Title:
Racking balls on a pool table
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Pool balls falling into the pockets of a pool table during a game are fed through primary conduits below the table and then passed one at a time through the field of view of a camera which identifies the color and/or markings on the ball and forwards each ball through an appropriate secondary conduit to a rack located in a receiving position adjacent one end of the table. The rack is mounted on a carriage pivotally secured to the table at one end thereof so that, when the rack is full, the carriage can be pivoted from the receiving position to a discharge position over the table so that the balls can then be discharged from the rack in the correct formation on the table. Releasable retainers are provided to retain the balls in the rack during the pivoting movement and until the rack is in position over the table.



Inventors:
Burlock, Denym V. (Simcoe, CA)
Kilfoil, Mark (Dartmouth, CA)
Fletcher, Geoff (Calgary, CA)
Raidan, Rawad (Calgary, CA)
Latimer, John (Calgary, CA)
Schaefer, Daniel (Calgary, CA)
Application Number:
11/785936
Publication Date:
01/17/2008
Filing Date:
04/23/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/40
International Classes:
A63D15/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ARYANPOUR, MITRA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP (Hamilton, ON, CA)
Claims:
1. A method of racking balls on a pool table, said method including: feeding pool balls falling into the pockets of a pool table during a game through primary conduits below the table and then passing the balls one at a time through the field of view of a camera which identifies the color and/or markings on the ball and forwards each ball through an appropriate secondary conduit to a rack located in a receiving position adjacent one end of the table and mounted on a carriage pivotably secured to the table at one end thereof, and pivoting the carriage from the receiving position to a discharge position over the table and discharging the balls from the rack in the correct formation on the table.

2. A method of racking balls on a pool table, said method including: feeding pool balls falling into the pockets of a pool table during a game through primary conduits below the table and then passing the balls one at a time through the field of view of a camera which identifies the color and/or markings on the ball and forwards each ball through an appropriate secondary conduit to a rack located in a receiving position below the table.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/794,138 filed Apr. 24, 2006.

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to racking balls on a pool table.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

As is well known, it is conventional to start a game of pool by arranging the balls in a specific triangular formation on a pool table. A triangular frame known as a rack is used to enable the balls to be manually placed in the required formation. However, this manual procedure is somewhat time consuming and tedious.

It is therefore an object of the invention to provide apparatus for racking balls on a pool table.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to the invention, pool balls falling into the pockets of a pool table during a game are fed through primary conduits below the table and then passed one at a time through the field of view of a camera which identifies the colour and/or markings on the ball and forwards each ball through an appropriate secondary conduit to a rack located in a receiving position adjacent one end of the table. The rack is mounted on a carriage pivotally secured to the table at one end thereof so that, when the rack is full, the carriage can be pivoted from the receiving position to a discharge position over the table so that the balls can then be discharged from the rack in the correct formation on the table. Releasable retainers are provided to retain the balls in the rack during the pivoting movement and until the rack is in position over the table.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

One embodiment of the invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying descriptive drawings, of which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a pool table provided with apparatus for racking balls in accordance with the invention and showing the rack in the receiving position,

FIG. 2 is a plan view showing the conduits which the balls from the pockets to the rack,

FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing the carousel and the camera,

FIG. 4 is a side view thereof,

FIG. 5a shows the mirror arrangement for providing the camera with more than one view of each ball,

FIG. 5b shows typical views of the ball received by the camera,

FIG. 6 is a side view of the table showing the mechanism for feeding a ball to the correct secondary conduit,

FIG. 7 is a side view of the feeding mechanism,

FIGS. 8a and 8b show the balls as fed to the rack,

FIGS. 9a and 9b are side views showing the balls in the rack,

FIG. 9C is a side view of the rack showing the ball retainers,

FIG. 10 is a front view of the rack and associated mechanism in the receiving position,

FIG. 11 is the plan view thereof,

FIG. 12 shows mechanism associated with the rack,

FIG. 13a is a side view of the mechanism,

FIG. 13b is a side view of the cam,

FIG. 14 is a side view of the guide plate and parts associated therewith,

FIG. 15 is a similar view showing how the guide plate moves away from the rack when the rack is raised,

FIGS. 16a, 16b, 16c and 17 show the actuation and function of the retainer pins,

FIGS. 18a, 18b, 18c and 19a, 19b and 19c show the actuation and function of the pivoted rear wall of the rack, and

FIGS. 20a and 20b show further mechanism associated with the operation of the retainer pins and rear wall of the rack.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a pool table 10 has an upper portion 12 with a playing surface 14 and pockets 16. The upper portion 12 is supported by end supports 18, 20. Pool balls 22 are shown on the playing surface 14 in the conventional starting position.

In accordance with the invention and referring now also to FIGS. 2 to 4, primary conduits 24 extend below the table from each pocket 16 to a carousel 12 which feeds the balls 16 one at a time along a conduit 28 past the field of view of a camera 30. As shown in FIGS. 5a and 5b, mirrors 32 are positioned to provide the camera with 3 images of each ball 16 from different angles. The camera 30 is programmed to distinguish between the different kinds of balls 16 downstream of the camera 30, a conduit 28 has a series of longitudinally spaced trap doors 34, see FIGS. 6 and 7. As shown in FIGS. 6 and 7, the trap doors 34 are pivotally mounted portions of the conduit 28. Each trap door 34 has an upper position aligned with adjacent portions of the conduit 28 and a lower position in which a ball 16 in the trap door 34 is fed to one of five secondary conduits 36 over to a further secondary conduit 38. Pivoting of each trap door 34 is effected by an actuator 40 which is controlled by the identification of which ball 16 has just been sensed by the camera 30. The five secondary conduits 36 feed respective balls to a guide plate 42 adjacent one end of the table 10 and the secondary conduit 38 feeds the white ball to a trough 44 at the opposite end of the table 10.

Referring now to FIGS. 8a, 8b and 9a, 9b, 9c, the guide plate 42 guides the ball 16 into a triangular rack 46. While the balls 16 are being fed to the rack 46, the rear side ball 48 of the rack 46 is pivoted to a flat position as shown in FIG. 9a. When the rack 46 is full, a rack 46 is then swung upwardly as will be described in more detail later. At the commencement of such upward movement, the guide plate 42 swings away from the rack 46 and the rear side ball 48 is pivoted to an upright position, as shown in FIG. 9b, at the same time, retainer pins 50 move upwardly into the rack 46 to retain the balls therein, as will also be described in more detail later.

As shown in FIGS. 10, 11 and 12, the rack 46 is secured to a carrying plate 52 mounted on the leading ends of two arms 54, 56. The rear ends of the arms 54, 56 are secured to a shaft 58 mounted in bearings 60, 62 secured to adjacent end of the table 10. An electric motor 64 also secured to the table 10 is operable to pivot the arms 54, 56, rack 46 and associated mechanism from the loading position shown in FIG. 10 to a discharge position above the table as shown in FIG. 13a.

FIGS. 14 and 15 show how the guide plate 42 swings away from the rack 46 when the rack 46 begins its upward swinging movement. The guide plate 42 is carried by a support arm 66 pivotally mounted on the end support 20. A cable 68 passes from the guide plate 42 over a pulley 70 on the end support 20 and then downwardly therefrom, with a weight 72 at its lower end. The weight 72 biases the guide plate 42 to an upper position above the rack 46. A lower end 69 of the support arm 66 engages mechanism associated with the rack 46, and upward movement of the rack 46 permits upward movement of the guide plate 42. To permit such upward movement of the guide plate 42, adjacent portions of the secondary conduits 36 are flexible.

As shown in FIGS. 16a, 16b, 16c and 17 the retainer pins 50 have an expandable head portion 70 actuated by movement of a central pin member 72. The opposite ends of the pin member 72 are secured to an actuating plate 74 which has a threaded aperture through which a rotatable screw actuator 76 passes. Rotation of the actuator 76 is effected by a motor (which will be described later) FIG. 16 shows the retainer pins 50 in a retracted position, FIG. 16b shows the retainer pins 50 in a raised position between the balls 16, and FIG. 16c shows the retainer pins 50 with their head portions 70 expanded to retain the balls 16 in the rack 46.

FIGS. 18a, 18b, 18c and 19a, 19b, 19c show a further screw actuator 70 which operates to effect the necessary movement of the sidewall 48 of the rack 46. FIGS. 20a, 20b show a chain drive 80 with a motor driven gear 82 which operate gears to which the screw actuator 76, 77 are attached.

The operation of the apparatus described above will now be readily apparent to a person skilled in the art. Other embodiments of the invention will also be readily apparent.