Title:
Self-cleaning public toilet and corresponding safety equipment
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A self-cleaning public toilet comprising a safety and alarm system. The safety and alarm system includes a plurality of load cells that weigh the user who has entered a space; a photoelectric-sensor device, for detecting the presence or otherwise of a person in the space during washing and drying of the inside of the toilet; and at least one pressure switch located in a pneumatic system for supply of a pneumatic cylinder that actuates a rotating arm for cleaning a toilet bowl.



Inventors:
Feltri, Paolo (Pontecurone, IT)
Application Number:
12/003575
Publication Date:
01/08/2009
Filing Date:
12/28/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K4/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HUSON, GREGORY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Blank Rome LLP (1825 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20006-5403, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising a load-bearing structure (11), a toilet bowl (16), a wash-basin (17), means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11), and alarm and safety means; wherein said alarm and safety means comprise at least one sensor (P1, P2) located in a pneumatic system (IP) for moving a rotary arm (200) for cleaning said toilet bowl (16).

2. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 1, wherein moreover comprises a photoelectric-sensor system (227) for detecting the presence or otherwise of a person at least in a part of the space (RM) during washing and drying of the inside of the toilet (10).

3. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising: a load-bearing structure (11); a toilet bowl (16); a wash-basin (17); means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11); and alarm and safety means; wherein said alarm and safety means comprise: a plurality of load cells (226) (FL) that weigh the user who has entered the space (RM); and a photoelectric-sensor system (227), for detecting the presence or otherwise of a person at least in a part of the space (RM) during washing and drying of the inside of the toilet (10).

4. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 3, wherein it moreover comprises at least one pressure sensor (P1, P2) located in a pneumatic system (IP) for moving a rotary arm (200) for cleaning said toilet bowl (16).

5. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising: a load-bearing structure (11); a toilet bowl (16); a wash-basin (17); means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11); and alarm and safety means; wherein a door (18) for access to a space (RM) first makes a number N of first attempts at closing; if it does not encounter any obstacles, it closes; if, instead, it encounters an obstacle, it makes second attempts at closing after a certain pre-set period of time; if even the second attempts at closing continue to be unsuccessful, the toilet (10) is in “out of order” conditions and this fact is communicated outside via warning and alarm means.

6. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising a load-bearing structure (11), a toilet bowl (16), a wash-basin (17), means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11), and alarm and safety means; wherein said means for washing comprise a rotary arm (200) for washing/drying, comprising, in turn, a substantially U-shaped press-bent plate (200a); the rotary washing/drying arm (200) moreover envisaging a first rectilinear portion (201), the length of which is substantially equivalent to that of a first side portion (HG1) of a seat (HG) of a toilet bowl (16); the first portion (201) continuing with a second portion (202) inclined with respect to said first portion (201) by an angle such as to reproduce approximately the curvature of a second head portion (HG2) of the seat (HG).

7. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 6, wherein the press-bent plate (200a) houses inside it a washing manifold (203) provided with a plurality of washing nozzles (204) designed to distribute a cleaning solution, and in that moreover located within the rotary arm (200) is a drying manifold (205) provided with a plurality of drying nozzles (206) designed to distribute air.

8. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 7, wherein the washing nozzles (204) are activated for N1 cycles of to-and-fro movements of said rotary arm (200), whilst the drying nozzles (206) are activated for N2 cycles of to-and-fro movements of said rotary arm (200).

9. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 6, wherein, in the resting position, i.e., during the presence of a user within an internal space (RM), the rotary arm (200) remains hidden away within a container (210), it coming out only for carrying out the cycles of cleaning set by means of an electronic control unit (CC).

10. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 9, wherein the rotary arm (200) in the resting position is housed in a seat (ST) provided in the container (210), i.e., in the resting position the external surface (ES) of the press-bent plate (200a) is coplanar with the external surface (210a) of a wall (WL) of the container (210) facing the space (RM).

11. The self-cleaning public toilet (10) according to claim 6, wherein for rotation of the rotary arm (200) is used a pneumatic cylinder (PC) that is able to convert a linear motion into a rotary motion.

12. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising a load-bearing structure (11), a toilet bowl (16), a wash-basin (17), means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11), and alarm and safety means; wherein said means for washing comprise a rotary arm designed to distribute water vapour.

13. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising a load-bearing structure (11), a toilet bowl (16), a wash-basin (17), means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11), and alarm and safety means; wherein it comprises a manifold (CL), provided with nozzles from which there exit jets of water, and a gate (SR) located on the opposite side of said manifold (CL), the water running over a floor (FL) drawing along with it towards the evacuation gate (SR) any possible refuse left by the user.

14. The self-cleaning public toilet (10), according to claim 13, wherein the gate (SR) first makes a number N of first attempts at closing, and if it does not find any obstacles it closes; if instead it finds an obstacle, it makes second attempts at closing after a certain pre-set period of time; if even the second attempts at closing continue to be unsuccessful, the toilet (10) is in “out of order” conditions, and this fact is communicated outside via warning and alarm means.

15. A self-cleaning public toilet (10) comprising a load-bearing structure (11), a toilet bowl (16), a wash-basin (17), means for washing, after use, at least some devices and parts contained in a space (RM) within said load-bearing structure (11), and alarm and safety means; wherein it comprises means for checking for the presence of electric mains current at the moment in which the user wishes to open an exit door (18); if the system verifies that there is no electric mains current, it switches immediately onto a standby battery; furthermore, in the case where also the standby battery were to be out of order, a pneumatic device is actuated, which enables opening of the exit door (18) in any case.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a self-cleaning public toilet and to the corresponding safety equipment.

More in particular, the present invention regards a self-cleaning public toilet in which washing and drying of the toilet is carried out automatically after each individual use.

2. Description of the Related Art

In towns, there is a more and more widespread use of self-cleaning public toilets to be installed in a fixed way in public places, or else in a removable way on the occasion of events (sports events, concerts, etc.) in which large crowds of people gather.

In the past, the use of self-cleaning toilets of this type has highlighted different problems, which can be summarized as follows:

(1) the systems of cleaning and drying are costly and difficult to maintain;

(2) the toilet systems are subject to frequent acts of vandalism, which considerably raise the costs of management thereof; and

(3) the toilet systems do not respect effective rules as regards safety, both in terms of the aspects regarding safe opening of the exit door or as regards possible moving devices within the toilet itself.

In effect, in the past, there have occurred events, including even tragic ones, in which the exit door failed to open for a wide range of reasons, or else the users were injured by mobile washing devices present inside the self-cleaning toilet.

All of the above problems have merely had the effect of discouraging many potential users from using this type of toilets, both because they consider them not very clean, and because not they do not deem them altogether reliable from the safety standpoint.

A kind of self-cleaning toilet is known from the document No. WO 95/30801 (SELF-CLEANING ENVIRONMENTS USA, INC.). The system described in this document envisages a wall-mounted articulated rotary arm that can move angularly along vertical/horizontal planes from a resting position, in which it is mounted in a wall, to a position of activation, in which it is set above a sanitary appliance to be washed. The rotary washing arm enables diffusion of the liquid from nozzles for cleaning the sanitary appliances. In addition, said rotary arm can be pre-arranged for describing a pre-set path around an area of interest.

Even though the system described in WO/95/30801 has yielded certain appreciable results in the cleaning of sanitary appliances, it is deficient as regards the aspect of safety. In fact, in this system no device is provided for stopping the rotary washing arm in the case where it were to encounter, during its rotation, an obstacle along its path.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Consequently, forming the main subject of the present invention is to provide a self-cleaning toilet that is not only simple to manage, but is also very safe for users.

Provided, therefore, according to the present invention is a self-cleaning toilet with the corresponding safety equipment as claimed in the attached Claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will now be described with reference to the annexed drawings, which illustrate a non-limiting example of embodiment thereof and in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a plan view of a self-cleaning toilet forming the subject of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a first layout of the self-cleaning toilet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 illustrates a second layout of the self-cleaning toilet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows a third layout of the self-cleaning toilet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 illustrates a fourth layout of the self-cleaning toilet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 shows a rotary washing arm in a closed position;

FIG. 7 illustrates the rotary washing arm of FIG. 6 in a partially open position;

FIG. 8 shows the rotary washing arm of FIG. 6 in a totally open position;

FIG. 9 illustrates a first part of a block diagram corresponding to the safety system of the self-cleaning toilet of FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; and

FIG. 10 shows a second part of a block diagram corresponding to the safety system of the self-cleaning toilet of FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, designated as a whole by 10 is a self-cleaning toilet forming the subject of the present invention.

The self-cleaning toilet 10 comprises a substantially parallelepipedal load-bearing structure 11, obtained with traditional systems.

The load-bearing structure 11 delimits, with its walls 12, 13, 14, and 15, an internal space RM of use designed to house the toilet facilities, as will be described hereinafter.

In fact, the internal space RM houses in a known way a toilet bowl 16, set up against the wall 13, and a wash-basin 17, resting on the wall 15 opposite to the wall 13.

The load-bearing structure 11 is equipped with a hydraulic technical space HTS external to the space RM and in effect constituting the aforesaid wall 15. The hydraulic technical space HTS is designed to contain hydraulic equipment (not illustrated), which has the purpose of sending water to the toilet bowl 16, to the wash-basin 17, and to the washing system (see hereinafter).

The hydraulic technical space HTS is closed by a main door D1, which can be opened only from outside the toilet 10.

Housed in an electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS, in effect constituting the wall 13, is electrical and pneumatic equipment (not visible) necessary for operation of the self-cleaning toilet 10 (see hereinafter).

The electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS is closed by a main door D2, which can be opened only from outside the toilet 10.

The wall 14 is equipped with a sliding door 18, which enables entrance/exit of the users (not shown), whilst a door 19 hinged on hinges 20 is provided on the wall 12. The door 19 can be opened only in the case of emergency by specialized personnel (staff of the company responsible for maintenance of the toilet, firemen, etc.).

Alongside the sliding door 18, there is a device (not shown), referred to as “coin box”, for payment of the service.

The self-cleaning toilet 10 moreover comprises a washing system 100, which uses a rotary washing/drying arm 200 designed to rotate about a vertical axis (A) (FIGS. 1, 7 and 8) through a maximum angle of 90°. The vertical axis (A) is fixed, with known means, to a service cabinet 210 made preferably of stainless steel, contiguous to the electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS.

As illustrated in greater detail in FIG. 8, the rotary washing/drying arm 200 comprises a substantially U-shaped press-bent plate 200a made of steel. In addition, the rotary washing/drying arm 200 comprises a first rectilinear portion 201, the length of which is substantially equivalent to that of a first side portion HG1 of a seat HG of the toilet bowl 16. The first portion 201 of the rotary arm 200 continues with a second portion 202 inclined with respect to said first portion 201 by an angle such as to reproduce approximately the curvature of a second head portion HG2 of the seat HG.

Once again with reference to FIG. 8, it may be noted that the press-bent plate 200a houses inside it a box-shaped washing manifold 203, provided with a plurality of washing nozzles 204, set in use facing the seat HG of the toilet bowl 16. Some devices (not shown), contained in the hydraulic technical space HTS and in the service cabinet 210, send, via a pipe 207, a washing solution of water and disinfectant to the washing manifold 203 and then to the nozzles 204, by which it is sprayed onto the toilet bowl 16, for example during a number N1 of to-and-fro cycles, which can be set via an electronic control unit CC (FIG. 1), of the rotary washing/drying arm 200.

In addition to the washing manifold 203, located within the rotary washing/drying arm 200 is also a drying manifold 205 (FIG. 8), which also has a boxlike shape, provided with a plurality of nozzles 206, through which preferably hot air is sent. The drying operation is carried out according to the same criterion as that of “washing” with a number of to-and-fro cycles, programmable once again via the electronic control unit CC.

The air is supplied to the drying manifold 205 via a pipe 207 (FIG. 8).

In the resting position, i.e., during the presence of the user within the internal space RM, the rotary arm 200 remains hidden away within the service cabinet 210, it coming out only to carry out the cycles of cleaning set by the maintenance operator by means of an electronic control unit CC (FIG. 1).

In effect, as illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, the rotary arm 200 in the resting position is housed in a seat ST provided in the cabinet 210. In other words, in the resting position (FIG. 6) an external surface ES of the press-bent plate 200a is coplanar with an external surface 210a of a wall WL of the cabinet 210 facing the space RM. In this way, it is not necessary to use doors that open for exit of the washing member, but it is the external surface ES itself that functions as door when the rotary arm 200 is housed entirely in the seat ST.

For actuation of the rotary washing/drying arm 200, a pneumatic cylinder PC is used, which is able to convert a linear motion into a rotary motion (rotary actuator indicated by the double-headed arrow F). The pneumatic cylinder PC is housed in the service cabinet 210 in a position readily accessible from the electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS.

In addition, the pneumatic cylinder PC is connected to a pneumatic system IP comprising two electro-pneumatic valves V1, V2, associated to each of which is a respective pressure switch P1, P2 for carrying out functions that will be described hereinafter.

Preferably, to wash the seat HG and the side and internal walls of the toilet bowl 16 water containing disinfectant is sprayed by the nozzles 204, said water containing disinfectant coming from a centrifugal pump (not illustrated) that raises the pressure of the liquid to 7 bar.

In a further embodiment of the present invention, an instantaneous generator is used that produces steam, as an alternative to the pressurized washing solution, using an aqueous solution. One of the advantages of this latter solution as compared to the others lies in the fact that the use of steam at a high temperature eliminates the step of drying. The steam can be water vapour and can be distributed by a rotary arm of the type described.

In addition, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the wall 12 is equipped, on the internal surface of the space RM, with a mirror 208 made of stainless steel, and an emergency push-button 209 (in addition to the already mentioned door 19).

Located on the wall 15 (illustrated in FIG. 3), in addition to the wash-basin 17 and to a device 17a designed to deliver a solution of hot water and neutral soap, hot water, and hot air for drying hands, is a hatch 211 for refuse, a further emergency push-button 212, a loudspeaker 213, a perfume nebulizer 214, a microphone 215, a push-button 216 for calls of a technical nature, a push-button 217 for calls of a sanitary nature, a light 218 for warning that the time available to the user is drawing to an end, and a push-button 219 for opening the door 18 by the user.

The device 17a can moreover also perform the function of washing of the underlying wash-basin 17, once the toilet 10 has been used and the user has left it.

As regards the wall 14 (FIG. 4), in addition to the already mentioned door 18, also present are a dispenser 220 of paper seat-covers to be installed before use on the seat HG of the toilet bowl 16, a handle 221 of possible aid for the user, and a push-button 222 for activation of a flush (not shown).

FIG. 5 illustrates the devices that equip the wall 13. In addition to the already described service cabinet 210, toilet bowl 16, and rotary washing/drying arm 200, there is a handle 223, a device for dispensing toilet paper 224, and a further emergency push-button 225 located on the outer casing of the service cabinet 210. The cycle of operation of the self-cleaning toilet 10 is managed in a completely automatic way by the electronic control unit CC.

Furthermore, the bi-directional movement of the pneumatic cylinder PC (arrow F) that enables rotation through 90° of the rotary washing/drying arm 200 is guaranteed by two electro-pneumatic valves V1, V2, governed according to a program managed by the electronic control unit CC. For detection of the positions of the pneumatic cylinder PC, magnetic limit switches (not illustrated) are used.

A very important aspect of the present invention relates to the safety equipment installed in the self-cleaning toilet 10.

In effect, the floor FL in the hydraulic technical space HTS and the electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS is provided with a plurality of load cells 226 (four in the case in point), which are able to sense the presence of a user within the toilet 10. The load cells 226 also have the purpose of weighing the user. The floor FL in turn comprises a metal load-bearing structure coated with a metal plate of large thickness covered by a ribbed mat made of non-slip rubber and in which the longitudinal axes of the ribbings extend from the wall 15, in which the hydraulic technical space HTS is located, to the wall 13, where the electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS is installed.

In effect, when the space RM has been left free by the user after use, in order to clean the floor FL, the system governed by the control unit CC sends water under pressure into a manifold CL located underneath the wash-basin 17. The manifold CL is equipped with nozzles (not shown), from which there exit jets of water at a high pressure, which impinge upon the floor FL at a grazing angle. The jets draw along with them any possible refuse left on the floor FL by the user towards an evacuation gate SR (FIG. 5), set underneath the toilet bowl 16.

Once the cycle of washing of the floor FL is completed, the jets of water are stopped, the gate SR is closed automatically ready for being re-opened at the next cycle.

In addition, installed on the wall WL of the service cabinet 210 is a photoelectric-sensor detection system 227 (FIGS. 5 6, 7, 8) that amply covers the range of sweep of the rotary washing/drying arm 200. At a possible detection of a person or whatever else in the range of action of the rotary arm 200, the system 227 immediately stops the course of the rotary arm 200, or rather, blocks the cycle in progress, freeing the arm 200 from the forces of actuation, sending the pneumatic system IP into “discharge”, and putting the toilet 10 in an “out of order” condition.

In other words, if the arm 200 finds any resistance along its path, this fact results in a corresponding raising of the pneumatic pressure in one of the pressure switches P1, P2, according to the direction of rotation of the arm 200 itself.

The pneumatic system IP is conceived in such a way that, if the pressure in one of the two pressure switches P1, P2 exceeds a given pre-set threshold, the pneumatic system IP itself goes into “discharge” and thus it is as if the arm 200 were “idle” about the axis (A).

At the same time, an “out of order” signal is generated.

Operation of the self-cleaning toilet 10 is represented schematically in the flowchart of FIGS. 9 and 10.

The routine starts with a block (S), where the payment is made by the user via the coin box of the amount established for use of the toilet 10. In block (S) also the door 18 opens and the user enters the space RM.

Weighing of the user is performed by means of the load cells 226. If the weight detected is less than 20 kg or more than 250 kg, the system enables use of the toilet bowl 16 and of the other toilet facilities only with the door 18 open in order to prevent a small child from remaining closed in the toilet 10 by mistake or else a number of persons from being closed inside at a time.

If the check on the weight has yielded a positive result, the door 18 closes after a check (CHECK 1) appearing in block (X) has been made. The door 18 first makes three attempts at closing, and if it does not find any obstacles it closes; if, instead, it encounters an obstacle, it again makes attempts at closing; if the attempts at closing continue to be unsuccessful, it is evident that the toilet 10 is out of order, and this fact is signalled on the panel of the coin box.

In the case where the toilet 10 presents any faults, the system goes to a block (Y), in which there is intervention of the technical-assistance and maintenance service and a manual “reset” of the public toilet 10 itself on the part of specialized personnel.

Illustrated in block (T) are the various steps followed by the system during a check for presence or otherwise of fumes, in particular inside the hydraulic technical space HTS and the electrical and pneumatic technical space EPTS. Evidently, if the system detects the presence of fumes, control returns to block (Y).

Represented in block (U) is the activation of the various push-buttons 209, 212, 216, 217, 219 and 225.

If the user remains in the toilet 10 for less than 15 minutes and presses the push-button 219, the door 18 opens with an acoustic and visual warning. Immediately after, the door 18 re-closes, and the system passes to point (2) of block (W).

Consequently, the washing cycle starts, performed by the rotary arm 200 on the toilet bowl 16, by the device 17a on the wash-basin 17, and by the jets of pressurized water that exit from the floor-washing manifold CL. After flushing the floor FL and removing any possible refuse present thereon, the water is discharged through the gate SR located on the opposite side.

It should be noted, moreover, that in block (W) there is also made a check by the photoelectric-sensor detection system 227 as well as the check by the pressure switches P1, P2.

A check (CHECK 2), identical to CHECK 1, which is also represented in block (X), regards the checks that are made by the system for detecting any possible faults occurring during closing of the gate SR.

To return to block (V), in addition to the already mentioned check on the time of permanence of the user in the toilet 10, there is a check on the presence of electric mains current at the moment when the user wishes to open the door 18 by pressing the push-button 219.

The safety procedure is provided only on the emergency push-buttons 212, 209 and 225; in effect, the user resorts to an emergency push-button only if the “exit” push-button 219 does not activate opening of the door 18. If the system verifies that there is no electric mains current, it switches immediately onto a standby battery. In the case where also the standby battery were to be out of order, a tank for accumulation of air under pressure (not shown) is actuated, which in any case enables opening of the door 18.

The user presses the push-button 219 just once, and the system resorts to the solution suited to the need in a completely automatic way.

The main advantages of the self-cleaning toilet forming the subject of the present invention are described in what follows:

    • a rotary washing/drying arm, the external surface of which, in the resting position, is coplanar with the external surface of a cabinet; in this way, it is not necessary to use doors that open for exit of the washing member; and
    • a safety system that is extremely effective because it envisages the use of as many as three devices (load cells on the floor, photoelectric sensors on the service cabinet, and pressure sensors in the pneumatic control system of the rotary arm) for detecting the unwanted presence of a user inside the toilet during the steps of cleaning thereof.





 
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