Title:
MATERIAL HANDLING ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A material handling assembly is described herein. The material handling assembly provides an assembly mountable on the articulated arm of the machine consisting generally of a bucket pivotally connectable to the articulated arm of the machine and the means for pivoting the bucket about the pivotal connection of the bucket to the articulated arm, an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and cooperable with the bucket when mounted on the articulated arm for clamping material being handled therebetween, a bracket mountable on the articulated arm, a strut having a first end thereof pivotally connected to the arm member and second end thereof received within and displaceable along the bracket, and means for detachably securing the second end of the strut to the bracket at selected points along the length of the bracket in a safe and efficient manner.



Inventors:
Riffle, Lonnie (Geneva, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/759259
Publication Date:
12/20/2007
Filing Date:
06/07/2007
Assignee:
MILLONZI INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTS GROUP, INC. (Perry, OH, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02F3/96
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
BUCK, MATTHEW R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LONNIE RIFFLE (GENEVA, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which comprises: a bucket pivotally connectable to said articulated arm; and a thumb assembly, wherein said thumb assembly is cooperable with said bucket when mounted on said articulated arm for clamping material therebetween, and further wherein said thumb assembly comprises: an arm member pivotally connectable to said articulated arm; a bracket mounted on said articulated arm, wherein said bracket comprises at least one wall section, and wherein said at least one wall section comprises: at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein said at least one wall section; said U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through said U-shaped adapters at an open end of said U-shaped adapters; a locking pin, wherein said locking pin is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters; and a strut, wherein said strut operatively connects said arm member and said bracket, and further wherein said strut comprises: at least one rigid member; and a pin transverse to a longitudinal axis of said rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to said thumb assembly at opposed end, said pin sized for insertion into said at least two generally U-shaped openings formed within said at least one wall section of said bracket.

2. The material handling assembly of claim 1 wherein said arm member of said thumb assembly comprises: a pair of transversely spaced-apart side wall sections wherein said pair of side wall sections are comprised of an inner end and an outer end and further wherein said pair of wall sections are pivotally connected at said inner ends by a pin and further wherein said pair of wall sections are connected at said outer ends by a spacer.

3. The material handling assembly of claim 1 wherein said bracket of said thumb assembly further comprises: a base section, wherein said base section is connected to said articulated arm, and further wherein said at least one wall section having said at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein is connected to said base section.

4. The material handling assembly of claim 1 wherein said locking pin of said thumb assembly comprises: a handle; and a shaft connected to said handle wherein said shaft is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters.

5. The material handling assembly of claim 1 wherein said pin extending outwardly from said at least one rigid member of said strut extends generally perpendicular from said rigid member.

6. A thumb assembly for connection to a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which comprises: an arm member pivotally connectable to said articulated arm; a bracket mounted on said articulated arm, wherein said bracket comprises at least one wall section, and wherein said at least one wall section comprises: at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein said at least one wall section; said U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through said U-shaped adapters at an open end of said U-shaped adapters; a locking pin, wherein said locking pin is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters; and a strut, wherein said strut operatively connects said arm member and said bracket, and further wherein said strut comprises: at least one rigid member; and a pin transverse to a longitudinal axis of said rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to said thumb assembly at opposed end, said pin sized for insertion into said at least two generally U-shaped openings formed within said at least one wall section of said bracket.

7. The thumb assembly of claim 6 wherein said arm member comprises: a pair of transversely spaced-apart side wall sections wherein said pair of side wall sections are comprised of an inner end and an outer end and further wherein said pair of wall sections are pivotally connected at said inner ends by a pin and further wherein said pair of wall sections are connected at said outer ends by a spacer.

8. The thumb assembly of claim 6 wherein said bracket further comprises: a base section, wherein said base section is connected to said articulated arm, and further wherein said at least one wall section having said at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein is connected to said base section.

9. The thumb assembly of claim 6 wherein said locking pin comprises: a handle; and a shaft connected to said handle wherein said shaft is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters.

10. The thumb assembly of claim 6 wherein said pin extending outwardly from said at least one rigid member of said strut extends generally perpendicular from said rigid member.

11. A conversion kit for conversion of a thumb assembly for connection to a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which comprises: a bracket mounted on said articulated arm, wherein said bracket comprises at least one wall section, and wherein said at least one wall section comprises: at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein said at least one wall section; said U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through said U-shaped adapters at an open end of said U-shaped adapters; and a locking pin, wherein said locking pin is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters.

12. The conversion kit of claim 11 wherein said bracket further comprises: a base section, wherein said base section is connected to said articulated arm, and further wherein said at least one wall section having said at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein is connected to said base section.

13. The conversion kit of claim 11 wherein said locking pin comprises: a handle; and a shaft connected to said handle wherein said shaft is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters.

14. A material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which comprises: a bucket pivotally connectable to said articulated arm; and a thumb assembly, wherein said thumb assembly is cooperable with said bucket when mounted on said articulated arm for clamping material therebetween, and further wherein said thumb assembly comprises: an arm member pivotally connectable to said articulated arm; at least two semi-hemispherical structures connected to said articulated arm, said at least two semi-hemispherical structures having a continuous transverse opening extending through said semi-hemispherical structures at an open end of said semi-hemispherical structures; a locking pin, wherein said locking pin is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said semi-hemispherical structures; and a strut, wherein said strut operatively connects said arm member and one of said at least two semi-hemispherical structures, and further wherein said strut comprises: at least one rigid member; and a pin transverse to a longitudinal axis of said rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to said thumb assembly at opposed end, said pin sized for insertion into said at least two semi-hemispherical structures.

15. The material handling assembly of claim 14 wherein said arm member of said thumb assembly comprises: a pair of transversely spaced-apart side wall sections wherein said pair of side wall sections are comprised of an inner end and an outer end and further wherein said pair of wall sections are pivotally connected at said inner ends by a pin and further wherein said pair of wall sections are connected at said outer ends by a spacer.

16. The material handling assembly of claim 14 wherein said locking pin of said thumb assembly comprises: a handle; and a shaft connected to said handle wherein said shaft is sized for insertion into said continuous transverse opening in said semi-hemispherical structures.

17. The material handling assembly of claim 14 wherein said pin extending outwardly from said at least one rigid member of said strut extends generally perpendicular from said rigid member.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The invention relates generally to an improved material handling assembly for use in connection with earth moving equipment such as excavators and backhoes and the like. More specifically, the invention relates to an improved material handling assembly that is attached to, and easily repositioned relative to an articulated arm of the earth moving equipment.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Earth moving equipment such as excavators and backhoes are commonly used by contractors for various construction projects where it is desirable to move large amounts of materials such as soil, rocks, tree trunks and stumps and other debris. Such equipment typically includes a handle or arm-like structure, referred to herein as the articulated arm, extending from the main body of the equipment, a bucket pivotally connected to one end of the articulated arm and a hydraulic cylinder assembly to move or reposition the bucket relative to the articulated arm.

It is also known in the art to include an implement or thumb opposite the bucket to help facilitate the grabbing of objects such as trees, debris and the like. Typically, the thumb is fixed relative to the articulated arm and the bucket may be curled and uncurled to grasp and hold the material being handled. The thumb also is usually connected to the articulated arm with a strut which may be either of a fixed or extendable length to permit adjustment of the angle of the thumb relative to the articulated arm. The strut may consist of rigid link detachably securable to one of a number of brackets deposed on the underside of the articulated arm or a hydraulic cylinder whose length may be varied and locked to position the thumb at the desired angle. Utilizing a hydraulic cylinder for adjusting the angle of the thumb has a number of advantages but is comparatively costly. Utilizing a rigid strut and a number of connecting brackets also has a number of disadvantages including increased cost of manufacture and installation and a certain amount manual labor being required in fixing the desired angle of the thumb and securing it into position.

Another problem associated with material handling assemblies of the past, such as the one described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,203,267 is that it is difficult and time-consuming for the operator to reposition the strut relative to the openings in the bracket due to the weight of the components involved. More specifically, to reposition the strut that connects the thumb to the articulated arm along the bracket, an operator has to remove the pin connecting the strut to the bracket, reposition the opening in the strut with the desired opening in the bracket and reinsert the connecting pin, all while trying to steady and hold in place the thumb and the strut which could weigh in excess of 800 lbs. Given the weight of the strut and thumb and the need to hold it steady, it is often necessary to involve two or more workers to reposition the strut which is time consuming, inefficient and dangerous. Moreover, the lateral forces being applied to the pin by the sidewalls of the openings in the strut often result in the pin becoming jammed and makes it even more difficult for the operator to remove the pin to reposition the thumb assembly relative to the arm.

The prior art front end assembly of an excavating machine with a thumb assembly disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,203,267 is shown in FIGS. 1 through 4 (Prior Art). Referring to FIG. 1 of the drawings, there is illustrated a front end assembly of an excavating machine which generally includes an articulated arm 10 and material handling assembly 12 operatively mounted on the articulated arm. Articulated arm 10 is of a conventional construction and is supported on the frame of the machine so that it may be pivoted about vertical and horizontal axes to position the material handling assembly in the conventional manner. Material handling assembly 12 further comprises a bucket assembly 13 and a thumb assembly 14.

Bucket assembly 13 is of a conventional construction and includes a bucket 15 connected to the free end of the articulated arm by means of a shaft 16, a support link 17 pivotally connected to the articulated arm by means of a connecting pin 18, a connecting link 19 interconnecting support link 17 and bucket 15 by means of connecting pins 20 and 21 and a hydraulic cylinder assembly 22. Cylinder assembly 22 includes a cylinder member 23 pivotally connected at the base end thereof to a bracket mounted on the upper side of the articulated arm, and a rod member 24 pivotally connected to connecting pin 20. Cylinder assembly 22 is adapted to be extended and retracted in the conventional manner to pivot and thereby curl and uncurl the bucket about the axis of shaft 16.

Thumb assembly 14 comprises an arm member 30 pivotally connected to the underside of the articulated arm adjacent shaft 16, a bracket 31 mounted on the underside of articulated arm 10 rearwardly of the pivotal connection of arm member 30 to the articulated arm and a rigid strut 32 operatively interconnecting arm member 30 and bracket 31. Arm member 30 is pivotally connected to a depending bracket 33 rigidly secured to the underside of the articulated arm by means of a connecting pin 34. The axes of pin 34 and shaft 16 are disposed parallel and are positioned apart and at an appropriate angle to permit arm member 30 and bucket 15 to come together at different angular positions of the arm member to facilitate the clamping of material being handled therebetween. The arm member consists of a pair of transversely spaced, side wall sections 35 pivotally connected at inner ends to connecting pin 34, secured together and reinforced at the outer ends thereof by means of a box-shaped spacer 36 and closed along one set of edges by means of an end wall section 37. As best shown in FIG. 3, the outer ends of the side wall sections are provided with projecting, pointed portions 38 interconnected by a spacer and reinforcing plate 39 which also is secured along its rear edge to box-shaped spacer 36. A portion of the outer edges of side wall sections 35 project beyond the plane of the outer surface of end wall section 37 and are provided with a jagged or serrated configuration as at 40 for enhancing the gripping capability of arm member 30 when cooperating with bucket 15 to clamp material being handled therebetween.

Bracket 31 includes a base section 41 rigidly secured by welding or bolts to the underside of articulated arm 10, and a pair transversely spaced, depending walls sections 42 and 43. As best seen in FIG. 4, a pair of strips 44 and 45 spaced from base section 41 and projecting inwardly from side wall sections 42 and 43 provide a T-shaped guideway 46 disposed along the length of the bracket, including a head portion 47 and neck portion 48.

Strut 32 consists of an elongated, rigid member having one end received between the side wall sections of arm member 30 and connected by means of a connecting pin 49 to a bracket 50 rigidly secured to the inner side of end wall section 37. The opposite end of strut 32 is provided with a narrow shank portion 32a received through neck portion 48 and a head portion 32b received within and displaceable along guideway head portion 47. Head portion 32b has a cylindrical configuration enabling it to slide freely along the length of head portion 47 of guideway 46 when the arm member is pivoted. Inwardly projecting strip portions 44 and 45 prevent head portion 32b of strut 32 from becoming detached, and neck opening 48 freely permits shank portion 32a of strut 32 to displace longitudinally relative to the bracket and pivot about the axis of cylindrical head section 32b.

When arm member 30 is pivoted about the axis of connecting pin 34 between the positions shown in solid and phantom lines in FIG. 3, the upper end portion of strut member 32 will be caused to be displaced along the length of guideway 46 to position arm member 30 at various angles relative to articulated arm 10. The angular position of arm member 30 relative to articulated arm 10 may be fixed by means of a locking pin 60 insertable through registerable openings in the side wall sections of bracket 31 and an opening in the shank portion of strut 32 side wall sections 42 and 43 are provided with longitudinally spaced sets 61 through 64 of transversely aligned openings which are adapted to register with opening 65 in the shank portion of strut 32. As the arm member is pivoted about connecting pin 34 causing strut 32 to slidably displace head portion 32b of strut 32 along portion 47 of guideway 46, locking pin 60 may be inserted through the registered openings to lock the arm member in the selected angular position relative to the articulated arm.

Locking pin 60 is provided with a cylindrical shank portion 60a insertable through registered openings in the side wall sections of the bracket and the shank portion of the strut, and a head portion 60b. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the shank portion 60a of the locking pin is received through registered openings 61b, 65 and 61a with head portion 60b engaging the outer surface of side wall section 42 to lock the upper end of the strut member relative to the bracket and thus fix the angle of the arm member relative to the articulated arm. The free end of shank portion 60a is tapered as at 60c to facilitate the insertion of the pin, and the free end of the shank portion of the locking pin is provided with an opening 60d therethrough through which a pin may be inserted to prevent the locking pin from becoming removed from the registered openings in the bracket and the strut.

When the arm member is retracted to its rearmost position as illustrated in phantom lines in FIG. 3, bracket 31 is adapted to be received within the arm member between side walls 35, 35, and head portion 32b of the strut will be caused to be displaced to the rearward end of head portion 47 of guideway 46. The arm member may be retained in such storage position adjacent the underside of articulated arm 10 by means of locking pin 60 inserted through a set 66 of transversely aligned openings in the side wall sections of the bracket, and opening 65 in the shank portion of the strut. As best shown in FIG. 3, the lower edges of the side wall sections of bracket 31 are provided with a set of transversely aligned recesses 67 which are adapted to receive and thus accommodate connecting pin 49 when the arm member is retracted to its storage position as illustrated by the phantom lines in FIG. 3.

Under normal operating conditions of the excavating machine, arm member 30 will be retracted and retained in the storage position as shown in FIG. 2 to permit bucket 15 to be curled and uncurled in the conventional manner to perform a digging operation. Under such conditions, arm member 30 being fully retracted and positioned along the underside of articulated arm 10 will not interfere with the curling and uncurling action of bucket 15. When it is desired to perform a material handling function with the use of thumb assembly 14, bucket 15 is first uncurled so as not to interfere with the positioning of arm member 30, locking pin 60 is removed to free arm member 30 and allow it to swing downwardly and engage the ground, articulated arm 10 is maneuvered while the tip of arm member 30 engages the ground to cause head portion 32b to slide along portion 47 of the guideway and position opening 65 in the shank portion of the strut in registry with a selected one of sets 61 through 64 and locking pin 60 is inserted in the selected registered openings to fix the angle of arm member 30 relative to articulated arm 10 and thus lock it in such position. Articulated arm 10 may thus be maneuvered and coordinated with the curling and uncurling of bucket 15 to grasp, transport and release material being handled.

When the material handling operation has been completed and it is desired to reposition arm member 30 to its storage position, bucket 15 is first uncurled to remove it from the vicinity of arm member 30, arm member 30 is manipulated to dig the end of arm member 30 into the ground to relieve the force on locking pin 60, locking pin 60 is manually removed, articulated arm 10 is further manipulated to cause arm member 30 to pivot and be positioned against the underside of articulated arm 10 and locking pin 60 is then reinserted in a set of registered openings adjacent the rear end of the bracket to secure arm member 30 along the underside of articulated arm 10.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a material handling assembly. The present invention solves the above-described problems of prior art material handling assemblies by providing an assembly mountable on the articulated arm of the machine consisting generally of a bucket pivotally connectable to the articulated arm of the machine and the means for pivoting the bucket about the pivotal connection of the bucket to the articulated arm, an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and cooperable with the bucket when mounted on the articulated arm for clamping material being handled therebetween, a bracket mountable on the underside of the articulated arm, a strut having a first end thereof pivotally connected to the arm member and second end thereof received within and displaceable along the bracket, and means for detachably securing the second end of the strut to the bracket at selected points along the length of the bracket in a safe and efficient manner. A conversion kit is also foreseen to allow a previously existing machine to be converted to use the material handling assembly described herein.

It is the principal object of the present invention to provide a material handling assembly of the type described having a thumb component which is simple in construction, comparatively easy to install and readily adjustable. It is a further object of the invention to provide a thumb which may be easily set at a desired angle for operational purposes.

Still other benefits and advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which it pertains upon a reading and understanding of the following detailed specification.

These and other objects of the present invention will become more readily apparent from a reading of the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numerals indicate similar parts, and with further reference to the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant has contemplated applying the principals is set forth in the following description and is shown in the drawings and is particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims. The invention may take physical form in certain parts and arrangements of parts, numerous embodiments of which will be described in detail in the specification and illustrated in the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of Prior Art;

FIG. 2 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of Prior Art with the arm member retracted and retained in the storage position;

FIG. 3 illustrates the thumb assembly of a front end assembly of an excavating machine of Prior Art;

FIG. 4 illustrates the strut assembly of the thumb assembly of a front end assembly of an excavating machine of Prior Art;

FIG. 5 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of an embodiment of the present invention having three generally U-shaped openings;

FIG. 6 illustrates the bracket of a front end assembly of an excavating machine of an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of an embodiment of the present invention having two generally U-shaped openings;

FIG. 8 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of an embodiment of the present invention having the side wall directly attached to the articulated arm without use of a base; and

FIG. 9 illustrates a front end assembly of an excavating machine of an embodiment of the present invention having two hemi-semispherical structures with no support walls or base.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings wherein the showings are for purposes of illustrating various embodiments of the invention only and not for purposes of limiting the same, the figures illustrate the novel idea of a material handling assembly. The material handling assembly is an assembly mountable on the articulated arm of the machine consisting generally of a bucket pivotally connectable to the articulated arm of the machine and the means for pivoting the bucket about the pivotal connection of the bucket to the articulated arm, an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and cooperable with the bucket when mounted on the articulated arm for clamping material being handled therebetween, a bracket mountable on the underside of the articulated arm, having a guideway therealong, a strut having a first end thereof pivotally connected to the arm member and second end thereof received within and displaceable along the guideway, and means for detachably securing the second end of the strut to the bracket at selected points along the length of the guideway in a safe and efficient manner.

Having described the prior art material handling assembly described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,203,267 above and, more particularly, bracket 31, and the problems associated therewith of having to manually dislodge, disengage and then engage locking pin 60 each time the operator desires to reposition thumb assembly 14, the material handling assembly of the present invention will now be described. The environment in which the material handling assembly of the present invention operates is generally identical to that described above for prior art material handling assembly 12, with any differences in structure and operation between the environment adapted for use with the present invention and that of the prior art being particularly described below.

Specifically, a front end assembly of an excavating machine is shown generally at FIG. 5 and includes an articulated arm 80 and material handling assembly 82 operatively mounted on the articulated arm. Articulated arm 80 is of a conventional construction and is supported on the frame of the machine (not shown) so that it may be pivoted about vertical and horizontal axes to position the material handling assembly in the conventional manner. Material handling assembly 82 further comprises a bucket assembly 83 and a thumb assembly 84.

Bucket assembly 83 is of a conventional construction and includes a bucket 85 connected to the free end of the articulated arm by means of a shaft 86, a support link 87 pivotally connected to articulated arm 80 by means of a connecting pin 88, a connecting link 89 interconnecting support link 87 and bucket 85 by means of connecting pins 90, 91 and a cylinder assembly 92. Cylinder assembly 92 includes a cylinder member 93 pivotally connected at the base end thereof to a bracket mounted on the upper side of articulated arm 80 (not shown), and a rod member 94 pivotally connected to connecting pin 90. Cylinder assembly 92 is adapted to be extended and retracted in the conventional manner to pivot and thereby curl and uncurl bucket 85 about the axis of shaft 86.

Thumb assembly 84 comprises an arm member 96 pivotally connected to the underside of articulated arm 80 adjacent shaft 86, a bracket 100 mounted on the underside of articulated arm 80 rearwardly of the pivotal connection of arm member 96 to articulated arm 80, and a rigid strut 102 operatively interconnecting arm member 96 and bracket 100. Arm member 96 is pivotally connected to a depending bracket 104 rigidly secured to the underside of articulated arm 80 by means of a connecting pin 106. The axes of pin 106 and shaft 86 are disposed parallel and are positioned apart and at an appropriate angle to permit arm member 86 and bucket 85 to come together at different angular positions of the arm member to facilitate the clamping of material being handled therebetween. Arm member 96 is comprised of at least one wall section. In a preferred embodiment arm member 96 is comprised of a pair of transversely spaced, side wall sections 108 pivotally connected at inner ends to connecting pin 106, secured together and reinforced at the outer ends thereof by means of a generally box-shaped spacer 110 and closed along one set of edges by means of an end wall section 112. As best shown in FIG. 5, the outer ends of the side wall sections 108 are provided with projecting, pointed portions 114 interconnected by a spacer and reinforcing plate 116 which also is secured along its rear edge to box-shaped spacer 110. A portion of the outer edges of side wall sections 108 project beyond the plane of the outer surface of end wall section 112 and are provided with a jagged or serrated configuration as at 118 for enhancing the gripping capability of the arm member when cooperating with the bucket to clamp material being handled therebetween. Notwithstanding the forgoing, it is contemplated that different shaped thumbs and thumb configurations already known in the art could also be utilized without affecting the overall concept of the present invention.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, bracket 100 includes a base section 121 which is fixedly attached to the underside of articulated arm 80 by welding or bolts or some other method of attachment known in the art, and a pair of spaced-apart, parallel wall sections 122, 123. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, wall sections 122, 123 extend outwardly from base section 121 and articulated arm 80, and each of said wall sections further comprise a plurality of corresponding generally U-shaped openings or adapters 124 formed therein, as best shown in FIG. 6, for receipt of a pin as described more fully below. Preferably, each of wall sections 122, 123 are fixedly attached to base section 121 by welding though it is contemplated that base section 121 and wall sections 122, 123 can be forged as a single unit without affecting the overall concept of the present invention. The plurality of generally U-shaped adapters 124 are not limited to any number, as long as at least two generally U-shaped adapters 124 are provided, as is shown in FIG. 7.

In further embodiments of the invention, however, different configurations may be utilized to provide the at least two generally U-shaped adapters 124. In certain embodiments of the invention base section 121 is not a necessary element of the invention, as an at least one wall section 122 can be attached directly to the underside of articulated arm 80, as shown in FIG. 8. Furthermore, at least one wall section 122 is also not a necessary element of the invention, as it is foreseen that in yet further embodiments of the invention at least two U-shaped adapters or semi-hemispherical structures may be directly attached to the underside of articulated arm 80 without the support of at least one wall section 122 or base section 121. It is foreseen that at least two semi-hemispherical structures 134, as shown in FIG. 9, such as cylinder halves, may be directly attached to the underside of articulated arm 80 with no additional supporting wall or base.

In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, a generally U-shaped support 126 is also fixedly attached to, and extends outwardly from, each of wall sections 122, 123 adjacent to each of generally U-shaped openings 124 to add additional structural support to each of wall sections 122, 123. Preferably, there are three U-shaped openings 124 and corresponding generally U-shaped supports on each of wall sections 122, 123, and each corresponds to a different orientation or positioning of arm member 96 relative to articulated arm 80. Notwithstanding, it is contemplated that additional or fewer U-shaped openings 124 and corresponding generally U-shaped supports 126 could be used depending on the desired number of different positions or orientations of arm member 96, relative to articulated arm 80. As best illustrated in FIG. 6, generally U-shaped supports 126 are spaced apart along, and fixedly attached to, wall sections 122 and 123, by any conventional means such as welding. Each of generally U-shaped supports 126 further comprise an inner surface 127 for receipt of a pin as described more fully below, and an outer surface 128. Each of inner surfaces 127 is sized and shaped so as to correspond to the shape of openings 124 so that inner surface 127 is generally flush or even with the surface of opening 124, as best illustrated in FIG. 6. Notwithstanding the forgoing, it is contemplated that openings 124 and supports 126 can be of different geometric configurations including, without limitation, semi-cylindrical, rectangular or square without affecting the overall concept of the present invention. Supports 126 serve multiple functions including, without limitation, adding additional structural support to each of wall sections 122, 123. Supports 126 also provide additional surface area for contact with a locking pin, as described more fully below, thereby adding additional strength and durability.

In certain embodiments of the invention, each of supports 126 further comprise a pair of corresponding continuous openings 129 contained therein for receipt of a locking pin 130. In certain embodiments of the invention, locking pin 130 commonly comprises a handle 131 and a shaft 132 for insertion into each of openings 129, as best illustrated in FIG. 6 and described more fully below. Locking pin 130 is preferably formed of a durable metal such as steel, though it is also contemplated that any other durable material could be used without affecting the overall concept of the present invention. In further embodiments of the invention wherein base 121 and at least one wall section 122 are not utilized, each of semi-hemispherical structures 134 have a continuous opening 129 contained therein for receipt of locking pin 130, as shown in FIG. 9.

In certain embodiments of the invention, strut 102 is comprised of a pair of parallel, spaced apart, rigid members 103 and a pin 133 fixedly attached to one end of each of said pair of members 103 as best illustrated in FIG. 6. However, in certain other embodiments of the invention, only at least one rigid member 103 is required for the proper functioning of strut 102. Pin 133 extends outwardly from, and is roughly perpendicular to, at least one rigid member 103, and is generally cylindrical in shape for insertion into opening 124, and in certain embodiments for mating contact with inner surface 127 of a selected pair of U-shaped supports 126.

The ends of members 103 opposite pin 133 are received between side wall sections 108 of arm member 96 and are rotatably connected by means of a connecting pin 140 to a bracket 142 rigidly secured to the inner side of end wall section 112, as best illustrated in FIG. 6.

The improved material handling assembly of the present invention may be implemented with a new material handling machine, applied to the machine during the original manufacture of the machine. It is further foreseen that the material handling assembly including the entire thumb assembly with corresponding parts may be applied to a pre-existing material handling machine that previously only included the pivotal bucket. It is yet further foreseen that the improved material handling machine may be implemented as a conversion kit, providing solely the bracket portion of the invention to be applied to a material handling machine that already included a pivotal bucket as well as a thumb assembly. The conversion kit would provide the improved bracket assembly described herein to allow for improved use of the thumb assembly with the material handling machine.

Having described generally the structure of the improved material handling assembly of the present invention, the repositioning of thumb assembly 84 relative to articulated arm 80 will now be described. As previously stated, in the past when an operator wanted to reposition a prior art thumb assembly relative to the articulated arm to complete a particular task, the operator was required to remove the pin connecting the strut to the bracket, reposition the opening in the strut with the desired opening in the bracket and reinsert the connecting pin, all while trying to steady and hold in place the thumb and the strut which could weigh in excess of 800 lbs. Given the weight of the strut and thumb and the need to hold it steady to insert the pin into the opening, it was often necessary to involve two or more workers to reposition the strut, which is time consuming, inefficient, and dangerous. Moreover, the lateral forces being applied to the pin by the sidewalls of the openings in the strut often resulted in the pin becoming jammed thereby making it even more difficult for the operator to remove the pin to reposition the thumb assembly relative to the articulated arm.

However, to reposition thumb assembly 84 of the present invention relative to articulated arm 80, the operator simply removes each of pins 130 from each of openings 129 in each of supports 126, repositions pin 133 of rigid strut 102 into the desired openings 124 and supports 126, and reinserts each of pins 130 into each of openings 129 thus securely attaching rigid strut 102 to bracket 100 and articulated arm 80. Therefore, the present invention eliminates the need for the operator to overcome the lateral forces acting upon locking pin 60 of the prior art device by pounding on the locking pin to remove it from the openings in the bracket mounted to the articulated arm. The present invention also eliminates the need for additional workers to steady the prior art thumb assembly, which could weigh in excess of 800 lbs., while the operator or another worker aligns the various openings for insertion of the locking pin.

Unless otherwise indicated, all components of material handling assembly 82 are preferably made of a high strength steel, though it is contemplated that other durable methods can also be used. The brackets to which the arm member and strut member are connected are preferably welded or bolted to the underside of the articulated arm, though it is contemplated that other means of attachment known in the art can also be used without affecting the overall concept of the invention. The components of the thumb assembly further may be assembled and sold as a kit, enabling purchasers to install such assemblies in the field.

Accordingly, the improved thumb assembly is simplified, and provides an effective, safe, inexpensive, and efficient mechanism which achieves all the enumerated objectives, provides for eliminating difficulties encountered with prior devices, and solves problems and obtains new results in the art.

Described herein is a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which includes a bucket pivotally connectable to said articulated arm and a thumb assembly. The thumb assembly is cooperable with the bucket when mounted on the articulated arm for clamping material therebetween. The thumb assembly includes an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and a bracket mounted on the articulated arm. The bracket includes at least one wall section, which in turn includes at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein the at least one wall section; the U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through the U-shaped adapters at an open end of the U-shaped adapters. The thumb assembly also includes a locking pin, wherein the locking pin is sized for insertion into the c continuous transverse opening in said U-shaped adapters. The thumb assembly further includes a strut, wherein the strut operatively connects the arm member and the bracket. The strut includes at least one rigid member; and a pin. The pin is transverse to a longitudinal axis of the rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to the thumb assembly at the opposed end.

Also described herein is a thumb assembly for connection to a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which includes an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and a bracket mounted on the articulated arm. The bracket includes at least one wall section. The at least one wall section includes at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein the at least one wall section; the U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through the U-shaped adapters at an open end of the U-shaped adapters. The thumb assembly further includes a locking pin, wherein the locking pin is sized for insertion into the continuous transverse opening in the U-shaped adapters. The thumb assembly also includes a strut, wherein the strut operatively connects the arm member and the bracket. The strut includes at least one rigid member; and a pin transverse to a longitudinal axis of the rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to the thumb assembly at opposed end, the pin sized for insertion into the at least two generally U-shaped openings formed within the at least one wall section of the bracket.

Also described herein is a conversion kit for conversion of a thumb assembly for connection to a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which includes a bracket mounted on the articulated arm. The bracket includes at least one wall section. The at least one wall section includes at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein the at least one wall section; the U-shaped adapters having a continuous transverse opening extending through the U-shaped adapters at an open end of the U-shaped adapters. The conversion kit further includes a locking pin, wherein the locking pin is sized for insertion into the continuous transverse opening in the U-shaped adapters.

Further described herein is a material handling assembly mountable to an articulated arm of an excavating machine which includes a bucket pivotally connectable to the articulated arm and a thumb assembly. The thumb assembly is cooperable with the bucket when mounted on the articulated arm for clamping material therebetween. The thumb assembly includes an arm member pivotally connectable to the articulated arm, and at least two semi-hemispherical structures connected to the articulated arm. The at least two semi-hemispherical structures have a continuous transverse opening extending through the semi-hemispherical structures at an open end of the semi-hemispherical structures. The thumb assembly also includes a locking pin, wherein the locking pin is sized for insertion into the continuous transverse opening in said semi-hemispherical structures. The thumb assembly further includes a strut, wherein the strut operatively connects the arm member and one of the at least two semi-hemispherical structures. The strut includes at least one rigid member; and a pin transverse to a longitudinal axis of the rigid member at one end and pivotally connected to the thumb assembly at opposed end, the pin sized for insertion into the at least two semi-hemispherical structures.

In certain embodiments described herein the arm member of the thumb assembly includes a pair of transversely spaced side wall sections. The pair of side wall sections include an inner end and an outer end and the pair of wall sections are pivotally connected at the inner ends by a pin and further wherein the pair of wall sections are connected at said outer ends by a spacer. In other embodiments the bracket of the thumb assembly further includes a base section. The base section is connected to the articulated arm, and the at least one wall section of the base section includes the at least two generally U-shaped adapters formed therein is connected to the base section. In other embodiments the locking pin of the thumb assembly includes a handle and a shaft connected to the handle. The shaft is sized for insertion into the transverse continuous opening of the at least one wall section of the bracket. In yet further embodiments, the pin extending outwardly from the at least one rigid member of the strut extends generally perpendicular from the rigid member.

The invention has been described with reference to at least one embodiment. Obviously, modifications and alterations will occur to others upon a reading and understanding of this specification. It is intended to include all such modifications and alternatives in so far as they come within the scope of the appended claims or the equivalence thereof.

In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, illustration and understanding; but no unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirements of the prior art, because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed. Moreover, this invention has been described in detail with reference to specific embodiments thereof, including the respective best modes for carrying out each embodiment. It shall be understood that these illustrations are by way of example and not by way of limitation.