacent to the pinsetter area PA (e.g., by movement of the panel 204 away from the first position). This change of state causes the sensor 302A to provide an indication to circuitry configured to disable the pinsetter in response to the indication. Here, the circuitry takes the form of a switch 506, which opens when the indication is provided by the sensor 302A. As with the other interlocks 408A, 410A, and 412A, the opening of the switch 506 disrupts the continuity of the entire first safety loop 404, which causes the controller 402 to disable the pinsetter. As noted above, the controller 402 can disable the pinsetter in any suitable manner, such as disabling only some of the components of the pinsetter (e.g., just some or all the moving parts that can cause injury) or disabling all of the components of the pinsetter (e.g., by removing power to the pinsetter).

It should be noted that a variety of alternatives can be used with these embodiments. For example, while the light source 502 and receiver 504 of the sensor 302 and the switch 506 were shown in a single casing or component 510, one or more of these elements can be provided in different components. Also, while disruption of the safety system and the interlocks 408, 410, 412 resulted in the same type of response by the controller 402 in the above example, the controller 402 can be configured to provide different types of reactions depending on what component was disrupted.

In another alternative embodiment, instead of or in addition to detecting movement of the masking unit from the first position, the safety system can be used to to establish a safety barrier B (see FIG. 3). The safety barrier B in this embodiment is defined by the path of the beam 306 along the side of the pinsetter 100. This safety barrier B may be arranged to act as a “trip wire” to detect any encroachment on the pinsetter area PA from the direction indicated by arrow C. For example, if maintenance personnel were attempting to access the pinsetter area PA, the beam 306 would be disturbed and communications between the sensor 302 and reflector 304 would be lost.

The pinsetter area PA as illustrated in FIGS. 1, 3 and 4 may be the physical area or boundaries beneath and around the pin distributor 114 and/or the pin table 116. Alternatively, the pinsetter area PA can be expansively defined to include any area or access to pinsetter 100 that allows a person to potentially come into detrimental contact with one or more of the moving components thereof. For example, if the area behind the pinsetter 100 and adjacent to the pin elevator 110 did not include physical guards or barriers a person could potentially be injured by the moving elevator components. Thus, the pinsetter area could include this potential hazard, and the safety system 300 could be configured to protect against the occurrence of an incursion into this area. For example, emitting sensors 302 such as the above-described IR sensors and beams 306, light curtains and/or physical sensors such as pressure sensitive mats, or plunger switches may be positioned and arranged around the pinsetter 100 (100A and 100B) in an attempt to guard against accidental incursions from the top, front, back and sides of the equipment. It will be understood that the placement of these sensors 302 may be determined by a number of factors such as, but not limited to, the physical configuration and orientation of the pinsetter 100; the nature and severity of the potential injury to be guarded against, applicable safety laws and regulations, and implementation and retrofitting costs.

For example, if the pinsetter area PA is defined to include the area between the pinsetter 100 and the masking unit 200, a light curtain or pressure sensitive system may be employed. The light curtain may be vertically arranged in a manner substantially parallel to the frame 202 and panels 204, 206. In configuration, the light curtain can be utilized to establish a barrier B′. The barrier B′ can be defined by positioning a first transceiver module (not shown) opposite a second transceiver module (not shown). These modules, in turn, actively receive and transmit discrete signals and indications therebetween. In addition, individual transmission and reception elements (not shown) of the modules can be configured or “taught” to ignore disturbances, such as the passage of a bowling ball. Thus, the light curtain (not shown) could be place in close proximity to the lane surface 102 and configured to allow and ignore certain types of known disturbances. This capacity allows customized safety areas to be established around or above the pinsetter 100 without affecting the operation of the unit.

In another embodiment, the pinsetter area PA may be defined as the position next to or between the individual pinsetters 100A and 100B. In this instance, pressure mats or pressure switch may be deployed in the particular area. These mats or switches can be utilized to indicate when a person enters a potentially dangerous area. These mats or switches may be calibrated to allow the weight or pressure of the bowling balls, pins etc. to pass unnoticed while indicating that a person, i.e., an object above a predefined or established weight limit, may be too close to a potential hazard.

Regardless of the specific implementation, the sensor 302, as discussed above, can be configured to disable the pinsetter 100 when the masking unit 200 is moved from the first position and/or when the beam 306 is interrupted. For example, if a person removes the masking unit 200, thereby disabling the pinsetter 100, and turns towards another the pinsetter adjacent thereto, the sensor and beam associated with the second pinsetter can deactivate disable that device as well. In this way, if a person enters pinsetter area PA of the pinsetter 100 or passes through the barriers B, B′, an indication will be generated by the interruption of the beam 306.

FIG. 6 illustrates a functional flowchart representative of the operations or steps that may be executed in conjunction with the safety system 300. The steps or elements may be represented as computer code or logic stored on a memory and executable on a processor. Alternatively, these steps may be provided by a control panel assembled from physical switches, relays, and timers arranged to provide a desired functionality.

At block 600, the pinsetter 100 and safety system 300 are powered up from a main power trunk such as for example a 240 VAC power supply. It will be understood that the pinsetter 100 may utilized both direct and alternating currents for the control and operation of the mechanical and sensing equipment. For example, the controller 402 and sensor 302 may operate on a 12 or 24 VDC circuit, while the sweep 104, bowling pit conveyor 108, etc., may operate on the 240 VAC circuit or power supply.

At block 602, the controller 402 and pinsetter 100 may perform a system check to determine the status of the sensor 302, interlocks 408 to 412, and equipment 104, 108, to 116.

At block 604, the queried status of the controller 402 and the pinsetter 100 may be determined. If the status is acceptable or passes, meaning that the pinsetter 100 is determined to be operational and the sensor 302 and interlocks 408 to 412 are properly engaged, then at block 606, a normal bowling cycle may be initiated. If, however, the status is unacceptable or fails, meaning that the pinsetter 100 is determined to be nonoperational or fault state, and/or the sensor 302 and interlocks 408 to 412 are tripped or not properly engaged, then at block 608, the pinsetter 100 and/or the controller 402 may be disable.

Assuming that a fault or error has been generated, or detected by the removal of the masking unit 200 or the interruption of the beam 306, the controller 402 or other circuitry can disable the pinsetter 100. For example, the fault may cause the 240 VAC circuit or power supply to be immediately disconnected. The disconnection of this power circuit could cause any of the electrically connected equipment to immediately cease motion. Alternatively, the fault may cause the controller 402 or other circuitry to execute a shutdown subroutine to immediately cause the pinsetter 100 to stop in a desired location or position. It will be understood that the power can be maintained in the 12 or 24 VDC circuit to ensure that the circuitry can perform an orderly shut down of the pinsetter 100.

At block 610, once the fault state has been resolved and/or all of the interlocks have been returned to a safe or engaged state, the pinsetter 100 may be reset and re-engaged. Until a discrete reset or restart command or signal is provided via the controller 402, the pinsetter 100 remains disabled to prevent an unintentional start or injury. Upon receipt of the reset or restart command or signal, bowling cycle may continue or be initiated as shown at block 612.

Returning to block 604, as previously discussed, once the pinsetter 100 is determined to be operational and the sensor 302 and interlocks 408 to 412 are properly engaged, the bowling cycle may be initiated at block 606.

At block 614, the scores and results of one frame or cycle of a game may be recorded and/or displayed to the player.

At block 612, the ongoing status or completion of the game may be determined. If the bowling cycle or game is unfinished, the system may restart with another system check at 602 and interlock query at 604. If the bowling cycle or game is finished, the system ends at 616.

It will be understood that system may continuously query the sensor 302 and interlocks 408 to 412 to ensure that the pinsetter area PA and/or the masking unit 200 are clear and in a safe condition.

It should be understood that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention and without diminishing its intended advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be covered by the appended claims.