Title:
Automated toilet seat system with quick disconnect cable
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Aspects of the invention are directed to an automated sanitary toilet seat system with a quick connect/disconnect cable. The system includes a sanitary toilet seat assembly having a toilet seat with a first end and a second end, a tubular sheet adapted to be conveyed from the first end to a take-up shaft proximate the second end, and a motor for operatively driving the take-up shaft to advance the tubular plastic in a travel direction. The system also includes a first electrical cable coupled at one end to the toilet seat assembly. A first connector is provided on the other end of the first cable. The system further includes a second electrical cable connected at one end to a power source and providing a second connector at the opposite end. The first and second connectors are detachably coupled so that the toilet seat assembly can be operatively connected to the power source while facilitating rapid disconnection of the toilet seat assembly for maintenance or replacement.



Inventors:
Brill, Alan (Delray Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
12/082543
Publication Date:
09/04/2008
Filing Date:
04/10/2008
Assignee:
Brill Hygienic Products, Inc. (Delray Beach, FL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AKERMAN LLP (WEST PALM BEACH, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of providing maintenance to an automated sanitary toilet seat assembly, comprising the steps of: providing a powered sanitary toilet seat assembly with an electrical cable coupled to the toilet seat assembly and having a first connector detachable coupled with a second connector; decoupling the first connector from the second connector; providing maintenance to the sanitary toilet seat.

2. The method as recited in claim 1, further including the step of removing the sanitary toilet seat to a geographically remote location for providing maintenance.

3. The method as recited in claim 1, further including the step of providing a replacement sanitary toilet seat during maintenance.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a divisional of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/123,523, filed May 6, 2005, which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates in general to toilets and, more particularly, to automated toilet seat systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A variety of automated toilet devices are known. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 5,937,448 is directed to an electro-mechanical assembly for advancing a tubular protective covering around a toilet seat. The covering is stored on a reel, and pulled off from the reel as it is replaced, and the used covering is taken up on a second reel. An activation button can be depressed to actuate a switch assembly which, in turn, actuates a drive mechanism. By actuating the drive mechanism, the cover is moved through a predetermined distance in such a manner that when it is in the mounted position, the toilet seat body is completely surrounded by the tubular cover. An upper housing portion has an integral pressure blade for exerting a constant downward force on the advancing protective covering. The pressure ensures adequate contact between the covering and a counter shaft assembly which communicates magnetically with internal electronic circuitry.

The electronic portion of the automatic toilet seat system is operatively connected to receive energy from a power source. In one prior system, which is shown in FIG. 1, a toilet 300 with an automatic toilet seat system 302 is operatively connected directly to a power source 305 by a cable 310. Due to health and safety concerns of a lavatory environment, the power source 305 is located remote from the immediate area of the toilet 300. For instance, the power source 305 can be located above the ceiling 315. Further, to minimize the exposure of the cable 310 to the lavatory environment, a substantial portion of the length of the cable 310 is routed behind a wall 320 proximate the toilet 300.

The cable 310 is continuous between the power source 305 and the automatic toilet seat system 302. When it is in need of service, the automated toilet seat system 302 can be disconnected from the cable 310. However, the cable 310 cannot simply be disconnected at the automated toilet seat system 302 because the unconnected end of the cable 310 can create potential fire and safety hazards. Further, safety concerns regarding potential water and moisture intrusion have prevented prior art systems from incorporating a junction for disconnecting a cable directly from the toilet or a junction in the immediate vicinity of the toilet. Instead, the cable 310 must be disconnected from the power source 305, but the disconnection process can be a labor intensive and time consuming because of the inconvenient location of the power source 305. Likewise, the process of reconnecting the cable 310 to the power source 305 can be equally involved. Thus, there is a need for a system that can facilitate the rapid disconnection and connection of an automated toilet device.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Aspects of the invention are directed to an automated toilet seat system adapted for quick connection and disconnection from a power source. An automated toilet seat system is provided and can include a sanitary toilet seat assembly having a toilet seat with a first end and a second end, a tubular sheet adapted to be conveyed from the first end to a take-up shaft proximate the second end, and a motor for operatively driving the take-up shaft to advance the tubular plastic in a travel direction. The system further can include a first electrical cable including at least one conductor, the first cable having opposing ends, the first cable being operatively connected at one end to the toilet seat assembly, where the opposite end of the first cable provides a first connector. Also, the system can include a second electrical cable including at least one conductor, the second cable having opposing ends, one end of the second cable provides a second connector adapted for detachable coupling with the first connector, the opposite end of the second cable being operatively connected to a power source.

In one arrangement, the system can include a reinforced seal at the interface of the first and second connectors, where the seal covers a portion of the first cable and the first connector. Also, the reinforced seal can be located at the junction of the second cable and the second connector, where the seal covers a portion of the second cable and the second connector. Further, the first connector can include at least one male prong and at least one female receptacle. The second connector can include at least one male prong and at least one female receptacle, whereby the female recess receives the insertion of the male prong for detachably coupling the first connector to second connector.

In another arrangement, the first connector and the second connector can include an elliptically shaped base from which the male prong extends. Also, the female recess can be housed in a cylindrical body that projects from the base. A wall mounted sensor communicably coupled to the toilet seat assembly via the second and first cables may also be provided. Additionally, the power source can be located remote from the toilet and separated from the toilet by a physical barrier, where the second cable passes from the power source through the barrier. The interface of the second connector to the first connector can be at least partially separated from the power source by the barrier. The barrier may be selected from the group consisting of a wall, ceiling, and a combination thereof. Also, a transformer operatively connected between the power source and the opposite end of the second cable may be provided.

A detachable connector for a sanitary toilet seat assembly is also provided in accordance with aspects of the invention. The detachable connector can include a sanitary toilet seat assembly having a toilet seat with a first end and a second end, a tubular sheet adapted to be conveyed from the first end to a take-up shaft proximate the second end, and a motor for operatively driving the take-up shaft to advance the tubular plastic in a travel direction. Also, the detachable connector can include an electrical cable coupled to the toilet seat assembly where the cable can terminate with a first connector for detachably coupling with a second connector. A reinforced seal at the meeting of the cable and the first connector can also be provided, where the seal covers a portion of the cable and the first connector.

In another arrangement, the first detachable connector can include at least one male prong and at least one female recess, whereby the male prong inserts in a female recess of the second connector and the female recess receives the insertion of a male prong of the second connector. Further, the connector can include an elliptically shaped base from which the male prong extends. Also, the female recess can be housed in a cylindrical body that projects from the base and a conductor can be housed within the first cable for communicating with a wall mounted sensor.

A method of providing maintenance to an automated sanitary toilet seat assembly is also provided in accordance with the inventive aspects. The method can include providing a powered sanitary toilet seat assembly with an electrical cable coupled to the toilet seat assembly and having a first connector detachable coupled with a second connector, decoupling the first connector from the second connector, and providing maintenance to the sanitary toilet seat. The method can also include removing the sanitary toilet seat to a geographically remote location for providing maintenance. Still further, the method can include providing a replacement sanitary toilet seat during maintenance.

Also in accordance with the inventive aspects, an automated toilet system is provided. The system can include an electrically powered toilet device and a first electrical cable including at least one conductor, the first cable having opposing ends, the first cable being operatively connected at one end to the toilet device, where the opposite end of the first cable provides a first connector. Further, a second electrical cable can include at least one conductor, the second cable having opposing ends, one end of the second cable provides a second connector adapted to substantially matingly engage with the first connector, whereby the first and second cables are electrically connected, the opposite end of the second cable being operatively connected to a power source.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of a lavatory with a known automatic toilet seat system.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an automated toilet seat system with a quick disconnect cable according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an embodiment of an automated toilet seat assembly with a quick disconnect cable according to aspects of the invention, wherein the automated toilet seat assembly is shown in the disconnected condition.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a quick disconnect interface according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 5 is an exploded view of a toilet seat assembly according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a schematic view of the take-up region of the toilet seat assembly according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a partial bottom view of a toilet seat having structural support ribs according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the inside surface of a top cover of the assembly according to aspects of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a flow chart of a method of providing maintenance to an automated toilet seat system with a quick disconnect cable according to aspects of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Aspects of the invention are directed to an automated toilet seat system adapted for quick connection and disconnection from a power source. Embodiments of the invention will be explained in connection with one possible system, but the detailed description is intended only as exemplary. Embodiments of the invention are shown in FIGS. 2-9, but the present invention is not limited to the illustrated structure or application.

FIG. 2 illustrates an automated sanitary toilet seat system adapted for quick connection and disconnection according to aspects of the invention. The system 100 includes an automated toilet seat assembly 110, a first electrical cable 115a and a second electrical cable 115b. Each of the first and second electrical cables 115a, 115b can include one or more electrical conductors 123 (FIG. 4). The first electrical cable 115a can have a first end 116 and a second end 117. The first end 116 of the first electrical cable 115a can be adapted for connection to the toilet seat assembly 110. The second end 117 of the first electrical cable 115a can provide a first connector 120a.

Similarly, the second electrical cable 115b can have a first end 118 and a second end 119. The first end 118 of the second cable 115b can provide a second connector 120b for operative connection with the first connector 120a. The second end 119 of the second cable 115b can be adapted for operative connection to a power source 125. The second cable 115b can be directly or indirectly connected to the power source 125. FIG. 2 shows one example of an indirect connection to power source 125 via transformer 155. As shown, the system can further include a transformer 155 for providing a direct current and a wall mounted sensor 160 for activating the toilet seat system 100 without the need for physical manipulation. The second end 119 of the second cable 115b can connect to the transformer 155, which, in turn, can connect to the power source 125. It should be noted that a plurality of automated toilet systems 110 can be operatively connected to the transformer 155. In one embodiment, eight or more toilet seat systems 110 can be operatively connected to the transformer 155.

The power source 125 and transformer 155 can be located remote from the toilet 110 to prevent water and moisture interference and/or intrusion. The power source 125 and transformer 155 are separated from the toilet 110 by a physical barrier, such as a wall 165. As shown in phantom, the second cable 115b passes from the power source 125 through the wall 165. The interface 127 of the second connector 120b to the first connector 120a is at least partially separated from the power source 125 by the wall 165. Thus, the interface 127 of the first connector 120a to the second connector 120b can occur where it is conveniently located for quickly disconnecting for maintenance or rapid disconnection in the event of an emergency, all while preventing moisture from interfering with the power source 125.

FIG. 3 illustrates the automated toilet seat assembly 110 with the first cable 115a. As shown, the first connector 120a is disconnected condition; that is, the first connector 120a is detached from the second connector (not shown in FIG. 3). The connector 120a can include a base 130a, which can be sized and shaped to provide for easy gripping. In one embodiment, the connector 120a can include one or more conductive male prongs 135a and one or more conductive female receptacles 140a. The female receptacle 140a can be housed in a projecting portion 145a of the base 130a. The male prongs 135a and the receptacles are electrically connected to the conductors 123 (FIG. 4) within the first cable 115a.

FIG. 4 depicts one embodiment of an interface 127 between the first connector 120a and the second connector 120b according to aspects of the invention. The first and second connectors 120a, 120b can be configured to substantially matingly engage each other. Accordingly, the receptacles 140a, 140b are sized and shaped to substantially correspond to the dimension and shape of the prongs 135a, 135b. Such a construction can ensure a snug, yet detachable interface when the connectors 120a, 120b are coupled. The snug fit provides a reliable electrical connection that prevents moisture intrusion while still allowing the first connector 120a and the second connector 120b to be rapidly disconnected in the event of an emergency.

In the embodiment shown, the second connector 120b can provide one or more conductive female receptacles 140b for engagement with the conductive male prongs 135a on the first connector 120a; it can also provide one or more conductive male prong 135b for engagement with the conductive female receptacles 140a on the first connector 120a. While the first and second connectors 120a, 120b are shown as disconnected from each other in FIG. 4, it will readily be appreciated that the connectors can be aligned and brought together to form an electrical connection between the first and second cables 115a, 115b. The prongs 135a, 135b and the receptacles 140a, 140b on each connector 120a, 120b can be arranged in any manner.

Each of the cables 115a, 115b can include a reinforced seal 150a, 150b at the junction between each cable 115a, 115b and the respective connector 120a, 120b. The seals 150a, 150b can form a physical barrier around the cables 115a, 115b to substantially prevent moisture or other substances from penetrating to the conductors 123 within the cables 115a, 115b. In one embodiment, the reinforced seals 150a, 150b can be made of rubber or plastic. The seals 150a, 150b can be heat sealed to the cables 115a, 115b and to the connectors 120a, 120b. Alternatively, the seals 150a, 150b can be attached using adhesives, or any other means suitable to form a seal.

The above described cables 115a, 115b can facilitate the rapid connection and disconnection of the toilet seat assembly 110 from the power source 125. FIG. 5 illustrates an exploded view of one toilet seat assembly that can be used in accordance with the present invention. The sanitary toilet seat assembly includes a base member 1, a top cover 2, a seat 24 and a mounting bracket 16. As assembled, base member 1 and top cover 2 form a housing for protecting various internal components, including a motor subassembly 13 and electronic circuitry (not shown in FIG. 5). The sanitary toilet seat assembly further incorporates heat shrink wrapping 55 over the motor subassembly to prevent potentially harmful agents, such as cleaning chemicals, from deteriorating motor subassembly components. An activation button 5 is exposed through an opening in the top cover 2. A standard key lock 17 is provided for locking the top cover in place. In operation, the activation button is manually depressed to advance the sanitary covering a sufficient length to provide a fresh seat covering. Alternatively, the sanitary toilet seat can be activated by the sensor, shown in FIG. 1, determining that a new user has approached without the need for the user to physically manipulate the activation button. A mounting bracket is provided for attaching the unit to the base of a toilet. End caps 3, extending through aligned circular openings in mounting bracket 16 and base member 1, allow the entire seat assembly to be rotated about an imaginary axis joining the centers of the end caps.

Structurally, components of the sanitary seat assembly are designed to provide improved mechanical strength. For instance, seat 24 has ribs extending completely around its underside. In particular, the ribs extend from end 24a to end 24b. Referring briefly to FIG. 7, a bottom view of seat end 24b is shown. Region 50 adjacent end 24b is generally thicker than the remainder of the seat. It is known to incorporate ribs to provide added structural support to the thinner portion of the seat. Nevertheless, known seat assemblies have included support ribs 53 extending along the length of the seat terminating at the interface 51 between sections 50 and 52. According to the improved structure of the present invention, support ribs extend through the thickened section 50. As a result, the bending strength at interface 51 has been increased.

Base member 1 preferably comprises a unitary molded plastic having a number of integrally molded support structures. In addition, the sanitary seat assembly incorporates drain holes 57 extending through the bottom of the base member 1 to allow removal of fluids which could potentially accumulate in the housing and deteriorate internal components. Base member 1 includes partitions 30 and 31 for supporting a dispense roll shaft 54. Opposite ends of the dispense roll shaft are supported on recesses 32 formed in partitions 30 and 31. The sanitary seat assembly also incorporates integral stop mechanisms 33 for limiting horizontal movement of the dispense roll shaft.

The tubular cover material fits over free seat end 24a, which is not attached to the assembly. The cover material extends completely around the seat 24, over counter shaft 4, and is ultimately rewound on a take-up shaft 37. The take-up shaft is supported at one end by spring plate 11 attached to the outer surface of partition 38. The opposite end of the take-up roll mates with drive motor hub 8 which is attached to a drive shaft (not shown) extending from an end of motor 13.

Toilet seat 24 has a slot 26 formed at one end for attachment of plate 34 and razor subassembly 25. Threaded studs 23 extending from attachment plate 9 pass through openings in base member 1 and plate 34. Attachment plates 9 and 34 are mechanically fastened to the base member. A portion of attachment plate 34 is integrally molded into slot 26 of seat 24. Razor subassembly 25, which fits into a wider section of slot 26, has an integrally molded raised bump formed on its surface for mating with an opening in plate 34.

This feature of the improved assembly provides a means for releasably locking the razor blade assembly in place. The razor extends at an obtuse angle in relation to the advancing covering material, and serves to slit the edge of the cover material in order to allow it to be pulled off and wound up on the take-up shaft. Referring briefly to FIG. 5, as the tubular cover material 40 is advanced, the edge of the tubular covering adjacent the inside edge of the toilet seat contacts razor 35, slitting the side to allow it to pass plate 34 (not shown in FIG. 6) for receipt on take-up shaft 37. The improved seat assembly has an integral pressure plate 41 extending downward at an angle from the inner surface of top cover 2. Integral pressure plate 41 serves to press advancing cover material 40 against counter shaft 4 to improve contact between the cover material and the outer surface of the counter shaft.

Referring back to FIG. 5, counter shaft 4 is supported at one end by spring plate 12 attached to the outer surface of partition 38. The opposite end of counter shaft 4 is joined to magnet wheel 6 via counter drive shaft element 7 extending through an opening in motor support plate 39. Counter shaft 4 is preferably formed of a molded plastic and has a plurality of integrally molded raised surface portions for gripping advancing cover material.

In particular, the raised surface portions improve friction between the advancing cover material and the counter shaft surface, thereby improving rotational precision of the counter shaft during advancement of the cover material. As previously stated, the improved seat assembly incorporates a pressure blade integrally molded into top cover 2. In an assembled state, the pressure blade applies a downward force on the advancing cover material to further improve contact between the advancing cover material and the counter shaft surface.

Magnet wheel 6 has a magnet 20 attached to an outer wheel surface. The magnet 20 faces and communicates with electronic circuitry mounted on a printed circuit board assembly 56. The electronic circuitry of the improved assembly precisely monitors the number of rotations of wheel 6. Rotation of wheel 6 is a direct result of rotation of counter shaft 4. Consequently, resistance in the advancement of cover material, which affects the rotation of shaft 4, is detected by the electronic circuitry. In contrast to known devices, the circuitry of the present invention is designed to halt operation of motor 13 in instances where a specified resistance level is encountered. Motor subassembly 13 requires 12 volts dc which can be supplied via a 12 v dc converter or, alternatively, the assembly can be operated with batteries.

In contrast to prior art designs, the improved assembly of the present invention incorporates an activation button 5 operating independently of internal mechanical components, including the dispense and take up roll shafts. Consequently, activation of the assembly is not dependent upon the mechanical integrity of other assembly components. Furthermore, the button 5 has an improved ergonomic design which is less prone to damage by external forces.

In a released state, the upper surface of activation button 5 lies substantially flush with the upper surface of top cover 2 and the sides of the button are bounded by the periphery of the opening in the top cover through which the button is exposed. As a result, activation button motion is limited to vertical displacement upon contact. The activation button 5 also has an integrally molded guide leg 42 which is received in an opening in push switch assembly support plate 10 to prevent rotation of activation button 5 as it is being depressed. Support plate 10 is mechanically fastened to support plate mounting structure 19 integrally formed in base member 1. The improved structural integrity has resulted in an assembly having a corresponding reduction in required maintenance. Still further, the arrangements provided discussed herein an illustrated in FIG. 1 include a touchless sensor for activating the seat.

In operation, activation button 5 is pushed to actuate switch assembly 15, or the sensor of FIG. 2 can be used, for activating motor assembly 13. A drive shaft extending from motor assembly 13 rotates hub 8 which, in turn, rotates the take-up shaft. As the take-up shaft is rotated, cover material is pulled off of the dispense shaft roll and advanced around toilet seat 24. Advancing cover material is forced against the outer surface of counter shaft 4 by pressure blade 41, causing counter shaft 4 to rotate. Rotation of the counter shaft 4 effects corresponding rotation of magnet 20 on magnet wheel 6. At seat end 24b, the left inside-facing edge of the cover is slit by razor assembly 26 in order to allow it to be wound up on take-up shaft 37. The amount of material advanced is determined by rotation of counter shaft 4. Specifically, rotations are computed by electronic circuitry (not shown) which tracks the rotation of magnet 20 on magnet wheel 6. Where specified resistance limits are exceeded, the electronic circuitry communicates with motor assembly 13 to halt operation of the motor.

Having described various components of a system according to aspects of the invention, one manner in which the system can be used will now be described. In particular, a method of providing maintenance to an automated sanitary toilet seat system is described with reference to the flow chart of FIG. 9. It will be understood that aspects of the invention are not limited to the disclosed method 200. Further, the described steps are not limited to being performed in the order presented and not every step recited need occur.

In step 210, a powered sanitary toilet seat assembly with an electrical cable coupled to the toilet seat assembly and having a first connector detachably coupled to a second connector can be provided. Although the method includes providing a powered sanitary toilet seat, it should be noted that the method 200 is not limited to any particular powered sanitary toilet device and can be used with a wide range of powered sanitary toilet systems, such a motorized sanitary toilets.

In step 220, the first connector can be decoupled from the second connector. As a result, the powered sanitary toilet seat is disconnected from its power source. With the powered sanitary toilet seat is unplugged, step 230 can include the removal of the sanitary toilet seat to a geographically remote location, such as a workshop, factory and the like. Additionally, a replacement sanitary toilet seat can be provided in step 240 so that a user can continue to have a functioning powered sanitary toilet seat while the other toilet seat undergoes maintenance.

In step 250, maintenance can be performed on the sanitary toilet seat. It should be noted that, in many instances, there will be no need to remove the sanitary toilet seat to a geographically remote location and that maintenance can be performed on site. Maintenance can include upkeep, repair, replacement and cleaning of the sanitary toilet seat.

While the preferred embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described, it will be clear that the invention is not so limited. Numerous modifications, changes, variations, substitutions and equivalents will occur to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as described in the following claims.