Title:
Automatic cleaning apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An automatic cleaning apparatus has a cleaner body having at least one driving wheel, and in certain disclosed embodiments, a vapor spray means installed in the cleaner body for generating water vapor during operation, and spraying the generated water vapor toward a lower part of the cleaner body.



Inventors:
Song, Jeong-gon (Gwangjucity, KR)
Ko, Jang-youn (Gwangju-city, KR)
Lee, Ju-sang (Gwangju-city, KR)
Lim, Kwang-soo (Seoul, KR)
Kim, Ki-man (Gwangju-city, KR)
Jeung, Sam-jong (Gwangju-city, KR)
Application Number:
11/269674
Publication Date:
08/24/2006
Filing Date:
11/09/2005
Assignee:
SAMSUNG GWANGJU ELECTRONICS CO., LTD.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/319
International Classes:
B08B5/04; A47L5/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
REDDING, DAVID A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BLANK ROME LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An automatic cleaning apparatus, comprising: a cleaner body having at least one driving wheel; and a vapor spray means installed in the cleaner body, for generating a water vapor during operation, and spraying the generated water vapor toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

2. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 1, wherein the vapor spray means comprises: a water tank detachably mounted to the cleaner body; and a vapor generating module installed in the cleaner body in fluid connection with the water tank, for converting a water from the water tank into a vapor and spraying the converted vapor toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

3. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 2, wherein the cleaner body comprises a first mounting location to detachably mount the vapor generating module, and a second mounting location to mount the water tank, with the first and the second mounting location being connected with each other.

4. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 3, wherein the cleaner body comprises a door provided to an upper part of the cleaner body to open and close the second mounting location.

5. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 2, wherein the vapor generating module comprises: a housing in fluid connection with the water tank, and storing a supplied water therein; a vapor generating element provided inside the housing, for generating a vapor while in operation; and a vapor spray part in fluid connection with the housing, for spraying the vapor generated from the housing toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

6. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 5, wherein the vapor spray part comprises a vapor conveyance path in fluid connection with the housing, and one or more vapor spray nozzles in fluid connection with the vapor conveyance path, which are exposed toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

7. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 6, wherein there is a fan installed on the vapor conveyance path to force the vapor against a surface to be cleaned.

8. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 5, wherein the vapor generating element comprises a carbon rod which is positioned under the water of the housing, and generates a vapor when electricity is applied to the rod.

9. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 5, wherein the vapor generating element comprises a heater which is positioned under the water of the housing, and electrically generates heat.

10. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 5, wherein the vapor generating element comprises a vibrator which is positioned under the water of the housing, and generates a vapor while in operation.

11. The automatic cleaning apparatus of claim 5, further comprising a wet floor-cloth which is rotatably mounted to a lower part of the automatic cleaning apparatus.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of Korean Patent Application No. 2005-15491, filed Feb. 24, 2005, in the Korean Intellectual Property Office, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to the field of automatic cleaning devices.

2. Description of the Related Art

Generally, a robot cleaner automatically runs around, without requiring significant input from a user, and cleans the floor by drawing in foreign substances such as dust.

The robot cleaner confirms presence and absence of obstacles or distance to the objects in a given area such as furniture, office equipment or wall, to be able to clean without undesirable collisions.

An exemplary robot cleaner may include a left driving wheel, a right driving wheel, and a driven wheel, all at the lower part of a cleaner body. Each of the driving wheels are driven in association with a driving motor. The driving motor is controlled by a controller and therefore, the cleaner body can shift directions.

The cleaner body may have a suction port at a lower part, to draw in foreign substances such as dust from a surface being cleaned. The suction port is subject to a suction force which is generated from a suction motor additionally provided to the cleaner body. The suction port is fluidly connected with a dust chamber which is provided inside the cleaner body. The drawn foreign substances are collected and stored in the dust chamber.

A robot cleaner may additionally include a floor-cloth to wipe out contaminants off from the surface being cleaned. The floor-cloth is generally provided on the lower part of the robot cleaner and rotates during operation. The robot cleaner runs along the floor, and removes foreign substances by drawing in air, or wiping the floor.

Because a dry floor-cloth is usually employed in such a robot cleaner, the robot cleaner may not effectively wipe out stubborn dirt which is stuck and/or dried on to the floor. Accordingly, the user is required to use a wet floor-cloth, which is inconvenient.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is to be understood that both the following summary and the detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention as claimed. Neither the summary nor the description that follows is intended to define or limit the scope of the invention to the particular features mentioned in the summary or in the description

In certain embodiments, the disclosed embodiments may solve one or more of the above problems and/or disadvantages and may provide one or more of the advantages described herein.

In some embodiments, an automatic cleaning apparatus such as a robot cleaner has an improved structure, which is capable of effectively removing contaminants off from a surface being cleaned.

In some exemplary embodiments, an automatic cleaning apparatus, includes a cleaner body having a driving wheel; and a vapor spray means installed in the cleaner body, for generating a water vapor during operation, and spraying the generated water vapor toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

The vapor spray means may include a water tank detachably mounted to the cleaner body; and a vapor generating module installed in the cleaner body in fluid connection with the water tank, for converting a water from the water tank into a vapor and spraying the converted vapor toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

The cleaner body may include a first mount part to detachably mount the vapor generating module, and a second mount part to mount the water tank, with the first and the second mount parts being connected with each other.

The cleaner body may include a door provided to an upper part of the cleaner body to open and close the second mount part.

The vapor generating module may include a housing in fluid connection with the water tank, and storing a supplied water therein; a vapor generating element provided inside the housing, for generating a vapor while in operation; and a vapor spray part in fluid connection with the housing, for spraying the vapor generated from the housing toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

The vapor spray part may include a vapor conveyance path in fluid connection with the housing, and one or more vapor spray nozzles in fluid connection with the vapor conveyance path, which are exposed toward a lower part of the cleaner body.

A fan may be installed on the vapor conveyance path to forcibly cause the vapor to spray.

The vapor generating element may include a carbon rod which is positioned under the water of the housing, and generates a vapor in accordance with the supply of an electric signal.

The vapor generating element may include a heater which is positioned under the water of the housing, and generates heat in accordance with the supply of an electric signal.

The vapor generating element may include a vibrator which is positioned under the water of the housing, and generates a vapor while in operation.

A wet floor-cloth which may further be provided by rotatably mounting to a lower part of the automatic cleaning apparatus.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated herein and form a part of the specification, illustrate exemplary embodiments and, together with the description, further serve to enable a person skilled in the pertinent art to make and use these embodiments and others that will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a robot cleaner employed as an example of one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view showing a main part of the robot cleaner of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an exploded perspective view of the robot cleaner of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 4 is a schematic sectional view provided for explanation of a vapor generating device of FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

An automatic cleaner and improved features thereof will now be disclosed in terms of various exemplary embodiments. This specification discloses one or more embodiments that incorporate features of the invention. The embodiment(s) described, and references in the specification to “one embodiment”, “an embodiment”, “an example embodiment”, etc., indicate that the embodiment(s) described may include a particular feature, structure, or characteristic, but every embodiment may not necessarily include the particular feature, structure, or characteristic. Moreover, such phrases are not necessarily referring to the same embodiment. Further, when a particular feature, structure, or characteristic is described in connection with an embodiment, persons skilled in the art may effect such feature, structure, or characteristic in connection with other embodiments whether or not explicitly described.

In the following description, similar drawing reference numerals may be used for the same elements even in different drawings. The embodiments described, and their detailed construction and elements, are merely provided to assist in a comprehensive understanding of the invention. Thus, it is apparent that the present invention can be carried out in a variety of ways, and does not require any of the specific features described herein. Also, well-known functions or constructions are not described in detail since they would obscure the invention with unnecessary detail.

Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, a robot cleaner according to one embodiment of the present invention includes a cleaner body 10, left/right driving wheels 12 and 13 installed at the lower part of the cleaner body 10, a suction port 20 formed in the lower part of the cleaner body 10, a wet floor-cloth unit 30 installed at the lower part of the cleaner body 10, and a vapor supply device 100 installed in the cleaner body 10.

The cleaner body 10 includes therein a dust collecting part (not shown) which collects dust from the air when the dust-laden air is drawn in through the suction port 20. The dust collecting part is connected with a vacuum motor to be provided with a suction force. The dust collecting part may include, among other things, a cyclone dust collecting unit and a dust bag.

In an embodiment, there is a sensor 11 installed on the outer side of the cleaner body 10. The sensor 11 is exposed to the outside of the cleaner body 10 so that the sensor can send out a signal and receive reflected signal. A plurality of sensors may be arranged along a side of the cleaner body 10 at predetermined intervals. The sensor 11 also may include a camera unit. The sensor 11 may also include an obstacle sensor which detects obstacles such as furniture or wall. The sensor 11 may also include a running distance sensor. The cleaner body 10 may preferably have a streamlined configuration in consideration of possible collision with obstacles during operation. As it can be referred from the bottom view of FIG. 2, the cleaner body 10 in the embodiment illustrated is approximately circular in section.

In this embodiment, the left/right driving wheels 12 and 13 are selectively driven by a driving motor (not shown) which is separately provided in addition to the vacuum motor. The driving motor is controlled by a control part which is formed inside the cleaner body 10. The left/right driving wheels 12 and 13 may be provided with idle wheels 15 and 16 that passively rotate.

The suction port 20 is located behind the left/right driving wheels 12 and 13 with reference to a running direction A of the robot cleaner 10. In other words, the suction port 20 is located at the downstream of the robot cleaner 10. The suction port 20 is formed to a predetermined length and in parallel relation with respect to a rotary shaft of the left/right driving wheels 12 and 13. The suction port 20 is extended to a predetermined length at the lower part of the cleaner body, but does not reach the side of the cleaner body 10. A rotary brush 21 may be provided to the suction port 20. The rotary brush 21 may be rotated by a driving force transmitted from the vacuum motor, or rotated by a suction force. When rotated by the suction force, a turbine is connected to the rotary brush 21.

A wet floor-cloth unit mounting location 17 may be provided at the lower part of the cleaner body 10, for the mounting of a detachable wet floor-cloth 30. The wet floor-cloth unit mounting location 17 may be provided in near to the suction port 20, and recessed into the lower surface of the cleaner body 10 to a predetermined depth. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, in one illustrative embodiment, the wet floor-cloth unit 30 includes a unit body 31, a rotary body 33 rotatably provided to the lower part of the unit body 31 for the detachable mounting of a wet floor-cloth 32 thereto, a bi-directional rotary motor 34 which provide driving force for rotating the rotary body 33 during operation of the robot cleaner, and a driving force transmitting unit 35 which transmits the driving force of the rotary motor 34 to the rotary body 33. The driving force transmitting unit 35 may include a worm wheel gear 35a for engagement with the rotary body 33, and a worm gear member 35b which connects the worm wheel gear 35a with the shaft 34a of the rotary motor 34. The unit body 31 may be firmly secured by screws, while being inserted in the wet floor-cloth unit mounting location 17.

The cleaner body 10 may include first and second mounting locations 18 and 19. The first mounting location 18 is recessed in the lower side of the cleaner body 10. The second mounting location 19 is recessed in the upper side of the cleaner body. The second mounting location 19 may be opened and closed by a door 40. The first mounting location 18 may be formed near the wet floor-cloth unit mounting location 17, or alternatively, may be connected with the wet floor-cloth unit mounting location 17. The first and second mounting locations 18 and 19 are preferably connected with each other.

The vapor supply device 100 may include a water tank 110 which is removably mounted in the cleaner body 10, and a vapor generating module 120 also mounted in the cleaner body 10 in fluid connection with the water tank 110.

The water tank 110 may include a water feed opening 111 through which water is supplied, and a water discharge opening 113 through which the water is fed into the vapor generating module 120. The water discharge opening 113 is provided with a valve to enable selective supply of water.

The vapor generating module 120 converts the water of the water tank 110 into vapor so that the vapor can be sprayed through the lower part of the cleaner body 10. As shown in FIG. 4, the vapor generating module 120 may include a housing 121 which is fluidly connected with the water tank 110 and holds a certain amount of water supplied from the water tank 110, a vapor generating element 123 which is provided inside the housing 121 and generates vapor during operation, and a vapor spray part 125.

The housing 121 has a space to hold a predetermined amount of water therein, which may be detachably mounted at first mounting location 18. The housing 121 has an opening 122 on the upper part to receive water supply from the water tank 110.

In one embodiment, the vapor generating element 123 may include a pair of carbon rods which are positioned under the water of the housing 121. The carbon rods may be formed of substances such as charcoal or graphite, and therefore, form electrodes. More specifically, as plus (+) and minus (−) power is supplied from a power supply 50 to the carbon rods, the carbon rods start to be discharged and cause adjacent water to boil. As a result, steam is generated from the boiling water, and it usually takes approximately 3 to 5 seconds to generate steam.

The carbon rods are electrically connected through connecting terminals 52 and 54. The connecting terminals 52 and 54 are provided to the housing 121 and the first mounting location 18 in a corresponding relation.

In another example, the vapor generating element 123 may be a heater which vaporizes water by heating it with the supplied electricity. In yet another example, the vapor generating element 123 may be a high frequency vibrator which generates high frequency waves with a supply of electricity to decompose the water into vapor. The vapor generating element 123 is not limited to the examples provided herein, and may employ any adequate method of generating vapor that is available in the industrial field.

The vapor spray part 125 may include a vapor duct 125a that connects to a side of the housing 121. The vapor duct 125a is connected with a vapor outlet 211a which is provided to an upper side of the housing 121. The vapor duct 125a includes a vapor spray nozzle 125b at a lower portion of the cleaner body 10, toward a direction which is exposed to the surface being cleaned. Preferably, the vapor spray nozzle 125b is formed in the proximity of the wet floor-cloth 32. Accordingly, the vapor sprayed from the vapor spray nozzle 125b causes the wet floor-cloth to dampen the surface being cleaned, and cleaning efficiency improves. The vapor spray nozzle 125b may be formed in plural numbers at regular intervals.

The vapor spray part 125 may further include a fan 126 mounted to the vapor duct 125a. By the rotation, the fan 126 forcibly blows the vapor from the housing 121 to discharge to the vapor spray nozzle 125b.

As described above in a few exemplary embodiments of the present invention, an automatic cleaning apparatus having the above constructions has a vapor generating means and therefore, is able to spray vapor to a surface being cleaned to loosen stubborn dirt or dust on the surface. Then as the wet floor-cloth wipes out the loosened dirt or dust, the surface is cleaned more rapidly and with higher efficiency.

The foregoing embodiments and advantages are merely exemplary and are not to be construed as limiting the present invention. The present teaching can be readily applied to other types of apparatuses. Also, the description of the embodiments of the present invention is intended to be illustrative, and not to limit the scope of the claims, and many alternatives, modifications, and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art.