Title:
MODULER FLUID CONTAINMENT UNIT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A fluid containment unit for automotive applications that is capable of being easily enlarged, changed, modified and configured.



Inventors:
Hoffman, Lawrence Andrew (Portland, OR, US)
Application Number:
11/692167
Publication Date:
10/25/2007
Filing Date:
03/27/2007
Assignee:
THE HOFFMAN GROUP, LLC (Portland, OR, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/16
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THOMAS, KAREEN KAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Silicon Forest Patent Group, (Scottsdale, AZ, US)
Claims:
1. A fluid containment unit comprising: one or more modular members, a bottom coupler, and a cap, the one or more modular members removably coupled to each other, the cap, or the bottom coupler, or combination thereof.

2. The unit of claim 1 wherein the one or more modular members comprises a cylinder including a first end, a second end, and a bore therethrough, the first end adapted for removable coupling engagement with the second end of another modular member or with the cap, the first end including a mouth, the second end defining a coupling portion adapted to be slidingly received in the bottom coupler or the first end of a modular member, the coupling portion comprising a seat for receiving and retaining a seal in the form of an o-ring, the o-ring sealing the second end to a respective element inserted therein, such that the modular fluid containment unit contains the fluid, the o-ring in combination with the coupling portion in cooperative removable engagement with the respective element inserted therein, the mouth of the modular member adapted to slidingly receive the coupling portion, the mouth of the bottom coupler adapted to slidingly receive the coupling portion, the cap comprising a head and a coupling portion the coupling portion having a seat for receiving and retaining a seal, the coupling portion and the mouth adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween. the bottom coupler including a first end and a second end, the first end including a mouth suitable for receiving the coupling portion of a modular member, the coupling portion and the mouth adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween, the second end of the bottom coupler comprising two hose coupler ports each defining a bore as a fluid conduit to the mouth, the hose coupler ports adapted for receiving a second end of a house coupler, the hose coupler comprising a first end and a second end, and a bore therebetween, the second end comprising a seat for receiving and retaining a seal, the second end and the hose coupler ports adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween.

3. The unit of claim 1 wherein the one or more modular members comprises a cylinder including a first end, a second end, and a bore therethrough, the first and second end are threaded for threadable engagement with a threaded second end of another modular member, the threaded first end is also adapted for threadable engagement with the cap, the threaded second end is adapted for threaded engagement with the bottom coupler, the bottom coupler comprising a threaded first end and a hose coupling, the threaded first end adapted for threadable engagement with a threaded second end of a modular member.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a non-provisional application of and claiming benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/743,827, filed Mar. 27, 2007, incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

FIELD

The present invention is related to automotive fluid containment units, and more particularly, to modular automotive fluid containment units.

BACKGROUND

Fluid tanks are used in automobiles to contain fluids in a number of applications and configurations. These applications include, but are not limited to, coolant containment tanks, brake hydraulic reservoirs, pneumatic gas storage tanks, and power steering fluid reservoirs.

For example, the cooling system is one of the most important systems in the vehicle because it keeps the engine at a right temperature, allowing it to work efficiently. Since the engine takes charge of burning the air and fuel mixture, it produces large amount of heat that makes the parts so hot and vulnerable to damage. The cooling system dissipates the heat from the engine and its parts through the coolant. This coolant absorbs the heat as it circulates around the engine and goes to the radiator where it transfers the heat to the cool air.

A coolant is a mixture of water and anti-freeze, which is a chemical solution, usually ethylene glycol and anticorrosion chemicals. When heated the coolant expands. Thus, most cooling systems have an expansion tank that provides storage space for the heated coolant. The expansion tank is usually plastic and is connected to the radiator through the overflow tube. It is also called a radiator overflow tank, coolant-recovery tank, coolant reservoir, or simply overflow tank or canister. These names imply its function, which is to hold the overflowing coolant that absorbed the heat from the engine.

Not all vehicles have a radiator overflow tank; however, this part is helpful in the cooling system. Without it, the expanded or heated coolant could flow out of the overflow tube and eventually, out of the vehicle and out onto the street. The expansion tank or radiator overflow tank provides additional volume for the coolant to occupy after it absorbed the heat from the engine. Also, the radiator overflow tank removes air bubbles from the coolant, thus, allowing it to absorb heat more efficiently and to prevent air bubble blockage. Furthermore, when a vehicle has an overflow tank containing coolant, the radiator is always full. Only the proper amount of the coolant goes to the radiator for cooling and this goes back to the engine to absorb heat once again. When the engine cools, vacuum is created in the cooling system since it is a closed system. This causes the coolant in the radiator overflow tank to be sucked back into the cooling system.

One problem with stock overflow tanks is that they are made for a specific model and make of vehicle. Further, the overflow tanks themselves are not capable of being enlarged and larger tanks may not fit within the space constraints of the vehicle.

These issues are also shared by the other applications for fluid containment units. Therefore it is highly desirable to have a fluid containment unit that is capable of being easily enlarged, changed, modified and configured.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Like reference numbers generally indicate corresponding elements in the figures.

FIG. 1 is a side cross-section view of a fluid containment unit in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a modular fluid containment unit 4 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 3A and 3B are perspective and side views of the cap 11, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 4A and 4B are perspective and side cross-sectional views of the modular member 10, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are perspective and side cross-sectional views of the bottom coupler, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a side view of the hose coupling, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective exploded view of the bottom coupler and hose coupling 13, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 8A and 8B are perspective and top views of a bracket, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

References will now be made to embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language which will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended, such alterations and further modifications in the illustrated devices, as such further applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated therein as being contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.

Embodiments in accordance with the present invention relate to providing modular fluid storage units. The modular fluid storage units comprise one or more modular members that provide for configurable and customizable fluid volumes suitable for a particular purpose. Further, the modular fluid storage units provide means for coupling to fluid systems suitable for a particular purpose.

FIG. 1 is a side cross-section view of a modular fluid containment unit 2 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The modular fluid containment unit 2 comprises one or more modular members 10, a bottom coupler 12 and a cap 11. Each modular member 10 is a cylinder or tube having a threaded first end 16 and a threaded second end 15. The threaded first end 16 is adapted for threadable engagement with a threaded second end 15 of another modular member 10. The threaded first end 16 is also adapted for threadable engagement with the cap 11. The threaded second end is adapted for threaded engagement with the bottom coupler 12.

The bottom coupler 12 comprises a threaded first end 14 and a hose coupling 13. The threaded first end 14 is adapted for threadable engagement with a threaded second end 15 of a modular member 10. The hose coupling 13 is adapted to couple with a hose from the vehicle cooling system (not shown).

The modular member 10 includes a bore 18 that defines an inner volume suitable for containing fluid. The modular member 10 has a predetermined length and the bore 18 has a predetermined diameter suitable for a particular purpose. The volume within the modular member for containing fluid is increased or decreased by increasing or decreasing, respectively, either or both of the length or diameter.

The fluid volume of the modular fluid containment unit 2 can be increased by adding additional modular members 10. It is this modular aspect of the present invention that allows the customization of the volume of the modular fluid containment unit 2 by simply adding one or more additional modular members 10.

Referring again to FIG. 1, the modular fluid containment unit 2 provides threaded coupling between the modular members 10, the bottom coupler 12 and the cap 11. It is appreciated that any suitable coupling means, or combinations, may be used suitable for a particular purpose. By example only, but not limited therein, the coupling can be a slip-fit with o-ring, threaded with o-ring seal, compression fitting, among many others.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a modular fluid containment unit 4 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The modular fluid containment unit 4 comprises one or more modular members 110, a bottom coupler 112, and a cap 111. FIGS. 3A and 3B are perspective and side cross-sectional views, respectively, of the modular member 110, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The modular member 110 is a cylinder or tube having a first end 116 and a second end 115, and a bore 18 therethrough. The first end 116 is adapted for removable coupling engagement with the second end 115 of another modular member 110 or with a cap 111. The first end 116 includes a mouth 52 suitable for receiving a cooperative element therein as will be discussed below.

The second end 115 defines a coupling portion 51 that is adapted to be slidingly received in the bottom coupler 112 or the first end 116 of a modular member 110. The coupling portion 51 comprises a seat 44 for receiving and retaining a seal in the form of an o-ring 41, shown in FIG. 2. The o-ring 41 seals the second end 115 to a respective element inserted therein, such that the modular fluid containment unit 4 contains the fluid. The o-ring 41 in combination with the coupling portion 51 provides a friction fit such that the elements may be removably coupled. It is appreciated that other methods of removable coupling may be used, such as, but not limited to, threads and locking collars as is well known in the art.

The second end 115 may be slidably received within the mouth 52 of a second modular member 110. The mouth 52 adapted to slidingly receive the coupling portion 51, including the o-ring 41.

Similarly, the second end 115 may be slidably received within a mouth 54 of the bottom coupler 12 as discussed below. The mouth 54 adapted to slidingly receive the coupling portion 51, including the o-ring 41.

FIGS. 4A and 4B are perspective and side views of a cap 111, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The cap 111 comprises a head 58 and a coupling portion 57. The coupling portion 57 comprises a seat 44 for receiving and retaining a seal in the form of an o-ring 40, shown in FIG. 2. The coupling portion 57 and the mouth 52 are adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween. The coupling portion 57 comprises a suitable diameter such that it may be slidably received within the mouth 52. The o-ring 40 seals the first end 116 to the coupling portion 57, such that the modular fluid containment unit 4 contains the fluid. The o-ring 40 in combination with the coupling portion 57 provides a friction fit such that the elements may be removably coupled. It is appreciated that other methods of removable coupling may be used, such as, but not limited to, threads and locking collars as is well known in the art.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are perspective and side cross-sectional views of the bottom coupler 12, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The bottom coupler 12 has a first end 60 and a second end 62. The first end 60 includes a mouth 54 suitable for receiving the coupling portion 51 of a modular member 110. The coupling portion 51 and the mouth 54 are adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween.

The coupling portion 51 comprises a suitable diameter such that it may be slidably received within the mouth 54. The o-ring 44 seals the second end 115 to the mouth 54, such that the modular fluid containment unit 4 contains the fluid. The o-ring 44 in combination with the coupling portion 51 provides a friction fit such that the elements may be removably coupled. It is appreciated that other methods of removable coupling may be used, such as, but not limited to, threads and locking collars as is well known in the art.

The second end 62 of the bottom coupler 12 comprises two hose coupler ports 70 each defining a bore 76 as a fluid conduit to the mouth 54. The hose coupler ports 70 are adapted for receiving a second end 72 of a house coupler 13.

FIG. 6 is a side view of the hose coupler 13, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7 is a perspective exploded view of the bottom coupler 12 and hose coupler 13, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The hose coupler 13 comprises a first end 74 and a second end 72, and defines a bore 78 therebetween.

The second end 72 comprises a seat 46 for receiving and retaining a seal in the form of an o-ring 43. The second end 72 and the hose coupler ports 70 are adapted for cooperative engagement therebetween. The second end 72 comprises a suitable diameter such that it may be slidably received within the hose coupler port 70. The o-ring 43 seals the second end 72 to the hose coupler ports 70, such that the modular fluid containment unit 4 contains the fluid. The o-ring 43 in combination with the second end 72 provides a friction fit such that the elements may be removably coupled. It is appreciated that other methods of removable coupling may be used, such as, but not limited to, threads and locking collars as is well known in the art.

The first end 74 is adapted to couple with fluid elements, such as, but not limited to a hose and pipe.

The modular fluid containment unit 4 provides containment and allows for fluid communication with other fluid handling elements.

Bore 18 of the one or more modular members 110 provides a predetermined amount of the available fluid volume. There is fluid communication between the modular members 110, the bottom coupler 12, and the hose couplers 13 such that fluid can flow between the modular fluid containment unit 4 and the external fluid elements coupled to the hose couplers 13. The cap 111 is provided such that fluid can be provided to or removed from the modular fluid containment unit 4.

FIGS. 8A and 8B are perspective and top views of a bracket 20, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The bracket 20 defines a substantially circular band 80 that is segmented at a first end 81 and a second end 83. The circular band 80 defines a diameter suitable for receiving the modular fluid containment unit therein, such as, but not limited to, the outer diameter of a modular member. The first and second ends 81, 83 define first and second coaxial fastener bores 85a, 85b adapted to receive and couple with a fastener (not shown), such as, but not limited to, a screw. A fastener is slidingly received into the first bore 85a and threadably engaged with the second bore 85b. Tightening of the fastener and therefore closing a gap 89 between the first and second ends 81, 83 reduces the diameter defined by the band 80 and tightens the band 80 about the outer surface of the modular member.

The bracket 20 further includes a mounting flange 88 and a mounting bore 87 having an axis perpendicular to the mounting flange 88. The mounting flange 88 is adapted to be placed against a surface and a fastener to extend into the mounting bore and through to flange and into the surface to affix the bracket 20 to the surface.

While the invention has been described in connection with specific embodiments thereof, it will be understood that it is capable of further modification, and this application is intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention following, in general, the principles of the invention and including such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which the invention pertains and as may be applied to the essential features hereinbefore set forth, and as fall within the scope of the invention and the limits of the appended claims.





 
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