US 3839631 A
An automatically equilibrating inflated suspended object. The inflated object is lighter than the surrounding medium. Equilibrium is automatically achieved by means of a flexible tether extending from a fixed elevated point to the object. Vertical movement of the object varies the portion of the weight of the tether supported by the object until the object supported weight of the tether equals the lift. The specific embodiment described is a floating lamp wherein the inflated object is formed of translucent sheet material and an incandescent bulb is disposed inside the object. A gas and electrical support system for the lamp also disclosed.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent 1 91 Goddard 3,839,631 Oct. 1, 1974 AUTOMATICALLY-EQUILIBRATING nald Aeronautics Library, The Ronald Press Go, New
York, copyright 1926, pp. 73-74.
SUSPENDED LAMP  Inventor: Stephen A. A. Goddard,
Minneapolis, Minn. Primary ExaminerJoseph F. Peters, .Ir
Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Dorsey, Marquart, Windhorst, West & Halladay  Assignee: Goddard Designs, Inc., Minneapolis,
 ABSTRACT An automatically equilibrating inflated suspended ob- 22 Filed: June 23,1972
1211 Appl. No.2 265,759
ject. The inflated object is lighter than the surrounding medium. Equilibrium is automatically achieved by means of a flexible tether extending from a fixed elevated point to the object. Vertical movement of the object varies the portion of the weight of the tether supported by the object until the object supported weight of the tether equals the lift. The specific em-  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS bodiment described is a floating lamp wherein the in- 1 503 730 8 1924 Wackter 244 115 flated object is formed of translucent Sheet material 2:383:390 8/1945 240/64 R and an incandescent bulb is disposed inside the (Meet 2,996,212 8/1961 OSullivan, Jr. 244/24 x A g and electrical pp System for the p also disclosed.
OTHER PUBLICATIONS Upson/Chandler, Free and Captive Balloons, R0-
5 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures ele.
PATENIED Um I saw 10F 2 1 AUTOMATICALLY-EQUILIBRATING SUSPENDED LAMP BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION In its broadest sense the invention is in the field of suspending objects, lighter than the surrounding medium, in the surrounding medium, and automatically reaching suspended equilibrium conditions through the use of an inverted tether. In a narrower sense, with particular reference to the preferred embodiment, the invention is in the field of suspended illumination devices, suspended typically in the atmosphere, which include an automatic equilibrating characteristic.
The prior art includes equilibrating variable ballast or tethers for use typically in mooring dirigibles. U.S. Pat. No. 1,734,812 issued to O. Krell on Nov. 5, I929 is representative of this art. The prior art also includes illuminated floating balloons used typically for advertising purposes. U.S. Pat. No. 242,483 issued on June 7, 1881 to H. T. Sisson and U.S. Pat. No. 2,383,390 issued to H. E. Jacobs on Aug. 21, 1945 are representative of this art.
While the dirigible mooring art includes a tether which represents variable ballast supported in increasing amounts with a rise of the dirigible, the tether is not inverted. It extends upwardly from the supporting surface to the floating dirigible with the ballast provided by the tether increasing as the links are pulled off the supporting surface. Thus this prior artdoes not teach the unique and unobvious feature of providing variable ballast and automatic equilibration from a point above the suspended object. This feature allows for a great range of horizontal movementand provides a highly unique, unobvious and intriguing feature of the present invention particularly meaningful when the suspended object takes the form of modern atmospheric (mood) lighting apparatus.
The illuminated balloon advertising art discloses only a conventional tie-down for the floating balloon. No self-equilibrating feature is taught. Stabilization is achieved by tension in the tether, not by variable ballast. Thus, the'art fails to teach the inverted tether equilibration feature of the present invention.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention consists of a self-equilibrating or stabilizing suspended assembly comprising a floating object and flexible tether means extending from an elevated point to the object which serves as a variable ballast for the object. The object typically contains a fluid substantially lighter than the surrounding fluid medium so that the weight of the displaced fluid is greater than the sum of the weight of the contained fluid and the weight of the object, thereby producing lift. The tether has a weight greater than the lift. Vertical movement of the object varies the portion of the weight of the tether supported by the object to automatically stabilize the object in suspension inthe surrounding medium.
In its broadest aspects the present invention consists of a self-equilibrating suspended assembly characterized by an inverted variable-ballast tether for use in any fluid medium, including both air and water, as well as other fluid media. In a heavy fluid medium such as water, the object may be filled with air or may even be solid, that is, without any internal cavity.
In its narrower sense the invention consists of an illuminated floating lamp which includes the inverted equilibrating feature.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the self-equilibrating suspended lamp which embodies the present invention. The figure shows the floating suspended globe, its tether and support system in a representative interior setting.
FIG. 2 is an exploded sectional view of the connector assembly for connecting the tether to the globe.
FIG. 3 is a schematic view of the support system for the lamp, and
FIG. 4 is a diagram showing three conditions which illustrate the basic feature of the invention. FIG. 4A illustrates a stabilized condition in which the floating object moves neither up nor down. In FIG. 4A the portion of the weight of the tether supportedby the floating object (WJ n) equals to lift (L). FIG. 43 illustrates an unstabilized condition where the floating object is moving upwardly, seeking equilibrium conditions, in which the weight of the portion of the tether supported by the ob- 'ject (W,/ n) is less than the lift (L). FIG. 4C represents an unstable condition opposite to that shown in FIG. 4B, in which the object is moving downwardly, seeking a stabilized condition, because the weight of the portion of the tether supported by the object (W /n) is greater than the lift (L). It should be noted that n is not constant throughout FIG. 4, representing various fractions of the weight of the tether throughout the figure.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT I GENERAL DESCRIPTION The major components of the present invention, along with its general operation, may be readily understood with reference to FIG. 1, in which the invention is shown in the form of a suspended or floating lamp 10. Lamp 10 consists of an inflated, spherical balloon-like object or globe 11 formed of transparent or translucent sheet material on a spherical frame. Globe 11 is inflated with a lighter-than-air gas, typically helium, so that the combined weight of globe 11 and its contained fluid (helium) is less than the weight of the displaced ambient air. Globe 11, therefore, has lift and tends to rise in the surrounding medium (air).
. Flexible tether 12 extends from a fixed elevated point at manifold 13, to globe 11 and is attached to globe 11 by means of connector assembly 14. Tether 12 is chosen so that its weight is greater than the difference between the weight of the displaced medium and the sum of the weight of globe 11 and the contained fluid, and its length is greater than one-half the circumference of globe l1.
Globe 11 automatically reaches suspended equilibrium when the portion of the weight of tether l2 supported by globe ll equals thelift. This occurs at some elevation below fixed point 13, because as globe ll rises it supports an increasing portion of the weight of tether 12, and less of the weight is supported at point 13; and as globe l1 falls, the opposite is true. It thus seeks an elevation (equilibrium conditions) at which the weight of the portion of tether 12 supported by globe 11 equals the lift. These conditions are shown in FIG. 4.
Thus, the general equilibrating characteristic of the present invention may be described by the following set of equations in which:
The final major component of the present invention is support system 30, shown generally in FIG. 1, which includes a source of gas under pressurefor inflatingglobe l1, and means for isolating the gas supply and opening or breaking the electrical circuit in the event of rupture of globe 11 or tether 12. Support system 30 also includes other features described in greater detail below.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION The detailed design and construction of the various components of the invention may be understood with reference to FIGS. 1-3. With reference first to FIGS. 1 and 2, inflated object or globe 11 is formed of transparent or translucent sheet material impermeable to the contained fluid which, when the system is designed for use in air, is a lighter-than-air gas, typically helium. The sheet material must be light weight yet reasonably resistant to puncture and tearing. It may be mounted on rib-like, arcuate, frame members which serve as a skeleton for the spherical shape of globe 11. While other sheet material may be suitable, a metalized polyester in a thickness of 50-200 gauge (0.0005 0.002 inches) sold under the trademark MYLAR has proven to be satisfactory for a globe designed for atmospheric use inflated with helium.
While not shown, globe 11 may be formed in various configurations and painted or decorated in various ways. In the case of a spherical configuration, it may be painted to represent or simulate a globe of the world, the moon, a beach ball, or many other pleasing designs.
In the specific embodiment shown, globe 11 is inflated with helium to a pressure of approximately inches of water (0.36 psig). In general a range of 7 110 psig is satisfactory. Other gases .or liquids may be contained in globe 11 for use in air and other fluid media. Helium is preferred, however, for use as a lamp suspended in ambient air.
Tether 12 is formed of a flexible, tubular gas impermeable cord having a uniform weight throughout its length and a degree of stiffness to insure that the globe does not engage the tether. The length of tether 12 is sufficiently long to form a bight throughout a reasonable range of verticle movement of globe 11. For this purpose, tether 12 must be greater than one-half the circumference of globe 11. The weight of tether 12 must also be greater'than the lift of globe 11 so that the weight of the portion of tether 12 supported by globe 11 is sufficient to counter-balance or offset the lift. In the specific embodiment shown, tether 12 is formed of a V8 inch tube sold under the trademark NYLON.
Tether 12 is connected to globe 11 by means of connector assembly 14 shown in FIG. 2. Connector assembly 14 includes flanged collar 15 which overlaps the marginal portion of coaxial opening 16 of globe l1. Flanged collar 15, together with angular collar 17, which engages the opposite marginal portion of coaxial opening 16, grip the marginal portion in sealing relationship. This sealing relationship is insured by adhesive or sealant l8 placed in th interface between the marginal portion of opening 16 and flanged collar 15 and angular collar 17, respectively. Access opening 19 in flanged collar 15 provides for access to the interior of globe 11. Rigid mounting tube 21 extends through access opening 19 into the interior of globe 11 (for a purpose to be described below). Tether 12 is press fit and sealed with an adhesive inside mounting tube 21, as shown in FIG. 2, to provide a secure, gas impermeable joint. Rigid sealing disc 22 is coaxially mounted and sealed to the lower end of mounting tube 21 about tether l2, and has an outside diameter slightly less than the inside diameter defined by the flange of flanged collar l5. Sleeve 23 is slidably mounted about tether 12 spaced beneath disc 22. Coil spring 24 is disposed about mounting tube 21 between sealing disc 22 and sleeve 23. O-ring 25 is disposed beneath flanged collar 15. Wire bale 26 extends from a coil below sleeve 23 radially upwardly and outwardly through hooked legs 27. A series of radially extending openings 28 are formed in flanged collar 15 and angular collar 17. Openings 28 register when flanged collar 15 and angular collar 17 are pressed into engagement with the marginal portion of opening 16 in globe 11.
Connector assembly 14 isassembled by moving wire bale 26, tether 12 and mounting tube 21 upwardly to move sealing disc 22 into engagement with O-ring 25. Continued upward movement of'wire bale 26 urges sleeve 23 into engagement with coil spring 24 and compresses coil spring 24 against sealing disc 22, pushing disc 22 into tight sealing engagement with O-ring 25. The hook portion of legs 27 are urged inwardly, to register with registered openings 28 in flanged collar 15 and angular collar 17, and are allowed to expand into openings 28 thereby securing connector assembly 14 and mounting tube 21 in position.
With reference toFIG. 3, an illumination source in the form of incandescent bulb 28 is mounted in socket 29 on mounting tube 21. Leads 31, a common ground, and 32 extend from socket 29 through mounting tube 21, tether 12 and pressure sensing manifold 13 to support system 30. Various sources and arrangement of illumination means may be used within obvious weight limitations. Moreover, in the case of a helium filled object or globe l1, bare tungsten filaments may be used without an enclosing glass bulb with the helium contained in globe 11 serving as the bulb. Bulb 28 may be replaced by disassembling connector assembly 14 and removing mounting tube 21 through access opening 19.
Globe 11 together with tether l2, connector assembly 14, bulb 28 and leads 31 and 32 serves as a self equilibrating, suspended lamp without any additional apparatus or hardware. Such an assembly, however, while embodying all the basic principles of the present invention, lacks certain conveniences and safety measures which are provided by support system 30.
Support system 30, shown schematically in FIG. 3, includes a network for supplying and regulating gas to globe 11, and an electrical network for supplying and regulating electrical energy to the illumination source, bulb 28.
The gas supply network includes tank 35, which in the embodiment shown contains helium under pressure up to approximately 2,000 psig. Value 36 serves as the basic manually-operated, shut-off valve for tank 35. Conduit 37 leads to high pressure regulator 38 and pressure gauge 39 which serves to indicate the pressure remaining in tank 35. Conduit 40 leads from high pressure regulator 38 to solenoid controlled valve 41. Conduit 42 connects solenoid controlled valve 41 with low pressure regulator 43 and conduit 44, in turn, connects low pressure regulator 43 with valve 45. Valve 45 may be set to connect bypass conduit 46 with conduit 47, or to connect conduit 44 with conduit 47, for a purpose described below. Conduit 47 communicates with electrical-pressure manifold 48. Conduit 49 runs from electrical-pressure manifold 48 to pressure sensing manifold 13 to thereby complete the gas pressure circuit or network from tank 35 to tether l2 and globe 11.
The electrical network includes means for supplying current to bulb 28, means for opening the circuit in the event of a rupture of tether 12 or globe 11, means for closing the gas supply circuit in the event of rupture, means for regulating the intensity of the illumination source and various indicator means. For purposes of the following description, normal conditions are operating conditions with gas pressure in tether l2 and globe 11 and with all electrical circuits energized.
The current supply circuit includes power source plug 50, common ground 31, and positive lead 51 interrupted by basic on-off switch 52 leading to positive lead 53. Relay 54 includes two pair of contacts which are closed when relay 54 is energized by energizing circuit 51, 53 and 55 leading to common ground 31 through normally-closed, pressure-actuated switch 56 in pressure sensing manifold 13. Thus, with the system connected to a source of electrical energy and switch 52 and pressure-actuated switch 56 both closed, relay 54 is energized to connect lead 53 with lead 57, and to connect lead 53 with lead 58. When relay 54 is deenergized, these respective leads are opened or disconnected. Thus, when relay 54 is energized the circuit to bulb 28 is closed resulting in illumination of globe 11. Also solenoid 59 is energized which opens valve 41 thereby providing for the flow of gas to globe 11.
In the event of rupture of globe 11 or tether 12 the pressure in pressure sensing manifold 13 drops and this drop in pressure is sensed by normally-closed, pressureactuated switch 56. Switch 56 is sensitive to low pressure and opens at a gauge pressure of about 3 inches water (0.1 l psig). Pressure-actuated switch 56 opens to break the relay energizing circuit between lead 55 and common ground 31. Thus, relay 54 is deenergized and the illumination circuit is broken between leads 53 and 57. The solenoid energizing circuit is broken between leads 53 and 58 and solenoid 59 is deenergized closing valve 41. The flow of electrical energy is thus stopped, and with valve 45 set to connect conduit 44 and conduit 47, the closing of valve 41 isolates the gas under pressure in tank 35 from conduits 47 and 49, and tether 12. Thus, any rupture in balloon 11 or tether 12 is sensed and support system 30 automatically opens the electrical circuit to bulb 28 and closes the gas supply circuit.
Rheostat 60, connecting leads 57 and 32, serves as means for regulating the intensity of bulb 28. Indicator light 61, connected in parallel with bulb 28, between leads 31 and 32, when illuminated, indicates an energized condition of relay 54 and bulb 28. Indicator light 62, when illuminated, serves to indicate that the basic on-off switch 52 is closed, and indicator light 63, in parallel with solenoid 59, when lighted, indicates an energized condition of solenoid 59.
Reset switch 64 serves to energize solenoid 59, bypassing relay 54, to open valve 41 and supply gas to tether 12 and globe 11 after a repair of a rupture. After pressure builds up in pressure sensing manifold 13 to close normally-closed, pressure-actuated switch 56, relay 54 becomes energized, connecting leads 53 and 58, bypassing reset switch 64. Reset switch 64 may then be opened with the system now operating under normal conditions.
Valve 45 is provided to bypass valve 41 and low pressure regulator 43 to serve as means for quickly filling globe 11 with gas under high pressure from tank 35.
OPERATION The operation of the present invention should be readily apparent from the foregoing description of the design, construction and characteristics of the various components. Nevertheless, the following summary of the operation may be useful.
Gas is introduced into tether 12 and globe 11 by opening valve 36 of tank 35. Valve 45 is set to introduce high pressure from bypass conduit 46 to conduit 47 and tether 12. Valve 45 is then set to its normal operating position connecting conduit 44 with conduit 47. With power source plug connected to conventional voltage and switch 52 closed, pressure builds up in pressure-sensing manifold 13 closing switch 56 which energizes relay 54. Relay 54 closes lighting bulb 28 and energizing solenoid 59. Energized solenoid 59 opens valve 41. Thus, with low pressure regulator set at the pressure desired in globe 11 A A: psig), gas is automatically fed to globe 11 to compensate for leakage and variations in temperature thereby maintaining the pressure in globe 11 at a constant level.
Globe 11 then seeks a stabilized condition as illustrated in FIG. 4 and, with bulb 28 lighted, serves as a unique floating lamp.
In the event of rupture, pressure-actuated switch 56 opens, due to the pressure drop in pressure sensing manifold 13, thereby deenergizing relay 54. Relay 54 opens thereby breaking the circuit to bulb 28. and solenoid 59. Deenergization of solenoid '59 results in the closing of valve 41 thereby isolating the gas supply in tank 35 from tether l2 and globe 11. After a rupture is repaired, the system is reset by means of reset switch 64 as described above.
Indicator lights 61, 62 and 63 serve to indicate the conditions referred to above and bulb 28 may be replaced by disconnecting connector assembly 14, also as described previously.
VARIATIONS Variations in the form of the specific embodiment may be made without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, in certain heavy media there would be no need for inflating globe 11 with any gas. The illumination source may vary considerably being either inside or outside but supported by globe 11, and the illumination source may vary in number and style. Thus one or more incandescent, fluorescent, or bare tungsten filament (in helium) illumination sources might be employed by those skilled in the art. In addition there might be a plurality of floating objects per tether and, of course, the shape or configuration as well as the surface markings of the floating object can vary considerably. Many variations in the design of the support system are possible and other changes may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention as claimed.
I claim as my invention: 1. A self-equilibrating suspended lamp comprising: a hollow object formed of non-opaque sheet material supporting an illumination source and containing a lighter-than-air gas substantially lighter than the surrounding air such that the weight of the displaced air is greater than the sum of the weight of the object, the contained gas and the illumination source, thereby producing lift; flexible tether means formed of tubular material extending from a fixed elevated point to the object, having a weight uniform throughout its length greater'than the lift, such that verticle movement of the object varies the portion of the weight of the tether supported by the object and the portion of the weight of the tether supported by the object equals the lift before the object reaches the elevation of the fixed elevated point to automatically reach equilibrium conditions; and
a support system including a source of gas under greater than atmospheric pressure and means for introducing the gas from the source through the tubular tether to the object.
2. The self-equilibrating suspended lamp of claim 1 wherein the support system also includes means for varying the intensity of the illumination source.
3. The self-equilibrating suspended lamp of claim 2 wherein the support system includes means for automatically regulating the pressure of the lighter-than-air gas in the object.
4. The self-equilibrating suspended lamp of claim 3 wherein the support system includes means for automatically closing the source of lighter-than-air gas and isolating the source from the object in the event of rupture of the tether or object.
5. The self-equilibrating suspended lamp of claim 4 wherein the support system includes means for automatically opening the electrical conductors in the event of rupture of the tether or object.