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Publication numberUS20040040102 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/653,347
Publication dateMar 4, 2004
Filing dateSep 2, 2003
Priority dateJul 30, 2001
Also published asEP1662962A1, WO2005020780A1, WO2005020780B1
Publication number10653347, 653347, US 2004/0040102 A1, US 2004/040102 A1, US 20040040102 A1, US 20040040102A1, US 2004040102 A1, US 2004040102A1, US-A1-20040040102, US-A1-2004040102, US2004/0040102A1, US2004/040102A1, US20040040102 A1, US20040040102A1, US2004040102 A1, US2004040102A1
InventorsBruce Field, Bryan Christensen, Eric Blanchard
Original AssigneeTennant Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system
US 20040040102 A1
Abstract
A foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system includes a cleaner cartridge, a flow control device, and an aerator. The cleaner cartridge includes a collapsible bag containing a supply of cleaning agent. The flow control device is configured to receive a flow of the cleaning agent from the cartridge and a flow of a primary cleaning liquid component. The flow control device combines the flows of cleaning agent and primary cleaning liquid component and produces an output flow of cleaning liquid at an output. The aerator includes a nozzle having an inlet fluidically coupled to the output of the flow control device, an outlet, a body having a bore extending between the inlet and the outlet, and a radial port. The nozzle is configured to receive the output flow of cleaning liquid at the inlet, inject air into the output flow of cleaning liquid through the radial port, and produce an output flow of foamed cleaning liquid through the outlet.
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Claims(61)
What is claimed is:
1. A foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system for use in a mobile hard floor surface cleaner comprising:
a cleaner cartridge including a collapsible bag containing a supply of cleaning agent;
a flow control device configured to receive a flow of cleaning agent from the cartridge and a flow of a primary cleaning liquid component, combine the flows of the cleaning agent and the primary cleaning liquid component, and produce an output flow of cleaning liquid at an output; and
an aerator including a nozzle having an inlet fluidically coupled to the output of the flow control device, an outlet, a nozzle body having a bore extending between the inlet and the outlet, and at least one radial port extending through a side of the nozzle body to the bore, the nozzle configured to receive the output flow of cleaning liquid at the inlet, inject air into the output flow of cleaning liquid through the radial port, and produce an output flow of foamed cleaning liquid through the outlet.
2. The system of claim 1 including a foamed cleaning liquid distributor configured to receive the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid and discharge the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid for wetting of a surface.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein the distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid directly to a hard floor surface.
4. The system of claim 2, wherein the distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid onto or through a scrubbing member of a motorized scrubber.
5. The system of claim 2, wherein the distributor includes distributing conduit having a first end coupled to the nozzle output, whereby the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid discharged through the nozzle output is received by the distributing conduit.
6. The system of claim 5, wherein the distributing conduit includes a section having a plurality of apertures.
7. The system of claim 2, wherein the distributor includes a wand member through which the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is discharged.
8. The system of claim 7, wherein the wand member includes the nozzle and a section of tubing connecting the nozzle input to the output of the flow control device.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is approximately 0.5 gallons per minute or less.
10. The system of claim 1, wherein the output flow of cleaning agent is less than 10.0 cubic centimeters per minute.
11. The system of claim 1, wherein the flow control device includes a valve configured to terminate the output flow of cleaning agent when a flow rate of the output flow of the primary cleaning liquid component drops below a threshold value.
12. The system of claim 1, wherein the flow control device includes an injector component through which the output flow cleaning agent is discharged into the output flow of the primary cleaning liquid component.
13. The system of claim 12, wherein the output flow of cleaning agent through the injector component of the flow control device is adjustable.
14. The system of claim 1 including a valve downstream of the output of the flow control device relative to the output flow of cleaning liquid, the valve configured to selectively terminate the output flow of cleaning liquid.
15. The system of claim 5, wherein the distributing conduit includes a substantially horizontal section having a closed end and plurality of apertures in a top side, wherein the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is routed through the apertures in the top side.
16. The system of claim 5, wherein the distributing conduit includes a substantially horizontal section having first and second closed ends and plurality of apertures in a top side, wherein the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is routed through the apertures in the top side.
17. The system of claim 5, wherein the distributing conduit includes a second end coupled to a plurality of conduit sections.
18. The system of claim 2, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor includes first and second distributing components and a valve selectively controlling the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid to the first and second distributing components.
19. The system of claim 18, wherein the first distributing component is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid to a hard floor surface on which the mobile body travels and the second distributing component is configured for remote distribution of the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid.
20. The system of claim 19, wherein the second distributing component is a wand member configured to receive the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid from the valve through a length of tubing.
21. The system of claim 1 including a supply of a second cleaning agent.
22 The system of claim 21 including a second flow control device configured to receive a flow of the second cleaning agent and the flow of primary cleaning liquid component, combine the flows of the second cleaning agent and the primary cleaning liquid component, and produce a second output flow of cleaning liquid at an output.
23 The system of claim 21, including a valve configured to selectively direct a flow of the first cleaning agent or a flow of the second cleaning agent through the flow control device.
24. The system of claim 1, wherein the cleaning agent includes a surfactant.
25. The system of claim 1, wherein the cleaning agent is in concentrated form.
26. The system of claim 25, wherein the cleaning agent includes at least 30% solids.
27. The system of claim 21, wherein the supply of a second cleaning agent is contained in a collapsible bag of a second cleaner cartridge.
28. The system of claim 1, wherein the bore of the nozzle includes a constricted throat portion having a convergent upstream end and a divergent downstream end, and the radial port is positioned at the constricted throat portion.
29. A hard floor surface cleaner comprising:
a mobile body;
a supply of primary cleaning liquid component contained in the mobile body and having an output flow of primary cleaning liquid component;
a cleaner cartridge including a collapsible bag containing a supply of cleaning agent;
a flow control device configured to receive a flow of cleaning agent from the cartridge and the output flow of primary cleaning liquid component, combine the flows of the cleaning agent and the primary cleaning liquid component, and produce an output flow of cleaning liquid at an output; and
an aerator including a nozzle having an inlet fluidically coupled to the output of the flow control device, an outlet, a nozzle body having a bore extending between the inlet and the outlet, and at least one radial port extending through a side of the nozzle body to the bore, the nozzle configured to receive the output flow of cleaning liquid at the inlet, inject air into the output flow of cleaning liquid through the radial port, and produce an output flow of foamed cleaning liquid through the outlet; and
a foamed cleaning liquid distributor configured to receive the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid from the outlet of the nozzle and discharge the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid for wetting of a surface.
30. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a pump configured to drive the output flow of primary cleaning liquid component.
31. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor includes distributing conduit having a first end coupled to the nozzle output, whereby the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid discharged through the nozzle output is received by the distributing conduit.
32. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 31, wherein the distributing conduit includes a section having a plurality of apertures.
33. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor includes the nozzle, wherein the nozzle is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid to a hard floor surface on which the mobile body travels.
34. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor includes a wand member through which the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is discharged.
35. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 34, wherein the wand member includes the nozzle and a section of tubing connecting the nozzle input to the output of the flow control device.
36. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a motorized scrubber configured for rotating engagement with a hard floor surface over which the mobile body travels, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid onto or through a scrubbing member of the motorized scrubber.
37. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a motorized scrubber configured for rotating engagement with a hard floor surface over which the mobile body travels, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid within a central region of the motorized scrubber.
38. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a motorized scrubber configured for rotating engagement with a hard floor surface over which the mobile body travels.
39. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 38, wherein the scrubber includes a plurality of discs mounted to a rotatable shaft, the discs concentrically aligned with an axis of rotation of the shaft and positioned to engage the hard floor surface.
40. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 39, wherein the discs are formed of a material comprising approximately 70% polyester and 30% polyamide.
41. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 39 including a debris collector behind the motorized scrubber and configured to collect debris that is swept from the hard floor surface by the rotating engagement of the motorized scrubber with the hard floor surface.
42. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 39, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid onto or through a scrubbing member of the motorized scrubber.
43. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 39, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor is configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid to a leading side of the motorized scrubber.
44. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a non-motorized wetting component having a plurality of liquid dispersing members each having a first end connected adjacent to a bottom side of the mobile body and a second end positioned to engage a hard floor surface over which the mobile body travels.
45. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 44, wherein the foamed cleaning liquid distributor discharges the output flow of foam cleaning liquid to a leading side of the wetting component.
46. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the hard floor surface cleaner does not include a motorized scrubbing member that is configured for rotating engagement with the hard floor surface.
47. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 46 including a fluid recovery system configured to remove cleaning liquid from the hard floor surface.
48. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 47, wherein the fluid recovery system includes a squeegee and a vacuum.
49. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid is approximately 0.5 gallons per minute or less.
50. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the output flow of cleaning agent is less than 10.0 cubic centimeters per minute.
51. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a fluid recovery system configured to remove foamed cleaning liquid from a hard floor surface.
52. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29, wherein the flow control device includes an injector component through which the flow of cleaning agent is discharged into the output flow of the primary cleaning liquid component.
53. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 52, wherein a flow rate of the flow of cleaning agent discharged through the injector component is adjustable.
54. The hard floor surface cleaner of claim 29 including a valve between the output of the flow control device and the nozzle input, the valve configured to terminate the output flow of cleaning liquid.
55. The system of claim 29 including a supply of a second cleaning agent.
56. The system of claim 55 including a second flow control device configured to receive a flow of the second cleaning agent and the flow of primary cleaning liquid component, combine the flows of the second cleaning agent and the primary cleaning liquid component, and produce a second output flow of cleaning liquid at an output.
57. The system of claim 55, including a valve configured to selectively direct a flow of the first cleaning agent or a flow of the second cleaning agent through the flow control device.
58. The system of claim 55, wherein the supply of a second cleaning agent is contained in a collapsible bag of a second cleaner cartridge.
59. A foamed cleaning liquid dispenser kit for installation in a hard floor surface cleaner that includes a primary cleaning liquid component dispenser configured to provide an output flow of a primary cleaning liquid component, the kit comprising:
a supply of cleaning agent;
a flow control device couplable to the output flow of primary cleaning liquid component and configured to receive a flow of cleaning agent from the supply, combine the flows of the cleaning agent and primary cleaning liquid component, and produce an output flow of cleaning liquid at an output;
an aerator including a nozzle having an inlet fluidically coupled to the output of the flow control device, an outlet, a nozzle body having a bore extending between the inlet and the outlet, and at least one radial port extending through a side of the nozzle body to the bore; and
packaging containing the conduit, the flow control device and the aerator.
60. The kit of claim 59 including a cleaner cartridge having a collapsible bag containing the supply of cleaning agent, wherein the packaging contains the cleaner cartridge.
61. The kit of claim 59 including conduit contained in the packaging.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to mobile hard floor surface cleaners and, more particularly, to a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system for use in a hard floor surface cleaner.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Hard floor surface cleaners are widely used to clean the floors of industrial and commercial buildings. They range in size from a small model that is controlled by an operator walking behind the machine, which may clean a path ranging from 15 inches to 36 inches wide, to a large model that is controlled by an operator riding on the machine, which may clean a path as wide as 5 feet. These hard floor surface cleaners include motorized drive wheels, a solution tank to hold a cleaning solution and a recovery tank to hold soiled cleaning solution recovered from the floor being scrubbed.

[0003] The cleaning solution from the solution tank is applied to the hard floor surface adjacent a motorized scrub head. The cleaning solution is typically a mixture of a cleaning agent and water. The scrub head generally contains one or more scrubber brushes attached either in front of, under, or behind the vehicle. The scrubber brushes are rotated to provide the desired scrubbing engagement with the hard floor surface. The soiled cleaning solution is then recovered using a solution recovery system, which returns the soiled cleaning solution to the recovery tank.

[0004] Conventional hard floor surface cleaners apply the cleaning liquid to the floor at a high volume flow rate to provide complete wetting of the floor being cleaned. This wetting of the hard floor surface allows the scrub head to transfer dirt from the floor into the cleaning liquid, which is then removed from the hard floor surface and deposited in the recovery tank as soiled cleaning liquid.

[0005] Unfortunately, the high volume flow rate of the cleaning solution of prior art hard floor surface cleaners also results in extended operational downtime due to the numerous disposals of soiled cleaning solution and refills of cleaning solution that must be performed for a given job. Such refills typically involve manually filling the solution tank with water and mixing in a cleaning agent or chemical to form the cleaning liquid. In addition to being time-consuming, such manual mixing of the cleaning liquid invites errors in the formulation. Typically, operators add too much cleaning agent to the water, which results in an undesirable residue of the cleaning agent on the floor. The residue can be unsightly and slippery.

[0006] There is a continued demand for improvements to hard floor surface cleaners including increasing the cleaning efficiency, improving control of the cleaning liquid formulation, reducing residue on the hard floor surface following a cleaning operation, and other improvements.

SUMMARY

[0007] The present invention is directed to a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system for use in a mobile hard floor surface cleaner. Embodiments of the present invention operate to increase cleaning efficiency and improve the control of the cleaning liquid formulation by automating the formulation of the cleaning liquid. Additionally, the cleaning liquid dispensing system of the present invention converts the cleaning liquid into a foamed cleaning liquid to improve the cleaning efficiency of the cleaning liquid, which allows for a reduction to the amount of cleaning agent that is used in the cleaning liquid formulation. This reduction to the amount of cleaning agent in the cleaning formulation reduces the amount of residue that remains on the hard floor surface following a cleaning operation resulting in better looking and safer floors.

[0008] The foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system generally includes a cleaner cartridge, a flow control device, and an aerator. The cleaner cartridge includes a collapsible bag containing a supply of cleaning agent. The flow control device is configured to receive a flow of the cleaning agent from the cartridge and a flow of a primary cleaning liquid component. The flow control device combines the flows of cleaning agent and primary cleaning liquid component and produces an output flow of cleaning liquid at an output. The aerator includes a nozzle having an inlet fluidically coupled to the output of the flow control device, an outlet, a body having a bore extending between the inlet and the outlet, and a radial port. The nozzle is configured to receive the output flow of cleaning liquid at the inlet, inject air into the output flow of cleaning liquid through the radial port, and produce an output flow of foamed cleaning liquid through the outlet.

[0009] Additional embodiments of the present invention are directed to a hard floor surface cleaner that includes embodiments of the above-described foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system, and a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing kit in which embodiments of the above-described foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system are packaged for installation into a hard floor surface cleaner.

[0010] Other features and benefits that characterize embodiments of the present invention will be apparent upon reading the following detailed description and review of the associated drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011]FIG. 1 is simplified side elevation view of a hard floor surface cleaner in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0012]FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a fluid recovery system and recovery tank of a hard floor surface cleaner in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0013]FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0014]FIG. 4 is a simplified front elevation view of a hard floor surface cleaner having an open front portion exposing a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0015]FIG. 5 is a front elevation view and partial cross-section of a cleaner cartridge in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

[0016]FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of a cleaner cartridge illustrating various embodiments of the invention.

[0017]FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a housing of a cleaner cartridge in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0018]FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a cleaner cartridge installed on a cartridge receiver in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

[0019]FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of an aerating nozzle in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0020]FIGS. 10 and 11 are schematic diagrams of a foamed cleaning liquid distributor and aerator in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0021]FIG. 12 is a side cross-sectional view of a portion of a scrub head and foamed cleaning liquid distributor in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

[0022]FIG. 13 is a schematic diagram of a foamed cleaning liquid distributor and aerator in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0023]FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of distributing conduit shown in FIG. 13 taken generally along line 14-14.

[0024]FIG. 15 is a schematic diagram of a foamed cleaning liquid distributor and aerator in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0025]FIG. 16 is a schematic diagram of a foamed cleaning liquid distributor in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0026]FIGS. 17 and 18 are simplified front and side views of a leading portion of a hard floor surface cleaner in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0027]FIG. 19 is a side elevation view of a scrubber-less hard floor surface cleaner in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

[0028]FIGS. 20 and 21 are simplified front and side views of a leading portion of a hard floor surface cleaner in accordance with embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0029] The present invention is directed to a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system, generally designated as 100, for use with a hard floor surface cleaner, such as hard floor surface cleaner 110 shown in FIG. 1. Hard floor surface cleaner 110 is illustrated as a walk-behind cleaner used to clean hard floor surfaces 111, such as concrete, tile, vinyl, terrazzo, etc., over which cleaner 110 travels. Alternatively, cleaner 110 can be a ride-on or towed-behind cleaner performing a scrubbing operation as described herein. Cleaner 110 may include electrical motors powered through an on-board power source, such as batteries, or through an electrical cord. Alternatively, an internal combustion engine system could be used either alone, or in combination with, the electric motors.

[0030] Cleaner 110 generally includes a recovery tank 112, a lid 114, a cleaning liquid component tank 118, and a scrub head 120. Lid 114 is attached along one side of the recovery tank 112 by hinges (not shown) so that lid 114 can be pivoted up to provide access to the interior of tank 112. Tank 118 contains a primary cleaning liquid component (i.e. water) that is combined with a cleaning agent by the dispensing system 100 of the present invention to form a cleaning liquid that can be applied to hard floor surface 111, as will be discussed in greater detail below. Scrub head 120 includes a scrubbing member 122, shrouds 124, and a scrubbing member drive 126. Scrubbing member 122 may be one or more brushes, such as bristle brushes, pad scrubbers, or other hard floor surface scrubbing elements. Drive 126 includes one or more electric motors to rotate the scrubbing member 122. Drive 126 may also oscillate scrubbing member 122. Scrub head 120 is attached to cleaner 110 such that scrub head 120 can be moved between a lowered cleaning position and a raised traveling position. Other embodiments of cleaner 110 will be discussed below that utilize alternative scrub heads 120 and that eliminate the scrub head 120 completely.

[0031] A machine frame or mobile body 127 supports recovery tank 112 on wheels 128 and castors 129. Details of the frame are shown and described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,611,105, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. Wheels 128 are preferably driven by a motor and transaxle assembly shown schematically at 130.

[0032] The rear of the frame 127 carries a linkage 131 to which a fluid recovery device 132 is attached. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the fluid recovery device 132 includes a vacuum squeegee 134 and a vacuum 135 communication with an inlet chamber of recovery tank 112 through a hose 136, which is illustrated in greater detail in FIG. 2. The bottom of the inlet chamber is provided with a drain 140 with a drain hose 142 connected to it. Soiled cleaning solution that is collected by squeegee 134 is sucked into recovery tank 112 by vacuum 135. A residue of cleaning liquid typically remains on the hard floor surface 111 until air dried. Alternative mechanical devices, structures, or systems may be used to convey the soiled solution from the floor surface into recovery tank 112.

[0033] Cleaner 110 can include a battery compartment 150 in which batteries 152 reside. Batteries 152 provide power to drive motors 126, vacuum fan 154 of vacuum 135, and other electrical components of cleaner 110. Vacuum fan 154 is mounted under lid 114. A control unit 156 mounted on the rear of the body of cleaner 110 includes steering control handles 158 and operating controls and gages for cleaner 110. Additional aspects of automatic hard floor surface cleaners are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,483,718, 5,515,568, and 5,566,422, each of which are incorporated herein by reference.

[0034] Foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system 100 of the present invention dispenses a wet foamed cleaning liquid for use by the hard floor surface cleaner 110 during surface cleaning operations. In general, dispensing system 100 combines a cleaning agent with a primary cleaning liquid component (i.e., water) to form a cleaning liquid, which is then aerated to produce a foamed cleaning liquid for use by cleaner 110 to clean a hard floor surface. As will be discussed below, the foamed cleaning liquid is a very wet foam that allows for the complete wetting of the hard floor surface. Additionally, the foamed cleaning liquid utilizes very little cleaning agent thereby reducing the amount of residue remaining on the hard floor surface, reducing chemical waste, and extending the life of the cleaning agent supply.

[0035]FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of dispensing system 100 in accordance with various embodiments of the invention. FIG. 4 is a simplified front view of cleaner 110 that includes dispensing system 100. Dispensing system 100 generally includes a supply of cleaning agent 200, a flow control device 202, and an aerator 204. Flow control device 202 includes a cleaning agent input 206 that is configured to receive a flow of cleaning agent 208 from supply 200. Flow control device 202 is also configured to receive a flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 at an input 212. Flow control device 202 is further configured to combine the flows of cleaning agent 208 and primary cleaning liquid component 210 and produce an output flow of cleaning liquid 214 at an output 216. Aerator 204 is configured to receive the output flow of cleaning liquid 214 and aerate the cleaning liquid to produce an output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218. A foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 can receive the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218 and discharge the output flow 218 for wetting of a surface 222, as illustrated in FIG. 2.

[0036] The primary cleaning liquid component 224 is preferably water and is contained in tank 118 or provided from another source. The flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 is preferably driven through conduit 226 by a pump 228 at a flow rate that is desired for the cleaning operation. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 is driven at a substantially constant flow rate of approximately 0.5 gallons per minute. Pump 228 is generally positioned in line with fluid conduit 226 and includes an outlet 230 that is maintained at a desired high pressure. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the pressure at outlet 230 is held substantially constant at approximately 60 pounds per square inch (psi).

[0037] Cleaning agent supply 200 may include one or more surfactants, builders, solvents, or other components. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, cleaning agent 200 includes an anionic surfactant, a non-anionic surfactant, a cationic surfactant, or a combination thereof. A particularly preferred surfactant is DeTeric CP-Na-38 manufactured by DeForest Enterprises, Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. Cleaning agent is preferably in a concentrated form (e.g., more than 30, solids). In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the supply of cleaning agent 200 is contained in a container such as a collapsible bag 232 of a cleaner cartridge 234 (FIG. 2), which will be discussed in greater detail below.

[0038] Flow control device 202 preferably combines the flow of cleaning agent 208 with the flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 at a ratio of 1 part cleaning agent to 1000 parts primary cleaning liquid component. Accordingly, the resultant cleaning liquid 214 is formed of 0.1% cleaning agent, which is substantially less than conventional hard floor surface cleaning liquids. As a result, the present invention leaves very little cleaning agent residue on the surface 222, produces very little chemical waste, and increases the life of the cleaning agent supply 200.

[0039] Flow control device 202 injects the flow of cleaning agent 208 into the flow of primary cleaning liquid component using an injector 236 at a rate that is generally less than 10.0 cubic centimeters per minute and is preferably less than approximately 2.0 cubic centimeters per minute to provide the desired 0.1% concentration level of cleaning agent in the cleaning liquid 214 when the flow of primary cleaning liquid 210 is approximately 0.5 gallons per minute. Injector 236 preferably operates to siphon the cleaning agent flow 208 from the supply 200 using a venturi member 238. In operation, the flow of primary cleaning liquid through venturi member 238 creates a vacuum, preferably approximately −12.0 psi, that draws the flow of cleaning agent 208 into the flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 at the desired rate. One such suitable flow control device 202 is the 50580 siphon produced by Spraying Systems Company of Wheaton, Ill.

[0040] The vacuum produced by flow control device 202 allows the supply 200 contained in collapsible bag 232 of cleaner cartridge 234 to be completely drained regardless of its position. That is, cleaner cartridge 234 can be positioned below flow control device 202 without affecting the draw of the cleaning agent 200 through conduit 240. However, it is preferred that the length of conduit 240 be kept to a minimum to avoid unnecessary resistance to the flow of cleaning agent 208 therethrough.

[0041] In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, the injector 236 is adjustable using, for example, a needle seat valve 242 that is configured to provide accurate adjustment to the slow output flow of cleaning agent 208. Needle seat valve 242 preferably includes a sharp needle having for example, a two degree needle tip for improved sensitivity.

[0042] Dispensing system 100 preferably includes a valve 244 as a component of flow control device 202 (FIG. 2) or as a separate component (FIG. 3) that is in line with supply 200. Valve 244 can also be formed as part of the injector 236. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, valve 244 is a check valve that operates to prevent the backflow of cleaning agent and/or primary cleaning liquid component through flow control device 202 when the flow rate of the flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 drops below a threshold value. For example, valve 244 can be a 1.0 psi check valve that terminates the flow of cleaning agent 208 when the pressure at the upstream side 246 is below 1.0 psi, as would occur when pump 228 is deactivated.

[0043] In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, system 100 includes one or more additional supplies of cleaning agent that can be selectively mixed with the flow of primary cleaning liquid component 210 in addition to first supply of cleaning agent 200 or in the alternative. Thus, system 100 can include a second supply of cleaning agent 250, such as a surfactant as described above for first cleaning agent supply 200. Alternatively, second cleaning agent supply 250 can be a brightener, a disinfectant, or other surface treatment chemical. Supply of second cleaning agent 250 is preferably contained in a container, such as collapsible bag 232, of a cleaner cartridge 234 as discussed above with respect to first cleaning agent supply 200.

[0044] In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, a second flow control device 252 is provided to control the injection of a flow 254 of the second cleaning agent from supply 250. Flow control device 252 includes valve 256 and an injector 258, which generally operate in the manner described above for the corresponding components of flow control device 202. Valves, such as valves 244 and 256, can be selectively opened and closed to control whether one or both of the first and second cleaning agent supplies 200 and 250 is added to the flow of the primary cleaning liquid component 210 to form the desired cleaning liquid 214. Alternatively, second cleaning agent supply 250 can be fed to valve 244 of flow control device 202, which can be a multi-way valve capable of selecting either flow 208 of first cleaning agent 200 or flow 254 of second cleaning agent 250 to be passed to injector 236.

[0045] As mentioned above, the cleaning agents, such as first and second cleaning agents 200 and 250, are preferably contained in a cleaner cartridge 234, as will be discussed in greater detail with reference to FIGS. 5-8. Cleaner cartridge 234 generally includes a container 260 having an interior cavity 262 and conduit 264, as shown in FIG. 5. Conduit 264 includes a first end 266 that is fluidically coupled to interior cavity 262 and a second end 268 that is connectable to flow control device 202 through, for example, conduit 240 (FIG. 4). A volume of 2.8 liters, for example, of the supply of cleaning agent 200 can preferably be contained within interior cavity 262 for dispensing to flow control device 202 through conduit 264 and 240.

[0046] Container 260 is preferably a collapsible bag 232 that is completely sealed except where connected to conduit 264. Thus, container 260 shrinks as the cleaning agent 200 stored therein is depleted. In accordance with this embodiment, container 260 can be formed of vinyl or other suitable material. Alternatively, container 260 can take the form of a rigid container, such as a box, that includes a vent for replacing dispensed cleaning agent 200 with air. Container 260 can be transparent or translucent to allow the cleaning agent 200 to be viewed. Additionally, container 260 can be formed of a material that prevents the exposure of the cleaning agent contained therein from light.

[0047] First end 266 of conduit 264 is preferably attached to container 260 such that it is flush with the inside of outlet 270. A seal 272 is formed between first end 266 and container 260 at outlet 270 to prevent cleaning agent 200 from escaping at that junction. In accordance with one embodiment, seal 272 includes an annular neck 274 surrounding first end 266 and adjoining container 260. A weld can be formed between annular neck 274, first end 266 and container 152 to further seal the junction. Other methods for sealing the junction of first end 266 and container 260 can also be used.

[0048] Conduit 264 can also include a flow control member 276, shown in FIG. 6, mounted to second end 268 of conduit 264 to terminate the flow of cleaning agent 200 therethrough when conduit 264 is disconnected from flow control device 202. Flow control member 276 preferably includes a connector (quick-disconnect coupling) 278 that includes a shut-off valve that is actuated when disconnected from flow control device 202 to seal container 260 and prevent the out flow of cleaning agent 200 therethrough. Other types of flow control members 276 can also be installed at second end 268 of conduit 264 to seal interior cavity 262 of container 260 such as a valve, a metering device, a clamp, a membrane, or a cap.

[0049] In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, cleaner cartridge 234 includes a housing 280, shown in FIG. 7, that can enclose container 260, conduit 264, connector 278 and flow control member 276. Housing 280 provides protection and support to container 260, which is particularly useful when container 260 is in the form of a collapsible bag 232. Housing 280 is preferably made from a single piece of rigid or semi-rigid material, such as plastic, cardboard and/or metal that is folded to form a box, which is preferably glued shut at, for example, tab 282. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, housing 280 is formed of corrugated plastic or cardboard.

[0050] Housing 280 also includes openings 284 and 286 on at least one side wall 288 that are preferably defined by removable portions 290 and 292, respectively. Portions 290 and 292 have perforated edges 294 and 296, which facilitate their easy removal to expose openings 284 and 286. Housing 280 can also include apertures 298 and 300 to provide finger access to further simplify the removal of portions 290 and 292. Opening 284 generally provides visual access to container 260 and allows a user to asses the volume of cleaning agent 200 contained therein. Opening 286 also provides access to conduit 264, connector 278 and flow control member 276 for connection to flow control device 202. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, opening 290 and removable portion 292 can also be formed on bottom 302 through which conduit 264 can extend for efficient dispensing of the cleaning agent 200 in container 260, as shown in FIG. 7. Other openings can also be provided in housing 280 as desired.

[0051] Cleaner cartridge 234 is preferably removably receivable in a cartridge receiver 304 of cleaner 110, shown in FIG. 8. Cartridge receiver 304 can be a bracket having a back plate 306, opposing side walls 308 and 310, a front wall 312, and a bottom 314. Back plate 306 is mountable to a wall of cleaner 110 to position cleaner cartridge 234 proximate flow control device 202. Bottom 314 and side wall 308 include an opening through which conduit 264 can extend for connection to flow control device 202. Cartridge 234 can be secured to cartridge receiver 304 using a strap or other suitable means. Due to the limited jostling that occurs during cleaning operations, such securing devices are typically unnecessary. Multiple cleaner cartridges 234 can be provided proximate their corresponding flow control device 202 to accommodate the multiple chemical dispenser embodiment of the invention illustrated in FIG. 3.

[0052] In operation, cleaner cartridge 234 is provided and a supply of cleaning agent 200 is stored in interior cavity 262 of container 260. Next, second end 268 of conduit 264 is coupled to flow control device 202 and cartridge 234 is installed in cartridge receiver 304. Flow control device 202 can then receive the supply of cleaning agent 200 through conduit 264 and provide a controlled output flow 208 of cleaning agent, as discussed above. When container 260 is a collapsible bag 232, container 260 collapses in response to the output flow of cleaning agent 208.

[0053] Aerator 204 preferably includes at least one aerating nozzle 320, as shown in FIG. 4 and the simplified cross-sectional view of FIG. 9. Nozzle 320 includes a nozzle body 322 having an inlet 324 fluidically coupled to the output 216 of the flow control device 202 for receiving the output flow of cleaning liquid 214. A suitable fitting 326 (FIG. 4) can connect to nozzle 320 at threaded section 328 (FIG. 9) to couple inlet 324 to conduit 330 through which cleaning liquid flow 214 travels from output 216 of flow control device 202. The output flow of cleaning liquid 214 travels through a bore 332 toward an outlet 334 of nozzle 320. The bore 332 includes a constricted throat portion 336 having a convergent upstream end 338 and a divergent downstream end 340. Nozzle 320 also includes one or more radial ports 342 extending through a side 344 of the body 322 to throat 336. Air, represented by arrows 346, is sucked through radial ports 342 in response to a vacuum generated within throat 336 by the output flow of cleaning liquid 214 for mixing therewith. The aeration of the cleaning liquid 214 by air induction through radial ports 242 produces the aerated or foamed cleaning liquid 218 that is discharged through outlet 334 of nozzle 320. One example of a suitable nozzle 320 is the “FoamJet” nozzle (also designated as FJP-20015-CE) produced by Spraying Systems Company of Wheaton, Ill.

[0054] A check valve, such as check valve 350 shown in FIG. 4, is preferably upstream of outlet 334 of nozzle 320 to terminate the flow of cleaning liquid 214 through nozzle 320 when pump 228 is deactivated. Preferably, the check valve 350 is integrated into nozzle 320.

[0055] The foamed cleaning liquid 218 from aerator 204 is a very wet foam relative to that used by carpet cleaners. Such a wet foam is necessary to provide the desired wetting of the hard floor surface. A foam's “wetness” or “dryness” may be defined in relation to this volumetric expansion ratio. A “dry” foam has a higher expansion ratio as compared to a “wet” foam. High-expansion foams are “dry” due to the high ratio of air to water and are useful in carpet cleaning to facilitate quick drying of the cleaned carpet. A “wet” foam is not used in carpet cleaning devices since they can cause excessive wetting of the carpet, which leads to long drying times and may result in mold development. In a particular embodiment of the invention, the ratio of volumes between the cleaning liquid (non-aerated) 214 and the foamed cleaning liquid 218 is approximately 1:8. For example, 0.15 gallons of cleaning liquid is aerated to occupy 1.25 gallons. Other volume ratios would yield acceptable wetting results as well.

[0056] Foamed cleaning liquid dispensing system 100 can also include a foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220, shown schematically in FIG. 3. Foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 is generally configured to direct the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218 for wetting of a surface 222, such as surface 111 on which cleaner 110 travels; wetting the scrubbing member 122 of scrub head 120; or other surfaces as will be discussed below. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 includes nozzle 320, which directs the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218 directly to the desired surface 222, such as surface 111, as illustrated in the schematic diagram of FIG. 10. One or more nozzles 320 can be fluidically coupled to the output flow of cleaning liquid 214 by conduit 330 to cover a wide section of surface 211 that extends across a width of cleaner 110. Outlet 334 of each nozzle 320 is preferably slotted to provide wide dispersion of the foamed cleaning liquid output flow 218. As mentioned above, check valves 350 can be placed upstream of outlet 334 of nozzle 320 to prevent passage of cleaning liquid 214 through conduit 330 when pump 228 (FIGS. 3 and 4) is deactivated.

[0057] In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 receives the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218 from outlet 334 of nozzle 320 and discharges the output flow of foamed cleaning liquid 218 for wetting of the desired surface 222, such as surface 111, as shown in FIG. 11. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 includes distributing conduit 352 having a first end 354 coupled to outlet 334 of nozzle 320 that receives the foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 and discharges the flow 218 to the desired surface 222, as shown in FIGS. 1, 4 and 11. Distributing conduit 352 can include one or more sections or branches 356 that receive foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 from a second end 358 of conduit 352 and operate to spread out the discharging of the foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 directly to surface 222, such as surface 111 across the width of cleaner 110, as shown in FIG. 11. Check valves 360 can be provided in each branch 356 of distributing conduit 352, or in line with the branch 362 of distributing conduit 352 receiving the cleaning liquid flow 218 from outlet 334 of nozzle.

[0058] Branches 356 can also be configured to discharge the foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 onto scrubbing member 122 of scrub head 120, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, which in turn wets surface 111. As illustrated in FIG. 12, distributing conduit 352 can discharge foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 into an annular trough 364 in the hub 366 of the rotating scrubbing members 122. A series of holes 368 in the bottom of trough 364 pass the foamed cleaning liquid 218 down to the central region of the scrubbing member 122. During operation, the foamed cleaning liquid 218 is centrifuged out under the scrubbing member 122 in contact with the hard floor surface 111.

[0059] Another embodiment of distributing conduit 352 is illustrated in the front plan view of FIG. 13 and the cross-sectional view of FIG. 14 taken generally along line 14-14 of FIG. 13. Distributing conduit 352 includes one or more substantially horizontal sections or branches 356 that include a plurality of apertures 370 in a top side 372 that is opposite a floor-facing side 374. Sections 356 of distributing conduit 352 are preferably formed of rigid plastic tubing that is mounted to cleaner 110 in a desired location. Each section 356 includes an end cap 376 closing an end 378. During operation, foamed cleaning liquid flow 218 travels into closed sections 356. Once sections 356 fill with foamed cleaning liquid 218, the foamed cleaning liquid 218 is discharged through apertures 370. The discharged foamed cleaning liquid 218 flows over the exterior surface 380 of sections 356 and drops to the surface immediately below, such as surface 111. Preferably, the apertures 370 positioned closest to ends 378 have a larger diameter than those farther from ends 378 to compensate for pressure drops in sections 356. This design of foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 prevents undesirable dripping of foamed cleaning liquid 218 to the surface following deactivation of pump 228 of dispensing system 100 by containing the foamed cleaning liquid 218 within sections 356 of distributing conduit 352.

[0060] In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 includes a wand member 390, shown in FIG. 15, that allows a user to direct the foamed cleaning liquid is discharged to a surface 392 that is remote from cleaner 110. Wand member 390 generally includes a rigid tubing section 394 supporting nozzle 320 of aerator 204 at a dispensing end 396. Accordingly, wand member 390 can operate in the manner described above with reference to FIG. 10. A length of flexible tubing 330 connects a receiving end 398 to output 216 of flow control device 202. During operation a user can extend the tubing 330 from cleaner 110 and apply the foamed cleaning liquid 218 to remote surface 392, such as a wall or an object, for cleaning.

[0061]FIG. 16 is a schematic diagram of a foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 that includes first and second distributing components 400 and 402, respectively. The discharging of foamed cleaning liquid 218 through either first or second distributing component 400 or 402 is controlled by a valve 404. First and second distributing components 400 and 402 can comprise any of the embodiments of foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 described above. For example, first distributing component 400 can take the form of wand member 390 and second distributing component 402 can take the form of distributing conduit 352 shown in FIG. 11. As a result, foamed cleaning liquid 218 can be easily applied to different types of surfaces, such as surfaces 406 and 408.

[0062] As discussed above, hard floor surface cleaner 110 can be configured to include a motorized scrub head 120 that includes a scrubbing member 122 that is configured for rotating engagement with hard floor surface 111, over which the mobile body 127 of cleaner 110 travels. FIGS. 17 and 18 show simplified front and side views of a front or leading portion of a cleaner 110 that includes a scrub head 120 in accordance with another embodiment of the invention. Scrub head 120 includes a scrubbing member 122 formed of a plurality of discs 410 mounted to a shaft 412 that is rotated by a motor (not shown). The discs 410 are preferably concentrically aligned with the axis of rotation 414 of the shaft 412 and can be positioned to engage surface 111. Discs 410 can be mounted to shaft 412 using glue or other suitable means. Discs 410 are preferably formed of a liquid absorbing material, such as material composed of approximately 70% polyester and 30% polyamide, or microfiber. Such liquid absorbing material is known to hold many times its weight in viscous liquid. Additionally, such material collects dirt, dust, mildew and other materials without a need for a large volume of foamed cleaning liquid 218, thereby eliminating a need for fluid recovery device 132 (FIG. 1). Large particles of dirt and dust that do not adhere to the discs 410 can be captured by a debris collector 416 positioned immediately behind scrub head 120. Another advantage to the vertically oriented discs 410 is that they can clean grooves that may be encountered in tile, brick, cement, and rock floors. As illustrated in FIG. 18, foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 can discharge the foamed cleaning liquid 218 to a leading side 418 of scrub head 120 as indicated by arrow 420, on discs 410 as indicated by arrow 422, or even through the scrubbing member 122.

[0063]FIG. 19 is a simplified side elevation view of another embodiment of hard floor surface cleaner 110 that does not include a motorize scrub head 120. Such a scrubber-less cleaner 110 can be used on delicate floor surfaces that would be susceptible to abrasive damage from contact with rotating scrubbing members 122. Cleaner 110 relies upon the cleaning power of the foamed cleaning liquid 218 that is applied to hard floor surface 111 by system 100, as illustrated by arrow 430, to clean the surface 111. The wetting of the floor with the foamed cleaning liquid 218 traps dirt particles with the bubbles of the foam, which are then carried into the recovery tank 112 by the fluid recovery system 132. The scrubber-less cleaner 110 uses far less power than those including motorized scrub heads 120 thereby allowing for the removal of some of the batteries 152 used to power cleaner 110. Scrubber-less cleaner 110 can also be formed much lighter and smaller due to the elimination of scrub head 120 and batteries 152, or the solution and recovery tanks 118 and 112 can be formed larger to accommodate longer operational runtimes for cleaner 110. Finally, the elimination of some of the components of cleaner 110 allows scrubber-less cleaner 110 to be manufactured quicker and cheaper that those incorporating scrub heads 120.

[0064] In order to facilitate complete wetting of hard floor surface 111, cleaner 110 can include a non-motorized wetting component 440, shown in FIGS. 20 and 21, which are front and side views of a leading portion of cleaner 110, respectively. Wetting component 440 generally includes a plurality of liquid dispersing members 442 each having a first end 444 that is connected adjacent to a bottom side 446 of mobile body 127 of cleaner 110. A second end 448 of each liquid dispersing member 442 is positioned to engage hard floor surface 111. Liquid dispersing members 442 are preferably formed of a soft material that conforms to surface 111. Foamed cleaning liquid 218 is discharged by foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 of dispensing system 100 either on members 442 as indicated by arrow 450, or to a leading side of members 442 as indicated by arrow 452, as shown in FIG. 21. Liquid dispersing members 442 evenly distribute the foamed cleaning liquid 218 on surface 111 as cleaner 110 moves across surface 111. Cleaner 110 may include a scrub head 120 downstream of liquid dispersing members 442 to scrub surface 111 with evenly distributed foamed cleaning liquid 218 thereon, or cleaner 110 can be scrubber-less and a portion of the foamed cleaning liquid 218 can be removed from surface 111 by fluid recovery system 132.

[0065] Another embodiment of the invention is directed to a foamed cleaning liquid dispensing kit that is configured to be retrofitted to a hard floor surface cleaner 110 that includes a primary cleaning liquid component dispenser (i.e., tank 218 and pump 228) that is configured to provide an output flow 210 of primary cleaning liquid component (FIG. 3). The kit includes packaging containing a supply of cleaning agent (such as supply 200), a flow control device (such as 202), and an aerator (such as 204) that are formed in accordance with the embodiments described above. The packaging can be any suitable packaging such as a bag, a shrink-fit package, a box, a canister, etc. In accordance with one embodiment of the invention, supply of cleaning agent 200 is contained in a cleaner cartridge 234. Conduit sections (such as 240 and 330) can also be contained in the packaging. Additionally, embodiments of foamed cleaning liquid distributor 220 can be included in the kit and contained in the packaging.

[0066] Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It should be understood that fittings, couplings and other conventional components have not been illustrated to simplify the figures.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7406739Oct 18, 2005Aug 5, 2008Karcher Floor Care, IncGrout tool for use with an all surface cleaning apparatus
US7516907May 4, 2007Apr 14, 2009Ecolab Inc.Mobile foam producing unit
US7533435Feb 15, 2005May 19, 2009Karcher North America, Inc.Floor treatment apparatus
US7959091Apr 13, 2009Jun 14, 2011Ecolab Usa Inc.Mobile foam producing unit
US8234749Oct 29, 2007Aug 7, 2012Nilfisk-Advance, Inc.Orbital scrubber with stabilizer element
US8595892 *Aug 2, 2010Dec 3, 2013Wilson E. Everette, Jr.Ultrasonic floor cleaner and scrubber
WO2006076049A1 *Aug 11, 2005Jul 20, 2006Alto Us IncOrbital scrubber
WO2012054506A2 *Oct 18, 2011Apr 26, 2012Diversey, Inc.Carpet cleaning system and method
Classifications
U.S. Classification15/50.1
International ClassificationA47L11/29, B01J13/00, A47L11/30, A47L11/03, B01F3/04
Cooperative ClassificationA47L11/4088, A47L11/4044, A47L11/03, A47L11/30, B01J13/0095, A47L11/4083, B01F3/04992
European ClassificationA47L11/40N2, A47L11/40F6, A47L11/40N6, B01J13/00P, B01F3/04P2, A47L11/03, A47L11/30
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 12, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: TENNANT COMPANY, MINNESOTA
Free format text: CORRECTIVE COVERSHEET TO CORRECT THE NAME OF THE ASSIGNEE AND SERIAL NUMBER 10/653,347 THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY RECORDED ON REEL 014464, FRAME 0891.;ASSIGNORS:FIELD, BRUCE F.;CHRISTENSEN, BRYAN L.;BLANCHARD, ERIC A.;REEL/FRAME:015195/0769
Effective date: 20030902