|Publication number||USRE39422 E1|
|Application number||US 10/839,121|
|Publication date||Dec 12, 2006|
|Filing date||May 5, 2004|
|Priority date||May 10, 2000|
|Publication number||10839121, 839121, US RE39422 E1, US RE39422E1, US-E1-RE39422, USRE39422 E1, USRE39422E1|
|Inventors||William E. Clemons|
|Original Assignee||Clean Up America Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (18), Referenced by (9), Classifications (5), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The invention relates generally to surface cleaning apparatus, and more particularly to a self-contained and self-propelled brushless surface cleaner that effectively scrubs a surface with pressurized/heated fluid, and that reclaims both the fluid and contaminants loosened from a surface during the cleaning thereof.
A variety of industrial-strength surface cleaners are known in the prior art. In general, a pressurized cleaning fluid is sprayed onto a surface to loosen dirt, rubber, oil, grease, etc., that has been deposited on the surface during the use thereof. The loosened dirt and other contaminants are then vacuumed. Some surface cleaners filter out the dirt and other contaminants in order to reuse the cleaning fluid. Specific examples of prior art cleaners are noted below.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,959,010 discloses a surface cleaner having a spray/vacuum head attached to the front of a tractor and having mechanical systems mounted on a towed trailer. The spray/vacuum head has spray nozzles mounted in separate fore and aft compartments thereof. A central compartment positioned between the fore and aft compartments defines a vacuum chamber. Holes are provided in a bottom wall of the vacuum chamber adjacent the surface to be cleaned. Air vortexes are created at the holes as the vacuum is drawn therethrough.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,845,801 discloses a surface cleaning vehicle having a forward-mounted low-pressure sprayer, an aft-mounted high-pressure sprayer head and vacuum head mounted aft of the high-pressure sprayer for vacuuming up liquid and loose debris.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,331,713 discloses a surface cleaning vehicle having a front-mounted sprayer followed immediately by rotating brush heads. A squeegee and vacuuming assembly is mounted at the aft portion of the vehicle to vacuum up cleaning liquid and debris.
U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,287,589, 5,469,597 and 5,979,012 disclose surface cleaners having vehicle-mounted mechanical systems coupled by long hoses to either walk-behind cleaning heads or individual spray and vacuum wands. The walk-behind cleaning heads or wands must be manually moved/manipulated while the vehicle is frequently moved to a suitable support distance.
Unfortunately, none of the prior art surface cleaners is able to achieve the combination of superior surface cleaning, elimination of cleaning fluid runoff, complete cleaning fluid reclamation, and efficient of operating manpower.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a surface cleaner having improved cleaning capabilities for cleaning hard flat industrial surfaces such as ship decks, airport runways, streets, parking surfaces and industrial floors.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a surface cleaner that is totally self-contained.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a surface cleaner that can be operated by a single person.
Still another object of the present invention is to provide a surface cleaner that effectively scrubs a surface without the use of brushes or other types of surface-contacting scrubbing devices.
A still further object of the present invention is to provide a self-propelled surface cleaner that is easy to maneuver on a surface to be cleaned.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a surface cleaner that reclaims its cleaning fluid while trapping loosened surface contaminants in order to prevent any toxic runoff.
Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become more obvious hereinafter in the specification and drawings.
In accordance with the present invention, a brushless surface cleaner includes a vehicle having at least one drive system for propelling the vehicle on a surface to be cleaned. A cleaning head is mounted to the vehicle to extend forward therefrom. The cleaning head has a deck and a skirt extending from the deck such that when the skirt is placed in contact with the surface to be cleaned, a cleaning volume is bounded by the deck, skirt and surface to be cleaned. The cleaning head further has at least one vent port formed in a forward portion thereof and at least one vacuum port formed in a rear portion thereof. A plurality of nozzles are mounted for movement within the cleaning volume between the forward and rear portions thereof when liquid under pressure is supplied thereto and sprayed therefrom. A liquid supply system is mounted on the vehicle for supplying the liquid under pressure to the nozzles so that the surface to be cleaned is effectively scrubbed by the liquid to produce a mixture of the liquid and contaminants loosened from the surface to be cleaned. A vacuum recycling system is mounted on the vehicle and coupled to the vacuum port(s) for suctioning the mixture, filtering the mixture to separate the liquid from the contaminants and return the liquid so-separated to the liquid supply system for reuse thereby.
Other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reference to the following description of the preferred embodiments and to the drawings, wherein corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawings and wherein:
Referring now to the drawings, and more particularly to
Surface cleaner 10 includes a self-propelled vehicle having a frame 12, a drive train coupled to frame 12 that includes a transmission 14 coupled to rear wheels 18 (as shown) and/or front wheels 16. Controls for driving surface cleaner 10 and operating various systems thereon are provided in a driver/operator compartment 20 at the front portion of the vehicle. For reasons that will be explained further below, transmission 14 can be selectively coupled to either an electric motor 22 or a combustion-engine motor 24 via an operator-positioned switch 26. For reasons that will be explained further below, the driving speed of surface cleaner 10 can be limited to a maximum speed by coupling a speed limiter or governor 34 to transmission 14. Another option is to dictate a constant driving speed of surface cleaner 10 by coupling a speed controller 36 to transmission 14.
Combustion-engine motor 24 can be any motor that runs on a combustible fuel such as gasoline, diesel fuel, propane gas, etc. Electric motor 22 can be powered by one or more batteries 28 or by a DC current-producing alternator 30. More specifically, alternator 30 is coupled mechanically to combustion-engine motor 24 and electrically to a switch 32 that is selectively positioned to couple either batteries 28 or alternator 30 to electric motor 22. In this way, even if batteries 28 run low during the cleaning operation, power for electric motor 22 can simply be switched over to alternator 30 which is turned by combustion-engine 24. An AC voltage generator 38 is also mechanically coupled to combustion-engine motor 24 to produce an AC voltage for use by various electrically-powered elements onboard surface cleaner 10 as will be explained further below.
A cleaning head 40 is mounted at the front of surface cleaner 10 by means of, for example, an arm 42 pivotally attached to frame 12 at pivot point 44. Arm 42 can be manually pivoted or pivoted via a motorized force to raise/lower cleaning head 40 and set a forward-to-rear pitch angle of cleaning head 40 relative to surface 100.
Cleaning head 40 is defined by an inverted tray shape having a top or deck 46 and a peripheral side skirt 48 that extends down from deck 46 when cleaning head 40 is positioned over surface 100 as shown. In use, when cleaning head 40 is placed in contact with surface 100, (i.e., a sealing band 70 contacts surface 100), a cleaning volume 50 is defined by the volume of air space bounded by deck 46 on its top, skirt 48 (to include band 70) on its sides and surface 100 at its bottom. At the forward portion of cleaning head 40, one or more vent ports 54 are provided. At the rear portion of cleaning head 40, one or more vacuum portions ports 56 are provided. By way of convention, the terms “forward” and “rear” as used herein are relative to normal forward motion of surface cleaner 10, i.e., front wheels 16 leading back wheels 18.
Ports 54 and 56 are preferably formed in deck 46 and allow outside air to communicate with cleaning volume 50. The area defined by ports 54 should be approximately equal to the area defined by port(s) 56. However, the shape or number of ports 54 or 56 is not a limitation of the present invention. An open-ended prior duct 60 can be attached to deck 46 to effectively extend the height at which each port 54 communicates with the outside air. The function of duct 60 will be explained below.
Referring additionally to
As mentioned above, attached to the lower periphery of skirt 48 is a band 70 of flexible material that forms a seal with surface 100. Band 70 is a strong but flexible material that can withstand abrasion forces developed as cleaning head 40 moves over surface 100. A material that performed well in testing of surface cleaner 10 is a multi-layered material having alternating layers of rubber and nylon. This material is available commercially from a variety of rubber manufacturers such as B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear.
Referring now to
Attached to the forward end of cleaning head 40 are a plurality of spaced-apart wheel assemblies, one of which is illustrated in FIG. 1 and referenced generally by numeral 80. The wheel assemblies support-cleaning head 40. Further, by making the height of each wheel assembly 80 independently adjustable, the side-to-side pitch of cleaning head 40 can be adjusted. In general, a wheel assembly 80 includes a fixed support 82 and an adjustable height support 84 coupled to a wheel 86. The particular configurations of support 82 and 84 are not limitations of the present invention.
Coupled to cleaning head 40 are a liquid (e.g., water) delivery system and a vacuum/recycling system, both of which are mounted on frame 12. Referring again to
Liquid delivery system 90 includes a large water storage tank 902 which can be baffled at 904 to prevent/minimize sloshing forces when surface cleaner 10 is moving. A high-pressure pump 906 is coupled to tank 902 to draw water therefrom and pump same under high pressure to a boiler 908. Although not shown for clarity of illustration, pump 906 is typically a mechanically-driven pump that would be coupled to combustion-engine motor 24 as would be well understood in the art. For longevity of service, boiler 908 can be constructed entirely of stainless steel.
Water under pressure circulates through boiler 908 and exits same at a set elevated temperature. The heated and pressurized water is supplied at 901 910 to nozzles 66A/66B and 68A/68B via spindle 62A/arm 62 and spindle 64A/arm 64, respectively, thereby causing each arm to rotate within cleaning volume 50 as water is sprayed onto surface 100.
Vacuum/recycling system 92 includes a blower-type vacuum 920 having its blowing vent side vented at 922 and its suction side coupled to a vacuum tank 924. Vacuum tank 924 is a sealed tank ported at 926 and 928. Ports 926 and 928 should define approximately equal areas. Port 926 has a larger-particle filter 930 coupled thereto and port 928 has a baffle 932 coupled thereto. Filter 930 and baffle 932 reside in the air space of vacuum tank 924, and will be explained further below. A pump 934 (e.g., a sump pump) is mounted in the lower (fluid-filled) portion of vacuum tank 924. Pump 934 pumps fluid 936 through one or more particle filters 938. If a plurality of filters 938 are used, they would typically be coupled in series in descending order of particle sizes to be filtered. The particle-strained fluid is then passed through an oil separator 940 (e.g., a coalesce filter as they are known in the art). The fluid exiting oil separator 940 is clean water that is returned to tank 902 for reuse in the cleaning process. Port 926 is coupled via hose 942 to vacuum port(s) 56.
The details of an embodiment of baffle 932 are illustrated in
An embodiment of large particle filter(s) 930 is illustrated in
In operation, surface cleaner 10 has tank 902 filled with water and is driven to a site to be cleaned. When driving to a site, switch 26 will normally be positioned to couple combustion-engine 24 to transmission 14. Once surface cleaner 10 is in position to begin cleaning, switch 26 is positioned so that electric motor 22 is coupled to transmission 14. Combustion-engine motor 24 continues running to turn alternator 30 and generator 38, as well as provide the mechanical drive for elements such as pump 906. Cleaning head 40 is lowered onto surface 100 with its front-to-rear and side-to-side pitch being set to accommodate surface 100. Systems 90 and 92 are turned on and surface cleaner lo is driven over surface 100.
Heated water under pressure is sprayed from nozzles 66A/66B and 68A/68B causing arms 62 and 64, respectively, to rotate between ports 54 and 56 as described above. The hot, pressurized water loosens solid debris and other contaminants from surface 100. A vacuum force created by vacuum/recycling system 92 is applied through hose 942 to port(s) 56. The suction force from this vacuum draws outside air into cleaning volume 50 via duct(s) 60. The use of ducts 60 prevent water sprayed into cleaning volume 50 from escaping therefrom via port(s). The resulting air flow into and through cleaning volume 50 is illustrated at 200. By placing port(s) 54 and 56 at the respective forward and rear portions of cleaning volume 50, a high-pressure air flow is drawn over surface 100 in the area where high-pressure water is being sprayed. This large area of high-pressure air flow serves to not only pick up the water and loosened debris/contaminants, but also frees debris/contaminants partially loosened by the high-pressure water spray. Placing ports 54 and 56 in the top of cleaning volume 50 (i.e., in deck 46) has the further advantage of allowing the downward rush of air passing through duct(s) 60 and port(s) 54 to strike surface 100 to aid in loosening contaminants from surface 100. The resulting mixture 202 of water and loosened debris/contaminants is drawn into hose 942 and delivered to vacuum tank 924. During testing of surface cleaner 10, the best cleaning results were obtained when water at a temperature of approximately 150° F. was delivered from nozzles 66A/66B and 68A/68B at a flow rate of approximately 13 gallons per minute (gpm) and a pressure of approximately 4000 pounds per square inch (psi), while maintaining a vacuum of approximately 400 cubic feet per minute (cfm).
Mixture 202 is first filtered by large particle filter(s) 930 where larger solid particles are trapped and a partially filtered liquid is deposited via gravity as liquid 936 in the lower portion of tank 924. Pump 934, filter(s) 938 and oil separator 940 function as described above to return clean water to tank 902.
During the cleaning process, surface cleaner 10 is driven under the power of electric motor 22 because of its smoother delivery of power to transmission 14 as compared to combustion-engine motor 24. For optimum cleaning, cleaning head 40 should move at a relatively constant speed over surface 100. This constraint is simplified for an operator by powering transmission 14 via electric motor 22. For greater precision, a consistent speed could be maintained automatically by use of speed control 36. Furthermore, optimum cleaning is obtained by assuring that cleaning head 40 is positioned over each area of surface 100 for a certain period of time. This is achieved by not driving surface cleaner 10 to quickly over surface 100. Once again, while this quality control measure can be left up to the operator, speed limiter 34 can be coupled to transmission 14 during the cleaning operation to assure that the maximum (optimum cleaning) speed for a particular surface is not exceeded. For safety reasons, the use of speed limiter 34 may be preferred to speed control 36.
The advantages of the present invention are numerous. Improved surface cleaning is achieved by a uniquely-designed cleaning head that uses both high-pressure water and a uniquely directed vacuum flow to remove the maximum amount of debris/contaminants from a surface using only hot water. The surface cleaner is self-contained and self-propelled so that it can be efficiently operated by one person. The contaminated cleaning water is reclaimed for reuse. Further, since the spray/vacuum operation is contained within a single cleaning head, there is no toxic runoff generated by the cleaning operation. The surface cleaner can be propelled smoothly by an electric motor for optimum cleaning while simultaneously using a combustion-engine motor to charge batteries and drive various mechanical systems.
Although the invention has been described relative to a specific embodiment thereof, there are numerous variations and modifications that will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that, within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced other than as specifically described.
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|U.S. Classification||15/320, 15/421, 15/354, 15/340.1|
|Dec 14, 2009||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|May 7, 2010||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|May 7, 2010||SULP||Surcharge for late payment|
Year of fee payment: 7
|Dec 13, 2013||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|May 7, 2014||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|