Title:
AERATION DEVICE FOR SNOW THROWER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A movable apparatus includes a housing with a handle and plurality of wheels rotatably mounted thereto. An engine is disposed within the housing and configured to provide torque to the plurality of wheels to selectively rotate the wheels in a first direction and an opposite second direction. A central bar is rotatably disposed on the housing and includes a plurality of spikes radially extending therefrom that are configured to produce a plurality of holes in the ground when rotated. The central bar is configured to rotate in the first direction when the plurality of wheels are rotated in the first direction and the central bar is configured to be rotated in the opposite second direction when the wheels are rotated in the opposite second direction.



Inventors:
Brown, David R. (Minooka, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/777018
Publication Date:
01/15/2009
Filing Date:
07/12/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
37/196
International Classes:
E01H5/09
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCGOWAN, JAMIE LOUISE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BGL (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. An aerator assembly comprising: a rotatable central bar; a plurality of spike plates rigidly mounted to the central bar, wherein the spike plates each comprise a plurality of spikes projecting radially outward from the central bar; first and second brackets each disposed at opposite ends of the central bar and configured to rotatably support the central bar, the first and second brackets are each configured to be removeably mounted to a snow thrower.

2. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the central bar comprises an inner bar that is fixed to each of the first and second brackets and a hollow outer bar that is rotatably disposed around the inner bar.

3. The aeration assembly of claim 2, wherein the outer bar comprises at least one port adapted to receive a lubricant therein and allow the lubricant to disburse between the inner and outer bars.

4. The aeration assembly of claim 2, wherein the spike plates are each rigidly mounted to the outer bar.

5. The aerator assembly of claim 1, wherein the central bar is configured to rotate in a first rotational direction when the snow thrower is moved in a first direction.

6. The aerator assembly of claim 2, wherein the central bar is configured to rotate in an opposite second rotational direction when the snow thrower is moved in an opposite second direction.

7. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the position of the central bar with respect to a shovel of the snow thrower is vertically adjustable.

8. The aeration assembly of claim 4, wherein the central bar may be adjusted with respect to the shovel to provide clearance between an auger within the shovel and the plurality of spikes projecting from the central bar.

9. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein each of the first and second brackets are removeably connectable with a respective side surface of the snow thrower.

10. The aeration assembly of claim 9, wherein each of the first and second brackets are removeably connectable with a respective skid plate that is translatably mounted on the side surface of the snow thrower.

11. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the first and second brackets each comprise parallel first and second legs.

12. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the plurality of spike plates on the central bar comprise at least four spike plates.

13. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the plurality of spike plates are disposed along the central bar with uneven spacing between each neighboring spike plate along the length of the central bar.

14. The aeration assembly of claim 1, wherein the plurality of spike plates are disposed along the central bar with all spike plates disposed with equal spacing between neighboring skid plates along the length of the central bar.

15. A movable apparatus comprising: a housing comprising a handle and a plurality of wheels rotatably mounted thereto; an engine disposed within the housing and configured to provide torque to the plurality of wheels to rotate the wheels in a first direction and an opposite second direction; a central bar rotatably disposed on the housing comprising a plurality of spikes radially extending therefrom configured to produce a plurality of holes in the ground when rotated, wherein the central bar is configured to rotate in the first direction when the plurality of wheels are rotated in the first direction and the central bar is configured to be rotated in the opposite second direction when the wheels are rotated in the opposite second direction.

16. The snow thrower to claim 15, wherein the central bar comprises an inner bar that is fixed to the housing and a hollow outer bar that is rotatably disposed around the inner bar.

17. The snow thrower of claim 16, wherein the plurality of spikes extend from one or more spike plates that are rigidly mounted to the outer bar.

18. The snow thrower of claim 15, wherein the housing further comprises first and second skid plates movably mounted to opposing first and second side surfaces of the housing.

19. The snow thrower of claim 18, further comprising first and second brackets configured to establish a connection between the first and second skid plates and the respective first and second ends of the central bar.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Lawns, golf course fairways and greens, and other large grassy areas require a significant amount of labor and attention, as well as sufficient amounts of water and chemicals to prosper. In addition to receiving sunlight and water, grass additionally normally benefits from periodic application of fertilizer and grass seed and/or nutrients and chemicals. While fertilizer, grass seed, and chemicals may be effective when laid topically on the exposed surface of the grass, it has been found that these are often more effective when implanted into the dirt below the ground, such that these products may be more readily absorbed or associated into the root structure of the grass.

In order to configure grass for receiving fertilizer, seed, or other chemicals, it is often beneficial to aerate the grass. As is known, aeration usually involves creating a plurality of small closely spaced holes in the surface of the ground to assist in the absorption of oxygen and nutrients into the soil. Aeraton devices normally include a rotatable or fixed member that includes a plurality of spikes or coring devices that are systematically inserted into the ground to provide holes for the application of fertilizer or the like. Although aeration is generally beneficial for grass, many homeowners do not own aeration equipment due to the cost, size, and difficulty of operation of such devices.

A significant problem with many aeration devices is that a large downward, or normal force must be applied in order to force the spikes to dig into the ground during operation. Accordingly, aeration devices are often bulky, heavy, and difficult to operate in tight spaces. Further, dedicated aeration devices are often relatively expensive because aeration devices without self propulsion are often difficult to operate due to the large downward force required.

Numerous lawn aeration devices have been commercially available, both stand alone units and devices that are readily connectable or usable with other devices. It is known to provide an aeration device that is removeably attachable to a commercial lawn mower, such as that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,586,604 to Postema. This device is not readily suitable for use with conventional walk behind mowers normally owned and used by homeowners but rather the device is disclosed as mountable rearwardly extending from the deck of a commercial self propelled lawn mower. Further, because commercial lawn mowers are generally or only self-propelled in a forward direction, this device relatively inconvenient for use in relatively small areas due to the number of turns required to aerate all of the grass therein. Moreover, commercial grade lawn mowers are significantly more expensive than conventional residential lawn mowers, to this device is not useful for a significant number of households that own residential type lawn mowers.

BRIEF SUMMARY

In a first representative embodiment a movable apparatus is provided. The movable apparatus includes a housing with a handle and a plurality of wheels rotatably mounted thereto. An engine is disposed within the housing and configured to provide torque to the plurality of wheels to rotate the wheels in a first direction and an opposite second direction. A central bar is rotatably disposed on the housing and includes a plurality of spikes radially extending therefrom configured to produce a plurality of holes in the ground when rotated. The central bar is configured to rotate in the first direction when the plurality of wheels are rotated in the first direction and the central bar is configured to be rotated in the opposite second direction when the wheels are rotated in the opposite second direction.

In a second representative embodiment an aerator assembly is provided. The assembly includes a rotatable central bar with a plurality of spike plates that are rigidly mounted to the central bar. The spike plates each include a plurality of spikes projecting radially outward from the central bar. First and second brackets are each disposed at opposite ends of the central bar and are configured to rotatably support the central bar. The first and second brackets are each configured to be removeably mounted to a snow thrower.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The features and advantages of the present disclosure may be better understood by reference to the accompanying drawings in which like reference numerals refer to like elements.

FIG. 1. is a perspective view of an aeration device rotatably mounted to a snow thrower.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the aeration device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is perspective view of the snow thrower of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a front view of the aeration device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of the mount of the aeration device to the snow thrower of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the aeration device of FIG. 1 shown an interlock on the handle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Turning now to the figures, an aeration device 10 is provided. The aeration device 10 is configured to be removeably mounted to a snow thrower 100. The aeration device 10 includes a central bar 20, a plurality of spike plates 30 disposed along the central bar 20, and a plurality of spikes 40 radially projecting from each of the plurality of spike plates 30. The spike plates 30 are fixed to the central bar 20. The central bar 20 includes a bracket 50 provided on each of the first and second ends 21, 22 of the central bar 20. The brackets 50 provide for removable attachment of the aeration device 10 to a snow thrower 100.

The aeration device 10 is configured to be attachable to various types of conventional snow throwers 100. Generally, snow throwers 100 include an internal motor or engine (not shown) that generates torque to rotate a transmission 184 that ultimately rotates an auger 180. The auger 180 is normally rotatably mounted within an open shovel, or housing 140 that is formed with opposing side walls 146 and a top wall 147. The shovel 140 includes an open front 148 that is configured to allow the shovel 140 to be directed into a pile or volume of snow for operation thereon by the auger 180 and subsequent release through an outlet 130. Snow throwers 100 generally include a self propulsion system that allows the torque generated by the engine (or motor) to rotate the wheels to move the snow thrower 100 either in the forward direction Y or the rear direction Z (as shown in FIG. 3). The self propulsion system may include a plurality of speeds in both the forward and rear directions.

Conventional snow throwers 100 include at least one set of wheels 120, normally mounted toward the rear portion of the unit, and rearwardly of the shovel 140. Conventional snow throwers 100 further include a handle 110 that extends rearwardly from the snow thrower 100. The handle 110 normally include the important operational controls for the snow thrower 100, such as one or more engine controls 112, one or more self propulsion controls 114, and one or more auger controls 116. The handle 110 further provides a structure for the user to manipulate when operating the snow thrower 100, allowing the user to steer the unit and allow the user to pivot the unit to move on only the rear set of wheels 120, when desired.

Because conventional snow throwers 100 are designed to be used on varying surfaces, e.g. pavement, grass, gravel, or rocks, the shovel 140 is normally provided with structures that allow for selection of the height of the shovel 140 above the ground. Some conventional snow throwers 100 include a skid plates 160 each mounted to each of the right and left side surfaces 146 of the shovel 140. As best shown in FIG. 5, each skid plate 160 may include one or more vertical slots 162 that each receive fasteners 164 disposed through apertures (not shown) in the side surfaces 146 of the shovel 140. The vertical movement of the skid plate 160 with respect to the side surfaces 142 of the shovel 140 (and subsequent tightening of the fasteners 164 between the side 142 and the skid plate 160) allows for the bottom of the shovel 140 to be fixed at a specific height above the ground for proper operation of the snow thrower 100.

Conventional skid plates 160 normally include a horizontal surface 166 provided at the bottom of the skid plate 160 that provides the surface that normally contacts the ground during snow thrower 100 operation. This horizontal surface 166 is normally strong and durable, because this surface must withstand the potential damage due to significant friction and mechanical scraping that exist when the snow thrower 100 is moved with the skid plates 160 contacting the ground. The horizontal surface 166 of the skid plate 160 is often formed with a relatively large surface area, which provides an extended area to contact the ground during operation, and provides sufficient surfaces that are capable of contacting the ground and mechanically supporting the snow thrower 100 during the life of the snow thrower 100.

As best shown in FIGS. 1, 2, and 5, the central bar 20 may be formed from a solid internal bar 24 and a hollow outer bar 26 that is rotatable with respect to and about the internal bar 24. The brackets 50 (discussed in detail below) connect the first and second ends 21, 22 of the internal bar 24 to the respective skid plate 160. The outer bar 26 is disposed between the two brackets 50. The inner diameter of the outer bar 26 is slightly larger than the outer diameter of the inner bar 24 to allow the outer bar 26 to rotate about the inner bar 24 but to minimize the gap therebetween. In some embodiments, the inner bar 26 is an about 0.75 inch outer diameter and the inner diameter of the outer bar is slightly larger than the about 0.75 inch diameter. In other embodiments, other sized inner and outer bars 24, 26 may be used that are strong enough for use as a central bar 20 for an aeration device 10.

As best shown in FIG. 2, a plurality of apertures 27 may be disposed along the length of the outer bar 26. The apertures 27 provide an opening to insert grease or other lubricants into the space between the inner and outer bars 24, 26 to minimize the friction therebetween and accommodate the rotation of the outer bar 26 with respect to the inner bar 24 when the snow thrower 100 is moved in either the forward or rearward direction Y, W (FIG. 3). Each of the plurality of apertures are normally blocked by a corresponding removable plug 28 that prevents lubricant from leaking from between the inner and outer bars 24, 26 and foreign material from entering this space through the respective aperture 27. In some embodiments, the plug 28 may be a grease zert fitting.

The bracket 50 mounted to each of the first and second ends 21, 22 of the inner bar 24 of the central bar 20 may be mounted to the horizontal surface 166 of each skid plate 160. Specifically, in some embodiments, the bracket 50 is formed with a substantially “U” shaped member with two parallel legs 52, 54 that are connected with an arcuate central member 55. The legs 52, 54 may each include a male thread formed on the ends thereof. The central member 55 is formed with a radius that is slightly larger than the radius of the inner bar 24 of the central bar 20, such that the central member 55 fits snuggly with the inner bar 24. A flat member, or spacer 56 may be provided that includes two apertures to receive each of the first and second legs 52, 54 therethrough. The flat member 56 is disposed on the opposite side of the central bar 20 from the central member 55. The flat member 56 aids in disposing the central bar 20 at the proper position with respect to the skid plate 160 and additionally provides additional space between the central bar 20 and plurality of spikes 40 to provide clearance between the spikes 40 and the auger 180. In some embodiments, two or more flat members 56 may be provided to provide the necessary space between the plurality of spikes 40 and the auger 180.

The horizontal surface 166 of the skid plate 160 includes or may be modified to include two holes (not shown) therethrough that are adapted to receive the first and second legs 52, 54 of the bracket 50. After the first and second legs 52, 54 are inserted through the holes, fasteners, such as nuts or wing nuts, are threaded onto the ends of the first and second legs 52, 54 to retain the bracket 50 attached to the skid plate 160. Upon attachment, the flat member 56 contacts the bottom surface of the horizontal surface 166 of the skid plate 160, which accordingly rotatably mounts the central bar 20 to the skid plates 160 such that the central bar 20 and spikes 40 thereon are free to rotate in either direction.

As can be understood with reference to FIGS. 4 and 5, the spike plates 30 and the spikes 40 radially projecting therefrom are disposed in the same general location within the shovel 140 as the auger 180. Accordingly, prior to operation the skid plate 160 should be adjusted with respect to the side surfaces 142 of the shovel 140 such that the both the central bar 20 with the spikes 40 extending therefrom and the auger 180 are each freely rotatable without mechanical interference with each other. In some embodiments, larger skid plates 160 with longer slots 162 may be provided on the shovel 140 to provide extra distance between the spikes 40 and the auger 180 in embodiments where relatively long spikes 40 are used.

The plurality of spike plates 30 (with a plurality of spikes 40 extending therefrom) are rigidly mounted on the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 and fixed with the outer bar 26 to rotate therewith and substantially eliminate any relative longitudinal motion between the outer bar 26 and the spike plate 30. The spikes 40 and the spike plates 30 may be heat tempered or formed or worked in other methods to increase the strength of the spikes and spike plates 40, 30. The number of spike plates 30 provided on the central bar 20 is a function of the length of the central bar 20, which in turn is a function of the width of the shovel 140. Further, the number of spike plates 30 is additionally a function of the type of surface that the aeration device 10 will be used upon.

Specifically, because of the advantages and reasons to use the aeration device 10 on a lawn or other grassy area, it is preferred to include a large number of spike plates 30 (and spikes 40 extending therefrom) to provide the most aeration of a given area with the least amount of passes of the modified snow thrower 100 over the given area.

One potential limiting factor to the preferred number of spike plates 30 is that the distance between neighboring spike plates 30 is preferably greater than the diameter of a conventional lawn sprinkler head, to avoid damage thereto when the aeration device 10 and snow thrower 100 are passed over the sprinkler head. In some embodiments, neighboring spike plates 30 may be placed at 3 inch intervals along the length of the central bar 20. In other embodiments, neighboring spike plates 30 may be placed at 4 or 5 inch intervals, or other suitable intervals along the length the central bar 20. In some embodiments, each of the spike plates 30 are rigidly mounted to the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 at consistent distances X (FIG. 2) between each other along the length of the outer bar 26. In other embodiments, some or all of the spike plates 30 may be aligned at differing distances T (FIG. 2, which is different than distance X of FIG. 2) between neighboring spike plates 30 along the length of the outer bar 26.

The plurality of spike plates 30 are rigidly mounted to the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 to substantially prevent the spike plates 30 from rotating with respect to the outer bar 26 and to additionally substantially prevent the spike plates 30 from translating along the length of the outer bar 26. In some embodiments, the spike plates 30 may be welded or braised to the outer bar 26. In other embodiments, the spike plates 30 may be mechanically fixed to the outer bar 26 with one or more fasteners. In still other embodiments, the outer bar 26 may be defined with a plurality of slots that are configured to receive a spike plate 30 therein. In yet other embodiments, the outer bar 26 and the spike plates 30 may be formed with opposing key and keyways to substantially prevent the spike plates 30 from moving with respect to the outer bar 26 when installed.

As understood with reference to FIGS. 3 and 6, the wheels 120 and the skid plates 160 normally contact the ground, or grass, upon which the snow thrower 100 rests. The plurality of spikes 40 and central bar 20 are disposed within the skid plates 160 such that at least one spike 40 form each spike plate 30 contacts the ground and extends below the surface of the ground to create the plurality of aeration divots within the ground, due to the large downward force created by the weight of the snow thrower 100 disposed generally above the central bar 20. As the wheels 120 rotate in either the forward or rearward directions Z, U, the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 similarly rotates in the same forward or rearward direction Z, U, which cases the spikes 40 to sequentially enter and withdraw from the ground as the outer bar 26 rotates.

When the plurality of spikes 40 are engaged with and extend into the ground, the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 selectively rotates due to motion of the snow thrower 100 in either the forward or rearward direction Y, W. As understood with reference to FIGS. 3 and 5, when the snow thrower 100 moves in the forward direction Y, the outer bar 26 rotates in the forward direction Z and when the snow thrower moves in the opposite rearward direction W, the outer bar rotates in the opposite rearward direction U. The rotation of the outer bar 26 based on forward or rearward movement of the snow thrower 100 may be with or without similar rotation of the wheels 120. Specifically, if the snow thrower 100 slides in either the forward or rearward directions Y, W without causing rotation of the wheels 120, the outer bar 26 of the central bar 20 still rotates in the respective forward or rearward direction Z, U.

In some embodiments, the top surface 147 of the shovel 140 may be configured to receive and support external weight thereon, to increase the downward normal force imparted upon the ground by the plurality of spikes 40 extending from each spike plate 30. In some embodiments, the shovel 140 may be configured to receive one or more weighted plates. Specifically, the top surface 147 of the shovel may include one or more posts 147a to receive the one or more weighted plates (FIG. 6) thereon. In other embodiments, the shovel may be configured to receive one or more sand bags and the like.

As shown in FIG. 6, an interlock 200 may be provided to mechanically or electrically prevent the auger 180 from operating when the snow thrower 100 is being used in combination with the aeration device 10. The interlock 200 is provided to prevent the auger 180 from movingly receive foreign materials (such as tree branches, rocks, and the like that may be in the vicinity of the portion of the lawn being aerated by the aeration device 10. This foreign material could both damage the working surfaces of the auger 180 and/or create a projectile hazard to people and objects in the vicinity of the open end of the shovel 140. The interlock 200 is also provided to minimize the chance of personal injury due to the user or a bystander being injured by inadvertently contacting the rotating auger 180.

As discussed above, many snow throwers 100 include separate controls for each of the engine (or motor) 112, the self propulsion system 114, and the auger 116 (or other type of snow removal system) on the handle 110. In many embodiments, the handle 110 may include a separate and dedicated lever or button for each separate system. The interlock 200 may be a mechanical stop 202 that is removeably attachable to the handle 110 that mechanically prevents the auger handle 210 from being moved to the “operate” position to cause the auger 180 to rotate. As in FIG. 6, the mechanical stop 202 may be formed by a clamp that is mountable to the handle 110 and includes an arm 204 that may be aligned in the path of the auger handle 116 to prevent movement thereof toward the operate end 116b of the slot 116a that movably receives the auger control 116.

In other embodiments, the interlock 200 may be constructed and operated based on another type of control provided to operate the auger 180 to mechanically or electrically prevent operation of the auger 180 itself, or to mechanically or electrically prevent the control structure for the auger 180 to operate. For example, where the auger 180 is operated with a button disposed on the handle 110 or otherwise, a cover may be removeably mounted to the handle 110 which prevents the user from accessing and pressing the button. In still other embodiments, the interlock 200 may be removeably disposed within the transmission 184 to prevent the auger 180 from receiving torque from the engine. The interlock 200 may also be an electrical system that prevents power distribution to the auger 180 when engaged.

The foregoing disclosure is the best mode devised by the inventors for practicing this disclosure. It is apparent, however, that apparatus incorporating modifications and variations will be obvious to one skilled in the art. Inasmuch as the foregoing disclosure is intended to enable one skilled in the pertinent art to practice the instant disclosure, it should not be construed to be limited thereby but should be construed to include aforementioned obvious variations and be limited only by the spirit and scope of the following claims.

It is therefore intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting, and that it be understood that it is the following claims, including all equivalents, that are intended to define the spirit and scope of this disclosure.





 
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