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Publication numberUS20070157991 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/587,127
Publication dateJul 12, 2007
Filing dateJan 21, 2005
Priority dateJan 22, 2004
Also published asDE602005011103D1, EP1711093A1, EP1711093B1, WO2005070272A1
Publication number10587127, 587127, US 2007/0157991 A1, US 2007/157991 A1, US 20070157991 A1, US 20070157991A1, US 2007157991 A1, US 2007157991A1, US-A1-20070157991, US-A1-2007157991, US2007/0157991A1, US2007/157991A1, US20070157991 A1, US20070157991A1, US2007157991 A1, US2007157991A1
InventorsStewart Robertson
Original AssigneeStewart Robertson
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Dispensing apparatus and method
US 20070157991 A1
Abstract
Dispensing apparatus for dispensing flowable materials onto an object. A sub-assembly of the dispensing apparatus is releasably receivable within a casing and comprises: (i) a resiliently deformable collar portion for receiving an opening of a container; (ii) a one-way input valve (see FIG. 1); a one-way output valve; and a conduit separating the valves. A cradle member having cam surfaces is pivotably connected to the casing and is provided with supporting surfaces adapted to receive the object. A manual force applied by a user in a direction corresponding to the longitudinal axis of the object causes projections on the output valve to move up the cam surfaces. In this way, the volume between the inlet and outlet valves is reduced and flowable material is directed onto the object.
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Claims(32)
1. Dispensing apparatus comprising an inlet port for coupling to an opening of a container containing flowable material and an outlet port through which the material is dispensed; the inlet and outlet ports being separated by a conduit; a first one-way valve positioned at the inlet port to permit passage of the flowable material from the container into the conduit, and a second one-way valve positioned at the outlet port to permit passage of the flowable material from the conduit; and means for selectively varying the volume of the conduit between the inlet and outlet ports to pump the flowable material.
2. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the conduit is resiliently deformable.
3. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the respective inlet and outlet ends of the conduit are displaceable relative to each other to selectively vary the volume of the conduit between the inlet and outlet ports.
4. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the inlet port is adapted to form a hermetically sealed connection with the opening of the container.
5. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein a collar for receiving the opening of the container and forming a hermetic seal is mounted on, and surrounds, the inlet port.
6. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the collar is resiliently deformable.
7. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 5, wherein the collar is annular in shape and has a substantially planar upper end surface, a substantially planar lower end surface and substantially cylindrical internal and external surfaces.
8. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 7, wherein at least part of the internal surface of the resilient collar tapers inwardly from the upper end surface around its entire circumference to form a frusto-conical profile.
9. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 7, wherein at least one upstanding annular sealing ring extends from the upper end surface.
10. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 9, wherein the or each upstanding annular sealing ring is formed integrally with the resilient collar.
11. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 6, wherein the resilient collar is made from a silicone material.
12. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 5, wherein a substantially rigid housing surrounds the collar and the inlet port.
13. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 12, wherein a radial flange portion projects inwardly from the lower peripheral edge of the housing.
14. Dispensing apparatus according claim 13, wherein the inlet end of the conduit proximate the inlet port is supported on the radial flange.
15. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 14, wherein the inlet port is interposed between the conduit and the collar.
16. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 12, wherein projections are provided on the exterior of the housing, said projections being releasably connectable to a wall-mountable casing such that the dispensing apparatus and the container are locatable within said casing.
17. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 16, wherein a cradle member is pivotably and releasably mounted on the casing.
18. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 17, wherein cam surfaces are provided on the cradle member.
19. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 18, wherein cam surface engaging portions are provided on the outlet port.
20. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 19, wherein the cam surface engaging portions are diametrically opposed projecting pins.
21. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 17, wherein the cradle member has two sidewalls and a supporting surface adapted to receive a toothbrush head.
22. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 21, wherein the supporting surface is provided with a push surface for selective engagement with the distal end of the toothbrush head.
23. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the flowable material is semi-solid.
24. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 23, wherein the flowable semi-solid material is dentifrice material.
25. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the conduit is a bellows pump.
26. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the inlet port is perforated.
27. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the first one-way valve is an umbrella valve.
28. Dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the second one-way valve is a duckbill valve.
29. A method of dispensing flowable material from a container using the dispensing apparatus according to claim 1, comprising the steps of:
(i) coupling the opening of a container with an inlet port of the dispensing apparatus;
(ii) priming the dispensing apparatus to remove any air within the apparatus or the container by sequentially reducing and increasing the volume between the inlet port and an outlet port in a pumping action; and
(iii) reducing the volume between the inlet and outlet ports to pump the flowable material from the container and through a first one-way valve, a conduit and a second one-way valve respectively.
30. A method of dispensing flowable material from a container according to claim 29, wherein the step of reducing the volume between the inlet and outlet ports is achieved by applying a force to compress the conduit longitudinally.
31. A method of dispensing flowable material from a container according to claim 30, wherein the step of applying a longitudinal force is achieved by pivoting a cradle member having cam surfaces about a pivot axis, said cam surfaces moving cam surface engaging portions provided on the outlet port, thus moving the outlet port towards the inlet port.
32. A method of dispensing dentifrice material from a container according to claim 31, wherein the step of pivoting the cradle member is achieved by positioning a toothbrush head on the cradle member and applying a force in a direction corresponding to the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush.
Description

This invention relates to a dispensing apparatus and method, and particularly, but not exclusively, to a dispensing apparatus and method for dispensing flowable dentifrice materials onto a toothbrush head.

Conventionally, the task of cleaning teeth with a flowable dentifrice material such as a paste or gel involves the manual squeezing of a deformable tube to deposit the material onto a toothbrush. Alternatively, rigid tubes having a manually operated pump mechanism for dispensing the dentifrice material are also widely available.

Other known dispensers employ lever and ratchet mechanisms, cantilever arm devices or operate utilising the force of gravity and a winder key dispensing device.

Whilst such devices have provided an improved dispensing means for dentifrice material for the majority of people, others may find such devices cumbersome or awkward to use. For example, young children may have a tendency to over-squeeze a toothpaste tube and have difficulty in accurately directing the discharged dentifrice material onto the toothbrush. The elderly, the infirm and people suffering from arthritic or related inflammatory complaints may also find the task of manually dispensing a dentifrice material onto a toothbrush rather onerous and/or painful.

A further disadvantage of known dispensers, for dentifrice and other flowable materials, is that it is often difficult to empty their contents completely. Consequently, a significant amount of wastage is typical. Moreover, known dispensers do not expel dentifrice material in a clean fashion as it tends to accumulate around their openings.

According to a first aspect of the present invention there is provided a dispensing apparatus comprising an inlet port for coupling to an opening of a container containing flowable material and an outlet port through which the material is dispensed; the inlet and outlet ports being separated by a conduit; a first one-way valve positioned at the inlet port to permit passage of the flowable material from the container into the conduit, and a second one-way valve positioned at the outlet port to permit passage of the flowable material from the conduit; and means for selectively varying the volume of the conduit between the inlet and outlet ports to pump the flowable material.

Preferably, the conduit is resiliently deformable.

Preferably, the respective inlet and outlet ends of the conduit are displaceable relative to each other to selectively vary the volume of the conduit between the inlet and outlet ports.

Preferably, the inlet port is adapted to form a hermetically sealed connection with the opening of the container.

Preferably, a collar for receiving the opening of the container and forming a hermetic seal is mounted on, and surrounds, the inlet port.

Preferably, the collar is resiliently deformable.

Preferably, the collar is annular in shape and has a substantially planar upper end surface, a substantially planar lower end surface and substantially cylindrical internal and external surfaces.

Preferably, at least part of the internal surface of the resilient collar tapers inwardly from the upper end surface around its entire circumference to form a frusto-conical profile.

Optionally, at least one upstanding annular sealing ring extends from the upper end surface.

Preferably, the or each upstanding annular sealing ring is formed integrally with the resilient collar.

Preferably, the resilient collar is made from a silicone material.

Preferably, a substantially rigid housing surrounds the collar and the inlet port.

Preferably, a radial flange portion projects inwardly from the lower peripheral edge of the housing.

Preferably, the inlet end of the conduit proximate the inlet port is supported on the radial flange.

Preferably, the inlet port is interposed between the conduit and the collar.

Preferably, projections are provided on the exterior of the housing, said projections being releasably connectable to a wall-mountable casing such that the dispensing apparatus and the container are locatable within said casing.

Preferably, a cradle member is pivotably and releasably mounted on the casing.

Preferably, cam surfaces are provided on the cradle member.

Preferably, cam surface engaging portions are provided on the outlet port.

Preferably, the cam surface engaging portions are diametrically opposed projecting pins.

Preferably, the cradle member has two sidewalls and a supporting surface adapted to receive a toothbrush head.

Preferably, the supporting surface is provided with a push surface for selective engagement with the distal end of the toothbrush head.

Preferably, the flowable material is semi-solid.

Preferably, the flowable semi-solid material is dentifrice material.

Optionally, the conduit is a bellows pump.

Preferably, the inlet port is perforated.

Preferably, the first one-way valve is an umbrella valve.

Preferably, the second one-way valve is a duckbill valve.

According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of dispensing flowable material from a container using the dispensing apparatus of the first aspect comprising the steps of:

    • (i) coupling the opening of a container with an inlet port of the dispensing apparatus;
    • (ii) priming the dispensing apparatus to remove any air within the apparatus or the container by sequentially reducing and increasing the volume between the inlet port and an outlet port in a pumping action; and
    • (iii) reducing the volume between the inlet and outlet ports to pump the dentifrice material from the container and through a first one-way valve, a conduit and a second one-way valve respectively.

Preferably, the step of reducing the volume between the inlet and outlet ports is achieved by applying a force to compress the conduit longitudinally.

Preferably, the step of applying a longitudinal force is achieved by pivoting a cradle member having cam surfaces about a pivot axis, said cam surfaces moving cam surface engaging portions provided on the outlet port, thus moving the outlet port towards the inlet port.

Preferably, the step of pivoting the cradle member is achieved by placing a toothbrush head on the cradle member and applying a force in a direction corresponding to the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush.

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

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional perspective view of the collar and conduit portions of the dispensing apparatus;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the dispensing apparatus of FIG. 1 and a cradle member, each located within a wall mountable casing;

FIG. 3 shows both a cross-sectional and plan view of an alternative collar;

FIGS. 4 a and 4 b are side and cross-sectional side views respectively of dispensing apparatus including the collar of FIG. 1 and show valves and an alternative conduit;

FIGS. 5 a-c are cross-sectional schematic views showing the conduit and valves of the dispensing apparatus at various stages during its operation; and

FIGS. 6 a-c are a cross-sectional side view, a front view and a perspective view respectively of the complete dispensing apparatus within its wall mountable casing.

FIG. 1 shows a dispensing apparatus sub-assembly comprising an inlet port 10 and an outlet port 12 separated by a resiliently deformable conduit in the form of a bellows pump 14. An upstanding resiliently deformable collar 16 made from elastic silicone material is mounted on and surrounds the inlet port 10.

The collar 16 is annular in shape and has substantially planar upper and lower end surfaces 16 a and 16 b, and substantially cylindrical internal 16 c and external surfaces respectively. The transition surface 16 d between the first end surface 16 a and the internal surface 16 c tapers inwardly around the circumference of the collar 16 to form a frusto-conical profile.

A substantially rigid housing 18 surrounds the resilient collar 16 and is provided with an inwardly projecting annular flange 20 around the periphery of its lower edge. The end of the bellows pump 14 proximate the inlet port 10 is supported on the flange 20 within the housing 18 and the inlet port 10 is held interposed between the end of the bellows pump 14 and the lower end surface 16 b of the resilient collar 16. The resilient collar 16, the inlet port 10 and the end of the bellows pump 14 are fixed firmly at their respective joins by any suitable means for producing a hermetic seal, for example, by gluing or hot melt sealing.

FIG. 3 shows a modified collar 16 having a pair of upstanding annular sealing rings extending from its upper end surface 16 a. The sealing rings are formed integrally with the collar 16 and extend concentrically around the full circumference of its upper end surface 16 a. The height of the inner sealing ring is less than the height of the outer sealing ring.

In addition, the modified collar 16 of FIG. 3 is provided with a stepped internal surface with three different internal diameters. The diameter of the cylindrical internal surface proximate the upper end surface 16 a is reduced as compared to that of the central recessed portion of the collar 16. Finally, the diameter of the cylindrical internal surface proximate the lower end surface 16 b is yet greater again.

As will become apparent, the presence of: (i) the pair of upstanding annular sealing rings; and (ii) the reduced diameter portion of the internal surface proximate the upper end surface 16 a, each act to minimise the possibility of air being sucked into the dispensing apparatus between the collar 16 and a container received therein.

FIGS. 4 a and 4 b show a further alternative embodiment of the dispensing apparatus sub-assembly wherein the conduit 14 has generally cylindrical sidewalls as opposed to concertina shaped walls. The lower portion (proximate the outlet valve 24) of the walls of the conduit 14 shown in FIG. 4 b are thicker than those of the upper portion of the conduit 14. The thicker walls of the lower portion cause the internal diameter of the conduit 14 to be reduced proximate the outlet valve 24.

Perforations 21 are provided in the inlet port 10 and an umbrella valve 22 selectively opens and closes to allow material to pass through the perforations 21 into the bellows pump 14. The umbrella valve 22 fits within a recessed portion 17 formed at the lower edge of the internal surface 16 c of the collar 16. A duckbill valve 24 positioned within the outlet port 12 selectively opens and closes to allow flowable material to pass through and exit the bellows pump 14.

The selection of appropriate one-way valves at the inlet and outlet ports 10, 12 is important for effective operation of the dispensing apparatus. For example, the configuration of the umbrella valve 22 is such that it is appropriate for the suction of material into the conduit 14 whilst its profile is such that the valve itself does not substantially extend vertically into the conduit 14 (for example, see FIG. 5 c). The duckbill valve 24 is particularly suitable for use at the outlet port 12 because it provides a directed and even flow of material with a clean cut-off thus eliminating or reducing any messy accumulation of dentifrice material thereon.

As shown in FIG. 2, the sub-assembly of FIG. 1 is located within a wall mountable casing 26, which is fixable onto, say, a bathroom wall 28. Projections 30 are provided on the exterior surface of the housing 18 and releasably receivable within corresponding grooves 32 on sidewalls of the casing 26. It will be appreciated that this arrangement facilitates removal of the sub-assembly from the casing for cleaning or replacement of parts.

A cradle member 34 is releasably and pivotably mounted on the casing 26 by means of protrusions 36 formed on its sidewalls 38, which locate in corresponding apertures in the casing 26. The cradle member 34 has cam surfaces 40 formed on the periphery of each sidewall 38, which engage with diametrically opposed outwardly projecting pins 42 on the outlet port 12. The cradle member 34 is provided with a substantially horizontal supporting surface 46, which joins the lower edges of the sidewalls 38 of the cradle member 34. The supporting surface 46 is provided with a push surface 48 for cooperation with the distal end of a toothbrush head 44, as described below.

As shown in FIGS. 6 a-c, for aesthetic purposes, the sub-assembly, cradle member 34 and casing 26 described above are covered by a cover member 50. The cover member 50 is substantially tubular in shape and may be formed from any suitable material, for example, plastics, ceramics, coated metals etc. The bottom end of the cover member 50 is open-ended to enable the cover member 50 to slide over the assembled apparatus described above. The top end of the cover member is closed. A slit (not shown) may be provided in the cover member 50 to enable it to slide over wall-fixings 52 connecting the casing 26 to a wall. An opening 54 is provided at the lower end of the casing and is positioned to correspond with the supporting surface 46 of the cradle member 34.

In use, the opening of a container is located within the resilient collar 16 and the elastic nature of the silicone material forms a hermetic seal. The frusto-conical portion 16 d of the collar 16 facilitates coupling of the opening of the container with the inlet port 10. Optionally, the modified collar of FIG. 3 may be employed to assist in providing the hermetic seal.

The following description uses the example of dispensing dentifrice material (i.e. a semi-solid flowable material) from a deformable toothpaste tube. It should be appreciated however that the invention may be used to dispense any other flowable material, nor is its operation limited for use with only deformable containers.

In order to dispense dentifrice material from the dispensing apparatus, the dispensing apparatus must first be primed to remove any air from within the conduit 14 and the toothpaste container. This is achieved by positioning the toothbrush head 44 on the supporting surface 46 of the cradle member 34 and applying a force in a direction corresponding to the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush. Such a force causes the toothbrush head 44 to push against the push surface 48 and pivot the cradle member 34 relative to the casing 26 about its protrusions 36.

The pivoting action of the cradle member 34 causes the projecting pins 42 on the outlet port 12 to slide up the cam surfaces 40 on the cradle member 34. The pivoting of the cradle member 34 therefore causes the outlet port 12 to be forced upwardly towards the inlet port 10. During this upward motion, the bellows pump 14 is compressed longitudinally and progressively collapses to thereby reduce the volume between the inlet and outlet ports 10, 12 and expel air from the bellows pump 14 and the toothpaste container via the duckbill valve 24.

Upon withdrawal of the toothbrush head 44 from the push surface 48, the cradle member 34 returns to its initial position by virtue of the resilient nature of the bellows pump 14. It may be necessary to repeat this sequence several times to ensure that substantially all air is expelled from the bellows pump 14 and the toothpaste container.

Once fully primed, any air in the bellows pump 14 will be replaced with dentifrice material as indicated in FIG. 5 a and the dispensing apparatus is ready for use. Further pivotal movement of the cradle member 34 as described above will cause dentifrice material to be forced from the bellows pump 14 onto the underlying toothbrush head 44 as indicated in FIG. 5 b. The pivot point 36 of the cradle member 34 is positioned forward of the duckbill valve 24 and consequently the toothbrush travels upwards during the pivoting motion. Such a motion causes the toothbrush head to ‘follow’ the duckbill valve upwards and aids accurate placement of the dentifrice material onto the toothbrush head 44.

It will be appreciated that the alternative conduit shown in FIGS. 4 a and 4 b will operate in a similar fashion to the bellows pump described above. As shown in FIG. 4 b, the region where the wall of increased thickness meets the wall of lesser thickness will deform as the upward force is applied. It will also be appreciated that the narrowing of the internal diameter proximate the outlet valve 24 in FIG. 4 b, and hence the reduced volume of the conduit at this region, will cause a higher pressure to be imparted to the dentifrice material as it is expelled from the valve 24.

Upon removal of the toothbrush head 44 from the cradle member 34, the resilient nature of the bellows pump 14 returns the apparatus to its original position. As illustrated in FIG. 5 c, during the return motion, further dentifrice material is drawn into the bellows pump 14 through the open umbrella valve 22 due to the pressure differential between the inside of the toothpaste container and the inside of the bellows pump.

The push stop 48 on the cradle member 34 is also positioned forward of the duckbill valve 24 such that the dentifrice material is deposited along the length of the toothbrush head 44 from its distal end to its handle end. The maximum distance through which the toothbrush head 44 can pivot therefore corresponds to the length of a standard toothbrush head. Accordingly, the amount of dentifrice material dispensed from the duckbill valve 24 onto the toothbrush head 44 may be dictated by the degree to which the cradle member 34 is pivoted and/or the incline of the contours of the cam surfaces 40.

It will be appreciated that the dispensing apparatus of the present invention can be easily disassembled for cleaning purposes or for replacement of parts. For example, the cradle member 34 may be disconnected from the casing 26 by manually pinching the sidewalls 38 toward each other thereby moving the protrusions 36 out of engagement from their corresponding apertures. Similarly, the rigid housing 18 can be removed from the casing 26 by sliding its projections 30 out of engagement with the corresponding grooves 32 formed in the sidewall of the casing 26.

It will also be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the apparatus of the present invention can be operated by only one hand and therefore provides a simple, effective and convenient means of dispensing dentifrice material onto a toothbrush. The features of the invention are particularly advantageous for children, the disabled or the elderly who may find conventional means of dispensing dentifrice material onto a toothbrush difficult to operate.

Modifications and improvements may be made to the above without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the dispenser need not be used exclusively for dentifrice material and could equally be adapted to dispense a variety of different semi-solids or fluids, for example, creams, hand-wash, mousse, shaving gel, hair gel, washing up liquid and the like.

The conduit need not be in the form of a bellows pump and the volume varying means may act in a transverse rather than a longitudinal direction. The cradle member may be adapted to correspond with the material being dispensed. For example, if material were intended to be dispensed onto a hand (i.e. soap or shaving foam) then an appropriately shaped cradle member would be employed.

Alternative one-way valves could be used at either end of the conduit and the collar could include a threaded aperture to receive a correspondingly threaded neck of a container.

The upstanding annular rings described above with reference to FIG. 3 could equally be incorporated into the other embodiments described with reference to FIGS. 1 and 4 b.

Whilst the dispensing apparatus of the present invention has been described as being fixed on a wall in a vertical orientation, it could equally be adapted to operate in other orientations.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7845361 *Nov 8, 2007Dec 7, 2010Knight, LlcDesign and method for a dripless liquid wash aid pumping mechanism
US7874463Mar 14, 2008Jan 25, 2011Gojo Industries, Inc.Dispenser with collapsible dispensing tube
US8353428 *Jul 21, 2009Jan 15, 2013Fres-Co System Usa, Inc.Volumetric metering fitment and package including the same
US8387834 *Sep 10, 2009Mar 5, 2013Gojo Industries, Inc.Dispenser with collapsible dispensing tube
US8550131 *Jan 2, 2013Oct 8, 2013Liquid Squeeze, LLCLiquid dispensing device, system and method
US20110017774 *Jul 21, 2009Jan 27, 2011Fres-Co System Usa, Inc.Volumetric metering fitment and package including the same
US20110056990 *Sep 10, 2009Mar 10, 2011Gojo Industries, Inc.Dispenser with collapsible dispensing tube
Classifications
U.S. Classification141/360, 222/207, 222/214
International ClassificationA47K5/12, A47K5/18, B65D37/00
Cooperative ClassificationA47K5/1208, A47K5/18
European ClassificationA47K5/12C2, A47K5/18