Title:
Underground Cable Laying Apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Presented is an underground cable laying apparatus that leaves virtually no visible scar in the turf under which a linear member may be installed. The apparatus utilizes a turf slicing apparatus comprising at least one slicing wheel operably coupled to a mounting yoke. The apparatus has a linear member guide formed by the mounting yoke. A guide cover is adapted to cover a length of the linear member guide and movable between a first position to cover a length of the linear member guide and a second position to open the length of the linear member guide. At least one turf wheel may be connected to the guide cover and adapted to substantially close the slit created by the turf slicing apparatus.



Inventors:
Bazzell, David R. (Perry, OK, US)
Searby, Steve (Lena, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/943372
Publication Date:
03/20/2008
Filing Date:
11/20/2007
Assignee:
The Charles Machine Works, Inc. (Perry, OK, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E02F5/10
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
SAFAVI, MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Tomlinson McKinstry, P.C. (Oklahoma City, OK, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An underground cable laying apparatus comprising: a mounting yoke; a turf slicing apparatus comprising at least one slicing wheel operably coupled to the mounting yoke: a linear member guide supported by the mounting yoke; and a guide cover adapted to cover a length of the linear member guide and movable between a first position to cover the length of the linear member guide and a second position to open the length of the linear member guide.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the turf slicing apparatus comprises a pair of turf slicing wheels.

3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein the pair of turf slicing wheels are angularly displaced relative to each other.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the guide cover comprises a guide radius disposed at an underground portion of the guide cover, wherein the guide radius is adapted to guide the linear member underground.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the guide cover comprises at least one turf wheel rotatably connected to the guide cover.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein the guide cover comprises a plurality of apertures for connecting the turf wheel to the guide cover for use of the turf wheel with the turf slicing apparatus at a plurality of slicing depths.

7. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a vibratory member supported by the mounting yoke and adapted to vibrate the slicing wheels.

8. An underground linear member laying apparatus comprising: a mounting yoke; a pair of turf slicing wheels rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke; a linear member guide comprising a first plate and a second plate both connected to the mounting yoke to form a channel having an open length; and a guide cover connectable to the linear member guide and adapted to cover the open length of the channel.

9. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein the pair of turf slicing wheels are angularly displaced relative to each other.

10. The apparatus of claim 8 further comprising a vibratory member supported by the mounting yoke and adapted to vibrate the pair of turf slicing wheels.

11. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein the guide cover comprises a turf wheel rotatably connected to the guide cover.

12. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein the guide cover comprises a plurality of apertures for connecting the turf wheel to the guide cover for use of the turf wheel with the pair of turf sluicing wheels at a plurality of slicing depths.

13. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein the guide cover is disposed between the first plate and the second plate when covering the open length of the channel.

14. A method for installing a linear member underground comprising: providing at least one turf slicing wheel, a linear member guide disposed aft of the at least one turf slicing wheel, and a removable guide cover adapted to cover an open length of the linear member guide, and at least one turf wheel disposed aft of the linear member guide; inserting the linear member into the linear member guide; securing the removable guide cover to the linear member guide to secure the linear member within the open length of the linear member guide; moving the at least one turf slicing wheel along a desired installation path to open a portion of the desired installation path; passing the linear member through the open length of the linear member guide and into an underground position; and rolling the at least one turf wheel along the desired installation path to close the open portion of the desired installation path.

15. The method of claim 14 further comprising vibrating the at least one turf slicing wheel during movement of the turf slicing wheel along the desired installation path.

16. The method of claim 14 further comprising adjusting a generally vertical position of the at least one turf wheel relative to the at least one turf slicing wheel.

17. The method of claim 14 wherein the turf slicing apparatus comprises a pair of angularly displaced turf slicing wheels, the method further comprising vibrating the pair of turf slicing wheels.

18. An apparatus for installing a linear member underground, the apparatus comprising: a mounting yoke; a pair of turf slicing wheels rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke, the turf slicing wheels defining a forward contact area there between; a linear member guide connected to the mounting yoke and positioned aft of the forward contact area of the turf slicing wheels, the linear member guide comprising an open length; a guide cover movable to close the open length of the linear member guide in a first position and to open the open length of the linear member in a second position; and at least one turf closing wheel rotatably mounted to the guide cover.

19. The apparatus of claim 18 wherein the linear member guide comprises: a first plate connected to the mounting yoke to define a first wall of the linear member guide; and a second plate connected to the mounting yoke defining a second wall of the linear member guide opposing the first plate.

20. The apparatus of claim 18 wherein the guide cover comprises a guide radius disposed at an underground portion of the guide cover; wherein the guide radius is adapted to guide the linear member underground.

21. The apparatus of claim 18 further comprising a vibratory member supported by the mounting yoke and adapted to vibrate the pair of turf slicing wheels.

22. The apparatus of claim 21 wherein the guide cover comprises a plurality of apertures for connecting the turf wheel to the guide cover for use of the turf wheel with the pair of turf slicing wheels at a plurality of slicing depths.

23. An apparatus for installing a plurality of linear members underground, the apparatus comprising: a work machine comprising a frame member pulled behind the work machine; a plurality of turf slicing devices for installing a linear member underground, wherein each device comprises a mounting yoke coupled to the frame member and laterally displaced from the mounting yokes of adjacent devices so that the plurality of linear members are installed underground substantially parallel to each other; wherein each turf slicing device comprises: a pair of turf slicing wheels rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke; a guide member connected to the mounting yoke and comprising an open length adapted to guide the linear member underground; and a guide cover movable between a first position to cover the open length of the guide member and a second position to open the open length of the guide member.

24. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein the work machine further comprises at least one vibratory member adapted to vibrate each pair of turf slicing wheels.

25. The apparatus of claim 23 further comprising at least one turf wheel rotatably connected to the guide cover.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATIONS

This patent application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application No. 11/473,433 filed Jun. 23, 2006 which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Pat. No. 7,090,433 issued Aug. 15, 2006, filed Oct. 7, 2003.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to systems and methods for the underground installation of a linear member such as a cable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Aesthetics have always played an important role in home design and landscaping. Indeed, most homeowners take pride in the appearance of their yards and landscaping, often devoting many hours to ensuring that their lawn and garden look attractive and uncluttered.

Unfortunately, the necessities of day-to-day living often result in the use and installation of unsightly equipment. For example, the use of a garden hose and sprinkler to water the lawn and garden, the use of a fence to contain a pet, the running of cables and wires for lighting, cable TV, internet services etc. all are visibly unappealing to many homeowners. The solution of choice for many homeowners is to run such cables, wires, pet containment systems sprinkler systems, etc., underground so as to be hidden from view while still allowing the homeowner to reap the benefits provided thereby.

To run each of these varied systems underground, in the past, trenchers have been used to dig a small trench in the yard into which is laid the cable, wire, pipes etc., for the particular system being installed. The soil removed from the trench is then put back in over the wire, cable, pipe, etc. In this way, each of these systems, wires, cable, etc., are hidden from view,

Unfortunately, this solution to the aesthetic problem has resulted in an underground maze of wires, cable, pipes, etc., for which no coordinated mapping is typically provided. Further, utility marking services may not provide marking of consumer-installed underground cables, wires, pipes, etc., instead only marking the main utilities of gas, electric, water, etc. As a result, the attempted installation of subsequent underground systems using a trencher often results in damage or breakage of the underground lines, cables, wires, pipes, etc. of previously installed underground systems. This not only results in frustration of the homeowner as the affected system may no longer he used until it is repaired, but also additional expense for the installers of the subsequent undergo und systems who have caused the damage and now must bear the expense of repair. Additionally, the type of damage resulting from the use of current methods for underground cable laying often results in multiple breaks in the underground system. That is, oftentimes the underground line, cable, wire, pipe, etc., is snagged by these trenching apparatus and pulled along until a failure occurs in the affected system. Such failures may be at locations other than the point at which the system was snagged by the trencher, often requiring a large portion of the damaged underground system to be dug up to effectuate the repair at the locations of tie break.

A further disadvantage with current methods for laying underground cable, wire, flexible tubing, etc., is that the current methods leave a visible scar in the yard. This scar typically requires the planting of additional grass or other ground cover seed, which further increases the expense, detracts from the aesthetics which it was meant to protect, and requires additional lawn care to properly water the newly planted seed to ensure germination and full growth to fully hide the trenched scar.

The above-mentioned problems, and desires, are not limited to residential installations, but are also encountered in institutional and commercial settings. For example, a great deal of care is often lavished on establishing and maintaining healthy turf on athletic fields, used for playing football, baseball, soccer, or other outdoor sports. Large grassy areas, forming part of the landscaping around commercial buildings, in public or private parks, and on golf courses, are also examples of places in which it is often necessary, or desirable, to provide complex underground irrigation installations, or to run cabling for electric power, communication, lighting systems, or heating systems under the surface of the turf.

Where it becomes necessary, or desirable, to ruin additional cables or tubing through an area of established turf, it is desirable that such additional cables or tubing be installed in a manner which does not leave a visible scar in the existing turf or damage underground cable or tubing which is already in place under the turf.

Previously available equipment and methods have not proved to be entirely satisfactory in alleviating the above-mentioned problems, and in meeting the above described desires. Thus, there is a need for improved systems and methods for installing linear members underground.

FIGS. 7a and 7b illustrate a rotating coulter A, or coulters, of seed plaiting equipment typically designed for shallow penetration into soil, to provide a V-shaped furrow, which extends only a limited distance D below the surface of the ground G, with the depths of such furrows typically being in the range of 1-4 inches. The shallow depth D of the V-shaped furrow produced by the coulters shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B is therefore considerably less than the depth, for example 5-10″, at which it is desired to lay a linear member underground. U.S. Pat. No. 5,724,902, discloses two disk blades positioned to form a V-shaped furrow opener with a contact point between the disks 20 and 22 being located substantially at an angle of 35° from the vertical axis (i.e. an angle of 55° down from the horizontal axis passing through the center B of the disk A). One of the disks is smaller, and is mounted vertically with no inclination. The larger of the two disks is inclined 6° along an axis extending through the contact point and the larger disks center, to thus form a compound angle in both the vertical and horizontal planes. By virtue of this arrangement, the tangency or contact point of the two disks is located approximately 1.25″ above the lower edges of the disks, and is thus located at the soil surface when the tool is operated at a depth of 1/25″/

In similar fashion, U.S. Pat. No. 4,493,274 discloses a pair of forming disks having a 14″ diameter and staggered longitudinally by 1″, fore and aft with respect to one another, and the axes inclined so that the included angle is 9.5° and the disks substantially contact each other at a point forward of their axes at about 38° downwardly from the horizontal. By virtue of this arrangement, the 14″ diameter disks create a furrow having a 2.69″ depth, when the point of contact is located at the surface of the soil.

The location of point of contact C on the disks A coupled with the disks A being angled with respect to one another and diverging upward of the point of contact, would cause the prior art devices, to cease to function properly if the equipment was forced to operate at the depths required for the installation of a linear member.

There exists, therefore, a need in the art for a new and improved underground cable, wire, line, tubing, etc., laying apparatus and method that substantially reduces or eliminates the risk of breaking other underground systems, and which does not leave a visible scar in the yard that requires additional care and expense to correct.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The terms “cable” or “linear member” may be used interchangeable herein and, as used herein, with regard to describing the present invention, are intended to be construed broadly to include not only a cable, but also a line, wire, hose, fiber optic cable, tubing, etc., or the like, that one may desire to bury under the surface of the ground, and in particular, under the surface of soil having turf growing thereon.

The present invention provides an underground cable laying apparatus comprising a mounting yoke, a turf slicing apparatus, a linear member guide, and a guide cover. The turf slicing apparatus comprises at least one slicing wheel operably coupled to the mounting yoke. The linear member guide is supported by the mounting yoke. The guide cover is adapted to cover a length of the linear member guide and movable between a first position to cover the length of the linear member guide and a second position to open the length of the linear member guide.

The present invention further provides an underground linear member laying apparatus comprising a mounting yoke, a pair of turf slicing wheels rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke, a linear member guide, and a guide cover. The linear member guide comprises a first plate and a second plate both connected to the mounting yoke to form a channel having an open length. The guide cover is connectable to the linear member guide and adapted to cover the open length of the channel.

The invention further includes a method for installing a linear member underground. The method comprises providing at least one turf slicing wheel a linear member guide disposed aft of the turf slicing apparatus, and a removable guide cover adapted to cover an open length of the linear member guide, and at least one turf wheel disposed aft of the linear member guide. The linear member is inserted into the linear member guide and the removable guide is secured to cover the, linear member guide to secure the linear member within the open length of the linear member guide. The at least one turf slicing wheel is moved along a desired installation path to open a portion of the desired installation path and the linear member is passed through the open length of the linear member guide and into an underground position. The at least one turf wheel is rolled along the desired installation path to close the open portion of the desired installation path.

Further still, the present invention includes an apparatus for installing a linear member underground. The apparatus comprises a mounting yoke, a pair of turf slicing wheels, a linear member guide, a guide cover, and a turf closing wheel. The pair of turf slicing wheels is rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke and defines a forward contact area there between. The linear member guide connected to the mounting yoke and positioned aft of the forward contact area of the turf slicing wheels. The linear member guide comprises an open length. The guide cover is movable to close the open length of the linear member guide in a first position and to open the open length of the linear member in a second position. The turf closing wheel is rotatably mounted to the guide cover.

Still yet, the present invention includes an apparatus for installing a plurality of linear members underground. The apparatus comprises a work machine having a frame member pulled behind the work machine and a plurality of turf slicing devices for installing a linear member underground. The plurality of turf slicing devices each comprise a mounting yoke. The mounting yoke is coupled to the frame member and laterally displaced from the mounting yokes of adjacent devices so that the plurality of linear members is installed underground substantially parallel to each other. Each turf slicing device further comprises a pair of turf slicing wheels rotatably coupled to the mounting yoke, a guide member, and a guide cover. The guide member is connected to the mounting yoke and comprising an open length adapted to guide the linear member underground. The guide cover is movable between a first position to cover the open length of the guide member and a second position to open the open length of the guide member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings incorporated in and forming a part of the specification illustrate several aspects of the present invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention. In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side view illustration of an embodiment of an underground cable laying apparatus constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a sectional illustration of the cable laying apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a frontal isometric view of the cable laying apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a rear isometric illustration of the cable laying apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is an illustration of the cable laying apparatus of FIG. 2 shown in operation laying an underground cable.

FIG. 6 is a partial isometric illustration of a cable feed guide wheel assembly of the cable laving apparatus of FIG. 1.

FIGS. 7a and 7b are schematic illustrations of a typical prior art seed planting mechanism, having one or more coulters arranged for cutting a V-shaped furrow in the earth for deposition of seeds therein, with the illustrations further showing that the depth of such a V-shaped furrow below ground level is considerably less than a radius of the coulter.

FIG. 8a-8c illustrate the manner in which the cable laying apparatus of FIG. 1 is utilized for cutting a non-V-shaped slit into turf-covered soil, with a pair of angled coulters in such a manner that the depth of the non-V-shaped slit is significantly greater than the depth of the V-shaped furrow formed by prior art devices and methods.

FIGS. 9-11 illustrate several alternate embodiments of a cable feed guide wheel, according to the of the cable laying apparatus shown in FIG. 1-6.

FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate an alternate embodiment of a cable feed guide, according to the invention, having a downwardly opening substantially convex surface thereof for contacting an upper convex surface of a cable or tube being installed into turf-bearing soil.

FIG. 14 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the cable laying apparatus shown in FIG. 1. The embodiment of FIG. 14 includes a cable feed tube having a flexible outlet.

FIG. 15 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the apparatus shown in FIG. 14. The apparatus of FIG. 15 includes a flexible cable feed tube linier and extension.

FIG. 16 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the cable laying apparatus shown in FIGS. 1-6. The alternate embodiment of FIG. 16 illustrates a pair of turf closing wheels having a flat, angled, contact surface thereof, as compared to the rounded contacting surfaces of the turf closing wheels shown in FIGS. 1-6.

FIG. 17 illustrates an alternative embodiment of the apparatus for installing a linear member. The apparatus shown in FIG. 17 comprises a single turf slicing wheel and a linear member guide. The linear member guide shown in FIG. 17 allows installation of a linear member without requiring the linear member be cut to thread the linear member through the apparatus.

FIG. 18 is an exploded view of an alternative embodiment of the apparatus shown in FIG. 17. The apparatus of FIG. 18 comprises a pair of angularly displaced turf slicing wheels and a linear member guide.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Turning now to the drawings, there is illustrated in FIG. 1 an exemplary embodiment of an underground cable laying apparatus 10 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. In the interest of brevity, the terms “cable” or “linear member” will be used throughout this description to include at cable, line, wire, hose, fiber optic cable, tubing, etc., of indeterminate length that one may desire to bury under the surface of the ground.

As may be seen from this FIG. 1, the underground cable laying apparatus 10 includes a mounting yoke 12 on which is mounted a pair of turf slicing wheels 14, 16 (see FIG. 2). The mounting yoke 12 includes mounting receptacles, for example receptacles 18, 20 that are positioned and configured to allow the apparatus 10 to be mounted to a truck or other vehicle that will be used in the cable laying process. As such, the particular configuration and placement of the mounting receptacles may vary in particular embodiments based upon the type of vehicle used in the cable laying process. Indeed, the position and configuration of the mounting receptacles may accommodate the usage of an intermediate mounting or other equipment, for example a shaker unit that may be directly mounted to the vehicle.

In addition to the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, a turf closing mechanism, for example turf closing wheels 22, 24 carried on a turf closure housing 26, is pivotally mounted to the yoke 12 by the closure assembly mounting arms 28, 30. The turf closure housing 26 may include positioning detents 32, 34 (FIG. 2), blocks, shoulders, or other movement limiting structure to prevent the turf closure wheels 22, 24 and their associated housing 26 from pivoting downward beyond a desired location. However, as will be discussed more fully below, the upward pivoting of the housing 26 is preferably unimpeded within a range to allow the turf closing wheels 22, 24 to follow the contours of the soil into which the cable has been laid.

The underground cable laying apparatus also includes a cable feed tube 36 used to guide the cable to be laid through the apparatus 10. To facilitate this operation, the cable feed tube 36 includes a cable inlet 38 at a forward location of the apparatus 10 that receives the cable from the spool or other holding device (not shown). If desired, the cable feed tube 36 may also include a cable guide 40 positioned above inlet 38. This cable guide 40 may have a diameter larger than the inlet 38 to allow for some play in the cable before it centers inlet 38. The cable feed tube 36 leads down between the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 to a position rearward of the leading edges thereof. At this position the cable feed tube outlet 42 dispenses the cable to be laid in the slice in the turf which has been created by the turf slicing wheels 14, 16. A this outlet 42 a feed tube support extension member 44 may be provided to add additional stability and support for the end of the cable feed tube 36.

FIG. 2 provides a partially sectional illustration of the underground cable laying apparatus 10 illustrated in FIG. 1. As may be seen from this cross-sectional illustration, the positioning of the cable feed tube 36 preferably provides a curved path through which the cable may be directed through the apparatus. In this way, the possibility of snagging or chafing the exterior of the cable to be laid is greatly reduced over prior systems that terminated in an outlet perpendicular to the trench into which the cable was to be laid. To further aid in the smooth and proper positioning of the cable within the slice in the turf created by the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, the apparatus 10 of the present invention may also include a cable fed guide, such as wheel 46. This cable feed guide wheel 46 is positioned in proximity to the outlet 42 to further place the cable in the proper position in the slice in the turf without scraping or otherwise damaging the exterior surface of the cable. Indeed, in embodiments that utilize this cable feed guide the cable feed tube may be straight with an outlet perpendicular to the slit as the cable feed guide will ensure a smooth directional change in the cable without damage thereto.

To prevent the buildup of soil within the groove 48 of the cable feed guide wheel 46, a groove cleaning rod 50 may be provided. This groove cleaning rod 50 is positioned within the groove 48 of the cable feed guide wheel 46 in such a manner so as to prevent or reduce the amount of buildup of soil within the groove so that the cable being dispensed may be gently guided within the groove 48 to its proper position within the slit in the turf.

As may also be seen from this partially sectional illustration of FIG. 2, the turf closure housing 26 is spring-biased to its downward position by a turf follower spring 52. Preferably, this turf follower spring 52 is coupled between the mounting yoke 12 via a spring mount 56 and the rearward wall 54 of the turf closure housing 26, rearward of the pivot point 58. The amount of force that the turf closure wheels 22, 24 apply to the turf may be adjusted by varying the spring tension. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, this spring tension variation may be accomplished by adjusting spring tension nut 60. The adjustment of this spring tension is facilitated by the positioning detents 32 (FIG. 1), 34 as they prevent further downward pivoting of the turf closure housing 26 through their engagement with the closure assembly mounting arms 28 (FIG. 1), 30.

As may be seen from the frontal isometric illustration of FIG. 35, the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are angularly positioned relative to one another. Preferably, they are angularly positioned relative to both the horizontal and vertical axis of the mounting yoke 12. That is, the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are positioned such that they contact each other at a contact point 61 along an area 62, and are elsewhere displaced from one another. This displacement between the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 preferably increases both along a horizontal and vertical axis such that a small slice is initiated in the turf by the forward contact area 62, and is widened along both the horizontal and vertical axes as the apparatus 10 is moved through the turf. In this way, the turf defining the slit is displaced both outwardly and upwardly to accept the cable to be laid therein. With such a displacement of the turf defining the slit, the turf closure wheels 22, which provide an angular closing force on either side thereof, may then fully close the slit without damage to the turf. Indeed, in most situations the closure of the slit is complete without leaving a residual scar the turf whatsoever. As may be seen from this frontal view of FIG. 3, the angular displacement of the turf closure wheels 22, 24 is preferably greater than the angular displacement along the same axis of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16.

As shown in FIGS. 3 and 8a, in an exemplary embodiment of the underground cable laying apparatus 10, each of the angularly displaced turf slicing wheels 14, 16 defines a radius R and an outer periphery thereof, and is mounted for rotation about a respective turf slicing wheel axis 17, 19 directed such that, when viewed from either side of the cable laying apparatus 10, (as depicted in FIG. 1, for example) the outer peripheries of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are substantially super-imposed upon one another vertically and horizontally, with the peripheries coming together at the point of contact 61 in the forward contact zone 62 and disposed substantially horizontally forward of the axes 17, 19 of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16.

As illustrated in FIG. 8a, by virtue of the above described attachment of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, the point of contact 61 is angularly positioned within a range of zero to twenty degrees down from a horizontal extension of the axes 17, 19. Specifically, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 8a, the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, are operatively attached to the mounting yoke 12, by a pair of bearings located within bearing hubs 13, 15, attached to the turf slicing wheels 14, 16. The contact point 61 is horizontally disposed slightly below the outer periphery of the hubs 13, 15, which results in the point of contact 61 being vertically positioned substantially horizontally level with the axes 17, 19, and being positioned substantially at ground level G when the apparatus 10 is slicing the turf, such that substantially the entire radius R of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 is disposed below the ground level G, during operation of the cable laying apparatus 10, as illustrated in FIG. 8a.

In FIG. 8a, the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are illustrated with a scale diameter of 14″, and a diameter of the hubs (13, 15) of 3″. When the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are lowered into the ground to a point where the hubs 13, 15 are positioned just above the surface G of the ground, an embodiment of the invention having 14″ diameter turf slicing wheels (14, 16) and 3″ diameter hubs 13, 15 will extend into the ground to a depth D substantially equal to the radius R of the wheels 14, 16 minus the radius r of the hubs 13, 15 such that the resultant depth D of the slice in the turf will have a depth of approximately 5½″ below the surface of the ground G. When operated in this manner, the point of contact 61 of a 14″ diameter turf slicing wheel, with a 3″ diameter hub, will be located at an angle 21 of approximately 13° downward from a horizontal extension of the axes 17, 19, when the contact point 61 is positioned at the ground level G.

For purposes of comparison, the diameter of the coulter A in the prior art apparatus, shown in FIG. 7a, and the diameter of the angularly displaced turf slicing wheels 14, 16, of the exemplary embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 8a are illustrated to the same scale. By comparison of FIGS. 7a and 8a, it will be readily understood that the positioning of the contact point 61 of the present invention is substantially different than the position of the contact point C in prior art apparatuses. In the present invention, the depth D of the slice in the turf is substantially equal to the radius R of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16. In the exemplary embodiment of the underground cable laying apparatus 10, having the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 attached to the mounting yoke 12 by hubs 13, 15 having a 3″ diameter, the depth D is reduced only by the relatively small radius r of the hubs 13, 15. In other embodiments of the invention, having smaller hubs, or essentially hub-less attachments of the turf slicing wheels to a mounting yoke, the turf slicing wheels may be lowered even further into the ground, to a point where the contact point 61 between the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 lies virtually at ground level G, with the resultant depth D of the slice in the turf having a depth virtually identical to the radius R of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16.

By way of comparison, as shown in FIG. 7a, the point of contact C in a prior an apparatus is typically positioned much farther below the axis B of a prior art coulter such that the point of contact C is typically located at a much larger angle E down from the horizontal extension of the axis B than is utilized in practicing the embodiment of FIG. 1. For example, the prior art devices typically position the point of contact C at a angle E of 35° to 55° below the horizontal extension of the axis B, such that, when the apparatus is operated with the point of contact C located substantially at ground level, the depth D of the furrow formed will be substantially less then the coulter radius R.

As shown in FIG. 8b, the angular displacement of the pair of turf slicing wheels 14 relative to one another along a vertical axis of the mounting yoke, in the manner illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 8b, allows forward contact area 62 to extend substantially downward from the point of contact 61. In such an arrangement the outer peripheries of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 diverge below the forward contact area 62 so the slit created in the turf has a defined horizontally extending bottom width W (FIGS. 8b and 8c). The shape of the slit in the turf, created by the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 may have a substantial different shape than the V-shaped furrow of the type created by prior art seed-planting equipment (FIG. 7b). For purposes of illustration, FIGS. 7b, 8b and 8c are all shown in the same relative scale, with the depth D of the slit shown in 8b and 8c illustrated at a relative depth D of approximately 6″ below the surface of the ground G and the depth D of the V-shaped furrow of FIG. 7b illustrated at a representative depth of approximately 3″.

A comparison of FIGS. 8b and 8c with FIG. 7b also serves to illustrate other differences between the slit created by the present invention and the V-shaped furrow created in non-turf bearing soil by a typical prior art seed-planting device. As shown in FIG. 7b, seed planting apparatuses typically remove soil from the V-shaped furrow and deposit it on top of the ground G in the process of forming the V-shaped furrow. In contrast, in the slit in the turf created through practice of the present invention, the turf is neatly sliced by the forward contact area 62 of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, and the turf is separated far enough, as the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 move forward, to allow the cable 68 to be inserted aft of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16. Because of the resilient nature of the turf, soil from the slit in the turf is not brought up and deposited on top of the ground, as is the case in seed-planting apparatuses. The soil is held in place by the turf and its roots, substantially within the slice in the turf. As illustrated in FIG. 8b, as the turf cutting wheels 14, 16 move through the soil, the initial slit is widened by the angled position of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, and although the turf tends to rise upward somewhat behind the hubs 13, 15, soil is not removed from the slit and deposited on top of the ground.

In practicing the invention, it is preferable that the turf be well watered, to enhance its capability to be spread apart, without having dry loose dirt particles brought up onto the surface of the ground, and also to be more readily compacted over the cable, after the cable has been deposited in the bottom of the slice in the turf.

As may be seen from the rear isometric view of FIG. 4, the cable feed guide wheel 46 is positioned to dispense the cable to be laid in the center of the slit in the turf created by turf slicing wheels 14, 16, prior to the application of the closing force on the slit by turf closing wheels 22, 24.

In operation, the apparatus 10 is lowered by the vehicle so that the contact area 62 of the turf slicing wheels contacts the upper surface 64 of the turf with the contact point 61 located substantially at the surface G of the ground. As the vehicle travels across the turf, rotation of the turf slicing wheel 14, 16 creates the slit in the turf that preferably opens both horizontally and vertically to receive the cable to be laid therein. Since the turf closure wheels 22, 24 are displaced horizontally from one another by an amount greater than the maximum slit width, the wheels 22, 24 ride on the outside of the slit and provide a downward and inward closure force to effectuate a closure of the slit once the cable has been laid therein. The amount of force applied on the sides of the slit is dependent upon the setting of the spring force of the turf follower spring 52 as discussed above. Also, due to the close proximity of the turf closure wheels 22, 24 to the rearward edge of the turf slicing wheels 14, 16, closure of the slit into which the cable has been laid occurs in very close proximity to the point where the cable leaves the cable feed guide wheel. In this way, the proper positioning of the cable within the slit is ensured. With prior trencher systems, coils in the cable may alloy the cable to rise above the bottom of the trench before the soil is placed back in the trench, resulting in areas where the cable is shallower than in others, which may result in uncovering of the cable and forming a hazardous condition.

As discussed briefly above, to ensure that the cable is properly positioned within the slit in the turf, in the exemplary embodiment of the cable laying apparatus 10, a cable feed guide wheel 46 is used. However, one skilled in the art will recognize that a roller or other guide mechanism may be used at this location such as the alternate embodiment discussed below in relation to FIGS. 9-15, to provide proper placement and smooth transitioning of the cable from the cable feed tube to its position in the bottom of the slit.

In an embodiment that utilizes a cable feed guide wheel 26, such as that illustrated in FIG. 6, the provision of a guide wheel cleaning mechanism may be desired. As introduced above, this cleaning mechanism may include a cable groove cleaning rod 50 that rides in the groove 48 of the cable feed guide wheel 46. As the wheel rotates while dispensing the cable 68 any dirt or other debris that may accumulate within groove 48 will be displaced by the cleaning rod 50. Similarly, the cable feed guide wheel housing 70 may include wheel edge scrapers 72, 74 that clean the sides of the wheel 46 and prevent the accumulation of soil or other debris, which may affect the ability of the wheel 46 to rotate.

In practicing the invention, a cable feed guide may take a variety of forms other than the grooved cable guide wheel 46 described above. For example, FIG. 9 illustrates a cable guide wheel or roller 80 which does not include the groove 48 of the embodiment of the cable feed guide wheel 46. Generally speaking, so long as the cable feed guide element used in practicing the invention presents a non-convex, i.e. flat or downwardly opening concave surface, acting against the upper surface of the cable 68, the cable feed guide will serve to hold the cable 68 in proper position in the bottom of the slit prior to the slit being closed by the turf closing wheels 24, 26.

FIGS. 10 and 11 illustrate alternate embodiments of a cable guide wheel or roller (46, 80) formed from a material, or configured in a manner that the surface of the wheel or roller may deform about the upper surface of the cable 68. Cable guide wheels or rollers formed from a resilient material provide an additional advantage in that they tend to inherently shed dirt from the outside surfaces thereof, as the wheel or roller flexes.

FIGS. 12 and 13 illustrate an alternate embodiment of the invention, in which the feed tube 36 includes a static cable feed guide 82, attached to the cable feed guide tube outlet 42, for directing the cable 68 in a horizontal direction for discharge into the slit in the turf. As best seen in FIG. 13, the static cable feed guide 82 defines a downwardly opening substantially concave surface 84 adapted for contacting the upper surface of the cable 68, with the downwardly opening concave surface 84 being configured to preclude having the cable 68 escape from the concave surface 84.

FIG. 14 illustrates an alternate embodiment of a cable feed guide 86, according to the invention, in the form of a flexible tubular shaped extension of the cable feed tube 36 having a bore therein, for directing the cable 68 into the slit in a horizontal direction, while the flexible tube extension 86 is being bent into a horizontal arc by contact between the bottom of the flexible tube extension and the bottom surface W of the slit in the turf. For such an embodiment, it is contemplated that the flexible tube extension may be made from a polymer or composite material, having sufficient bending stiffness to hold the cable 68 securely in the bottom of the slit in the turf.

FIG. 15 illustrates a variation of the alternate embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 14, in which an underground laying apparatus 10, according to the invention, includes a flexible tube extension 88 which extends through the full length of the cable feed tube 36, and is secured therein by a projecting flange 90, at the inlet to the cable feed tube, with a portion of the flexible tube 88 extending beyond the outlet end of the cable feed tube 36. With this embodiment of the invention, the flexible feed tube extension provides a continuous smooth surface from the inlet to the outlet of the cable feed tube, in a form that may be readily replaced, as the flexible tube extension becomes worn. Alternatively, a selection of different flexible tube extensions 88, each having, respectively, bores thereof sized and/or appropriately shaped to accommodate various sizes and types of cable, wire, tubing, etc. to be installed with the cable laying machine 10 may be provided, to tailor the configuration of the feed tube 36 and cable feed guide to the particular type of cable and/or tube being installed.

FIG. 16 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the closure wheels 22, 24 of the exemplary embodiment of the underground cable laying apparatus 10. In the alternate embodiment of the turf closing wheels 22, 24 the outer periphery of the turf closing wheels is configured to form a wide, flat area of contact with the turf. This configuration may be more advantageous than the more rounded shape of the embodiment of the turf closing wheels 22, 24 shown in FIG. 4, for certain conditions of the turf, such as when the turf is relatively wet or somewhat sparse. In other embodiments of the invention, the turf closing wheels may have additional alternative configurations. Turf closing structures, having appropriate configurations other than wheels may also be used in practicing the invention, in combination with other aspects of the invention.

The underground cable laying apparatus of the present invention provides significant advantage through the use of the turf slicing wheels, particularly in installation locations where other installed underground systems may be in place, and where a visible scar in the turf resulting from the cable laying operation is not desired. In the first instance, the apparatus of the present invention provides a significant advantage through the use of the rotating turf slicing wheels for providing the slit in the turf into which the cable is to be laid. Since the turf slicing wheels rotate, there is a significantly reduced likelihood of damage to other installed underground systems as results from typical trenchers. Specifically, the rotating turf slicing wheels will not snag and pull the other underground systems which it encounters, and instead merely rolls over them while leaving them in place. This non-damaging contact with previously installed underground systems is aided by the angular relationship between the two turf slicing wheels. The relative angular displacement of the turf slicing wheels forms a contact portion 62 that slices the top layer of the turf, but is separate from one another at all other locations. As a result, contact with previously installed underground systems often occurs at a position where the turf slicing wheels 14, 16 are separated from one another, but are still in close proximity. Thus, the contact force is dispersed at the two contact points with each of the individual turf slicing wheels. Since the wheels are most likely still in close proximity, the contact force is not sufficient to damage the exterior surface of the previously installed underground system.

In the second instance, unlike blade type systems that gouge a slit into the turf, and trencher systems that completely remove the soil to form a trench, the underground cable laying apparatus of the present invention merely opens a slit in the turf, which is quickly closed once the cable has been placed therein. The angular placement of the turf slicing wheels ensures a narrow slit is initiated in the turf, is slightly widened to allow placement of the cable therein, and then is immediately closed by providing angular downward and inward force on the sides of the slit opened by the turf slicing wheels. As a result, it is nearly impossible to observe where the slit was opened in the turf once the cable has been laid therein. This is especially true when the turf is moist, or has been recently watered.

Experience has shown that the present invention may be practiced in a wide variety of soil types and turf conditions. It is preferred, when practicing the invention, that the turf be generally well watered, so that the soil is moist down to the depth D of the slit below the surface of the ground G. Accordingly, it may be desirable in practicing the invention, to water the turf prior to installing the cable therein.

Turning now to FIG. 17 there is shown therein an alternative embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention. FIG. 17 shows an underground cable laying apparatus 100 mountable to a shaker unit 112 commonly used in vibratory plow applications. Apparatus 100 comprises a mounting yoke 102, a turf slicing apparatus 104, a linear member guide 106, and a guide cover 108. The mounting yoke 10 may include mounting receptacles 110 positioned and configured to allow the apparatus 100 to be mounted to a work machine such as a tractor or other vehicle (not shown) that will be used in the cable laying operation. As such, the particular configuration and placement of the mounting receptacles 110 may vary in particular embodiments based upon the type of vehicle used in the cable laying operation. The position and configuration of the mounting receptacles 110 may accommodate the usage of an intermediate mounting or other equipment, for example a vibratory member 112 that may be directly mounted to the yoke 102 and/or work machine using a bracket 114 and connecting rod 116. The vibratory member or “shaker unit” 112 is adapted to vibrate the slicing wheel 122 to assist the turf slicing operation. A cylinder 118 may be connected to the work machine (not shown) and the shaker 112 to allow pivotal movement of the apparatus 100 up and down relative to the ground about a pivot point 120.

The turf slicing apparatus 104 is connected to the yoke 102 and comprises at least one turf slicing wheel 122 operably coupled to the mounting yoke 102. The apparatus 100 of FIG. 17 comprises a single turf slicing wheel 122 connected to the mounting yoke 102 so that the slicing wheel is rotatable about point 128. One skilled in the art will appreciate the mounting yoke 102 may be adapted to support the turf slicing wheel 122 on a single face of the wheel without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

Continuing with FIG. 17, the mounting yoke 102 may be adapted to support the linear member guide 106. The linear member guide 106 is connected to the mounting yoke 102 at a first end 134 of the linear member guide. The linear member guide 106 of FIG. 17 comprises a first side plate 130 and a second side plate (not shown) opposing the first side plate. The first side plate 130 and second side plate are connected together at base 132. The first side plate 130 and the second side plate are disposed in a substantially vertical orientation and form a channel used as the linear member guide. The channel comprises an open length 136 created between the first side plate 130, the second side plate (not shown), and the base 132. The open length 136 of linear member guide 106 is used in conjunction with the guide cover 108 in a manner yet to be described to guide the linear member 68 (FIG. 5) into an underground position during operation of the apparatus 100.

The linear member 68 (FIG. 5) is secured within the open length 136 of the linear member guide 106 by placing the guide cover 108 in the first position to cover the open length. The guide cover 108 comprises a handle 138, a guide radius 140, and turf closing wheels 142. The guide cover may be constructed from a steel plate sized to fit within the open length 136 formed by the first and second side plates to cover the open length of the linear member guide. The handle 138 is formed to allow an operator to move the guide cover 108 between the first position to cover the open length 136 of the linear member guide and a second position to open the length of the linear member guide. The guide cover 108 may be held in the first position by a retaining pin 144 secured to linear member guide 106 and secured below ground by a retaining pin 146 disposed within a slot 148 formed in the linear member guide 106. The guide radius 140 is formed from a curved portion of the guide cover 108 and is constructed to allow installation of a linear member without exceeding the bend radius of the selected linear member.

The turf closing wheels 142 are rotatably connected to the guide cover 108, and as discussed above, are adapted to roll along the ground and force closed the slit made in the turf by the slicing wheel 122. The guide cover 108 may further comprise a plurality of apertures 150 for connecting the turf wheels 142 to the guide cover for use of the turf slicing wheel 122 at a plurality of slicing depths.

In operation, the linear member is inserted into the open length 136 of the linear member guide 106 and the guide cover 108 is secured to the linear member guide. The entire underground cable laying apparatus 100 is lowered so that the turf slicing wheel 122 is lowered into the ground. At this point the apparatus is pulled along a desired installation path, to the left as shown in FIG. 17, and the wheel 122 rolls though the ground creating a slit (not shown) therein. The shaker unit 112 may be activated to vibrate the wheel 122 to assist in slicing when difficult ground conditions are encountered. As the wheel 122 is moved along the desired path to create the slit (not shown) the linear member 68 (FIG. 5) is fed through the channel 136 of the linear member guide 106 and into the slit created by the wheel 122. Upon exiting the channel 136 and the linear member guide 106 the linear member 68 is positioned near the bottom of the slit created by the slicing wheel 122. The turf closing wheels 142 roll along the desired path behind the slicing wheel 122 and force the slit closed to minimize surface scarring and secure the linear member 68 within the slit.

Turning now to FIG. 18, there is shown an alternative embodiment of the underground cable laying apparatus of FIG. 17. The device 200 of FIG. 18 comprises a pair of turf slicing wheels 202, 204 rotatably coupled to a mounting yoke 206 using an axle 205 and a series of bearings, washers and fasteners (collectively 208). The pair of turf slicing wheels 202, 204 may be connected to the mounting yoke 206 so that the wheels are angularly displaced relative to each other as discussed hereinabove with reference to FIG, 3. The mounting yoke 206 comprises a pair of receptacles 210, 212 adapted to connect the device 200 to a work machine (not shown). Alternatively, the mounting yoke 206 may be configured to mount to a vibratory member 112 (FIG. 17) adapted to vibrate the pair of turf slicing wheels 202, 204.

The device 200 comprises a linear are linear guide 212 having first plate 214 and a second plate 216 both connected to the mounting yoke 206 to form a channel having an open length. Both the first plate 214 and the second plate 216 may each comprise a slot 218 and an aperture 220 formed to receive a guide cover 222. The slots 218 are formed to receive a retaining pin 224 secured to the guide cover 222 and the aperture 220 pairs with an aperture 226 formed in the above-ground portion of the guide cover 222. A fastener, such as a wing nut 228 may be used to secure the guide cover 222 to the linear member guide 212 through apertures 220 and 226. The guide cover 222 is connectable to the linear member guide 212 and adapted to be disposed within the open length of the channel formed between the first plate 214, the second plate 216, and the linear member edge 230 of the guide cover 222.

The apparatus 200 further comprises a pair of turf wheels 232, 234 rotatably connected to the guide cover 222. The turf wheels 232, 234 may be operably connected to the guide cover 222 using an axle 231, spacers 233 and a fastener 235 supported at an aperture 237 formed in the guide cover. The guide cover may comprise a plurality of apertures 237 vertically displaced from one another along the guide cover to allow connection of the turf wheels 232, 234 to the guide cover 222 for use of the turf wheels with the turf slicing wheels at a plurality of slicing depths.

Continuing with FIG. 18, the guide cover 222 comprises a guide radius 236 disposed at an underground portion of the guide cover. The guide radius 236 is adapted to guide the linear member underground during the installation operation.

Referring now to FIGS. 17 and 18, the device of the present invention also includes a method for installing a linear member underground. The method includes providing at least one turf slicing wheel 122, 202, and 204, a linear member guide 106, 212 disposed aft of the turf slicing wheel, a removable guide cover 108, 222 adapted to cover an open length of the linear member guide, and at least one turf wheel 142, 232, 234 disposed aft of the linear member guide. The linear member 68 is inserted into the channel 136 formed in the linear member guide 106, 212 and the removable guide cover 108, 222 is secured to the linear member guide to secure the linear member within the channel formed by the open length of the linear member guide.

Next, the apparatus 100, 200 is lowered into the ground so that a portion of the turf slicing wheels 122, 202, 204 is disposed underground. The turf slicing wheels 122, 202, 204 are then moved along a desired installation path to open a portion of the desired installation path (not shown). The linear member is passed through the open length of the linear member guide 106, 212 and into an underground position using guide radius 140, 236. The turf wheels 142, 232, 234 are rolled along the desired installation path behind the turf slicing wheels 122, 202, 204 and the linear member guide 106, 212 to close the turf along the open portion of the desired installation path.

In order to aide the installation operation, the turf slicing wheels 122, 202, 204 may be vibrated during movement of the turf slicing wheel along the desired path with the vibratory member 112. Further to aide the installation operation, the generally vertical position of the turf wheel 142, 232, 234 may be adjusted relative to the at least one turf slicing wheel 122, 202, 204 to apply increased or decreased pressure to the open slit as needed.

In an alternative embodiment, the apparatus of the present invention may comprise an apparatus for installing a plurality of linear members such as drip irrigation lines, underground. The apparatus may comprise a work machine (not shown) comprising a frame member pulled behind the work machine and adapted to support a plurality of the turf slicing devices 100, 200, described with reference to FIGS. 17 and 18 for installing a linear member underground. Each device 100, 200 comprises a mounting yoke 102, 206 coupled to the frame member (not shown) and laterally displaced from the mounting yokes of adjacent devices so that the plurality of linear members are installed underground substantially parallel to each other.

All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents, cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.

The use of the terms “a” and “an” and “the” and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) is to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms “comprising,” “having,” “including,” and “containing” are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning “including, but not limited to,”) unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. All methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and all examples, or exemplary language (e.g., “such as”) provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed. No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-claimed element as essential to the practice of the invention.

Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the at upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.