Title:
Pneumatically actuated drain stopper system and apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A pneumatically actuated drain stopper system and apparatus which includes a source of compressed gas, a pressure regulator, a piston drain, a push-button or toggle switch interposed between the piston drain and the pressure regulator, and pneumatic lines connecting the piston drain to the switch and the switch to the gas source, and bringing all elements into fluid communication with one another.



Inventors:
Duncan, Scott (Santa Rosa, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/219548
Publication Date:
01/05/2006
Filing Date:
09/02/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03C1/23
View Patent Images:
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20080244815Plumbing baseOctober, 2008O'connell
20020095125Collapsible container for receiving waste body fluidsJuly, 2002Parker
20040154095Pop-up drain assemblyAugust, 2004Rhodes



Primary Examiner:
HUYNH, KHOA D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Stainbrook & Stainbrook, LLP (Santa Rosa, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed as invention is:

1. A pneumatic system for actuating drain stoppers, comprising: a source of compressed gas; at least one pneumatic line in fluid communication with said source of compressed gas; a pressure regulator interposed between said source of compressed gas and said pneumatic line so as to regulate the pressure of gas within said pneumatic line; at least one piston drain connected to said pneumatic line; and at least one selectively operable switch interposed on said pneumatic line between said piston drain and said pressure regulator.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein said source of compressed gas supplies a gas selected from the group consisting of air, HFC-134a, and CO2.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein said source of compressed gas comprises a compressed gas cylinder.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein said source of compressed gas is an air compressor having a compressed air storage tank.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein said piston drain includes: a pneumatic housing having an upper portion and a lower portion, an opening in said upper portion, said pneumatic housing having an interior side, ceiling, and floor defining an interior volume, and having a gas inlet disposed in said lower portion, said gas inlet connected to said pneumatic line; a piston head slidingly disposed within said interior side of said pneumatic housing and sealed to substantially prevent the passage of gas; a compression spring disposed between said piston head and said ceiling of said pneumatic housing, such that said piston is urged generally downwardly; a drain stopper; and a connecting rod disposed through the opening in said upper portion of said pneumatic housing and connecting said piston head to said drain stopper; such that when said selectively operable switch is pushed or toggled, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow into the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said gas inlet and below said piston head, thus urging said piston upward, and wherein when said selectively operable switch is next pushed or toggled, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow out of the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said gas inlet and said compression spring moves said piston head downward.

6. The system of claim 5, wherein said piston drain further includes a gas exit port not under the control of said switch and which is dimensioned to permit a slow flow of air to pass during operation of the mechanism in an amount insufficient to disable the force effecting the elevation of said piston head, and wherein gas continues to pass through said exit port after said piston head has been elevated until the force of the compressed gas beneath the piston and urging it upwardly is surpassed by the force of the compression spring urging the piston downwardly.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein said piston drain includes: a pneumatic housing having an upper portion and a lower portion, an opening in said upper portion, said pneumatic housing having an interior side, ceiling, and floor defining an interior volume, and having a gas inlet disposed in said upper portion, said gas inlet connected to said pneumatic line; a piston head slidingly disposed within said interior side of said pneumatic housing and sealed to substantially prevent the passage of gas; a compression spring disposed between said piston head and said floor of said pneumatic housing, such that said piston is urged generally upwardly; a drain stopper; and a connecting rod disposed through the opening in said upper portion of said pneumatic housing and connecting said piston head to said drain stopper; such that when said selectively operable switch is pushed or toggled, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow into the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said gas inlet and above said piston head, thus urging said piston downward, and wherein when said selectively operable switch is next actuated, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow out of the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said gas inlet and said compression spring moves said piston head upward.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein said piston drain includes: a pneumatic housing having an upper portion and a lower portion, an opening in said upper portion, said pneumatic housing having an interior side, ceiling, and floor defining an interior volume, and having a first gas inlet disposed in said lower portion and a second gas inlet disposed in said upper portion, each of said first and second gas inlets connected to said pneumatic line; a piston head slidingly disposed within said interior side of said pneumatic housing and sealed to substantially prevent the passage of gas; a drain stopper; and a connecting rod disposed through the opening in said upper portion of said pneumatic housing and connecting said piston head to said drain stopper; such that when said selectively operable switch is pushed or toggled, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow into the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said first gas inlet and below said piston head while simultaneously allowing pressurized gas to flow from the interior volume above said piston head through said second gas inlet, thereby urging said piston upward; and such that when said selectively operable switch is next pushed or toggled, said switch allows pressurized gas to flow into the interior volume of said pneumatic housing through said second gas inlet and above said piston head while simultaneously allowing pressurized gas to flow from the interior volume below said piston head through said first gas inlet, thereby urging said piston downward.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein said switch includes a push button or toggle element for activation of said switch.

10. The system of claim 1, including a plurality of switches, pneumatic lines, and piston drains.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Utility patent application Ser. No. 09/888,186, filed Jun. 21, 2001 (Jun. 21, 2001); and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. Nos. 60/665,615, and 60/665,610, each filed Mar. 24, 2005 (Mar. 24, 2005). Each of the foregoing patent applications are incorporated in their entirety by reference herein.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX

Not applicable.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to plumbing fixtures, more particularly to a pneumatically actuated drain stopper apparatus for basins, tubs, sinks, and toilets.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND DISCUSSION OF RELATED ART

The typical modern sink, tub, or water basin employs a pop-up linkage for controlling the stopper that blocks its drain. Most commonly the pop-up linkage is purely mechanical and consists of a lever connected to a stopper lift up control, which is connected to a pivot rod, which in turn is pivotally connected to a plunger to move it up and down. A user moves the lever to selectively retain water before discharge as waste.

The physical and functional elements comprising the typical sink include several intersecting sharp abrasive surfaces that are not shielded and which, over time, loosen and become mechanically compromised. They then present to a user a less-than-ideal drain stopper control device. Over time, the typical pop-up linkage can become so loose that when the control rod is pushed or pulled to its fully usable length, the stopper may not rise from the drain sufficiently to enable its basin to be evacuated of its contained waste water in a reasonably short period of time; additionally, it will not sufficiently seat upon the drain inlet to provide a substantially water-tight seal to retain water within the basin. Moreover, wearing of the parts, corrosion, friction at the insertion of the pivot rod, and so forth, can combine to make actuation of the assembly physically difficult.

Hydraulic stopper actuators have been proposed as an alternative to the mechanical devices described above. For instance, Patentschrift Nr. 179,269, to Lachner, discloses a hydraulically powered drain stopper for a wash basin. And JP Pat. No. 405346030, to Ota, shows a similar apparatus. Efficient hydraulic systems, however, generally employ an oil for system fluid, and because hydraulic systems are prone to leaks, they are entirely unsuitable for use in drains that release into municipal sewer mains. Furthermore, neither reference shows a system including check valves that would provide for push button release of pressure to lower a stopper, whether the stopper is disposed below or above the basin drain strainer.

A pneumatic power system is ideally suited for use in actuation drain stopper movement. While an electrical motor powering a drain stopper would be considerably more responsive, it would also introduce an element of risk of injury into a simple plumbing fixture. While a hydraulically powered stopper would be more powerfully driven, the hydraulic system imports a risk of environmental contamination. And while a mechanical system can be more economical (at least potentially), they are prone to failure, as described above.

Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a power apparatus for actuating drain stopper vertical movement that overcomes the disadvantages of the foregoing systems. A pneumatic system is ideally suited for the purpose: pneumatic systems are highly reliable due to a minimization of moving parts; they are economical; they do not introduce contaminants into the atmosphere if there is a breach of the system; they can be used in wet conditions without creating an electrical shock hazard; they are compact; and they provide easily variable torques and speeds that can be tailored to the specific functional demands.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing, it is an object of the present invention to provide a pneumatic system for actuating one or more stopper devices not having mechanical linkages.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a stopper device system which operates smoothly and reliably and which, over time, is as fully functional after considerable time as it was when new.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a button actuated pneumatic stopper device.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide an improved push button sink actuated pneumatic stopper device system and apparatus that employs dual check valves and a two way switch to enable a user to raise and lower a stopper with only the push of a button.

The present invention is directed to a pneumatically powered stopper device system and apparatus for selectively blocking a drain to the passage of water. The drain is provided with a drain inlet, a drain outlet, and a substantially cylindrical throat between the drain inlet and drain outlet. A pressurized gas source is provided together with a means for selectively feeding and regulating pressurized control gas to a stopper assembly. The stopper assembly comprises a stopper having a drain blocking surface with dimensions such that when seated on the drain inlet or within the cylindrical throat, the drain-blocking surface acts to block water from passing into and through the drain. The stopper assembly further includes a connecting rod which is attached to the drain-blocking surface and which extends within the cylindrical throat.

In a first preferred embodiment of the present invention, a pneumatic line, which may include a jacket, is also located within the cylindrical throat for receiving the control gas and the connecting rod. As pressurized gas is fed to the jacket or line, the connecting rod extends outwardly to cause the drain blocking surface to elevate off from the drain inlet, and as the pressurized gas is withdrawn from the jacket, the connecting rod is caused to extend back into the line or jacket to cause the drain-blocking surface to seat upon the drain inlet.

In several other preferred embodiments, a constellation of pneumatic lines, push-button controls, values, pressure regulators, and actuators are configured to allow a user to selectively raise and lower a drain stopper or toilet flapper or other moveable device, either through push rod manipulation alone, or through push rod manipulation in conjunction with a push button or switch.

Other novel features which are characteristic of the invention, as to organization and method of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof will be better understood from the following description considered in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which preferred embodiments of the invention are illustrated by way of example. It is to be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for illustration and description only and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the invention. The various features of novelty that characterize the invention are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming part of this disclosure. The invention does not reside in any one of these features taken alone, but rather in the particular combination of all of its structures for the functions specified.

There has thus been broadly outlined the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form additional subject matter of the claims appended hereto. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based readily may be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further, the purpose of the Abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The Abstract is neither intended to define the invention of this application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

Certain terminology and derivations thereof may be used in the following description for convenience in reference only, and will not be limiting. For example, words such as “upward,” “downward,” “left,” and “right” would refer to directions in the drawings to which reference is made unless otherwise stated. Similarly, words such as “inward” and “outward” would refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of a device or area and designated parts thereof. References in the singular tense include the plural, and vice versa, unless otherwise noted.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood and objects other than those set forth above will become apparent when consideration is given to the following detailed description thereof. Such description makes reference to the annexed drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic cross-sectional side view in elevation of a first preferred embodiment of the pneumatic system for actuating a stopper device of the present invention, showing the drain stopper elevated by depression of a push rod actuator;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional side view in elevation of the first preferred embodiment of the pneumatic stopper device of the present invention, showing the stopper lowered onto the drain inlet by withdrawal of the push rod actuator;

FIG. 3 is a schematic view showing a second preferred embodiment of the pneumatic apparatus for actuating a drain stopper, in which a push-button is employed to elevate a drain stopper assembly using compressed gas as the moving force, and a spring is employed to depress the drain stopper assembly when the push-button is next pushed;

FIG. 4 is a schematic view showing a third preferred embodiment of the pneumatic apparatus for actuating a toilet flapper valve, configured similarly to the apparatus of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a schematic view showing a fourth preferred embodiment of the pneumatic apparatus of the present invention, in which a push-button is depressed to cause compressed gas to lower the drain stopper assembly and a spring elevates the drain stopper when the button is next pushed;

FIG. 6 is a schematic view showing a fifth preferred embodiment of the present invention, in which compressed gas moves the drain stopper assembly both up and down with alternating depressions of the push button; and

FIG. 7 is a schematic view of the pneumatic apparatus of the present invention employed to actuate a number of stopper and/or other devices.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIGS. 1 through 7, wherein like reference numerals refer to like components in the various views, there is illustrated therein several preferred embodiments of a new and improved pneumatical system and apparatus for actuating stopper device movement. FIG. 1 illustrates a first preferred embodiment of the pneumatically actuated stopper device of the present invention. Referring now to FIG. 1, washbasin 100 is depicted having a water retaining internal volume 110. Although a washbasin is depicted, the present invention is fully applicable to any environment in which water is intended to be selectively retained within an internal volume including, for example, bathtub and kitchen sink installations, and even toilets, as will be seen in FIG. 5.

Washbasin 100 is shown having a drain inlet 130, a drain outlet 140, and a substantially cylindrical throat 150 between the drain inlet and drain outlet.

A pressurized fluid source 210 is provided in the form of a mechanical pump configured in a syringe-like, or plunger and cylinder, configuration. As will be appreciated, virtually any means of feeding pressurized fluid to the stopper device of the present invention can be employed, and other embodiments of the present invention, as described herein, employ alternative means. The stopper assembly itself is provided with a drain-blocking surface 160, preferably including a disk having a substantially circular circumference dimensioned to seat tightly on the drain inlet 130 or within the cylindrical throat 150, thereby effectively blocking the passage of water contained within internal volume 110 (FIG. 2).

The stopper assembly further comprises connecting rod 170 functionally connected to and supporting drain-blocking surface 160. Preferably the drain-blocking surface 160 is substantially horizontally disposed and connecting rod 170 is normal thereto, thus being substantially vertically disposed.

Connecting rod 170 extends within cylindrical throat 150 and further extends within pneumatic line 200. When needed for support, pneumatic line 200 can be provided with a jacket 180 also located within cylindrical throat 150 as shown. Jacket 180, which may be nothing more than the terminal end of pneumatic line 200, is configured to receive control fluid, such as pressurized air, and contains piston head 190 dimensioned to prevent the passage of control fluid between its periphery and the inner walls of jacket 180, yet sized to slidably travel within line 200 or jacket 180 as schematically shown by directional arrows 260 (FIG. 1).

Referring again to FIG. 1, pressurized fluid source 210 is shown such that finger actuated control element 220 connected to plunger stem 230 is depressed, thus moving plunger head 240 in the direction of arrow 270 reducing the gas volume 250 which creates pneumatic pressure upon piston head 190. The pneumatic pressure translated through line 200 causes connecting rod 170 and drain-blocking surface 160 to rise, thus freeing the drain 120 at drain inlet 130 to receive waste water contained within volume 110.

Conversely, in viewing FIG. 2, as control element 220 is withdrawn from pressurized fluid source 210, stem 230 and plunger head 240 are caused to move in direction of arrow 280, thus increasing volume 250 and consequently decreasing the pressure of the control fluid within pneumatic line 200. This, in turn, causes the piston head 190 to vertically drop within the pneumatic line 200 or jacket 180 further causing the connecting rod 170 to vertically drop and the drain-blocking surface 160 to seat upon drain 120, blocking the drain inlet 130. In this orientation, any waste water contained within volume 110 would be retained within washbasin 100.

As noted from the above discussion, by simply applying the withdrawing pressure upon control element 220, the drain-blocking surface 160 can be caused to selectively block drain 120 at drain inlet 130 without the use of any previously employed mechanical linkage.

The first preferred embodiment of the present invention thus provides a reliable and smoothly operable control device which provides the user a smoothly actuated stopper which is both reliable and less costly to produce and maintain than current configurations. Further, the first preferred embodiment of the present invention can be installed in present installations by retrofitting basins.

Referring now to FIG. 3, which is a schematic view of a second preferred embodiment 300 of a pneumatic apparatus for actuating movement of a drain stopper, it is seen that the inventive apparatus comprises, in its most essential aspect, a gas source 310 in fluid communication with a piston drain 320. The gas source may be one or more portable compressed gas cylinders or a compressor apparatus including a motor and gas storage tanks. The piston drain includes a lower portion 320a and an upper portion 320b. Interposed between the gas source and piston drain are devices for controlling and regulating the translation of pressurized gas from the gas source to the piston drain, including: a pneumatic pressure regulator 330, either integral with the gas source or connected to it with a pneumatic line 340; a switch 350, either integral with the pressure regulator or in fluid communication with the pressure regulator through a pneumatic line 360, and which includes a toggle element or a push button 370 for selective actuation with a push or a flip of the toggle to operate the piston drain. A pneumatic line 380 connects the piston drain 320 with the switch.

The gas source 310 preferably provides compressed gas, which is ideally a non-toxic, environmentally safe fluid that may be provided in generally small gas cylinders and which may be employed repeatedly to provide a long useful life. Presently, it is preferred to employ HFC-134a aerosol (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane) as the compressed gas from the gas source. A suitable product is available from several suppliers, including DuPont (DYMEL® HFC-134a), and Honeywell (GENETRON® 134a). Alternatively, any of a number of functionally equivalent compressible gases may be employed, most notably including air and CO2. Testing and trials related to the present invention show that very low cost cylinders of compressed HFC-134a aerosol can provide up to 15,000 cycles of raising and lowering a conventional bathroom sink drain stopper.

The piston drain is actuated in response to selective depression of the push-button 370 of switch 350. The piston drain includes a pneumatic housing 400 having a gas inlet 410 disposed in the lower portion of the pneumatic housing and connected to the pneumatic line 380, and a piston 420 having a piston head 430 slidingly disposed within the interior side 440 of the pneumatic housing 400, and substantially sealed to prevent the passage of gas by means of one or more rings 450. The pneumatic housing includes the interior side, as well as a floor 460 and a ceiling 470. A compression spring 480 is disposed between the piston head 430 and the ceiling 470 of the pneumatic housing, so as to urge the piston downwardly when gas pressure is released by actuation of the switch. The piston further includes a connecting rod 490 disposed between and connecting the piston head and a drain stopper 500.

As will be readily apparent by reference to FIG. 3, the gas source provides a ready supply of compressed gas, and the pressure regulator pre-charges the apparatus up to the switch to a predetermined amount (generally around 5 psi). When push button 370 is depressed, compressed gas is allowed to travel from switch 350 through pneumatic line 380 and through the gas inlet 410 to the interior volume 510 of the pneumatic housing below the piston head 430. This urges the piston 420, including drain stopper 500, upwardly from a lowered position 10 (Position 1) to a raised position 20 (Position 2). If the drain installed includes a drain stopper disposed under the drain inlet, then elevation of the drain stopper will close the drain inlet to block the passage of fluid from the drain. If the installed drain stopper is disposed generally above the drain inlet (as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, herein), then elevation of the drain stopper will open the drain inlet to permit the passage fluid into the drain inlet and through the drain. When the switch is next pushed or toggled, the switch permits the escape of compressed gas from the interior volume and the compression spring thus urges the piston downwardly, either closing or opening the drain, depending on the configuration of the stopper assembly.

Referring now to FIG. 4, in a third preferred embodiment 600 of the present invention, the apparatus is adapted for use in selectively operating the flapper assembly in a toilet flush mechanism. Accordingly, the piston head includes a small gas exit port 610, which is not under the control of a switch and which is dimensioned to permit a slow flow of air to pass during operation of the mechanism. As gas passes into the pneumatic housing 620, a small portion of gas is also allowed to pass through exit port 610, but not so much as to undermine the force effecting the elevation of the piston 630. However, gas continues to pass through exit port even after the piston has been pushed into the raised position, until the force of the compressed gas beneath the piston and urging it upwardly is surpassed by the force of the compression spring urging the piston downwardly. Accordingly, the apparatus will not allow water to be wasted in a continual flush. Other elements in this third preferred embodiment are essentially the same as those of the apparatus of the second preferred embodiment, as shown in FIG. 3, including a gas source 640, a pressure regulator 650, a switch 660 having a push button or toggle 670, and pneumatic lines 680a, 680b, 680c.

FIG. 5 shows a fourth preferred embodiment 700 of the present invention, again comprising as essential elements a gas source 710, a pressure regulator 720, a three-port switch 730 having a push button 740, a piston drain 750, and connecting pneumatic lines as needed. In this embodiment, however, the pneumatic housing 760 of the piston drain has a gas inlet 770 disposed in the upper portion 760a of the housing and a compression spring 780 disposed between the piston head 790 of the piston 800 and the floor 810 of the pneumatic housing. A seal 820 is disposed in the opening 830 in the upper portion 760a of the housing and around the connecting rod 840 of the piston to prevent pressure loss. In this instance, when the push button 740 is depressed, compressed gas enters the pneumatic housing and drives the piston down, thus lowering the drain stopper 850. When the push button is again depressed, the pressure is released by the switch and the compression spring urges the piston head upward, thus elevating the drain stopper.

FIG. 6 shows a fifth preferred embodiment 900 of the inventive apparatus, again comprising similar elements as those in the second through fourth preferred embodiments, including a gas source 910, a pressure regulator 920, a switch 930, a preferably a five-port switch and including a push-button actuator 940, a piston drain 950, and connecting pneumatic lines as needed. However, the piston 960 in the piston drain is actuated in both directions, i.e., both upwardly and downwardly, via gas pressure. This is accomplished by providing an upper gas inlet 970 which allows the selective ingress and escape of compressed gas above the piston head 980 and a lower gas inlet 990 which allows the selective ingress of compressed gas below the piston head, depending on the cycle of the push button. This apparatus entirely eliminates mechanical operational elements, including springs, thus minimizing wear and breakage and reducing the need for repair.

FIG. 7 is a schematic diagram showing how the inventive apparatus can be employed in a building to power a large set of devices simultaneously in a pneumatic system 1000. In a typical residential setting such a system might include a gas source 1010 (possibly including a compressor), a pressure regulator 1020, a main pneumatic line 1030, one or more tees, 1040 and 1050, for branching off the main line to supply secondary pneumatic lines 1060, 1070, 1080, and switches 1090, 1100, 1110, each of which control the supply of compressed gas to power a kitchen sink drain 1120, one or more lavatory drains 1130, one or more bathtub drains 1140, one or more toilet flappers (not shown), and so on. In such a system it may be preferable to provide an electro-pneumatic regulator capable of regulating the pressure demanded in the system at all times such that all supply lines are pre-charged with the optimal operating pressure.

It will be immediately appreciated that such a system could be employed on a large scale for use in large buildings. Indeed, such a system could be employed to actuate numerous devices well beyond plumbing devices. For instance, a large system could be employed for opening and closing windows and doors, raising and lowering blinds, setting and opening locks, and so forth.

The above disclosure is sufficient to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to practice the invention, and provides the best mode of practicing the invention presently contemplated by the inventor. While there is provided herein a full and complete disclosure of the preferred embodiments of this invention, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction, dimensional relationships, and operation shown and described. Various modifications, alternative constructions, changes and equivalents will readily occur to those skilled in the art and may be employed, as suitable, without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention. Such changes might involve alternative materials, components, structural arrangements, sizes, shapes, forms, functions, operational features or the like.

Therefore, the above description and illustrations should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention, which is defined by the appended claims.