US 20010020490 A1
Device (10) for the automatic delivery of water from a tap (12) comprising a mixer cartridge (30), able to be arranged inside the monoblock (11) of said tap (12), means to regulate the mixing of the water and actuation means (42), arranged above said monoblock (11), able to determine the opening and closing of the flow of water, said actuation means (42) being commanded electrically and able to cooperate with a corresponding interception element (20) of said mixer cartridge (30).
1. Device for the automatic delivery of water from a tap (12) comprising a mixer cartridge (30), able to be arranged inside the monoblock (11) of said tap (12), means to regulate the mixing of the water and actuation means (42), arranged above said monoblock (11), able to determine the opening and closing of the flow of water, the device being characterized in that said actuation means (42) are commanded electrically and able to cooperate with a corresponding interception element (20) of said mixer cartridge (30).
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 The invention concerns a device for the automatic delivery of water able to be employed in electronically controlled taps wherein delivery is commanded, substantially automatically, through sensor means which detect the presence of the user.
 The state of the art includes monocommand mixer taps comprising a mixer cartridge, located inside the monoblock of the tap, associated with a lever, which allows to regulate both the mixing and the delivery of the water, and which is mounted above the monoblock.
 The state of the art also includes taps of the electronic type wherein the water is delivered substantially automatically when the user approaches the taps.
 Such taps comprise a valve provided with interception means cooperating with a solenoid device, or with an electric motor, able to command the opening and closing thereof, respectively to deliver and interrupt the flow of water; the solenoid device or the motor is activated by appropriate sensor means able to detect the presence of the user.
 In some embodiments, the valve is associated with manual activation means which allow to regulate the mix of hot and cold water.
 The structure of this type of valve and the need to feed the solenoid device or drive motor of the interception means electrically make it necessary to locate the valve and the electric and electronic components in the lower part of the monoblock, or cast block, of the tap, which therefore must be appropriately sized.
 This means that it is necessary to design and make specific monoblocks for the electronically controlled taps, that is, different from those for monocommand mixer taps, with greater problems in terms of planning the production and managing stocks.
 Moreover, the greater size of the monoblock considerably limits the design and aesthetics of the tap.
 Furthermore, the presence of electric and electronic parts inside the monoblock in the zone where the water passes can cause malfunctions of the tap and can compromise the safety of the user.
 The present Applicant has devised and embodied this invention to overcome these shortcomings and to obtain further advantages.
 The invention is set forth and characterized in the main claim, while the dependent claims describe other characteristics of the invention.
 The purpose of the invention is to achieve a device for the automatic delivery of water, which can be associated with a monoblock for mixer taps of a substantially standardized type, that is, of the type for monocommand mixer taps, thus obviating the need to produce a specific monoblock for electronically controlled mixer taps.
 Another purpose of the invention is to achieve a device for the automatic delivery of water which is practical, functional and compact and can be used in conditions of absolute safety for the user.
 The device according to the invention comprises a mixer cartridge, able to be arranged inside a monoblock for mixer taps of a conventional type, means to regulate the mixing of water and actuation means, commanded electrically, which can be associated with the monoblock from the above and able to cause the flow of water to open and close by acting on an interception element of the mixer cartridge.
 The actuation means cooperate with a sensor able to detect the presence of the user and to automatically determine the activation of said actuation means.
 In a preferential embodiment of the invention, the actuation means are driven by a member powered by batteries.
 In one embodiment, the means to regulate the mixing, the actuation means and the electric and electronic components connected thereto are integrated into a single block able to be coupled on the mixer cartridge in a position outside the monoblock.
 The device according to the invention is therefore able to be associated with monoblocks for monocommand mixer taps and thus allows to obviate both the problem of stylistic limitations and design imposed by the devices for electronically controlled taps, and also the problem of production and storage of different types of monoblock.
 The separation of the electric and electronic parts from the mixer cartridge confers characteristics of extreme safety and functionality on the device according to the invention.
 The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of the invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings embodiments which are presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings:
FIG. 1 shows a longitudinal section of a device according to the invention associated with the monoblock of a tap;
FIG. 2 is a three-dimensional view of a tap provided with the device according to the invention;
FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the components of the device according to the invention.
 With reference to the attached drawings, a device 10 for the automatic delivery of water according to the invention is able to be associated with the monoblock 11 of taps 12 of a substantially standardized type.
 The device 10 comprises a mixer cartridge 30 associated at the upper part with a command and regulation unit 40.
 The mixer cartridge 30 is able to be housed in the upper part of the monoblock 11 and comprises a containing body 13 closed at the bottom part by a bottom 14 of a substantially conventional type and defining therewith a compartment 15 which houses: a fixed platelet 16, a movable platelet 17, a distributor element 18, a drawing element 19 and a membrane 20.
 The bottom 14 can be associated with the monoblock 11 in correspondence with a supporting plane 22 and is provided, in this case, with three holes, 14 a, 14 b and 14 c, able to respectively allow the passage of hot and cold water and mixed water to be sent to the delivery outlet 21 of the tap 12.
 The fixed platelet 16 is able to be solidly associated with the bottom 14 and has three respective holes 16 a, 16 b and 16 c functionally connected to the holes 14 a, 14 b and 14 c.
 The movable platelet 17 is mounted rotary on a plane parallel to and above that of the fixed platelet 16; it is provided with a hole 17 a able to cooperate with the hole 16 c and with a curved eyelet 17 b able to communicate selectively with only one or both the holes 16 a and 16 b.
 The distributor element 18 is associated by having the same shape above the movable platelet 17 and is therefore able to rotate solidly therewith.
 The distributor element 18 comprises a central aperture, or discharge or outlet aperture 18 a, communicating with the hole 17 a and a peripheral aperture 18 b communicating with the eyelet 17 b.
 Sealing elements 23, 24, 25 are provided respectively between the bottom 14 and the supporting base 22, between the bottom 14 and the fixed platelet 16 and between the movable platelet 17 and the distributor element 18.
 The drawing element 19 is coupled axially with the distributor element 18 and defines an inner chamber 26 therewith.
 The upper part of the drawing element 19 protrudes with respect to the containing body 13 and has a knurling 27 on the perimeter and, at the center, a cavity 28 opening upwards.
 The cavity 28 communicates with the chamber 26 by means of a first channel 29 and with the central aperture 18 a by means of a second channel 31 made partly on the distributor element 18 and partly on the drawing element 19.
 The membrane 20 is housed on the bottom of the chamber 26 and is peripherally constrained between the drawing element 19 and the distributor element 18; it has an extension 20 a on the lower part which in its normal condition, that is, when the tap 12 is closed, closes the central aperture 18 a.
 The membrane 20 is also provided with a small through hole 32 located in correspondence with the peripheral aperture 18 b and able to make the latter communicate with the chamber 26.
 The command and regulation unit 40 comprises a base 33 and a handle 45, which can be solidly associated with the latter and is hollow inside, able to contain: a drive member 41 provided with a piston 42, feeder batteries 36 and an electronic circuit 43.
 The base 33 is provided with a plurality of columns 34 (in this case five) on which a plate 35 is able to be engaged and attached by means of screws 37.
 The base 33 is also provided at the center with a hole 49 on the inner wall of which there is a knurling 50 able to couple with the knurling 27 of the drawing element 19.
 The base 33 and the plate 35 define the seating 39 for the drive member 41 at the center and, on the periphery, seatings 38 for the batteries 36.
 The drive member 41, which can consist of a solenoid device or an electric motor, is fed by the batteries 36 and comprises an extension 41 a able to be constrained to the inside of the cavity 28.
 The extension 41 a is provided at the lower part with a seating 51, the function of which is to connect the channels 29 and 31.
 The drive member 41 is able to move the piston 42 axially, permitting it to be selectively inserted into the first channel 29.
 To be more exact, the piston 42 is able to be taken from an extracted position, wherein it closes the first channel 29, to a retracted position, wherein it leaves the latter free.
 According to a variant, the piston 42 is able to close only, or also, the second channel 31.
 The electronic circuit 43 mounted on the plate 35 is able to manage the drive member 41 according to what is detected by a presence sensor 44 associated therewith. The sensor 44 is closed at the upper part by a cover 46 associated with the handle 45 by means of a sealing ring 47.
 In the assembled condition of the device 10, the command and regulation unit 40 is mounted above the mixer cartridge 30, and in a position outside the monoblock 11, due to the coupling between the knurling 27 of the drawing element 19 and the knurling 50 of the base 33. The stability of this coupling is ensured by the presence of an elastic clamping ring 48 which prevents the command and regulation unit 40 from coming off.
 The device 10 as described heretofore functions as follows.
 When there is nobody near the tap 12, the drive member 41 is inactive and has the piston 42 in the extracted position, that is, closing the first channel 29.
 In this condition, the chamber 26 is in communication with the peripheral aperture 18 b only.
 The water arriving from the pipes of the water system therefore rises from the peripheral aperture 18 b, through the through hole 32, into the chamber 26, compressing the membrane 20 which closes the central aperture 18 a and therefore prevents the water from flowing towards the delivery outlet 21.
 When the user approaches the tap 12, the sensor 44 detects the presence and, through the electronic circuit 43, causes the activation of the drive member 41 which takes the piston 42 to the retracted position, leaving the first channel 29 free which is therefore in communication with the second channel 31 and with the central aperture 18 a.
 In this condition the pressure inside the chamber 26 is substantially atmospheric pressure, therefore the water under pressure arriving from the peripheral aperture 18 b raises the membrane 20 which frees the central aperture 18 a, allowing the water to pass and flow towards the delivery outlet 21 through the holes 17 a, 16 c and 14 c.
 When the user moves away from the tap 12, the sensor 44, no longer detecting any presence, causes the de-activation of the drive member 41 which takes the piston 42 to the extracted position wherein the tap 12 is closed.
 According to a variant, a timer is associated with the electronic circuit 43 and is able to de-activate the drive member 41 after a pre-determined time, which can be programmed as desired, from its activation.
 The temperature of the water delivered can be regulated by making the handle 45 rotate, which, being constrained to the drawing element 19, causes a mating movement of the latter and hence of the distributor element 18 and the movable platelet 17.
 To be more exact, the rotation of the movable platelet 17 causes the displacement of the eyelet 17 b with respect to the holes 16 a or 16 b with a variation in the flow rates of hot and cold water to be mixed.
 It is obvious however that modifications and/or additions can be made to the device 10 as described heretofore, but these shall remain within the field and scope of the invention.
 For example, the mixer cartridge 30 can have different components from those shown and described here and the bottom 14 can be replaced by another, functionally equivalent element.
 Or the plate 35 can be attached to the columns 34 in a different way, for example by clamping pins, instead of the screws 37. It is also obvious that, although the invention has been described with reference to specific examples, a person of skill shall certainly be able to achieve many other equivalent forms of the device for the automatic delivery of water, all of which shall come within the field and scope of the invention.
 It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes could be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the broad inventive concept thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but it is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.