Title:
Snowplow attachment system and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A snowplow attachment system for attaching a snowplow to a vehicle includes a laser device. A power source is coupled to the laser device for energizing the laser device to generate a laser beam. A first attachment is adapted to adjustably mount the laser device on the vehicle and to adjustably orient the laser device to project the laser beam in a selected direction. The snowplow attachment system further includes a target. The snowplow attachment system further includes a second attachment adapted to mount the target to the snowplow. The target is installed in the snowplow approximately in line with the laser beam. The laser beam projects a dot when incident on the target.



Inventors:
Schpok, Ricky K. (South Bend, IN, US)
Application Number:
11/392162
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
03/29/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01H5/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BUCK, MATTHEW R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ricky K. Schpok (South Bend, IN, US)
Claims:
I/we claim:

1. A snowplow attachment system for attaching a snowplow to a vehicle, comprising: a laser device; a power source coupled to the laser device for energizing the laser device to generate a laser beam; a first attachment adapted to adjustably mount the laser device on the vehicle and adapted to orient the laser device to project the laser beam in a selected direction; a target; a second attachment adapted to mount the target on the snowplow; wherein the laser beam projects a laser dot when incident on the target.

2. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the laser beam is projected in a substantially forward direction relative to the vehicle.

3. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the first attachment includes a ball and socket joint assembly configured to adjust the orientation of the laser device.

4. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1 wherein the second attachment is adapted to releasably mount the target on the snowplow.

5. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target is a panel oriented substantially perpendicular to the laser beam.

6. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target includes a panel attached to a post.

7. The snowplow attachment system of claim 6, further comprising a receiver slot adapted to be mounted on the snowplow, the receiver slot being adapted to receive the post when the target is mounted on the snowplow.

8. The snowplow attachment system of claim 7, wherein the post includes a pin adapted to mate with a slot on the receiver.

9. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target is oriented substantially perpendicular to the laser beam.

10. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the power source is a battery.

11. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the power source is the vehicle's electrical power system.

12. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target is configured to be foldably mounted on the snowplow, and wherein the target is folded when the target is not in use.

13. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target is substantially flat.

14. The snowplow attachment system of claim 1, wherein the target includes one or more lines or patterns to indicate a center.

15. A snowplow attachment system for attaching a snowplow to a vehicle, comprising: a light source configured to generate a narrow beam; a power source coupled to the light source for energizing the light source; a first attachment adapted to adjustably mount the light source on the vehicle and adapted to orient the light source to project the beam in a selected direction; a target; a second attachment adapted to mount the target on the snowplow, wherein the beam projects a dot when incident on the target.

16. The snowplow attachment system of claim 15, wherein the light source is a light emitting device configured to generate a beam.

17. The snowplow attachment system of claim 15, wherein the light source is an electric light bulb configured to generate a beam.

18. The snowplow attachment system of claim 15, wherein the first attachment includes a ball and socket joint assembly configured to adjust the orientation of the light source.

19. The snowplow attachment system of claim 15, wherein the second attachment is adapted to releasably and movably mount the target on the snowplow.

20. The snowplow attachment system of claim 15, wherein the target is oriented substantially perpendicular to the beam.

21. A method of mounting a snowplow to a vehicle, comprising the steps of: calibrating a laser beam projected from the vehicle with respect to a target being mounted on the snowplow, wherein calibrating the target comprises: mounting the snowplow on the vehicle; projecting the laser beam in a forward direction with respect to the vehicle; attaching the target to the snowplow approximately in line with the laser beam; adjusting the laser beam so that the laser beam is projected on a predetermined point on the target; and removing the snowplow from the vehicle after the calibration; projecting the laser beam from a distance from the target; driving the vehicle toward the snowplow; steering the vehicle side-to-side so that the laser beam is projected on a predetermined point on the target; driving the vehicle closer to the snowplow so that the attachment points on the vehicle are aligned to the attachment points on the snow plow; mounting the snow plow on the vehicle when the attachment points of the vehicle and the snowplow make contact.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein the predetermined point is the center of the target.

23. The method of claim 21, wherein the target is oriented substantially perpendicular to the laser beam.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to systems and methods for attaching equipments to a vehicle and, more particularly, to a system and method for attaching a snowplow to a vehicle.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Snow often creates hazardous conditions for motorists on roadways and bridges. Moderate to heavy snowfall often makes roadways and bridges impassable for motorists. Thus, it is necessary to remove snow from the ground for the safety of the motorists. Snow often causes driveways in residences and businesses to become unusable, requiring residents and business owners to remove snow from their driveways.

Snowplows are generally used for snow removal. Various types of snowplows are available. One popular snowplow, which includes a large blade, is designed to be attached to the front of a vehicle such as a truck. The blade is configured to scrape the snow from the road, bridge or driveway and to deposit the snow to the side, thus allowing the motorists to safely drive. As the vehicle is driven by an operator in a generally forward direction, the blade removes the snow and deposits it to the side. Thus, the operator of the vehicle can steer the vehicle along a desired course to remove the snow from the ground.

Snowplows are generally built from metal, composite or other hard material suitable for removal of snow from the ground. They are typically heavy and often can weigh 600 to 1000 pounds.

A snowplow is generally installed on a vehicle prior to its use. After the snowplow is used, it is generally removed or dismounted from the vehicle and stored in a garage or other parking space. The snowplow and the vehicle both include attachment mechanisms or means (referred to hereinafter as attachment points). The snowplow's attachment points are designed to connect to the vehicle's attachment points so that the snowplow can be installed on the vehicle. Some snowplows are designed so that the operator can move the blade side to side when the snowplows are installed in on the vehicle.

When a snowplow is required to be installed on a vehicle, it is difficult to correctly align the attachment points of the snowplow to the attachment points of the vehicle to facilitate the connection. Since a snowplow is heavy equipment, it is difficult for a person to lift and/or push the snowplow into place so that the attachment points are correctly aligned. Also, the attachment points are not visible to the vehicle operator. Thus, the vehicle operator cannot line up the attachment points by sight while steering the vehicle toward the parked snowplow for hook up. If the vehicle operator drives the vehicle towards the parked snowplow but does not steer the vehicle to proper alignment for attachment, the operator must back-up the vehicle and retry often several times, thereby wasting time. Also, the vehicle operator may damage the vehicle or the snowplow if the vehicle is accidentally driven into the snowplow.

Accordingly, there exist a need for a solution to the foregoing problems. There exists a need for a snowplow attachment system and a method for efficiently installing a snowplow to a vehicle. There exists a need for a snowplow attachment system and a method that allow a snowplow to be installed on a vehicle in a relatively short time. There exists a need for a snowplow attachment system and a method that allow a snowplow to be installed on a vehicle without damaging the snowplow or the vehicle. There exists a need for a snowplow attachment system and a method that allow a snowplow to be installed on a vehicle without being difficult to lift and/or push into place.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A snowplow attachment system for attaching a snowplow to a vehicle includes a laser device. A power source is coupled to the laser device for energizing the laser device to generate a laser beam. A first attachment is adapted to adjustably mount the laser device on the vehicle. The first attachment is adapted to adjustably orient the laser device to project the laser beam in a selected direction.

The snowplow attachment system further includes a target. The snowplow attachment system further includes a second attachment adapted to mount the target to the snowplow. The target is installed in the snowplow approximately in line with the laser beam. The laser beam is projected in a substantially forward direction relative to the vehicle. The laser beam projects a dot when incident on the target.

The target includes a panel attached to post. A receiver is adapted to be mounted on the snowplow. The receiver is adapted to receive the post when the target is mounted on the snowplow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of the invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there are shown in the drawings embodiments which are presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 illustrates a laser projector device in accordance with one embodiment of the snowplow attachment system;

FIGS. 2A and 2B illustrate a target and a receiver in accordance with one embodiment of the snowplow attachment system; and

FIGS. 3A and 3B both show a snowplow being installed in a vehicle using the snowplow attachment system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The various features and methods of the invention will now be described in the context of attaching a snowplow to a vehicle. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be used to attach other equipment to a vehicle as well.

Throughout the description of the embodiments, implementation-specific details will be given on how the invention is used to efficiently attach a snowplow to a vehicle. These details are provided to illustrate the preferred embodiments of the invention and not to limit the scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is set in the claims section.

In one embodiment of the invention, a snowplow attachment system includes a laser projector device and a target. FIG. 1 illustrates a laser projector device 104 attached to a vehicle windshield 108 by an attachment mechanism 112. The laser projector device 104 can be any small laser projector such as a pocketsize laser pointer, which can project a dot, a line or a pattern.

In one embodiment, the attachment mechanism 112 includes a vehicle bracket 116, a ball and socket joint 120, a locking screw 124, and a laser holder bracket 128. The bracket 128 is configured to receive and securely retain the laser projector device 104. In one embodiment, the ball and socket joint 120 can be locked and unlocked by the locking screw 124 which when tightened can jam the ball tightly in the socket. By unlocking the joint 120, the angular orientation of the laser projector device 104 can be changed with respect to the horizon and side-to-side with respect to a vertical axis. Thus, the laser projector device 104 can be oriented at a desired angle. By changing the vertical and horizontal angular orientation, the laser projector device 104 can be aimed or pointed at a particular target. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, other types of attachment mechanism can also be used to attach the laser projector device to the vehicle.

The laser projector device 104 can be powered by a battery or powered by the vehicle's electrical system. A battery can be loaded into the laser projection device 104 by removing the removable battery cap 132. An ON/OFF switch 136 allows the laser projector device 104 to be switched ON or OFF.

The attachment mechanism 112 includes a base 140 that is attached to the windshield 108 of the vehicle. The base 140 can be attached to the windshield 108 using adhesive, suction cups or other means. While FIG. 1 shows the laser projector device 104 being attached to the vehicle's windshield, it will be appreciated that the laser projector device 104 can be mounted on any suitable surface area of the vehicle, such as the vehicle's dashboard, on the hood, behind the grill, or on a suitable location on the exterior of the vehicle.

FIG. 2A illustrates a target 200 in accordance with one embodiment of the snowplow attachment system. The target 200 includes a panel 204 attached to a post 208. The panel 204 may include centerlines or other patterns found in a typical target to indicate its center. Other types of targets can also be used. In one embodiment, centerlines or other patterns are incorporated on the snowplow to be used as a target.

A receiver (or a bracket) 212 is adapted to receive the post 208. The receiver 212 is typically attached to the blade of a snowplow (not shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B). The receiver 212 can also be attached to another part of the snowplow. In one embodiment, the receiver 212 can be removably attached to the snowplow, allowing the receiver 212 to be moved on the snowplow in order to adjust the position of the target 200. The receiver may be integrally built into the snowplow or attached to the snowplow by welding on, bolting on, clamping on, or other means.

In one embodiment, the target 200 is permanently attached to the snowplow, but can fold down or collapse out of the way when not in use.

As shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B, the receiver 212 includes a slot 220 adapted to receive a pin 216 in the post 208. As the post 208 is inserted into the receiver 212, the pin 216 mates with the slot 220. When the pin 216 is mated to the slot 220, the target 200 is securely mounted on the snowplow.

In one embodiment, the post and receiver cross-sections are not round so that when they mate correct target orientation is facilitated without the use of a pin and slot.

FIG. 3A shows a snowplow being installed on a vehicle using the snowplow attachment system. FIG. 3B is a plan view of the illustration of FIG. 3A. Initially, a snowplow 312 is attached to the vehicle 308 by conventional means such as by manually moving the snowplow 312 and aligning the attachment points of the snowplow 312 to the attachment points of the vehicle 308 and then connecting the snowplow 312 to the vehicle 308.

Next, laser projector device 304 is attached inside a vehicle 308 near the windshield at the driver's corner or other appropriate location. The laser projector device 304 is switched on. A receiver (shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B) is then attached to the blade or other suitable part of the snowplow and the target is attached to the receiver. The target is installed on the snowplow 312 approximately in line with a laser beam 328 so that the laser beam 328 hits the target 316.

In one embodiment, the receiver can be movably installed on the snowplow 312 so that the target 316 can be moved side to side.

Next, the laser projector device 304 is calibrated by loosening locking screw 124 (shown in FIG. 1) and moving laser projector device 104 (shown in FIG. 1) so that the laser beam 328 hits the predetermined point on the target 316. The laser projector device 304 is then locked to retain its orientation by tightening locking screw 124. With the laser projector device locked and the receiver permanently attached to the snowplow, the entire system remains calibrated for future use. The target 316 is removed from the receiver and the snowplow is then dismounted from the vehicle and remains ready for future installation.

When the snowplow is ready for installation, the target 316 is attached to the receiver 212 (shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B). The laser projector device 304 is switched on and the vehicle 308 is slowly driven toward the target 316. As the vehicle 308 is slowly driven toward the target 316, the driver of the vehicle 308 steers side-to-side until the laser beam 328 is projected on the predetermined point on the target 316. When the vehicle 308 contacts the snowplow with the laser beam 328 projected on the predetermined point, the attachment points of the vehicle and the snowplow will be aligned. At that time, the attachment points can be connected to install the snowplow on the vehicle. Next, the laser projector device 304 is turned off and the target 316 is removed from the receiver 212.

When detaching the snowplow 312 from the vehicle 308, if the snowplow is of the type such that its blade can be moved side to side after being mounted on the vehicle, the target 316 is installed in the receiver 212, the laser projector device 304 is switched on and the driver of the vehicle 308 can use the snowplow controls to turn the snowplow 312 until the laser beam 328 is projected on the predetermined point on the target 316 thereby making the snowplow ready for the next installation. Next, the laser projector device 304 is turned off and the snowplow attachment points can be disconnected. The target 316 may be left attached for the next installation.

In one embodiment, the snowplow attachment system includes means to provide an audible signal (e.g., beeping sound) when the laser beam hits the predetermined point on the target such as the centerline. As the beam gets closer to the centerline, the beeping sound can become faster. In one embodiment, a proximity detector can be added to the system to detect the distance between the vehicle and the snowplow. It will be understood by those skilled in the art how to implement the means to provide the audible sound.

In one embodiment, an optical source or a light emitting device other than a laser projector device can be used. The optical source or the light emitting device is capable of generating a beam that can be projected on the target.

In one embodiment, the laser projector device is mounted on the hood, behind the grill, or on a suitable location on the exterior of the vehicle.

The invention can be used to attach other equipment such as, for example, earthmoving equipment, farm machinery, aircraft towing equipment, trailers and grounds maintenance equipment to a vehicle.

From the foregoing, it will be appreciated that, although specific embodiments of the invention have been described herein for purposes of illustration, various modifications may be made without deviating from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, the invention is not limited except as by the appended claims.