Title:
Swivel metal hose cart
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A hose reel cart utilizes metal and coated metal component construction for increased durability and stability while still remaining lightweight for increased hose capacity and maneuverability. Additionally the hose reel can pivot about an axis which is substantially perpendicular to the horizontal rotary axis of the hose reel thereby enabling the hose to be readily removed from the hose reel irrespective of the location of the user without the danger of the hose reel cart tipping over. This pivoting ability of the hose reel also permits the hose to be wound onto the hose reel evenly irrespective of the location of the hose without the user having to constantly reposition the hose reel cart. This pivoting ability also enables the use of a wider than normal hose reel thereby increasing the capacity of the length of hose which can be carried on the reel. Further, the hose is wound around the reel by use of a crank which provides a direct rotational link between the crank and the winding of the reel.



Inventors:
Stein, Robert (Aurora, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/521696
Publication Date:
03/20/2008
Filing Date:
09/15/2006
Assignee:
Suncast Corporation
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H75/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FOX, JOHN C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCHALE & SLAVIN, P.A. (PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A portable hose reel cart for windably holding an elongated hose member and for use in transporting said hose member between a storage location and a use location, said hose reel cart comprising: a spool positioned on a cradle and operatively connected thereto for rotation of said spool about a first axis of rotation, said spool having a hub defining said axis of rotation and a pair of flanges at opposite ends of said hub and perpendicular to said axis of rotation; a crank assembly attachable to said hub thereby providing direct coupling to said spool for providing manual rotational movement of said spool in relation to said cradle; a carriage assembly comprising a base portion, an end portion secured to each end of said base portion, and a cradle support member; said cradle being pivotally mounted on said carriage assembly for rotation about a second axis of rotation, said second axis of rotation being substantially perpendicular to said first axis of rotation whereby said cradle can be pivoted to facilitate the winding of a hose onto and paying of a hose off of said spool.

2. The hose reel cart in accordance with claim 1 further including a hose coupler, said hose coupler including a rotary seal arrangement positioned along said first axis of rotation of said spool and mounted on said cradle, said rotary seal arrangement constructed and arranged for connection to a pressurized source of fluid in a manner to allow rotation of said spool about said first axis of rotation.

3. The hose reel cart in accordance with claim 1 further including at least a pair of wheel support members secured along the lower portion of each side of said base portion, at least on axle securable to both sides of said bottom portion, a pneumatic tire wheel assembly rotatably secured to said axle.

4. The hose cart in accordance with claim 1 further including at least a pair of wheel support members secured along the lower portion of each side of said base portion, wherein said wheel support members on opposite sides of said base portion include an aperture, at least one axle extendable through said apertures, a pneumatic tire wheel assembly rotatably secured to said axle.

5. The hose cart in accordance with claim 4 wherein said axle is substantially D shaped in cross section whereby said axle is prevented from rotating when said axle is secured to said wheel support members.

6. The hose cart in accordance with claim 4 wherein each said wheel assembly includes an aperture through which said axle extends, said aperture including a bearing portion through which said axle extends to facilitate rotation of said pneumatic tire.

7. The hose cart in accordance with claim 6 wherein said bearing portion includes a member selected from the group consisting essentially of a bushing, a roller bearing, or a ball bearing.

8. The hose cart in accordance with claim 1 further including a first support plate mounted on a lower portion of said cradle; a second support plate mounted on said carriage assembly in alignment with said first support plate; a bearing assembly connectable to both said first and said second support plates thereby allowing said first and said second support plates to rotate with respect to each other, whereby said cradle is pivotable with respect to said carriage assembly.

9. The hose cart in accordance with claim 8 wherein said first and said second support plates are releasably connected to each other whereby said spool and cradle can be removed from said carriage assembly.

10. The hose cart in accordance with claim 9 wherein said releasable connection comprises a vertical shaft portion mounted on one of said first or second support plates, a noncircular end member mounted on said vertical shaft end opposite the connection to said support plate, a noncircular aperture in a central portion of said other support plate, said noncircular aperture being complementary to said end member, said noncircular aperture being constructed and arranged to cooperate with said end member and said vertical shaft to provide pivotal support for said cradle and to permit separation of said support plates when said noncircular aperture and said noncircular end member are aligned.

11. The hose reel cart in accordance with claim 8 wherein said bearing assembly comprises a plurality of spherical members mounted on one of said first and said second support plates and a substantially circular groove mounted on the other of said first and said second support plates, said spherical members constructed and arranged to cooperate with said groove to allow said first and said second rotary support plates to rotate with respect to each other.

12. The hose cart in accordance with claim 1 wherein one of said end portions of said carriage assembly extends vertically upwardly, said one end portion includes a handle assembly attached thereto whereby a user can utilize said handle assembly to push or pull said hose cart to a desired location.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to hose reel carts and in particular hose reel carts having a reel assembly which can swivel or pivot along an axis substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the hose reel or spool.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Portable hose reel carts for dispensing, retrieval and storage of flexible elongate tubular objects such as garden hoses, air hoses and the like, have become very popular, especially around the house. Construction of hose reel carts has gradually evolved over time. At first the hose reel carts were constructed entirely of metal. Gradually plastic components replaced the metal components such that now many hose reel carts are formed entirely of plastic components. In general hose reel carts have a centrally disposed rotatable spool and a crank handle for reeling of the flexible hose, a frame for supporting the rotatable spool, two wheels at one end of the base of the frame, and a handle on a top portion of the frame to facilitate tilting the frame onto the two wheels to enable the hose reel cart to be moved. The user must carefully balance the hose reel cart on the two wheels when transporting it. This is not always possible or easy when traversing rough terrain or soft surfaces. The result is that the hose reel cart tips over, sometimes injuring the user. The frame handle and/or crank handle may or may not be foldable for purposes of shipping and/or storage. U.S. Patent No. RE 32,510 is illustrative of this type of hose reel cart and the disclosure of this patent are hereby incorporated by reference.

Hose reel carts are often stored outside and thus subjected to adverse weather conditions e.g. hot and cold temperatures, sun, rain, snow, ice and dirt. Hose reel carts made exclusively from molded plastic or polymeric materials are lightweight and resistant to corrosion by the elements initially. However, the plastic or polymeric carts are currently unable to withstand the weather conditions for extended periods of time without becoming brittle or warping. Hose reel carts made predominantly of metal have been found to be robust and sturdy. However, the metal components of these carts have a tendency to corrode when their protective surfaces become damaged or worn away from usage.

Some users may drain fluid from the hose prior to rewinding it onto the reel for storage while other users rewind the hose without draining it. Each situation creates its own unique set of problems. Lightweight polymeric or plastic hose reels are not able to withstand the weight of large amounts of hose filled with water and thus are limited in the size of the reel and/or hose capacity. Further, many of these polymeric or plastic hose reels are unable to withstand the peripheral forces transmitted to a hose reel when an empty hose is communicated with a fluid source under pressure while the hose is still wound around the reel. The repeated application of these forces often results in the structural failure of the hose reel spool.

Hose reel carts constructed predominantly of metal components are robust and sturdy. They are able to accommodate the repeated applications of the peripheral forces resulting from the hose communicating with a source of fluid under pressure. However, these hose reel carts tend to be exceptionally heavy, making them less amenable to being pushed or pulled over rough surfaces by the user. Long lengths of hose filled with water compound this problem and also raise the center of gravity of the hose reel. The raised center of gravity may make the hose reel cart easier to tip over and present additional problems for the user.

Most hose reel carts, whether plastic or steel, have the hose reel mounted on the cart in a fixed position, either parallel to the longitudinal axis of the cart or perpendicular thereto. A problem arises when the user removes the hose from the reel if it does not remain substantially perpendicular to the reel. The hose will exert side forces which may result in the hose reel cart tipping over. Also, if the hose is not substantially perpendicular to the reel when it is being wound onto the reel there will be a tendency for the hose to pile up on one end of the reel and not be distributed evenly along the length of the reel. This results in an unbalanced reel load and the hose filling the reel at one end while the other end remains relatively empty.

Additionally, most of the prior art hose reel carts utilize injection molded hard plastic tires. While these tires are lightweight and inexpensive to manufacture, they are often susceptible to damage, especially when used on rough surfaces such as gravel sand or rocks. Also, plastic tires do not respond well to static or dynamic loads when used on soft surfaces. This is because as the load increases and the width of the tread remains the same the force per square inch of the tire on the surface increases thereby allowing the tire to sink into the soft surface. In contrast, floatation tire, such as rubber pneumatic tires, provide compression. As the compressive load increases the tire becomes wider thereby increasing the footprint of the tire on the surface. This increased footprint allows the tire and cart to float over the soft surfaces without sinking and reduces the force required to move the cart.

What is needed in the art is a portable hose reel cart capable of storing a large amount, e.g. more than 150 feet, of empty or filled hose. The hose should be able to be wound onto and unwound from the reel without placing undue strains on the reel and evenly spacing the hose on the reel. The hose reel cart should be capable of withstanding adverse conditions for extended periods of time without warping or cracking. The hose reel cart should have a supporting structure able to provide optimum strength while maintaining minimal weight through the use of plastic and metal components. The hose reel cart should be supported by at least four wheels so that it does not have to be tilted and balanced on two wheels to be moved.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART

U.S. Pat. No. 5,007,598 illustrates a typical hose reel cart including a pair of molded plastic side frames and four blow molded plastic members rigidly interconnected therebetween. A hose reel is mounted between the side portions with each end of the hose reel axis positioned in a bearing in each side frame. The reel can rotate about the axis on which it is mounted but it cannot pivot about a vertical axis. The user must place their foot behind a rear bar and pull the handle rearwardly and downwardly such that the cart can be tilted to such a degree as to allow the front feet of the cart to be lifted off the ground and the weight of the cart shifted onto the two rear wheels in order to transport the cart from one location to another. It can be difficult for a user of small stature to tip the cart backward. It is also dangerous should the user tip the cart too far backward causing the cart to topple over on top of them.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,338,360 illustrates a hose reel carrier assembly with a tray for storage. The carrier also has two plastic wheels which can be mounted on a common or separate axels. In order to move this hose reel carrier, the user must lift the end of the carrier opposite the wheels upwardly by a handle until the feet underneath the wheels are clear of the ground. The user must then push against the carrier, while holding an end off of the ground, to move the carrier forward. This can be extremely difficult for certain individuals especially on uneven or rough terrain. The hose reel can rotate about the axis on which it is mounted but it cannot pivot about a vertical axis.

Suncast metal hose reel model no. MHR300 illustrates a metal frame hose reel capable of holding 300 feet of hose and mounted on four pneumatic tires. The hose reel is fixedly mounted along the longitudinal axis of the cart. The hose reel can rotate about the axis on which it is mounted but it cannot pivot about a vertical axis.

While the forgoing noted prior art devices have improved the art and enjoyed some commercial success, there remains none the less a need in the art for a corrosion resistant, lightweight hose reel cart which uses a combination of polymeric and metal components of stable construction so as to support long lengths of filled or empty hose. The hose reel on the cart must be able to pivot about a vertical axis such that the hose can readily be removed from the reel irrespective of the location of the user without repositioning the cart. Also, the hose can be evenly wound onto the reel irrespective of the location of the hose with respect to the position of the cart. Furthermore, this construction enables the use of a longer hose reel thereby increasing the capacity of the length of hose which can be carried on the reel. The longer hose reel would normally extend beyond the width of the hose reel cart. However, by pivoting the hose reel about a vertical axis the axis of the hose reel can be aligned with the longitudinal axis of the hose reel cart thereby enabling the hose reel to remain within the over all boundaries of the hose reel cart. The hose cart must be stable and easily navigated over rough and/or soft terrain without having to tilt the cart.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The hose reel cart of the instant invention utilizes plastic and metal component construction for increased durability and stability while still remaining lightweight for increased hose capacity and maneuverability. Additionally the hose reel can pivot about an axis which is substantially perpendicular to the horizontal rotary axis of the hose reel thereby enabling the hose to be readily removed from the hose reel irrespective of the location of the user without the danger of the hose reel cart tipping over. This pivoting ability of the hose reel also permits the hose to be wound onto the hose reel evenly irrespective of the location of the hose without the user having to constantly reposition the hose reel cart. This pivoting ability also enables the use of a wider than normal hose reel thereby increasing the capacity of the length of hose which can be carried on the reel. Further, the hose is wound around the reel by use of a crank which provides a direct rotational link between the crank and the winding of the reel.

Accordingly, it is an objective of the instant invention to provide a sturdy, portable hose reel cart wherein the hose reel is rotated about a first axis to wind up and play out a hose from the reel. The hose reel can also be pivoted about a second axis, substantially perpendicular to the first axis to facilitate removal of and replacement of the hose onto the reel.

It is a further objective of the instant invention to provide a portable hose reel cart utilizing a combination of metal and plastic covered metal components for improved corrosion resistance, strength and rigidity.

It is yet another objective of the instant invention to provide a portable hose reel cart having four flotation tires to easily transport heavy and/or long lengths of hose across uneven, rough and/or soft terrain without lifting or tilting the hose reel cart.

It is a still further objective of the invention to provide a pivotal connection between the hose reel and the hose reel cart whereby the hose reel can also be readily separated from the hose reel cart.

Other objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following description taken in conjunction with any accompanying drawings wherein are set forth, by way of illustration and example, certain embodiments of this invention. Any drawings contained herein constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments of the present invention and illustrate various objects and features thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a rear perspective view of the hose reel cart of the instant invention;

FIG. 2 is an underside rear perspective view of the hose reel cart;

FIG. 3 is an exploded front perspective view illustrating the construction of the hose reel assembly;

FIG. 4 is a side view in elevation of the hose reel cart;

FIG. 5 is a front view in elevation of the hose reel cart;

FIG. 6 is a rear view in elevation of the hose reel cart;

FIG. 7 is a top view of the hose reel cart;

FIG. 8 is a bottom view of the hose reel cart and

FIG. 9 is a sectional view of the mounting plates taken along line 9-9 of FIG. 7.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to FIGS. 1-9, wherein like elements are numbered consistently throughout, there is illustrated a portable hose reel cart generally indicated by reference numeral 10, embodying the principles of the present invention. The hose reel cart 10 is useful for holding, paying out, retrieving and transporting large amounts of hose between a storage location and a use location. The major components of the hose reel cart include a reel assembly 12, a cradle assembly 14, a carriage assembly 22 coupled to the cradle assembly, a handle assembly 16 and four wheel assemblies 20. In a typical arrangement, the hose reel cart is capable of storing upwards of 300 feet of a ā… inch common hose on the spool 12.

The hose reel cart 10 includes a carriage assembly 22. In a preferred embodiment, the carriage assembly includes a pair of horizontally disposed base support elements 24, 26. A front portion of the carriage assembly includes vertical carriage frame elements 28, 30 which are formed as vertical extensions of base support elements 24, 26. A transverse frame member 32 connects the upper portions of the vertical frame elements and secures the vertical frame members is spaced relation to each other. Transverse frame member 32 also provides a support to which a pair of longitudinal cradle support members 34, 36 are attached. At the rear portion of the carriage assembly rear vertical carriage frame elements 38, 40 are formed as vertical extensions of the base support elements 24, 26. A transverse frame member 48 is connected to the carriage frame elements 38, 40 as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3. Transverse frame member 48 is positioned substantially level with transverse frame member 32. Longitudinal cradle support members 34, 36 are secured to both transverse frame members 48 and 32 thereby securing the cradle support members to the carriage assembly. In a preferred embodiment base support elements 24, 26, vertical carriage frame elements 28, 30, transverse frame member 32, and rear vertical frame elements 38, 40 are formed from a single member, e.g. a single piece of tubing, as illustrated in FIG. 1. In other embodiments these elements could be formed separately and assembled together by conventional fastening techniques, as illustrated in FIG. 3.

Handle assembly 16 includes two rear vertical frame members 42, 44 and a transverse horizontal frame member 46 extending between the upper portions of rear vertical frame members 42, 44 and securing these members together. Transverse frame member 46 serves as a handle to facilitate movement of the hose reel cart. In a preferred embodiment vertical members 42, 44 and transverse frame member 46 are formed from a single member, e.g. tubing. In other embodiments these elements could be formed separately and assembled together by conventional fastening techniques. The free end portions of rear vertical frame members 42, 44 are constructed and arranged to mate with corresponding end portions of rear vertical frame elements 38, 40, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2. In a preferred embodiment they mate in a telescoping arrangement. A plate member 51 may be attached between the rear vertical frame members, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3. Plate 51 includes one or more vertical slots 52 (FIG. 2) for storing the free end of a hose when not in use to prevent the hose end from dragging along the ground when the hose reel cart is moving. The slots 52 can be used to hold other tools, e.g. hose nozzle or the like (not shown).

A pair of wheel support members 47 is secured to a lower portion of each base support elements 24, 26, as illustrated in FIG. 2. In a preferred embodiment an axle 50 is secured to the lower portion of both base support elements by the wheel support members. The axle 50 passes through the wheel support members 47. Wheel assemblies 53 are mounted on the ends of the axles 50. Pneumatic flotation tires 54 are mounted onto the wheel assemblies 53. Axles 50 have a flat portion along a top longitudinal portion thereof, as can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 3. This flat portion gives the axle a substantial ā€œDā€ shaped cross section. This flat portion helps secure the axle in the wheel support elements 47 and prevents rotation of the axle. In another embodiment each wheel support member has a short axle mounted thereto. The wheel assemblies are mounted on these short axles and the pneumatic tires are in turn mounted on the wheel assemblies.

Reel assembly 12 includes a spool 52 which rotates about a first axis A-A (FIG. 4). A hose (not shown) is wound around the spool 52 for storage and transportation thereof. Once the hose reel cart is located in the desired location, the hose can be connected to a pressurized fluid source and played out or unwound from the spool. After the hose has been utilized for its intended purpose, it is wound onto the spool for storage or transportation to another location. At each end of the spool 52 retaining elements 55 are attached thereto. Each retaining element includes a circular member 56 and a plurality of spokes 58 which attach the circular member to the spool as illustrated in FIG. 3. The circular members 56 can also serve as a means to rotate the spool about the first axis. As best illustrated in FIG. 3, a crank handle assembly 60 is attached to one end of the spool. The crank handle assembly includes a shaft 62 attached to an end of the spool and extending along said first axis A-A. A plurality of off setting elements 64 position a handle axle 66 parallel to and offset from said first axis. A handle 67 is rotatably mounted on the handle axle 66. An operator turns the crank handle assembly in a rotary direction to wind a hose onto the spool or payout the hose from the spool for storage or use.

The shaft 62 of the crank handle assembly is mounted in a bearing 68 which in turn is mounted on the cradle assembly 14 utilizing a bracket. At the opposite end of the spool a fluid inlet includes a hose connector 70, as best illustrated in FIG. 4. Hose connector 70 is fixedly attached to the cradle assembly by attachment member 76 and does not rotate with the spool and reel assembly. Hose connector 70 includes an out-tube coupler 72 and an in-tube coupler 74. The in-tube coupler 74 preferably contains female threads for attachment to a leader hose, not shown. The leader hose in turn is in fluid communication with a source of pressurized fluid, such as water or air (not shown). The in-tube coupler is positioned along the first axis and connected to the end of the spool at the end opposite that of the crank handle assembly. The in-tube coupler is fixedly mounted onto the cradle assembly by attachment member 76 and does not rotate with the spool and reel assembly. The in-tube coupler 74 surrounds the out-tube coupler 72. The out-tube coupler 72 includes a connector hose 78. The connector hose preferably contains male threads for attachment to a main hose. The out-tube coupler includes a plurality of O-rings for engagement with the interior of the in-tube coupler 74 by a sliding seal arrangement so that the in-tube coupler remains fixedly attached to the cradle assembly while the out-tube coupler can rotate with the spool and reel assembly such that the in-tube coupler 74 and out-tube coupler 72 remain in fluid communication with one another. This arrangement permits rotation of the reel assembly without twisting or torquing internal components between the fluid supply and the hose.

FIG. 3 illustrates the cradle assembly 14 which includes four generally U-shaped elements. Longitudinal cradle elements 80, 82 have elongate lower portions 84, 86 and shorter upstanding end portions 88, 90, 92 and 94 respectively. Each lower portion is connected to two of the upstanding end portions. The lower portions of the cradle elements extend substantially parallel to the first axis about which the spool rotates. Transverse cradle elements 96, 98 each have an upper portion which is connected to two downwardly extending end portions. The downwardly extending end portions of the transverse cradle elements are in telescoping engagement with the upstanding end portions of the longitudinal cradle elements. Each transverse cradle element is connected to an upstanding end portion of two longitudinal cradle elements so as to form a generally U-shaped cradle assembly, as illustrated in FIG. 3. The upstanding end portions and downwardly extending end portions may be connected to each other in other conventional relationships such as abutting.

The bearing 68 of the crank handle assembly is mounted on one of the upper portions of the transverse cradle elements and the hose connector 70 is mounted on the other one of the upper portions of the transverse cradle elements. A plurality of transverse cradle support members 100, 102 are connected between longitudinal cradle elements 80, 82. These transverse cradle support elements 100, 102 serve as a mounting surface for a first rotary support plate 104. A second rotary support plate 106 is mounted to longitudinal cradle support members 34, 36 in alignment with the first rotary support plate. In a preferred embodiment a vertical shaft 108 extends upwardly from the center of the second rotary support plate. An opening 110 is located in the center of the first rotary support plate. The vertical shaft engages opening 110 in a manner to substantially align the rotary support plates and allow rotary motion of one of the support plated with respect to the other support plate. A noncircular end plate 112 is attached to the free end of the vertical shaft. One of the dimensions of the noncircular end plate is greater than the diameter of the vertical shaft. The opening in the center of the first rotary support plate corresponds to the shape of the noncircular end plate. In this manner, when the shape of the noncircular end plate and the opening are aligned and correspond to each other the first rotary support plate can be placed onto the vertical shaft of the second rotary plate and rotate thereabout. The nonalignment of the shape of the end plate and the opening in the first rotary support plate helps to retain the first and second rotary support plates in alignment and prevent the separation thereof.

FIG. 9 illustrates the operational relationship between the first and second rotary support plates. A plurality of spherical balls 114 are mounted in sockets in the second rotary plate 106. A circular groove 116 is located in first rotary plate 104. The circular groove is aligned with the spherical balls such that the balls travel in the circular groove thereby supporting the first rotary plate with respect to the second rotary plate and allowing rotary motion. This type of arrangement forms a bearing between the first and second rotary plates. A sufficient number of balls are employed so that the rotary plates are held in substantially parallel relation to each other. A lubricant may be placed between the balls and the circular groove so as to assist the rotary motion of the balls with respect to the groove and prevent premature wear of the balls and the groove. This arrangement allows the cradle assembly 14 and reel assembly 12 to be pivoted and rotated about a second axis B-B which is substantially perpendicular to the first axis A-A, as illustrated in FIG. 4. The pivoting of the reel assembly allows the hose to be played off the spool in any direction irregardless of the position of the hose reel cart 10. In other words the hose will always come off of the spool in a direction substantially perpendicular to the first axis of the spool and not place an undue strain on hose reel cart which could tip the cart over. In addition, when the hose is wound onto the reel the reel assembly will pivot to the location of the hose so that the hose may be evenly wound onto the reel.

In a preferred embodiment the reel assembly 12, cradle assembly 14, carriage assembly 22, handle assembly 16 and axles are made from metal components. They could optionally made from metal and include an impact resistant coating such as polyethylene or polypropylene, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,998,552, the contents of which are incorporated by reference. The plastic coating protects the metal components from water, liquid fertilizer, corrosive chemicals and other liquids to prevent corrosion of the metal, while providing rigidity to the hose reel cart.

All patents and publications mentioned in this specification are indicative of the levels of those skilled in the art to which the invention pertains. All patents and publications are herein incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each individual publication was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated by reference.

It is to be understood that while a certain form of the invention is illustrated, it is not to be limited to the specific form or arrangement herein described and shown. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention and the invention is not to be considered limited to what is shown and described in the specification and any drawings/figures included herein.

One skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the present invention is well adapted to carry out the objectives and obtain the ends and advantages mentioned, as well as those inherent therein. The embodiments, methods, procedures and techniques described herein are presently representative of the preferred embodiments, are intended to be exemplary and are not intended as limitations on the scope. Changes therein and other uses will occur to those skilled in the art which are encompassed within the spirit of the invention and are defined by the scope of the appended claims. Although the invention has been described in connection with specific preferred embodiments, it should be understood that the invention as claimed should not be unduly limited to such specific embodiments. Indeed, various modifications of the described modes for carrying out the invention which are obvious to those skilled in the art are intended to be within the scope of the following claims.