US 3630083 A
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United States Patent Primary Examiner-Louis R. Prince Assistant Examiner Denis E. Corr Attorney-Robert C. Baker ABSTRACT: A funnel having a fill-indicator as an integral part thereof. The funnel has a tapered body portion with a spout projecting downwardly from the narrow or small end thereof. A tubular member is aligned within the spout and extends into the body portion. The lowermost termination of the tubular member is at a location within the lower half of the length of the spout but is preferably spaced in recess fashion from the lowermost end of the spout. The uppermost termination of the tubular member is at a location within the upper half of the body portion without extending beyond the wide mouth opening thereof. A filter screen is fixed transversely within the tapered body portion to the interior surface of that portion and to the exterior surface ofthe tubular member; and this filter screen is the sole support means extending between the tubular member and tapered body portion of the funnel. A rod is aligned within the tubular member and has a float fixed to its lower end and a visual level indicator fixed to its upper end. A guide member for longitudinal aligned movement of the rod within the tubular member is located within the tubular member at a position proximate to the small end or throat end of the tapered body portion. A minimum of structural elements are employed, with plural functions performed by most of the elements especially those forming the fill-indicator mechanism and those supporting or fixing it as an integral part ofthe funnel.
FILL-INDICATOR FUNNEL This invention relates to a new funnel having a fill-indicator as an integral part thereof.
One of the most common problems experienced by anyone filling a tank with fluid through a small aperture is that of unwanted overflow of the fluid. This not only is wasteful, but can be a source of serious pollution, especially of lakes and streams when overflow occurs while filling fuel tanks for outboard motors.
Many different varieties of funnels with fill or float indicators for revealing the level of fluid in a tank have heretofore been suggested. However, none, insofar as is known, has been so designed as to be both economical to manufacture and reliable in use under a wide variety of operating conditions. For
the most part, funnels with float indicators as have heretofore been suggested are so complex in structural features that the net result has been a product of prohibitive expense from the practical standpoint of manufacturing and marketing, as well as a product of less than constant reliability.
The present invention provides a fill-indicator funnel with a minimum of structural parts and with several structural parts serving more than one function. Additionally, the relationship of the structural elements of the article taught herein is such that damage to the operability of the fill-indicator portion of the mechanism, as well as other parts of it, is extraordinarily unlikely since the parts are so well protected against accidental damage by their arrangement in the device. Further, the teaching herein is such that the operability of the fill-indicator part is not in any way obstructed by the fluid guided by the funnel into a tank; and the fill-indicator part does not interfere with the effective use of the funnel during the filling of tanks. Objectionable structural elements extending transversely at the mouth of the tapered body portion of a funnel are not present in the funnel of this invention. Thus, the funnel hereof does not solve the problem of avoiding fluid overflow from a tank by providing means which cause pollution as a result of splashing upon objectionable structural elements extending across the mouth of a funnel, which has been a characteristic of prior art devices.
The special funnel article of the present invention is useful for safe filling, without overflow, of a wide variety of tanks or vessels, such as, for example, the tanks for internal combustion engines of an almost endless variety, various battery cases, vats for various liquid refreshments, and the like.
The invention will be described by reference to a drawing made a part hereof wherein FIG. 1 is a schematic perspective view, with Parts broken away, of a preferred funnel article of the invention;
FIGS. 2 and 3 are schematic perspective views, with parts broken away, of alternative embodiments for a funnel of the invention; and
F l0. 4 is a schematic cross-sectional view taken on line 4 4 of FIG. 3.
As illustrated in the drawing, the funnel article hereof comprises a tapered body portion 10, a spout 11, a tubular member 12, a filter screen 13, a fill-indicator assembly consisting essentially of a rod 14, a float l5 and a visuallevel indicator 16, and means 17 for guiding the rod of the fil-indicator assembly during limited up and down longitudinal alignment in the tubular member 12. To be observed is the extraordinary simplicity of structure and the plural function of several parts or elements, as will be further explained.
The tapered body is suitably of conical shape. It has a wide upper mouth opening defined by lip edge 18 preferably lying in a single plane essentially perpendicular to the axis of the body 10 and spout ll of the funnel. At the lower end of the tapered body portion is a constricted throat 19. A straight discharge spout 11 is fixed to and projects downwardly from the throat end 19 of the body portion 10. Discharge spout 11 is preferably substantially cylindrical even though it may be also somewhat tapered or conical. lf desired, port holes 20 may extend through the lowermost portion of the walls of the spout to facilitate exit of fluid from the spout in the event the very lowermost end of the spout rests on the bottom of a tank.
Tubular member 12 is aligned within the discharge spout 11 and extends into the body portion 10. Preferably tubular member 12 is of cylindrical contour and uniform diameter or cross-sectional size throughout its length. Normally, it will be centered within the spout 11, but centering is not critically necessary. It is at least aligned with the spout, and may in fact be fixed to one side of the internal wall of the spout. Indeed, it may have a side common to a part of the spout wall. In such cases both the spout and the tubular member may be of crosssectional shape other than cylindrical.
The lowermost termination 21 of tubular member 12 is at a location within the lower half of the length of the spout, and does not extend beyond the lowermost end of the spout. Preferably, it is spaced in recessed fashion from the lowermost end of the spout. Thus, during storage of the funnel or handling of it in any filling operation, the lowermost end 21 of tubular member 12 is shielded from any undue bumping or the like by the lowermost end of the spout 11.
The uppermost termination 22 of the tubular member is at a location within the upper half of the body portion 10, but does not extend beyond the mouth opening of the body portion 10. In effect, the uppermost termination 22 of said tubular member 12 does not extend beyond a plane across the lip edge of the funnel. In other words, a sheet of cardboard or the like may be layed across the mouth of the funnel hereof, on the lip edge 18, and will rest substantially upon the lip edge since the upper termination of tubular member 12 assembly does not extend to any significant extent beyond the plane formed by the sheet of cardboard.
Filter screen 13 is fixed transversely within the body portion to the interior surface of the body portion and the exterior surface of tubular member 12. This filter screen is the sole support element extending between the tubular member 12 and the body portion 10. Indeed, filter screen 13 may serve as the sole support element for tubular member 12 in the filter indicator funnel of the invention. Filter 13 serves not only as the support means for the tubular member 12, but also as the filter mechanism to strain out unwanted foreign particles from fuel or liquids passed through the funnel. The screen may of course include reinforcing webs; but even such webs have not been found to be particularly necessary.
Rod 14 is aligned within the tubular member 12, preferably centered in alignment with said member 12. A float 15, suitably of low density material such as cork or expanded plastic or a porous or void containing bulb, is fixed to the lower end of rod 14. A visual level indicator 16, such as a red knob or button or T-bar, is fixed to the upper end of rod 14. Between the level indicator l6 and the float 15 is a guide element or means 17 which serves as a guide member for maintaining rod 14 substantially in alignment with tube 12 as rod 14 shifts within a limited range of up and down longitudinal movement aligned with tubular member 12. Float 15 is maintained wholly within the confines of tubular member 12 at both extremes of that up and down movement.
Guide means 17 may suitable consist essentially of a guide member located within the tubular member 12 at a position proximate to or near the throat end of the tapered body portion 10 of the funnel. A preferred guide means is simply a washerlike member fixed to the internal walls of tubular member 12 at a location proximate to the throat end of the funnel. A ring member with webs extending to fixed points on the interior surface of the walls of tube 12 is equally suitable. Even projecting fingers, from the walls of tube 12 inwardly to a central space, constitute suitable guide means. In the embodiment of the funnel illustrated in H6. 1, guide means 17 may also serve the additional function of being a stop member both for upward and downward movement of the fill-indicator assembly consisting of rod 14, float l5 and indicator marker 16. At the lowermost position for this assembly, the knob 16 serving as the indicator marker rests upon the guide means 17; and at the uppermost position for longitudinal movement of the assembly, float l5 abuts against the guide means 17, which then prevents further upward movement of the indicator assembly. Alternately, in FIG. 1, upper movement of the indicator assembly may be limited by a wall 23 over the uppermost end of tubular member 12. Such a wall or surface over the upper termination of tube 12 will stop upper movement of the indicator assembly as the indicator marker 16 abuts against wall 23.
Where the upper terminus of tube 12 is closed as in FIG. 1, it is necessary to provide at least one port 24 (and suitably two or three such ports) in the very uppermost portion of tube 12 for the passage of air. Air escape passages 24 are needed in order to avoid building up pressure within tube 12 and causing a false reading for the fill-indicator float assembly. During use, fluid poured into a tank through the funnel will rise in level within the tank and gradually will enter the tube 12 causing float 15 to rise. However, if air escape passages 24 are omitted, the pressure build up within tube 12 will interfere with the movement of float 15 to an accurate position indicating the level of fluid within a tank.
In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, at least the upper length of tubular member 12 is transparent in character so as to permit viewing of the level indicator 16 for reading the level of fluid in the tank.
If desired, a pin 25 or other support member may be employed to assist the filter screen 13 in holding tube 12 in aligned or centered relationship within spout 11. Pin 25 suitably is mounted on interior wall surfaces of the spout 11 and extends through a lower terminal portion of tubular member 12. An additional function for pin 25, in the structural relationship illustrated in FIG. 1, is that of serving as an auxiliary stop member for lower movement of float 15 so as to prevent it from movement out of tube 12.
In FIG. 2, an alternate arrangement for the visual level indicator 16 is illustrated. In this embodiment, the upper end of tubular member 12 is substantially closed by wall 23 having a central opening therein through which rod 14 extends at all times. Level indicator 16 in the form of a bulbular expansion or knob on the top of rod 14 is exterior to tubular member 12 and rests upon the upper wall 23 of the substantially closed end of tube 12 when the fill-indicator assembly (consisting of rod 14, float l and indicator 16) is in its lowermost position. Dotted lines illustrate the upper extremity for the movement of the fill-indicator assembly, with the guide means 17 serving as the stop member against which float 15 abuts at the upper extremity of movement.
A further alternate structure is illustrated in FIG. 3 wherein the tubular member 12 is substantially closed by wall 23 at its uppermost end but is provided with a pair of oppositely disposed longitudinal slots in approximately the upper half of the part of the tubular member 12 located within the tapered body portion 10. The level indicator 16, of the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, consists essentially of a horizontal bar or T-bar which extends through slots 26 for slide movement along the length of those slots during up-and-down longitudinal movement of rod 14. The length of slots 26 is suitably adjusted so that the T-bar 16, which moves up and down in them, is limited in its extremities of up-and-down movement by abutting against the ends of the slots. Thus float 15 is maintained at all times within the confines of tube 12.
Especially to be noted is that slots 26 are not wide openings. They are narrow; and although some fluid poured into the conical body portion of the funnel may penetrate through slots 26 into the interior of tube 12 and fall down upon float 15, the amount of fluid passing through tube 12 in that fashion is negligible and does not interfere with the upward movement of float as an indicator of level once the tank is filled. Thus slots 26, aligned or parallel with the length of tube 12, are sufficiently long to allow a sensitive indicator movement for T- barl6 so as to reveal level of fluid as it rises in tube 12 during the filling of a tank; but they are no longer than is necessary for such detection of the rise of fluid. In many cases, a suitable length for slots 26 is no greater than a couple centimeter.
Although, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, at least the upper portion of tube 12 is transparent so as to permit visual inspection of indicator 16 during its rise, no such requirement for transparency for tube 12 is necessary for the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3. Thus metal or other suitable materials may be used to make the funnel hereof. On the other hand, the entire funnel structure, and all of its components, are preferably formed of transparent plastic material such as polystyrene or other suitable organic plastic. Components of the funnel structure as taught herein may be molded and then joined by heat sealing or by the use of adhesive. To be especially noted is that the filter screen 13 alone serves as an effective mounting and holding means for the entire tubular member and float indicator assembly within the funnel.
In general, the size or cross-sectional area of tubular member 12 within spout 11 is preferably such that it occupies no more than approximately one-half the total cross-sectional area of the spout projection. Indeed, the most preferred structures are formed using tubular members 12 which occupy, in terms of a cross-sectional area taken along a plane perpendicular to the spout projection 11, as little as possible of that cross'sectional area while still preserving the functional requirements for a float indicator as taught herein.
To be recognized is that the float 15 is substantially free of contact with the interior'wall surfaces of tube 12 at all extremities of its up-and-down longitudinal movement. It does not in any sense serve as a seal member; but is always freely movable to cause a sensitive indication of the level of fluid rising in tube 12.
If desired, the joint between screen 13 and tubular member 14 may be formed so as to permit removal and replacement of the tubular member 14. For example, a pair of annular flexible washer or flange projections (rubber or plastic) may be fixed to the exterior of tubular member 14 in just sufficiently spaced relationship to receive the interior annulus of screen 13 between them. The washers or annular flanges extend a frac tional distance on each side of screen 13 and function, in cooperation with screen 13, to hold the tubular member in position. However, the arrangement also permits removal and replacement of the tubular member 14, with its fixed exterior annular flanges, in the event it becomes damages and requires replacement.
Another improvement for tubular member 14 is that of incorporating adjustable marking means on or in connection with it. For example, a flexible hand (rubber or plastic) may be placed about the portion of the tubular member of FIG. 1 extending into the tapered portion of the funnel. After determining the exact height at which visual indicator 16 in tubular member 14 reflects a proper level of fill for a particular tank, the adjustable marker is moved along the length of tubular member 14 to a position equal to that height. If the funnel is for repeated use with that tank, the adjustable marker may be fixed at that position by a drop of adhesive of a type insoluble in the fluid used to fill the tank. An alternate to this procedure is that of merely applying an adhesive of distinctive color to the tubular member at the level determined as aforenoted.
That which is claimed is:
l. A fill-indicator funnel consisting essentially of a tapered body portion with a lip edge at its upper wide mouth opening and a constricted throat at its lower end, a straight discharge spout fixed to and projecting downwardly from said throat end of said body portion, a tubular member aligned within said discharge spout and extending into said body portion, said tubular member being of essentially uniform cross section throughout its length, the lowermost tennination of said tubular member being at a location within the lower half of the length of said spout and not extending beyond the lowermost end of said spout, the uppermost termination of said tubular member being at a location within the upper half of said body portion and not extending beyond the mouth opening thereof, a filter screen fixed transversely within said body portion to the interior surface of said body'portion and the exterior surface of said tubular member, said filter screen being the sole support means extending between said tubular member and said body portion and serving to support said tubular member in position, a rod aligned in said tubular member, a float fixed to the lower end of said rod, a visual level indicator fixed to the upper end of said rod, and means for guiding said rod during limited up-and-down longitudinal movement thereof aligned with said tubular member, said float being wholly within the confines of said tubular member at both extremes of said up-and-down movement.
2. The funnel of claim 1 wherein said means for guiding said rod during said limited up-and-down longitudinal movement consists essentially of a guide member located within said tubular member at a position proximate to the throat end of said body portion.
3. The funnel of claim 1 wherein the upper end of said tubular member is substantially closed but provided with at least one port for air escape and wherein said level indicator fixed to the upper end of said rod is wholly within the confines of said tubular member at both extremes of said up-and-down movement, said tubular member being transparent at least in the portion thereof within which said level indicator is movable.
4. The funnel of claim 1 wherein the upper end of said tubular member is substantially closed but provided with a central opening through which said rod extends as well as through which air may escape, said level indicator fixed to the upper end of said rod being exterior to said tubular member at both extremes of longitudinal movement for said rod.
5. The funnel of claim 1 wherein the upper end of said tubular member is substantially closed but provided with a pair of oppositely disposed longitudinal slots in the sidewalls of approximately the upper half of the part of said tubular member located within said tapered body portion, and wherein said level indicator consists essentially of a horizontal bar extending through said slots for slide movement along the length of said slots during said up-and-down longitudinal movement of said rod.
6. The funnel of claim 1 wherein said lowermost termination of said tubular member is spaced in recessed fashion from the lowermost end of said spout.
7. The funnel of claim 1 wherein a support member assists in holding said tubular member aligned within said spout, said support member consisting essentially of a pin mounted on the interior wall surface of said spout and extending through a lower terminal portion of said tubular member.
8. The funnel of claim 1 wherein a support member assists in holding said tubular member aligned within the spout portion of said funnel, said support member consisting essentially of pin means between said spout portion of said funnel and the portion of said tubular member in said spout portion.
9. The funnel of claim 1 wherein said filter screen is the sole and exclusive member serving as support means extending between said tubular member and any part of said funnel.