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1. Field of the Invention
In general, the present invention relates to tops and other novelty toys that balance as they spin. More particularly, the present invention relates to the structure of such spinning novelties and the mechanisms by which rotational energy is imparted to the spinning novelty item.
2. Prior Art Description
Tops, gyroscopes and other freely rotating devices share certain common functional features. Tops, gyroscopes and other rotating devices have a central axis around which they spin. The center of gravity associated with the rotating device passes through that central axis and the mass of the rotating device is evenly distributed around the central axis. As the top, gyroscope or similar spinning device is put into motion, the device spins about its central axis, as mentioned. Since the mass of the rotating device is evenly distributed around the central axis, the device spins in a uniform manner, thereby producing a balanced angular momentum. The balanced angular momentum enables the device to be balanced at a point in line with the central axis. The device will spin in a stable manner until the rotational speed of the device falls below a certain threshold level. As the speed of the device decreases, its angular momentum decreases. Eventually, the presence of angular momentum is insufficient to overcome the forces of gravity and the rotating device tips over.
Tops, gyroscopes and other spinning novelty devices have been in existence for generations. During that period of time, there have been many variations in design of the rotating novelty devices. In their simplest form, rotating novelty devices, such as tops and gyroscopes, are either directly manually spun or manually spun using a wound pull cord. Such manual means to provide rotational energy are inexpensive, however the rotational energy provided is relatively small. Consequently, the top or gyroscope only rotates for a short period of time before it tips over.
The longer that a top, gyroscope or other spinning toy spins, the more play value it generally has. Consequently, in the prior art, attempts have been made to create tops, gyroscopes and other spinning toys that spin for extended periods of time. One popular method of creating a device that spins for a prolonged period of time is to place a motor within the structure of the device. The motor spins a weight, thereby producing the angular momentum needed to maintain a spinning motion for as long as the motor is powered.
In the prior art, such devices are typically created by placing an electric motor in the center of the spinning toy. Batteries are then symmetrically placed around the electric motor so as to be balanced around the center of rotation. The batteries typically serve as the majority of the weight that is spun. As a result, the batteries both provide power to the electric motor and add significantly to the angular momentum of the device. Such prior art devices are exemplified by U.S. Pat. No. 3,628,285, to Murakami, entitled Gyroscopic Top Device.
A problem associated with prior art tops and gyroscopes that contain internal motors and batteries is that great care must be taken in the manufacturing tolerances in order to maintain the proper balance. This raises the cost associated with manufacturing such devices. Furthermore, since the spinning object contains both an electric motor and batteries, the device is rather heavy. Such devices, therefore, have a tendency to become damaged if the commonplace happens and the device falls to the floor after spinning off a table edge or falls out of a child's hand.
In U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,531 to Tiefel, entitled Electric Toy Top Device With Support And Its Associated Method Of Operation, a top is shown with an internal motor. The batteries that power the motor are contained in a separate handheld platform. Consequently, the motor is only powered when the top is spinning in the center of a handheld platform.
Although such a design prevents the need to place batteries in the structure of the spinning top, a motor must still be placed within the top. The top, therefore, must be made with high tolerances and with relatively high cost. Furthermore, the power of any motor that can fit in a small spinning top is limited. Accordingly, battery powered tops rarely can be made to spin at rotational speeds above 2000 RPM.
The faster a toy, gyroscope or other such device spins, the more angular momentum is developed. The greater the angular momentum, the longer the object spins and the more stable the object becomes whilst spinning. If the spinning object, such as a flywheel, is used to power a secondary mechanism, such as a toy car's wheels, the speed of the spinning object is proportional to the power available for use.
A need therefore exists for an improved type of spinning device that does not contain expensive internal motors, yet can be made to spin at speeds far beyond that capable by an internal motor. This need is met by the present invention as described and claimed below.
The present invention is a novelty spinning toy system and its method of providing rotational energy to a spinning toy.
A platform is provided having a bottom surface and a friction ring that encircles the bottom surface. The friction ring is preferably made of a hard synthetic rubber. A spinning toy assembly is provided that has a point upon which it spins in a balanced condition. The spinning toy assembly is initially set to spin on the platform at a low RPM rate. The platform is then manipulated to cause the spinning toy assembly to repeatedly contact the friction ring. Like spinning a marble in the base of a bucket, the spinning toy assembly gathers rotational speed as it contacts the moving friction ring. The spinning toy assembly, therefore, accelerates from its initial RPM rate to a rate much faster. Once up to full speed, the spinning toy assembly can be removed from the platform and used for even more play.
For a better understanding of the present invention, reference is made to the following description of exemplary embodiments thereof, considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the components of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention system;
FIG. 2 is a front view showing the spinning toy assembly engaging a fragmented section of a platform;
FIG. 3 is a side cross-sectional view of an exemplary embodiment of the platform;
FIG. 4 is a schematic showing the directions of rotation for both the platform and the spinning toy assembly; and
FIG. 5 shows an alternate embodiment of the present invention system.
Although the present invention can be configured in many ways, only a few exemplary embodiments are shown. The exemplary embodiments are selected to illustrate some of the best modes contemplated for practicing the invention. However, the selection of the exemplary embodiments is arbitrary and should not be considered a limitation upon the scope of the claims.
Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown an exemplary embodiment of the present invention system 10. The system includes a high velocity top 20, a platform 30 and an initial spin mechanism 40. As will later be explained, the platform 30 is used to impart rotational energy to the high velocity top 20. The high velocity top 20 has an elongated base 22 upon which it balances while spinning. The platform 30 contains a central support surface 32 into which the high velocity top 20 is placed. A friction ring 34 encircles the central support surface 32. The platform 30 is manually maneuvered in a repeating circular pattern in the horizontal plane. This causes the high velocity top 20 to travel in a circular pattern within the central support surface 32. As the circular pattern traveled by the high velocity top 20 increases, the elongated base 22 comes into contact with the friction ring 34. The friction ring 34 is moving relative to the elongated base 22. Consequently, when the elongated base 22 contacts the friction ring 34, rotational energy is transferred from the friction ring 34 to the elongated base 22. The high velocity top 20, therefore, increases its rotational speed each time it contacts the friction ring 34. Accordingly, with only a few movements of the platform 30, the high velocity top 20 can be made to rotate at speeds in excess of 5000 RPM, which is significantly faster than speeds achievable through use of an internal electric motor.
In order for the platform 30 to impart rotational energy to the high velocity top 20, the high velocity top 20 must be spinning upon its elongated base 22 within the central support surface 32 of the platform 30. The initial rotational energy needed to start the high velocity top 20 spinning can be applied manually with a user's fingers. However, it is preferred that an initial spin mechanism 40 be used. The initial spin mechanism 40 can be a pull string, a wound spring or any other known top spinning mechanism. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, a geared pull cord 42 is depicted. The geared pull cord 42 passes through a housing 44. The housing 44 receives the high velocity top 20 when the high velocity top 20 is not spinning. The housing 44 orients a gear 24 at the top of the high velocity top 20 with the geared pull cord 42. In this manner, the high velocity top 20 spins as the pull cord 42 is pulled out of the housing 44.
Referring to FIG. 2, in conjunction with FIG. 3, it can be seen that the high velocity top 20 spins upon the elongated base 22. The elongated base 22 has a shaft 26 that terminates with a rounded tip 28. It is the rounded tip 28 that comes into contact with a surface upon which the high velocity top 20 is spinning. A flange 29 is disposed around the shaft 26 directly above the rounded tip 28. The flange 29 is disc shaped, having a diameter at least twice as great as that of the shaft 26. The shaft 26 has a length of between one and ten millimeters. The length of the shaft 26 is important, as it is the shaft 26 that contacts the friction ring 34 on the platform.
The shaft 26 of the elongated base 22 extends into a floating hub 46. The floating hub 46 is telescopically received by a primary casing 48 of the high velocity top 20. A spring 50 is disposed around the floating hub 46 that biases the floating hub 46 into an initial position below the primary casing 48. The spring 50 acts as shock absorber. Should the high velocity top 20 be dropped upon its elongated base 22, the force of the drop will be absorbed by the spring 50. The impact energy momentarily compresses the spring 50 as the floating hub 46 is driven up into the primary casing 48. As the force of the impact is absorbed, the spring 50 expands back to its original size. By absorbing the energy from a drop impact with the spring 50, the high velocity top 20 is capable of being dropped from significant heights without having the shaft 26 of the elongated base 22 be bent by the force of the impact.
A flywheel structure 52 is coupled to the primary casing 48. The flywheel structure 52 is preferably weighted with a band of elastomeric material 54. The elastomeric material 54 provides resiliency to the flywheel structure 52, therein helping it bounce away from objects it may impact. The diameter of the flywheel structure 52 is at least ten times that of the diameter of the shaft 26 in the elongated base 22.
In the shown embodiment, a gear 24 is disposed atop the primary casing 48. The gear 24 is used to engage the pull cord 42 (FIG. 1) and is therefore only required if a pull cord is used. Furthermore, it is preferred that at least one element 49 on the top center of the primary casing 48 be either magnetic or be a ferro-magnetic material, such as steel. In this manner, the high velocity top 20 can be lifted up by a magnet, even while spinning at high rotational speeds.
Referring to FIG. 3, it can be seen that the platform 30 has a handle 36 that enables the platform 30 to be readily held and manipulated. The central support surface 32 of the platform 30 may be flat. However, in the shown embodiment, the central support surface 32 is concave, having its lowest point in the exact center. A magnet 38 is optionally located on the underside of the central support surface 32, directly underneath its center. As has been previously stated, the magnet 38 can be used to pick up the high velocity top 20, even while it is spinning.
The friction ring 34 surrounds the central support surface 32 on the platform 30. The friction ring 34 extends slightly over the central support surface 32. Consequently, there is a small gap 60 that exists between the bottom of the friction ring 34 and the top of the central support surface 32.
Referring to both FIG. 2 and FIG. 4, it will be understood that if the platform 30 is moved in a circular pattern in the horizontal plane while the high velocity top 20 is spinning, the high velocity top 20 will eventually widen its path and make contact with the friction ring 34. When in contact with the friction ring 34, it can be seen that it is the shaft 26 of the elongated base 22 of the high velocity top 20 that contacts the friction ring 34. When the shaft 26 of the elongated base 22 contacts the friction ring 34, the flange 29 below the shaft 26 passes into the gap 60 below the friction ring 34. The flange 29, therefore, serves as a safety guide that prevents the high velocity top 20 from leaving the support surface 32 of the platform 30 as rotational energy is being transferred to the high velocity top 20 by the friction ring 34.
Referring now solely to FIG. 4, it will be understood that if a user rotates the platform 30 in a counter-clockwise circular pattern, the friction ring 34 will be moving generally in the direction of arrow 62 in relation to the high velocity top 20. When the shaft 26 of the high velocity top 20 strikes the friction ring 34, the contact causes the shaft 26 to spin in a clockwise direction as it rolls along the moving friction ring 34. The shaft 26 of the high velocity top 20 has a very small diameter. Consequently rolling the shaft 26 along the friction ring 34 for even a short distance will impart very high rotational speeds to the high velocity top 20. The high velocity top 20, therefore, quickly achieves very high RPMs even though the platform 30 is being rotated at relatively low speeds.
Returning to FIG. 1, it will be understood that to utilize the present invention system 10, a high velocity top 20 is placed on the central support surface 32 of the platform 30 while spinning at relatively low speeds. The platform 30 is then repeatedly moved in a circular pattern until the high velocity top 20 engages the friction ring 34 surrounding the central support surface 32. Contact with the friction ring 34 transfers rotational energy to the high velocity top 20, therein causing the high velocity top 20 to accelerate to high RPMs. Once moving at high RPMs, the high velocity top 20 can be flipped out of the platform 30 and onto any other desired surface for play. As the high velocity top 20 slows, the magnet 38 (FIG. 2) on the bottom of the platform 30 can be used to lift the high velocity top 20 into the air, while it is still spinning. The velocity top 20 can then be flipped up away from the magnet and caused to land on the central support surface 32. The process is then repeated to recharge the high velocity top 20 back to a high RPM.
In the embodiments of FIGS. 1-4, the novelty device being caused to spin is a top. It will be understood that objects other than tops can be caused to rotate at high speeds using the same technique. An example of such is shown in FIG. 5.
Referring to FIG. 5, a toy motorcycle assembly 70 is shown. The toy motorcycle 70 shares many features with the high velocity top previously described. Like parts will be referenced with the same reference numbers to avoid confusion.
The toy motorcycle 70 has an enlarged rear wheel 72. The structure of the toy motorcycle 70 is such that the toy motorcycle 70 is balanced about the axis of the enlarged rear wheel 72. An elongated base 22 extends from one side of the rear wheel 72 of the toy motorcycle 70. The elongated base 22 has the same structure as the elongated base of the top previously described.
The toy motorcycle 70 is turned on its side and is caused to spin and balance upon the elongated base 22 extending from the rear wheel 72. It will be understood that the elongated base 22 extending from the rear wheel 72, receives rotational energy from the friction ring 34 as the platform 30 is manually moved in a circular pattern. The rotational energy is transferred to the rear wheel 72 of the toy motorcycle 70, which accelerates in speed. Once at a desired rotational speed, the toy motorcycle 70 can be flipped out of the platform 30 and onto the ground in an orientation that causes the rear wheel 72 to contact the ground. The toy motorcycle 70 will then roll using the rotational energy contained in the spinning rear wheel 72.
The use of a top and a toy motorcycle are only two examples of the many different toys that can be powered using the present invention system. Toy cars, toy helicopters, unicycles, gyroscopes and many other toys that require a high velocity spinning part can be adapted for use within the present invention system.
It will therefore be understood that the embodiments illustrated are merely exemplary and that a person skilled in the art can make many variations to this embodiments using alternate constructions of the invention. All such variations, modifications and alternate embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention as defined by the claims.