US 3733744 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Hiltpold et al.
 POWER MODULE FOR DRIVING VEHICLE-PROPELLING ELEMENT, INCLUDING STATIONARY AXLE MEANS MOUNTING SAID ELEMENT 75 Inventors: John P. Hiltpold, Manhattan Beach; George Soulakis, North Hollywood, both of Calif.
 Assignee: Mattel, Inc., Hawthorne, Calif.
'  Filed: Feb. 9, 1972  Appl. No.: 224,821
 US. Cl. ..46/243 E, 46/221, 46/243 LV  Int. Cl. ..A63h 29/22  Fieldof Search ..46/243 M, 243 LV,
46/243 MV, 243 P, 206, 208, 217, 244 R, 244 A, 244 B, 244 C, 244 D, 243 E, 210, 221, 219
 Relerences Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,039,055 4/1936 Bonanno ..46/2l7 3,528,193 9/1970 Yamakawa ..46/217 X 3,501,863 3/1970 Matsushiro ..46/243 LV 111 3,733,744 [451 May 22, 1973 3,541,725 I 11/1970 Miura. l ..46/206 3,608,233 9/1970 Aoki ..46/243 M X 2,611,632 10/1971 Smith.... "46/243 P 3,659,378 5/1972 Tong ..46/244 R FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 1,247,474 10/1960 France ..46/2 1 0 647,396 7/1937 Germany ..46/2l9 Primary Examiner-F. Barry Shay Attorney-Seymour A. Scholnick  ABSTRACT A completely self-contained power module for supplying rotational power to drive wheels, tractor tracks, airplane propellers, and the like, of miniature toy vehicles, the module including in a single housing a rechargeable battery, an electric motor with a drive shaft, switch means for electrically connecting the battery to the motor, a non-rotating axle integrally a part of the modules housing and disposed at a fixed relationship to the motors drive shaft for rotatably carrying the driven wheels, etc., and a means for providing recharging current to the battery, preferably including means for disconnecting the motor from the battery circuit during charging.
9 Claims, 4 Drawing Figures POWER MODULE FOR DRIVING VEI-IICLE-PROPELLING ELEMENT, INCLUDING STATIONARY AXLE MEANS MOUNTING SAID ELEMENT BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION The background of the invention will be set forth in two parts.
1. Field of the Invention The present invention pertains generally to the field of toys, and more particularly to a unique replaceable module which provides all necessary components to power a toy vehicle.
2. Description of the Prior Art Toy vehicles having self contained electric motors for driving the toys wheels are well known. For many years now these toys have contained battery compartments with access doors so that the dry cell batteries used could be easily replaced when exhausted. A more recent development has been the use of rechargeable batteries, usually small nickel-cadmium cells. This has certainly advanced the self-powered toy vehicle art, but it has also presented new problems to be overcome for efficient use of these rechargeable batteries.
One such problem is that of the higher cost of com.- ponents which must be used with these relatively lower capacity sources of electrical power. Consequently, much development has taken place to reduce the size and weight of these miniature motors and at the same time to increase their torque, speed and efficiency. In dealing with the problem of increasing the efficiency, the vehicles entire drive chain must be considered since unnecessary friction or binding anywhere along the line greatly reduces the performance of the propulsion system of these miniature toys.
It should be evident from the foregoing that a new technique which reduces the cost of manufacturing self-contained electric motor driven toy vehicles utilizing miniature rechargeable batteries, which increases the efficiency of such a power system, and which also provides for ease of assembly, testing and replacement, would constitute a significant advancement of the art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION:
In view of the foregoing factors and conditions characteristic of the prior art, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide a new and improved power module containing all essential components to drive toy vehicles, including the entire drive chain.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a completely self-contained, replaceable power module for toy vehicles.
It is still another object of the present invention to provide a highly efficient power module for toy vehicles which is easily placed in any of a number of toy vehicles adapted to receive such a module.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a power module for self-powered toy vehicles, which module incorporates means for charging a selfcontained miniature rechargeable toy battery.
A further object of the present invention is to provide an economical-to-manufacture power module which includes a highly efficient and dimensionally stable power drive chain between its self-contained electric motor and the toys drive wheels mounted thereon.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a detachable power module for toy vehicles which module contains switch means for electrically controlling the electric current supplied to an electric motor housed therein.
According to the present invention, a power module for self-powered miniature toy vehicles is provided, including a battery disposed in a module housing which housing includes integral stationary axle means extending therefrom, and means for removably attaching the housing to a toy vehicle adapted to receive the housing. Also disposed in the housing is an electric motor having a rotatable drive shaft extending externally of the housing. Electrically connected to the battery and to the electric motor are switch means for controlling the activation of the electric motor. The invention also includes drive means with at least one driven element rotatably mounted on the axle means for propelling a toy vehicle, and coupling means for operatively coupling the drive shaft and the driven element.
According to the presently preferred embodiment of the invention, the axle means includes a pair of axially aligned axles extending from opposite sides of the housing, and the drive means includes a pair of driven wheels in the form of drive wheels with integrally formed gears, the wheels being mounted on respective ones of the axles so that the wheel gears mesh with drive pinions mounted at the ends of the electric motor drive shaft.
The features of the present invention which are believed to be novel are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The present invention, both as to its organization and manner of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may best be un- 'derstood by making reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which like reference characters refer to like components in the several views.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. I is a side elevational view of a toy powered by a detachable power module constructed in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a partial, sectional view taken along line 2-2 of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is an enlarged elevational view of the module portion of the toy of FIG. I; and
FIG. d is an exploded view of the detachable power module used to power the toy of FIG. 1.
DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Referring now to the drawings, and more particularly to FIG. ll, there is shown a miniature toy, which for purposes of this description is in the form of a presently popular three-wheeled customized motorcycle 11. The toy is shown to have a spoked front wheel 13 rotatably mounted on a front axle 15 supported by an angularly disposed front fork assembly 17, the upper portion of which is pivotally attached to a steering column 19 rotatably held in a'forward portion of a customized open cockpit 21. The direction of travel of the toy may thus be determined by grasping (and turning) a handlebar 23 integrally molded on the plastic column 19. The cockpit 21 includes a wrap-around windshield 25, a simulated high speed control flap 27, and a housing 29 resembling a customized motorcycle engine.
Removably held within the housing 29 is a completely self-contained detachable power module 31 having a pair of oppositely directed and axially aligned fixed rear axles 33. These axles rotatably support respective driven wheels 35, each of which have broad faced low-profile tires 37 mounted thereon. The tires 37 may be fabricated from a material having good traction characteristics such as a styrene butadiene copolymer, and the wheels 35 from an acrylic copolymer, for example. Generally, the cockpit and front wheel assemblies of the toy 11 are preferably molded from plastic materials, using conventional molding processes.
Referring now to the unique and very advantageous self-contained detachable power module 31, it can be seen from FIGS. 1 and 2 that the rear wheels 35 have axle bores 39 with narrow, slightly decreased diameter retainer portions 41 adapted to snap over an end button portion 43 and be retained by a circular recess 45 in an elongated cylindrical shaft 47 portion of the axles 33. This allows the wheels to be unsnapped for the removal of lint in the gears. Also, where the motor shaft pinions (to be later described) are removable, different gear ratios (provided the sum of the pitch radii are the same) can be used. The sectional details seen in FIG. 2 also clearly show that the tires 37 have a circular, inwardly extending, portion 49 registering with an associated circular depression 51 in the wheels 35, to overcome any tendency for the tires to leave the wheels when an accelerating force is coupled to the wheels to drive the toy l1 forward. This figure also illustrates in detail the manner in which the power module 31 is positioned within the housing 29.
A more detailed view of the detachable module 31, its upper and lower casings 53 and 55, and the various components and elements contained therein, may be viewed in the exploded view of the module shown in FIG. 4. The number of techniques which may be employed to removably retain the module 31 in a toy are limitless, much depending upon the toys design and construction. In the toy 11, the modules upper casing 53 is provided with outwardly extending dogs 57 which snap into appropriate depressions in the inner walls of the housing 29, the axles 33 protruding through elongated upwardly extending slots in the housing (the slots, not shown, being covered by the rear wheels 35).
The lower casing 55 includes a planar bottom portion 59 with upraised side walls 61, and a semi-cylindrical portion 63 with a footing 65 having a bottom face 67 in the plane of the bottom portion 59. An end wall 69 of the portion 63 includes an outwardly extending retaining portion 70, and the side wall 61 and the end wall 69 are provided with a plurality of apertures 71 and a relatively wide notch 73.
The apertures 71 are positioned to accept and hold barbed ends 75 of posts 77 depending from the upper casing 53 for purposes of securely, but removably, attaching together the upper and lower casing members. These members, together, define an enclosure which contains the essential components and parts of the unique self-contained power module 31. For example, the enclosure houses a miniature electric motor 79, a miniature rechargeable battery 81, and an on-off electric switch assembly including a negative contact member 83, a positive contact member 85, and a switch activating lever member 87.
The motor 79 is of conventional design having an armature 89 mounted on a drive shaft 90, a pair of permanent magnet pole pieces 91 disposed on two sides of but spaced from the armature 89, and a motor case comprising a conductive metal U-shaped member 93 with inwardly bent sides 95 and an end plate 97 of insulative material such as nylon. The motor case is held together by bending four cars 99 extending from the member 93 over cornered depressions 101 in an outer face 103 of the end plate 97. The drive shaft 90 is rotatably supported by a bore 105 in the end plate 97 and at its opposite side, by a bushing piece (not shown) captured in a hole in the member 93. This bushing is essentially of the same configuration and size as a raised disc portion 107 on the end plate 97, coaxially positioned about the shaft 90 to slide into a circular end opening 109 of an upwardly extending slot 111 in the upper casing 53. Electrical contact with an armature winding 113 is through a pair of brush assemblies (not shown) one of which brushes is electrically wired to a contact tab 115 extending over an upper edge 117 of the insulative end plate 97. Thus, the electric motor 79 will be activated to drive the shaft 91) when an appropriate electric potential, from the battery 81 for example, is provided between the U-shaped motor case member 93 and the contact tab 115.
In assembly, a small indexing opening 119 (FIG. 4) in the negative contact member 83 is placed over a tit 121 (FIG. 3) depending from an inner surface 123 of the upper casings top portion 125. At this time, an elongated metal eyelet 127 is positioned through an opening 129 in a cylindrical protuberance portion 130 of a curved end wall 131. The eyelet 127 also passes through a hole 133 in a bent tab portion 135 of the member 83, before the eyelets opposite ends 137 are bent outwardly and over, as seen in FIG. 4, by an appropriate tool. A tubular end portion 139 of the lower member 87 is then slipped over a split tubular buss 141 extending below the inner casing surface 123 so that a bent lever portion 143 extends away from the surface 123 and a manually manipulatable arm portion 145 extends beyond the end wall 131.
The positive contact member 85 may then be placed over an inner end 147 of the motor 79 and keyed thereat by contact tabs 146 registering in depressions 101, so that a charging arm portion 149 extends toward the negative contact member 83. The motor 79 is then placed in a rectangular cavity portion 151 of the upper casing, with the raised disc portion 107 and the bushing piece (not shown) slid into the upper casings end opening 109. In this position, a pair of resilient contact arm portions 153 of the positive contact member 85 extend outwardly into a semicylindrical casing portion 157, which with the portion 63, defines a battery compartment 159.
The battery 81 is now placed in the compartment with its positive terminal 161 facing the positive contact member 85. So positioned, the terminal 161 will be in electrical contact with the contact arm portions 153. The lower casing 55 is then placed adjacent and snapped onto the upper casing so that the batterys case 163 (negative terminal) is in electrical contact with a resilient negative contact arm portion 165 of the negative contact member 83. The battery 81 is of the rechargeable type and cylindrical in shape, preferably a nickel-cadmium cell or equivalent.
At this point, the power module 31 is complete except that a pair of drive pinions 167 may be fixedly attached to the ends of the drive shaft 90 to engage gears 169 integrally molded on the inner side of the wheels 35, when the wheels are rotatably mounted on the fixed rear axle 33.
In operation, the arm portion M5 in its OFF position, a switch leg portion 171 of the lever member 87 is positioned (as shown in FIG. 4) in engagement with a lower step 173 of a depending resilient switch portion 175 of a negative contact member 83. The step portion 173 thus keeps a contact end 177 of the negative contact member spaced from the motors contact tab US so that the electrical circuit between the motors input terminals and those of the battery is broken. However,
movement of the arm 145 in the direction indicated by the arrow 179 to its ON position causes the switch leg portion 171 to rotate in the direction 181, thereby allowing the contact end 177 to make electrical contact with the contact tab 115. This action completes the sarily is in contact with the eyelet R27. If, at the time the charging plug is inserted, the arm is in its ON position, the tip of the plug will engage and push a tab 187 extending from the lever members tubular portion 139 to rotate the latter in a direction W9 to the OFF position. Thus, in all cases, the electric circuit between the battery and the motor is broken whenever the battery is being charged. This feature prevents the motors electrical load from being seen by the charger, which may be merely another battery.
In the embodiment of the present invention that has now been described in detail, the drive shaft is geared to and drives a pair of vehicle wheels which are rotatably mounted on a pair of fixed axles integral with the power module's casing. However, it should be understood that in practicing the invention the drive shaft may be mechanically coupled to and drive tractor treads, and propellers, and the like, for toy vehicles of varied descriptions. In all cases, the wheels, etc., are
maintained in perfect alignment by the power module since the integral stationary axles are always at a fixed distance and parallel to the drive shaft. This feature is very important where any extra load caused by misalignment of the wheel axles and the drive shaft will result in reduced battery life and running time between charges.
From the foregoing, it should be evident that a very advantageous and novel power module for toy vehicles has been described which overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art.
It should be understood that the materials used in fabricating the various components and parts of the invention are not critical and any material generally considered to be suitable for a particular function may be utilized. For example, although certain plastic materials have been designated for some of the components of the power module, other plastic materials and metals may be substituted therefor. However, certain parts must be electrically insulated from others to maintain circuit integrity. Thus, the lever member $7 is preferably fabricated from a non-conductive acetal material, for example. Nylon may be used for the casing, and the resilient metal switch and charging members may be 0 cartridge brass with a hard nickel flash.
Accordingly, it is intended that the foregoing disclosure and showings in the drawings be considered only as illustrations of the principles of the present invention.
What is claimed is:
l. A power module for self-powered miniature toy vehicles, comprising:
a module housing including integral stationary axle means extending from said housing for mounting at least one driven element thereon, and means for removable attachment of said housing to a toy vehicle adapted to receive said housing;
a battery disposed in said housing;
an electric motor disposed in said housing, said electric motor having a rotatable drive shaft extending externally of said housing;
switch means associated with said housing electrically connected to said battery and to said electric motor for controlling the activation of said electric motor;
drive means including at least one driven element for propelling a toy vehicle, said driven element being rotatably mounted on said stationary axle means; and
coupling means for operatively coupling said drive shaft and said driven element for driving the latter.
2. A power module according to claim 1, wherein said coupling means includes an integral part of said driven element.
3. A power module according to claim 2, wherein said coupling means includes a pinion gear fixedly mounted on said drive shaft, and said integral part of said drive element is a gear portion complementary to said pinion gear.
4. A power module according to claim 1, wherein said switch means includes a manually operated lever extending externally of said housing and having an ON and OFF" position, said switch means activating said electric motor only when said lever is in said ON position.
5. A power module according to claim 4 wherein said battery is a rechargeable battery, and wherein said switch means also includes charging means for allowing said battery to be charged.
a. A power module according to claim 5, wherein said charging means includes a charging plug receptacle and means for moving said lever to said OFF position upon insertion of a charging plug.
7. A power module according to claim ll, wherein said stationary axle means includes a pair of axially aligned axles extending from opposite sides of said housing.
A power module according to claim 7, wherein said drive means includes two driven elements, said elements being drive wheels having axial bores to receive said axles, said bores including slightly reduced diameter narrow retainer portions, and wherein said axles include circular recesses therein adapted to accept said retainer portions of said drive wheels.
9. A power module according to claim a, wherein said drive shaft extends beyond said opposite sides of said housing parallel to said axles, and wherein said coupling means includes a pinion gear fixedly mounted at each end of said drive shaft, said coupling means also including a complementary gear portion integrally a part of and coaxially positioned about said bores of said drive wheels.