Title:
Magnetic capture device for loose-fill blowing machines
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A loose-fill blowing machine is provided having an input for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing. The blowing machine includes at lest one magnet disposed proximate to the input for attracting magnetic materials received in the input.



Inventors:
La Salle, Michael E. (Collegeville, PA, US)
Application Number:
10/939603
Publication Date:
03/23/2006
Filing Date:
09/13/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04B1/74
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Primary Examiner:
TRIGGS, ANDREW J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Abel Schillinger, LLP (Austin, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A loose-fill blowing machine comprising an input for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing, said blowing machine comprising at least one magnet disposed proximate to said input for attracting magnetic materials received in said input.

2. The machine of claim 1, wherein said input comprises a hopper.

3. The machine of claim 1, wherein said at least one magnet comprises an electromagnet.

4. The machine of claim 3, wherein said electromagnet is coupled to a power source for said loose-fill blowing machine.

5. The machine of claim 1, wherein said at least one magnet comprises a permanent magnet.

6. A loose-fill blowing machine comprising a hopper for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing, said blowing machine comprising at least one magnet disposed proximate to said hopper for attracting magnetic materials received in said hopper to an interior surface of said hopper.

7. The machine of claim 6 wherein said at least one magnet comprises an electromagnet.

8. The machine of claim 7, wherein said electromagnet is coupled to a power source for said loose-fill blowing machine.

9. The machine of claim 6, wherein said at least one magnet comprises a plate coupled to a rear surface of said hopper.

10. The machine of claim 6, wherein said at least one magnet comprises a permanent magnet.

11. The machine of claim 6, wherein said hopper comprises a wall having a permanent magnet material, whereby said hopper comprises said at least one magnet.

12. A method of reducing reception of unwanted materials into a loose-fill blowing machine having an input for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing, comprising the step of: providing a magnetic force proximate to said input for attracting magnetic materials received in said input.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein said providing step comprises disposing at least one magnet proximate to said input.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein said at least one magnet comprises an electromagnet, said method further comprising the step of energizing said electromagnet.

15. The method of claim 13, wherein said at least one magnet comprises a permanent magnet.

16. The method of claim 12, wherein said input comprises a hopper, said providing step comprising the step of disposing at least one magnet proximate to said hopper to attract said magnetic materials to an interior surface of said hopper.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein a wall of said hopper comprises a permanent magnet material, whereby said hopper comprises said at least one magnet.

18. The method of claim 12, wherein said providing step comprises retrofitting at least one magnet proximate to said input.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein said input comprises a hopper, said retrofitting step comprising coupling at least one magnet to a rear surface of said hopper.

20. The method of claim 18, wherein said retrofitting step comprises providing a hopper to said loose-fill blowing machine, said hopper having either at least one magnet coupled thereto or having a wall comprising a permanent magnet material.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to insulation, and more particularly to loose-fill insulation, and still more particularly to systems for blowing loose-fill insulation.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Loose-fill insulation generally consists of granular or fluffy materials, such as cellulosic fibers, fiberglass, mineral wool and vermiculite, that can be poured or blown into hollow cavities or open attics. The main advantage of loose-fill insulation is that it can completely fill the space to be insulated without having to be cut and fitted. Loose-fill insulation is particularly desirable for spaces such as attic floors that have a lot of obstructions.

Loose-fill insulation is usually provided in bag form. When using a blowing machine for blowing loose-fill insulation, insulation installers open bags of loose-fill insulation and dump the exposed insulation into the hopper of the blowing machine. Installers usually use utility knives or other metallic objects to open the bags of loose-fill insulation. Occasionally, the installer will loose his or her grip on the utility knife and drop or otherwise lose the knife into the hopper along with the insulation. When a knife (or other metal object) reaches the interior workings of the blowing machine, it can cause damage that either reduces the efficiency of the machine or renders it inoperable. In either case, the machine must be repaired, which cuts into the productivity and profits of the installer.

On other occasions, metallic debris from the manufacturing facility may be inadvertently packaged in the bag along with the bulk loose-fill insulation. When the installer empties the bag of insulation containing the metallic debris into the hopper of the blowing machine, the same type of damage as discussed above can occur.

Therefore, there is a need for an improved blowing machine that is less susceptible to inadvertent insertion of foreign objects, particularly metallic objects, that may cause damage thereto.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A loose-fill blowing machine is provided having an input for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing. The blowing machine includes at least one magnet disposed proximate to the input for attracting magnetic materials received in the input. In one embodiment, the input comprises a hopper and the at least one magnet is positioned to attract the magnetic materials to the interior surface of the hopper.

A method of reducing the reception of unwanted materials into a loose-fill blowing machine having an input for receiving loose-fill insulation for blowing is also described. In the method, a magnetic force is provided proximate to the input for attracting magnetic materials received in the input.

The improved blowing machine is less susceptible to being damaged by magnetic objects inadvertently introduced to the machine, such as knives misplaced in the field and debris included in the bulk loose-fill insulation. The improved resistance to damage improves the lifetime of the blowing machine, efficiency and downtime, with resulting benefits to the efficiency and margins of the installer. The magnetic solution can be retrofitted into existing machines in a variety of ways or come pre-installed in new blowing machines.

The above and other features of the present invention will be better understood from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention that is provided in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings illustrate preferred embodiments of the invention, as well as other information pertinent to the disclosure, in which:

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a loose-fill blowing system and method;

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of a loose-fill blowing machine;

FIG. 3. is a side elevation, cross section view of the loose-fill blowing machine of FIG. 2 taken along Lines 3-3; and

FIG. 3A is a front elevation view of a portion of FIG. 3 indicated by reference 3A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a loose-fill blowing system 10 for blowing loose-fill insulation into a structure 12. Person 14 opens a bag 16 containing bulk loose-fill insulation 18. The contents of the bag 16, including the bulk loose-fill insulation 18 and any other contents therein (such as metallic scraps, screws, bolts, etc.), are emptied into the input 20 of a loose-fill blowing machine 22. A hose 24 is connected to the loose-fill blowing machine 22 and is fed into structure 12, such as through a window 26. The hose 24 is handled by a second operator 28 for directing blown loose-fill insulation 30 into desired spaces. Input 20 often takes the form of a sloped hopper, as best shown in FIG. 3.

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of blowing machine 22. Within input 20, blowing machine 22 includes rotating paddles or “beater bars” 32 for breaking up clumps of loose-fill insulation and feeding these clumps into rotating feed valve or auger 34. Auger 34 moves the loose-fill 18 to a grinder (not shown) for subsequent blowing by a blower apparatus (not shown) through hose 24.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of blowing machine 22 taken along Lines 3-3 of FIG. 2. The motor, grinder, electronics and other working components of blowing machine 22 are shown as “motor/electronics” 38, the details of which should be familiar to those of ordinary skill in the art and do not form a part of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 3, input 20 comprises a hopper having at least one sloped interior surface 36 and rear surface 37. At least one magnet 40 is disposed proximate to the input 20 in order to attract magnetic materials received (likely inadvertently) in input 20.

By “magnet”, it is meant a body or device that can be used to attract magnetic materials. “Magnetic materials” are those materials that are attracted by magnets. Magnetic materials typically include materials including iron, cobalt, nickel, gadolinium, dysprosium and alloys and compositions containing these elements. In one embodiment, magnet(s) 40 comprises a permanent magnet. A magnet may be “permanent” in the sense that once it is magnetized, it retains a level of magnetism.

In an alternative embodiment, magnet(s) 40 may comprise an electromagnet. An “electromagnet” typically includes a wound helical coil of wire, usually with an iron core. When current flows in the coil, the iron becomes a magnet. The strength and polarity of the magnetic field created by the electromagnet are adjustable by changing the magnitude of the current flowing through the coil and by changing the current flow.

In one embodiment shown in FIG. 3, the magnet or magnets 40 are coupled to the rear surface 37 of the hopper corresponding to a substantial portion of the interior surface area of the hopper. As shown in the partial, front perspective view of portion 3A of FIG. 3, the magnets 40 (shown in shadow) may comprise one or more single magnet plate that substantially spans the width of the hopper interior surface 36 or a series of spaced magnets across the width of the hopper interior surface 36. The magnets 40 may be coupled to the rear surface 37 of the hopper by an adhesive, by brackets, by a fitted or insert connection, by a screw or bolt connection, by simple magnetic connection (in the case of a permanent magnet and when the hopper wall comprises a magnetic material) or other connection method.

In practice, magnets 40 create a magnetic field that attracts magnetic materials to the interior surface 36 of the hopper. Magnets 40 either create a magnetic field that passes through the material that forms the hopper, attracting materials to the surface thereof, and/or hopper 40 comprises a material that, when within the magnetic field of magnets 40, itself becomes a temporary magnet and attracts magnetic materials to its surface 36. By “temporary magnet”, it is meant a magnet that acts like a permanent magnet when within a strong magnetic field, but loses its magnetism when the magnetic field disappears. For example, nails, paperclips and other soft iron items are examples of items which can be temporary magnets.

FIG. 3A shows magnetic material items 42-48 held to the interior surface 36 of the hopper by the magnetic field created by magnets 40. Items 42 include, for example, utility knife 42, nail or screw 44, bolt 46 or other piece of magnetic material 48. In practice, if these items are introduced into the hopper, they are attracted to the interior surface 36 and prevented from entering auger 34 and the inner workings of blowing machine 22, thereby preventing damage thereto. The materials 42-48 can then be removed by hand, preferably after turning blowing machine 22 “off” or taking other necessary safety precaution.

If magnet 40 comprises an electromagnet, it may be coupled to the same power supply as the blowing machine 22, normally, a power take off from the engine of a vehicle or a generator. Preferably, the power connection to the electromagnet remains once the blowing functions of the machine 22 are turned “off”, so that materials 42-48 remain held to surface 36 for removal and do not fall into the blowing machine 22.

In one embodiment, the hopper itself can be formed from a material or materials comprising a permanent magnet, thereby comprising the magnet 40 itself. In this embodiment, the hopper creates a permanent magnetic field that attracts magnetic materials to its interior surface. Such a hopper may be retrofitted into blowing machine 22, such as by replacing the existing hopper or by a hopper-shaped insert.

In one exemplary embodiment, the blowing machine 22 is the VOLU-MATIC® series of insulation blowing machines made by Unisul of Winter Haven, Fla. The hopper of the VOLU-MATIC blowing machine includes walls comprising aluminum plates supported by steel ribs (not shown). The primary hopper sloped surface is about 13″×59″. In one embodiment, magnets are provided to substantially cover the rear surface of this primary sloped surface and at sufficient magnetic field strengths to attract magnetic objects through the aluminum plates, as aluminum is not a temporary magnet.

Magnetic plates or other magnets can be included in newly manufactured blowing machines or retrofitted into existing blowing machines, such as through bolted couplings or other coupling means to the front or rear surfaces of a hopper or even at a point intermediate the front or rear surfaces, such as within the hopper wall. In the case of electromagnets, it is believed that only fairly simple modifications to the power system of the blowing machine would need to be made to power the electromagnet.

The kinds of materials selected for the magnet(s) and the shape and orientation of the magnet(s), as well as the current level (in the case of electromagnets), may vary and could be determined by simple experimentation. As an example, there are four kinds of recognized permanent magnets: (i) ceramic or ferrite; (ii) Aluminum Nickel Cobalt Steel (AlNiCo); (iii) Samarium Cobalt (SmCo); and (iv) Neodymium Iron Born (NdFeB or NIB). Polymeric-ferrous magnets may also be an option. Further, organic or organic/polymeric magnets have promise, as they have been recognized to be light, flexible and less energy intensive to make than conventional metal and ceramic magnets.

The improved blowing machine is less susceptible to being damaged by magnetic objects introduced to the blowing machine, such as knives misplaced in the field and debris included in the bulk loose-fill insulation. The improved resistance to damage improves the lifetime of the blowing machine, efficiency and downtime, with resultant benefits to the efficiency and margins of the installer. The magnetic solution can be retrofitted into existing machines in a variety of ways or come pre-installed in new blowing machines.

Although the invention has been described in terms of exemplary embodiments, it is not limited thereto. Rather, the appended claims should be construed broadly to include other variants and embodiments of the invention that may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and range of equivalents of the invention