Title:
Charging system for easily recharging batteries for toys
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An on-board battery recharger is provided for use on a toy-riding vehicle that automatically connects and disconnects the recharger to the battery of the vehicle. A power cord is also provided to connect power from a power source to the on-board recharger via a receptacle. When charging power is supplied to the toy vehicle, an electric switching means connects the battery to the recharger and disconnects the battery from drive motors that propel the toy vehicle. Likewise, when the charging power is removed from connection with the toy vehicle, the electric switching means disconnects the battery from the recharger and reconnects the battery to the drive motors for continued operation of the toy.



Inventors:
Hauptner, Andrew J. (Monroe Falls, OH, US)
Nagy, James R. (Cuyahoga Falls, OH, US)
Application Number:
09/935864
Publication Date:
02/27/2003
Filing Date:
08/23/2001
Assignee:
The Step2 Company (Streetsboro, OH)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H29/22; H02J7/00; (IPC1-7): A63H29/22
View Patent Images:
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20060211329Flashing windmill toySeptember, 2006Chang
20050277361System for creating customized stuffed toysDecember, 2005Rubin et al.
20030087580COLOR MEMORY TOYMay, 2003Shibahashi et al.
20090149112Radio-controlled toy skateboardJune, 2009Clark Jr. et al.



Primary Examiner:
MILLER, BENA B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Roger D. Emerson (Akron, OH, US)
Claims:

I/We claim:



1. An electrically operated toy, comprising: a toy frame member; an electrically powered output device operatively attached to the frame member; electrical power storing means for use in selectively providing electrical power to actuate the electrically powered output device, the electrical power storing means being operatively attached to the toy frame member; an electrical recharger operable to receive electrical power from an associated power source and to deliver recharging power to the electrical power storing means, wherein the electrical recharger is operatively mounted on board the toy; and, electric switching means selectively operable to electrically communicate the electrical power storing means with one of either of the electrically powered output device and the electrical recharger.

2. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electrical recharger is not communicated to the electrically powered output device.

3. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electric switching means automatically engages to communicate the electrical recharger to the electrical power storing means when the electrical power storing means receives electrical charging power from the associated power source.

4. The electrically operated toy of claim 3, wherein the electric switching means disconnects the electrical recharger from communication with the electrical power storing means when the electrical recharger does not receive electrical charging power.

5. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, further comprising: at least a first ground engaging wheel, wherein the at least a first ground engaging wheel is operatively connected to the electrically powered output device.

6. The electrically operated toy of claim 5, further comprising: a seat member operatively attached to the toy frame for use in supporting an associated child operator.

7. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electrically powered output device is an electromotive actuator.

8. The electrically operated toy of claim 7, wherein the electromotive actuator is an electric motor.

9. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electrical power storing means is a rechargeable battery.

10. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electrical power storing means is substantially a 12 DC Volt rechargeable battery.

11. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, further comprising: a uni-directional electrical device operatively communicated between the electrical power storing means and the electrical recharger for use in allowing charging power to flow in a single direction.

12. The electrically operated toy of claim 11, wherein the uni-directional electrical device comprises a diode.

13. The electrically operated toy of claim 1, wherein the electric switch is a power sensing circuit operably connected to sense the electrical power communicated from the associated power source to the electrical recharger, and, wherein the power sensing circuit automatically electrically disconnects the electrical power storing means from the electrically powered output device and connects the electrical power storing means to the electrical recharger when the power sensing circuit senses the electrical power.

14. The electrically operated toy of claim 13, wherein the power sensing circuit includes a relay.

15. A battery operated riding toy vehicle, comprising: a toy frame; at least a first ground-engaging wheel rotatably attached with respect to the toy frame; a seat portion operatively attached to the toy frame; an electric motor operably connected to the at least a first ground engaging wheel, the electric motor being operatively attached to the toy frame; a rechargeable battery selectively operatively communicated to the electric motor, the battery being operatively attached to the toy frame; and, a battery charger operatively communicated to selectively deliver charging power to the rechargeable battery, the battery charger operable to receive electric charging power from an associated power source, the battery charger being operatively mounted to the toy frame, wherein the battery charger is not operably communicated to the electric motor; an electric switch selectively operable to electrically communicate the electrical power storing means with one of either of the electrical actuator and the electrical recharger, wherein the electric switch automatically engages to electrically communicate the battery charger to the rechargeable battery when the battery charger receives electrical charging power from the associated power source.

16. The battery operated riding toy vehicle of claim 15, further comprising: an accelerator member operatively communicated between the rechargeable battery and the electric motor for use in selectively communicating electrical power from the rechargeable battery to the electric motor.

17. A method of recharging the battery of a battery operated child's toy, the steps comprising: providing a child's toy including: a toy frame member; an electrically powered output device operatively attached to the frame member; a battery for use in selectively providing electrical power to actuate the electrically powered output device, the battery being operatively attached to the toy frame member; an electrical recharger operable to receive electrical power from an associated power source and to deliver recharging power to the battery, wherein the electrical recharger is operatively mounted on board the toy; an electrical switch automatically selectively operable to electrically communicate the battery with one of either of the electrically powered output device and the electrical recharger; and, a power cord for use in communicating electrical power from the associated power source to the electrical recharger; connecting the power cord to supply electrical power to the electrical recharger; automatically electrically communicating the electrical charger to the battery; and, automatically recharging the battery.

18. A method of recharging the battery of claim 17, wherein before the step of automatically electrically communicating the electrical charger to the battery, further comprising the step of: automatically disconnecting the battery from the electrically powered output device.

Description:

I. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] A. Field of Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to the art of children's toys and more specifically to battery operated toys, especially as related to a battery charging system for a toy vehicle.

[0003] B. Description of the Related Art

[0004] Electrically operated toys typically use rechargeable batteries for providing power to operate the toy. This is especially true for a toy requiring larger amounts of electrical power where the cost of the battery dramatically increases, such as is used in a child's riding vehicle or car where the child sits in the toy and drives it around for enjoyment. In such a case it is desirable to have a battery recharging system to recharge the battery after the electrical energy contained therein has been depleted. In many electrically operated toys, after the battery has been depleted, a supervising adult is required to disconnect and remove the battery from the toy and electrically connect the battery to a battery recharger for a predetermined amount of time. Afterward the battery must be reinstalled and reconnected before the toy can be used again. This process must then be repeated for every use of the toy vehicle when the power stored in the battery has been depleted.

[0005] Some inventors have attempted to obviate the difficulties of the cumbrous process by incorporating a recharging receptacle onto the toy vehicle that may be used to electrically communicate to the rechargeable battery. The intent is to electrically connect conductors from the recharger to the receptacle of the toy vehicle and then turn on the recharger. However, since the rechargeable battery has not been directly removed or disconnected from the actuator or motor of the toy vehicle, an additional step is required whereby the rechargeable battery is switched out of electrical connection with the motor of the toy vehicle so that the toy may not be operated during the recharging process.

[0006] One such invention is revealed in the U.S. Pat. No. 5,229,703 to Harris, which discloses a battery recharge interconnection system provided for use on a toy vehicle. The interconnection system includes a charger receptacle, operatively connected to a rechargeable battery, covered by a rotatable disk. As further disclosed, an opening in the disk permits a plug from an external charger to be inserted through the opening and into the charger receptacle whenever the disk is rotated to a predetermined position in which the opening overlies the receptacle. During normal operation of the battery-operated device, the disk is rotated to a first position in which the charger receptacle is obstructed by the disk and the cut-out switch is disengaged. To recharge the device, the disk is rotated to a second position in which the opening in the disk overlies the receptacle, permitting your recharger plug to be inserted in the receptacle.

[0007] One aspect of the aforementioned device is that the device requires a separate battery recharging unit that must be stored when not in use and that must be brought out to recharge the battery of the toy when depleted. Additionally, the specially designed receptacle must be adjusted into the proper position before the recharging unit can be connected to the battery circuit. What is needed is a more convenient and fool-proof method of communicating recharging power from a power source to the battery of the toy vehicle.

[0008] Other objects and advantages of the invention will appear from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention with reference being made to the accompanying drawings.

II. Summary of the Invention

[0009] It is an object of the present invention to provide a battery-operated toy having an onboard battery-recharging unit.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide a battery-operated toy that automatically switches the battery into and out of the engagement with the battery-recharging unit.

[0011] It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a battery-operated toy that automatically switches the battery into and out of engagement with the actuation unit of the toy.

[0012] It is still another object of the present invention to provide a battery-operated riding toy vehicle having an onboard battery-recharging unit.

[0013] It is still yet another object of the present invention to incorporate a relay into the recharging circuit to switch the battery into and out of engagement with the battery-recharging unit.

[0014] Yet another object of the present invention is to incorporate a diode in the recharging circuit to ensure that recharging power flows in one direction from the recharger to the battery.

[0015] In the present invention, there is provided a riding toy vehicle, having a toy frame onto which may be mounted ground engaging wheels for providing mobility of the toy vehicle. An electric motor is also included that is operatively connected to the ground engaging wheels for use in providing a motive force to drive the wheels. A DC battery of appropriate voltage is operatively connected to the motor for use in supplying electrical power to the motor. The vehicle also includes a battery-recharging unit or battery recharger that is received by the toy frame of the riding vehicle. The battery recharger may be selectively removeably fastened to the toy frame. However, when attached the battery recharger is rigidly attached with respect to the toy frame. In other words, the riding toy vehicle includes an on-board battery charger. A relay is also included in the electrical circuitry whereby the relay may selectively be adjusted between first and second operating positions. The first relay position operatively communicates the battery to the motor of the vehicle, while disconnecting the battery from electrical communication with the battery recharger. Likewise, the second relay position operatively communicates the battery to the on-board battery recharger, while disconnecting the battery from electrical communication with the motor of the vehicle. A diode is operatively disposed within the electrical circuitry communicating the battery with the battery recharge to provide power flow in a single direction from the battery recharger to the battery. As is well known in the art, a relay includes a solenoid or coil that when excited by electrical energy electromagnetically engages the relay between the first and second relay positions as mentioned above. In the preferred embodiment, the solenoid is operatively connected to the battery recharger so that when recharging power, supplied from an associated power source, is present at the battery recharger, the solenoid is thereby electrically excited and changes from the first relay position to the second relay position. In other words, the circuitry of the battery recharger automatically switches the battery into and out of engagement with the motor of the toy vehicle when recharging power is received at the onboard battery recharger.

III. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] The invention may take physical form in certain parts and arrangement of parts, a preferred embodiment of which will be described in detail in this specification and illustrated in the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof and wherein:

[0017] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a battery-operated child's toy.

[0018] FIG. 2 is a schematic representation of the rechargeable battery, the onboard battery recharger and the motor of the battery-operated child's toy.

IV. DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0019] Referring now to the drawings wherein the showings are for purposes of illustrating a preferred embodiment of the invention only and not for purposes of limiting the same, FIG. 1 shows a battery operated child's toy, and more specifically a riding toy vehicle, shown generally at 1. It is expressly noted that while the preferred embodiment is drawn toward a riding toy vehicle, the features and advantages of the present invention may be realized by any battery-operated child's toy, including those types of toys not intended for rolling movement. Such toys may include toys playing audible sounds or toys dispersing a substance. One toy contemplated concerns a rotationally molded, double-walled toy having certain electrical components on board, such as a battery operated fan. Any such related toy may be chosen with sound engineering judgment that utilizes electrical power from a battery and that can recharged from an on-board recharger. Additionally, “toy vehicle” may be construed to include water-based floating toys having rotary paddles or flying toys having moving parts.

[0020] FIG. 1 depicts the preferred embodiment of the present invention, which is drawn to a battery-operated child's riding toy car or vehicle 1. The toy vehicle 1 includes a toy frame 4. By toy frame it is meant, an appropriately sized and constructed frame capable to receive and support a plurality of toy components, as will be discussed subsequently, so as to allow safe operation of the toy by a child. The toy frame 4 may have rotatably attached thereto ground-engaging wheels 6 for use in providing mobility to the toy vehicle 1. The toy vehicle 1 may also include a separate body portion 8 that is fixedly secured to the toy frame 4. However, the body portion 8 may be integrally fashioned with toy frame 4 to form a single component. A seat 10 may be fashioned and fixedly received by the toy frame 4 into the interior 11 of the toy vehicle 1 for use in supporting a child operator, not depicted in the FIGURES. Steering wheel 12 is also shown and includes an operatively connected steering assembly, not shown, whereby the toy vehicle 1 may be steered to move freely during operation as is appropriate for the child operator. The toy vehicle 1 also includes an electrically powered output device 14. In the preferred embodiment the electrically powered output device 14 is a motive device 15 such as an electric motor 16 that is intended to propel the toy vehicle 1. The motive device 15 may be operatively connected to the ground engaging wheels 6 in a manner well known in the art. In this way, the motive device 15 or motor 16 communicates electrical power to drive the ground engaging wheels 6. In other words, the electrically powered output device 14 may be an electromotive actuator 17 or any actuator providing motive force to drive a toy vehicle 1 wherein engagement of the electromotive actuator 17 requires electrical energy to power the device. It is contemplated in an alternate embodiment that the motive device may be substituted for a non-motive device or another motive device not operable to provide rolling mobility for the toy vehicle. Examples of these types of devices may include information storage devices or devices producing an audible output. Additionally, examples of motive devices may include actuators that provide movement of the appendages of a doll or toy animal. However, any electrically powered device may be chosen with sound engineering judgment. An electrical power storing means 18 is shown in FIG. 1 operatively attached to the toy frame 4. In the preferred embodiment, the electrical power storing means 18 is a rechargeable battery 20. However, any means of storing and delivering electrical power to the toy vehicle 1 may be chosen with sound engineering judgment and may include capacitive or inductive power storage elements. The electrical power storing means 18 may be operatively communicated to the electromotive actuator 17 or motor 16 through a wire harness 22, depicted in FIG. 2. A discussion of the wire harness 22 will be provided in greater detail in subsequent paragraphs. The toy vehicle 1 may additionally include an accelerator member 24 that provides for selective operation of the toy vehicle 1. The accelerator member 24 may be communicated through the wire harness 22 to control the power being transferred from the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17. In other words, the electrical power transferred from the battery 20 to the motor 16 that causes motion of the toy vehicle 1 may be engaged by the child operator to make the toy vehicle 1 go faster or slower as is appropriate for a child's riding toy vehicle. FIG. 1 also depicts an electrical recharger 26 that is mounted on board the toy vehicle 1 which will be discussed in greater detail presently.

[0021] With continued reference to FIG. 1, the toy vehicle 1 of the present invention includes an on-board electrical recharger 26. By “on-board” it is meant that the electrical recharger 26 is securely mounted to the toy frame 4 so that during operation of the toy vehicle 1, the electrical recharger travels with the toy vehicle 1 and does not hinder or prevent operation of the toy vehicle 1 with regard to the direction of movement. The electrical recharger 26 may be modular in construction in that the electrical recharger 26 may be selectively removable for replacement or repair as necessary. The electrical recharger 26 may be electrically communicated to the wire harness 22 via terminal connectors or through a terminal block 34. The electrical recharger unit 26 may be physically secured to the toy frame 4 or body portion 8 by removable fasteners that fixedly hold the electrical recharger 26 in place but that may be unfastened as may be warranted for repair or replacement. The toy vehicle 1 may also include a detachable power supply cord 30 for use communicating electrical supply power from a power source 36 to the electrical recharger 26. The power cord 30 may include any connector end 39, shown in FIG. 1, as is appropriate for connecting the power cord 30 to the power supply to the electrical recharger 26. In the preferred embodiment, the toy vehicle 1 may have recharging power supplied by a substantially 110 or 220 AC Volt supply, such as is supplied by a standard wall outlet 35. However, any type of supply power may be utilized including DC-type power.

[0022] With reference now to FIG. 2, a discussion of the electrical operation of the electrical power storing means 18, the electromotive actuator 17 and the electrical recharger 26 will now be presented. The electrical recharger 26 may utilize a step-down transformer in conjunction with a rectifying circuit to condition the power as needed to charge the electrical power storing means 18. Alternately, the electrical recharger 26 may use DC-to-DC converters to condition the supply power as is appropriate for the electrical power storing means 18. However, any means of conditioning the supply power may be chosen with sound engineering judgment as is appropriate for supplying recharging power to the electrical power storing means 18. The electrical power storing means 18 may be a 12 DC Volt rechargeable battery of any type chosen with sound engineering judgment, including gel-type battery cells. Both the electrical power storing means 18 and the electrical recharger 26 may be connected to the wire harness 22 via electrical conductors 38 and by terminal blocks or connectors 34. It is noted that as it is well known in the art to use electrical conductors to electrically communicate electrical devices, no further explanation of electrical conductors and the uses thereof will be offered at this point. Likewise, the electromotive actuator 17 is communicated to the wire harness 22 and selectively receives power from the electrical power storing means 18 for providing motive force to drive the toy vehicle 1. There is shown generally at 40 an electrical switching means that automatically connects the electrical recharger 26 and the electrical power storing means 18 when the recharging process has been initiated and disconnects the same when the recharging process has been terminated. By automatically, it is meant without additional user intervention. In other words, when the power cord 30 is connected to the toy vehicle 1 via receptacle 37, the electrical switching means 40 senses that the recharging process has been initiated and automatically electrically connects the electrical power storing means 18 with the electrical recharger 26, as will be discussed in greater detail in the following paragraph. In the preferred embodiment, the electric switching means 40 is operatively connected so as to engage when supply power is received by the power supply. In this manner, when supply power is received by the electrical recharger 26, the electric switching means 40 senses the supply power and engages from a Normally Closed state to an Open state.

[0023] With continued reference to FIG. 2, operation of the electric switching means 40 will now be discussed. In the preferred embodiment, the electric switching means 40 is a relay 41. As is well known in the art, the relay 41 may include a solenoid or coil, not shown, that electromagnetically engages when an appropriate level of power is received by the coil. The engagement of the coil may connect one set of relay contacts and simultaneously disconnect another set of relay contacts that may be used to electrically connect and disconnect electrical devices, such as a battery and an electrical recharger. In that relays are well known in the art, no further discussion of the operation thereof will be presented. It is noted at this point, that any means of electrically sensing electrical power from a power supply and respectively any means of electrically connecting and disconnecting electrical devices may be chosen with sound engineering judgment. This may include transistor switches or any bi-polar device so configured to function in the manner described above. In the de-energized state that electric switching means 40 is Normally Closed. By Normally Closed it is meant that the electric switching means 40 includes electrical contacts 44 that operatively communicates electrical power from the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17 in the de-energized state. When the electric switch is energized, which happens automatically when supply power is received by the electrical recharger 26, the normally closed contacts 44 open and an alternate set of Normally Open contacts 45 close. In this manner, the electric switching means 40 may include multiple sets of both Normally Closed and Normally Open contacts 44, 45 that open and close respectively. Therefore, when the electric switching means 40is engaged the electrical power storing means 18 is disconnected from the electromotive actuator 17 and connected to the electrical recharger 26 and when the electric switching means 40 is disengaged or de-energized the electrical power storing means 18 is disconnected from the electrical recharger 26 and reconnected to the electromotive actuator 17 automatically.

[0024] With continued reference to FIG. 2, a uni-directional electrical device 48 is shown operatively connected between the electric recharger 26 and the Normally Open contacts 45. The uni-directional electrical device 48 operates to allow electrical power to flow only in one direction, which in the preferred embodiment is from the electrical recharger 26 to the electrical power storing means 18. In the preferred embodiment, the uni-directional electrical device is a diode 49. However, any means of allowing supply power to flow in a single direction from the electrical recharger 26 to the electrical power storing means 18 may be chosen with sound engineering judgment.

[0025] With reference again to FIG. 2, a bimetallic switch 52 is shown electrically connecting power from the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17. The bi-metallic switch 52 includes two dissimilar materials that when heated, for example as a result of electrical current flow, expand and contract at different rates. When subjected to a threshold level of current flow, the bimetallic switch 52 heats up so as to electrically disconnect at the junction of the dissimilar materials thereby preventing current from flowing through the device. In this manner, the bi-metallic switch 52 disconnects the electromotive actuator 17 from the electrical power storing means 18 when a certain level of current flow has been reached within the circuit. It is noted that any means of detecting excessive current flow and disconnecting electrical connection therefrom may be chosen with sound engineering judgment.

[0026] With reference to all of the FIG. 2, charging operation of the vehicle will now be presented. With the battery operationally charged, the child operator may sit in the toy vehicle 1 and depress the accelerator member 24 wherein electrical power is operatively communicated from the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17 thus propelling the vehicle in first direction. At any point but especially when the battery has substantially been depleted of power, a supply cord 30 may be inserted at one end into a standard wall outlet 35 and at the distal end into the receptacle 37 of the toy vehicle 1 resulting in charging power being received by the electrical recharger 26. As charging power is received at the electrical recharger 26, electric switching means 40 senses the charging power and automatically engages switching the electrical power storing means 1 8 out of electrical connection with the electromotive actuator 17 and into electrical connection with the electrical recharger 26. Therein, charging power flows in a single direction from the electrical recharger 26 to the electrical power storing means 18 so as to provide supply power to recharge the electrical power storing means 18. When the electrical power storing means 18 has been sufficiently recharged, or at any time prior, the power cord 30 may be removed from the receptacle 37 wherein the electric switching means 40 automatically senses the power disconnection and electrically disconnects the electrical power storing means 18 from electrical connection with the electrical recharger 26 and electrically connects the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17, thus allowing operation of the toy vehicle 1 once again. In the event that a threshold level of current is drawn through the bimetallic switch 52, the bimetallic switch 52 will electrically disconnect preventing current from flowing to the electromotive actuator 17 until such a time when an appropriate amount of heat has been dissipated from the bimetallic switch 52 thereby allowing the bimetallic switch 52 to close once again and allowing power to the communicated from the electrical power storing means 18 to the electromotive actuator 17.

[0027] While specific embodiments of the invention have been described and illustrated, it is to be understood that these embodiments are provided by way of example only and that the invention is not to be construed as being limited thereto but only by proper scope of the following claims.