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Publication numberUS20050079077 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/863,077
Publication dateApr 14, 2005
Filing dateJun 7, 2004
Priority dateJun 9, 2003
Also published asCA2528332A1, WO2005000074A1
Publication number10863077, 863077, US 2005/0079077 A1, US 2005/079077 A1, US 20050079077 A1, US 20050079077A1, US 2005079077 A1, US 2005079077A1, US-A1-20050079077, US-A1-2005079077, US2005/0079077A1, US2005/079077A1, US20050079077 A1, US20050079077A1, US2005079077 A1, US2005079077A1
InventorsJing Tsai, Michael Kehrmann
Original AssigneeTsai Jing Hong, Kehrmann Michael F.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Reversible inflation system
US 20050079077 A1
Abstract
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.
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Claims(26)
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.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the pump may be slid from the first position to the second position, and from the second position to the first position.
3. The system of claim 2, wherein in the first position, the inlet port of the pump is in contact with a region outside the inflatable bladder.
4. The system of claim 2, wherein the pump housing further comprises an exhaust valve.
5. The system of claim 4, wherein in the second position, the inlet port of the pump is engaged with the exhaust valve of the pump housing.
6. The system of claim 4, wherein in the second position, the outlet port of the pump is in contact with a region outside the inflatable bladder.
7. The system of claim 4, wherein in the second position, the inlet port of the pump is engaged with the exhaust valve of the pump housing, and the outlet port of the pump is in contact with a region outside the inflatable bladder.
8. The system of claim 1, wherein the pump is an air pump and the bladder is configured to be inflated with air.
9. The system of claim 1, wherein the pump is removably mounted in the pump housing.
10. The system of claim 1, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump.
11. The system of claim 1, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump, and configured to mechanically bias the pump into the first position.
12. The system of claim 1, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump, and configured to mechanically bias the pump into the second position.
13. The system of claim 1, further comprising a locking cover adapted to connect with the pump housing and adapted to secure the pump in the first and second positions.
14. The system of claim 13, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump.
15. The system of claim 13, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump, and configured to mechanically bias the pump into the first position.
16. The system of claim 13, further comprising a spring mounted between a surface of the pump housing and the pump, and configured to mechanically bias the pump into the second position.
17. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises an asymmetric mounting means for orienting the locking cover on the pump housing.
18. The system of claim 17, where the asymmetric mounting means is a set of non-equally spaced screw holes.
19. The system of claim 13, where the pump has a slot defined on a side of the pump, and where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with the slot defined on the pump.
20. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a slot defined on the pump when the pump is in the first position.
21. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a slot defined on the pump when the pump is in the second position.
22. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a back surface of the pump when the pump is in the first position.
23. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a back surface of the pump when the pump is in the second position.
24. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a slot defined on the pump when the pump is in the first position, and with a back surface of the pump when the pump is in the second position.
25. The system of claim 13, where the locking cover comprises a locking tab dimensioned to engage with a slot defined on the pump when the pump is in the second position, and with a back surface of the pump when the pump is in the first position.
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.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

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.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

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.

BRIEF SUMMARY

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.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 shows an example of an inflatable object employing a reversible inflation system of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a reversible inflation system of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a schematic representation of the pump from the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a schematic representation of a pump housing from the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 is a schematic representation of an inflation mode of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a schematic representation of a deflation mode of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of an alternative embodiment of a fluid pump for use in the present system;

FIG. 8 is a rear perspective view of the fluid pump depicted in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is rear perspective view of the pump from the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 10 is perspective view of the pump housing from the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an inflation configuration of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a deflation configuration of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a locking cover and the pump used in the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 14 is an exploded perspective view of individual components included in the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the assembled system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view with marked axes of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 17 is a cross-sectional view along plane 17-17 from FIG. 16;

FIG. 18 is a cross-sectional view along plane 18-18 from FIG. 16;

FIG. 19 is a top plan view of the inflation system of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 20 is a side plan view of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 21 is a bottom plan view of the system depicted in FIG. 2;

FIG. 22 is a top plan view of the molded pump-housing casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of the molded pump-housing casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 24 is a side plan view of the molded pump-housing casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 25 is a bottom plan view of the molded pump-housing casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 26 is a cross-sectional view along plane 26-26 from FIG. 23;

FIG. 27 is a cross-sectional view along plane 27-27 from FIG. 23;

FIG. 28 is a perspective view of the molded back-end casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 29 is a cross-sectional view along plane 29-29 from FIG. 28;

FIG. 30 is a bottom plan view of the molded back-end casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 31 is a cross-sectional view along plane 31-31 from FIG. 28;

FIG. 32 is a cross-sectional view along plane 32-32 from FIG. 28;

FIG. 33 is a cut-away view of the molded cylindrical side casing from FIG. 14 along plane 17-17 shown in FIG. 16;

FIG. 34 is a top plan view of the molded cylindrical side casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 35 is a bottom plan view of the molded cylindrical side casing from FIG. 14;

FIG. 36 is a cross sectional view of the molded cylindrical side casing from FIG. 14 along plane 18-18 shown in FIG. 16;

FIG. 37 is a cross sectional view of the locking cover from FIG. 14 along plane 37-37 of FIG. 41;

FIG. 38 is a top plan view of the locking cover from FIG. 14;

FIG. 39 is a bottom plan view of the locking cover from FIG. 14;

FIG. 40 is a cross sectional view of the locking cover from FIG. 14 along plane 40-40 of FIG. 41;

FIG. 41 is a perspective view of the locking cover from FIG. 14;

FIG. 42 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a reversible inflation system of the present invention; and

FIG. 43 is a perspective view of a locking cover and a pump used in the second embodiment of a reversible inflation system depicted in FIG. 42.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 illustrates an inflatable object 110 that may be configured with a reversible inflation system 100. In this example, the inflatable object 110 is an air mattress. Other inflatable objects may also be configured with the reversible inflation system 100, such as inflatable chairs, tables, and other furniture; inflatable swimming pools and wading pools; inflatable boating tubes and other sports equipment; and other inflatable objects. As shown, the inflatable object 110 has a top surface 114, a bottom surface (not visible), and side surfaces 112 that together form an inflatable bladder. The reversible inflation system 100 in this example is installed in one of the side surfaces 112 of the inflatable object 110, but could be installed on other surfaces.

FIG. 2 illustrates a first embodiment of a reversible inflation system 100 for inflatable objects. The system includes an air pump 10, a pump housing 20, and a locking cover 30. In this first embodiment, pump housing 20 is attached to the fabric of a bladder 5 for an inflatable mattress. The attachment of the pump housing 20 to the bladder 5 can be accomplished through any manner known in the art, such as sonic welding, adhesives, chemical welding, or other methods. Pump 10 slidably fits into pump housing 20, and locking cover 30 is used to hold pump 10 in place in housing 20. As described below, when the system is assembled, pump 10 can be used to force air into bladder 5, so that bladder 5 is inflated and made ready for use. The system 100 is reversible: pump 10 can also be used to draw air out of bladder 5, so that bladder 5 can be rapidly deflated for storage.

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.

FIGS. 3-6 illustrate the operation of the first embodiment of a reversible inflation system using a diagrammatic pump 10 and a diagrammatic pump housing 20. These figures schematically illustrate one design concept for reversing the operation of the system—from inflation to deflation—by merely changing the position of pump 10 in pump housing 20.

FIG. 3 shows the basic external structure of diagrammatic pump 10. Pump 10 preferably has a cylinder-like structure, with a front end 311, a back end 313, and a generally cylindrical side portion 312 that connects the ends 311 and 313. Ends 311 and 313 can be made with largely flat surfaces, as illustrated by back end 313, or with shaped surfaces, such as the generally curved surface shown by front end 311.

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.

FIG. 4 shows the basic structure of diagrammatic pump housing 20. Pump housing 20 also has a cylinder-like structure, with a back wall 323 and a generally cylindrical side portion 322 connected to back wall 323. Side portion 322 has a generally tubular shape, within which is a housing region 402. Side portion 322 has an opening 321 located opposite from back wall 323. Opening 321 is dimensioned so that pump 10 can fit through opening 321. The diameter of the opening 321 is preferably greater than the diameter of the pump, so as to allow passages to be formed between the pump and the pump housing when the pump 10 is positioned in the housing 20, as shown in FIGS. 5 and 6. Further, pump housing 20 is generally dimensioned so that pump 10 can be held in the housing region 402 of pump housing 20.

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.

FIG. 5 illustrates the inflation system 300 with pump 10 inserted into pump housing 20. In particular, this figure shows pump 10 positioned in its first position in housing region 402, so that the system 300 operates in an inflation configuration. For clarity, reference numerals are repeated here and in subsequent figures to indicate components that are alike those previously introduced.

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 FIG. 4, valves 324 and 325 are oriented so that a positive pressure in inner volume 501 presses the valves closed, thereby assisting in the sealing between volumes 501 and 502. When they are closed the valves therefore naturally act to preserve a high pressure in inner volume 501, with respect to ambient 502.

As shown in FIG. 5, the inflation configuration of system 300 is achieved by positioning of pump 10 in its first position in pump housing 20. In this inflation configuration, pump 10 is positioned so that the outlet port 314 on pump 10 is matched to the sealing stem 327 of the filling valve 324. Sealing stem 327 is dimensioned so that it can readily form a good seal with outlet port 314. As shown, the inflation configuration places pump 10 at some distance from back wall 323, so that a gap 513 is formed between the back end 313 of pump 10 and the back wall 323 of pump housing 20.

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 FIG. 5, exhaust valve 325 on pump housing 20 remains in the closed position. This is because of the spring-loading of valve 325 mentioned above. Additionally, the configuration of exhaust valve 325 is such that the positive pressure from inner volume 501 presses against valve 325 to keep the valve closed. Thus, as shown by FIG. 5, with pump 10 operating in the inflation configuration, exhaust valve 325 is closed and filling valve 324 is forced open.

If pump 10 is turned off while the system is in the inflation configuration shown in FIG. 5, no air is expelled towards filling valve 324. With nothing to force it open, filling valve 324 then closes because of the spring loading and the air pressure pushing from inner volume 501. Thus, when the system is in the inflation configuration and pump 10 turned off, both valves 324 and 325 are closed.

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.

FIG. 6 illustrates the inflation system 300 with pump 10 in a second position in housing region 402 so that the system 300 operates in a deflation configuration. In the deflation configuration of FIG. 6, the system 300 operates to deflate bladder 505.

Several differences can be noted between the inflation configuration that was depicted in FIG. 5 and the deflation configuration depicted in FIG. 6. These differences arise from the repositioning of pump 10. First, pump 10 is moved further inwards into housing region 402, closer to back wall 323. Second, the deflation configuration eliminates the gap 513 (from FIG. 5) between the pump 10 and back wall 323. Third, outlet port 314 is no longer aligned with sealing stem 327 or with filling valve 324. Fourth, sealing stem 327 is now pressed against an outer surface of pump 10. Fifth, the pushing plate 316 on pump 10 presses against mechanical actuator 326 on exhaust valve 325. Sixth, because of the pressing against mechanical actuator 326, exhaust valve 325 is forced open. And seventh, a seal is formed between exhaust valve 325 and inlet port 315.

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 FIG. 6, back end 313 of pump 10 is pressed against back wall 323. Inlet port 315 on back end 313 and exhaust valve 325 on back wall 323 are preferably configured so that in this configuration an acceptable seal is formed between port 315 and valve 325. An acceptable seal is one that is sufficient to allow the bladder 305 to deflate. Along with this seal, valve 325 has been forced open: the pushing plate 316 presses against mechanical actuator 326 and opens exhaust valve 325. The inlet port 315 on pump 10 is thus positioned to draw air 650 from inner volume 501 through exhaust valve 325.

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 FIG. 6, inside air 650 is drawn from inner volume 501 through the open exhaust valve 325 and into inlet port 315. In the pump, the air is compressed and then ejected through outlet port 314 as vented air 660. The vented air 660 passes through channels or gaps between pump 10 and the side portion 322 of pump housing 20, then out into ambient 502 (or ambient air). This removal of air from volume 501 to ambient 502 deflates bladder 505.

If pump 10 is turned off while the system is in the deflation configuration shown in FIG. 6, inside air 650 can continue to be vented out of bladder 505. This venting continues because the position of pump 10 holds valve 325 open (through pushing plate 316 and mechanical actuator 326) even when pump 10 is turned off. Thus, inside air 650 can continue to pass through valve 325, through pump 10, and to ambient 502.

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.

FIGS. 7 and 8 are 3-dimensional views of one embodiment of a pump 710. These figures show the placement of some features on the pump 710, including an outlet port 714, a front end 711, cooling vents 751, a back end 713, an inlet port 715, and a pushing plate 716 mounted on thin struts 716A.

FIG. 9 is a view of pump 10 from FIG. 2, facing towards a back end 13 of the pump. The figure shows the placement of some features on the pump 10, including back end 13, an outlet port 14, an inlet port 15, and a pushing plate 16. (These features correspond to the diagrammatic features shown in FIG. 3 as back end 313, outlet port 314, inlet port 315, and pushing plate 316, respectively.) FIG. 9 also shows thin struts 16A that suspend pushing plate 16, an impeller 16B behind thin struts 16A, and three mounting blocks 952. In this first embodiment of the system, mounting blocks 952 are used to secure pump 10 from rotating in pump housing 20.

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.

FIG. 10 is a view of the pump housing 20 from FIG. 2, facing towards a back wall 23 of the pump housing 20. This pump housing 20 is configured to hold the embodiment of the pump 10 illustrated in FIG. 9. This figure illustrates the placement of some features on the pump housing 20, including an opening 21 at one end of the housing, back wall 23 at an opposite end of the housing, a generally cylindrical side portion 22 connected to the back wall 23, a flange 28 connected to side portion 22 around opening 21, a filling valve 24 disposed on side portion 22, a sealing stem 27 connected to filling valve 24, an exhaust valve 25 disposed on back wall 23, and a mechanical actuator 26 attached to exhaust valve 25. (These features correspond to the diagrammatic features shown in FIG. 4 as opening 321, back wall 323, side portion 322, flange 328, filling valve 324, sealing stem 327, exhaust valve 325, and mechanical actuator 326, respectively.) The figure also shows a section of the bladder 5 of an inflatable mattress.

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 FIG. 5).

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 FIG. 9).

FIG. 10 further depicts the attachment between pump housing 20 and bladder 5. In this first embodiment of the system, flange 28 is adhesively attached to the inside of bladder 5, around an opening in the bladder 5 that corresponds to the shape of the inner edge of flange 28.

Four screw holes 1070 are provided in pump housing 20. These screw holes allow attachment of the locking cover 30 (from FIG. 2). Alternatively, or in addition, other attachment devices may also be used, such as friction pegs, clips, adhesives, and welding.

FIGS. 11 and 12 show the assembled inflation system 100 from FIG. 2, including pump 10 and locking cover 30. FIG. 11 shows the system in the inflation configuration (corresponding to the depiction from FIG. 5), and FIG. 12 shows the system in the deflation configuration (corresponding to the depiction from FIG. 6). These figures illustrate the placement of pump 10 relative to locking cover 30, and they highlight the two different placements of the pump in the two different configurations. As can be seen, the pump 10 is disposed further back into pump housing 20 for the deflation configuration (FIG. 12) than for the inflation configuration (FIG. 11).

In FIGS. 11 and 12, locking cover 30 has been attached to pump housing 20 (not visible) with four screws 1175 connected into screw holes 1070 (from FIG. 10). Also shown are bladder 5 and a power cord 1160 that supplies electric power to pump 10.

FIG. 13 is a view of locking cover 30 and pump 10. Additionally, FIG. 13 illustrates one embodiment of a mechanism for securely holding pump 10 in two different positions. These two pump positions correspond to the inflation configuration and the deflation configuration that were discussed with reference to FIG. 5 and FIG. 6, respectively.

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 FIGS. 11 and 12) are screwed through the four screw slots 1375 into screw holes 1070 (from FIG. 10). As an alternative to screws, extension pegs and holes, or other attachment devices, may be used to connect the locking cover 30 to the pump housing 20.

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 FIGS. 5 and 6, diagrammatic pump 10 is free to move backwards and forwards (that is—towards and away from back wall 323) in diagrammatic pump housing 20. Similarly, pump 10 is free to slide backwards and forwards with its side portion 12 surrounded by the back edge 1385 of locking cover 30. However, this motion is limited by nubs 1381 and 1382.

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 FIG. 13.) Retractable nubs 1382 are preferably spring loaded and are attached to buttons 1383, which are also mounted on side portion 12. Buttons 1383 can be depressed into side portion 12, which causes retractable nubs 1382 to be retracted into side portion 12.

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 FIG. 10) normally pushes pump 10 away from back wall 23, pump 10 normally rests with retractable nubs 1382 abutting against the back edge 1385. This is the first position for pump 10, in the inflation configuration of the system.

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 FIG. 5). For example, in this configuration outlet valve 14 is matched with sealing stem 27 (shown in FIG. 10).

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 FIG. 10) pushes pump 10 in this direction. The pump locks into the deflation configuration when fixed nubs 1381 abut against the back edge 1385 of locking cover 30.

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 FIG. 6). For example, in this configuration pushing plate 16 (shown in FIG. 9) presses against mechanical actuator 26 and opens exhaust valve 25 (shown in FIG. 10).

FIG. 14 is an exploded view of components included in one embodiment of inflation system 100. The diagram shows components of pump 10, components of pump housing 20, locking ring 30, and components of power cord 1160.

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.

FIG. 15 is an assembled view of one embodiment of inflation system 100. The diagram shows pump 10, pump housing 20, locking ring 30, and power cord 1160.

FIGS. 16-21 are further views of an embodiment of an assembled inflation system 100. The figures show pump 10, pump housing 20, and locking ring 30. FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the assembly. FIGS. 17 and 18 are cross-sectional views of the assembly along planes 17-17 and 18-18, respectively, from FIG. 16. FIG. 19 is a top plan view of the assembly. FIG. 20 is a side plan view of the assembly. FIG. 21 is a bottom plan view of the assembly.

FIGS. 22-27 are views of the molded pump-housing casing 1442. The figures show casing 1442, back wall 23 of pump housing 20, and flange 28 of pump housing 20. FIG. 22 is a top plan view of casing 1442. FIG. 23 is a perspective view of casing 1442. FIG. 24 is a side plan view of casing 1442. FIG. 25 is a bottom plan view of casing 1442. FIGS. 26 and 27 are cross sections of casing 1442 along planes 26-26 and 27-27, respectively, from FIG. 23.

FIGS. 28-32 are views of the molded back-end casing 1412 for pump 10. FIG. 28 is a perspective view of casing 1412. FIG. 29 is a cross section of casing 1412 along plane 29-29 from FIG. 28. FIG. 30 is a bottom plan view of casing 1412. FIG. 31 is a cross sectional view of casing 1412 along plane 31-31 from FIG. 28. FIG. 32 is a cross section of casing 1412 along plane 32-32 from FIG. 28.

FIGS. 33-36 are views of the molded cylindrical side casing 1416. FIG. 33 is a cut-away view of casing 1416 (along plane 17-17 from FIG. 16). FIG. 34 is a top plan view of casing 1416. FIG. 35 is a bottom plan view of casing 1416. FIG. 36 is cut-away view of casing 1416 (along plane 18-18 from FIG. 16).

FIGS. 37-41 are views of the locking cover 30. In addition to showing locking cover 30, these drawings also depict the back edge 1385 of locking cover 30. FIG. 37 is a cut-away view of the locking cover 30 (along plane 37-37 from FIG. 41). FIG. 38 is a top plan view of the locking cover 30. FIG. 39 is a bottom plan view of the locking cover 30. FIG. 40 is a cut-away view of the locking cover 30 (along plane 40-40 from FIG. 41). FIG. 41 is a perspective view of the locking cover 30.

FIGS. 42 and 43 illustrate a second embodiment of a reversible inflation system 4200 for inflatable objects. As shown in FIG. 42, in this second embodiment, the system includes an air pump 4210, a pump housing 4220, and a locking cover 4330. The pump housing 4220 is attached into the fabric of a bladder 4205 for an inflatable mattress or other inflatable object. The attachment of the pump housing to the bladder 4205 may be accomplished through a variety of techniques, such as adhesive or thermal bonding. Pump 4210 slidably fits into pump housing 4220, and locking cover 4230 is used to hold pump 4210 in place in housing 4220. When the system is assembled, pump 10 may be used to force air into bladder 4205, so that bladder 4205 is inflated and made ready for use. The system 4200 is reversible: pump 4210 may also be used to draw air out of the bladder 4205, so that the bladder 4205 may be rapidly deflated for storage.

The pump 4210 may be configured to move inward and outward in the pump housing 4220, as discussed above with reference to FIGS. 5 and 6, so that the pump may be placed in an inflation position or a deflation position. With the pump in the inflation position, the system 4200 may be used to inflate the bladder 4205. With the pump in the deflation position, the system 4200 may be used to deflate the bladder 4205. A spring may be used to mechanically bias the pump into the inflation position, in a manner similar to the technique discussed above with reference to spring 1055.

The pump 4210 has a front end 4211 and a back end 4213, as shown in FIG. 43. The pump 4210 is fitted with a pliable gasket 4270 around an outlet port 4214 on the pump 4270. The gasket may be configured to enhance a seal between the outlet port 4214 and a filling valve 4224 on the pump housing 4220 when the pump is in the inflation position. The gasket may be further configured with a flat section 4271 to enhance a blocking seal of the filling valve 4224 when the pump is in the deflation position. Additionally, or alternatively, a gasket may be fitted around the an inlet port of the pump 4210.

The pump 4210 is further configured with an actuator 4226 (FIG. 42) connected to the back end 4213 of the pump and adapted to press open a exhaust valve (not visible) in the pump housing 4220. The actuator 4226 may be dimensioned so that the actuator contacts and opens the exhaust valve when the pump is positioned inward into the pump housing 4220, in a deflation mode. The actuator 4226 may be further dimensioned so that the actuator 4226 disconnects from and closes the exhaust valve when the pump is positioned outward from the pump housing 4220, in the inflation position.

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 FIG. 43, the pump may be configured with a ridge 4281 on a side section of the pump. The ridge 4281 may be configured so that the ridge 4281 abuts a back edge 4285 of the locking cover 4230 when the pump is in the inflation position.

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 FIG. 43, may thus define the distance of excursion between the inflation position and the deflation position of the pump 4210.

FIG. 42 shows screw holes 4282, 4283, and 4284 in the locking cover 4230, for use in affixing the locking cover 4230 to the pump housing 4220. As depicted, the screw holes may be asymmetrically positioned to ensure a correct orientation of the locking cover during assembly of the system 4200.

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.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6955529 *Dec 11, 2003Oct 18, 2005Ho Lee Co., Ltd.Bidirectional air pump assembly for inflatable objects
US7436092 *Aug 30, 2007Oct 14, 2008Hiwin Mikrosystem Corp.Locking structure for an upper cover and an outer housing of a motor
US7543594 *Oct 24, 2006Jun 9, 2009Novak Edward LShelter vacuum hold down device
US7571500Nov 9, 2005Aug 11, 2009Hsin-Tsai WuInflating/deflating device for an inflatable air mattress
US7802741 *May 14, 2008Sep 28, 2010Environment One CorporationPump assemblies having a quick-release latching mechanism and methods for securing pump assemblies in a tank
US7922461Aug 25, 2003Apr 12, 2011Team Worldwide CorporationInflatable product having an electrical inflator
US8033797May 17, 2007Oct 11, 2011The Coleman Company, Inc.Pump with automatic deactivation mechanism
US8235684 *Jun 4, 2010Aug 7, 2012Rong-Jyh SongAir pump capable of inflating and deflating an inflatable product
US20100290931 *Jul 27, 2010Nov 18, 2010Anthony Jonathan SandersHand-actuated pump
US20110180169 *Jun 4, 2010Jul 28, 2011Rong-Jyh SongAir pump capable of inflating and deflating an inflatable product
USRE42559Dec 24, 2003Jul 19, 2011Team Worldwide CorporationInflatable product provided with built-in battery case and socket
Classifications
U.S. Classification417/423.15, 417/423.3, 417/423.1
International ClassificationF04D29/60, F04B17/00, A47C27/08, F04B35/00
Cooperative ClassificationA47C27/082, F04D29/601
European ClassificationF04D29/60C, A47C27/08A4
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 1, 2010ASAssignment
Owner name: AERO PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL, INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY;ASSIGNOR:GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:025077/0945
Effective date: 20101001
Apr 6, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL CORPORATION, CONNECTICUT
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:AERO PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL, INC.;REEL/FRAME:019122/0770
Effective date: 20070404
Dec 21, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: AERO PRODUCTS INTERNATIONAL, INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:TSAI, JING HONG;KEHRMANN, MICHAEL F.;REEL/FRAME:016095/0306;SIGNING DATES FROM 20041110 TO 20041115