Title:
Lift component for bowling ball retrieval system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In a bowling ball retrieval system including a ball return wheel for elevating a bowling ball to a position whereby it can be returned to a bowler, a lift component is secured to the interior circumference of the ball return wheel. The lift component contains a concave surface facing the direction of wheel rotation and rotates underneath a bowling ball to provide the necessary leverage and support to elevate the ball and deliver it to the bowler.



Inventors:
Knisley, Charles Eugene (Hillsboro, IL, US)
Knisley, Josh Kaac (Hillsboro, IL, US)
Kinsley, Ronald L. (Hillsboro, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/837824
Publication Date:
11/03/2005
Filing Date:
05/03/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/111
International Classes:
A63D5/02; (IPC1-7): A63D5/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060019762Panel structure for a bowling laneJanuary, 2006Ford et al.
20090298622Electronic Pitching Trainer and Method for Determining the True Speed of a Sports ProjectileDecember, 2009Roberts
20070135244Lacrosse stick having enhanced holding effectJune, 2007Lee
20030224870Shaft having axial pre-stressDecember, 2003Soong
20050221902Billiard table sideboardOctober, 2005Chen
20070238544Golf Putter with Alignment HeadOctober, 2007Jazwiec
20090054171GOLF-BAT FOR CENTRIFUGAL GOLF SWINGFebruary, 2009Lee
20100062879Football holder for place kicking and method for making and using football holder for place kickingMarch, 2010Shaw et al.
20090149268Golfing aid to improve supinationJune, 2009Sison et al.
20090253531GOLF CLUB AND MANUFACTURING METHOD THEREOFOctober, 2009Doi et al.
20090181786BUBBLE PUTTERJuly, 2009Mckiernan



Primary Examiner:
PIERCE, WILLIAM M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
The Law Offices of Mark E. Wiemelt, P.C. (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
1. In a bowling ball retrieval system including a ball return wheel for elevating a bowling ball to a position whereby it can be returned to a bowler, a lift component secured to the interior circumference of the ball return wheel, the lift component comprising: a substantially rectilinear block containing a bottom surface and a concave surface, the concave surface having a curvature substantially similar to that of the surface of a bowling ball; and a substantially straight leading attached edge formed by the junction of the bottom surface and concave surface.

2. The lift component as set forth in claim 1, wherein the lift component further comprises: a top surface; a trailing surface; a leading free edge formed by the junction of the concave surface and the top surface; a trailing free edge formed by the junction of the trailing surface and the top surface; a trailing attached edge formed by the junction of the trailing surface and the bottom surface; such that the concave surface is disposed between the leading free edge and the leading attached edge; and the leading free edge, leading attached edge, trailing free edge and trailing attached edge are substantially parallel to one another.

3. The lift component as set forth in claim 2, wherein the distance from the leading attached edge to the trailing attached edge is not more than 15.0 cm.

4. The lift component as set forth in claim 2, wherein the length of each the leading free edge, the leading attached edge, the trailing free edge, and the trailing attached edge is 4.0 cm; the distance from the leading free edge to the trailing free edge is 3.0 cm; the distance from the leading attached edge to the trailing attached edge is 5.2 cm the distance from the trailing free edge to the trailing attached edge is 4.2 cm.

5. The lift component as set forth in claim 1, further comprising one or more fastener channels extending through the lift component and through which a fastener may be placed, thereby securing the lift component to the interior circumference of the ball return wheel.

6. The lift component as set forth in claim 1, wherein the lift component is manufactured from an ultrahigh molecular weight polymer.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to ball return mechanisms for automatic pinsetting machines, and, more particularly, to an improved positive contact lift component for the wheel elevator of a bowling ball retrieval system.

2. The Prior Art

Various mechanical devices are disclosed by the prior art for use in returning a bowling ball to a bowler. A system in common use employs pitched flooring to divert a bowling ball to an area where it is picked up by a wheel or belt system, is elevated above the pit end of the alley, and is then deposited onto a rail system where gravity returns the ball to the bowler. The elevation phase presents many problems. Numerous means have been used to accomplish elevation of the ball, each with varying degrees of success. Some of the lift mechanisms employed in the past include a suction head provided with a vacuum and motor controlled assembly that can lift and relocate a bowling ball; a motorized belt system which frictionally engages and lifts the bowling ball; and a concave component attached to the wheel which makes contact with the bowling ball and, via a scooping action underneath the ball, raises it to a higher position.

Problems common to all of these systems involve a lack of friction due to build-up of conditioning oil on the balls and machinery. Conditioning oil is regularly applied to the lane as a maintenance operation, and some of the oil necessarily accumulates on the ball as it is rolled down the lane, and the oil also gets transferred to the ball retrieval equipment. Over time, enough oil accumulates on the balls and machinery that it becomes impossible to generate sufficient friction to enable the lifting mechanism to pick up the ball. The result is that the ball can be repeatedly partially elevated and then dropped back down to its starting position (referred to as a yoyo), or the ball can spin in place indefinitely (referred to as a spinner), or the ball can be otherwise impossible to elevate. The malfunction blocks the further progress of balls that follow. The resulting line stoppages must be remedied by manually moving the ball, which not only delays the game and is a major source of annoyance to the bowler, but is also a time-consuming and financially costly inconvenience to the management.

Additional problems are caused by lifting mechanisms that utilize a concave metal piece attached to a rotating wheel to contact and lift the ball. This particular type of mechanism embodies a guide finger extending from the main contact surface which functions to aid in the separation of balls and pins. The guide finger is substantially narrower than the rest of the piece, and, because it extends far from the point where the piece is attached to the wheel, is subject to greater forces of leverage than is the surface near the point of attachment. Repeated impacts with heavy bowling balls tend to batter and deform the guide finger, resulting in impaired function of the elevating component, and, worse, the misshapen end can causes nicks and other damage to the bowling balls. This particular component must be continually monitored by maintenance personnel so that it may be serviced or replaced before causing damage to balls, which is an expenditure of time that could be better spent on other maintenance issues.

In addition, bowling alley operators currently attempt to compensate for the slippage caused by oil and dust buildup by operating the return wheel at a faster rate than would be necessary if a more effective lift component were in place. This results in unnecessary wear and tear on machinery components such as belts, pulleys, and drive mechanisms. A more effective lift component would provide the added benefit of extending machinery life and improving the overall efficiency of bowling alley operations.

Bowling alley operators have long felt a need for a positive contact lift component that operates more efficiently than conventional components and can elevate a bowling ball no matter how much oil or wax has accumulated on the ball or machinery and can operate with fewer malfunctions and line stoppages than are typical with components currently in use. Such improved efficiency would also reduce the rotational speed necessary for operation of the wheel, resulting in reduced maintenance costs, less wear and tear on the belts, pulleys and other elements of the equipment and resulting in the overall extension of equipment life. Further, it would be advantageous to have a component that was made of a material that would not damage the balls in the way that metal components do.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a one-piece, positive contact lift component which is secured to the interior circumference of a ball return wheel. As the ball return wheel rotates, the substantially straight leading attached edge guides the ball onto the concave surface of the lift component, which provides the necessary support and leverage to raise the ball to a higher position. With the lift component providing the impetus for upward movement, the ball rolls upward between the ball return-wheel and the lift rod and is then deposited onto the ball return and delivered back to the bowler.

The lift component requires no guide finger, and thus avoids the maintenance issues and other problems associated with battered and deformed guide fingers. Additionally, the lift component, in its preferred embodiment, is manufactured from a durable, ultrahigh molecular weight polymer such as high density polyethylene and will not cause nicks or other damage to the bowling balls. Finally, the sturdy design of the lift component makes it a low maintenance and highly effective device for the elevation of bowling balls.

It is an object of this invention to provide a positive contact lift component that functions more effectively than such components currently in use by eliminating the malfunctions commonly associated with such equipment, such as spinners, yo-yos, and line stoppages.

It is an object of this invention to provide a lift component which elevates a bowling ball regardless of how much oil or wax has accumulated on the balls or machinery components.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a lift component that is constructed of a material which resists damaging or nicking bowling balls during retrieval.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a lift component that is more durable, longer lasting, and better able to withstand impacts with bowling balls than lift components currently in use

It is an advantage of this invention to offer a lift component that increases the longevity of automatic pinsetter machines by allowing them to operate at lower rpms and lower rotational speeds and by generally reducing wear on such machinery.

It is an advantage of this invention that the lift component requires no guide finger and thus avoids the problems associated therewith.

It is an advantage of this invention that the lift component is a highly effective and low maintenance device which will increase the overall efficiency of bowling alley operations.

Further objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which the invention relates, from the following embodiments described with reference to the accompanying drawings, the specification and claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other additional objects of the present invention will be readily appreciated by those skilled in the art upon gaining an understanding of the preferred embodiment as described in the following detailed description and shown in the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the top and concave surfaces of the lift component.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the bottom and trailing surfaces of the lift component.

FIG. 3 is an elevational view showing the top surface of the lift component.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view showing the bottom surface of the lift component.

FIG. 5 is a schematic side view showing one representative embodiment of a lift component containing a fastener channel and the positioning of one representative form of fastener.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the lift component attached to the interior circumference of the ball return wheel.

FIG. 7 is a side view of the lift component operating to elevate a ball between the ball return wheel and the lift rod.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

While this present invention is susceptible of embodiments in many different forms, there are shown in the drawings and will be described in detail herein, a preferred embodiment, with like parts designated by like reference numerals and with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the present invention, and is not intended to limit the claims to the illustrated preferred embodiment.

FIG. 1 shows the lift component 20 in a perspective view showing the top surface 28 and the concave surface 26. The lift component 20 is a one piece element with no moving parts and is manufactured from high density polyethylene or some other suitable ultrahigh molecular weight polymer. The lift component 20 is a substantially rectilinear block containing five generally flat planar surfaces and one concave surface 26. The concave surface 26 is proportioned so as to accommodate the curved surfaces of the various sizes of bowling balls commonly in use. The concave surface 26 interfaces with the curved surface of the bowling ball and effectuates the leverage and support necessary to lift the ball upward. In the preferred embodiment, the top surface 28 contains fastener entrances 32. The junction of the concave surface 26 and the top surface 28 forms the leading free edge 22. In the preferred embodiment, the leading free edge 22 is 4.0 cm in length. The curvature of the concave surface 26 is ideally suited to the support and elevation of a bowling ball, and the relatively short length of the concave surface 26 provides an exceptionally sturdy design which allows the lift component 20 to perform its function over long periods of time with little or no maintenance.

FIG. 2 shows the lift component 20 in a perspective view illustrating the bottom surface 30 and the trailing surface 29. Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, the junction of the bottom surface 30 and the concave surface 26 forms the leading attached edge 24, which has a length of 4.0 cm in the preferred embodiment. The leading attached edge 24 makes initial contact with the ball and guides it onto the concave surface 26. The substantial straightness of the leading attached edge 24 and the fact that it does not extend far from the main body of the lift component 20 makes the lift component 20 much less subject to forces of leverage and contributes to the longer life and lower maintenance of the lift component 20 as compared with devices that have leading edges which are not straight or contain guide fingers that extend far from the main body of the device. The junction of the bottom surface 30 and the trailing surface 29 forms the trailing attached edge 27, which has a length of 4.0 cm in the preferred embodiment. The junction of the trailing surface 29 and the top surface 28 forms the trailing free edge 25, which has a length of 4.0 cm in the preferred embodiment. The leading free edge 22, the leading attached edge 24, the trailing free edge 25 and the trailing attached edge 27 are all substantially parallel to one another. In the preferred embodiment, the leading free edge 22 and the trailing free edge 25 are 3.0 cm apart, the leading attached edge 24 and the trailing attached edge 27 are 5.2 cm apart, and the trailing free edge 25 and the trailing attached edge 27 are 4.2 cm apart. Also visible in FIG. 2 are the fastener exits 34.

FIG. 3 is a top elevational view showing the top surface 28 of the lift component 20 and illustrates the position of the fastener entrances 32 and stops 37. The positions of the leading attached edge 24, the leading free edge 22 and the trailing free edge 25 are illustrated, and the position of the concave surface 26 relative to the top surface 28 is also illustrated in this view.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view showing the bottom surface 30 of the lift component 20. The fastener exits 34, the leading attached edge 24 and the trailing attached edge 27 are illustrated in this view.

FIG. 5 is a schematic side view showing the preferred embodiment of a lift component 20 containing a fastener channel 33 and the position of a self-tapping screw 35 within the fastener channel 33. The fastener entrance 32 is sufficiently wide to allow passage of the head of the self-tapping screw 35 and then narrows to a stop 37 which is narrower than the head of the self-tapping screw 35 to fix the screw in place relative to the lift component 20. After positioning the self-tapping screw 35 in the fastener channel 33, the self-tapping screw 35 extends through the fastener exit 34.

Referring now to FIG. 6, the lift component 20 is shown attached to the interior circumference 41 of the ball return wheel 40. The self tapping screw 35 of FIG. 5 is fastened to the interior circumference 41 of the ball return wheel 40, thereby securing the lift component 20 to the ball return wheel 40. As illustrated in FIG. 5, the preferred embodiment of the lift component 20 contains fastener channels 33 and self-tapping screws 35 to secure the lift component 20 to the ball return wheel 40; however, various means of attachment are contemplated for this purpose, including, but not limited to, rivets, nuts and bolts, or industrial grade adhesives. When an adhesive is used to attach the lift component to a ball return wheel 40, fastener channels 33 are not a necessary element of the lift component 20.

Referring again to FIG. 6, the lift component 20 is secured to the ball return wheel 40 such that the bottom surface 30 contacts the interior circumference 41 of the ball return wheel 40 and the concave surface 26 is positioned so as to be the surface farthest forward in the direction of rotation. As the ball return wheel 40 rotates, the concave surface 26 of the lift component 20 is rotated into position underneath the bowling ball and provides the necessary support and leverage to raise the ball to a higher position.

FIG. 7 is a side view of the lift component 20 operating to lift a ball 45 between the ball return wheel 40 and the lift rod 42. With the lift component 20 providing the impetus for upward movement, the bowling ball 45 rolls upward between the ball return wheel 40 and the lift rod 42 and is then deposited onto the return rail 44 and is delivered back to the bowler.

While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that it is not intended that the invention be limited to that embodiment. On the contrary, it is intended to cover all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as disclosed.

As to the manner of usage and operation of the present invention, the same should be apparent from the above disclosure, and accordingly no further discussion relevant to the manner of usage and operation of the present invention shall be provided.

With respect to the above description then, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the present invention, to include variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use, are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

Therefore, the foregoing is considered illustrative of only the principles of the present invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the claims to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the claims. Therefore the foregoing is considered illustrative of the principles of the present invention.