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Publication numberUS20020017287 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/947,673
Publication dateFeb 14, 2002
Filing dateSep 6, 2001
Priority dateJan 22, 1999
Also published asUS6311682, US6748938, US6860259, US20030154968, US20040216727
Publication number09947673, 947673, US 2002/0017287 A1, US 2002/017287 A1, US 20020017287 A1, US 20020017287A1, US 2002017287 A1, US 2002017287A1, US-A1-20020017287, US-A1-2002017287, US2002/0017287A1, US2002/017287A1, US20020017287 A1, US20020017287A1, US2002017287 A1, US2002017287A1
InventorsJohn Rice, Nicholas Marks
Original AssigneeRice John Ronald, Marks Nicholas John
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Paintball guns
US 20020017287 A1
Abstract
An electronically controlled pneumatic paintball gun, comprising means for monitoring and/or controlling one or more parameters of the gun's operation and alphanumeric display means for displaying data related to said monitoring or control on a display panel integral with the gun.
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Claims(23)
What is claimed is:
1. A pneumatic paintball gun comprising:
a trigger;
an electronic switch upon which the trigger acts;
an electronic processor in communication with the electronic switch for controlling and monitoring at least one operating parameter of the pneumatic paintball gun; and
a display for displaying one or more characters representing the one or more operating parameters of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation, the characters selected from the group consisting of letters, numbers, icons, symbols, and combinations thereof.
2. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 further comprising a timer.
3. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 2 wherein the timer is activated by the trigger.
4. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 wherein the operating parameters are selected from the group consisting of: firing mode, valve dwell time, ambient temperature, whether the gun is in live or safe mode, whether or not a fault has been detected, shot velocity, maximum rate of fire, battery status, shots fired, average rate of fire, and combinations thereof.
5. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 comprising at least two operating parameters and further comprising a switch for switching the display between the at least two operating parameters.
6. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 further comprising a switch for entering a control parameter.
7. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 6 wherein the switch is mounted in a normally inaccessible position.
8. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 6 wherein the switch is mounted behind means selected from the group consisting of anti-tamper and tamper-indicating means.
9. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 7 wherein the switch is located behind a plate which requires the use of a tool to access the switch.
10. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 further comprising a power saving feature.
11. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 further comprising a rechargeable battery.
12. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 wherein the display further comprises a backlight feature.
13. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 1 further comprising an electronically programmed identification.
14. A pneumatic paintball gun comprising:
means for electronically controlling a parameter of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation selected from the group consisting of: firing mode, valve dwell time, whether the gun is in live or safe mode, shot velocity, maximum rate of fire, hopper control, and combinations thereof; and
a display for displaying one or more characters representing the one or more control parameters of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation, the characters selected from the group consisting of letters, numbers, icons, symbols, and combinations thereof.
15. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 14 further comprising a timer.
16. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 15 wherein the timer is activated by a fired shot.
17. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 14 further comprising a switch for entering a control parameter.
18. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 17 wherein the switch is located behind a plate which requires a tool to access the switch.
19. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 18 wherein the switch is mounted behind means selected from the group consisting of anti-tamper and tamper-indicating means.
20. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 19 further comprising means for electronically monitoring an operation parameter of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation selected from the group consisting of: firing mode, valve dwell time, ambient temperature, whether the gun is in live or safe mode, whether or not a fault has been detected, shot velocity, maximum rate of fire, average rate of fire, battery status, shots fired, and combinations thereof.
21. A pneumatic paintball gun comprising:
means for electronically controlling a control parameter of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation selected from the group consisting of: firing mode, valve dwell time, whether the gun is in live or safe mode, shot velocity, maximum rate of fire, hopper control, and combinations thereof;
means for electronically monitoring an operation parameter of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation selected from the group consisting of: firing mode, valve dwell time, ambient temperature, whether the gun is in live or safe mode, whether or not a fault has been detected, shot velocity, maximum rate of fire, battery status, shots fired, average rate of fire, and combinations thereof; and
a display for displaying one or more characters representing the one or more control parameters of the pneumatic paintball gun's operation, the characters selected from the group consisting of letters, numbers, icons, symbols, and combinations thereof.
22. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 21 further comprising at least one switch for entering a control parameter.
23. The pneumatic paintball gun of claim 22 wherein the switch is located behind a plate which requires a tool to access the switch.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

[0001] This application is a continuation of Application No. 09/418,224, filed Oct. 14,1999, which is a continuation-in-part of Application No. 09/272,652, filed Mar. 18, 1999. The entire contents of both applications are incorporated herein by this reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] This invention relates to paintball guns.

[0003] The game of paintball involves participants carrying guns which fire pellets of “paint” or dye which are fired from the gun and burst upon impact to leave a mark at the point of impact.

[0004] Most paintball guns use a pneumatic system for firing the paintballs using compressed air or other gas. More recently, such pneumatically operated guns have begun to be electronically controlled for greater effectiveness.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] According to the present invention there is provided an electronically controlled pneumatic paintball gun, comprising monitoring and/or controlling apparatus for monitoring and/or controlling one or more parameters of the gun's operation and alphanumeric means for displaying data related to said monitoring or control on a display panel integral with the gun.

[0006] The display panel is most preferably mounted on the cheek of the gun.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] Embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

[0008]FIG. 1 shows schematically an electronic apparatus for use in a paintball gun;

[0009]FIG. 2 shows the handle of a gun; and

[0010]FIG. 3 shows a display.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0011] A paintball gun embodying the present invention uses a compressed gas circuit supplied with gas from a gas cylinder to eject projectiles in the form of spheres containing paint which break upon impact. The gun is electronically controlled, typically by a microswitch operated upon by a trigger squeezed by a user's finger and the electronics control the firing mechanism and in particular ensure correct timing. The electronics also enable various different modes of firing, such as a semi-automatic mode in which each trigger actuation causes a projectile to be fired, typically up to 20 times a second, or a fully automatic mode in which a single trigger actuation causes a burst of a selectable number of shots. Other parameters such as dwell time, firing rate, number of bursts per second, and so on are also selectable under the operation of the control electronics. A paintball gun of this type is commercially available as the Angel™ gun manufactured by NPF Limited and reference is made to U.S. patent application No. 09/137,641.

[0012]FIG. 1 shows a control and display apparatus for use in a gun according to the present invention. The apparatus comprises a central processor 1 which typically includes a microprocessor. As described, operation of the gun is initiated by a user depressing a trigger 2 which acts upon a microswitch in known manner. This sends an appropriate signal to fire control/monitoring circuitry 4, which may be at least partially incorporated in the control unit 1 and which can be used to control the rate of fire, dwell time, etc, and also to fire the gun when the trigger has been operated, using the mode designated by the user. These modes may be, for example, manual, semi-automatic or automatic modes or other modes as required or as allowed by the rules of the particular event or tournament he is playing in. These operate in known manner.

[0013] A plurality of input buttons 5 a to 5 e are arranged to provide user input to the processor 1 via a user interface 3 and these have several different functions as will be outlined below.

[0014] The gun is powered by a battery 6 which is preferably a rechargeable type and which can charge through a battery charger 7 which has a mains input.

[0015] An integral alphanumeric display unit in the form of an LCD unit 8, driven by an LCD driver circuit 9 is connected to the processor and this displays various types of data and information. Preferably, a back-light 10 is also provided to enable better viewing of the LCD unit but which back-light may be turned off when required. The alphanumeric display need not necessarily be an LCD display.

[0016] Various other pieces of apparatus, sensors, etc, may be added to the control unit and non-limiting examples of these are shown in FIG. 1. There is shown a temperature sensor 11, a timer 12 and a vibrator 13. The timer 12 can be used for various purposes such as for timing a paintball game and for an alarm function and the vibrator 13 may be used as the alarm indicator for the timer 12. In addition, an infrared link 14 is provided which enables programming of the control unit, or by directional data exchange, to take place from a remote PC or other device fitted with a similar infrared unit. Infrared communication devices are well known. A serial link, e.g. RS232C, or other communications link may also be provided.

[0017]FIG. 2 shows the grip frame part of a paintball gun. The user holds the grip in the normal manner and squeezes the trigger 2 to fire the gun. As shown, the gun is radically different from previous paintball gun designs in that an LCD display 8 is integral with and incorporated into the gun, in this case on the cheek of the grip frame 15. It could, however, be mounted in any other position/disposition on the gun itself. The control buttons are also distributed on the grip frame. Three of the buttons 5 a, 5 b and 5 c are mounted in a recessed portion where they are always accessible. The remaining buttons in this embodiment are mounted under a cheek plate (not shown) which is screwed or otherwise attached over the cheek, possibly using anti-tamper means, or tamper-indicating means such as seals, and thus are only accessible when the plate is removed. This is because these buttons are used, as described below, to alter various functions of the gun which affect its performance, rate of fire, etc. In many events, the rate of fire or other gun parameters must be set before the game begins and cannot be altered once the match is underway. By being mounted in an inaccessible position, these buttons achieve this objective.

[0018] The various functions alterable and displayable on display 8 are as follows:

[0019] Various values and words are selectably displayed by a six character alphanumeric display 24 and a plurality of fixed words/characters which are illuminated as required. A battery indicator 20 is displayed at all times and goes from blank to full (all four segments displayed). When down to about 25% power level the last segment only is displayed, and this flashes indicating low power status.

[0020] A mode indicator 21 displays the mode of firing and may show single characters or numerals such as A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 etc. Modes are displayed at all times. The mode of firing can only be changed by one of the normally inaccessible tactile switches 5 d or 5 e. The modes available may be, for example, SEMI: (1 shot; 1 trigger pull), BURSTS: (a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 shot burst per trigger pull), ZIPS (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 shot bursts at a rate of 8.75 shots/sec max). The MROF (Maximum Rate of Fire) function will display 8 when in the ZIP modes.

[0021] The vibrator may work in a timer mode for indicating, for example, 5 min intervals by actuating the vibrator for 3 secs. Note: if the ‘V’ mode is selected the ‘V’ is displayed on the LCD. Switching the vibratory alarm ON or OFF is selected from a sub-menu function.

[0022] Temperature may be displayed in ° F. or ° C. by the main alphanumeric display 24. A temperature icon is only displayed when the menu calls for it. Temp mode can be selected from the menu; Changing from Centigrade to Fahrenheit is selected from the sub-menu.

[0023] A trip meter is a shot counter that can be re-zeroed by the consumer. Trip can be selected from the menu. Resetting to zero is selected from the sub-menu.

[0024] A ROF (Rate of Fire) function may measure a string of shots over a selected (eg 1 second) period. The first shot starts the counter for 1 second, any shots that occur in that period are registered on the display. Then the display will not accept any input for a 3-second period. During this period the display will also flash before an additional cycle may start. The ROF mode can be selected from the menu. The data is constantly updated and so no sub-menu is required.

[0025] The display can accordingly display not only a desired rate of fire, but also the rate of fire actually achieved by the user, which can fall well short of the desired rate of fire, or could even exceed it for a very skilled marksman. Furthermore, competition rules may set an upper limit on the rate of fire, and this upper limit may be programmed in and displayed on the LCD display (MROF). More details are set out further below.

[0026] To power off the gun a tactile switch on the grip must be held for 1.5 seconds which shows the whole display for 2 seconds. Then the display shows the word “SAFE” and the back light switches OFF. The gun cannot fire in the safe mode but the battery meter is still displayed. An automatic power off function may be provided which powers off the gun if no shots are fired for a predetermined period, e.g. 60 minutes.

[0027] A unique ID number may be programmable into the gun by the manufacturers or suppliers. This number may affect, e.g. restrict, the modes it is possible for the gun to be fired in and can render the gun less likely to be stolen.

[0028] Numerous fault codes can be displayed, for example Fault 1, F1=Over temp =38° C., F2=Under temp =0° C., and so on. The fault can be selected from the menu. Should more than one fault be present the display will alternate at 2-sec cycles. The faults will only clear from the display when the fault condition is removed.

[0029] Dwell time may be displayed, e.g. in millisecs =e.g. 0:20 =20 ms. Dwell is changed via a tactile button and scrolls from 12 ms to 25 ms.

[0030] MROF displays the rate of fire as shots per sec, e.g. 12 =12 shots/sec. MROF may be selected from the menu but can only be changed via one of the normally inaccessible tactile buttons on the board. In one embodiment the range is 5 to 20 shots per second.

[0031] Note: If a mode of fire has a preset rate this will be displayed under the MODE function and cannot be adjusted whilst in that mode.

[0032] A cycles counter is a grand total shot counter that cannot be reset by the consumer, only by the suppliers of the gun or other authorised person.

[0033] A TRIP counter is provided, which is a shot counter that can be zeroed by the user or consumer.

[0034] A timer is a countdown timer which can, for example, count down from 60 min. At the end of the count the vibrator alarm may be activated for 10 seconds. The timer can be set in 5-min increments, i.e. OFF, 5, 10, 15 etc. A sub-menu allows changes. The settings must remain in the memory even after power has been removed.

[0035] The display may also indicate test modes and a BACKLIGHT ON symbol 22 is included. Additional functions displayable include, inter alia, velocity, average velocity, gas pressure and gas usage, for example.

[0036] In one embodiment DWELL, MROF, MODE and TIMER functions are stored in non-volatile memory since these settings must be retained even when power is removed.

[0037] The button functions may be as follows in one embodiment.

[0038] Button 5 a

[0039] Gun on/off when held for 1.5 seconds

[0040] Display “-live-” when on at all times unless timer started via activation to ready state via switch 4 and pulse vibrator for 3 seconds as confirmation. NOTE; menu switch 5 b is inactive whenever the gun is in “-live-” or timer ready/timer active mode. NOTE timer can only be made active via switch 4. When in timer ready state the timer will show the set time and flash between “-live-” and set time at 1 second intervals. When gun is in the “-live-”/timer ready status, timer starts when first shot is fired then the display will show the timer counting down. The arm will go off prior to time up. This feature allows the players to know when the game end is near and that they have a final opportunity to bring the game to a conclusion. Display “-safe-” when off and switch 5 b is now active and timer stops. Battery status to be displayed at all times; mode status to be displayed at all times even when “-safe-”.

[0041] Button 5 b

[0042] Menus active only when the gun is “-safe-”. No access if the gun is “live”.

[0043] FAULT —display “none”if no fault present

[0044] ID —display unique ID number

[0045] ROF —display the maximum rate of fire achieved measure between two shots

[0046] TIMER —display set time

[0047] VIBRATOR —display status

[0048] LIGHTS —display status

[0049] TEMP —display temperature

[0050] CYCLES —display total cycles

[0051] TRIP —display trip cycles

[0052] Button 5 c

[0053] Sub menus note; no access if gun is in “-live-” status. The timer is only available in “-live-” status when switch 5 c only puts timer in ready state, first shot will start the timer.

[0054] FAULT —“none” or “code 1”

[0055] ID —no sub mode

[0056] ROF —set to zero

[0057] TIMER —from zero to sixty in five minute increments

[0058] VIBRATOR —no sub menu

[0059] Activate for two seconds

[0060] LIGHTS —on/off

[0061] TEMPERATURE —no sub menu

[0062] CYCLES —no sub menu

[0063] TRIP —reset to zero

[0064] Button 5 d

[0065] No access granted if gun is in “-live-” state. When switch 5 d is pressed gun will go into “-safe-” mode (gun cannot fire), then if no further button presses occur gun will display “-safe-” after 5 seconds

[0066] Menus

[0067] DWELL —display dwell time

[0068] MROF —display set rate of fire, NOTE; zip modes to show 9 enhanced modes to have maximum display of 13, semi mode to have maximum possible display of 20.

[0069] MODE —display status, NOTE; mode can affect the MROF

[0070] FAULT —display “none” if no fault present

[0071] ID —display unique ID number

[0072] ROF —display the maximum rate of fire achieved measure between two shots

[0073] TIMER —display set time

[0074] VIBRATOR —display status

[0075] LIGHTS —display status

[0076] TEMP —display temperature

[0077] CYCLES —display total cycles

[0078] TRIP —display trip cycles

[0079] Button 5 e

[0080] DWELL —scroll 10 to 24 milliseconds

[0081] MROF - display set rate of fire, NOTE; zip modes to show 9 enhanced modes to have maximum possible display of 2-13, semi mode to have maximum possible display of 2-20.

[0082] MODE - A =auto, B =semi, C—I =burst modes, J—P =zip modes, R—T =ramp modes, U—Z =other modes. If no mode is allocated, then selected digit flashes and “no Acc” is displayed. Also fault code “code 1” to be displayed. NOTE; mode can affect the MROF, which must adjust accordingly, ie: last MROF setting in modes also to be retained when switching between modes. EG: semi set at 13 shots sec/mode B then mode F selected set at 12 shots/sec.

[0083] FAULT —no sub menu

[0084] ID —no sub menu

[0085] ROF —set to zero

[0086] TIMER —0-60 minutes scrolled menu in 5 minute increments

[0087] VIBRATOR —On/Off

[0088] LIGHTS —On/Off

[0089] TEMP —F/C

[0090] CYCLES —no sub menu

[0091] TRIP —reset to zero

[0092] Other features that are present in the preferred embodiment

[0093] A. FACTORY RESETS - press and hold buttons 5 and 6 together for 1.5 seconds. Display all lights up. The values may be:

[0094] TRIP —000

[0095] FAULTS —status

[0096] ID —status

[0097] ROF —O

[0098] TIMER —15 minutes

[0099] MODE —B (semi)

[0100] MROF —zips at 9 semi at 11 all enhanced at 11

[0101] DWELL —14

[0102] VIBRATOR —on

[0103] LIGHTS —off

[0104] TEMP —f

[0105] Cycles —status

[0106] B. The hopper system can be controlled via the gun to suit different parameters ie hopper in semi mode switched on when a rate of 2 shots/second are achieved. In all other modes hopper to switch on after first shot.

[0107] C. Codes are used to allow access to certain parameters of the gun, which one may not wish the consumer to have access to. IE: RS232/infrared link to have a code word which will give access to setting the ID number and resetting the CYCLES. Link remains connected for this operation. Menu on the screen hyperlink. RS232/infrared link may have a further code word which will give access to override the lock out status on the internal menus ie the internal menus can be worked on for 1 hour with the gun “live” then lockout reactivates, this countdown stating when the RS232 link is removed. This is required so the guns can be set up in assembly.

[0108] D. Power saving feature, ie Electronic Sleep occurs after 10 hours.

[0109] E. Should the battery be disconnected when reconnected the gun comes on in “-safe-” mode.

[0110] F. The power source is a rechargeable battery that can be recharged without removal from the gun.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6957645Jan 21, 2004Oct 25, 2005Wade ShieldsPlay enhancement system for a pneumatic projectile launcher and method for enhancing play
US8360042 *Dec 22, 2009Jan 29, 2013Jay Edward SkillingCompressed gas projectile accelerating linked system for loading and expelling multiple projectiles at controlled varying velocities
US20100154766 *Dec 22, 2009Jun 24, 2010Jay Edward SkillingCompressed Gas Projectile Accelerating Linked System for Loading and Expelling Multiple Projectiles at Controlled Varying Velocities
WO2004051176A1 *Dec 5, 2002Jun 17, 2004Delgado Acarreta RaulCounting device
Classifications
U.S. Classification124/71
International ClassificationF41B11/00, F41A19/64, F41A19/01, F41A19/66, F41A19/67, F41A17/06
Cooperative ClassificationF41B11/57, F41B11/62, F41A19/64, F41A19/67, F41A19/66, F41B11/00, F41A17/06, F41A19/01, F41B11/72
European ClassificationF41B11/72, F41B11/57, F41B11/62, F41B11/00, F41A17/06, F41A19/67, F41A19/01, F41A19/64, F41A19/66