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Publication numberUS3807379 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateApr 30, 1974
Filing dateApr 7, 1972
Priority dateApr 7, 1972
Publication numberUS 3807379 A, US 3807379A, US-A-3807379, US3807379 A, US3807379A
InventorsVodinh H
Original AssigneeVodinh H
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Spring type ball projecting device with programming control means
US 3807379 A
Abstract
An apparatus for serving game balls. The apparatus includes a movable frame assembly and a device mounted on the frame assembly for forcibly ejecting a game ball in a predetermined direction. The frame assembly is rotated and tilted by first and second drive devices to alter the position of the frame assembly and thereby the trajectory of a game ball launched from the ball ejecting means. A control devices is operatively coupled to the first and second drive devices for controlling the operation thereof, the control device also including a system for programming the operation of the first and second drive devices in accordance with predetermined patterns.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

[ 1 Apr. 30, 1974 3,288,127 11/1966 Bullock................... 124/30 RX Primary Examiner-Richard C. Pinkham Assistant Examiner-William R. Browne Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Gust, Irish, Lundy & Welch ABSTRACT An apparatus for serving game balls. The apparatus includes a movable frame assembly and a device mounted on the frame assembly for forcibly ejecting a game ball in a predetermined direction. The frame assembly is rotated and tilted by first and second drive devices to alter the position of the frame assembly and thereby the trajectory of a game ball launched from the ball ejecting means. A control devices is operatively coupled to the first and second drive devices for controlling the operation thereof, the control device Fort my n a ma m E w m m a nm m o a 4 mm 1 mm m Me w m r m c ar. 4 .mt% 1 USE u md d m .m umin Bf aow wxnp M814 //4 47 .29/ 116 H" e Un ted States Patent 1 Vodinh SPRING TYPE BALL PROJECTING DEVICE WITH PROGRAMMING CONTROL MEANS [76] Inventor: Hien Vodinh, 2101 Cheri Ct Wayne, Ind. 46804 [22] Filed: Apr. 7, 1972 [21] Appl. No.: 241,951

[52] U.S. 124/26, 273/26 13, 124/30 R,

v 124/37, 124/33, 124/49 {51] Int. F41b 7/00 [58] Field of 124/26, 29, 27, 28, 32,

124/30 R, 37, 41, 49; 273/118, 26 D, 69; 234/79, 71, 75; 46/244 D; 197/133 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS Laporte Rhodes mm n m a n t Sn ear d e 0m" h RMM 2 869 77566 999.99 MWWMW 95973 02447 .0 52227 6 456 5 .32 33233 PATENTED ml 30 m4 SHEET 2 BF 6 PATENTEnAPR 30 m4 3; 807; 379

- sum 3 {1F 6 PATENTEDAPR30 m4 sLamLsm sum 5 UF 6 SPRING TYPE BALL PROJECTING DEVICE WITH PROGG CONTROL MEANS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates to devices for serving game balls suchas Ping Pong balls, tennis balls, and the like and in particular to such an apparatus which includes a programmable control means whereby the apparatus can be programmed to launch the game balls along different trajectories in accordance with a predetermined pattern.

2. DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART Popular games such as Ping Pong, tennis, and the like require a minimum of two players. A player wishing to play or to practice to improve his game must first find a partnerwith whom to play. The pleasure of the game or the value of the practice will frequently depend, in large part, upon the skill of the second player and, in any event, it is not possible to control the quality, direction, and similar characteristics of an opponents serves and ball returns therefore making it difficult for a player to practice to improve a particular facet'of this game.

For these reasons, various forms of practice machines for serving or launching the game balls have been proposed. In one such type apparatus the ball launching mechanism remains in a fixed position and can only be moved by a manual adjustment. For this type of apparatus successive balls that are served follow identical trajectories. Another type of prior art ball launching mechanism is adapted to launch successive balls along different trajectories in a totally random fashion. This type of apparatus adds variety to the practice but does not enable programming of the apparatus to simulate a particular type of serve or return and does not provide a means for altering the difficulty of the shots to adapt the machine for use by players having different levels of skill.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention overcomes the aforementioned difficulties and comprises broadly an articulated carriage assembly which includes a base'and a first and a second frame pivotably coupled to the base for movement about vertical and horizontal axes, respectively. There are means fixedly secured to one of the first and second frames for forcibly ejecting the balls therefrom in a predetermined direction with respect thereto. First and second drive means are coupled to the first 'and second frames, respectively, for moving same about the aforementioned axes. A L control means is provided which is coupled to the first and second drive means and to the ball ejecting means for generating a plurality of intermittently occurring control signals, the first and second drive means and the ejecting means being responsive to predetermined ones of the control signals to alter the position of the first and second frames to eject the game balls. Means are operatively coupled to the control means for programming the operation and sequence of the control signals in accordance with a selected pattern whereby the trajectory of the game balls can be altered as desired.

In a modification of the apparatus of the present invention means are also provided for imparting spin or english to the game ball. The spin imparting apparatus is also programmable whereby different types of spin such as overspin, backspin, and the like can be imparted to the ball to thereby more completely simulate an actual serve or ball return.

In one specific embodiment, the entire apparatus utilizes electromechanical components whereby it is relatively easy to service and is reliable in operation. Similarly, the apparatus is of rugged construction and requires no special skills to use.

The game ball serving apparatus can further be used singularly or in groups of two or more units. In the latter case, the units may-be positioned at different locations on the playing court or game table and all of the units may be controlled by a single programming means or by individual programming means which are synchronized. When multiple units are used, it is possible to simulate virtually any serve or ball return whereby a particular game or combination of serves and returns can be simulated.

It is therefore an object of the invention to provide a programmable game ball serving apparatus.

It is another object of the invention to provide such an apparatus which can be selectively programmed to launch a plurality of game balls along different trajectories in accordance with a predetermined pattern.

It is still another object of the invention to provide such an apparatus which incorporates a power driven articulated frame assembly to position a ball ejecting means to launch a plurality of game balls along different trajectories in accordance with a predetermined pattern. v

It is still another object ,of the invention to'provide such an apparatus which includes a control means and a plurality of interchangeable programming means which enable programming of the apparatus to simulate the actual game of tennis, Ping Pong, or the like.

It is another object of the invention to provide such an apparatus which can be programmed to impart spin to the game ball.

It is still another object of the invention to provide such an apparatus which utilizes simple and rugged electromechanical components.

It is yet another object of the invention to provide such an apparatus which is reliable in operation and simple to use. A

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The above-mentioned and other features and objects of this invention and the manner of attaining them will become more apparent and the invention will be best understood by reference to the following description of an embodiment of the invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is an axial cross-sectional view as viewed from the top thereof showing the internal mechanism of the ball ejecting means for use with the invention and shown in an uncooked position;

FIG. 2 is an axial cross-sectional view of the ball ejecting means with the components thereof shown in the positions which they assume immediately after ejecting a ball;

FIG. 3 is a top-plan view of a portion of the control means;

FIG. 3a is an end-plan view of the control means shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the control means taken along section line 44 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a top-plan view of a program card for use with the control means shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the ball serving apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is an electrical schematic diagram showing details of the electrical connections of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a fragmentary side-plan view showing details of the second drive means with one side member thereof removed;

FIGS. 80, 8b, and 8c are fragmentary side, top, and end views of a modified embodiment of the ball ejecting means shown in FIGS. 1 and 2;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary top-plan view showing details of the first drive means; and

. FIG. 10 is a fragmentary end-plan view of the first drive means illustrated in FIG. 9.

DESCRIPTION OF A SPECIFIC EMBODIMENT Referring first to FIGS. 6, 8, 9, and 10, a game ball serving device, indicated generally at 8, comprising a mounting platform 10 made of any suitably rigid material to which is fixedly secured a first base plate 12 having opposite ends 14 and 16. Fixedly secured to ends 14 and 16 of plate 12 are pillow block bearings 18 and 20, respectively, which rotatably support the opposite ends of an elongated, first threaded shaft 22.

A reversible, bidirectional electric motor 24 is fixedly mounted to platform 10 by means of a suitable angle bracket 26 and threaded fasteners 28 and has an output shaft 30 disposed in axial alignment with threaded shaft 22. Output shaft 30 is drivingly coupled to thraded shaft 22 by means of a coupling 32 whereby rotation of output shaft 30 will produce corresponding rotation of threaded shaft 22.

A first frame assembly 36 includes a slide plate 38, oppositely disposed end walls 40, 42, a pair of parallel spaced apart side walls 44, 46, a motor supporting platform 50 fixedly secured to end wall 42 and extending perpendicularly outwardly therefrom, and an upstanding pivot support member 52. A second elongated, threaded shaft 54 extends between end walls 40, 42 and is rotatably journaled therein. A second bidirectional, reversible electric motor 56 is fixedly mounted to motor support member 50 by means of an angle bracket 58 and has an output shaft 60 axially aligned with second threaded shaft 54 and drivingly coupled thereto with a suitable coupling 62.

Frame 36 is pivotably mounted to a second base plate 66, the latter being pivotably mounted to platform 10 by means of a pivot pin 68 and bushing 69 whereby it can rotate about a vertical axis extending axially through pin 68.

The laterally disposed edges 70, 72 of slide plate 38 are provided with longitudinally extending grooves 74, 76, respectively, of arcuate cross-section. A channel shaped slide member 78 slidably engages slide plate 38 as shown. The side walls 80, 82 of slide member 78 are provided with generally hemispherical recesses (not shown) in which are rotatably received a plurality of spherical balls as at 86. It will now be apparent that slide member 78 is freely slidably movable with respect to slide plate 38 in a direction parallel to the longitudinal dimensions thereof but will drive frame 36 in a direction laterally of the longitudinal dimension thereof. Pivotably secured to the bottom surface of slide member 78 is a first drive element 90 having therethrough a threaded bore 92 which operatively engages the first threaded shaft 22. It will now be apparent that rotation of first electric motor 24 rotates first threaded shaft 22. This rotational movement is converted to linear movement by means of drive element 90 which in turn imparts pivotal movement of first frame 36 about pivot pin 68.

A second rigid frame 100 includes a bottom plate 102, side plates 104, 106, end or slide block 138, and a cover plate 110. The end of bottom plate 102 distal slide block 138 is pivotably coupled to the upper end of pivot support member 52 via a sleeve 1 12 fixedly secured to bottom plate 102 and a hinge pin 114.

A second drive element 116 is slidably engaged between first frame side walls 44, 46 and is provided with a threaded bore 118 which is threadably engaged by second threaded shaft 54. A rigid connecting link 120 is pivotably connected between the upper end of second drive element 116 and the end of second frame bottom plate 102 adjacent end 108. It will now be apparent that rotation of second threaded shaft 54 will produce corresponding linear movement of second drive element 116 as indicated by arrows 122 and that this movement will be transmitted via link 120 to second frame 100 to produce pivotable movement thereof about a horizontal axis 124. This in turn will change the angular position of the second frame 100 with respect to the horizontal frame. assembly 36 and platform 10.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, a ball ejecting mechanism is mounted within second frame 100. Ball ejecting mechanism 130 includes a ball ejecting tube 132 which has a bore 134 dimensioned to slidably receive a game ball such as a Ping Pong ball or a tennis ball. One end of tube 132 is open as shown and the opposite end is closed by the frictionally engaged circular boss 136 of slide block 138. Slide block 138 is in turn fixedly secured to frame side plates 104 and 106 and has extending therethrough a stepped diameter bore 140 having a small diameter portion 142 and large diameter portion 144. Also fixedly mounted to side plate 104 is an electric solenoid 146 which includes a solenoid coil 148 and sliding armature 150.

A cylindrical cocking element 152 has a hollow cylindrical bore 154 with an annular shoulder 156 partially closing one end thereof. Bore 154 is closed at its opposite end with a suitable plug 158 and cocking element 152 is fixedly secured to armature by means of a threaded fastener 160 and slidably received in bore 140 as shown. A compression spring 162 is disposed about cocking element 152 and compressively engaged between armature 150 and slide member 138.

Received within cylindrical bore 154 is a second compression spring 164. A stepped diameter ball ejecting hammer 166 has its small diameter end 168 slidably received in portion 142 of bore 140 and its larger diameter portion 170 slidably received through the annular opening 172 of cocking element 152. Hammer 166 is further provided with an enlarged head 174 which abuttingly engages spring 164.

Larger diameter portion 170 and smaller diameter portion 168. of hammer element 166 define therebetween a shoulder 178. Formed in slide member 138 is a recess which communicates with stepped bore 140. Pivotably mounted within recess 180 is a latch member 182. In the walls of recess 180 adjacent the .distal end of latch element 182 are a pair of arcuate recesses as at 184. A third compression spring 186 having a diameter greater than the width of recess 180, (i.e., in a'direction normal to the plane of the-drawing) is slidably received in recesses 184 such that it resiliently urges latch member 182 upwardly (as viewed in the drawings). It will now be apparent that when latch member 182 is in its upwardly disposed position as shown in FIG. 1, it engages shoulder 178 of the hammer 166 thereby restraining it from movement from left to right as viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2.

In operation, the solenoid coil 148 is energized causing solenoid armature 150 to move from left to right (as viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2). This movement of armature 150 compresses spring 162 and simultaneously moves cocking element 152 to the right from its position as shown in FIG. 1 to the position shown in FIG. 2. During this movement, hammer member 166 is restrained from movement to the right by latch member 182 whereby second compression spring 164 is compressed between enlarged head 174 of hammer 166 and plug 158. When cocking element 152 approaches its rightmost position, the end thereof adjacent shoulder 156 engages sloped cam portion 188 of latch member 182. As cocking element 152 continues to move rightwardly, it will force latch element 182 downwardly, whereby hammer element 166 is released, and is forcibly driven to the right (as viewed in FIGS. 1 and 2) by second compression spring 164.

When solenoid coil is de-energized, solenoid armature 150 and cocking element 152 secured thereto are returned to their leftmost position by first compression spring 162.

The end of hammer element 166 distal enlarged head portion 174 is preferably fitted with a resilient tip 192 to prevent damage to the game ball 190. It will now be apparent that when hammer element 166 is released and, assuming that a game ball 190 is positioned within ball ejecting tube 132, the ball will be forcibly ejected out of ejecting tube 132 in a direction generally parallel to the axis 193 thereof.

Referring now to FIGS. 3 through 4, there is illustrated a control means 200 for controlling the operation of first and second'motors 24 and 56 and the ball ejecting means 130. The control means comprises a smooth, flat, elongated plate 202, having adjacent the midpoint thereof a laterally extending row of apertures 204, 206, 208, 210, and 212 and an additional aperture 214 laterally and longitudinally offset from apertures 204 through 212 as shown. Plate 202 is mounted to a suitable box 216 with the surface 218 thereof facing outwardly of the box 216 and the box 216 in turn is mounted to platform by means of a suitable support member 220. A suitably U-shape'd cover 222 is mounted to box 216 with the central side 224 thereof extending in parallel, spaced apart relationship with respect to surface 218 of plate 202 side 224 and plate 202 defining therebetween a thin slot 226.

A suitable motor 230 is mounted adjacent plate 202 with a suitable bracket (not shown) and has an output .shaft 232 extending laterally parallel to surface 218.

. 6 Secured to the undersurface 238 of plate 202 are a plurality of electrical toggle switches 240a, 240b, 240d, 240e, and 240f. Each of toggle switches 240a through 240fhasan actuating arm 242 having a distal end portion 244 which extends upwardly through a respective one of the apertures 204 through 214. Distal ends 244 may further be provided with a small roller 246. Switches 2400 through 240e have normally closed contacts 250, 252, 254, 256, and 258, respectively, which contacts are operated to an open condition when actuating arms 242 are moved downwardly (as viewed in FIG. 4). Switch 240f operates similarly but has normally open contacts 260.

Referring now specifically to FIG. 5 there is illustrated a programming means 262 for programming the operation of the control means 200. Programming means 262 comprises a card 264 which may be made of stiff cardboard, thin sheet metal, plastic or the like. Card 264is dimensioned to be slidably received in the slot 226. Formed through card 264 are a plurality of holes as at 266. It will be observed that holes 266 are arranged in five rows which-for reference purposes are referred to as rows 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The lateral spacing of rows of holes 1 through 5 is such that the holes 266 will be in registry with openings 204 through 212, respectively, when card 264 is positioned within slot 226. Further, the dimensions of the holes 266 are such that when a hole 266 is in registry with an opening 204 through 212, a respective one of armature ends 244 will pass upwardly therethrough.

Refering now to FIG. 7 there is shown an electrical schematic showing the electrical connections of the first and second motors 24 and 56, solenoid 148, and card drive motor 230. Each of motors 24 and 56 includes a pair of reversing windings 24a, 24b, and 56a, 56b, respectively. In operation, motors 24 and 56 will rotate in either a clockwise or counterclockwise directiondepending upon whether winding 24a, 24b, or 56a, or 56b, is energized.

Switch 260 is connected electrically in series via one line 270 to a source of electrical energy (not shown). Contacts 250 through 258 each have one terminal thereof connected in common and electrically in series with switch 260. Switches 250 through 258 are connected electrically in series with motor windings 56b, 56a, and 24b, and 24a, and solenoid 148, respectively. Switch 260 is normally open, i.e., is open when actuating arm 242 of switch 240F is in its upwardly disposed position and switch contacts 250 through 258 are normally closed when their actuating arms 242 are in their upwardly disposed positions. A two-position on-off" switch 272 is connected electrically in series between power supply line 270 and card drive motor 230.

The operation of the programming and control means will now be explained. On-off" switch 272 is first closed thereby energizing card drive motor 230 whereby wheel 234 rotates. It should be observed that wheel 234 rotates in a clockwise direction as viewed in FIG. 4. Card 264 is now inserted into a slot 226 until the leading edge 282 thereof engages wheel 234. From this time, movement of the card- 264 through slot 226 continues without assistance.

Next, the leading edge 282 of card 264 engages switches 240a through 240e moving the actuating arms 242 thereof downwardly. correspondingly, each of switch contacts 250 through 258 are opened. As card 264 progresses through slot 226, leading edge 282 will next engage switch 240F 260 moving the actuating arm 242 thereof downwardly rendering switch 260 contacts closed. When contacts 260 are closed, electrical energy is applied to the commonly connected contacts of switches 2400 through 240e. As card 264 continues to progress leftwardly as indicated by arrow 55, different ones of the openings 266 therein will move into registry with predetermined ones of the openings 204 through 212 and corresponding ones of the actuating arms 242 of switches 2400 through 2402. Each set of the switch contacts 250 through 258 will remain closed for a period directly proportional to the length of the opening 266 passing thereover.

For example, openings 266a and 266b will move into registry with switches 240a and 240C and switch contacts 250 and 254 will remain closed for a period of time directly proportional to the length of the slots 266a, 266b, respectively. In this example, opening 266a is shorter than opening 266b whereby switch contacts 250 will remain closed for a period of time shorter than the closure time of switch 266b.

When switch contacts 250 are closed, electrical energy will be applied to motor winding 56b causing it to rotate in a predetermined direction. For purposes of explanation this direction wil be assumed to be counterclockwise. Simultaneously, electrical energy will be applied to winding 24b of motor 24 causing motor 24 to rotate in a predetermined direction. For purposes of explanation this direction will again be assumed to be counterclockwise (as viewed from the output shaft). Rotation of motor 56 will correspondingly produce rotation of second shaft 54 and, assuming righthanded threads thereon, will cause movement of slide member 116 towards frame end member 42. This movement will result in upwardly tilting movement of second frame 102 and, correspondingly, will cause upwardly tilting movement of the axis 193 of ball ejecting tube 132. Simultaneously, counterclockwise rotation of motor 24 will produce movement of first frame 36 rightwardly as indicated by arrow 282. This movement will pivot first frame 36 rightwardly and, by reason of the interconnection of frames 36 and 100, will result in angualr movement of the axes of ball ejecting tube 132 to the right (as viewed in F166).

As card 264 continues to move in the direction of arrow 55, switch actuating arms 242 of switches 250 and 254, respectively, will engage the back edges of openings 266a, 266b, which in turn opens switch contacts 250, 254 to de-energize motors 24 and 56.

Next, opening 2660 will move into registry with contacts 240e, 258 thereby permitting the actuating arm 242 thereof to move upwardly resulting in closure of switch contacts 258. This applies electrical energy to solenoid 148 which in turn will cause game ball 190 to be ejected from ejecting tube 132.

In the next sequence of operations, openings 266d and 266e will move into registry with switches 240b, 240d, respectively. This will result in closure contacts 252, 256 thereby energizing motor windings 56a and 24a, respectively, producing clockwise rotation of motors 56 and 24, respectively. Correspondingly, second and first frames 100, 36, will move downwardly and leftwardly (as viewed in FIG. 6), respectively, thereby causing downward and leftward tilting of the ball ejecting tube 132. Next, switch actuating arms 242 of switches 240b, 240d, will engage the terminal edges of openings 266d and 266e de-energizing motors 24 and 56 and slot 266f moves into registry with switch actuating arm 242 of switch 240e. When this occurs, a second game ball 190 will be ejected from ball ejecting tube 132. This sequence of operations continues until all of the openings 266 have passed over switch actuating arms 242 of switches 240a through 240e.

The card 264 continues to move in the direction of arrow 55. Subsequently, a notch 286 in the trailing edge thereof moves into registry with opening 214 thereby permitting switch actuating arm 242 of switch 240f to move upwardly thereby moving switch contacts 260 into an open condition. This removes electrical energy from all the switch contacts 250 through 258. It will be observed that this occurs before the terminal edge 288 of card 264 moves into registry with switch actuating arms 242 of switche 250 through 258. This prevents inadvertent operation of motors 24 and 56 and solenoid 148.

, The closing and opening of the switch contacts 250 through 258 are seen to apply a sequence of on-off" electrical signals to each of the motors 24, 56 and solenoid 148 and the signals applied to each of motors 24, 56 and solenoid 148 comprise a set of on-off" signals.

It will be observed that, because the amount of pivotal or tilting movement of first and second frames 36 and is directly proportional to the length of the individual ones of the slots 266, the total pivotal movement of frame 36 will be directly proportional to the sum of the lengths of the slots in rows 3 and 4 and the total tilting movement of frame 100 will be directly Proportional to the sum of the lengths of the slots in rows 1 and 2. correspondingly, because the slots in rows 3 and 4 effect movement of frames 36 in opposite directions, respectively, the position of frame 36 at the completion of a complete program cycle (i.e., the passing of a program card 264 therethrough) will be the starting position of the frame 36 plus a change which is directly proportional to the difference of the sum of the length of all the slots in row 3 and the sum of the lengths of all the slots in row 4. This same relationship applies to the beginningand ending positions of the second frame 100 and the slots in rows 1 and 2. For example, if the sum total length of the slots in row 1 is greater than the sum total length of the slots in row 2, second frame 100 will be subjected to more upwardly tilting movement and, at the end of the program cycle, will be tilted at a greater angle with respect to horizontal plane than at the beginning of the program cycle.

Since it is frequently, though not always, desirable that the ball serving device 8 eject the game balls in accordance with a specific, predetermined pattern with each ball following a pre-established trajectory, it is preferable, that the sum of the lengths of the slots in rows 1 and 2, and the sums of the lengths of the slots in rows 3 and 4 of the program card 264, respectively, be equal. When the sums of the lengths of the slots 266 are thus proportioned it will be apparent that the position of the first and second frames 36 and 100 at the beginning and the end of a program cycle wil be the same. correspondingly, the relative positions of the first and second frames 36 and 100 will be repeatable for a given program card 264 inserted into the apparatus 8.

It will also be apparent that some difference between the planned or theoretical length of a particular slot 266 and the actual length of the slot will occur both as a result of manufacturing tolerances and wear and tear on the card itself. For this .reason it is also desirable to provide a means for manually adjusting the position of the first and second frames 36 and 100 to a predetermined starting point. For this purpose, the ends 280, 281 of first and seecond shafts 22, 54, respectively, may be provided with a suitable socket recess such as a screwdriver slot or hexagonal socket 284, 286, respectively. By reason of the sockets 284, 286 a tool .may be operatively engaged with the ends of the first and second threaded shafts 22, 54 and the shafts manually rotated to adjust the position of the first and second frames 36 and 100.

In a preferred embodiment, the ball serving apparatus is further provided with a game ball magazine 290 (FIG. 6 only). Ball magazine 290 comprises a dish-like tray 291 having a concave bottom 292 and peripheral wall 293. Formed in the lowermost portion of concave bottom 292 is an opening (not shown) having a diameter slightly larger than the diameter of a game ball 190.

A hollow tube 294 communicates between this opening and a corresponding opening (not shown) in ball ejecting tube 132. The ball receiving tray is further supported on frame 100 by means of T shaped supporting leg 296. Preferably, leg 296 is made of thin sheet metal, is fixedly secured at-its forward end 297 to frame 100 and resiliently coupled to frame 100 at its rearward end 298 by means of springs or resilient pads 299 whereby, when a game ball 190 is ejected, the mechanical vibration occurring in the ejecting means l30 will cause tray 291 to vibrate. This vibration agitates the game balls 190 causing them to feed properly into tube 294. In operation, it will be observed that as each game ball 190 is ejected the ball ejecting tube 132, a successive game ball 190 will be permitted to drop into the ball ejecting tube 132 to be ejected during the next sequence of operation of the control means 200. It will be apprent that tray 291 must be mounted such that it will be tilted downwardly at its forward end when frame 100 is in its maximum upwardly tilted position.

Referring now to FIGS. 8a through 80, there is illustrated a mechanism 300 for imparting spin" to the game balls 190 as they are ejected from the ball ejecting tube 132. Ball ejecting tube 132 is provided with an annular shoulder 302 and an annular recess 304 adjacent its end 134. A cylindrical collar 306 is rotatably received about ball ejecting tube 132 as shown and includes an annular flange 308 adjacent one end thereof. An annular gear 310 is fitted to the outside surface of collar 306 in abutting engagement with flange 308 and secured with suitable threaded fasteners or the like (not shown). A plurality of holes as at 312 extends radially through the wall or collar 306 in registry with annular recess 304 and an equal plurality of retaining clips 314 is secured to the outside surface of collar 306. Clips 314 each include a resiliently bendable spring portion 314 which is secured to the outer surface of collar 306 by means of a suitable threaded fastener as at 318 and a pin portion 320 which is slidably received in a respectiveone of radial holes 312 and slidably engaged in annular recess 304. It will be observed that retaining clips 316 maintain collar 306 in position on ball ejecting tube 132 and permit rotational movement thereof.

A collar drive shaft 322 is rotatably mounted to ball I ejecting tube 132 with its axis extending parallel thereto by means of a suitable bearing 324 and standoff element 326. Fixedly secured to the distal end 328 of shaft 322'is a circular gear 330 which is drivingly engaged with annular gear 310. Drivingly coupled to the end of shaft 322 distal end 328 is a unidirectional spin control motor 346 (FIG. 7 only). Motor 346 may be mounted on second frame 100. It will now be apparent that operation of motor 346 will rotate shaft 322 and thereby rotate collar 306.

Integrally formed on the distal end of collar 306 is a tongue portion 322 which extends generally parallel to the inside surface 333 of ball ejecting tube 132. Fixedly secured to tongue portion 332 and extending radially inwardly thereof is a pad of friction increasing material 334 which may be made of a material such as sponge rubber, fabric, or the like. It will now be apparent that when a game ball 190 is ejected from ball ejecting tube 132, one side thereof wil engage the friction pad 334. This engagement will impart a spin to the game ball 190 about an axis that extends perpendidular to the axis 193 of ball ejecting tube 132 and generally parallel to the surface of the friction pad 334. It will now be apparent that as collar 306 is rotated, the direction of spin of the game ball 190 will be altered.

Shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, control means 200 may be provided with a seventh aperture 340 disposed in lateral alignment with apertures 204 through 212. A spin control switch 342 is secured to the undersurface of plate 202, switch 342 being identical in all respects to switches 250 through 260 and including an actuating arm 242, end 244, and a roller 246.

To effect operation of switch 342, program means shown in FIG. 5 is provided with an additional row of slots identified as row 6 which are so positioned as to pass over aperture 340. It will now be apparent that as program card 264 passes through th control means 200, the slots of row 6 will effect intermittent operation of switch 342.

Referring now toFlG. 7, switch 342 includes a pair of switch contacts 344. One of contacts 344 is connected in common with the commonly connected contact for switches 250 through 258. The spin control motor 346 is connected electrically inseries between the other of contacts 344 an the commonly connected windings of motors 24 and 56. As above described, when each of the slots of row 6 passes over opening 340, switch contacts 344 will be rendered closed. Closure of contacts 344 will energize spin control motor 346 causing it to rotate. Spin" control motor 346 will operate for a period directly proportional to the length of the slots of row 6 and, therefore, the position of the spin control means 300 can be controlled or programmed to impart any desired direction of spin to the game ball 190.

While the ball ejecting means has been specifically described as an electric solenoid actuated mechanism, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that the ball ejecting means 130 may be pneumatically operated with the game ball being propelled by means of compressed air or, th like. Further, while the first and second drive means have been described as using elongated threaded shafts and threaded drive eletion on the playing court in the case of tennis, or in different locations on the game table in the case of Ping Pong. In this event, the game balls 190 can be launched not only along different angular trajectories and with different spins", but can also be launched from different locations on the playing court to more perfectly simulate a competitive game.

The construction of the game ball serving apparatus is rugged and, inthe described embodiment, utilizes all electromechanical components whereby the apparatus can be more easily serviced.

While there have been described above the principles of this invention in connection with specific apparatus, it is to be clearly understood that this description is made only by way of example and not as a limitation to the scope of the invention.

What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for serving game balls, the combination comprising:.

a. a carriage assembly inculding a base and a first and second frames pivotably coupled to said base for movement about vertical and horizontal axes, respectively;-

b. means fixedly secured to one of said first and second frames for forcibly ejecting a game ball in a predetermined direction with respect thereto;

c. first and second drive means coupled to said first and second frames, respectively, for moving said frames about said vertical and horizontal axes respectively;

d. control means coupled to said first and second drive means and to said ejecting means for generating a plurality of sequentially occurring control signals, said first and second drive means and said ejecting means beingresponsive to predetermined ones of said control signals, respectively, to alter the positions of said first and second frames and to eject said game ball, respectively,

e. said control means including means for programming the duration and sequence of said control signals in accordance with a selected pattern, said control signals being a plurality of sets of electrical on-off signals, there being one of said sets of signals for controlling each of said first and second frames and said ejection means, respectively;

. said first and second drive means each including an electric motor;

g. said control means including means for generating first and second ones of said sets of signals and means for applying individual ones of said sets of signals to said first and second motors, respectively, said first and second motors being rendered operative by the on portion of said signals and for a period of time directly proportional to the time duration of on" portions of said signals; and

h. said motors being bidirectional motors, said control means generating third and fourth ones of said sets of electrical signals and further including means for applying said third and fourth sets of signals individually to said first and second motors, respectively, said first and second motors being responsive to said first and second sets of signals to rotate in a first predetermined direction and responsive to said third and fourth sets of signals, respectively, to rotate in an opposite direction, said first and third sets being in time sequence and said second and fourth sets being in time sequence, said means for programming the duration and sequence of said control signals further having means for controlling the total time duration of the on portions of said first and third said sets of signals so that they will be equal to the total time duration of the on portions of said second and fourth sets of signals, respectively, whereby when all of the on portions of said first, second, third, and fourth sets of signals have been applied to said first and second motors, said first and second motors will have rotated an equal amount in opposite directions.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said control means includes means for generating a fifth set of electrical signals and means for applying said fifth set of signals individually to said ejecting means, said ejecting means including means responsive to individual ones of said fifth set of signals to eject a game ball.

3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said first, second, third, and fourth sets of signals occur in overlapping time sequence, said fifth set of signals occurring in time sequence with respect to said first, second, third, and fourth sets of signals.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said control means includes a plurality of sensing elements each individually operable between a first and a second condition, said programming means including a program card, there being a plurality of means on said card for operating each of said sensing means between said first and second conditions.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein said control means further includes means for slidably receiving said program card and means for moving said card therethrough at a predetermined speed, individual ones of said operating means engaging predetermined ones of said sensing elements in a predetermined time sequence as said card moves through said control elements.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein each said operating means includes a part having a length dimension parallel to the direction of movement of said card through said control means, each said sensing elements being in said first condition when in engagement with one of said operating means and for a period of time directly proportional to the length of said part and the speed of movement of said card.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein said sensing elements each comprise an electrical switch and said parts are holes in said card, each said switch having a switch arm having a follower device affixed to the distal end thereof, said followers being dimensioned and disposed to pass through said holes thereby placing the associated switch in said first condition when said follower is in registry therewith.

8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein said card moving means comprises a constant speed motor and a wheel drivingly coupled thereto, said wheel drivingly engaging said program card when said program card is engaged with said control means.

9. The apparatus of claim 8 wherein each of said switches have one terminal thereof connected in common with all of the other of said switches, said control means further including another switch having an arm and a follower element positioned to engage the border of said card when said card is engaged with said control means, said common connected terminals being connected to one terminal of said another switch, said switch being rendered closed when said follower is in engagement with said border and open in the absence of said card.

10. An apparatus for serving game balls, the combination comprising:

a. a carriage assembly including a base and first and second frames pivotably coupled to said base for movement about vertical and horizontal axes, respectively;

b. means fixedly secured to one of said first and second frames for forcibly ejecting a game ball in a predetermined direction with respect thereto;

c. first and second drive means coupled to said first and second frames, respectively, for moving said frames about said vertical and horizontal axes, respectively;

d. control means coupled to said first and second drive means and to said ejecting means for generating a plurality of sequentially occurring control signals, said first and second drive means and said ejecting means being responsive to predetermined ones of said control signals, respectively, to alter the positions of said first and second frames and to eject a game ball, respectively; and

e. said control means including means for programming the duration and sequence of said control signals in accordance with a selected pattern, said first frame including a rigid structure, said first drive means including a bidirectional electric motor and an elongated threaded shaft drivingly coupled thereto, and a first threaded screw follower pivotably secured to said first frame and operatively engaged with said threaded shaft, whereby, rotation of said motor produces pivotable movement of said first frame about said vertical axis, said second frame including a rigid structure pivotably coupled to said first frame, said second drive means includ- 1 ing a second bidirectional electric motor fixedly secured to said first frame, a second elongated threaded shaft drivingly coupled thereto, a second threaded screw follower operatively engaged with second threaded shaft and a link member pivotably coupled between said threaded follower and. said second frame, whereby, rotation of said second motor produces pivotable movement of said second frame about a horizontal axis.

11. The apparatus of claim wherein-said first frame includes means for guiding said second screw follower and restraining same from rotation.

12. An apparatus for serving game balls, the combination comprising:

a. a carriage assembly including a base and first and second frames pivotably coupled to said base for movement about vertical and horizontal axes, respectively; t

b. means fixedly secured to one of said first and second frames for forcibly ejecting a game ball in a predetermined direction with respect thereto;

c. first and second drive means coupled to said first and second frames, respectively, for moving said frames about said vertical and horizontal axes, re-

- spectively;

d. control means coupled to said first and second drive means and to said ejecting means for generating a plurality of sequentially occurring control signals, said first and second drive means and said ejecting means being responsive to predetermined ones of said control signals, respectively, to alter the positions of said first and second frames and to eject a game ball, respectively; and

c. said control means including means for programming the duration and sequence of said control signals in accordance with a selected pattern, said game ball ejecting means including an electrically operated solenoid and a hollow opened ended cy-v lindrical tube dimensioned to slidably receive a game ball, there being a hammer disposed in axial alignment with said tube and slidably movably longitudinally with respect thereto, said tube having an open end and said ejecting means including a spring for forcibly moving said hammer in a direction towards said open end, and a cocking means operatively coupled between said solenoid and said spring and hammer for compressing said spring in response to actuating said solenoid, and a trigger mechanism for automatically releasing said hammer upon cocking of said spring by said solenoid 13. The combination of claim 12 wherein said ejecting means further includes magazine means for receiving a multiplicity of game balls and a ball feeding means for automatically, sequentially, feeding said game balls into said hollow tube individually in sequence.

14. The combination of claim 12 having a means for imparting a spin, said last mentioned means including a collar rotatably mounted on said ball ejecting tube adjacent the open end thereof, said collar including a tongue portion thereon which extends outwardly from the open end of said ball ejecting tube in a direction generally parallel to the axis thereof, a pad of friction increasing material fixedly secured to said tongue portion and extending radially inwardly towards said axis whereby, one side of a game ball will frictionally engage said friction increasing pad when ejected from said ball ejecting tube, said collar being drivingly coupled to said unidirectional motor so that rotation of said motor rotates said collar and said tongue portion cicumferentially about said axis, the direction of spin" ejected from said ball ejecting tube.

UNl'lED STATES PATENT orifice CERTlFlEA'lE @F QQRREQ'MQN Patent No. 7 3,807,379 Dated April 30, 1974 InVentQr(s)' Hien (nmi) Vodinh It is certified-that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said- Letters Patent ere hereby corrected as shown below:

IN gsg ss rmcg IN THE SPECIFICATION Col. 2, line 52, itselfshould be inserted after "invention" Col. 3, line 34, "thrgded" should be --thre aded Col. '3, line 37 "rigid" should be inserted after "first Col. 5, line 54, "suitably" should be -suitable- Col, 5, line 66,- "insertinon" should be winsertiorr Col. 6, line 2, -240cshould be inserted after "240b Col. 6, line 31, "Refering" should be --referring-- Col. 7, line 1, "2401*" should be --240f- Col. 7, line 25 "wil" should be -will-- Col. 7, line 43, "angualr" should be -angular-- Col. 7, line 5 --of switchshould be inserted after "closure Col. 8, line 16, "-switche should be. --s witches- Col, 8, line 32, "Proportional" should be --proportional-- Col, 8, line 66, "wil" should be -will Col. 9, line 33, -from-' should be inserted after."ejected" Col. 9', line 37, "apprent" should be -apparent-- Col, 10, line 9, "322" should be 332-- Col. 10, line 16, "wil" should be --will- Col. 10, line 34, th" should be ---the-- Col. 10, line 42, "an should be Tf'and Col. 10, line 5 8, "th" should be -the Col. 10, line 67, "unit" should be units-- IN THE CLAIMS Claim 4, Col. 12, line 29, "means" should be --elements- FORM PO-IOSD (10-69) USCOMM'DC 50376-P69 U.5. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1969 O366-334,

UNITED STATES PATE @FFICE CERTIFCTE UP Q'HGN Patent No. 3 807 379 Dated April 30 1974 Inventor(s) Hien (nmi)- Vodinh PAGE It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patentere hereby corrected as shown below:

IN THE CLAIMS (CONTINUED) Claim 5, Col. 12, lines 38 & 39, "elements should be --means Claim 14, Col.'l4, line 52, "cicumferentially" should be --circumferentially- Claim 14, Col. 14, line 53, bal-l should be inserted after "game" Signed and sealed this 24th day Of Deoember 197 Attest:

MQCOY M. GIBSON JR. C. MARSHALL DANN Actesting Officer Commissioner of Patents FORM PO-1050 (10-69) USCOMM-DC 60376-P69 s u.s. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFlCE I969 0-36633A,

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Classifications
U.S. Classification124/26, 124/37, 124/49, 124/33, 124/81
International ClassificationA63B69/40, A63B47/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63B2069/402, A63B69/407, A63B2047/004
European ClassificationA63B69/40E