US 20050079077 A1
A reversible inflation system allowing a single pump to be used both for inflation and deflation of the air bladder. This embodiment of the inflation system includes a pump with an inlet and an outlet ports and a pump housing having two filling and venting valves. The pump is movably mounted in the pump housing so that the pump can move axially between two locations in the pump housing. In one of the locations, the pump ports align with the housing valves to create an air path that inflates the bladder. In the other location, the pump ports align with the housing valves to create an air path that deflates the bladder.
1. A system for filling and venting an inflatable bladder, the system comprising:
a pump housing configured to attach to the inflatable bladder, the pump housing having a filling valve;
a pump slidably mounted in the pump housing, the pump having an outlet port and an inlet port;
the pump having a first position in which the outlet port of the pump is engaged with the filling valve of the pump housing, and a second position in which the outlet port of the pump is disengaged from the filling valve of the pump housing.
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26. A system for filling and venting an inflatable bladder, the system comprising:
an inflatable bladder;
a casing mounted to said bladder, said casing defining at least a first valve opening and a second valve opening;
a pump mounted for reciprocal movement within said casing from a first position to a second position, said pump having an inlet port for the intake of air and an outlet port for the expulsion of air;
wherein in the first position, the first valve opening is aligned with said outlet port to inflate said bladder; and
wherein in the second position, the second valve opening is aligned with said inlet port for venting the inflatable bladder.
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/477,203, filed Jun. 9, 2003, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates generally to air pump technology and more specifically to inflation and deflation systems for inflatable objects.
2. Related Art
Furniture that can be inflated with air is popularly used as a convenient and portable solution to temporary furniture requirements. Air mattresses and other furniture are readily available in a variety of designs. Since they are often used as items of convenience, it is particularly helpful to provide features such as light weight, portability, and durability in the construction of inflatable furniture. For example, the selection of material for air-bladders is an important design choice in the manufacture of air mattresses. The air bladders must be lightweight and flexible, yet durable enough to resist tearing or puncture during everyday use. Furthermore, to ensure ease of inflation, inflation pumps may be attached to pieces of furniture. Similarly, pumps, valves, and motors used for inflating such furniture are desirably manufactured to provide simplified operation, portability, compactness, and a pleasant appearance.
A reversible inflation system is disclosed for filling air bladders for air mattresses, other furniture, pools, sporting goods, or other items. In a preferred embodiment, the inflation system is reversible, allowing a single pump to be used both for inflation and deflation of the air bladder. This embodiment of the inflation system includes a pump with two ports (an inlet and an outlet) and a pump housing with two valves (one for filling the bladder and one for venting the bladder). The pump may be removably mounted in the pump housing in such a way that the pump can move between at least two locations in the pump housing. In one of the locations, the outlet port of the pump is coupled with the filling valve on the pump housing, and the pump operates to inflate the bladder. In the other location, the inlet port of the pump is coupled with the exhaust valve on the pump housing, and the pump operates to vent the bladder.
The pump housing is preferably integrated into the fabric of the air bladder, and the pump is preferably stored and at least partially concealed within the pump housing, thereby providing enhanced compactness and portability.
Other objects advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
Although a single pump 10 is used both for inflation and deflation, the pump 10 is preferably designed for unidirectional operation. That is, pump 10 preferably has a single inlet and a single outlet. Thus, the system preferably switches from inflation to deflation without reversing the flow of air through pump 10. Rather, the system either inflates or deflates bladder 5 depending on the physical positioning of pump 10 in pump housing 20. One advantage that may be obtained in this embodiment is a simplified construction of the pump, and the concomitant reduced cost and enhancement in long-term mechanical reliability. In alternative embodiments, other styles of pumps can be employed, such as a two-stage turbine pump. A reversible pump may also be utilized.
Pump 10 preferably has two ports. An outlet port 314 is located on side portion 312, near back end 313. An inlet port 315 is located on back end 313. During operation, pump 10 draws air into inlet port 315 and expels air through outlet port 314. These components may also be otherwise arranged, depending on particular design constraints an other design considerations for the pump and housing.
A solid pushing plate 316 is mounted in the center of inlet port 315. In one implementation, pushing plate 316 is mounted on thin struts (not shown) that suspend pushing plate 316 from the edges of inlet port 315. In other embodiments, pushing plate 316 is mounted adjacent to inlet port 315. As described below, pushing plate 316 is used to open an exhaust valve 325 that deflates an air mattress or some other inflatable object.
Pump housing 20 is preferably deep enough that pump 10 can be completely contained within pump housing 20. Thus, pump 10 preferably does not protrude outside of opening 321. Alternatively, the pump 10 (or the pump housing 20) may be dimensioned so that a portion of pump 10 protrudes outside of opening 321.
Pump housing 20 has a flange 328 connected to the edge of side portion 322 at opening 321. Flange 328 is designed to connect to the fabric of an air bladder, such as the bladder of an air mattress or other inflatable furniture, or such as the bladder of an inflatable swimming pool, tent, or other inflatable toys or inflatable structures. Flange 328 can be attached to the edges of a hole formed in the fabric of an air bladder, so that the pump housing 20 is integrated into the structure of the bladder. The attachment between the flange 228 and the fabric of the air bladder is preferably air tight.
Two valves are incorporated into pump housing 20. A filling valve 324 is located on side portion 322, near back wall 323. An exhaust valve 325 is located on the back wall 323 of pump housing 20. Valves 324 and 325 are spring-loaded or otherwise biased into closed positions, so that side portion 322 and back wall 323 are sealed when the system is not operating.
Filling valve 324 preferably has a sealing stem 327 that extends into housing region 402. As discussed below, sealing stem 327 assists in forming a seal between pump 10 and pump housing 20 when the system is operating to inflate an inflatable object such as an air mattress.
Exhaust valve 325 has a mechanical actuator 326. In one implementation, actuator 326 is a “push rod” attached to valve 325. When mechanical actuator 326 is pressed towards exhaust valve 325, mechanical actuator 326 forces exhaust valve 325 to open. As discussed below, mechanical actuator 326 is used to open exhaust valve 325 when the system is operating to deflate an item such as an air mattress.
When used with air mattresses and other applications with low differential pressures, valves 324 and 325 are preferably implemented with diaphragms of relatively large surface areas. Thus, even small pressure differentials can assist the sealing function of valves 324 and 325. In one implementation, valves 324 and 325 use O-ring seals to connect to pump 100. Valves 324 and 325 may be constructed, for example, according to techniques described in one or more of U.S. Pat. No. 4,977,633, No. 5,267,363, No. 5,367,726, No. 6,138,711, and No. 6,237,621, which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. Other valve structures are also possible.
In this figure, the flange 328 of pump housing 20 is attached to an air bladder 505 of an air mattress. Bladder 505 preferably forms a substantially airtight enclosure around a contained inner volume 501. Pump housing 20 is attached to bladder 505 in such a way that the inner volume 501 of the bladder surrounds the outside surface of pump housing 20.
Bladder 505 separates inner volume 501 from an outer volume or ambient 502, which is the region “outside” bladder 505. Ambient 502 surrounds bladder 505, and ambient 502 extends to the inner surface of pump housing 20. Thus, ambient 502 includes pump region 402.
Flange 328 is attached onto to the edges of a hole formed in bladder 505, so that pump housing 20 is integrated into the fabric of bladder 505. Thus, pump housing 20—including valves 324 and 325—is part of the physical separation between inner volume 501 and ambient 502. When air is pumped from ambient 502 into inner volume 501, bladder 505 is inflated. When air is pumped from inner volume 501 out to ambient 502, bladder 505 is deflated.
When they are open, valves 324 and 325 connect inner volume 501 to ambient 502. When these valves 324 and 325 are closed, they join with side portion 322, back wall 323, and bladder 505 to form a barrier between inner volume 501 and ambient 502. As was shown in
As shown in
When the pump 10 is activated (by having a power switch turned on, supplying power to the pump, for example) in this inflation configuration, air 560 is expelled through outlet port 314 and through sealing stem 327 toward filling valve 324. The expelled air 560 forces filling valve 324 to open, and the expelled air 560 is injected through valve 324 into inner volume 501. The expelled air 560 thus inflates bladder 505.
With the system in this inflation configuration, pump 10 draws outside air 550 from the ambient 502. The outside air 550 is drawn along paths that traverse first through channels or gaps between pump 10 and the side portion 322 of pump housing 20, then through the gap 513 between pump 10 and back wall 323, and finally into inlet port 315. The outside air 550 is then compressed by pump 10 and sent through outlet port 314 (as expelled air 560) to inflate bladder 505.
Note that with the system in the inflation configuration of
If pump 10 is turned off while the system is in the inflation configuration shown in
Because these valves 324 and 325 naturally close, bladder 505 can remain inflated even when pump 10 is turned off, so long as the system is kept in the inflation configuration. To rapidly deflate bladder 505, pump 10 can be repositioned within pump housing 20, as discussed below.
Several differences can be noted between the inflation configuration that was depicted in
Alternate implementations of the system can be configured to use one, some, or all of these differences between the inflation and deflation configurations.
Thus, the positioning of pump 10 in the second position changes the configuration and the opening/closing of ports 314 and 315 on the pump 10, and it also changes the opening/closing of valves 324 and 325 on the pump housing 20. The result is to reverse the flow path for air, so that air may flow from inner volume 501 to ambient 502. This reversal deflates bladder 505.
In the deflation configuration of
Conversely, outlet port 314 of the repositioned pump is no longer sealed onto filling valve 324. Rather, filling valve 324 is now blocked because sealing stem 327 is sealed against a hard outer surface of pump 10, and outlet port 314 is open to send air into the housing region 402 and ambient 502.
When the pump 10 is activated in the deflation configuration of
If pump 10 is turned off while the system is in the deflation configuration shown in
In alternative embodiments of the system, the seal between valve 325 and port 315 is not a tight seal, or no such seal is formed. Thus, with the pump turned off in the deflation configuration, the inside air 610 can pass directly into housing region 402 and to ambient 502 from valve 325.
Various alternative placements, not shown, are contemplated for ports 314 and 315 and for valves 324 and 325. For example, in principle, the ports can be reversed, with the inlet port placed on the side portion of the pump and the outlet port on the back end of the pump. Or, both ports can be placed on either the side portion or on the back end. Or, the two ports can be axially located on the pump, at opposite ends of the pump, with the pump moving transverse to its axis in order to switch from inflation to deflation. Or, instead of or in addition to being moved, the pump can be rotated to switch from inflation to deflation. Or, more than two ports can be used, with different ports active or sealed in the different configurations. In these alternative embodiments of the system, the filling and exhaust valves on the pump housing are repositioned and reconfigured accordingly. As necessary, various forms of valve actuators and sealing stems would be utilized, and the actuators may be triggered by various lands and raised surfaces on the outer wall of the pump 10.
Various alternative placements of valves and ports are contemplated. As discussed above, for example, the filling valve 324 is mounted on a side portion of the pump housing, is forced open during inflation, and is allowed to relax into a closed position during deflation. Alternatively, the filling valve may be mounted on a back wall of a pump housing and may be allowed to relax into an open position during inflation, while being forced closed at all other times.
Another contemplated variation modifies the system to add the capability for a user to manually depress mechanical actuator 326 without needing to reposition pump 10. By adding a manually accessible extended stem to actuator 326, a user can hold valve 325 open to quickly and controllably release air from an inflated mattress (or from some other inflatable product). As another alternative, the mounting of pump 10 can be revised to incorporate a spring or other structure to allow a user to quickly and temporarily press pump 10, thereby opening valve 325 through pushing plate 316 and mechanical actuator 326.
Still further, it is noted that these design features can be applied to other working fluids in addition to air. For example, the features discussed above can be readily adapted for products in which one or more bladders, pools, or tanks are filled with water.
Note that in this embodiment, the three mounting blocks 952 are displaced in three out of four evenly-spaced locations about pump 10. Other variations of mounting blocks are also envisioned, depending on particular applications, to optimally combine good air-flow performance and mechanical stability.
Various techniques may be used to hold the pump 10 in position, spaced away from the back wall 23. For example, a spring 1055 may be located in front of the back wall 23. When inserted into pump housing 20, pump 10 is separated from the back wall 23 by the spring 1055. The spring 1055 acts to push pump 10 away from back wall 23, thereby forming a gap between back wall 23 and pump 10 (corresponding to gap 513 depicted in
In this embodiment, the generally cylindrical side portion 22 has four roughly-defined corners, in three of which are placed mounting guides 1052. The three mounting guides 1052 are disposed to receive the three mounting blocks 952 on pump 10 (shown in
Four screw holes 1070 are provided in pump housing 20. These screw holes allow attachment of the locking cover 30 (from
As shown in the Figure, pump 10 has a cylinder-like structure, with a front end 11, back end 13, and a generally cylindrical side portion 12 that connects the ends 11 and 13. Outlet port 14 is located on side portion 12, near back end 13. Also shown are power cord 1160, which is threaded through locking cover 30, and a set of four screw slots 1375 in locking cover 30. Screws 1175 (from
The mechanism that holds the pump in the two positions involves interactions between a back edge 1385 of locking cover 30, fixed nubs 1381 mounted on pump 10, retractable nubs 1382 mounted on pump 10, and buttons 1383 mounted on pump 10. The back edge 1385 has an inner diameter that is slightly wider than the diameter of the side portion 12 of pump 10. Thus, after pump 10 has been inserted into pump housing 20, locking cover 30 can be attached onto pump housing 20 with the back edge 1385 placed around the side portion 12 of pump 10.
As shown in
Retractable nubs 1382 protrude outwardly from the surface of side portion 12, at locations near front end 11. (Note that only one of the two diametrically opposed retractable nubs 1382 is visible in
Retractable nubs 1382 are dimensioned so that when extended they do not fit through back edge 1385 of locking cover 30. Thus, when the system 10 is assembled—with pump 10 in pump housing 20 and with locking cover 30 attached onto pump housing 20, pump 10 is restricted in its motion. Pump 10 is therefore limited in its forward and backward motion.
When the system is assembled, pump 10 can slide backwards towards the back wall 23 of pump housing 20, but must stop once back end 13 abuts against back wall 23. In the other direction, pump 10 can slide forwards towards the opening of pump housing 20, but must stop once retractable nubs 1382 abut against the back edge 1385 of locking cover 30. Since the spring 1055 (from
The features of pump 10 are dimensioned so that when retractable nubs 1382 thus abut against the back edge 1385, features of pump 10 and pump housing 20 are aligned for the inflation configuration (as discussed above in reference to
To change from the inflation configuration to the deflation configuration, buttons 1383 are depressed, so that retractable nubs 1382 are drawn into side portion 12 and pump 10 is free to slide further forwards, towards locking cover 30. The spring 1055 (from
Fixed nubs 1381 protrude outwardly from the surface of side portion 12, at locations relatively distal to front end 11. That is, the fixed nubs 1381 are located farther from front end 11 than are the retractable nubs 1382. The transverse distance d between nubs 1381 and nubs 1382 defines the distance between the location of the pump for inflation and the location of the pump for deflation.
With fixed nubs 1381 abutting against the back edge 1385 of locking cover 30, pump 10 is in the second position, for the deflation configuration of the system. Accordingly, the features of pump 10 are dimensioned so that when fixed nubs 1381 thus abut against the back edge 1385, features of pump 10 and pump housing 20 are aligned for the deflation configuration (as discussed above in reference to
Pump housing 20 includes valves 24 and 25, a molded pump-housing casing 1442, and spring 1055. Exhaust valve 25 further includes a diaphragm stem 1431, a diaphragm 1432, a spring 1434, a lock washer 1435, and a valve seat 1440. Valve seat 1440 is formed into molded pump-housing casing 1442. Filling valve 24 further includes a diaphragm stem 1421, a diaphragm 1422, a valve seat 1423, a spring 1424, and a lock washer 1425.
Pump 10 includes a molded back-end casing 1412, impeller 16B, an motor cover 1414, a motor 1415, a molded cylindrical side casing 1416, the two buttons 1383 (each formed as a unit with one retractable nub 1382), two button springs 1484, and a molded front-end casing 1416.
Power cord 1160 includes a strain-relief grommet 1462, a wire 1463, a switch 1464, and a plug 1466. In alternative embodiments, power cord 1160 is further configured with a converter, such as high-to-low voltage converter and/or an AC-to-DC converter, if needed for alternate versions of motor 1415.
The pump 4210 may be configured to move inward and outward in the pump housing 4220, as discussed above with reference to
The pump 4210 has a front end 4211 and a back end 4213, as shown in
The pump 4210 is further configured with an actuator 4226 (
As discussed earlier, nubs and buttons may be used to hold a pump in either the inflation position or a deflation position. Other structures are also contemplated for switching and maintaining the position of a pump in a reversible inflation system.
The system 4200, for example, is equipped with a locking tab 4250 mounted on an edge of the locking cover 4230, directed axially outward from the locking cover 4230. The locking tab 4250 may be positioned so that when the system 4200 is assembled, the locking tab fits along a side of the pump 4210. The locking tab 4250 includes a flexible arm 4256 onto which is mounted a nub 4254 and a gripping portion 4258. The nub 4254 is mounted so that in the inflation position, the nub 4254 engages with a slot 4252 in the pump 4210.
The pump 4210 may thus be held into the inflation position by the engagement of the nub 4254 of the locking cover 4230 with the slot 4252 on the pump 4210. The dimensions of the pump 4210 and the locking cover 4230 may be selected to add additional mechanical stability to the inflation position. For example, as shown in
The gripping portion 4258 of the locking tab 4250 may be pressed to bend the flexible arm 4256 of the locking tab, so that nub 4254 is disengaged from the slot 4252 on the pump 4210, thereby releasing the pump from the locking cover 4230. the pump may then be pushed inward into the pump housing 4220, to place the pump into the deflation position.
To hold the pump 4210 in the deflation position, the nub 4254 may be positioned so that it engages against the front end 4211 of the pump, in a location adjacent to the slot 4252. The distance between the slot 4252 and the front end 4211, marked as “d2” in
It is to be understood that multiple variations, changes and modifications are possible in the aforementioned embodiments of the invention described herein. Although certain illustrative embodiments of the invention have been shown and described here, a wide range of modification, change, and substitution is contemplated in the foregoing disclosure and, in some instances, some features of the present invention may be employed without a corresponding use of the other features. Accordingly, it is appropriate that the foregoing description be construed broadly and understood as being given by way of illustration and example only, the spirit and scope of the invention being limited only by the appended claims.