Title:
DOOR FOR THE FLUID-TIGHT CLOSURE OF A LAUNDRY LOADING OR REMOVAL OPENING OF A LAUNDRY TREATMENT APPLIANCE, IN PARTICULAR OF A WASHING MACHINE AND/OR CLOTHES DRYER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to a door for at least splash-protected closure of a laundry treatment appliance, in particular of a washing machine and/or a clothes dryer, comprising at least one hinge for attaching the door to a laundry treatment appliance, the door being movable on the laundry treatment appliance by way of a hinge into a closed position and a loading or removal position, the door comprising at least one interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the laundry treatment appliance into the door, a dispenser for delivering at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation being arranged in or on the door, which dispenser is couplable to a cartridge storing at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation, and the dispenser being connected to the interface for the reception of energy and/or data.



Inventors:
Ditze, Alexander (Dusseldorf, DE)
Nickel, Dieter (Pulheim, DE)
Eichholz, Heinz-dieter (Iserlohn, DE)
Application Number:
13/443979
Publication Date:
10/04/2012
Filing Date:
04/11/2012
Assignee:
DITZE ALEXANDER
NICKEL DIETER
EICHHOLZ HEINZ-DIETER
Primary Class:
International Classes:
D06F39/14; D06F33/00; D06F39/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LORENZI, MARC
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Henkel Corporation (Stamford, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A door for splash-protected closure of a laundry treatment appliance comprising: a. an interface wherein energy and/or data is/are couplable from the laundry treatment appliance into the door; b. a dispenser for delivering at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation into the laundry treatment appliance, wherein the dispenser is couplable to a cartridge storing at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation; wherein the dispenser is connected to the interface for the reception of energy and/or data.

2. The door according to claim 1, wherein the cartridge is arranged above the dispenser in the direction of gravity.

3. The door according to claim 1, wherein the dispenser is connected detachably or fixedly to the door.

4. The door according to claim 1, wherein the dispenser comprises at least one sensor from the group of the timers, temperature sensors, infrared sensors, brightness sensors, motion sensors, elongation sensors, rotation speed sensors, proximity sensors, flow sensors, color sensors, gas sensors, vibration sensors, pressure sensors, conductivity sensors, turbidity sensors, acoustic pressure sensors, “lab on a chip” sensors, force sensors, acceleration sensors, tilt sensors, pH sensors, moisture sensors, magnetic field sensors, RFID sensors, magnetic field sensors, Hall sensors, biochips, odor sensors, hydrogen sulfide sensors, and/or MEMS sensors.

5. The door according to claim 1, wherein the door comprises at least one interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the door into the laundry treatment appliance.

6. The door according to claim 5, wherein the interface is wireless.

7. The door according to claim 1, wherein the cartridge comprises a plurality of chambers in which preparations differing from one another are respectively stored.

8. The door according to claim 7, wherein the cartridge chambers are individually couplable to the dispenser and individually removable from the dispenser.

9. The door according to claim 1, wherein the dispenser is positioned inside the washing space when the door is in the closed position.

10. The door according to claim 9, wherein the dispenser is arranged in or on the door in such a way that it is immersed into a washing bath during the washing program of the laundry treatment appliance.

11. The door according to claim 1, further comprising an operating unit for controlling the laundry treatment appliance.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of PCT/EP2010/062048, filed on Aug. 18, 2010, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 to DE 10 2009 045 580.9 filed on Oct. 12, 2009, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a door for liquid-tight closure of a laundry loading or removal opening of a laundry treatment appliance, in particular of a washing machine and/or a clothes dryer, in or on which a dispenser for delivery of a flowable laundry treatment preparation is arranged. The invention further relates to a laundry treatment appliance having a corresponding door; to a cartridge, storing a laundry treatment preparation, for use in a dispenser; and to a dispensing system made up of a door, a laundry treatment appliance, a dispenser, and a cartridge.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Textile treatment agents, in particular washing agents, are available to consumers in a plurality of presentation forms. Washing agents are typically offered to the consumer in solid form, for example as a powder or as tablets, but increasingly also in liquid form. For some time, attention in this context has focused chiefly on convenient dispensing of washing and cleaning agents and on simplifying the working steps required to carry out a washing or cleaning method.

Furthermore, one of the main objectives of manufacturers of washing agents is to improve the cleaning performance of these agents, increasing attention recently having been paid to cleaning performance in low-temperature cleaning cycles or in cleaning cycles having reduced water consumption. New ingredients, for example more-effective surfactants, polymers, enzymes or bleaching agents, have been added to the cleaning agents for this purpose. Because new ingredients are available only to a limited extent, however, and because for environmental and economic reasons the quantity of ingredients used per cleaning cycle cannot be arbitrarily increased, there are natural limits to this approach to a solution.

In this connection, apparatuses for multiple dispensing of washing and cleaning agents have in particular recently come under scrutiny by product developers. With regard to these apparatuses, a distinction may be made between on the one hand apparatuses integrated into the textile washing machine, and on the other hand separate apparatuses independent of the textile washing machine. By means of these apparatuses, which contain several times the quantity of cleaning agent required to carry out a cleaning method, washing- or cleaning-agent portions are automatically or semi-automatically dispensed into the interior of the washing machine in the course of multiple successive cleaning methods. For the consumer, the need for manual dispensing for each cleaning or washing cycle is eliminated. Examples of such apparatuses are described in European patent application EP 1 759 624 A2 (Reckitt Benckiser) or in German patent application DE 53 5005 062 479 A1 (BSH Bosch and Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH).

Accordingly, it is desirable to make available an improved dispensing system for delivering preparations into the interior of a washing machine or a clothes dryer.

This object is achieved by a door for liquid-tight closure of a laundry loading or removal opening of a laundry treatment appliance, in particular of a washing machine and/or a clothes dryer, encompassing at least one hinge for attaching the door to a laundry treatment appliance, the door being movable on the laundry treatment appliance by way of a hinge into a closed position and a loading or removal position, the door encompassing at least one interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the laundry treatment appliance into the door, a dispenser for delivering at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation being arranged in or on the door, which dispenser is couplable to a cartridge storing at least one flowable or pourable laundry treatment preparation, and the dispenser being connected to the interface for the reception of energy and/or data.

Furthermore, other desirable features and characteristics of the present invention will become apparent from the subsequent detailed description of the invention and the appended claims, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings and this Background of the Invention.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A door for at least splash-protected closure of a laundry loading or removal opening of a laundry treatment appliance, in particular of a washing machine and/or a clothes dryer, comprising at least one hinge for attaching the door to a laundry treatment appliance, the door being movable on the laundry treatment appliance by way of a hinge into a closed position and a loading or removal position, wherein the door comprises at least one interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the laundry treatment appliance into the door, a dispenser for delivering at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation is arranged in or on the door, which dispenser is couplable to a cartridge storing at least one flowable laundry treatment preparation, and the dispenser is connected to the interface for the reception of energy and/or data.

A dispensing system for a laundry treatment appliance, comprising a door for liquid-tight closure of a laundry loading or removal opening of a laundry treatment appliance, in particular of a washing machine and/or a clothes dryer, a dispenser arranged in or on that side of the door which adjoins the interior of the laundry treatment appliance, a cartridge couplable to the dispenser.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the following drawing figures, wherein like numerals denote like elements, and

FIG. 1 Washing machine having a dispensing apparatus arranged in the door;

FIG. 2 Washing machine with door closed, and having a machine controller arranged on the outer side of the door;

FIG. 3 Door having an integrated dispenser;

FIG. 4 Door having a receptacle for coupling to a dispenser;

FIG. 5 Washing machine having a dispensing apparatus arranged in the door, and a mobile apparatus for arrangement in the washing drum; and

FIG. 6 Washing machine having a mobile apparatus coupled to the door.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The following detailed description of the invention is merely exemplary in nature and is not intended to limit the invention or the application and uses of the invention. Furthermore, there is no intention to be bound by any theory presented in the preceding background of the invention or the following detailed description of the invention.

FIG. 1 shows a washing machine or a laundry dryer 1 having a machine controller 8 and with an opened door 2 that exposes an opening 3 to the washing or drying drum 9. The door further includes a connecting conduit 10. Located on the inner side of door 2, arranged centeredly, is a central region 5 in which dispenser 7 and a cartridge 6 coupled to dispenser 7 are located. Central region 5 is circumscribed by an annular window 4 that allows a view into the interior of washing/drying drum 9 when door 2 is closed. This is shown by way of example in FIG. 2, that also illustrates an alternative position for machine controller 8.

Dispenser 7 is connected to washing machine or clothes dryer 1 in electrically conductive fashion via the connecting conduit.

It is also possible for door 2 to be located in the top side of the washing machine or clothes dryer 1; this is also known as a “top-loader.”

It is furthermore possible for window 4 to be omitted, and for the entire door 1 to be provided for reception of a dispensing system made up of dispenser 7 and cartridge 6.

FIG. 3 shows door 2 known from FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. In this embodiment the dispenser is connected fixedly to door 2. Provided above dispenser 7 is a receptacle 11 for a cartridge 6, into which cartridge 7 is received and with which dispenser 7 can be coupled. Dispenser 7 comprises three inlet openings 13a to c that, when dispenser 7 and cartridge 6 are in the coupled state, are communicatively connected to the corresponding delivery openings 12a to c.

It is also possible for dispenser 7 to be fastened not fixedly but instead detachably to door 2. This is shown by way of example in FIG. 4. Dispenser 7 can be arranged in a corresponding receptacle 14 in door 2, corresponding interfaces for the transfer of energy and data between dispenser 7 and receptacle 14 being provided.

It is furthermore conceivable, as may be gathered from FIG. 5, for dispenser 7 to be connected in wirelessly communicative fashion to a mobile apparatus 15 that is arranged in the interior of washing or drying drum 9. The mobile apparatus can be, for example, a sensor unit for receiving physical and/or chemical parameters, a unit for assisting cleaning performance, e.g. an ultrasound unit, or the like.

After a service cycle, mobile apparatus 15 can be coupled to dispenser 7 in particular for electrical recharging of the energy source of mobile apparatus 15. This is shown in FIG. 6.

The door according to the present invention encompasses a dispenser as well as a cartridge. The dispenser encompasses, inter alia, a control unit, an actuator and/or at least one sensor. The dispenser, as well as the cartridge, will be described in further detail later on.

It is particularly preferred that the cartridge be arranged above the dispenser in the direction of gravity. This makes it possible for the flowable preparations to flow out of the cartridge into the dispenser in response to gravity, with no need for additional equipment outlay, for example in the form of a pump, for that purpose.

The dispenser can be connected detachably or fixedly to the door.

In an advantageous refinement of the invention, the door encompasses at least one interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the door into the laundry treatment appliance. It is particularly advantageous in this connection that the interface by means of which energy and/or data is/are couplable from the laundry treatment appliance into the door and/or from the door into the laundry treatment appliance is embodied in such a way that the transfer of energy and/or data occurs wirelessly.

It is further preferred that the cartridge comprise a plurality of chambers in which preparations that each differ from one another are stored. It is particularly preferred that the cartridge comprise at least two chambers, in which a bleach-containing preparation and an enzyme-containing preparation are stored.

The cartridge chambers can, in particular, be individually couplable to the dispenser and individually removable from the dispenser.

The preparation stored in the cartridge is advantageously provided for a plurality of washing or drying cycles.

It is particularly preferred that, when the door is in the closed position, the dispenser be positioned inside the washing space; it is particularly advantageous that the dispenser is arranged in or on the door in such a way that in the context of a washing program of a washing machine, it is immersed at least locally into the washing bath as a function of the washing program that is carried out.

In a further embodiment of the invention, a treatment device for introduction into the washing or drying drum is provided, which device is couplable to the dispenser in such a way that energy and/or data are transferable from the treatment device to the dispenser and/or from the dispenser to the treatment device. On the one hand, measurement information from the washing or drying drum, such as e.g. rotation of the drum, can be obtained by the treatment device; on the other hand, the treatment device can encompass means that assist the cleaning or drying process in the drum. It is particularly advantageous in this context if the treatment device encompasses an acoustic emitter, preferably an ultrasound emitter.

It is furthermore advantageous if the operating unit for controlling the laundry treatment appliance is arranged on the outwardly directed side of the door. This avoids the need to route cable strands out of the door into the machine for control purposes.

The door according to the present invention is encompassed, in particular, in a laundry treatment appliance.

Cartridge

For purposes of this Application, a “cartridge” is understood as a packaging means that is suitable for encasing or holding together at least one flowable, pourable or scatterable preparation, and is couplable to a dispenser in order to deliver at least one preparation.

In the simplest conceivable embodiment, the cartridge comprises a (preferably dimensionally stable) chamber for storing a preparation. In particular, a cartridge can also encompass multiple chambers that are fillable with compositions differing from one another.

It is advantageous for the cartridge to comprise at least one outlet opening which is arranged such that gravity-effected release of preparation from the cartridge can be brought about when the dispenser is in the service position. As a result, no further conveying means are required for the release of preparation from the cartridge, so that the construction of the dispenser can be kept simple and manufacturing costs low. The use of conveying means such as, for example, pumps can also be omitted, with the result that the service life of a battery or rechargeable battery of the dispenser can be lengthened.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, at least one second chamber is provided for receiving at least one second flowable or scatterable preparation, the second chamber comprising at least one outlet opening which is arranged such that a gravity-effected product release from the second chamber can be brought about when the dispenser is in the service position. The arrangement of a second chamber is particularly advantageous when preparations that are not usually shelf-stable with one another, for example bleaching agents and enzymes, are stored in the mutually separate chambers of the cartridge.

It is furthermore conceivable for more than two, in particular three to four chambers to be provided in or on a cartridge. In particular, one of the chambers can be configured for the delivery of volatile preparations, for instance a scent, into the environment.

In a further embodiment of the invention, the cartridge is embodied in one piece. As a result, the cartridges can be embodied economically in one manufacturing step, in particular using suitable blow molding methods. The chambers of a cartridge can in this context be separated from one another by, for example, webs or material bridges that are shaped during or after the blowing process.

The cartridge can also be formed from multiple pieces, using components manufactured by injection molding and then joined together.

It is furthermore conceivable for the cartridge to be shaped in multi-piece fashion such that at least one chamber, preferably all the chambers, are individually removable from or insertable into the dispenser. This makes it possible, if a preparation from one chamber is consumed at a different rate, to replace an already empty chamber while the others, which may still be filled with preparation, remain in the dispenser. Targeted and demand-compatible refilling of the individual chambers or their preparations can thereby be achieved. It is additionally conceivable to construct the individual chambers in such a way that the chambers can be coupled to one another or to the dispenser in only in one specific position or location, thereby preventing a user from connecting a chamber to the dispenser in a position not intended for said chamber. To that end, the chamber walls can in particular be shaped in such a way that they can be positively connected to one another. It is particularly advantageous, in the case of a cartridge formed from at least three chambers, to shape the cartridges such that the chambers can be connected positively to one another only in a specific defined position.

The chambers of a cartridge can be fastened to one another using suitable connection methods, thereby forming a container unit. The chambers can be fastened detachably or nondetachably to one another by a suitable positive, frictionally engaged, or materially attached connection. In particular, fastening can be effected by one or more of the connection types from the group of the snap-in connections, hook-and-loop connections, press connections, melt connections, adhesive connections, welded connections, soldered connections, screw connections, keyed connections, clamped connections, or flip-closure connections. In particular, fastening can also be embodied by a heat-shrink sleeve, which in a heated state is pulled over all or portions of the cartridge, and in the cooled state fixedly surrounds the chambers or the cartridge.

In order to provide advantageous residual emptying properties for the chambers, the bottom of the chambers can be inclined in a funnel shape toward the delivery opening. Moreover, the inner wall of a chamber can be embodied, by suitable material selection and/or surface configuration, in such a way that little material adhesion of the preparation onto the internal chamber wall occurs. This action, too, allows the residual emptying capability of a chamber to be further optimized.

In particular, the cartridge can also be embodied asymmetrically. It is particularly preferred to configure the asymmetry of the cartridge such that the cartridge is couplable to the dispenser only in a predefined position, thereby preventing incorrect operation by the user which would otherwise be possible.

A dispensing chamber can be embodied in or on a chamber before the outlet opening in the gravity-effected flow direction of the preparation. The dispensing chamber defines the quantity of preparation that is to be delivered to the environment upon the release of preparation from the chamber. This is particularly advantageous when the closure element of the dispenser, which brings about delivery of preparation from a chamber to the environment, can be placed only into a delivery state and a closed state, without monitoring or control of the quantity delivered. The dispensing chamber then ensures that a predefined quantity of preparation is released without direct feedback of the quantity of preparation currently being delivered.

The dispensing chambers can be shaped in single- or multi-piece fashion. It is furthermore possible to embody the dispensing chambers in a manner fixedly connected to or detachable from the cartridge. In the case of a dispensing chamber connected detachably to the cartridge, it is easily possible for dispensing chambers having dispensing volumes differing from one another to be connected to cartridge or interchanged, thereby making possible easy adaptation of the dispensing volumes to the respective preparation stored in a chamber, and thus easy preparation of the cartridge for different preparations and for dispensing thereof.

According to a further advantageous refinement of the invention, one or several chamber(s) comprise(s), besides a preferably bottom-side outlet opening, a respective preferably top-side second chamber opening that can be closed off in liquid-tight fashion. This chamber opening makes it possible, for example, to replenish a preparation stored in said chamber.

For venting of the cartridge chambers, venting capabilities can be provided in particular in the top region of the cartridge in order to ensure pressure equalization between the interior of the cartridge chambers and the environment as the fill level of the chambers drops. These venting capabilities can be embodied, for example, as a valve, in particular a silicone valve, micro-openings in a chamber wall or cartridge wall, or the like.

If, according to a further embodiment, the cartridge chambers are vented not directly but rather via the dispenser, or if no venting is provided, for example when using flexible containers such as for example pouches, this has the advantage that at elevated temperatures in the course of a washing cycle of a dishwasher, a pressure is built up due to heating of the chamber contents, which pressure pushes the preparations to be dispensed toward the outlet openings so that a good residual emptying capability for the cartridge is thereby achievable. In addition, with air-free packaging of this kind there is no risk of oxidation of substances of the preparation; this makes a pouch package or even bag-in-bottle package seem useful in particular for oxidation-sensitive preparations.

The cartridge can assume any desired three-dimensional shape. It can for example be cubic, spherical or plate-like in configuration.

In order to make available a direct visual fill level monitoring capability, it is advantageous to shape the cartridge at least locally from a transparent material.

In order to protect from the effects of heat the heat-sensitive constituents of a preparation that is present in a cartridge, it is advantageous to manufacture the cartridge from a material having low thermal conductivity.

Another possibility for reducing the influence of heat on a preparation in a chamber of the cartridge is to insulate the chamber using suitable actions, for example by utilizing thermal insulation materials, such as for instance polystyrene foam, which suitably surround the chamber or cartridge entirely or in part.

It is also possible to provide the cartridge, or individual chambers, completely or locally with a radiation-reflective coating that is suitable in particular for reflecting thermal radiation.

In the context of a plurality of chambers, another measure for protecting heat-sensitive substances in a cartridge is the arrangement of the chambers with respect to one another.

It is, for example, conceivable for the chamber that contains a heat-sensitive product to be partly or completely surrounded by at least one further chamber filled with a product, the latter product and latter chamber functioning in this configuration as thermal insulation for the surrounded chamber. This means that a first chamber that contains a heat-sensitive product is partly or entirely surrounded by at least one further chamber filled with a product, so that upon heating of the environment, the heat-sensitive product in the first chamber exhibits a slower rise in temperature than do the products in the surrounding chambers.

In order to bring about a further improvement in thermal insulation, when more than two chambers are used the chambers can be arranged one around the other on the principle of Russian dolls, thus forming a multi-layer insulation layer.

It is advantageous in particular for at least one preparation that is stored in a surrounding chamber to have a thermal conductivity between 0.01 and 5 W/m*K, preferably between 0.02 and 2 W/m*k, particularly preferably between 0.024 and 1 W/m*K.

The cartridge is embodied, in particular, in dimensionally stable fashion. It is also conceivable, however, to configure the cartridge as a flexible packaging means, for instance as a tube. It is furthermore also possible to use flexible containers such as pouches, in particular if they are used in a substantially dimensionally stable receiving vessel in accordance with the “bag-in-bottle” principle. In contrast to the above-described dimensionally stable packaging means (cartridge), the use of flexible packaging means eliminates the need to provide a venting system for pressure equalization.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the cartridge comprises an electronic identification means such as, for example, an RFID label that at least contains information about the contents of the cartridge and that is readable by the sensor unit that can be provided in particular in the dispenser or the washing machine or clothes dryer.

This information can be used, for example, in order to select a dispensing program stored in the control unit of the dispenser. It is thereby possible to ensure that the optimum dispensing program for a specific preparation is always used. Provision can also be made that, in the absence of an RFID label or in the case of an RFID label having an incorrect or defective identifier, no dispensing is performed by the dispensing apparatus and instead an optical or acoustic signal is generated which notifies the user of the presence of the fault. It is of course also conceivable for information to be transferred to the dispenser from a laundry item equipped with an RFID label in the washing or drying drum.

In order to preclude incorrect use of the cartridge, the cartridges can also comprise structural elements that interact with corresponding elements of the dispenser on the lock-and-key principle, so that for example only cartridges of a specific type can be coupled to the dispenser. This embodiment furthermore makes it possible for information about the cartridge coupled to the dispenser to be transmitted to the control unit of the dispenser, with the result that the dispenser can be controlled in a manner coordinated with the contents of the corresponding container.

The cartridge is embodied in particular for the reception of flowable washing or cleaning agents. Particularly preferably, a cartridge of this kind comprises a plurality of chambers for spatially separated reception of preparations of a washing or cleaning agent that each differ from one another. By way of example, but not exhaustively, some possible combinations for filling the chambers with different preparations are listed below:

Chamber 1Chamber 2Chamber 3Chamber 4
AAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaning
preparationpreparation
BAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningConditioner
preparationpreparation
CAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningConditionerScent
preparationpreparation
DAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningConditionerDisinfectant
preparationpreparationpreparation
EAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningConditionerPretreatment
preparationpreparationpreparation
FAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningEnzymatic
preparationpreparation 1cleaning
preparation 2
GAlkaline cleaningEnzymatic cleaningBleachConditioner
preparationpreparation
HAnti-wrinkleScent/odorAnti-static
preparationabsorber (dryer)preparation
(dryer)

It is particularly preferred that all preparations be flowable, since this ensures rapid dissolution of the preparations in the washing bath of the washing machine, with the result that these preparations achieve a rapid to immediate cleaning effect, in particularly including on the walls of the washing space and/or of a light guide of the cartridge and/or of the dispenser.

The cartridge usually has a total volumetric capacity of <5000 ml, in particular <1000 ml, preferably <500 ml, particularly preferably <250 ml, very particularly preferably <50 ml.

The chambers of a cartridge can have internal volumes that are identical to or different from one another. In the case of a configuration having two chambers, the ratio of chamber volumes is preferably 5:1, for a configuration having three chambers preferably 4:1:1.

As mentioned above, the cartridge preferably possesses three chambers. For use of a cartridge of this kind in a washing machine, it is particularly preferred that one chamber contain an alkaline cleaning preparation, a further chamber an enzymatic preparation, and a third chamber a conditioner, the volume ratio of the chambers being equal to approximately 4:1:1.

The chamber containing the alkaline cleaning preparation preferably has the largest internal volume of the chambers that are present. The chambers that store an enzymatic preparation or a conditioner preferably have approximately the same internal volumes.

In the case of a two- and/or three-chamber embodiment of the cartridge, it is possible in particular to store, in particular, a scent preparation, disinfectant preparation, and/or pretreatment preparation in a further chamber arranged detachably on the tank or on the dispenser.

The cartridge encompasses a cartridge bottom that, in the service position, is directed downward in the direction of gravity, and on which at least one outlet opening arranged at the bottom in the direction of gravity is preferably provided for each chamber. The outlet openings arranged at the bottom are, in particular, embodied in such a way that at least one outlet opening, preferably all outlet openings, are communicatively connectable to the inlet openings of the dispensing unit, i.e. preparation can flow through the outlet openings out of the cartridge into the dispenser, preferably under the influence of gravity.

It is also conceivable for one or more chambers to have an outlet opening not arranged at the bottom in the direction of gravity. This is advantageous in particular when, for example, a scent is to be delivered into the environment of the cartridge.

The cartridge is preferably constituted from at least two elements connected by material attachment to one another, such that the connecting edge of the elements on the cartridge bottom extends outside the outlet openings, i.e. the connecting edge does not intersect the outlet openings. This is advantageous in particular because sealing problems in the context of coupling to the dispenser in the region of the outlet openings, which occur in particular in the presence of the large alternating temperature stresses that usually occur in a dishwasher, can thereby be avoided.

The connection by material attachment can be produced, for example, by adhesive bonding, welding, soldering, pressing, or vulcanizing.

It is particularly preferred to connect the cartridge elements to one another by mirror welding. In mirror welding, a metal heating mirror that contains the contour of the interfaces that are to be connected is used to heat the interfaces and bring them briefly into the plastic state, so that after the heating mirror is removed and the parts are joined together, these plastic regions solidify again from the melt and produce a strong connection.

In addition to the mirror welding technique known from the existing art, individually injection-molded parts can, for example, also be connected to one another by laser welding. In laser welding, one of the two materials that are to be melted at the interface must carry an absorbent in order to receive the energy content of the laser beam and convert it into heat, which then produces melting of the corresponding material region. This is typically achieved using color pigments that enter into a thermal interaction with the laser beam guided into the material. These interfaces to be joined can also be covered, if the material present in front of them in the laser beam irradiation direction is transparent to the laser beam and has no absorption property.

It is furthermore possible to connect individual cartridge elements by means of ultrasonic welding methods or IR welding using electrodes.

It is advantageous that the connecting edge extends along the top, bottom, and side surfaces of the cartridge. As a result, two cartridge elements can be manufactured in particular using the injection molding method, such that either both elements are embodied in trough-shaped fashion, or one element is trough-shaped and the second element is similar to a cover.

To constitute a two- or multi-chamber cartridge, at least one of the two cartridge elements can encompass at least one separating web that, when the elements are joined together, separates each two adjacent chambers of the cartridge from one another.

As an alternative to embodying the cartridge from two shell-shaped cartridge elements, it is also conceivable for one cartridge element to be a cell-like container having at least one chamber, and the second element to be the cartridge bottom or top that is connected to the cell-like container in liquid-tight fashion along the connecting edge.

It is of course also conceivable to combine the aforementioned cartridge configurations in any suitable manner. For example, it is possible to form a two-chamber cartridge from one trough-shaped and one cover-like cartridge element, and to arrange a third single- or multi-piece chamber on the top or the enveloping surface of the cartridge thus formed.

In particular, a further chamber of this kind for receiving a preparation can be arranged on the cartridge and configured so as to bring about a delivery of volatile substances, for example scents, from the preparation into the environment of the chamber.

According to a preferable embodiment, the outlet openings of the cartridge are closed off by closure means at least when the cartridge is in the filled, unopened state. The closure means can be embodied such that they permit one-time opening of the outlet opening by destruction of the closing means. Such closure means are, for example, sealing films or closure caps.

According to a preferable embodiment of the invention, the outlet openings are each equipped with a closure that, in the state coupled to a dispenser, allows preparation to flow out of the respective chambers and, when the cartridge is in the uncoupled state, substantially prevents an outflow of preparation. A closure of this kind is configured in particular as a silicone slit valve.

It is furthermore preferred that the vent openings of the cartridge be closed off with a closure element before a first coupling to the dispenser. The closure element can in particular be a plug or cap that is opened, for example pierced, by the coupling process upon first coupling to the dispenser.

It is very particularly preferred that prior to a first coupling of the cartridge to the dispenser, all outlet openings of the cartridge are closed off with a silicone slit valve, and all vent openings with a cap.

The cartridge elements forming the cartridge are preferably formed from a plastic, and can be shaped in a shared injection molding process; it may be advantageous in this context to shape on between the two elements a connecting web acting as a hinge, so that after shaping, the two elements are butted against another by folding over, and are connected by material attachment along the connecting edge.

In a further, preferred embodiment of the invention, the cartridge for coupling to a dispenser, positionable in the interior of a washing machine or clothes dryer, for delivering at least one washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation comprises at least one chamber for storing at least one flowable or pourable washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation, the cartridge being, in the state coupled to the dispenser, protected from the entry of washing water into the chamber(s), and the cartridge encompassing at least one delivery opening, on the bottom side in the direction of gravity, for (in particular, gravity-effected) delivery of preparation out of at least one chamber, and encompassing at least one vent opening, on the bottom side in the direction of gravity, for venting at least one chamber, the vent opening being separated from the delivery opening and the vent opening being communicatively connected to at least one chamber of the cartridge.

It is particularly preferred for the cartridge to encompass at least two chambers, very particularly preferably at least three chambers. It is advantageous here that one vent opening and one delivery opening are respectively provided for each chamber.

It is furthermore preferred that the bottom-side vent opening be connected communicatively to a vent conduit whose end facing away from the vent opening terminates, when the cartridge coupled to the dispenser is in the delivery position, above the maximum fill level of the cartridge.

It is advantageous in this context that the vent conduit is shaped entirely or partly into or onto the walls and/or webs of the cartridge. In particular, the vent conduit can be shaped integrally into or onto the walls and/or webs of the cartridge.

For this purpose, the vent conduit can advantageously be formed by joining at least two elements forming the cartridge. For example, a vent conduit can be formed by joining a separating web of the cartridge, shaped in the shell-shaped element, to two webs that are arranged on the cartridge element and enclose the separating web.

It is advantageous in this context if the vent conduit is formed by joining by material attachment, in particular by welding, a separating web of the cartridge, shaped in the shell-shaped element, to two webs that are arranged on the cartridge element and enclose the separating web.

Alternatively thereto, the vent conduit can also be embodied, for example, as a so-called dip tube.

It is furthermore advantageous in this context to arrange the vent conduit orifice approximately centeredly on or in the chamber wall of the cartridge top.

In order to ensure functionality, for example, even following a horizontal position of the cartridge, it is advantageous if the vent conduit, and the viscosity of a flowable preparation, are configured in such a way that the preparation is not drawn by capillary forces into the vent conduit when the preparation is present at the vent conduit orifice.

Coupling of the cartridge to the dispenser is advantageously to be configured so that there is arranged on the dispenser a pin, communicatively connected to the inlet opening of the dispenser, that interacts with the couplable cartridge or cartridge chamber in such a way that upon coupling of the vent opening of the cartridge or cartridge chamber to the dispenser, the pin displaces a volume Δv in the vent conduit, thereby generating in the vent conduit a pressure Δp that is suitable for transporting flowable preparation present in the vent conduit into the chamber that is connected to the vent conduit and that stores preparation.

It is preferred that the vent opening of a chamber be communicatively connected, using the dispenser-side pin, before the closed-off outlet opening of the corresponding chamber is opened, for example by communicative connection to the inlet opening of the dispenser.

According to a further advantageous embodiment of the invention, a vent chamber is arranged between the vent opening and the vent conduit.

The cartridge can be embodied so that it can be arranged detachably or fixedly in or on the dispenser and/or on a washing machine and/or clothes dryer.

In a further, advantageous embodiment of the invention, the dispenser for delivering at least one flowable washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation into the interior of a washing machine or a clothes dryer encompasses a cartridge couplable to the dispenser, the cartridge storing at least one flowable washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation and the cartridge comprising, at the bottom in the direction of gravity, at least one outlet opening that, in the state coupled to the dispenser, is connected communicatively to an inlet opening of the dispenser, the dispenser and the cartridge comprising means which interact in such a way that a detachable latching engagement is producible between the dispenser and cartridge, the dispenser and cartridge being, in the latched state, pivotable with respect to one another about a pivot point (SP); and that the outlet opening of the cartridge and the inlet opening of the dispensing bracket are configured such that they are connected communicatively, once latching has been established between the cartridge and dispenser, by pivoting the cartridge into the coupled state between the dispensing bracket and cartridge.

In particular, it is preferred that the outlet openings of the chambers and the inlet openings of the dispenser be arranged and configured in such a manner that they become sequentially connected to one another by pivoting the dispenser and cartridge, in the latched state, into the coupled state.

According to a further advantageous embodiment, means can be embodied on the dispenser and/or the cartridge which, in the coupled state of the dispenser and cartridge, bring about detachable fastening of the cartridge to the dispenser.

It is also advantageous to embody on the dispenser and/or cartridge means which, with the cartridge and dispenser in the latched state, bring about guidance of the cartridge upon pivoting into the coupled state of the cartridge and dispenser. This can be achieved, for example, by a collar extending around the bottom of the cartridge, which collar is slightly set back with respect to a corresponding dispenser-side collar, so that the cartridge-side collar is guided inside the dispenser-side collar.

It is advantageous in particular that the outlet openings of the chambers are arranged behind one another in a pivoting direction. It is very particularly preferred that the outlet openings of the chambers are arranged on a line (L) in a pivoting direction.

It is furthermore advantageous that the outlet openings of the chambers are at approximately the same distance from one another.

In a further, advantageous embodiment of the invention, the greatest distance of an outlet opening of a chamber from the pivot point (SP) of the cartridge is approximately 0.5 times the cartridge width distance (W).

In particular, at least two chambers of the cartridge can have volumes differing from one another.

Advantageously, the chamber of the cartridge having the greatest volume is at the greatest distance from the pivot point (SP) of cartridge 1.

In a further embodiment of the invention, the vent opening of a chamber is located, in a pivot direction upon coupling of the cartridge to the dispenser, in each case before an outlet opening of the chamber.

The ratio of the thickness (D) of the cartridge to the width (W) of the cartridge is preferably approximately 1:20. The ratio of the height (H) of the cartridge to the width (W) of the cartridge is preferably approximately 1:1.2.

It is likewise preferred that the vent opening of a cartridge be located, in a pivot direction upon coupling of the cartridge to the dispenser, in each case before an outlet opening of the chamber. This ensures that upon coupling of the cartridge to the dispenser, the vent opening of the cartridge is opened first, before opening of the outlet opening of the cartridge.

Cartridge Light Guide

The cartridge for coupling to a dispenser, for delivering at least one washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation out of the cartridge into the interior of a washing machine or clothes dryer, encompasses, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, a light guide, arranged in or on the cartridge, into which a light signal is couplable from outside the cartridge. It is particularly preferred to couple into the cartridge a light signal that is emitted from the dispenser.

In particular, the light guide can be shaped entirely or partly in or on the walls and/or webs of the cartridge.

It is additionally advantageous to embody the light guide integrally in or on the walls and/or webs of the cartridge.

The light guide is preferably made of a transparent plastic material, it is also possible, however, to configure the entire cartridge from a transparent material.

It is preferred that the light guide be suitable for guiding light in the visible region (380 to 780 nm). It is particularly preferable that the light guide be suitable for guiding light in the near infrared region (780 nm to 3000 nm). It is especially preferred that the light guide be suitable for guiding light in the medium infrared region (3.0 μm to 50 μm).

The light guide is made, in particular, from a transparent plastic material having a high refractive index.

Advantageously, the light guide is at least locally surrounded, entirely or partly, by a material having a lower optical refractive index. In particular, the material having the lower optical refractive index can be a preparation stored in a chamber of the cartridge.

A ratio of the refractive indices of the preparation and light guide of 1:1.10 to 1:5, preferably 1:1.15 to 1:1.35, particularly preferably 1:1.15 to 1:1.20 has proved particularly advantageous, the refractive index in each case being determined at a wavelength of 589 nm. The refractive index of the light guide can for example be determined per DIN EN ISO 489. The refractive index of the preparation can be determined by means of an Abbe refractometer per DIN 53491.

It is in particular advantageous for the preparation that entirely or partially encloses the light guide to have a transmittance from 45% to 95%, particularly preferably 60% to 90%, very particularly preferably 75% to 85%. The light guide preferably has a transmittance >75%, very particularly preferably >85%. Transmittance can be determined per DIN 5036.

It is furthermore preferred for the wavelength of the light that is transmitted through the light guide to correspond approximately to the wavelength of at least one preparation that encloses the light guide at least in portions, which wavelength is not absorbed from the visible spectrum by the preparation. It is particularly preferred here for the wavelength of the light that is transmitted through the light guide and the wavelength that is not absorbed by the preparation to be between 600 and 800 nm.

The light signal couplable into the light guide is, in particular, a carrier of information, in particular e.g. with regard to the operating state of the dispenser and/or to the fill level of the cartridge.

In a preferable refinement of the invention, the light guide is embodied in such a way that the light signal couplable into the light guide is also couplable back out of the light guide.

It may be advantageous in this context that the light guide is embodied in such a way that the light signal is couplable out at a point on the cartridge that is different from the point into which the light signal is couplable into the cartridge.

Incoupling or outcoupling of the light signal can be realized, in particular, at a prismatically configured edge of the cartridge.

It is particularly preferred to embody the incoupling or outcoupling points of the light signal in the corresponding injection mold by means of highly polished or hard chromium plated tool surfaces, such that the reflectivity of the incoupling or outcoupling point is low and the desired signal incoupling is possible.

The distance from the light source, in particular an LED, arranged in the dispenser to the light incoupling point into the cartridge, with the cartridge and dispenser in the coupled state, should be kept as short as possible.

It is also advantageous for the light signal and the light guide to be configured such that a light signal visible to a user can be generated on and/or in the cartridge.

According to a further embodiment, the light guide can be severed at least one point in the cartridge in such a way that preparation can fill the discontinuity. It is thereby possible to provide in simple fashion a fill level sensor and/or tilt sensor, a light signal passing through the discontinuity in the absence of preparation being different from the light signal passing through the discontinuity that is entirely or partially filled with preparation.

Dispenser

The control unit necessary for operation, as well as at least one actuator, are integrated into the dispenser. Preferably a sensor unit and/or an energy source is likewise arranged in the dispenser.

The dispenser is preferably made up of a water-spray-protected, in particular also water-tight housing that can prevent the penetration, into the interior of the dispenser in which at least the control unit, sensor unit, and/or actuator are arranged, of spray water and wash water that can occur, for example, in the context of use in a washing machine.

It is particularly advantageous to pot in particular the control unit and the sensor unit in such a way that the dispenser is substantially water-tight, i.e. the dispenser is functional even when completely surrounded by liquid. Potting materials that can be used are, for example, multi-component epoxy and acrylate encapsulating compounds such as methacrylate esters, urethane methacrylates and cyanoacrylates, or two-component materials having polyurethanes, silicones, epoxy resins.

An alternative or supplement to potting is represented by encapsulation of the components in an appropriately configured moisture-tight housing. A configuration of this kind is further explained in greater detail below.

It is furthermore advantageous to arrange the components or assemblies on and/or in a component carrier in the dispenser; this too is further explained elsewhere.

It is furthermore advantageous that the material from which the dispenser is formed prevents or at least reduces the growth of a biofilm. This can be achieved by using corresponding surface textures of the material, or additives such as for example biocides, known from the existing art. It is also conceivable to equip areas of the dispenser at risk of microbial growth, in particular regions in which washing water can accumulate, partially with a material that prevents or at least reduces the growth of a biofilm. Films with a corresponding effect can for example be used for this purpose.

It is particularly preferred that the dispenser encompass at least one first interface that interacts corresponding interface embodied in or on a washing machine or clothes dryer, in such a way that a transfer of electrical energy and/or signals from the washing machine or clothes dryer to the dispenser and/or from the dispenser to the washing machine or clothes dryer, is effected.

In an embodiment of the invention, the interfaces are embodied by plug connectors. In a further embodiment, the interfaces can be embodied in such a way that a wireless transfer of electrical energy and/or electrical and/or optical signals is brought about.

It is particularly preferred in this context that the interfaces provided for the transfer of electrical energy be inductive transmitters or receivers of electromagnetic waves. In particular, for example, the interface of a water-conveying appliance, such as an automatic dishwasher, can be embodied as a transmitter coil operated with alternating current and having an iron core, and the interface of the dispenser as a receiver coil having an iron core.

In an alternative embodiment, the transfer of electrical energy can also be provided by means of an interface that comprises on the household-appliance side an electrically operated light source and on the dispenser side a light sensor, for example a photodiode or a solar cell. The light emitted by the light source is converted by the light sensor into electrical energy, which then in turn feeds into, for example, a dispenser-side storage battery.

In an advantageous refinement of the invention, an interface is provided on the dispenser and on the washing machine or clothes dryer, for transferring (i.e. transmitting and receiving) electromagnetic and/or optical signals that in particular represent operating-state, measurement and/or control-information items of the dispenser and/or of the washing machine or clothes dryer.

It is of course possible to provide only an interface for the transfer of signals or an interface for the transfer of electrical energy, or one interface for the transfer of signals and one interface for the transfer of electrical energy, respectively, or to provide an interface that is suitable for providing a transfer of both electrical energy and signals.

An interface of this kind can be embodied in particular in such a way that a wireless transfer of electrical energy and/or electromagnetic and/or optical signals is produced.

It is particularly preferred that the interface be configured for the emission and/or reception of optical signals. It is very particularly preferred that the interface be configured for the emission or reception of light in the visible region. The washing machine or clothes dryer is to be configured in this context so that darkness prevails in the interior of the washing or drying space during operation of the machine, so that signals in the visible optical region, for example in the form of signal pulses or light flashes, can be emitted and detected by the dispenser. It has emerged as particularly advantageous to use wavelengths between 600 and 800 nm in the visible spectrum.

Alternatively or additionally, it is advantageous that the interface is configured for the emission or reception of infrared signals. It is advantageous in particular that the interface is configured for the emission or reception of infrared signals in the near infrared range (780 nm to 3000 nm).

The interface encompasses in particular at least one LED. Particularly preferably, the interface encompasses at least two LEDs. It is also possible, according to a further preferable embodiment of the invention, to provide at least two LEDs that emit light at wavelengths differing from one another. This makes it possible, for example, to define different signal bands on which information can be sent or received.

It is further advantageous, in a refinement of the invention, for at least one LED to be an RGB LED whose wavelength is adjustable. It is thus possible, for example, to define with one LED a variety of signal bands that emit signals at different wavelengths.

The interface of the dispenser can be configured so that the LED is provided both for the emission of signals into the interior of the dishwasher, in particular when the machine door is closed, and for optical indication of an operating state of the dispenser, in particular when the machine door is open.

It is particularly preferred that an optical signal be embodied as a signal pulse having a pulse duration of between 1 ms and 10 second, preferably between 5 ms and 100 ms.

It is further advantageous that the interface of the dispenser is configured in such a way that it emits an optical signal, when the washing machine or clothes dryer is closed and unloaded, that produces an average illumination intensity E of between 0.01 and 100 lux, preferably between 0.1 and 50 lux, measured at the walls (washing or drying drum) delimiting the washing or drying space. This illumination intensity is then sufficient to produce multiple reflections with or at the other washing-space walls, and thereby to reduce or prevent signal shadows in the washing or drying space, especially when the washing machine or clothes dryer is in the loaded state.

The signal emitted and/or received by the interface is in particular a carrier of information, in particular a control signal or a signal that represents an operating state of the dispenser and/or of the washing machine or clothes dryer.

In an advantageous refinement of the invention, the dispenser for delivering at least one washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation from a cartridge into the interior of a washing machine or clothes dryer comprises a light source by means of which a light signal can be coupled into a light guide of the cartridge. The light source can in particular be an LED. It is thereby possible, for example, to incouple light signals, that for example represent the operating state of the dispenser, from the dispenser into the cartridge, so that they are visually perceptible at the cartridge by a user. As a result of the incoupling of light from the dispenser into the cartridge, the corresponding light signals can for example also be guided into the top region of the cartridge.

It is furthermore possible for the light signal coupled into and passing through the light guide of the cartridge to be detectable by a sensor located on the dispenser. This is explained in greater detail in a subsequent section.

In a further, advantageous embodiment, the dispenser for delivering at least one washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation into the interior of a household appliance encompasses at least one optical transmitting unit, the optical transmitting unit being configured in such a way that signals from the transmitting unit are couplable into a cartridge couplable to the dispenser, and signals from the transmitting unit can be radiated into the environment of the dispenser. It is thereby possible to realize, by means of one optical transmitting unit, both signal transmission between the dispenser and a washing machine or clothes dryer, and signal input into a cartridge.

The optical transmitting unit can be in particular an LED that preferably radiates light in the visible and/or IR region. It is also conceivable to use another suitable optical transmitting unit, such as for example a laser diode. It is particularly preferable to use optical transmitting units that emit light in the wavelength range between 600 and 800 nm.

In an advantageous refinement of the invention, the dispenser can encompass at least one optical receiving unit. This makes it possible, for example, for the dispenser to receive signals from an optical transmitting unit arranged in the washing machine or clothes dryer. This can be implemented by way of any suitable optical receiving unit, for example photocells, photomultipliers, semiconductor detectors, photodiodes, photoresistors, solar cells, phototransistors, CCD and/or CMOS image sensors. It is particularly preferred that the optical receiving unit be suitable for receiving light in the wavelength region from 600 to 800 nm.

The optical receiving unit on the dispenser can also, in particular, be embodied in such a way that the signals couplable from the transmitting unit into a cartridge coupled to the dispenser can be coupled out of the cartridge and are detectable by the optical receiving unit of the dispenser.

The signals emitted by the transmitting unit into the environment of the dispenser can preferably represent information with regard to operating states or control instructions.

Dispensing Chamber

The dispenser for delivering at least one flowable washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation into the interior of a washing machine or clothes dryer can in particular comprise a dispensing chamber that is connected, communicatively with the cartridge couplable to the dispenser, to a dispensing chamber inlet located in the dispenser, so that when the dispenser is in the service position, preparation flows in gravity-effected fashion from the cartridge into the dispensing chamber, a dispensing chamber outlet closable by a valve being arranged downstream in the direction of gravity from the dispensing chamber inlet, there being arranged in the dispensing chamber a float whose density is less than the density of the preparation, the float being embodied such that preparation can flow around and/or through the float, and the float and the dispensing chamber inlet being configured such that the dispensing chamber inlet is closable by the float.

Depending on the configuration of the density of the preparation and the density of the float and the resultant buoyancy, the float can sealingly or nonsealingly close off the dispensing chamber inlet. In the case of a nonsealing closure, the float does rest against the dispensing chamber inlet but does not seal the latter with regard to inflow of preparation from the cartridge, so that an exchange of preparation between the cartridge and the dispensing chamber is possible. In this embodiment of the invention the float acts as a controlled throttle that, upon opening of the valve, minimizes creep-through between the dispensing chamber inlet and dispensing chamber outlet and thus helps determine dispensing accuracy.

Alternatively, the float and the dispensing chamber can be embodied as a self-closing valve, on the one hand to ensure the lowest possible energy consumption in a dispenser autonomous with regard to energy; on the other hand a defined quantity of preparation that approximately corresponds to the internal volume of the dispensing chamber is released.

It is particularly advantageous to select the density of the washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation and the density of the float such that the float exhibits a rate of ascent in the washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation from 1.5 mm/sec to 25 mm/sec, preferably 2 mm/sec to 20 mm/sec, particularly preferably 2.5 mm/sec to 17.5 mm/sec. This ensures sufficiently rapid closure of the dispensing chamber inlet by the ascending float and thus a sufficiently short interval between two preparation dispensing actions.

The rate of ascent of the float can advantageously also be stored in the valve-actuating control unit of the dispenser. This also makes it possible to activate the valve so as to achieve a delivery of preparation greater than the volume of the dispensing chamber. In this context, the valve is then reopened before the float reaches its upper closure position against the dispensing chamber inlet and closes the dispensing chamber inlet.

In order to ensure accurate dispensing from the dispensing chamber into the environment of the dispenser, it has proven advantageous for the float and the dispensing chamber to be configured such that, when the valve associated with the dispensing chamber outlet is in the delivery position, the rate of ascent of the float in the washing- and/or cleaning-agent preparation is less than the rate at which the preparation surrounding the float flows out of the dispensing chamber.

It is preferred to embody the float in substantially spherical fashion. Alternatively, the float can also be substantially cylindrical.

It is preferable for the dispensing chamber to be substantially cylindrical. It is furthermore advantageous for the diameter of the dispensing chamber to be slightly larger than the diameter of the cylindrical or spherical float, so that creep-through with regard to the preparation occurs between the dispensing chamber and the float.

According to a preferable embodiment, the float is formed from a foamed polymeric material, in particular from foamed PP.

In a further, preferred embodiment, the dispensing chamber is L-shaped in configuration.

An aperture can furthermore be arranged in the dispensing chamber between the dispensing chamber inlet and dispensing chamber outlet, the aperture orifice being constructed such that it is sealingly or nonsealingly closable by the float, the float preferably being arranged between the aperture and the dispensing chamber inlet.

Component Carrier

The dispenser encompasses a component carrier on which are arranged at least the actuator and the closure element, as well as the energy source and/or control unit and/or sensor unit and/or dispensing chamber.

The component carrier comprises receptacles for the aforesaid components, and/or the components are shaped in one piece with the component carrier.

The receptacles for the components in the component carrier can be provided for a frictionally engaged, positive, and/or materially attached connection between a respective component and the corresponding receptacle.

It is further conceivable that, for easy removal of the components from the component carrier, the dispensing chamber, actuator, closure element, control unit, and/or sensor unit are each arranged detachably on the component carrier.

It is also advantageous that the energy source, control unit, and sensor unit are arranged on or in the component carrier in a manner grouped into one subassembly. In an advantageous refinement of the invention, the energy source, control unit, and sensor unit are grouped together into one subassembly. This can be realized, for example, by the fact that the control unit and sensor unit are arranged on one common electrical circuit board.

According to a further preferred embodiment of the invention, the component carrier is embodied in trough-like fashion, produced as an injection-molded part. It is particularly preferred that the dispensing chamber be embodied in one piece with the component carrier.

The component carrier makes possible, to a very large extent, simple automatic population with the necessary components of the dispenser. The component carrier can thus be preferably automatically preassembled in its entirety, and joined to a dispenser.

According to an embodiment of the invention, the trough-like component carrier can be closed off after population, in liquid-tight fashion, by a, for example, cover-like closure element. The closure element can be embodied, for example, as a film that is connected by material attachment and in liquid-tight fashion to the component carrier and that forms, with the trough-like component carrier, one or more liquid-tight chambers.

The closure element can also be a bracket into which the component carrier is introducible, the bracket and the component in the assembled state constituting the dispenser. The component carrier and bracket interact, in the assembled state, in such a way that a liquid-tight connection is embodied between the component carrier and the bracket, so that washing water cannot get into the interior of the dispenser or component carrier.

It is further preferred that, when the dispenser is in the service position, the receptacle for the actuator on the component carrier be arranged above the dispensing chamber in the direction of gravity, thereby allowing a compact conformation of the dispenser to be realized. The compact design can be further optimized by the fact that when the dispenser is in the service position, the dispensing chamber inlet on the component carrier is arranged above the receptacle of the actuator. It is also preferable that the components on the component carrier be arranged substantially in line with one another, in particular along the longitudinal axis of the component carrier.

In a refinement of the invention, the receptacle for the actuator comprises an opening that lies on a line with the dispensing chamber outlet, so that a closure element can be moved by the actuator back and forth through the opening and the dispensing chamber outlet.

It is particularly preferred that the component carrier be formed from a transparent material.

Advantageously, the component carrier encompasses at least one light guide through which light can be guided from the environment of the dispenser to an optical transmitting and/or receiving unit into and/or out of the interior(s) of the dispenser or of the component carrier, the light guide being in particular shaped in one piece with the transparent component carrier.

It is therefore further preferred that there be provided in the dispenser at least one opening through which light can be coupled in and/or out from the environment of the dispenser into and/or out of the light guide.

Actuator

An “actuator” for purposes of this Application is an apparatus which converts an input variable into an output variable of a different nature, and with which an object is moved or motion thereof is generated, the actuator being coupled to at least one closure element in such a way that the release of preparation from at least one cartridge chamber can be brought about indirectly or directly.

The actuator can be driven by drive systems selected from the group of the gravity drives, ionic drives, electric drives, motor drives, hydraulic drives, pneumatic drives, gear drives, threaded spindle drives, ball screw drives, linear drives, roller screw drives, worm drives, piezoelectric drives, chain drives, and/or reaction drives.

The actuator can be embodied in particular from an electric motor which is coupled to a linkage that converts the rotary motion of the motor into a linear motion of a carriage coupled to the linkage. This is advantageous in particular in the case of a slender, plate-shaped embodiment of the dispensing unit.

There can be arranged on the actuator at least one magnet element that, with a magnet element of identical polarity on a metering unit, brings about a product delivery from the container as soon as the two magnet elements are positioned with respect to one another in such a way that a magnetic repulsion of the identically polarized magnet elements is brought about, and a non-contact release mechanism is realized.

In a particularly preferred embodiment of the invention, the actuator is a bistable solenoid that, together with a closure element that engages into the bistable solenoid and is embodied as a plunger core, forms a pulse-controlled bistable valve. Bistable solenoids are electromechanical magnets having a linear motion direction, such that the plunger core locks in unenergized fashion in each end position.

Bistable solenoids or bistable valves are known in the existing art. A bistable valve requires one pulse for the change in valve position (open/closed), and then remains in that position until a counter-pulse is sent to the valve. The term “pulse-controlled valve” is therefore also used. An essential advantage of such pulse-controlled valves is that they consume no energy in order to remain in the valve end positions (closure position and delivery position), but require an energy pulse only in order to change the valve position; the valve end positions may thus be regarded as stable. A bistable valve remains in the switched position that most recently received a control signal.

The closure element (plunger core) is shifted into one end position by a current pulse. The current is switched off and the closure element retains its position. The closure element is shifted into the other end position by a current pulse. The current is switched off and the closure element retains its position.

A bistable property can be implemented in solenoids in various ways. On the one hand, splitting of the coil is known. The coil is split more or less centeredly, thus creating a gap. A permanent magnet is inserted into this gap. The plunger core itself is machined down at both the front and back so that it has, in each end position, a surface abutting in planar fashion with respect to the magnet frame. The magnetic field of the permanent magnet flows via this surface and the plunger core adheres here. Another alternative possibility is the use of two separate coils. The principle is similar to that of the bistable solenoid having a split coil. The difference is that electrically, there are in fact two different coils. Control is applied to them separately from one another, depending on the direction in which the plunger core is to be moved.

It is thus particularly preferable that the closure element be coupled to the actuator in such a way that the closure element is displaceable by the actuator into a closure position and into a passthrough position (delivery position), the closure element being embodied as an on/off valve element; that the actuator be embodied in such a way that, under the control of a suitable pulse, it assumes in selectably determinable fashion one of two end positions and, without application of control, maintains in stable fashion the end position that was reached; and that the combination thus constitute a pulse-controlled bistable on/off valve.

The actuator can be embodied for this purpose, in particular, as a bistable solenoid having a space that receives an armature, and having an outer receiving space surrounding said space. The armature of the bistable solenoid can be embodied so that it forms the closure element or is coupled to it.

In order to bring about a separation between a wet space and a dry space in the dispenser, the space of the actuator that receives the armature can be separated from the outer receiving space of the actuator in liquid-tight and by preferably also gas-tight fashion.

It is further advantageous to constitute at least the outer surface of the armature from a material that cannot be attacked by the washing or cleaning agent that is to be dispensed, in particular from a plastic material.

The armature preferably encompasses a core made of a magnetizable, in particular ferromagnetic, material, and a permanent magnet positioned in the outer receiving space, a respective coil being arranged at the two axial ends of said magnet.

It is additionally preferred that permanent magnets be arranged in axially anti-polar fashion in the armature at its axial ends; and that yoke rings made of a ferromagnetic material, in particular of iron, be arranged in the outer receiving space at both axial ends, with a coil winding between said rings.

It is advantageous in this context that the axial spacing of the yoke rings is greater than the axial spacing of the permanent magnets.

In addition, yoke rings can be arranged in the armature at its axial ends, permanent magnets being arranged in axially anti-polar fashion in the outer receiving space at both axial ends, and a coil winding being arranged between them. The axial spacing of the permanent magnets is, in this context, preferably greater than the axial spacing of the yoke rings.

The actuator/closure element combination is provided in particular in a dispenser of a dispensing system having a cartridge for flowable washing or cleaning agents having a plurality of chambers each for physically separated reception of mutually differing preparations of a washing or cleaning agent, and having a dispenser couplable to the cartridge, the dispenser comprising: an energy source, a control unit, a sensor unit, an actuator which is connected to the energy source and to the control unit in such a way that a control signal of the control unit produces an actuation of the actuator, a closure element which is coupled to the actuator in such a way that it is displaceable by the actuator into a closure position and into a passthrough position (delivery position), at least one dispensing chamber which, when the dispenser is assembled with a cartridge, is communicatively connected to at least one of the cartridge chambers, the dispensing chamber comprising an inlet for the inflow of washing or cleaning agent out of a cartridge chamber, and an outlet for the outflow of washing or cleaning agent out of the dispensing chamber into the environment, and at least the outlet of the dispensing chamber being capable of being closed off or uncovered by the closure element.

The actuator is, in particular, arranged in a component carrier in such a way that when the dispenser is in the service position, a receptacle for the actuator on the component carrier is arranged above the dispensing chamber in the direction of gravity. It is very particularly advantageous in this context that when the dispenser is in the service position, the inlet of the dispensing chamber is arranged on the component carrier above the receptacle of the actuator.

It is also conceivable for the dispenser to comprise a component carrier in which, when the dispenser is in the service position, a receptacle for the actuator is arranged on the component carrier laterally next to the dispensing chamber.

The receptacle for the actuator preferably comprises an opening that lies on a line with the outlet of the dispensing chamber, the closure element being movable by the actuator through the opening to the outlet and back.

Closure Element

A “closure element” for purposes of this Application is a component upon which the actuator acts and which, as a consequence of that action, brings about opening or closure of an outlet opening.

The closure element can involve, for example, valves that can be brought by the actuator into a product delivery position or a closure position.

Embodiment of the closure element and the actuator in the form of a solenoid valve, in which the metering unit is embodied by the valve and the actuator by the electromagnetic or piezoelectric drive system of the solenoid valve, is particularly preferred. Especially when a plurality of containers, and thus of preparations to be dispensed, are used, the use of solenoid valves allows the dispensed quantity and dispensing points in time to be regulated very accurately.

It is therefore advantageous to control the delivery of preparations out of each outlet opening of a chamber using a solenoid valve, by the fact that the solenoid valve indirectly or directly determines the release of preparation out of the product delivery opening.

Sensor

A “sensor” for purposes of this application is a measured-variable transducer or sensing element that can sense specific physical or chemical properties and/or the material nature of its environment, qualitatively or, as a measured variable, quantitatively.

The dispensing unit preferably comprises at least one sensor that is suitable for sensing a temperature. The temperature sensor is embodied in particular for sensing a water temperature.

It is further preferred that the dispensing unit encompass a sensor for sensing conductivity, with which, in particular, the presence of water in a washing machine is sensed.

In a refinement of the invention, the dispensing unit comprises a sensor that can determine physical, chemical, and/or mechanical parameters from the environment of the dispensing unit. The sensor unit can encompass one or more active and/or passive sensors for qualitative and/or quantitative sensing of mechanical, electrical, physical, and/or chemical variables, which are conveyed as control signals to the control unit.

The sensors of the sensor unit can be selected, in particular, from the group of the timers, temperature sensors, infrared sensors, brightness sensors, temperature sensors, motion sensors, elongation sensors, rotation speed sensors, proximity sensors, flow sensors, color sensors, gas sensors, vibration sensors, pressure sensors, conductivity sensors, turbidity sensors, acoustic pressure sensors, “lab on a chip” sensors, force sensors, acceleration sensors, tilt sensors, pH sensors, moisture sensors, magnetic field sensors, RFID sensors, magnetic field sensors, Hall sensors, biochips, odor sensors, hydrogen sulfide sensors, and/or MEMS sensors.

Especially in the case of preparations whose viscosity fluctuates greatly as a function of temperature, it is advantageous in terms of monitoring the volume or mass of the dispensed preparations to provide flow sensors in the dispensing apparatus. Suitable flow sensors can be selected from the group of the aperture flow sensors, magnetic induction flow meters, mass flow measurement using the Coriolis method, vortex meter flow measurement methods, ultrasonic flow measurement methods, suspended solid particle flow measurement, oscillating piston flow measurement, thermal mass flow measurement, or differential pressure flow measurement.

It is particularly preferred that at least two sensor units be provided for measuring parameters that differ from one another, very particularly preferably one sensor unit being a conductivity sensor and a further sensor unit being a temperature sensor. It is additionally preferred that at least one sensor unit be a brightness sensor.

The sensors are in particular adjusted for detecting the beginning, progress, and end of a washing program. By way of non-exhaustive example, the sensor combinations listed in the table below can be used for this purpose:

Sensor 1Sensor 2Sensor 3Sensor 4
Conductivity sensorTemperature sensor
Conductivity sensorTemperature sensorBrightness sensor
Conductivity sensorTemperature sensorBrightness sensorTurbidity
Acoustic sensorTemperature sensorsensor
Odor sensorTemperature sensor
Moisture sensorTemperature sensor
Conductivity sensorTemperature sensorSoftness sensor

By means of the conductivity sensor it is possible to detect, for example, whether the conductivity sensor is wetted by water, so that it can thereby e.g. be ascertained whether, for example, water is present in the washing machine.

Washing or drying programs as a rule exhibit a characteristic temperature profile, which is determined inter alia by the heating of the washing water and drying of the items being washed, and which is detectable using a temperature sensor.

A brightness sensor can be used, for example, to detect the incidence of light into the interior of a dryer or a washing machine when the machine door is opened, from which it may for example be concluded that the washing or drying program has ended.

A turbidity sensor can also be provided to determine the degree of soiling of the items to be washed in the washing machine. This also allows, for example, selection in the dispenser of a dispensing program appropriate for the identified soiling situation.

It is also conceivable to detect the progress of a washing or drying program with the aid of at least one acoustic sensor, specific acoustic and/or vibration emissions being detected, for example, when water is being pumped in or out.

It is of course possible for one skilled in the art to use any desired, suitable combinations of multiple sensors to achieve monitoring of a washing or drying program.

According to a refinement of the invention, it is conceivable for a temperature-dependent viscosity curve of at least one preparation to be stored in the control unit, the dispensing action being adapted by the control unit in accordance with the temperature and thus the viscosity of the preparation.

In a further embodiment of the invention, an apparatus for directly determining the viscosity of the preparation is provided.

The alternatives set forth above for determining the dispensed quantity or viscosity of a preparation serve to generate a control signal that is processed by the control unit to control a metering unit in such a way that substantially constant dispensing of a preparation is brought about.

The data line between the sensor and control unit can be realized by way of an electrically conductive cable, or wirelessly. It is in principle also conceivable for at least one sensor to be positioned or positionable outside the dispenser in the interior of the washing machine or clothes dryer, and for a data line to be embodied, in particular wirelessly, for transmission of the measured data from the sensor to the dispenser.

A wirelessly embodied data line is embodied in particular by the transfer of electromagnetic waves or light. It is preferred to embody a wireless data line in accordance with accepted standards such as, for example, Bluetooth, IrDA, IEEE 802, GSM, UMTS, etc.

To allow efficient production and assembly of the dispenser, however, it is also possible for at least one sensor unit to be arranged on or in the control unit. For example, it is possible to provide a temperature sensor in the dispenser or directly on the circuit board carrying the control unit, so that the temperature sensor has no direct contact with the environment.

In a particularly preferred embodiment of the invention, the sensor unit is arranged at the bottom of the dispenser, the bottom of the dispenser being directed, in the service position, downward in the direction of gravity. It is particularly preferred in this context that the sensor unit encompass a temperature sensor and/or a conductivity sensor. A configuration of this kind ensures that water is conveyed onto the underside of the dispenser, and thus into contact with the sensor, by the rotation of the laundry drum.

To decrease the dispenser's energy consumption, the energy consumers of the dispenser, in particular the control unit, can be connected to the energy source with inclusion of an on-off switch, and the energy source is put under load only after the “on” state of the on-off switch is reached, such that a sensor unit constitutes the on-off switch, or is connected thereto and switches the latter.

It is particularly preferred that the sensor unit downward on the bottom of the dispenser comprise two contacts in contact with the environment, these in particular being embodied as contact pins projecting downward out of the bottom; that one contact be connected as an anode contact and the other contact as a cathode contact relative to the energy source; and that the on-off switch that is in the “off” state remain in the “off” state with no electrically conductive connection between the contacts, and that the on-off switch that is in the “off” state be switched into the “on” state upon occurrence of an electrically conductive connection between the contacts.

It is furthermore preferred that the on-off switch be provided or combined with a self-hold circuit that ensures or brings about self-holding of the energy supply of the energy consumers once the “on” state of the on-off switch is reached, until the control unit outputs a switch-off signal.

The on/off switch can be embodied in particular as a transistor circuit. It is preferable in this context that the transistor of the on/off switch be embodied as a pnp transistor and connected at the emitter, optionally via a control application circuit, to the supply voltage; at the collector, optionally via a control application circuit, to ground and to the cathode contact; and at the base on the one hand, optionally via a control application circuit, to the supply voltage, and on the other hand, optionally via a control application circuit, to the anode contact.

The control application circuit preferably comprises at least one control resistor that is embodied in particular as a resistor-type voltage divider.

It is very particularly advantageous that in besides the on/off sensor unit, a sensor unit embodied as a conductivity sensor is provided, which, comprises, downward on the bottom of the dispenser, two contacts in contact with the environment; and that the anode contact of the on/off sensor unit is simultaneously the anode contact of the sensor unit that constitutes the conductivity sensor. It thereby becomes possible to implement an on/off switch and a conductivity sensor in one component (a transistor).

It is also possible for the sensor unit constituting the temperature sensor to be integrated into a contact, in particular the cathode contact, of the sensor unit constituting the conductivity sensor.

In the sensor unit constituting the conductivity sensor, the contact that receives the temperature sensor can be embodied as a hollow contact pin in which the temperature sensor of the sensor unit constituting the temperature sensor is arranged.

In order to achieve a compact overall size, it is furthermore advantageous that the energy source, the control unit, and the sensor unit are arranged, grouped together into one assembly, on or in the component carrier.

It is particularly preferred that the contacts of a conductivity sensor arranged on the bottom side be surrounded by an electrically conductive silicone. The conductivity sensor can be embodied in this context in particular in the form of a resistance measurement between two contacts that are spaced apart from one another and are in contact with the environment of the dispensing device. It is very particularly preferable in this context that the silicone be embedded flush into the bottom of the dispensing device. Advantageously, the silicone has an approximately circular base surface. Silicone exhibits good wettability with water, and thus furnishes good measurement results in terms of the detection of water in the washing machine or clothes dryer.

In order to avoid polarization, which would negatively affect sensor accuracy, at the contacts of the conductivity sensor when a DC voltage source is used, it is advantageous to perform two successive resistance measurements at the conductivity sensor using a different polarity in each case, i.e. with the positive and negative poles transposed, so that excess charges cannot form at the contacts.

Control Unit

A “control unit” for purposes of this application is an apparatus that is suitable for influencing the transportation of material, energy, and/or information. For this purpose, the control unit influences actuators with the aid of information, in particular measurement signals of the sensor unit, which it processes as defined by the control objective.

The control unit can be in particular a programmable microprocessor. In a particularly preferred embodiment of the invention, a plurality of dispensing programs, which in a particularly preferred embodiment can be selected and executed in a manner corresponding to the container coupled to the dispenser, are stored on the microprocessor.

In a preferred embodiment, the control unit has no connection to the possibly present controller of the washing machine or clothes dryer. No data, in particular electrical or electromagnetic signals, are therefore exchanged directly between the control unit and the household appliance controller.

In an alternative embodiment of the invention, the control unit is coupled to the household appliance controller that is present. This coupling is preferably embodied wirelessly. It is possible, for example, to position a transmitter on or in a washing machine or a clothes dryer, which transmitter wirelessly transfers a signal to the dispensing unit when the controller of the washing machine or clothes dryer brings about dispensing, for example, of a cleaning agent out of the dispensing chamber, or of conditioner.

Multiple programs for the release of different preparations, or for the release of products in different application instances, can be stored in the control unit.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, invocation of the corresponding program can be brought about by way of corresponding RFID labels, or geometric information carriers shaped on the container.

For the dispensing in particular of preparations that tend to gel, the control unit can be configured in such a way that on the one hand dispensing occurs in a sufficiently short time to ensure a good cleaning result, and on the other hand the preparation is not dispensed so quickly that gelling of the surge of preparation occurs. This can be achieved, for example by way of an interval-type release, the individual dispensing intervals being adjusted so that they trigger all of the correspondingly dispensed quantity during one cleaning cycle.

It is particularly preferred that the dispensing intervals for delivery of a preparation be between 30 and 90 seconds, particularly preferably between 45 and 75 seconds.

The delivery of preparations out of the dispenser can occur sequentially or simultaneously.

It is particularly preferred to dispense a plurality of preparations sequentially in one washing program. The following dispensing sequences, in particular, are to be preferred:

DispensingDispensing
Dispensing action 1action 2Dispensing action 3action 4
EnzymaticAlkaline
cleaningcleaning
preparationpreparation
Alkaline cleaningRinse aid
preparation
EnzymaticAlkalineConditioner
cleaningcleaning
preparationpreparation
EnzymaticAlkalineConditionerDisinfecting
cleaningcleaningpreparation/
preparationpreparationHygiene
preparation
EnzymaticAlkalineConditionerScent
cleaningcleaning
preparationpreparation
PretreatmentEnzymaticAlkaline cleaningConditioner
preparationcleaningpreparation
preparation
PretreatmentEnzymaticBleach-containingConditioner
preparationcleaningcleaning
preparationpreparation
EnzymaticAlkalineBleach-containingConditioner
cleaningcleaningcleaning
preparationpreparationpreparation
Odor eliminationOdor/scent
preparationabsorber
ScentAntistatic
preparation
AntistaticAnti-wrinkle
preparationpreparation

In an advantageous refinement of the invention, data such as, for example, control and/or dispensing programs of the dispenser control unit or operating parameters or protocols stored by the control unit can be read out of the dispenser control unit or loaded into the dispenser control unit. This can be implemented, for example, by means of an optical interface, the optical interface being connected correspondingly to the control unit. The data to be transferred are then encoded and emitted or received as light signals, in particular in the visible region, the wavelength range between 600 and 800 nm being preferred. It is also possible, however, to use a sensor present in the dispenser for transferring data out of and/or to the control unit. For example, the contacts of a conductivity sensor, which are connected to the control unit and make available a conductivity determination by means of a resistance measurement at the contacts of the conductivity sensor, can be used for data transfer.

Vibratory Atomizer

In a further preferred embodiment of the invention, the dispensing system comprises at least one vibratory atomizer, by means of which it is possible to convert a preparation into, or keep it in, the gas phase. It is thus conceivable, for example, to vaporize, nebulize and/or atomize preparations by means of the vibratory atomizer, with the result that the preparation transitions into the gas phase or forms an aerosol in the gas phase, the gas phase usually being air.

This embodiment is particularly advantageous for use in an automatic dishwasher or washing machine in which a corresponding release of preparation into the gas phase takes place in a closable drying or washing space. The preparation introduced into the gas phase can become uniformly distributed in the drying or washing space, and become deposited on the items to be washed that are located in the washing machine or clothes dryer.

The preparation released by the vibratory atomizer can be selected in particular from the group of the surfactant-containing preparations, enzyme-containing preparations, odor-neutralizing preparations, biocidal preparations, and antibacterial preparations.

While at least one exemplary embodiment has been presented in the foregoing detailed description of the invention, it should be appreciated that a vast number of variations exist. It should also be appreciated that the exemplary embodiment or exemplary embodiments are only examples, and are not intended to limit the scope, applicability, or configuration of the invention in any way. Rather, the foregoing detailed description will provide those skilled in the art with a convenient road map for implementing an exemplary embodiment of the invention, it being understood that various changes may be made in the function and arrangement of elements described in an exemplary embodiment without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims and their legal equivalents.