Title:
MULTI-DRUM WASHER/DRYER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A multi-drum washing/drying machine includes a main rotating housing supported within a cabinet. The housing supports multiple drums that are rotatable independent of the rotating housing. The rotating housing rotates about a main axis to increment each of the drums through a washing station and a drying station to provide washing of multiple different loads of laundry with only one initial loading operation.



Inventors:
Cassisi, Tony (Shelby Township, MI, US)
Suchoski, Jim (Shelby Township, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/485232
Publication Date:
12/17/2009
Filing Date:
06/16/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
68/16
International Classes:
D06F29/02; D06L1/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PERRIN, JOSEPH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARLSON, GASKEY & OLDS, P.C. (400 WEST MAPLE ROAD, SUITE 350, BIRMINGHAM, MI, 48009, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A washing/drying machine comprising: a rotating housing rotatable about a first axis; a plurality of drums supported within the rotating housing, wherein each of the plurality of drums are rotatable separate and independent of the rotating housing; a washing station including mating connections connectable to each one of the plurality of drums for communicating water for a washing cycle; a drying station including mating connection connectable to each one of the plurality of drums for communicating heat for a drying cycle; and a controller for governing incremental rotation of the housing to move each of the plurality of drums through the washing and drying stations.

2. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 1, including a loading station for loading laundry into the plurality of drums.

3. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 2, wherein the plurality of drums comprises four drums supported within the rotating housing, where each of the four drums are independently rotatable relative to and within the rotating housing.

4. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 2, including a housing drive motor for rotating the rotating housing about the first axis to move each of the plurality of drums between the washing station, the drying station and the loading station.

5. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 4, wherein the washing station includes a first motor for rotating the one of the plurality of drum located at a washing station during a washing operation.

6. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 4, wherein the drying station includes a second motor for rotating one of the plurality of drums located at the drying station.

7. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 4, wherein the rotating housing includes a central hub disposed along the first axis, the central hub including connections for supplying and draining water for the washing station and heat to the drying station.

8. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 1, wherein the washing station and the drying station are operable concurrently.

9. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 2, wherein the rotating housing and the plurality of drums are supported within a cabinet, the cabinet including an opening for accessing the plurality of drums disposed at the loading station.

10. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 9, including a door for covering the opening, wherein the door opens to position providing a shelf adjacent the opening to aid loading and unloading.

11. The washing/drying machine as recited in claim 2, including a drain bypass for reusing rinse water from a drum at the washing station by diverting the rinse water to another of the drums that will next be cycled to the washing station.

12. A method of washing and drying laundry comprising: loading multiple drums supported within a rotatable housing with laundry for cleaning; rotating the rotatable housing to place one of the multiple drums proximate a washing station and another of the multiple drums proximate a drying station; operating corresponding ones of the multiple drums separately and independently to perform washing and drying; and rotating the rotatable housing to cycle each drum through the washing and drying stations until laundry within each drum are washed and dried.

13. The method as recited in claim 12, including the step of loading laundry into at least some of the multiple drums at a loading station.

14. The method as recited in claim 12, wherein the step of operating corresponding ones of the multiple drums includes connecting one of the multiple drums to water connections provided at a washing station and connection another of the multiple drums to a heat connection at a drying station.

15. The method as recited in claim 14, cycling each of the multiple drums from the washing station to the drying station.

16. The method as recited in claim 15, wherein the multiple drums comprises four drums disposed within a rotatable housing, and the method comprises the step of washing laundry in one of the four drums, and concurrently drying laundry in another of the four drums.

17. The method as recited in claim 15, wherein cycling of the multiple of drums comprises rotating the rotatable housing to place a desired one of the multiple drums at each of a washing station and a drying station.

18. The method as recited in claim 17, including the step of engaging one of the drums to a water source at the washing station and engaging another of the drums to heat source at the drying station.

19. The method as recited in claim 18, including the step of reusing rinse water discharged from the drum at the washing station into another of the drums that is to be cycled to the washing station next by diverting water from the drum at the washing station to the next drum to be cycled to the washing station.

20. The method as recited in claim 12, wherein laundry is washed and dried within the same one of the multiple drums.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/061,743 which was filed on Jun. 16, 2008.

BACKGROUND

This disclosure generally relates to a multi-drum washer and dryer. More particularly, this disclosure describes a multi-drum washer and dryer that provides for washing and drying clothes in a common rotating drum.

Conventional clothes washing involves the use of a separate washer and dryer. Clothes are loaded into a washer cleaned and then removed and placed into a separate dryer. This process is often repeated numerous times daily for large families. Further, even washing and drying a signal load of laundry requires multiple loading and unloading. Additionally, the time required for washing multiple loads of clothes can take up a great deal of a time and limit planned activities in order to avoid leaving a load of damp clothes within the washing machine.

Accordingly, it is desirable to design and develop an improved device and method for cleaning and drying clothes that reduces loading and unloading times and that also eliminates transfer of clothes between a washer and a dryer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of an example washer/dryer for cleaning multiple loads of clothes concurrently.

FIG. 2 is a schematic view of an example washer/dryer including multiple separately rotatable drums.

FIG. 3 is a schematic view of a side of the example washer/dryer.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged schematic view of an alternate portion of the example washer/dryer.

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram of the example process performed for washing multiple loads of laundry in the example washer/dryer.

SUMMARY

An example multi-drum washing/drying machine is disclosed and includes a main rotating housing supported within a cabinet. A plurality of rollers support rotation of the rotating housing and a motor drives rotation. The housing supports first, second, third and fourth drums that are each rotatable independent of the rotating housing. The rotating housing rotates to increment each of the drums from a loading station through a washing station and a drying station. The example washing/drying machine provides for the washing of multiple loads of laundry with only one initial loading operation. Operation continues until the laundry in each of the multiple drums has cycled through the washing and drying stations. As the laundry is washed and dried in the same drum, no further action is required until all drums have completed the wash and dry cycles.

Accordingly, multiple loads of laundry can be washed and dried before any further action is required on the part of an operator. Once complete, the machine will stop in a condition where all clothes are cleaned and dry. No wet clothes are left sitting in any drums.

The various features and advantages of this disclosed washing/drying machine will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description. The drawings that accompany the detailed description can be briefly described as follows.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, an example washing/drying machine 10 includes multiple drums (one drum 16 shown) supported within a cabinet 50. The cabinet 50 includes at least one opening 52 accessible through at least one door 32. In the illustrated example, two separately operable doors 32 are shown, one in a closed position, and another door in an open position to provide a shelf to aid in loading and unloading of laundry 11. The cabinet 50 covers multiple drums that provide for the washing and drying of multiple loads of clothes without moving clothes between a separate washer and dryer. A controller 44 is mounted to the cabinet 50 and includes input keys 46 and a display 48 for controlling operation of the washing/drying machine.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the example multi-drum washing/drying machine 10 is shown schematically and includes a main rotating housing 12 supported within a cabinet 50. A plurality of rollers 40 supports rotation of the rotating housing 12. A motor 22 drives one of the rollers 40 and belt 24 to drive rotation of the rotating housing 12.

A first drum 14, second drum 16, third drum 18 and a fourth drum 20 are all supported within the rotating housing 12. Each of the drums 14, 16, 18, 20 is rotatable independent from the rotating housing 12 and is essentially identically configured. Rollers 42 support rotation of the example drums 14, 16, 18, 20 relative to the housing 12. As appreciated, although the example machine 10 includes four drums, other numbers of drums could also be utilized and are within the contemplation of this invention.

The rotating housing 12 rotates about a main axis 15 to increment each of the drums 14, 16, 18, 20 through a washing station 26 and a drying station 28. Loading and unloading of laundry is accomplished at loading/unloading stations 30. The example loading and unloading station 30 is disposed as an upper portion of cabinet 50. The washing and drying stations 26, 28 are disposed at a lower portion of the cabinet 50.

A central hub 56 includes connections that mate to a drum disposed within the washing and drying stations 26 and 28. The connections include a water inlet 34 for communicating water to the drum at the washing station 26, and an outlet 54 provides for draining of water from the drum.

A heat inlet 36 is provided to communicate heated air to the drum in the drying station 28 and an exhaust 38 expels hot air from the drum during a drying cycle. Each of the drums 14, 16, 18, and 20 include mating features that correspond to the water connections (inlet 34, outlet 54) and heat connections (inlet 36, exhaust 38). As appreciated, the drying station can be facilitated using an electric heating unit. When an electric heating unit is utilized, the inlet 36 comprises an electric input. Further, the heating unit may comprise a gas heating unit such that the inlet 36 comprises a gas inlet to fuel the gas fired heating unit.

In FIG. 2, water mating features 60, and heat mating features 58 are shown schematically. The mating connections include seals that provide for mating and sealing upon incremented rotation of the rotating housing 12. Each mating connection includes an actuateable valve for starting and stopping water and heat flow as is required to implement the desired washing and/or drying cycle.

The drums 14, 16, 18 and 20 include features that facilitate washing, rinsing, and drying of laundry disposed therein. The various features within the drums 14, 16, 18 and 20 provide the desired agitation at the washing station, and the rotation at the drying station. The drums 14, 16, 18, and 20 are schematically illustrated and can include inner and outer drums as is commonly known for washers and dryers.

Referring to FIG. 4, the example washing/drying machine may include a bypass valve 86 that diverts rinse water from the washing station 26 to the next drum that is set to begin the wash cycle. The hub 56 includes an additional water connection to communicate rinse water to a drum at one of the loading unloading stations through a bypass conduit 88. As appreciated, instead of draining rinse water through the drain 54, the rinse water is diverted by way of the valve 86 through the bypass 88 to the next drum, 16 in this example. The use of the rinse water conserves water that would otherwise simply be sent down to the drain 54. The drum receiving the rinse water is then cycled to the washing station 26, where the drum is topped off with any additional water that may be required along with any soap required to begin the washing cycle. The washing cycle then proceeds for this drum as set originally.

Referring back to FIG. 2, the controller 44 mounted to the cabinet 50 includes the display 48 and input 46 to set operation for each of the drums 14, 16, 18, and 20. The input 46 and display are as know and govern operation of washing/drying and rotation of the housing 12. Although the example controller 44 is mounted to the cabinet 50, the controller 44 can be mounted internally, or in any other location within the washer drying machine 10. Further, the controller 44 can communicate instructions by way of a wireless link and be dispose in a location apart from the washer/dryer 10. The example controller 44 includes a programmable microcontroller that can be programmed with instructions as known to operate the motors and actuate the water control and heat control valves in a desired sequence for washing and drying laundry disposed within each of the drums 14, 16, 18, and 20.

The cabinet 50 includes the access door 32 that covers the access opening 52 to each the drums 14, 16, 18, and 20 positioned in the loading/unloading station 30. The access door 32 operates as a shelf to aid loading and unloading of clothes. Further, the access door 32 can be configured to open as shown to form the shelf and also to slide open vertically in applications where sufficient space is not available for the shelf. As appreciated, other access door 32 and shelf configuration are also within the contemplation of this invention.

Referring to FIG. 5, with continued reference to FIG. 2, operation of the washing/drying machine 10 is performed according to the example steps indicated at 62. The washing/drying machine 10 is initially positioned such that two drums are in the loading/unloading station 30 and the remaining drums are disposed in the lower portion of the cabinet 50. In the example, the first drum 14 and the second drum 16 are disposed within the loading/unloading station 30. Clothes are loaded as desired as indicated at 64. Clothes can be separated by type and loaded into different drums. Once drums 14 and 16 are loaded, the housing 12 is rotated to place the third and fourth drums 18, 20 as is indicated at 66.

The example process is described in reference to loading clothes into each of the drums. However, the example washer/dryer 10 may be utilized with any number of the drums loaded with clothes. For example, the washer/dryer 10 could be used to wash one load of clothes, or could be used for two, or just three loads.

The third and fourth drums 18, 20 are then loaded as indicated at 68. With all of the drums loaded, the desired wash cycle is selected as indicated at 70. Selection is performed by using the input device 46 and display 48 of the controller. As appreciated, the selection of a desired wash and dry cycle can be selected after loading of each drum, or can be selected once all the drums are loaded. Further, the controller 44 can include prompts to ensure that a selection is made pertaining to each of the drums. The selections can be made based on clothes type, such as for example, whites, colors or the like as is known. Further, other desired cleaning options can be selected for cleaning laundry within each of the drums. The selections are specific and separate for each of the drums 14, 16, 18, and 20.

With the selections made, the cycle is started as is indicated at 72. The cycle will include incremental rotation of each drum through the washing station 26 and drying station 28 until laundry in each of the drums 14, 16, 18 and 20 are washed and dried. No further effort or action is necessary by an operator.

The machine cycle begins by incrementing the housing such that the first drum 14 is disposed at the washing station 26 for washing as indicated at 74. The mating connections are made at the direction of the controller 44 and washing is performed. The washing operation is performed as known by oscillating and spinning the drum 14 to provide the known soak, soap, rinse and spin cycles. Further, additional cycles such as adding bleach or softeners can be included during this cycle.

Rotation of the drum is implemented by a drive schematically shown as 19. The drive 19 can be of any known type that provides the desired rotation of the drum about the axis 17a. As no other drum yet contains wet clothes, the drying station 28 does not yet operate. Further, the drums in the loading/unloading station simply sit and wait.

Alternatively, upon completion of the washing cycle, rinse water is diverted through the bypass 88 controlled by the valve 86 to the next drum scheduled for washing. The diversion of the rinse water to the subsequent drum conserves water by reusing the rinse water for the next wash cycle. Additional water is added to fill the drum as is required depending on the load and type of wash selected. As appreciated, cumulative reuse of rinse water through the entire cycle of the machine can be considerable. Accordingly, the activation and use of the bypass function to reuse rinse water for subsequent wash cycles provides a function not possible in conventional single drum/single load washing machines. As appreciated, rinse water from the last of the four drums will simply be directed to the drain, as no additional washing cycles would be necessary.

Upon completion of the first washing cycle as indicated at 76, the housing 12 is rotated to move the drum with washed clothes to the drying station 28 as indicated at 78. An adjacent drum is concurrently cycled to the washing station 26. The required water and heat connections are made and washing and drying operations are concurrently commenced as is indicated at 80. During this step, both the washing station 26 and the drying station 28 operate as one of the drums includes clothes that require drying. Rotation of the drum at the drying station 28 is provided by a separated drive 21 to provide the desired rotation about the axis 17b. The controller 44 governs this operation according to the initial selections made.

The operation continues until the laundry in each drum has cycled through the washing and drying stations 26, 28 as is indicated at 82. As the laundry is washed and dried in the same drum, no further action is required until all drums have completed the wash and dry cycles. Accordingly, four loads of laundry can be washed and dried before any further action is required on the part of an operator. Additionally, once complete, the machine will stop in a condition where all clothes are cleaned and dry. No wet laundry is left sitting in any drums. With the laundry now cleaned and dried, each of the drums is unloaded as indicated at 84. Unloading is performed by unloading the two drums in the loading/unloading station 30, and then rotating the housing 12 to provide access to the other drums.

Although a preferred embodiment of this invention has been disclosed, a worker of ordinary skill in this art would recognize that certain modifications would come within the scope of this invention. For that reason, the following claims should be studied to determine the true scope and content of this invention.