Title:
Waterspout adapter for providing a user-selectable type of water flow
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A device enables a user to selectively change the flow of water produced by a waterspout between aerated flow and non-aerated flow. The device is preferably implemented as an adapter that is threaded to or otherwise coupled to the end of a waterspout such as a kitchen or bathroom faucet waterspout or a bathtub waterspout. The device includes a closure mechanism that is operable by a user to permit or prevent aeration of water flowing through the adapter. The adapter may include a control ring that may be rotated by a user to selectively open and close bores for introducing air into the interior of the adapter. When the control ring is turned to an open position, air is introduced and an aerated water flow is produced. When the ring is turned to a closed position, air is not introduced and non-aerated or laminar flow is produced. A user is thereby enabled to select the desired type of flow.



Inventors:
Bui, Le Trong (Garden Grove, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/412165
Publication Date:
10/14/2004
Filing Date:
04/11/2003
Assignee:
INTERBATH, INC.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
239/428.5
International Classes:
E03C1/08; E03C1/084; (IPC1-7): E03C1/04; E03C1/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Foley & Lardner LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
1. A flow controller apparatus that enables a user to receive different types of fluid flow, the apparatus comprising: a flow controller body defining a fluid flow channel and comprising at least one aperture extending through a wall of the controller body to the channel; an accelerator plate retained within the controller body for accelerating fluid passing through the channel, the accelerator plate situated upstream from the at least one aperture; and a closure mechanism located adjacent to an end of the at least one aperture for selectively allowing air from outside the controller body to enter the controller body through the at least one aperture.

2. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the channel is an annular channel, and wherein the closure mechanism comprises: an aeration ring retained within and rotatable within the channel of the controller body, the aeration ring having at least one aperture extending through a wall thereof, the at least one aperture of the aeration ring corresponding to the at least one aperture of the controller body such that rotation of the aeration ring to a position where the at least one aperture of the aeration ring is out of alignment with the at least one aperture of the controller body restricts air from entering the channel through the at least one aperture in the controller body; and a control ring engaging the aeration ring and comprising an outer portion situated outside of the controller body allowing the aeration ring to be rotated thereby.

3. The apparatus claimed in claim 2, wherein the control ring further comprises an inner portion situated within the channel of the controller body and engaging the aeration ring, and being rotatable by the outer portion to rotate the aeration ring.

4. The apparatus claimed in claim 3, wherein the inner portion of the control ring is retained within the controller body by a retainer ring seated in corresponding grooves in an outer wall of the inner portion of the control ring and an inner wall of the controller body.

5. The apparatus claimed in claim 4, wherein the aeration ring is retained within the controller body as a result of retention of the inner portion of the control ring within the controller body.

6. The apparatus claimed in claim 3, wherein the inner portion of the control ring engages the aeration ring with tabs that are received by corresponding features of the aeration ring.

7. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein an inlet end of the controller body comprises threads for mating with corresponding threads of the a waterspout.

8. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, further comprising a screen assembly located near a downstream end of the controller body in the path of fluid flow through the controller body.

9. The apparatus claimed in claim 8, further comprising a stream straightener located downstream from the screen assembly at an outlet end of the controller body for controlling the direction of fluid flow leaving the controller body.

10. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, further comprising a stream straightener located at an outlet end of the controller body for controlling the direction of fluid flow leaving the controller body.

11. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the accelerator plate comprises a rigid plate having a plurality of apertures formed therein for allowing passage of fluid therethrough.

12. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, controller body is an adapter coupleable to a bathtub waterspout.

13. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, controller body is an adapter coupleable to a kitchen faucet waterspout.

14. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, controller body is an adapter coupleable to a bathroom faucet waterspout.

15. A flow controller apparatus that enables a user to select different types of fluid flow, the adapter comprising: a controller body for conveying a fluid flow; and control means attached to the controller body and moveable with respect to the controller body for controlling aeration of fluid flowing through the controller body.

16. The apparatus claimed in claim 15, wherein the controller further comprises: at least one aperture extending through a wall of the controller body to a channel within the controller body; and an accelerator plate retained within the controller body for accelerating fluid passing through the channel, the accelerator plate situated upstream from the at least one aperture; and wherein the control means comprises a closure mechanism located adjacent to an end of the at least one aperture for selectively allowing air from outside the controller body to enter the controller body through the at least one aperture.

17. The apparatus claimed in claim 16, wherein the closure mechanism comprises: an aeration ring retained within and rotatable within the channel of the controller body, the aeration ring having at least one aperture extending through a wall thereof, the at least one aperture of the aeration ring corresponding to the at least one aperture of the controller body such that rotation of the aeration ring to a position where the at least one aperture of the aeration ring is out of alignment with the at least one aperture of the controller body restricts air from entering the channel through the at least one aperture in the controller body; and a control ring engaging the aeration ring and comprising an outer portion situated outside of the controller body allowing the aeration ring to be rotated thereby.

18. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, further comprising: a waterspout body for conveying fluid, the waterspout body defining a water flow channel upstream of and in fluid flow communication with the fluid flow channel of the controller body.

19. The apparatus claimed in claim 18, wherein the closure mechanism comprises: an aeration ring retained within and rotatable within the fluid flow channel of the controller body, the aeration ring having at least one aperture extending through a wall thereof, the at least one aperture of the aeration ring corresponding to the at least one aperture of the controller body such that rotation of the aeration ring to a position where the at least one aperture of the aeration ring is out of alignment with the at least one aperture of the controller body restricts air from entering the channel through the at least one aperture in the controller body; and a control ring engaging the aeration ring and comprising a portion situated outside of the controller body allowing the aeration ring to be rotated thereby.

20. The apparatus claimed in claim 18, wherein the controller body comprises a separable adapter body in which said at least one aperture is provided, the separable adapter body being separably connectable to the waterspout body.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] Embodiments of the present invention pertain to plumbing fixtures, and in particular to devices that control the flow of water from waterspouts.

[0003] 2. Related Technology

[0004] Waterspouts are used throughout households such as in kitchen and bathroom faucets and in bathtubs. A conventional waterspout typically delivers a particular type of water flow. The waterspouts used in kitchen faucets typically provide aerated flow, sometimes called champagne flow. Aerated flow is produced by mixing air with high velocity water before the water exits the waterspout. In kitchen faucets this mixing is usually done in an adapter that is threaded to the end of the waterspout. Slits in the sides of the adapter introduce air into water flowing through the adapter. Other types of faucets produce a laminar flow, which appears as a solid, continuous, clear stream of water. Laminar flow is produced by propelling high velocity water through a stream straightening device. Bathtub waterspouts typically deliver another type of flown known as turbulent flow. Turbulent flow is simply the flow of water out of the open end of the waterspout without interference by other devices.

[0005] People sometimes prefer the characteristics of one type of water flow over the characteristics of another. For example, aerated flow produces well-aerated bubbly water that has a soft, pleasant feeling. However, aerated flow is relatively noisy and produces water that is initially somewhat cloudy until excess undissolved air escapes to the surface. In contrast, laminar flow is relatively quiet and produces a smooth stream that is solid and clear in appearance. However, laminar flow generally flows at a greater rate than aerated flow, and therefore may be undesirable in some cases as using more water than is needed to accomplish a particular task.

[0006] In an attempt to address people's preferences for one type of flow over another, devices have been developed that allow a user to provide one type of flow in a waterspout that typically produces another. For example, one such device is structured as a cartridge that can be inserted into a bathtub waterspout. The cartridge produces aeration in the water that flows through it, thus enabling the bathtub waterspout to provide aerated water where aeration is typically not provided. However this type of adapter only provides a static solution that does not allow the user to easily select between different types of flows as desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0007] In accordance with embodiments of the invention, a device is provided that enables a user to selectively change the flow of water produced by a waterspout between aerated flow and non-aerated flow. The device is preferably implemented as an adapter that is threaded to or otherwise coupled to the end of a waterspout such as a kitchen or bathroom faucet waterspout or a bathtub waterspout. The device includes a closure mechanism that is operable by a user to permit or prevent aeration of water flowing through the adapter. In a preferred embodiment, the adapter includes a ring that may be rotated by a user to selectively open and close bores for introducing air into the interior of the adapter. When the ring is turned to an open position, air is introduced and an aerated water flow is produced. When the ring is turned to a closed position, air is not introduced and non-aerated or laminar flow is produced. A user is thereby enabled to select the desired type of flow.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a waterspout adapter in accordance with a preferred embodiment;

[0009] FIG. 2 shows an exploded view of a waterspout adapter in accordance with a preferred embodiment; and

[0010] FIG. 3 shows a sectional view of a waterspout adapter in accordance with a preferred embodiment.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0011] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a waterspout adapter 10 for providing user selectable flow. The waterspout adapter 10 is coupled to a waterspout 12, which may be a bathtub waterspout, a kitchen or bathroom faucet waterspout, or another type of waterspout.

[0012] As seen in FIG. 1, the adapter 10 includes an adapter body 14 and a rotatable control ring 16. The adapter body 14 is fitted to the waterspout 12 so as to be held stationary with respect to the waterspout 12. The adapter body 14 has an interior water flow channel and bores 18 that extend through the walls of the adapter body 14 to serve as conduits for introduction of air into the interior channel. Rotation of the control ring 16 opens and closes the path between the bores 18 and the interior channel, thus enabling the user to selectively switch the adapter between producing aerated and non-aerated or laminar water flow.

[0013] Details of the construction of the preferred embodiment are now discussed with reference to the exploded view of FIG. 2 and the sectional view of FIG. 3. Components are discussed generally in order beginning at the waterspout end.

[0014] The adapter body 14 is coupleable to the waterspout by threads provided at an inlet end of the adapter body 14 for mating with corresponding threads of the waterspout 12. Seated in the adapter body 14 is an accelerator plate 20 that is retained within the adapter body 14 by an O-ring 20. The accelerator plate 20 includes multiple bores of small diameter that accelerate the water flowing therethrough to increase the velocity of water flowing within the adapter.

[0015] Also received in the body 14 beneath the accelerator plate 18 is an annular aeration ring 24. The aeration ring 24 includes bores 26 that correspond to the bores 18 that extend through the walls of the body 14. The aeration ring 24 is rotatable within the adapter body 14 so that its bores 26 may be oriented in alignment with or out of alignment with the bores 18 of the adapter body 14. The aeration ring 24 is engaged by tabs 28 extending from an inner end of the control ring 16. The inner end of the control ring 16 is received within the adapter body 14 and is retained within the adapter body 14 by a split retaining ring 30 that is seated within a corresponding groove on the inner surface of the adapter body 14, enabling the control ring 16 to be freely rotated with respect to the adapter body 14. The control ring 16 is preferably provided with a textured gripping surface 32 that facilitates gripping and twisting of the control ring 16 by a user. When twisted, the control ring 16 rotates the aeration ring 24, enabling the user to move the aeration ring between positions that produce aerated flow and that produce non-aerated or laminar flow.

[0016] Retained within the control ring 16 near its outer end is a screen assembly comprised of first and second screens 34, 38 that are seated in respective recesses at opposing faces of a rubber washer 36. The rubber washer 36 is retained within the control ring 16 by a stream straightener 42 that is threaded into the end of the control ring 16. The stream straightener is comprised of radial and concentric fins that serve to control the directionality of a water stream exiting the adapter 10. The stream straightener is sealed with an O-ring 40.

[0017] In operation, water enters the adapter body 14 through its inlet end and encounters the accelerator plate 20. The accelerator plate 20 partially impedes the flow of water through the adapter body 14, causing a build-up of water pressure behind the accelerator plate 20 that forces water through the accelerator plate bores at a higher velocity and pressure than the inherent velocity and pressure of the water supplying the waterspout, although at a reduced volume. The high velocity water then travels through the chamber between the accelerator plate 20 and the screen assembly, where it tends to entrain ambient air within the chamber. When a free path for air flow to the interior of the chamber is provided by the bores 18 of the adapter body and the corresponding bores 26 of the aeration ring, a continuous flow of air is provided to the interior of the chamber, allowing the water passing through the chamber to be continuously aerated. The aeration process is assisted by the screen assembly, and aerated water leaving the screen assembly passes through the stream straightener 42, where the radial and concentric fins of the stream straightener constrain the flow of water from the adapter to produce a columnar stream. Where the control ring 16 has been set so that the air pathways to the chamber are blocked, relatively little enters the chamber, and as a result relatively little aeration of water flowing through the adapter occurs. Under these circumstances the water stream leaving the adapter is essentially laminar or non-aerated.

[0018] While the adapter illustrated herein represents a presently preferred embodiment of the invention, a variety of alternative embodiments may be implemented within the scope of the invention. For example, in regard to the structure of the adapter, while the preferred embodiment utilizes an aeration ring that is situated within the adapter body, in an alternative embodiment the aeration ring may be situated around the outside of the adapter body and may be rotated directly by a user rather than indirectly through the use of a control ring. Further, while the preferred embodiment uses essentially cylindrical bores for introducing air to the water flowing through the adapter, alternative embodiments may employ apertures having other shapes, such as elongate slits. Such alternative embodiments may be implemented with an aeration ring having corresponding slits, such that the degree of slit overlap produced through rotation of the aeration ring allows the user to adjust the degree of aeration produced by the adapter. Other alternative arrangements of bores or apertures in the adapter body and aeration ring may be designed so that the user is provided with variable control over aeration or multiple levels of aeration that may be individually selected. In addition, while the preferred embodiment utilizes a ring that is rotatable for selectively restricting air flow through apertures in the adapter body, in alternative embodiments a different type of structure may be used for such selective restriction. For example, in one alternative embodiment, a ring that is concentric with the adapter body may be moved up and down along the length of the adapter body to selectively open and close apertures leading to the interior of the adapter body. A variety of other designs utilizing various structures for selective blocking of aeration apertures may also be implemented within the scope of the present invention.

[0019] Further, while the adapter of the preferred embodiment is described as being sized for coupling to a bathtub waterspout, it will be appreciated that there exist a wide variety of sizes and shapes of bathtub, kitchen sink and bathroom sink waterspouts, and various embodiments in accordance with the invention may be structured to be of an appropriate size and to have an appropriate coupling mechanism for coupling to all manner of waterspouts. The adapter could also be implemented to be coupleable to other types of water supply devices such as garden hoses. In addition, while the preferred embodiment envisions an adapter that is threaded for coupling to a waterspout, in other embodiments other types of coupling structures such as snap fittings may be employed. Also, while the preferred embodiment is separable from the waterspout to which it is coupled, in alternative embodiments a variable flow device embodying basic structural components in accordance with the invention may be formed integrally with or coupled in a non-removable fashion to a bathtub, kitchen sink or bathroom sink waterspout.

[0020] The components of the adapter and a waterspout embodying the adapter may be fabricated from a variety of materials. In accordance with the preferred embodiment, the rigid adapter components are injection molded using a plastic material. In other embodiments, rigid components of the adapter may be formed of a corrosion-resistant metal such as chromium alloy-plated brass.

[0021] A variety of embodiments may therefore be implemented in accordance with the invention. In general terms, embodiments in accordance with the invention are characterized by a body defining a water flow channel and having one or more apertures extending through a wall of the body to the channel. Associated with the body is a user-operable closure mechanism for selectively blocking the one or more apertures to thereby allow aeration of water flowing through the body to be performed in accordance with a user selection. Embodiments in accordance with the invention may be implemented as an adapter for attachment to a waterspout, or may be formed integrally with a waterspout.

[0022] It will be apparent to those having ordinary skill in the art that the structures described herein are not necessarily exclusive of other structures, but rather that further structures and structural features may be incorporated into the above structures in accordance with the particular implementation to be achieved. Therefore, while the embodiments illustrated in the figures and described herein are presently preferred, it should be understood that these embodiments are offered by way of example only. The invention is not limited to a particular embodiment, but extends to various modifications, combinations, and permutations that are encompassed by the claims and their equivalents.