Title:
DISPENSING WIPES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to the dispensing of wipes (10), in which the wipe dispenser applies information to the wipe at the time of dispensing. The information can also be stored, so as to allow wipes to be controlled. When a wipe is disposed of, the information can be read from it, and by comparing this with the stored information it is possible to ascertain if any dispensed wipes have not yet been disposed of. If the information identifies the time of dispensation (14a, 14b), the operator (12) and/or the number or length of wipes dispersed (16), then the location of missing wipes is facilitated.



Inventors:
Entwistle, Ian Roger (Lancashire, GB)
Application Number:
12/443601
Publication Date:
02/11/2010
Filing Date:
09/25/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
221/30, 221/45
International Classes:
B65D83/08; G06Q50/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WAGGONER, TIMOTHY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz LLP (New York, NY, US)
Claims:
1. 1-9. (canceled)

10. A method of dispensing a wipe from a dispensing apparatus comprising marking the wipe, with information by means of the apparatus, and dispensing the wipe from the apparatus, wherein the apparatus is in an aerospace environment, the wipe is dispensed in response to a request from an operator the request includes inputting to the apparatus information identifying the operator, and the information is marked on the wipe after the request has been made and is determined by the request.

11. A method according to claim 1 in which the step of marking the wipe with information comprises marking on the wipe any combination of the following: i. information identifying the operator ii. information identifying the amount of wipe dispensed; and/or iii. information identifying the time and/or date when the wipe was dispensed

12. A method according to claim 2, wherein the information identifying the operator comprises a user code, the method comprising the further step of comparing the user code to a database and determining thereform information further identifying the user.

13. An apparatus for dispensing a wipe from a stock of wipe material comprising means for marking the wipe with information, and a wipe dispenser, wherein the apparatus is configured for use in an aerospace environment, and comprises means for receiving a request for a wipe and for inputting an identification of an operator making the request, the marking means being configured such that the information is marked on the wipe after the request has been made and is determined by the request.

14. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the means for receiving a request comprises a keypad.

15. An apparatus for dispensing a wipe according to claim 4, wherein the means for marking the wipe comprises any combination of the following: a printer for applying ink to the wipe; a device for perforating the wipe; and/or a device for indenting or embossing the wipe, each being adapted to mark the wipe with information.

16. A method for dispensing and collecting a wipe wherein upon dispensation according to the methods set out in claim 1 information marked on the wipe is recorded on a register, the method further comprising: collecting the wipe for disposal; reading the information marked on the collected wipe; recording the read information on a second register; and comparing the contents of the registers and outputting any discrepancy therebetween.

17. A method according to claim 7 comprising effecting the comparison in a computer memory in which the registers are incorporated.

Description:

This invention relates to a method and apparatus for dispensing a wipe. It also relates to a system for the dispensing and collection of wipes.

Certain items, such as aircraft and aerospace components, are very sensitive to damage from foreign objects. To address this, such items are manufactured and maintained in environments which have stringent cleanliness regimes. This is done to monitor and control foreign objects and in so doing, minimise foreign object damage (FOD).

One kind of foreign object, the control of which represents an ongoing problem which cleanliness regimes should address, is wipes. Known wipe dispensers allow a user to tear a section of wipe off a continuous length of wipe material or alternatively to take any number of individual wipes. Wipes as dispensed by wipe dispensers are used throughout industry to clean surfaces but there are numerous incidents where wipes are discarded in sensitive locations, never recovered, and then proceed to cause considerable damage.

This problem is observed in respect of aircraft fuel tanks, for example. When a wipe is not recovered from the tank and the tank is subsequently filled and the engine activated, the wipe can block the flow of fuel to the engine and so impair the operation of the engine, or if it does not cause a blockage the wipe can progress with the fuel flow to the engine where it can cause considerable damage to, for example, the turbine blades.

Accordingly, in one aspect the invention provides a method of dispensing a wipe comprising the steps of making a request for a wipe, marking the wipe with information and dispensing the wipe.

An advantage of this is that by marking the wipe after the request has been received, the marking can be individually tailored to the operator making the request, this can make each wipe unique and traceable. This provides a medium for the communication of messages or instructions. For example, the markings may instruct or remind the operator as to the best way to dispose of the wipe.

Preferably the step of marking the wipe with information comprises marking on the wipe any combination of the following: information identifying the operator; information identifying the amount of wipe dispensed; and information identifying the time and/or date when the wipe was dispensed.

This has the advantage that the application of information identifying an operator will motivate the operator to use wipes with the required degree of care since it allows a supervisor to reprove an operator who leaves their wipe in a sensitive location. The application of information identifying the length of wipe dispensed allows for a search to be concluded (without fear of having missed a section of the discarded wipe) once the discarded length is accounted for. The application of the time and date allows a supervisor to distinguish between wipes which may have been temporarily set aside, and those which are likely to have been forgotten. The operator may of course be his own supervisor and this invention allows an operator to supervise himself more effectively.

Preferably the making of a request for a wipe comprises inputting information identifying the operator. This has the advantage of speeding up the request process and helps to ensure that wipes cannot be dispensed without markings identifying the operator.

Other dispensation information can also be received identifying the time of the dispensation and the length of wipe (or number of individual wipes dispensed).

Preferably the information identifying the operator comprises a user code wherein the method comprises the further step of comparing the user code to a database and determining information further identifying the user. This has the advantage of accelerating the dispensation process since it saves an operator from typing in their full details every time a wipe is requested. If the code is secret, this also makes it harder for an operator to obtain wipes in the name of another operator.

According to another aspect of the invention there is provided an apparatus for dispensing a wipe comprising means for receiving a request for a wipe, means for marking the wipe with information, and means for dispensing the wipe.

This aspect of the invention has similar advantages to the corresponding method, namely that the dispensed wipe can carry information which enables the use of the wipe to be monitored.

A number of devices would be suitable as a means for marking. Printers using suitable ink could be used (suitable meaning that the ink is held fast to the wipe and does not dissolve in the liquids for wiping), as could devices which create perforations or indentations in the wipe. Devices which singe the wipe may even be suitable.

The applied information may, but need not, be recognisable to a human. It is within the scope of the invention to have, for example, a bar code which is recognisable by a scanner.

The means for dispensing the wipe may be any number of devices. For example it may be in the form of a spool held within a casing, where to effect dispensation the spool is rotated so that a section of wipe material hangs outside of the casing and can be torn off.

Preferably the means for receiving a request comprises a keypad for inputting a user code.

This has the advantage that a simple and therefore cheap user interface is achieved. It also supports a quick operation.

Alternatively the means for receiving a request could comprise a biometric scanner capable of recognising an operator's fingerprint. An associated computer could compare the user code (or fingerprint) to a database to determine further identifying details such as operator name.

Preferably, the means for marking the wipe comprises any combination of the following: a printer for applying ink to the wipe; a device for perforating the wipe; and a device for indenting the wipe, so as to mark the wipe with information.

This has the advantage providing a readily available component for effecting the information marking. This therefore simplifies the manufacture of the overall device and so reduces cost.

In a further aspect, the invention provides a system for dispensing and collecting a wipe wherein upon dispensation according to any of the methods set out above, wherein information marked on the wipe is recorded on a register and wherein there is provided: means for collecting the wipe for disposal; means for recording the information marked on the collected wipe; means for recording information marked on the wipe on another register; and a means for comparing the contents of the registers and outputting any discrepancy there between.

This has the advantage of providing a way of monitoring and accounting for wipe use. By monitoring the dispensed and collected wipes, any wipe which is not dispensed and collected within a reasonable time frame (or is in any other way outstanding), can be flagged as suspicious and its whereabouts confirmed (via the operator to whom it was dispensed) so as to check it is not likely to cause FOD.

The registration may be affected in a computer memory. This has the advantage that this makes the process quicker and, if user codes or other identifying data are to be compared to a database, the computer can perform such operations as well. This makes efficient use of the components and so reduces cost and weight.

Preferably, the wipe is scanned upon collection so as to recognise it by its markings. This has the advantage that the information marked on the wipe can be quickly read into the register.

In order that the present invention may be well understood, an embodiment thereof, which is given by way of example only, will now be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which

FIG. 1 shows a wipe marked with information.

FIG. 2 shows a diagram of a wipe dispenser from one angle.

FIG. 3 shows a diagram of a wipe dispenser from another angle.

Wipe 10 depicted in FIG. 1 has been marked with information which defines the circumstances under which it has been dispensed. More specifically it is marked with the name of the operator 12, the time 14a and date, 14b of the dispensation and the length of wipe dispensed 16. In addition to this, it has also been repeatedly marked with instruction 18 which reminds the reader “FOD HAZARD DISPOSE OF AFTER USE FOD”.

Wipes such as wipe 10 are dispensed from dispenser 20 as can be seen in FIG. 2 and FIG. 3. Dispenser 20 has a numeric keypad 22, a lockable removable cover 24, a dispensing point 28, an illuminated display 26 and a bracket 30 for mounting the dispenser 20 to a wall.

In operation an operator inputs a personal user code to the dispenser 20 via keypad 22. The user then inputs the length of wipe required, again via keypad 22. The length of wipe which may be requested is limited in that it must be a multiple of a suitable length (e.g. 100 cm). Alternatively, the dispenser may dispense individual wipes of sent length.

Once the operator has input their user code and desired wipe length, the wipe dispenser may combine this with information on the time and date (obtained from an internal clock (not shown)). The wipe is then printed with the name of the operator, the length and the time/date.

Once the wipe has been printed, it can be transferred from the printer region (not shown) inside the wipe dispenser 20 and ejected from wipe dispenser 20 through dispensing point/cutter 28.

The dispenser 20 is mounted onto a wall with bracket 30.

Once ejected, the operator is free to detach the wipe from the dispenser 20 and use it as desired.

When the operator has finished using the wipe, the information reminds him/her to dispose of the wipe in the correct receptacle.

The wipe dispenser may be made from readily available components.

It is envisaged that the wipes could also be standard wipes, though it is accepted that other wipes may also be used, provided they are suitable to be printed on.

The wipe dispenser 20 could be employed with an associated disposal receptacle, or bin (not shown), to provide an integrated wipe dispensing and collecting system. Every time a wipe is dispersed, information about the dispensation is recorded in a memory store, or register, and every time a wipe is disposed of the information on the wipe is read or scanned; this latter information can be compared with that stored in the register to enable a “running total” of the number of wipes in circulation to be made. At any time it is possible to ascertain if any wipes remain to be disposed of. The nature of the information stored can facilitate the location of any missing or un disposed of wipes.

Whilst the present invention has been described in the field of limiting FOD in aerospace, it is envisaged that other fields could make use of the technology. For example, the present invention could be employed in operating theatres so as to ensure that medical swabs are properly allocated for.