Title:
Quick connect mechanism
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A coupling device for coupling a tool to a motor grader machine includes a main body assembly, a wedge assembly attached to the main body assembly, wherein the wedge assembly is configured to rigidly secure the tool to the main body assembly. A retainer assembly may be attached to the main body assembly, wherein the retainer assembly is configured to mount directly to a tool mount assembly of the motor grader machine.



Inventors:
Howson, Brian Cole (Peoria, IL, US)
Martin, Kevin Lee (Washburn, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/443066
Publication Date:
01/03/2008
Filing Date:
05/31/2006
Assignee:
Caterpillar Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02F3/00
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Primary Examiner:
TROUTMAN, MATTHEW D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CATERPILLAR/FINNEGAN, HENDERSON, L.L.P. (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A coupling device for coupling a tool to a motor grader machine, comprising: a main body assembly; a wedge assembly attached to the main body assembly, the wedge assembly is configured to secure the tool to the main body assembly; and a retainer assembly attached to the main body assembly, wherein the retainer assembly is configured to mount directly to a tool mount assembly of the motor grader machine.

2. The coupling device according to claim 1, wherein the tool mount assembly includes a drawbar and circle assembly of the machine.

3. The coupling device according to claim 1, wherein the retainer assembly includes a slide rail assembly.

4. The coupling device according to claim 3, wherein the tool mount assembly includes a retaining assembly configured to receive the slide rail assembly.

5. The coupling device according to claim 4, wherein the tool mount assembly further includes a sideshift cylinder connected to the main body assembly to provide lateral movement to the main body assembly.

6. The coupling device according to claim 1, wherein the wedge assembly is movable between a coupling and decoupling position and the coupling device further includes an engagement indicator coupled to the wedge assembly to indicate the coupling and decoupling position.

7. The coupling device according to claim 6, wherein the wedge assembly includes a hydraulic actuator having a rod coupled to a pin for engaging a locking surface of the tool to rigidly connect the tool to the main body assembly.

8. The coupling device according to claim 7, wherein the pin includes a Belleville spring stack.

9. The coupling device according to claim 8, wherein the wedge assembly produces approximately 18-20 kilonewtons of force to rigidly connect the tool to the main body assembly.

10. The coupling device according to claim 7, wherein the wedge assembly further includes a cam member and a connecting rod, the connecting rod being coupled to the hydraulic actuator by the cam member, the cam member being displaced past a center point location of the pin to lock said pin in a final engagement with the tool.

11. The coupling device according to claim 10, wherein the hydraulic actuator, the cam, and the connecting rod are disposed within an interior of the main body assembly.

12. The coupling device according to claim 11, wherein the interior of the main body assembly includes at least two hydraulic actuators for translating movement to at least two pins, at least two cams connecting to respective hydraulic actuator, and at least two connecting rods, each connecting rod coupling a respective pin to a respective cam.

13. The coupling device according to claim 1, wherein the wedge assembly includes at least one first wedge surface corresponding to at least one first mating surface of the tool and at least one second wedge surface corresponding to at least one second mating surface of the tool, wherein the at least one first wedge surface is translated away from the at least one second wedge surface to lockingly engage the corresponding at least one first mating surface and cause the at least one second wedge surface to lockingly engage the at least one second mating surface of the tool in a rigid connection.

14. A method of coupling a tool to a motor grader machine, comprising: mounting a coupling device to a drawbar and circle assembly of the machine; and mounting a tool to the coupling device.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the main body assembly includes a wedge assembly and the tool mounting step includes engaging the wedge assembly to a mounting assembly of the tool to provide a rigid connection and thereby coupling the tool to the machine.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein the main body assembly includes a pickup surface and the wedge assembly includes at least one first wedge surface and at least one second wedge surface, the engaging step including disposing the pickup surface within at least one first mating surface of the tool, translating the at least one first wedge surface in a direction away from the at least one second wedge surface into contact with the at least one first mating surface thereby also disposing the at least one second wedge surface into contact with a corresponding at least one second mating surface of the tool to lockingly engage the at least one first mating surface and the at least one second mating surface with the wedge lock couple assembly in a rigid connection.

17. The method of claim 16, further including hydraulically activating the wedge assembly to translate the at least one first wedge surface in a direction away from the at least one second wedge surface and hydraulically deactivating the wedge assembly to translate the at least one first wedge surface in a direction towards the at least one second wedge surface.

18. A machine for performing displacement, distribution or leveling of material, comprising: a drawbar and circle assembly having a tool mount assembly; a coupling device connected to the tool mount assembly; and a tool rigidly connected to the coupling device.

19. The machine of claim 18, wherein the coupling device includes a retainer assembly and the tool mount assembly further includes a sideshift mount configured to receive the retainer assembly in sliding engagement.

20. The machine of claim 18, wherein the coupling device includes a wedge assembly having at least one first wedge surface corresponding to at least one first mating surface of the tool and at least one second wedge surface corresponding to at least one second mating surface of the tool, wherein the at least one first wedge surface is translated away from the at least one second wedge surface to lockingly engage the corresponding at least one first mating surface and cause the at least one second wedge surface to lockingly engage the at least one second mating surface of the tool in a rigid connection.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

This disclosure relates generally to a quick coupling device, and more particularly to a coupling system for mounting specialized tools to a machine.

BACKGROUND

Motor graders are typically used to perform displacement, distribution and leveling of material, such as soil. Generally, a motor grader includes a tractor unit coupled to a grader group via a tow bar assembly. The grader group may include a specialized tool, such as a blade assembly, having a grader blade, as well as a mounting assembly with retainers. The tool, for example, a blade assembly, may be positioned in the retainers such that the tool is supported by the mounting assembly. The tractor unit may move the tool, for example, the blade assembly, over the ground, so that the grader blade engages with the material, such as soil, so as to displace, distribute, or level the soil.

Motor graders, while capable machines, may be regarded as somewhat specialized machines. Their service may only be required for limited, often seasonal, tasks such as gravel road maintenance or heavy snow removal. Some efforts have been made to increase the versatility of the aforementioned machines, such as by utilizing various specialized tools in operations performed by the motor grader.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,419,104 issued to Higdon discloses a supporting frame for attaching a mower to a road grader or similar prime mover. A main mounting frame is provided for attachment to a pair of horizontal members and vertical supports located on the road grader. However, the attachment of Higdon is coupled directly to the road grader and does not provide convenient or easily exchangeable means for coupling other kinds of equipment, such as other specialized tools, to the road grader. In addition, the attachment of Higdon does not include readily available structure to provide varying degrees of motion such as vertical, horizontal, or rotational movement. Furthermore, the attachment of Higdon may not provide an appropriate degree of rigid connection between the attachment and the road grader for performing some operations requiring, for example, high precision or elevated levels of applied force.

The present disclosure is directed towards overcoming one or more of the shortcomings set forth above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one disclosed exemplary embodiment, a coupling device for coupling a tool to a motor grader machine may include a main body assembly, a wedge assembly attached to the main body assembly, wherein the wedge assembly is configured to rigidly secure the tool to the main body assembly. A retainer assembly may be attached to the main body assembly, wherein the retainer assembly is configured to mount directly to a tool mount assembly of the motor grader machine.

According to another exemplary disclosed embodiment, a method is provided for coupling a tool to a motor grader machine. The method includes mounting a coupling device to a drawbar and circle assembly of the machine and mounting a tool to the coupling device.

According to yet another disclosed embodiment, a machine for performing displacement, distribution or leveling of material may include a drawbar and circle assembly having a tool mount assembly, a coupling device connected to the tool mount assembly, and a tool rigidly connected to the coupling device.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 provides a diagrammatic side view of a motor grader according to an exemplary disclosed embodiment;

FIG. 2 provides a diagrammatic perspective view of a drawbar and circle assembly of the motor grader of FIG. 1 in connection with a coupling mechanism;

FIG. 3 provides a diagrammatic rear view of the coupling mechanism of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 provides a diagrammatic front view of the coupling mechanism of FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 provides a diagrammatic detail view of components of a wedge lock coupling assembly of the coupling mechanism of FIGS. 3 and 4;

FIG. 6 provides a diagrammatic view of a pin assembly of the wedge lock of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 provides a diagrammatic detail view of internal components of the coupling mechanism of FIGS. 3 and 4;

FIG. 8 provides a diagrammatic view of a tool according to an exemplary disclosed embodiment;

FIG. 9 provides a diagrammatic view of the tool of FIG. 8 and coupling mechanism of FIGS. 3 and 4;

FIG. 10 provides a diagrammatic side view of the coupling mechanism and tool of the motor grader of FIG. 2.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the figures, a motor grader is shown generally at 10 in FIG. 1. The motor grader 10 may include a frame assembly 11 for supporting a drawbar-circle-moldboard (DCM) 16. A moldboard or specialized tool 18 may be coupled to the DCM 16. The motor grader 10 may be driven by an engine contained, for example, in an engine enclosure 14. An operator cab 12 containing the controls necessary to operate the motor grader 10 may be mounted on the frame assembly 11.

Turning to FIG. 2, a drawbar 13 is shown in connection with a circle 15 to form a drawbar and circle assembly. The drawbar 13 may include an arrangement or steel tubes, for example, and other elements which attach to the circle 15. The circle 15 may include a circular gear set which allows rotation of an item, such as a specialized tool 18, connected thereto. A sideshift mount 22 may be attached to the circle 15. The disclosed embodiment illustrates the coupler mechanism 20 mounted to the sideshift mount 22. Hence, the coupler mechanism 20 may be connected to the circle 15 via the sideshift mount 22. A sideshift cylinder 19 of sideshift mount 22 may also be attached to coupler mechanism 20, such as by a mounting bracket 17. A specialized tool 18, for example, a moldboard, may be attached to coupler mechanism 20 as detailed below.

A rear view of the coupler mechanism 20 is illustrated in FIG. 3. The coupler mechanism 20 may include a main body assembly 21. The main body assembly 21 may include a back plate 23, side plates 25, top plate 27, and bottom plate 29. FIG. 4, illustrates a front view of the coupler mechanism 20. The main body assembly 21 may also include front plate 31. Components of the main body assembly 21 may be joined together, such as by welded assembly, to form an assembly which may encapsulate interior components as detailed below. The main body assembly 21 may further include a plurality of sideshift surfaces or rails 24. One rail 24 may be mounted to the back plate 23 generally along a top edge thereof such as along a length of top plate 27. Another rail 24 may be mounted to the back plate 23 generally along a bottom edge thereof such as along a length of bottom plate 29. A configuration of back plate 23 may be formed to generally accommodate an exterior shape of sideshift mount 22 when assembled thereto.

In one disclosed embodiment, a plurality of mounting plates may be secured to front plate 31. FIG. 4 depicts a first mounting plate 32 and second mounting plate 34 secured to front plate 31. First mounting plate 32 and second mounting plate 34 may be coupled to front plate 31 using retaining members such as bolted assemblies inserted through apertures 60. Fixed wedge surfaces 30 may be configured along a bottom portion of first mounting plate 32 and second mounting plate 34.

FIG. 5 illustrates an interior surface 58 of second mounting plate 34. (A similar symmetrical setup may be provided for first mounting plate 32.) Components of a wedge lock coupler assembly 35 are shown secured to interior surface 58. A cam holder 52 having a lower wedge 50 configuration is shown secured to interior surface 58. An over-center rest 48 may be attached to cam holder 52 by a retaining member 59. A cam 54 may be disposed within a slot 55 of cam holder 52. One end of cam 54 may be coupled to an end of a connecting rod 42 such as via a retaining member 61. The other end of the connecting rod 42 may be attached to a plunger 66 of a pin 26. Pin 26 may include an upper wedge 36 configuration in a surface thereof. Pin 26 may be retained by a pin holder 40. Pin holder 40 may include a pickup surface 38.

Turning to FIG. 6, pin 26 may include a pin casing 62 having an interior 98 for receiving a spring 64, for example, a Belleville spring stack. One end 100 of plunger 66 may also be received within the interior 98. The end 100 of plunger 66 may be retained within the interior 98 via a snap ring 96 disposed within the interior 98. The spring 64 may be retained between the end 100 of plunger 66 and an interior region 102 of pin casing 62.

The interior 98 may further include a recessed portion 90 for receiving an end of a restraint bar 92. The end 100 of plunger 66 may also include a recessed portion 94 for receiving the other end of the restraint bar 92. In some embodiments, an end of the restraint bar 92 may be attached within the recessed portion 94. Restraint bar 92 may include a geometric shape, such as, for example, a square, cross, or hexagonal cross-configuration. Each one of the recessed portions 90 and 94 may also be configured to receive the cross-sectional configuration of the restraint bar 92 in mating relationship. Hence, an assembly of the aforementioned cross-sectional configurations of the restraint bar 92 disposed within recessed portions 90 and 94 may prevent the pin casing 62 from rotating or turning with respect to the plunger 66. This may help ensure proper alignment of the pin 26, such as the upper wedge 36 configuration, with respect to another contact surface.

Hence, when the pin 26 is retained in place, for example, via a locking member urged against the upper wedge 36 of the pin 26, the plunger 66 may be enabled to become biased against the spring stack 64. The spring stack 64 will, in turn, become biased against the interior region 102 of pin casing 62 to create a force between the upper wedge 36 and the locking member. Another advantage provided by the restraint bar 92 may include preventing the spring 64 from being over-compressed as the end 100 of plunger 66 is urged towards the interior region 102 of pin casing 62. This may prevent damage to the spring 64.

Turning again to FIG. 5, another portion of cam 54 may be coupled to hydraulic cylinder rod 43 of hydraulic cylinder 44, such as by a retaining member 63. Hydraulic cylinder 44 may be attached to a cylinder holder 46 via a retaining member 65. Hydraulic cylinder 44 may include various hydraulic line receptacles 56 for receiving or sending hydraulic fluid in a hydraulic circuit to activate or deactivate pin 26.

In the disclosed embodiment, cylinder holder 46, pin holder 40, and cam holder 52 may all be secured to second mounting plate 34, such as by a welded assembly. However, other appropriate securing configurations may be used to rigidly attached the aforementioned components to the interior surface 58 of mounting plate 34. Retaining members 59, 61, 63 and 65, of the disclosed embodiment, may include, for example, a dowel pin and snap ring assembly or any other appropriate securing element(s) for joining the components of wedge lock coupler assembly 35.

FIG. 7 illustrates additional components and structure interior to main body assembly 21. A reinforcing plate 72 may be located on an interior surface 73 of bottom plate 29. Reinforcing plate 72 may include steel material and be secured by welding to main body assembly 21. In the disclosed embodiment, the length of reinforcing plate 72 may run just outside of each wedge lock coupler assembly 35. Reinforcing plate 72 may provide additional structural integrity and support to the main body assembly 21. The length of reinforcing plate 72 may also be adjusted in accordance with meeting various strength and/or weight requirements of main body assembly 21. Reinforcing plate 72 may include cut-outs to clear components, such as cam holder 52. A similar reinforcing plate (not shown) may be provided to run along an interior of top plate 27. In one disclosed embodiment, this reinforcing plate may be configured to traverse the entire length of the top plate to provide additional structural integrity and to support main body assembly 21. Again, the length may be adjusted in accordance to meeting various strength and/or weight requirements of main body assembly 21.

Additional components of main body assembly 21 may include internal ribs 67. As shown in FIG. 7, internal ribs 67 may be spaced apart along an interior 75 of main body assembly 21. In one embodiment, internal ribs 67 are assembled generally perpendicular to longitudinal lengths of top plate 27 and bottom plate 29. The internal ribs 67 may include cut-out portions to accommodate clearances of additional components within the interior 75 of main body assembly 21. The internal ribs 67 may include steel material and be secured to the main body assembly 21 by welded assembly.

A hydraulic routing assembly 69 is shown in connection with hydraulic cylinders 44 of each wedge lock coupler assembly 35. An external hydraulic connection 74 may be secured to a surface of the main body assembly 21. A hydraulic circuit, for example, provided by the motor grader 10 may be attached to the external hydraulic connection 74 to supply and/or return hydraulic fluid via hydraulic lines 76, 78 to hydraulic manifold 70. Hydraulic hoses 68 may be coupled between hydraulic line receptacles 56 and hydraulic manifold 70.

Engagement indicators 71 may be provided to indicate to an operator that pins 26 are engaged with specialized tool 18. In one embodiment, one end of the engagement indicator 71 may be attached to one end of a lever 77, such as by a threaded weld nut or other appropriate retaining member. The other end or indicating end 81 may be guided through an aperture, for example, located in the top plate 27. The other end of lever 77 may be connected to plunger 66 (FIGS. 5 and 6) of pin 26 via retaining member 61.

FIG. 8 illustrates an example of a specialized tool 18 that can be connected to coupler mechanism 20. The illustrated specialized tool 18 is a blade having upper wedge surfaces 80 and lower wedge surfaces 84. Contact surface 82 abuts front plate 31, first mounting plate 32, and second mounting plate 34 (FIG. 4) when the specialized tool 18 is attached to coupler mechanism 20 as discussed below. The blade shown in FIG. 8 is for illustrative purposes only. Other specialized tools having appropriately located upper wedge surfaces 80 and lower wedge surfaces 84 may be utilized, including, for example, cold planers, street sweepers, grass mowers, etc.

Thus, as shown in FIG. 9, the specialized tool 18 may be readily attached to coupler mechanism 20. Coupler mechanism 20 may be retained by sideshift mount 22. FIG. 10, depicts rails 24 of coupler mechanism 20 retained within upper retaining assembly 86 and lower retaining assembly 88 of sideshift mount 22.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The disclosed coupler mechanism 20 may have applicability in any system, for example, requiring rigid mounting of specialized tools to a machine. In one embodiment, the machine may include a motor grader 10.

In operation, coupler mechanism 20 may be utilized in connection with a drawbar and circle assembly of motor grader 10. The disclosed embodiment provides a coupler mechanism 20 having respective rails 24 which are insertable within upper retaining assembly 86 and lower retaining assembly 88 of sideshift mount 22 for a drawbar and circle assembly (FIG. 10). Sideshift cylinder 19 of sideshift mount 22 may also be attached to coupler mechanism 20, such as by mounting bracket 17 (FIG. 2). Once connected to the sideshift mount 22, coupler mechanism 20 may be further connected to one of a variety of specialized tools 18.

The sideshift cylinder 19 may provide horizontal movement to attached coupler mechanism 20 with respect to the drawbar and circle assembly. Any other movement (e.g., rotational, vertical, tilting) produced, for example, by the drawbar and circle assembly may be translated to coupler mechanism 20. The same kind of movement may further be translated to any rigidly connected specialized tool 18 connected to coupler mechanism 20.

Coupler mechanism 20 utilizes a wedge-lock coupler assembly 35 by taking two surfaces (e.g., upper wedge 36 and lower wedge 50) and pushing them apart to contact corresponding respective surfaces (e.g., wedge surfaces 80, 84) of a specialized tool 18, and locking the tool 18 against coupler mechanism 20 to form a rigidly locked assembly. The lower wedges 50 of coupler mechanism 20 may serve as stationary wedge members. Upper wedge 36 surfaces of pins 26 may be translated away from lower wedges 50.

In one disclosed embodiment, pickup surfaces 38 of coupler mechanism 20 may be located within upper wedge surfaces 80 of specialized tool 18. The wedge-lock coupler assembly 35 may be enabled by a hydraulic routing assembly 69 connected, for example, to a hydraulic circuit of a machine (such as motor grader 10). When connected to the hydraulic routing assembly 69, hydraulic cylinders 44 may be activated to push hydraulic cylinder rods 43 (connected to cams 54) towards cam holders 52 in order to push pins 26 to engage upper wedges 36 (of pins 26) with upper wedge surfaces 80 (of tool 18). The cams may be urged past a longitudinal center of pins 26 until they come into contact with over-center rests 48. As upper wedges 36 are disposed within upper wedge surfaces 80, a combination of gravity and the weight of tool 18 may facilitate lower wedges 50 of coupler mechanism 20 to become disposed within lower wedge surfaces 84 of tool 18. When pins 26 are fully extended within upper wedge surfaces 80, front plate 31, first mounting plate 32, and second mounting plate 34 of main body assembly 21 are urged tightly against contact surface 82 of tool 18. Additionally, when pins 26 are fully extended within upper wedge surfaces 80, upper wedges 36 and lower wedges 50 become fully engaged with upper wedge surfaces 80 and lower wedge surfaces 84, respectively, to form a rigidly locked connection between tool 18 and coupler mechanism 20.

When pins 26 are fully extended in a locked position, cams 54 have moved past over-center of a longitudinal line extending through pins 26 to rest against over-center rests 48. Consequently, a bottom portion of connecting rods 42 may be slightly urged towards over-center rests 48. This disclosed embodiment may provide an additional safety feature since any forces translated down through pins 26 would bear against the over-center rests 48 (as opposed to hydraulic cylinders 44) to prevent disengagement of pins 26. This safety feature may facilitate retention of specialized tool 18 to coupler mechanism 20 until the tool 18 is hydraulically released from contact such that the cams 54 are urged in a direction towards hydraulic cylinders 44 thereby disengaging pins 26.

Another advantage afforded by coupler mechanism 20 may include the capability to readily mount directly to stock equipment such as to the drawbar and circle assembly of a motor grader 10. Another feature of coupler mechanism 20 may include the capability of directly receiving various specialized tools 18. These tools may include one of a variety of specialized tools 18 including, for example, a blade, a street sweeper, a cold planer, or a grass mower. A further benefit of coupler mechanism 20 may include an increased capability to rigidly hold and secure the various specialized tools 18 in position once they are assembled to the main body assembly 21.

In one example, the spring load (generated by coupler mechanism 20), exerted to produce a clamping load to secure the specialized tool 18, may generate 18-20 kilonewtons of force. (This level of clamping force may be produced, for example, by utilizing an appropriate spring load, such as one produced by a Belleville spring stack 64 within pin 26.) The disclosed system may produce clamping loads having a high order of magnitude. Hence, coupler mechanism 20 may retain specialized tools 18 in a more rigidly locked connection. The specialized tools 18 retained by coupler mechanism 20 may also be less susceptible to counter-acting forces applied to the tool during operation. Such a rigid connection may allow a machine to perform earth moving tasks in a more precise or accurate manner.

In addition, the coupler mechanism 20 may increase the functionality of a readily available machine by allowing it to become more versatile. For example, a variety of specialized tools 18 may be connected to a single type of machine. This may allow the same machine to perform a multitude of tasks. Increasing the versatility of a machine may increase its operational usage, since the machine would not be relegated to performing only a specific task. This may also allow the equipment to become more cost effective by gaining greater usage from the machine.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the disclosed quick connect mechanism and methods without departing from the scope of the disclosure. Additionally, other embodiments of the quick connect mechanism and methods will be apparent to those skill in the art from consideration of the specification. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope of the disclosure being indicated by the following claims and their equivalents.