Title:
Actuator for paper towel dispenser and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An actuator for a dispenser for paper towels having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The actuator includes a connector coupled to the element. The actuator includes a hands free manually operated powerless activation assembly connected to the connector which when activated by a user, moves a connector causing the element to move and dispense a paper towel. A method for dispensing paper towels from a dispenser having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The method includes the steps of placing a foot of a user on a pedal assembly. There is the step of depressing the pedal assembly with the foot of the user causing a connector coupled to the element to be moved and dispense a paper towel.



Inventors:
Sahud, Andrew Graham (Pittsburgh, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/977590
Publication Date:
04/30/2009
Filing Date:
10/25/2007
Assignee:
Allegheny-Singer Research Institute
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
242/550
International Classes:
B65H16/10; B65H16/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
CAMPOS, JR, JUAN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TROUTMAN PEPPER HAMILTON SANDERS LLP (PITTSBURGH, PA, US)
Claims:
1. An actuator for a dispenser for paper towels having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved comprising: a connector coupled to the element; and a hands free manually operated powerless activation assembly connected to the connector which when activated by a user, moves a connector causing the element to move and dispense a paper towel.

2. An actuator as described in claim 1 wherein the activation assembly includes a pedal assembly configured to be depressed by a foot of the user to pull on the connector and activate the activation assembly.

3. An actuator as described in claim 2 including an adapter which couples the connector to the element.

4. An actuator as described in claim 3 wherein the pedal assembly is remote from the adapter.

5. An actuator as described in claim 4 wherein the element is a lever and the connector causes the lever to depress when the connector is pulled down.

6. An actuator as described in claim 5 wherein the adapter includes a brace which is a fixed to the lever and secures the connector to the lever.

7. An actuator as described in claim 6 wherein the connector includes a cable extending from the pedal assembly and a piston attached to the cable and coupled to the lever by the brace.

8. An actuator as described in claim 7 wherein the piston defaults to a superior position when the pedal assembly is released.

9. An actuator as described in claim 4 wherein the element is a crank arm which, when turned, causes a paper towel to be dispensed, and the connector causes the arm to turn when the connector is pulled down.

10. An actuator as described in claim 9 wherein the adapter includes a wheel unit having a space on the unit's inner side in which the arm is disposed for the wheel unit to engage with the arm and a hub with gears extends from its outer side.

11. An actuator as described in claim 10 wherein the adapter includes a ball bearing unit which engages with the hub.

12. An actuator as described in claim 11 wherein the adapter includes a housing having a ball bearing unit which mounts to the dispenser and secures the wheel unit in place.

13. An actuator as described in claim 12 wherein the connector includes a cable extending from the pedal assembly and a gear slide attached to the cable and disposed in the adapter and coupled to the arm by the adapter, the gear slide engages with the gears of the hub.

14. An actuator as described in claim 13 wherein the housing has a track in which the gear slide is disposed and moves along, as the gear slide moves down when the pedal assembly is depressed, the gear slide causes the gears of the hub to turn which results in movement of the arm and a paper towel to be dispensed.

15. An actuator as described in claim 14 wherein the housing includes a spring engaged with the gear slide which pulls the gear slide back up to a superior position after the pedal assembly is released and maintains the gear slide in the superior position.

16. An actuator as described in claim 15 wherein the wheel unit includes a free wheel mechanism that allows movement of the wheel unit in only one direction when the gear slide is pulled down but which causes the wheel unit to coast idle when the gear slide moves back up into the superior position.

17. A method for dispensing paper towels from a dispenser having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved comprising the steps of: placing a foot of a user on a pedal assembly; and depressing the pedal assembly with the foot of the user causing a connector coupled to the element to be moved and dispense a paper towel.

18. A method as described in claim 17 wherein the element is a lever and the depressing step includes the step of moving the lever down which causes the paper towel to be dispensed.

19. A method as described in claim 18 wherein the depressing step includes the step of pulling down on the connector which is coupled to the lever with an adapter.

20. A method as described in claim 19 wherein the adapter includes a brace which is affixed to the lever and secures the connector to the lever and the pulling down step includes the step of pulling down the connector which is coupled to the lever with the brace.

21. A method as described in claim 17 wherein the element is a crank arm which, when turned, causes a paper towel to be dispensed, and the moving step includes the step of moving the arm which causes the paper towel to be dispensed.

22. A method as described in claim 21 wherein the moving step includes the step of moving with the connector a wheel unit having a space on the unit's inner side in which the arm is disposed for the wheel unit to engage with the arm and a hub with gears extends from its outer side of an adapter that couples with the connector.

23. A method as described in claim 22 wherein the moving step includes the step of moving the hub within a ball bearing unit of a housing that mounts to the dispenser and secures the wheel unit in place and engages with the hub.

24. A method as described in claim 23 wherein the moving with the connector step includes the step of moving with a cable of the connector extending from the pedal assembly and a gear slide of the connector attached to the cable and engaged with the gears of the hub, the gears of the hub engage with the gear slide.

25. A method as described in claim 24 wherein the moving step includes the step of moving the gear slide down along a track of the housing unit in which the gear slide is disposed when the pedal assembly is depressed, the gear slide causes the gears of the hub to turn which results in movement of the arm and a paper towel to be dispensed.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is related to a hands free paper towel dispenser. More specifically, the present invention is related to a hands free paper towel dispenser using a foot pedal assembly.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Paper towels are utilized in public restrooms, hospital patient rooms, doctor offices, restaurants and schools. In an attempt to encourage hand hygiene within these contexts and to do so with optimal hygienic technique, technologies have become available which attempt to create a hands free environment. As such, many sinks in the above settings are triggered by infrared devices or automatically stop function after a designated time period (obviating the need to turn off the faucet with one's hands).

Paper towel dispensers have a limited repertoire of design. The standard model incorporates prefolded papers to approximately 4 inch×12 inch stacks which are interconnected so that pulling down on the paper leaf then causes the next paper to advance and become available for using. These dispensers do allow for a touchless component but often fail to function, requiring manual manipulation to recover paper towels for drying purposes. Other dispensers include large rolled paper towels which are threaded through a feeder and advanced via either a spring engaged lever (usually situated on the anterior aspect of the paper towel dispenser) which causes the paper roll to turn thereby extending the available product for use. Alternatively, paper towel dispensers utilizing a large roll design are advanced and turned by means of a small metal crank usually positioned on the side of the paper towel dispenser. Turning this crank allows the paper towel roll to turn and results in more paper product being fed out for use.

A more recent development is the infrared operated paper towel dispenser which incorporates a touchless technology. This device is battery operated and senses the presence of one's hands below the towel dispenser causing the paper to advance. Ultimately, this last example solves the problem of requiring touching of the device and yet these dispensers require a separate power supply with routine battery changes, do not function reliably, and are prohibitively expensive.

There is a place for incorporating a paper towel dispenser which accomplishes the following goals:

    • 1. reliably dispenses paper towel in sufficient quantity for the user;
    • 2. allows for a sufficient supply of paper towel to be available for use avoiding frequent replacement;
    • 3. accomplishes tasks 1 and 2 without the need for hands to cause the paper towel to advance; and
    • 4. avoids unnecessary costs and routine maintenance involved in routine battery replacement.

Such a concept can be actualized using a paper dispenser that uses a foot activating mechanism to advance the paper.

Foot activating devices have been used routinely for controlling the flow of water in sinks used by surgeons for the purpose of hand washing prior to surgery. These pedal operated devices have been long valued as a means of optimizing hand antisepsis. A parallel concept called “Paper-Ped” would utilize a pedal operated mechanism engaged with the paper towel dispenser to allow for towel supplies to be advanced easily and without the need to touch a probable contaminated device. Paper towel dispensers could be manufactured with this type of feature but, alternatively, a “Paper-Ped” device could be retrofitted to attach to an existing paper towel dispenser.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention pertains to an actuator for a dispenser for paper towels having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The actuator comprises a connector coupled to the element. The actuator comprises a hands free manually operated powerless activation assembly connected to the connector which when activated by a user, moves a connector causing the element to move and dispense a paper towel.

The present invention pertains to a method for dispensing paper towels from a dispenser having a manually operated element which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The method comprises the steps of placing a foot of a user on a pedal assembly. There is the step of depressing the pedal assembly with the foot of the user causing a connector coupled to the element to be moved and dispense a paper towel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

In the accompanying drawings, the preferred embodiment of the invention and preferred methods of practicing the invention are illustrated in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an actuator of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the activation assembly of the present invention.

FIG. 3 shows the wheel unit of the present invention.

FIG. 4 shows the wheel unit of the present invention.

FIG. 5 shows a perspective front view of side A of the wheel unit.

FIG. 6 shows the gear slide in the track of the housing.

FIG. 7 shows the face cover on the housing.

FIG. 8 is an assembly view of the housing.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an actuator of the present invention with respect to a lever.

FIG. 10 shows the activation assembly with respect to a lever.

FIG. 11 is an overhead view of the lever with a hole for a piston.

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the connector engaged with the lever.

FIG. 13 shows the pedal assembly in the open position.

FIG. 14 shows the pedal assembly in the depressed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to similar or identical parts throughout the several views, and more specifically to FIGS. 1, 2, 9 and 10 thereof, there is shown an actuator 10 for a dispenser 12 for paper towels having a manually operated element 14 which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The actuator 10 comprises a connector 16 coupled to the element 14. The actuator 10 comprises a hands free manually operated powerless activation assembly 18 connected to the connector 16 which, when activated by a user, moves a connector 16 causing the element 14 to move and dispense a paper towel.

Preferably, the activation assembly 18 includes a pedal assembly 20 configured to be depressed by a foot of the user to pull on the connector 16 and activate the activation assembly 18. The actuator 10 preferably includes an adapter 22 which couples the connector 16 to the element 14. Preferably, the pedal assembly 20 is remote from the adapter 22.

The element 14 can be a lever 24 and the connector 16 causes the lever 24 to depress when the connector 16 is pulled down, as shown in FIGS. 9-12. Preferably, the adapter 22 includes a brace 26 which is affixed to the lever 24 and secures the connector 16 to the lever 24. The connector 16 preferably includes a cable 28 extending from the pedal assembly 20 and a piston 30 attached to the cable 28 and coupled to the lever 24 by the brace 26. Preferably, the piston 30 defaults to a superior position 32 when the pedal assembly 20 is released.

The element 14 can be a crank arm 36 which, when turned, causes a paper towel to be dispensed, and the connector 16 causes the arm 36 to turn when the connector 16 is pulled down, as shown in FIGS. 1-8.

Preferably, the adapter 22 includes a wheel unit 38 having a space 40 on the unit's inner side 42 in which the arm 36 is disposed for the wheel unit 38 to engage with the arm 36 and a hub 44 with gears 46 extends from its outer side 48. The adapter 22 preferably includes a ball bearing unit 50 which engages with the hub 44. Preferably, the adapter 22 includes a housing 52 having a ball bearing unit 50 which mounts to the dispenser 12 and secures the wheel unit 38 in place.

The connector 16 preferably includes a cable 28 extending from the pedal assembly 20 and a gear slide 54 attached to the cable 28 and disposed in the adapter 22 and coupled to the arm 36 by the adapter 22, the gear slide 54 engages with the gears 46 of the hub 44. Preferably, the housing 52 has a track 56 in which the gear slide 54 is disposed and moves along, as the gear slide 54 moves down when the pedal assembly 20 is depressed, the gear slide 54 causes the gears 46 of the hub 44 to turn which results in movement of the arm 36 and a paper towel to be dispensed.

The housing 52 preferably includes a spring 60 engaged with the gear slide 54 which pulls the gear slide 54 back up to a superior position 32 after the pedal assembly 20 is released and maintains the gear slide 54 in the superior position 32. Preferably, the wheel unit 38 includes a free wheel mechanism 58 that allows movement of the wheel unit 38 in only one direction when the gear slide 54 is pulled down but which causes the wheel unit 38 to coast idle when the gear slide 54 moves back up into the superior position 32.

The present invention pertains to a method for dispensing paper towels from a dispenser 12 having a manually operated element 14 which dispenses a paper towel when moved. The method comprises the steps of placing a foot of a user on a pedal assembly 20. There is the step of depressing the pedal assembly 20 with the foot of the user causing a connector 16 coupled to the element 14 to be moved and dispense a paper towel.

Preferably, the element 14 is a lever 24 and the depressing step includes the step of moving the lever 24 down which causes the paper towel to be dispensed, as shown in FIGS. 9-12. The depressing step preferably includes the step of pulling down on the connector 16 which is coupled to the lever 24 with an adapter 22. Preferably, the adapter 22 includes a brace 26 which is affixed to the lever 24 and secures the connector 16 to the lever 24 and the pulling down step includes the step of pulling down the connector 16 which is coupled to the lever 24 with the brace 26.

The connector 16 preferably includes a cable 28 extending from the pedal assembly 20 and a piston 30 attached to the cable 28 and coupled to the lever 24 by the brace 26. Preferably, there is the step of defaulting the piston 30 to a superior position 32 when the pedal assembly 20 is released guided by a spring 60 of the adapter 22.

Alternatively, the element 14 is a crank arm 36 which, when turned, causes a paper towel to be dispensed, and the moving step includes the step of moving the arm 36 which causes the paper towel to be dispensed, as shown in FIGS. 1-9. Preferably, the moving step includes the step of moving with the connector 16 a wheel unit 38 having a space 40 on the unit's inner side 42 in which the arm 36 is disposed for the wheel unit 38 to engage with the arm 36 and a hub 44 with gears 46 extends from its outer side 48 of an adapter 22 that couples with the connector 16.

The moving step preferably includes the step of moving the hub 44 within a ball bearing unit 50 of a housing 52 that mounts to the dispenser 12 and secures the wheel unit 38 in place and engages with the hub 44. Preferably, the moving with the connector 16 step includes the step of moving with a cable 28 of the connector 16 extending from the pedal assembly 20 and a gear slide 54 of the connector 16 attached to the cable 28 and engaged with the gears 46 of the hub 44, the gears 46 of the hub 44 engage with the gear slide 54. The moving step preferably includes the step of moving the gear slide 54 down along a track 56 of the housing 52 unit in which the gear slide 54 is disposed when the pedal assembly 20 is depressed, the gear slide 54 causes the gears 46 of the hub 44 to turn which results in movement of the arm 36 and a paper towel to be dispensed.

Preferably, there is the step of pulling the gear slide 54 back up to a superior position 32 with a spring 60 of the housing 52 unit engaged with the gear slide 54 after the pedal assembly 20 is released. The pulling the gear slide 54 back step preferably includes the step of coasting idle the wheel unit 38 with a free wheel mechanism 58 of the wheel unit 38 that allows movement of the wheel unit 38 in only one direction when the gear slide 54 is pulled down but which causes the wheel unit 38 to coast idle when the gear slide 54 moves back up into the superior position 32.

In the operation of the invention, for existing paper towel dispensers that function with a anteriorly placed lever 24, a brace 26 affixes to the lever 24, thereby securing the cable 28 to the lever 24. This cable 28 then connects to a pedal mechanism which could be secured to the wall and down to the floor attached to a spring loaded pedal assembly 20.

For paper dispensers designed with a metal arm 36 on the side of the dispenser 12, a retrofitted housing 52 is placed over the metal arm 36, as shown in FIGS. 1-8. This circular housing 52 has several components. The housing 52, attached to the side wall of the paper dispenser 12 unit is secured onto the wall of the paper towel dispenser 12. A circular wheel unit 38 that fits within the housing 52 is placed within the housing 52. The circular wheel unit 38 has a cylindrical space 40 perpendicular to the wheel unit 38 and capable of accommodating the side metal arm 36. The circular wheel unit 38 contains an axle attached to a cover housing 52 with mechanical components between the two as outlined below.

The cover housing 52 has an opening between the inner wheel unit to incorporate a hub 44 with gears 46 which is unidirectional and engaged directly with the circular wheel unit on one side and a gear slide 54 situated on the lateral aspect. This gear slide 54 is attached to the end of the cable 28 and is secured with braces 26 and is spring 60 loaded to maintain a default position. The cable 28 when pulled, via pushing on the pedal assembly 20 causes the gear slide 54 to move, thereby turning the hub 44 which in turn moves the metal arm 36. The result is that paper is advanced and made available for use.

The pedal assembly 20, as shown in FIGS. 13 and 14, incorporates a frame 80 with a cylindrical pedal spring 70 to hold the pedal 76 in a default position. The end of the cable 28 is aligned via metal brackets on the upper panel 68 of the pedal frame 80. When pressing down on the pedal 76, the cable 28 moves downward approximately 10 cm. This action causes the cable 28 to pull on the gear slide 54 which engages the gears 46 of the hub 44 of the circular wheel unit 38 causing the metal arm 36 to turn and result in the dispensing of paper for use.

Two basic adaptation models for use with the actuator 10 are described.

The first is referred to as Pedal Adaptor Unit A. The second is referred to as Pedal Adaptor Unit B. Both units are to be made of components of durable plastics and/or metal substances.

Pedal Adaptor Unit A

Referring to FIGS. 1-8, this embodiment comprises three major components. The primary wheel unit 38, the wheel housing 52 unit, and the slide face cover 62.

The primary wheel unit 38 is a cylindrical shape approximately 5 cm in diameter and 1 cm in depth. The primary wheel unit 38 has two sides, as shown in FIG. 8. Side A (inner) has a space 40 in a shape which allows for the accommodation of the metal arm 36 extending from many models of paper towel dispensing units. On Side B (outer) a wheel hub 44 with gears 46 extends approximately 3 cm perpendicularly from the center of the main primary wheel unit 38 approximately 1 cm in diameter.

The housing 52 serves as a cover to the wheel unit 38. Its shape is that of a flat circular surface with a perpendicular rim. The rim has three extending perpendicular leaves 82 with holes enabling attachment of the housing 52 to be affixed to the paper towel dispenser 12 once the housing 52 has been placed over the wheel unit 38. The depth of the housing 52 is approximately 4½ cm. The diameter is approximately 5½ cm (to allow for the wheel unit 38 to be inserted). The housing 52 has a cylindrical opening at the center with a housing gear insert 51 in the center placed in a ball bearing unit 50. This housing gear insert accommodates and fits with the gear 46 extending hub 44 from the wheel unit 38. With the wheel unit 38 in place with the extending hub 44 passing through the center of the housing 52, the gear structures become engaged. The extending hub 44 passes through the housing 52 and is exposed on the outer side 48. The housing 52 has a slot extending along the diameter of the outer side 48 which holds the gear slide 54 inside (medial) pins 64. The gear slide 54 has a gear feature which engages the extending hub 44. The gear slide 54 is maintained in default position (superiorly) via a spring 60. The inferior position 34 of the gear slide 54 is attached to a bicycle brake cable 28.

The slide face cover 62 is in the shape of a three dimensional rectangle which is hollowed. The edge of the slide face cover 62 has six small leave extensions to allow it to be secured to the outer face of the housing 52. Additionally, the inner face of the slide face cover 62 has a slot feature embedded into the structure. This slot captures and holds the gear slide 54 outside pins 64 and keeps it secure.

The cable 28 (bike brake cable) extending from the gear slide 54 is secured onto the outer face of the housing 52 with two braces 26. The cable 28 extends to the floor (several feet) and attaches to the pedal assembly 20.

The pedal assembly 20 has a frame 80 which secures the bike cable 28, as shown in FIGS. 13 and 14. The pedal assembly 20 is approximately 15 cm wide on the upper panel 68, 5 cm high at the vertical panel 72, and 15 cm wide at the lower panel 66. The pedal 76 itself is attached to the cable 28. The pedal 76 is approximately 15 cm wide and, when in place on the pedal assembly 20, the jaws (upper and lower panels) of the pedal assembly 20 open approximately 10 cm wide. The pedal 76 is held into place with the frame 80 with a cylindrical pedal spring 70. This pedal spring 70 keeps the pedal 76 in the default open position, as shown in FIG. 13. When one depresses the pedal 76 with his/her foot, the bike cable 28 is extended causing the gear slide 54 to move downwards. This action causes the engaged extending hub 44 of the wheel unit 38 to turn. Once the wheel unit 38 turns the metal arm 36 on the paper dispenser 12 turns. This causes the paper towel to be dispensed.

Pedal Adaptor Unit B

Pedal adaptor unit B serves as a mechanism of attachment to paper towel dispensers 12 which utilize a lever 24 feature (typically on the anterior face of the paper towel device). The bike cable 28 is placed into a vertical hole 82 extending through the lever 24 on the paper towel dispenser 12, as shown in FIGS. 9-12. The cable 28 is secured via brace 26 (approximately three) which have a center cylindrical opening to secure the bike cable 28. The bike cable 28 then extends to the floor (several feet) to engage the pedal assembly 20 in the same fashion as the pedal adaptor unit A.

Although the invention has been described in detail in the foregoing embodiments for the purpose of illustration, it is to be understood that such detail is solely for that purpose and that variations can be made therein by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention except as it may be described by the following claims.