Title:
Washing Machine Cleaning System and Washing Machine
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention refers to a system capable of providing the cleaning of an outer surface (4) of a wash tub (2) of a clothes washing machine (1) automatically. The wash tub (2), disposed inside an outer tub (3), has an outer surface (4) having through holes (5) that permit the passage of the liquid used in the wash to the outer tub (3). The cleaning system comprises at least a cleaning conduit (6) having at least a portion disposed between the wash tub (2) and the outer tub (3). The cleaning conduit (6) is capable of conducting a flow of fluid provided by a fluid supply means. The cleaning conduit (6) has at least a cleaning opening (7) facing the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2). The cleaning opening (7) is capable of providing the application of a fluidic force to the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2) by diverting at least a portion of the flow of fluid towards the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2). The present invention also refers to a washing machine (1) that comprises the cleaning system referred to above.



Inventors:
Caetano, Julio Cesar (Sao Paulo, BR)
Cardoso, Luiz Angelo (Rio Claro, BR)
De Oliveira, Denilson Fernandes (Rio Claro SP, BR)
Application Number:
12/467071
Publication Date:
04/15/2010
Filing Date:
05/15/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
D06F35/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PERRIN, JOSEPH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BakerHostetler (Philadelphia, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. Washing machine cleaning system, the washing machine (1) having a wash tub (2) disposed inside an outer tub (3), the wash tub (2) having an outer surface (4) having through holes (5) that allow the passage of liquid used in the wash to the outer tub (3), the cleaning system being characterized by comprising at least a cleaning conduit (6) having at least a portion disposed between the wash tub (2) and the outer tub (3), the cleaning conduit (6) being capable of conducting a flow of fluid provided by a fluid supply means, the cleaning conduit (6) having at least a cleaning opening (7) facing the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2), the cleaning opening (7) being capable of providing the application of a fluidic force to the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2) by diverting at least a portion of the flow of fluid towards the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2).

2. Cleaning system according to claim 1, characterized in that the wash tub (2) comprises a first end (22) and a second end (23) disposed parallel and opposite to each other, the cleaning conduit (6) substantially extending from the first end (22) to the second end (23).

3. Cleaning system according to claim 1, characterized in that the cleaning conduit (6) comprises a plurality of cleaning openings (7).

4. Cleaning system according to claim 1, characterized by comprising an adaptor device (8) associated to the cleaning conduit (6) by means of a connection hose (11), the adaptor device (8) being arranged to conduct the flow of fluid coming from the fluid supply means to the cleaning conduit (6).

5. Cleaning system according to claim 4, characterized in that the adaptor device (8) is associated to an ingredients dispenser (13) having at least an entry opening (14) capable of allowing the entry of the flow of fluid to be mixed with at least an ingredient contained in the ingredients dispenser (13).

6. Cleaning system according to claim 4, characterized in that the adaptor device (8) is associated to the fluid supply means by means of a set of nozzles (12), the set of nozzles (12) being connected to a set of flow valves (9) capable of permitting or preventing the passage of the flow of fluid to the adaptor device (8).

7. Cleaning system according to claim 6, characterized in that the set of nozzles (12) comprises at least: an entry nozzle (15) connected to the supply means; a first exit nozzle (16) connected to a first flow valve (17) comprised by the set of flow valves (9), the first exit nozzle (16) being capable of permitting a directing of the flow of fluid coming from the entry nozzle (15) to the cleaning conduit (6); and a second exit nozzle (18) connected to a second flow valve (19) comprised by the set of flow valves (9), the second exit nozzle (18) being capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the entry nozzle (15) to the ingredients dispenser (13).

8. Cleaning system according to claim 7, characterized in that the adaptor device (8) has at least: a first directing hole (20) associated to a first exit nozzle (16), the first directing hole (20) being capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the first exit nozzle (16) to the connection hose (11); and a second directing hole (21) associated to a second exit nozzle (18) and to an entry opening (14) of the ingredients dispenser (13), the second directing hole (21) being capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the second exit nozzle (18) to the ingredients dispenser (13).

9. Cleaning system according to claim 7, characterized in that the first flow valve (17) and the second flow valve (19) are driven independently from each other by a control means.

10. Cleaning system according to claim 9, characterized in that the control means drives the first flow valve (17) and the second flow valve (19) alternately.

11. Cleaning system according to claim 9, characterized in that the control means drives the first flow valve (17) and the second flow valve (19) simultaneously.

12. Cleaning system according to claim 1, characterized in that the wash tub (2) is arranged to execute an angular rotational movement when a fluidic force is applied to the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (6).

13. Cleaning system according to claim 9, characterized by being driven automatically by the control means during or between the operating cycles of the washing machine (1).

14. Washing machine (1) having a wash tub (2) disposed inside an outer tub (3), the wash tub (2) having an outer surface (4) having through holes (5) that allow the passage of the liquid used in the wash to the outer tub (3), the washing machine (1) being characterized in that the cleaning system comprises at least a cleaning conduit (6) having at least a portion disposed between the wash tub (2) and the outer tub (3), the cleaning conduit (6) being capable of conducting a flow of fluid provided by a fluid supply means, the cleaning conduit (6) having at least a cleaning opening (7) facing the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2), the cleaning opening (7) being capable of providing the application of a fluidic force to the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2) by diverting at least a portion of the flow of fluid towards the outer surface (4) of the wash tub (2).

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to Brazilian Application No. PI0801490-6 filed May 16, 2008, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention refers to a cleaning system for an inner portion of a washing machine. More particularly, the invention refers to a system capable of providing the cleaning of the outer surface of a wash tub of a clothes washing machine and other wash items automatically.

The present invention also refers to a washing machine that comprises the cleaning system referred above.

BACKGROUND

Normally, clothes washing machines require a periodical cleaning of the inner part, chiefly its wash tub, in order to remove the impurities and contaminating particles from clothes and other wash items. These impurities and contaminating particles, such as, for example, fat, oil, salts, fibers, among others, are present in an outer surface of the wash tub and/or on the inner surface of an outer tub, which is positioned outside the wash tub. When periodic cleaning is not performed or is carried out inefficiently, a usually darkish layer of biofilm forms, comprising bacteria and micro-organisms in general, which may compromise the performance and wash productivity, and also cause odors and stain to the clothes and other wash items.

In this sense, low cost washing machines must undergo periodic cleaning, the user applying a kind of blanching agent (for example: bleach), detergent or any other similar chemical product to the outer surface of the wash tub. This cleaning operation is often hard and laborious, because the small space between the wash tub and the outer tub does not allow the user to apply adequate force comfortably and manually reach all the areas of the wash tub. In some cases, it is only possible to carry out an efficient cleaning by removing the wash tub and/or the outer tub, which can only be done by a qualified technician. Additionally, these chemical cleaning products are generally not eliminated entirely due to the difficulty of rinsing, leaving undesirable residues on the outer surface of the wash tub.

In contrast, there are expensive washing machines that are capable of providing an automatic cleaning of the wash tub.

For example, Japanese document JP2005192901A describes a washing machine that comprises a high voltage generator and an electrode in an OH radical generator, capable of generating nano-sized OH radicals in the air by applying high-voltage pressure to water. The washing machine also comprises an air-blowing means associated to the OH generator and an air duct which blows the OH radicals into an outer tub, disposed outside the wash tub. Although the technology disclosed in this document permits the cleaning of the outer tub and the wash tub, the need for a high voltage generator makes the cost of the machine more expensive, besides representing a risk for users.

Japanese document JP2005065923A refers to a washing machine capable of cleaning the outer surface of the wash tub with water discharged from the rotating drum. Said wash tub is capable of performing a high speed rotating movement, discharging water through its holes, such that this discharged water is reflected on an inner wall of the drive tube and returns to the outer surface of the wash tub, providing the cleaning thereof. However, since the cleaning of the wash tub is performed by water used in the wash cycle, there is a decrease in the cleaning efficiency, because the reused water already contains impurities and contaminating particles from the clothes. Furthermore, there is a need to provide a slant to the machine for better internal cleaning of the drum, which may complicate the design and/or the production process.

North American document US2007094811A describes a control program capable of operating the control of the machine. This program is used to control the quantity and the temperature of the water, the tube rotation speed and other important properties relating to washing machine hygienization. Said control releases a small quantity of water at 90° C. inside the machine's tub. The wash tub is then operated at intervals in alternating rotation directions, being kept in continuous movement to remove the auxiliary materials from the machine components. During the entry of the water into the wash tub, the tube is kept in movement so that a larger number of machine components come into contact with the water. Although this North American document discloses an automatic cleaning method, a temperature control is necessary, meaning a suitable device is required, which makes the cost of the product expensive. Additionally, it is compulsory to use chemical cleaning agents, which incurs the problems already commented upon. Furthermore, this document does not specifically mention the cleaning of the outer surface of the wash tub, which involves greater cleaning difficulties in relation to the other parts of the washing machine.

Therefore, no satisfactory and efficient solution is yet known for cleaning the wash tub of a washing machine, that marries good reliability, performance, usability and low cost.

SUMMARY

A first objective of the present invention consists of providing a low cost system that is easy to use and capable of providing an automatic cleaning of the outer surface of the wash tub of a washing machine, so as to avoid the formation of biofilm, removing the impurities and contaminating particles from the clothes and/or wash items, without the compulsory use of a chemical cleaning agent.

A second objective of the present invention consists of providing a washing machine that comprises the system according to the above.

The first objective of the present invention is achieved by a washing machine cleaning system. Said washing machine has a wash tub disposed inside an outer tub. Said wash tub has an outer surface with through holes that allow the passage of the liquid used in the wash to the outer tub. The cleaning system comprises at least a cleaning conduit that has at least a portion disposed between the wash tub and the outer tub. Said cleaning conduit, capable of conducting a flow of fluid provided by a fluid supply means, has at least a cleaning opening facing the outer surface of the wash tub. Said cleaning opening is capable of providing the application of a fluidic force to the outer surface of the wash tub by diverting at least a portion of the flow of fluid towards the outer surface of the wash tub.

The second objective of the present invention is achieved by providing a washing machine having a wash tub disposed inside an outer tub. Said wash tub has an outer surface having through holes that allow the passage of the liquid used in the wash to the outer tub. The washing machine comprises the cleaning system referred above.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will now be described in greater detail, with reference to the appended drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1—depicts a blown up view in perspective of a clothes washing machine cleaning system, which is the object of the present invention;

FIG. 2—depicts a cut view of the system illustrated in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3—depicts an exploded view showing in detail elements and parts that make up the system illustrated in FIG. 1; and

FIG. 4—depicts a perspective view of a cleaning conduit, which is an element of the system illustrated in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

According to a preferred embodiment and as can be seen in FIG. 1, the clothes washing machine cleaning system, which is the object of the present invention, is used in a washing machine 1 having a wash tub 2 disposed inside an outer tub 3. The wash tub 2 has an outer surface 4 having through holes 5 that allow the passage of the liquid used in the wash to the outer tub 3. Said liquid preferably consists of water mixed with washing ingredients such as, for example, soap powder and fabric softener. As can be noted in FIG. 2, the wash tub 2 comprises a first end 22 and a second end 23 disposed parallel and opposite to each other.

The cleaning system comprises at least a cleaning conduit 6 having at least a portion disposed between the wash tub 2 and the outer tub 3. The cleaning conduit 6 is capable of conducting a flow of fluid provided by a fluid supply means (not illustrated in the drawings). Preferably, the flow of fluid consists of water only. Although it is possible to mix a cleaning product with the water, such measure is totally optional, and is not necessary or compulsory in the present invention. The cleaning product can be a blanching agent, detergent or any product, chemical or other, suitable for this application. Also preferably, the water supply means consists of a common faucet, being the same one used to supply water for washing the clothes and other wash items. Alternatively, the fluid supply means can consist of a fluid reservoir capable of providing a fluid, preferably water only, to the cleaning conduit 6.

The cleaning conduit 6 has at least a cleaning opening 7 facing the outer surface 4 of the wash tub 2. This cleaning opening 7, illustrated in FIG. 4, diverts at least a portion of the flow of fluid towards the outer surface 4 of the wash tub 6. Accordingly, the cleaning opening 7 is capable of providing the application of a fluidic force to the outer surface 4 of the wash tub 6.

In other words, the flow of fluid leaves the cleaning opening 7 heading towards the outer surface 4 of the wash tub 2, with a sufficient fluidic force to provide the removal of impurities and contaminating particles present on the outer surface 4, avoiding the formation of biofilm and/or bad odor inside the washing machine 1. Optionally, the fluid supply means may be operatively associated to a fluid pump capable of providing a greater force to the fluid, in order to increase the efficiency of the cleaning.

The cleaning conduit 6 substantially extends from the first end 22 to the second end 23 of the wash tub 2. Preferably, the cleaning conduit 6 comprises a plurality of cleaning openings 7 disposed spacedly along the cleaning conduit 6. Obviously, the quantity of cleaning openings 7 can vary as desired. The cleaning opening 7 is circular hole shape, however, other regular or irregular geometric shapes can be used, provided they are functional and suitable for the application.

In the preferred arrangement illustrated in FIG. 1, in which the cleaning system comprises just one cleaning conduit 6, the wash tub 2 should be in angular rotational movement so that the entire outer surface 4 can be cleaned efficiently. Optionally, the cleaning system may comprise a plurality of cleaning conduits 6 disposed around the wash tub 2. In this case, a bypass fluid supply means would be needed to all the cleaning ducts 6 or the use of a plurality of fluid supply means (faucets and/or reservoirs).

The cleaning system also comprises an adaptor device 8, associated to the cleaning conduit 6 by means of a connection hose 11, arranged to conduct the flow of fluid coming from the fluid supply means to the cleaning conduit 6.

As can be noted in FIGS. 1 and 3, the adaptor device 8 is also associated to an ingredient dispenser 13 having at least an entry opening 14 capable of permitting the entry of the flow of fluid to be mixed with at least an ingredient contained in the ingredient dispenser 13. As previously mentioned, the ingredients consist, for example, of soap powder or fabric softener.

The adaptor device 8 is associated to the fluid supply means (in this preferred embodiment, a faucet) by means of a set of nozzles 12 which, in turn, is connected to a set of flow valves 9 capable of permitting or preventing the passage of the flow of fluid to the adaptor device 8.

The set of nozzles 12 comprises at least:

an entry nozzle 15 connected to the fluid supply means;

a first exit nozzle 16 connected to a first flow valve 17 comprised by the set of flow valves 9. The first exit nozzle 16 is capable of permitting a directing of the flow of fluid coming from the entry nozzle 15 to the cleaning conduit 6; and

a second exit nozzle 18 connected to a second flow valve 19 comprised by the set of flow valves 9. The second exit nozzle 18 is capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the entry nozzle 15 for the ingredients dispenser 13.

The adaptor device 8 has at least a first directing hole 20 associated to the first exit nozzle 16. The first directing hole 20 is capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the first exit nozzle 16 to the connection hose 11.

The adaptor device 8 also has at least a second directing hole 21 associated to the second exit nozzle 18 and to the entry opening 14 of the ingredients dispenser 13. The second directing hole 21 is capable of permitting the directing of the flow of fluid coming from the second exit nozzle 18 to the ingredients dispenser 13.

The adaptor device 8, the set of flow valves 9 and the set of nozzles 12 are associated to each other by means of fixing elements 24 that fit into housing elements 25, providing the fixing of all these parts.

Therefore, the assembly formed by the adaptor device 8, the flow valves and the nozzles has the function of providing the desired directing of the water (fluid) coming from the faucet (fluid supply means) to the ingredients dispenser 13 or the cleaning conduit 6. This preferred embodiment does not provide the addition of a cleaning product in the water. For this to be possible, an alternative would be the implementation of a water reservoir separate from the ingredients dispenser 13 or to the cleaning conduit 6, as the cleaning product should not be mixed with the ingredients. Another alternative would be to add the cleaning product only on the outlet of the adaptor device 8, so that it is not mixed with the ingredients.

The cleaning system also comprises a sealing element 26 disposed between the adaptor device 8 and the set of nozzles 12. The sealing element 26 may be made of rubber or silicone.

It is also important to mention that the quantity of valves and nozzles may vary according to the desired application.

Preferably, the first flow valve 17 and the second flow valve 19 are driven independently from each other by way of a control means (not illustrated in the drawings), such as, for example, a microcontroller or a microprocessor comprised by the washing machine 1. Accordingly, when the first flow valve 17 is driven (open or closed, depending on the type of valve), the second flow valve 19 is deactivated (closed or open) and, so they are driven alternately by the control means.

Optionally, the control means drives the first flow valve 17 and the second flow valve 19 simultaneously, that is, the fluid supply means feeds water both for the ingredients dispenser 13 as for the cleaning conduit 6 simultaneously.

The control means also controls the working of the cleaning system as a whole and/or its other functionalities.

Preferably, the cleaning system of the present invention is driven automatically by the control means during or between the operating cycles of the washing machine 1, in a manner that is transparent to the user. So, the user does not have to remember to perform the periodic cleaning of the wash tub 2.

On the other hand, the possibility of manual cleaning of the washing machine 1 by the user is also provided, when the machine is not in use. This drive mode may be made by means of a button disposed in a control panel of the washing machine 1. Said button sends an electric command signal to the control means which, in turn, drives the cleaning system.

In any case, whatever solution is adopted (automatic or manual drive), the cleaning system of the present invention facilitates and simplifies the current form of cleaning employed by most users, such as the application of a manual force on the outer surface of the wash tub using a kind of blanching agent (for example: bleach), detergent or any other similar chemical product.

Additionally, the cleaning system of the present invention is relatively low cost, since it uses the already existing structure of the washing machine currently produced, adding certain elements and parts that are easy to manufacture and introduce into said washing machine.

Having described examples of preferred embodiments, it should be understood that the scope of the present invention encompasses other possible variations, and is only limited by the content of the appended claims, wherein other potential equivalents are included.





 
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