Title:
Washing Agent Dispenser Device for Dishwashers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A description is given of a washing agent dispenser device suitable for use in dishwashers, comprising a first body (1A) which in turn comprises a container or reservoir (3) for washing agents to be dispensed, a device (2) for metering/dispensing said washing agents, and an actuating mechanism (10) associated with said metering/dispensing device (2) for metering and/or dispensing the washing agents.

The main feature of the device is that it comprises connection and/or integration means suitable for associating said first body (1A) with at least one accessory component (1B; 1C, 1D, 1E, 1F) of said dishwasher, for the main purpose of providing optimal flexibility and efficiency of the washer, which employs the dispenser device according to the present invention.




Inventors:
Moro, Marco (Alessandria, IT)
Perucca, Giovanni (Alessandria, IT)
Application Number:
11/572741
Publication Date:
03/06/2008
Filing Date:
07/26/2005
Assignee:
RECKITT BENCKISER N.V. (Hoofddorp, NL)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47L15/44; A47L15/50
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CORMIER, DAVID G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PARFOMAK, ANDREW N. (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A washing agent dispenser device adapted for use in dishwashers, comprising a first body which in turn comprises: a container or reservoir for washing agents to be dispensed, a device for metering/dispensing said washing agents, an actuating mechanism associated with said metering/dispensing device for metering and/or dispensing the washing agents, characterized in that it comprises connection and/or integration means suitable for associating said first body with at least one accessory component of said dishwasher.

2. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that said at least one accessory component comprises at least one basket for dishes.

3. A device according to claim 2, characterized in that said at least one basket for dishes comprises a basket for cutlery and/or one or more containers for glasses.

4. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that said connection and/or integration means comprise rigid means of connection between said first body and said at least one accessory component.

5. A device according to claim 4, characterized in that said rigid means of connection between said first body and said at least one accessory component comprise moulding in a single piece and/or adhesive bonding and/or hot melting and/or welding of said first body (1A) to at least part of said at least one accessory component.

6. A device according to claim 1 4, characterized in that said connection and/or integration means comprise movable means of connection between said first body and said at least one accessory component.

7. A device according to claim 6, characterized in that said movable means of connection between said first body and said at least one accessory component comprise hook-like projections on one part and corresponding slots on the other part.

8. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that said device comprises means for connecting or positioning or supporting it with respect to an element inside a washing tank of said dishwasher.

9. A device according to claim 8, characterized in that said connecting or positioning or support means are shaped and structured in such a way that said device can be easily placed in or removed from said washing tank.

10. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that said device comprises an actuating mechanism for metering and/or dispensing the washing agents.

11. A device according to claim 10, characterized in that said actuating mechanism (10) comprises at least actuator means (11) suitable for controlling said metering and/or dispensing operations.

12. A device according to claim 11, characterized in that said actuator means operate completely autonomously.

13. A device according to claim 12, characterized in that said actuator means comprise a thermoactuator with a heat-sensing head.

14. A device according to claim 11, characterized in that: said actuating mechanism additionally comprises: a support integral with a body of said metering/dispensing device, on which support said actuator means are supported in the operational configuration in such a way that said actuator means are able to exert a thrust in the longitudinal direction of said metering/dispensing device, said metering/dispensing device in particular being of the drawer type, a slide integral with a dispensing drawer of said metering/dispensing device, wherein a free end of a pusher belonging to said actuator means is connected to said slide in such a way that said pusher can act on said slide both in terms of thrust and in terms of traction, thereby also moving said drawer in translation, a resilient element or spring, in abutment on the one hand against an inner wall of said slide and on the other hand against a stop integral with the body of said metering/dispensing device.

15. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that it comprises a dispensing device of the long load type.

16. A device according to claim 1, characterized in that it consists at least partly of a thermoplastic and/or metal material.

17. An accessory component adapted to be located in or fixed to the inside of a washing tank of a dishwasher, characterized in that it comprises means for connecting it to and/or integrating it with a first body of a washing agent dispenser device.

18. An accessory component according to claim 17, characterized in that it comprises at least one basket for dishes.

19. An accessory component according to claim 18, characterized in that said at least one basket for dishes comprises a basket for cutlery and/or containers for glasses and/or any combination thereof.

20. An accessory component according to claim 17, characterized in that said connection and/or integration means comprise rigid means of connection between said first body (1A) and said accessory component.

21. An accessory component according to claim 20, characterized in that: said rigid means of connection between said first body and said accessory component comprise moulding in a single piece and/or adhesive bonding and/or hot melting and/or welding of said first body to said at least one accessory component.

22. An accessory component according to, characterized in that: said connection and/or integration means comprise movable means of connection between said first body and said accessory component.

23. An accessory component according to claim 22, characterized in that: said movable means of connection between said first body and said accessory component comprise hook-like projections on one part and corresponding slots on the other part.

24. A dishwasher incorporating a washing agent dispenser device according to claim 1.

25. A dishwasher incorporating at least one accessory component according to claim 17 which accessory component is adapted to be insertable inside a washing tank of a dishwasher.

26. (canceled)

Description:

The present invention relates to a washing agent dispenser device for use in dishwashers, preferably for domestic use. It furthermore relates to an accessory component, which can be housed inside a washing tank of a dishwasher.

As is known, a wide range of washing agent dispenser devices or simply dispensers are currently used in dishwashers, particularly for domestic use. These devices essentially make it possible for the washing agents to be dispensed at certain times and in certain ways during the washing phases carried out by the washer. The washing agents are usually stored in containers or reservoirs inside said devices, either as detergents in liquid or powder form or in solid form (tablets) for degreasing or cleaning the dishes stored inside the machine, or as rinse aids which are usually in liquid form and are essentially provided to prevent the formation of marks on the treated dishes.

The main types of known dispenser device will be discussed below, these main types differing in terms of their location and the way in which they are associated with the elements of the dishwasher where they are used and also the type of actuation of the actuating/dispensing means present therein.

In dishwashers for domestic use, it is customary to house a washing agent (detergent and rinse aid) dispenser device in a manner such that it is almost completely built into the inside of the door of the dishwasher, wherein there is typically a single outer surface of said dispenser device which faces out from the door and is therefore accessible to a user. Usually housed inside the door are the associated wires, which connect said device to a management and control system of the dishwasher (typically consisting of an electronic control and command unit for implementing the various operating phases of the dishwasher) and also the actuation and control systems connected thereto and/or integrated therewith.

These dispensers, which can be built into the door, exhibit some well-known disadvantages, including:

    • a structure of the door of the dishwasher which is much thicker than in the case of solutions without built-in dispensers, with the consequence of less space available in the tank for the dishes to be washed and a resulting greater complexity in terms of the design of said door;
    • the wiring and in general the electrical components contained in the door are exposed to the risk of damage caused by any dripping and/or leakage into the door of washing agents that have escaped from the dispenser device, in particular the liquid agents (rinse aids) which are particularly aggressive and corrosive;
    • difficulty in accessing the various elements of the dispenser device;
    • strict limits in terms of the design of said dispenser, which must be produced with just one surface which is largely accessible from outside and which can therefore be used to provide access to the reservoirs and containers for the washing agents (openings, caps, flaps, etc.).

Another type of dispenser is formed by those housed in the washing tank, usually at the side or attached to the walls of the tank of the dishwasher.

These fundamentally have the following obvious limitations:

    • difficulty in accessing the dispenser device, wherein it is somewhat inconvenient for a user to refill the washing agent containers;
    • reduction in the useful volume available for the dishes to be washed;
    • exposure to knocks and to interference with the dishes themselves.

Washing agent dispenser devices also exist which are associated with the baskets of the dishwasher, in particular with the upper basket. Examples of this type are disclosed in patents EP 0 755 650 and EP 1 319 360.

In particular, the first document discloses positioning a washing agent and rinse aid dispenser device in a fixed manner on the upper basket of a dishwasher, in a front position which is easily accessible to a user extracting the basket. The dispenser is equipped with hydraulic connections that extend from the wall of the tank to the central part of the basket, so as to permit actuation and dispensing of the washing agents. The second document discloses placing a washing agent dispenser device in a fixed manner on the upper basket of a dishwasher, within volumes of the washing tank at zones that would otherwise not be used by the dishes to be washed. The actuating system is hydraulic and makes use of solutions similar to those in the document EP 0 755 650.

In both these documents, the described washing agent dispenser devices give rise to a rather complex structural design of the dishwasher, in relation to the shape and connections of the upper basket. This is because the various means of connection to the dispensers and means of actuating the dispensing phases of the latter, typically the washing water supply pipes, must reach the dispensers positioned on the front of the baskets. These connections are exposed to knocks, which are caused for example by dishes moving awkwardly in the tank.

There also exist washing agent dispenser devices of the type which are positioned inside the washing tank and are usually connected to the walls or to the basket of the dishwasher and have actuating mechanisms that are activated directly by the temperature inside the tank, when said temperature exceeds a certain value.

One example of this type of dispenser is described in the British patent application published under No. GB 2 330 522.

These dispensers are equipped with devices for actuating metering, dispensing and general means for delivering washing agents; such devices consist of thermoactuators with a heat-sensing head of the type particularly sensitive to the temperature of the surroundings in which they are positioned. These thermoactuators are designed such that the heat outside them, that is to say in the washing tank, can pass to the reservoir containing the heat-sensitive wax, thereby warming the latter. Inside this reservoir, when a certain temperature threshold is exceeded in the tank, the heat-sensitive wax starts to expand slowly, actuating a shaft immersed in said wax, which is then able to move in continuous translation from a retracted position into an extracted position of use. The expansion of the wax moves the thermoactuator to an actuating position, that is to say with the shaft in the extracted position of use. Vice versa, as the temperature in the tank decreases, for example following a washing phase using cold water or a drying phase in ambient air, the heat-sensitive wax contracts and the shaft assumes a retracted position or a position of non-actuation of the thermoactuator.

However, although these dispenser devices are equipped with actuating mechanisms activated automatically such as the aforementioned thermoactuators with a heat-sensing head, they nevertheless exhibit the disadvantages resulting from a fixed location in the washing tank, as defined when the machine is designed. This makes the loading of the dishes into the machine relatively inflexible with regard to any loads of particular dishes or with regard to particular requirements in terms of inspecting the dispenser device. These limitations are common to all the known dispenser types mentioned above.

Said dispensers also exhibit the drawback of having to be positioned in a clearly defined position, for example with the dispensing zone facing downwards. To this end, means for hooking it onto the basket are provided, said means being able to ensure this mounting position, with the result that the positioning of the dispenser in the basket and/or in the machine is extremely limited or even reduced to the small zones provided with a suitable hooking point.

In conclusion, all the known types of washing agent dispenser devices, particularly for dishwasher applications for domestic use, exhibit the limitation of having little flexibility of use inside the washer or dishwasher. For example, they are not very flexible when the dishwasher operates with loads of dishes having a particular shape, or when there are particular requirements regarding accessibility to the dispenser device, for example in order to make particular adjustments to the device when it is subject to malfunctions or to carry out ordinary maintenance on said devices or parts thereof. Moreover, they have a structure that makes it very difficult for a user to refill the washing agent containers in a simple, intuitive and definitive manner.

Furthermore, any integration of the known devices with parts of the dishwasher is achieved in the prior art in a somewhat articulated manner which is expensive and not very efficient in terms of both the economic aspects and the functional aspects relating to the design and management of a washer, particularly a dishwasher.

The main aim of the present invention is to overcome the abovementioned disadvantages of the prior art and, in particular, to provide a device, in particular a washing agent dispenser and/or an accessory component, which in a global and unitary manner overcomes the aforementioned disadvantages, that is to say is particularly flexible in daily use, economic to manufacture and to maintain, functionally valid and efficient in general.

One aim of the present invention is to provide a device, in particular a washing agent dispenser and/or an accessory component, which makes it possible to produce a dishwasher which is particularly flexible with regard to use requirements of the volumes inside the washing tank, that is to say useful for housing dishes to be washed, including those of particular shape and size.

Another aim is to provide a dispenser that operates autonomously, that is to say does not have to be controlled by a management and control unit of the washer or by any other connections of mechanical and/or hydraulic type with other parts of the washer.

Another aim is to provide a dispenser with considerable ease of access to any part or component thereof, so as to simplify and facilitate the operations of loading washing agents and any ordinary and/or extraordinary maintenance of the dispenser or parts thereof.

Another aim is to provide a dispenser that has a structure that is able to keep it in the correct working position, in particular without the need to hook it onto parts of the dishwasher.

Another aim is that of being able to be used in different types of machine, in particular in different dishwasher variants and possibly also in conjunction with other dispensers of the same type; in particular, the device is able to be used in the various types of dishwasher which already exist, without particular adjustments to the machine or device itself.

Another object of the present invention is to achieve the aforementioned aims in a simple, rational and therefore generally efficient and economic manner with regard to the process of designing and producing the washer or dishwasher in which the dispensers are used.

These aims are essentially achieved, according to the present invention, by a device, in particular a washing agent dispenser and/or an accessory component, having the features specified in the appended claims, which for all intents and purposes form an integral part of the present description.

Further aims, features and advantages of the present invention will become clear from the detailed description of a few examples of embodiment which are given below and from the appended drawings which are given purely by way of non-limiting example and in which:

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a device, in particular a washing agent dispenser and/or an accessory component, according to the present invention;

FIGS. 2, 3 and 4 respectively show a front view, a view along section A-A of FIG. 2 and a view from below of the device of FIG. 1;

FIGS. 5 and 6 show a perspective view and a view in elevation of a section along a horizontal plane of a detail of the device of FIG. 4;

FIG. 7 shows a perspective view of the device of FIG. 1 in one particular operating state;

FIGS. 8 and 9 show a perspective view of a first variant of the device according to the invention;

FIGS. 10 and 11 show a perspective view of a second variant of the device according to the invention;

FIGS. 12 and 13 show two perspective views, one a general view and one partially exploded, of a third variant of the device according to the invention.

One preferred embodiment of a washing agent dispenser device and of an accessory component of the washer according to the present invention is shown in FIGS. 1 to 4. The reference number 1 denotes the dispenser device or the accessory component of the washer in its entirety, hereinafter referred to simply as device 1.

The device 1 consists of a first element or body 1A and a second element or body 1B which are rigidly connected to one another or integral with one another, the rigid means of connection between said bodies 1A and 1B being produced or moulded together in a single piece or by adhesive bonding, hot melting or welding of the two bodies.

The first body 1A is on the whole structured in the shape of an L and contains a dispenser device of the long load type, or of the type able to dispense multiple doses of washing agents that are housed inside in the form of tablets containing detergent and/or rinse aid. The dispenser device could also be of the type able to meter and/or dispense any other type of washing agent, for example in the form of a powder, paste or liquid.

The second body 1B forms a basket or a container for some of the dishes to be washed, in particular a basket for cutlery, of parallelepiped shape which is open at the top and has the lower wall and one of the side walls defined by the respective outer surfaces of the first body 1A with which said second body 1B is associated.

The shape and structure of the two bodies 1A and 1B can be seen with greater ease in the variant shown in FIGS. 8 and 9, wherein the second body 1B, or the basket for cutlery, is produced separately from the first body 1A and can be hooked onto the latter in a movable manner, as will be explained in more detail below.

For the purposes of the invention, it is important to emphasize the following points:

a) that the second body 1B could be any other accessory element or accessory which can be located inside the dishwasher, that is to say can be placed inside rather than attached to the inside of the washing tank in such a way that it can be easily unhooked by an operator. For example, besides a container for dishes, in particular a basket for cutlery, the second body 1B could be any accessory that can be placed in a movable manner inside the washing tank, such as particular supports for cutlery or glasses or any other accessory which is or can be located inside the tank;

b) that the device 1 could comprise two or three bodies or elements, that is to say a plurality of accessories of the dishwasher such as baskets for cutlery or glasses which are mutually integrated with one another.

Still referring to FIGS. 1 to 4, the first body 1A consists of a portion corresponding to the base of the L, which incorporates a washing agent metering/dispensing device which is shown overall at 2, and of a container or reservoir 3 for the washing agents; this device 2 is of the “drawer” type, or of a type that is capable of taking the dose of washing agent from a first zone and then carrying it in translation into a second, discharge zone, the translational movement preferably being of the linear type.

The metering/dispensing device 2 has a drawer 6 that is connected in a sliding manner inside said device 2 by means of suitable connection means (not shown for the sake of simplicity). In particular, the drawer 6 is associated with an actuating mechanism, shown overall at 10, in such a way that it can slide longitudinally in both directions in a manner controlled by the aforementioned mechanism 10.

The drawer 6 has a compartment 5 formed internally in the lower part of the container 3, which container is of parallelepiped shape and is closed at the top by a cap 4. At the bottom, on the other hand, the container 3 is open and engages on the metering/dispensing device 2 at the compartment 5 when the drawer 6 is in the non-dispensing position, that is to say with the actuating mechanism 10 in the state of non-actuation of the metering/dispensing device 2, as will be explained in more detail below.

These details can be seen in FIG. 4 but above all in FIGS. 5 and 6, where a double view is shown, in perspective and from the top, of the metering/dispensing device 2. This device 2 is shown here, for the sake of clarity, without an upper closure wall; this upper wall has an opening for access to the compartment 5 in correspondence with the latter, the size of which is at least equal to the associated upper opening.

The metering/dispensing device 2 also has a through-hole, that is to say has openings both at the top and at the bottom, for the reasons given below.

The arrangement of washing agents inside the container 3 is shown in the sectional view of FIG. 3, where there can be seen in particular the presence of a plurality of tablets 8 stacked in a column between the walls of the container 3, with the bottom tablet of the column, shown at 8I, housed inside the compartment 5 of the drawer 6.

The drawer 6 is essentially located in sliding bearing above a wall 7 inside the metering/dispensing device 2, which wall 7 is arranged horizontally so as to separate an upper zone, where said drawer 6 slides, from a lower zone. This lower zone ends by defining externally a substantially flat and horizontal surface, that is to say a surface which can perform the support function for the device 2 and thus for the device 1 as a whole.

The wall 7 is clearly visible in FIG. 3. It consists of a continuous horizontal plane on which the bottom tablet 8I rests when the drawer is in the position shown in FIG. 1, that is to say in a retracted position of use or a position in which no washing agents are dispensed.

In said lower zone, in addition to the aforementioned support means for the device 1 as a whole, there can also be seen the presence of means for joining 9 the two separate parts which form the second body 1B, that is to say the container 3, the body of which furthermore comprises lateral lower parts, and the metering/dispensing device 2, which comes to lie between said lateral lower parts. Said joining means consist of teeth in relief on the outer surface of the metering/dispensing device 2 and of corresponding seats on said lateral lower parts of the body including the container 3, which can cooperate in a hooking manner with said teeth in relief.

It is clear that said joining means 9 can be of many types, that is to say any coupling/hooking between the body of the container 3 and the metering/dispensing device 2.

There may also be present, although these are not shown in the figure for the sake of simplicity, known means of connection between the device 1 and an operational element in the washing tank of the dishwasher, to which said device may be connected. These connection means are of a type that can be disengaged immediately and rapidly by a user of the washer wishing to remove the device 1 from the washing tank of the dishwasher. For example, these could be known hooking systems with rapid unhooking, including tabs or teeth in relief or other technical equivalents.

The element inside the washing tank on which the device 1 is supported or to which said device is connected could simply be for example a surface portion of a basket for dishes, or else a fixing plate anchored thereto or to the side walls of the tank, or else a particular shaping of the wires forming the basket or a particular shaping of the internal surface of the washing tank.

It is also important to emphasize that said connection means could also not exist for the purposes of the present invention, the arrangement of the device 1 inside the washing tank being achieved by simple support means which are able for example to locate the device 1 on a horizontal surface of the upper basket for dishes. This concept is the case in the example shown in FIGS. 1 to 7, the support means of which are formed by the flat horizontal shaping of the lower zone of the metering/dispensing device 2.

FIGS. 5 and 6 show in detail the dispensing/metering device 2 including the actuating mechanism 10. The latter consists of:

    • a thermoactuator of the type with a heat-sensing head, denoted as a whole by 11;
    • a stop 12 for said thermoactuator 11, which is integral with the metering/dispensing device 2, on which the thermoactuator 11 is supported in the operational configuration in such a way that a pusher element or pusher of said thermoactuator 11 is able to exert a thrust in the longitudinal direction with respect to the body of the metering/dispensing device 2;
    • a slide 13 integral with the drawer 6, to which the free end of the pusher of the thermoactuator 11 is connected in such a way that said pusher can operate in both directions of translation on the slide (13), moving the drawer 6 with it;
    • a resilient element or spring 14, in abutment on the one hand against an inner wall of the slide 13 and on the other hand against a stop 15 integral with the body of the metering/dispensing device 2.

This actuating mechanism 10 is therefore designed such that, when the pusher of the thermoactuator 11 is in the extracted position of use, the spring 14 acts in terms of thrust in opposition to the movement of said pusher, continuously promoting the re-entry of the latter into the body of the thermoactuator 11.

In the same way, the actuating mechanism 10 could be integrated inside a thermoactuator device of articulated design, which would comprise, in a single outer body, resilient elements acting, by contrast, with the pusher. With particular reference to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, the actuating mechanism 10 that is shown would then not have the support 12 or the spring 14, these elements being integrated inside the outer body or shell of the equivalent thermoactuator device.

With regard to the design details of a thermoactuator of the type denoted 11 in the present description, and the mode of operation thereof, more particularly in order to understand the design details of the reservoir of wax and how the pusher is connected inside, reference should be made to European patent EP 0 940 577 in the name of the same applicant, the disclosure of which is hereby fully incorporated in the present description.

In the thermoactuator 11 with a heat-sensing head which is used in the present example of embodiment of the invention, the wax container is made of a particularly heat-conductive material, that is to say with a particularly low heat inertia (typically of metallic material), so as to be particularly sensitive to heat exchanges with the air present in the washing tank where said thermoactuator 11 is located. This is because the wax present in its container, within which a pusher is immersed, is of a type which is able to expand within a temperature range preferably from 10 to 65° C., and is very sensitive to the temperature variations in the tank and therefore to any implementation of a hot phase inside the dishwasher.

The thermoactuator 11 is therefore an actuator of a type with completely autonomous operation, that is to say it is not controlled by any wiring system connected to a management and control unit of the dishwasher and/or hydraulic connections or the like, since it is actuated autonomously in dependence solely on the temperature inside the washing tank, that is to say within the surroundings in which it is installed for operation.

The metering/dispensing device 2 is furthermore provided with a through-hole, or has holes both at the top and at the bottom, so as to allow the water or hot steam which may be present in the washing tank to come into contact with the head of the thermoactuator 11, then allowing said liquid or steam phase to flow out of the device 2.

The operation of dispensing the washing agents, that is to say the bottom tablet 8I of the stack contained in the reservoir 3, takes place following the implementation of a hot phase in the washing tank of the dishwasher when the device 1 is inserted, supported or connected in a movable manner inside the washing tank.

The increase in temperature in the tank to above a certain threshold (for example 30-40° C.), as a result of a hot phase being implemented, gives rise to a considerable expansion of the wax inside the heat-sensitive container, which brings about a gradual exit of the pusher out of said container, into the extracted state of use or of actuation of the thermoactuator 11. The longitudinal translation of the pusher, and with it also of the slide 13, gives rise to a gradual forward movement of the drawer 6, which then assumes a position in which the compartment 5 is completely extracted from the first body 1A, as shown in FIG. 7. The bottom tablet 8I, now without the presence of the wall 7, falls by gravity into the washing tank, descending so as then to be dissolved gradually inside the well of the dishwasher.

Advantageously, the formation of the device 1 which is connected to and/or integrated with an accessory of the dishwasher, in the present example with the basket for cutlery which is defined by the second body 1B, facilitates the positioning of said device centrally with respect to the washing tank, helping the descent of the tablet 8I directly into the well of the dishwasher and the subsequent disintegration of said tablet.

The drawer 6, given the particular sensitivity of the wax of the thermoactuator 11 to the transfer of heat from the tank, preferably returns to the closed position shown in FIG. 1 only once the temperature in the washing tank has significantly decreased, that is to say after one or more phases of cold rinsing and/or drying in ambient air have taken place. Only under these conditions does the pusher of the thermoactuator 11, biased by the spring 14 to move back inside the wax container, return to the retracted position of use or of non-actuation of the thermoactuator 11, carrying along with it the slide 13 and therefore the drawer 6, which returns to a closed position or a position of non-actuation of the metering/dispensing device 2. A new tablet 8 is loaded into the compartment 5 only once the drawer 6 is completely closed, and said tablet falls into the compartment by way of gravity, supported by the wall 7, with the washing agent dispenser device 1 returning to the configuration shown in FIG. 1. The device is thus ready for the next operation of dispensing a new bottom tablet 8I when a certain temperature is reached inside the washing tank, repeating the dispensing operation in a manner analogous to what has been described above.

The particular type of dispenser is described purely by way of example, but it could also be of a different type, for example comprising actuation kinematics and/or metering/dispensing devices which are different and much more complex.

The advantages of the washing agent dispenser device according to the present invention are clear from the description thus far, in particular from the example of embodiment just described.

These advantages can substantially be attributed to an innovative technical concept which is disclosed and introduced in the field of washing agent dispenser devices: integrating a first body (containing a dispenser which in turn can be composed of one or more bodies), comprising at least some of the functional elements of a dispenser device per se, with one or more accessory elements of the dishwasher.

This accessory element (or a plurality thereof) obviously cannot be regarded as being either one of the main baskets for dishes, which can typically move on sliding guides and can be removed from the washing tank so as to allow easy positioning of the dishes to be washed therein, or a sprayer of washing water in the tank or any other elements which are indispensable for correct operation of the dishwasher.

The accessory element may furthermore exhibit the feature of being typically supported in or connected inside the washing tank of the dishwasher in a manner so as to be easily and immediately removable by a user, such as in particular a container for cutlery or a leaning support or movable support on the basket which is able to house cutlery or glasses, or some other element having the aforementioned feature.

The aforementioned integration between the dispenser per se and one or more accessories of the dishwasher advantageously allows considerable flexibility, economy of production and of any maintenance on the washer, particular a dishwasher, which incorporates said solution. In particular:

    • it makes it possible to locate the dispenser device at any point of the washing tank, that is to say even at those points where they are not usually located, so as to facilitate the placement of dishes of particular shape or particular size. This is achieved by the design and manufacture of the device with a specific structural configuration and a clearly defined position as to where it should be located, that is to say in a zone of the tank which has suitable hooking points;
    • it can be easily inspected since it is completely removable and can be removed together with the accessory with which it is integrated;
    • it can immediately be unhooked and repositioned anywhere in the tank where there is a support or suitable connection means;
    • it reduces the size compared to the production of the individual components of which it consists;
    • it has a particularly simple type of connection inside the washing tank, in particular simple supports;
    • it integrates accessories or parts thereof in individual structural units, and therefore overall uses less plastic and is more economic and rational;
    • it is possible to locate a plurality of these dispenser devices 1 inside one and the same machine, or a single device 1 can be used for more than one washer.

Advantageously, the washing agent container 3 can be easily loaded, in particular from the top.

Also advantageously, the dispenser operates completely independently of any control system of the dishwasher, being actuated autonomously in dependence on the temperature in the washing tank. It therefore has no wiring and/or electrical and/or hydraulic connection to any other part of the tank or of the machine, which helps to make it possible to design the machine in an economic and highly efficient manner, wherein all the internal volumes of the tank can be exploited in the best possible way.

It is clear that many variants of the washing agent dispenser devices described by way of example are possible for the person skilled in the art without departing from the scope of novelty of the inventive idea.

For example, the first body 1A could contain the structural and functional elements of any type of known dispenser, even if a dispenser of the multidose type is preferred, that is to say a dispenser which is able to house a plurality of doses of washing agents and is able to dispense said plurality of doses at different times.

FIGS. 8 and 9 show a perspective view of one possible variant of the dispenser device, which is still denoted overall by reference number 1 for the sake of simplicity. In the figures, elements analogous to those of the previous example still bear the same reference numbers for the sake of simplicity.

The variant shown differs from the previous example only in that the bodies 1A and 1B are produced independently of one another. The way in which the bodies 1A and 1B are connected to one another is therefore different, and the shape of the second body 1B is also different. Said second body consists of a box of essentially prismatic shape which is open at the top and optionally at the bottom.

These bodies 1A and 1B have means for connection to one another, shown overall at 20, which make it possible to remove the second body 1B from the first body 1A.

Specifically, these connection means 20 consist of hooks formed by a plurality of teeth 21 integral with the outer surface of the container 3, which teeth engage in the slots 22 mounted to project from a surface of the second body or accessory body 1B which, when assembled, faces the outer surface of the container 3. These slots 22 are in particular able to flex slightly during the operation of assembly to the teeth 21.

It is clear that, in a corresponding manner, use could also be made of other means of connection 20 between the bodies 1A and 1D, equivalent to the previous means or of a different type, which have the feature of allowing assembly of the bodies 1A and 1B during or after production, and possibly disassembly of said bodies, for example in order to make it possible to replace the basket for cutlery 1B of FIGS. 8 and 9 with a different type of dishwasher accessory. These connection means 20 could be formed by known types of hook-shaped projections on one part and corresponding seats on the other part, such as for example seats formed at the end or elastic tabs. The projections or seats could moreover be present indifferently on the first body 1A or second body 1B.

The flexibility of the device 1 is thus increased compared to the example of embodiment of FIGS. 1 to 7, making it possible to integrate a variety of accessories of the washer with the dispenser device, in particular with the first body 1A which contains the dispenser per se inside it.

Advantageously, the described solution makes it possible to mould the body of the device 1 according to the invention in a more economic manner, since it is known that these components are preferably manufactured by moulding of plastics materials, and this moulding and subsequent assembly of the parts is made much more complicated by the presence of closed box shapes. It is therefore possible to avoid having to carry out welding, adhesive bonding or hot-melt operations, which are by contrast required in order to produce the final body of the example of embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 to 7.

Another example of embodiment of the dispenser device according to the invention is shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, wherein the device is once again denoted 1. This is the same as the example of FIGS. 1 to 7, differing in that the container or first body 1A, or the container or reservoir 3, now has a substantially cylindrical shape and is generally provided to house any type of washing agent, in solid form or in powder, in gel or in liquid form. At the bottom, it has any type of device (known in the art) for metering/dispensing the washing agents stored in the container 3, such as for example devices with a sliding drawer or a rotating drawer or provided with a metering chamber or rotating opening so as to allow the dispensing of said agents.

Advantageously, this variant gives an example of how the integration between the device per se, or the first body 1A, and the container for cutlery, or second container 1B, can take place essentially in the case of all types of known dispenser equipped with any known metering/dispensing system. The first body 1A can be configured in any manner and designed so as to incorporate any type of known dispensing device, because of the fact that it may assume any spatial shape.

The variant of FIGS. 10-11 thus shows a different embodiment of the dispenser device, wherein both aesthetic characteristics and functional characteristics are effectively integrated. The cap 4 furthermore has an aesthetic function and may be suitably screwed or hooked onto the body of the container 3 so as not to allow water to penetrate into said container 3.

The second body or accessory element 1B has two ends or extensions P of the side walls which are able to be hooked or engaged onto the first body 1A of the device 1 by suitable connection means of known type which are not shown for the sake of simplicity. For example, the extensions P are preferably of slightly curved shape or are closed at the ends facing the first body 1A and are able to coil round at least part of the circular profile of this first body 1A, being able to engage onto the latter on account of their elasticity. The extensions P could be made of a thermoplastic material or may be made in whole or in part of a different material, such as a metal.

In one version of this variant which is not shown, the extensions P of the second body 1B could be extended to coil completely around the profile of the body 1A, forming a closed profile or being joined together to form a cylindrical seat for the first body 1A which houses inside it the functional elements of the dispenser. These elements could be housed or inserted in this cylindrical seat, for example with a movement from the top to the bottom, or vice versa.

What has been illustrated and described is just one example of the aesthetic and functional characteristics that can be achieved by exploiting the concept of integration according to the present invention. Other solutions and variants can be obtained by drawing upon technical equivalents of the solutions described. For example, the dispenser per se, which is housed in the first body 1A, could be of any known type.

Furthermore, according to the invention, the second body 1B may comprise and/or constitute any accessory of the washer or dishwasher including the dispenser device according to the invention.

Another example of embodiment is shown in the appended FIGS. 12 and 13, wherein the dispenser device is still denoted overall by 1 and identical, similar or analogous components are still denoted by the same reference numbers and are not described in any further detail for the sake of simplicity.

Thus, with reference to the previous terms and reference numbers, the device 1 has the second body 1B shaped like a saddle and stiffened centrally by the presence of the first body 1A which houses inside it the device per se, that is to say a container/reservoir 3 for the washing agents and a device for metering/dispensing said agents of one of the types mentioned above which are not described in any further detail here.

In this embodiment of the invention, the concept of integration between the dispenser device per se and one or more accessories of the dishwasher is implemented in the second body 1B, which is essentially a support that is able to carry and integrate a plurality of other accessories, represented here by way of example by containers for glasses 1C, 1D, 1E and 1F. These containers for glasses 1C-1F are associated with the second body 1B via connection means, still denoted overall by 20 for the sake of simplicity. The connection means 20 are hooks 23 present on the containers for glasses 1C-1F, which hooks can engage in corresponding openings 24 present in the side parts of the saddle-shaped second body 1B of the device 1. Said second body 1B is shaped so as to have at the bottom a substantially flat support surface which is therefore able to bear against a flat surface of the washing agent dispenser device 1 as a whole, which may comprise at least one or more containers for glasses 1C-1F which are hooked onto the second body 1B and can be unhooked when necessary with relative ease.

In some variant embodiments, the second body 1B could be integrated at least partly in the first body 1A, which is shaped as in the previous examples of embodiments of FIGS. 1-11, and provided with hooks or with means for associating it with the first body 1A, said means being more or less the same as said connection means 20.

Advantageously, the aforementioned example of embodiment provides one possible application of the inventive concept on which the present document is based, with respect to all the many possible embodiments, which are nevertheless susceptible to many other variants, both in terms of the aesthetic and functional characteristics and in terms of the specific implementation of the details, without departing from the inventive idea. For example, the thermoactuator with a heat-sensitive head could be replaced by any known actuator which is suitable for this purpose, such as an actuator of the bimetal disc type, or formed by shape memory alloys which, as is known, are equally sensitive to temperature variations within the ranges of interest.

The materials used to produce the device 1 according to the invention can also be chosen at will, said device typically being made of thermoplastic material. These devices can furthermore be formed of a plurality of materials, as a partial or total replacement for the thermoplastic material of which the dispenser devices and at least in part the container baskets are usually made. For example, the second body 1B could be made at least partly of metal, for example of cut, perforated and folded sheet metal, or of parts or wires which are welded together or interlaced, or using any known technique for producing baskets for dishes and related accessories of a dishwasher.