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Title:
A COUPLING ASSEMBLY AND AN ATTACHMENT MEMBER COMPRISING A COUPLING MEMBER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/074937
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A coupling assembly (400) is described comprising a first coupling member (401) comprising a first body (50) and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting (1) connected to the first body. The assembly further comprises a second coupling member (402) comprising a second body (51) and at least one second hydraulic or electrical fitting (2) connected to the second body (51). The first and second coupling members (401, 402) are adapted to connect together in use such that the at least one first fitting (1) engages the at least one second fitting (2). The first coupling member (401) is provided with a locking means (52) for releasable engagement with the second coupling member (402), the locking means (52) comprising a locking member (7) and a locking means actuator (53).

Inventors:
DOHERTY, Jeremy Glen (Level 12 KPMG Centre, 85 Alexandra Street,,Private Bag 3140, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3204, 3204, NZ)
DOHERTY, Paul James (Level 12 KPMG Centre, 85 Alexandra Street,,Private Bag 3140, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3204, 3204, NZ)
Application Number:
NZ2017/050138
Publication Date:
April 26, 2018
Filing Date:
October 20, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
DOHERTY ENGINEERED ATTACHMENTS LIMITED (Level 12 KPMG Centre, 85 Alexandra Street,,Private Bag 3140, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3204, 3204, NZ)
International Classes:
E02F3/36; E02F3/96; F16L37/084
Foreign References:
US20020157287A12002-10-31
DE102004014824A12005-10-06
US7464967B22008-12-16
US20150211206A12015-07-30
US5333400A1994-08-02
US6899509B12005-05-31
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CLEMENT, Richard et al. (James & Wells, Private Bag 3140, Hamilton 3240, 3240, NZ)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT WE CLAIM IS

1. A coupling assembly comprising a first coupling member comprising a first body and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the first body, the assembly further comprising a second coupling member comprising a second body and at least one second hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the second body, the first and second coupling members adapted to connect together in use such that the at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting engages the at least one second hydraulic or electrical fitting, wherein the first coupling member is provided with a locking means for releasable engagement with the second coupling member, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

2. The coupling assembly of claim 1 wherein the locking means is operable remotely.

3. The coupling assembly of claim 1 or 2 wherein the locking member is adapted to extend into a receiving portion of the second coupling member to lock the first coupling member and second coupling member together.

4. The coupling assembly of claim 1, 2 or 3 wherein the locking means comprises biasing means which bias the locking member towards an extended position.

5. The coupling assembly of any one of the preceding claims wherein the locking means actuator is actuated by a hydraulic force.

6. The coupling assembly of claim 5, when dependent on claim 4, wherein the locking means actuator opposes the biasing means to unlock the locking member.

7. The coupling assembly of any one of the preceding claims wherein one of the coupling

members comprises at least one male hydraulic fitting, and the other coupling member comprises at least one complementary female hydraulic fitting.

8. The coupling assembly of claim 7 wherein the at least one female hydraulic fitting comprises an aperture having a central axis, wherein the locking member is moveable in a direction which is non-parallel to the central axis.

9. The coupling assembly of claim 8 wherein the direction of movement of the locking member is substantially transverse to the central axis.

10. The coupling assembly of any one of the preceding claims wherein one of the coupling members comprises a guide formation and the other coupling member comprises a complementary guide formation receiving portion.

11. The coupling assembly of claim 10 wherein the guide formation receiving portion comprises at least one channel.

12. The coupling assembly of claim 10 or 11 wherein the locking member is configured to engage the guide formation receiving portion.

13. The coupling assembly of any one of the preceding claims wherein each coupling member comprises a guard means, wherein movement of the first coupling member into engagement with the second coupling member causes movement of each guard means from a guarding configuration to non-guarding configuration.

14. The coupling assembly of claim 13 wherein each guard means comprises a pair of covers, wherein each cover is rotatably connected to the respective coupling member.

15. The coupling assembly of claim 14 wherein each cover is biased towards a guarding position.

16. The coupling assembly of claim 14 or 15 wherein both covers of one of the pair of covers

comprise respective first engagement formations which comprise a partially cylindrical outer surface, and both covers from the other pair of covers comprise second engagement formations which comprise concave surfaces having substantially the same radius as the partially cylindrical outer surface.

17. A coupling assembly member comprising a body and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the first body, the coupling assembly member further comprising a locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling assembly member in use, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

18. An attachment member comprising a body, a first jaw to engage, in use, a first portion of a work tool, a second jaw which is moveable relative to the body to engage a second portion of the work tool, to thereby secure the work tool to the attachment member, and an actuator to move the second jaw relative to the first jaw, the attachment member further comprising a first coupling member, the first coupling member comprising a first coupling member body and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the first coupling member body, the coupling member further provided with locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling member which is connected to the work tool, wherein the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

19. The attachment member of claim 18 wherein the attachment member is provided with a guard means which moves from a guarding configuration to a non-guarding configuration as the first hydraulic coupling member moves from the non-coupling position to the coupling position.

20. A work tool provided with a coupling member, the coupling member comprising a body and at least one hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the body, wherein

• the coupling member is provided with a locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling member, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator; or

• the coupling member comprises a receiving portion for receiving a locking means member, wherein the receiving portion does not comprise part of the hydraulic or electrical fitting, or a further hydraulic or electrical fitting.

21. The work tool of claim 20 wherein the coupling member is resiliently mounted to the body of the work tool.

Description:
A COUPLING ASSEMBLY AND AN ATTACHMENT MEMBER COMPRISING A COUPLING MEMBER

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to work attachment assemblies and hydraulic coupling assemblies for use with machines such as excavators, loaders and the like.

BACKGROUND ART

Work machines such as excavators use a variety of work tools. These tools include buckets, grabs, grapples and drilling attachments. It is desirable to have a releasable attachment between the machine and the tool to easily and rapidly change the tool.

Generally a releasable attachment is provided by two or more jaws which engage pins on the tool. At least one of the jaws is moveable in a pivotal or sliding motion. The first jaw receives a first pin and the second jaw moves to engage the second pin. An actuator forces the second jaw against the pin. This retains the pin in the jaw thereby securing the tool to the machine.

When in use, a boom arm controls the position and most of the operative movement of the tool. However additional actuators are used to provide more control over movement of the tool. This may include the tilting action or small lateral movements of a bucket, or a rotary action in the operation of a drilling machine. The actuators which cause these movements are generally mounted to the tool. Therefore, it is necessary to have a releasable connection between the actuators on the tool, and a control system which is fixed to the host machine. Generally this occurs using complementary hydraulic hose and electrical connectors on the tool and the boom arm.

Connecting the complementary connectors is a manual process requiring an operator to switch off the machine to relieve residual oil pressure and then climb out of the machine to operate the connector by hand. This may be time consuming and inconvenient, and may also compromise safety, as the operator must enter the operational danger zone to carry out the procedure. The risk of environmental damage is also increased due to the possibility of oil leaking from manually operated connectors. One solution to this problem is described in the applicant's international application WO2010062193, the contents of which are included herein by reference. This describes a hydraulic connection assembly comprising a first component having a plurality of male connectors and a second component having corresponding female connectors. The first component is mounted to a jaw of a coupling system and the second component to a tool (referred to as a "work attachment" in the specification).

During connection of the tool to the coupling system the jaw of the coupling system moves relative to the tool, thereby bringing the first component into engagement with the second component. In preferred embodiments at least one of the first and second connectors is resiliently mounted. This resilience assists with alignment and coupling of the male and female connectors which require precise alignment to operate correctly.

While this system works well, it would be advantageous to have a system which positively locks the components together while still allowing the components to be resiliently mounted. This may provide a more reliable attachment than the systems of the prior art.

It is an object of the present invention to overcome or ameliorate one or more problems with the prior art, or at least to provide the public with a useful choice.

All references, including any patents or patent applications cited in this specification are hereby incorporated by reference. No admission is made that any reference constitutes prior art. The discussion of the references states what their authors assert, and the applicants reserve the right to challenge the accuracy and pertinency of the cited documents. It will be clearly understood that, although a number of prior art publications are referred to herein, this reference does not constitute an admission that any of these documents form part of the common general knowledge in the art, in New Zealand or in any other country.

It is acknowledged that the term 'comprise' may, under varying jurisdictions, be attributed with either an exclusive or an inclusive meaning. For the purpose of this specification, and unless otherwise noted, the term 'comprise' shall have an inclusive meaning - i.e. that it will be taken to mean an inclusion of not only the listed components it directly references, but also other non-specified components or elements. This rationale will also be used when the term 'comprised' or 'comprising' is used in relation to one or more steps in a method or process.

Further aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the ensuing description which is given by way of example only. DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided a coupling assembly comprising a first coupling member comprising a first body and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the first body, the assembly further comprising a second coupling member comprising a second body and at least one second hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the second body, the first and second coupling members adapted to connect together in use such that the at least one first fitting engages the at least one second fitting, wherein the first coupling member is provided with a locking means for releasable engagement with the second coupling member, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator. Preferably the coupling assembly is a hydraulic coupling assembly and comprises at least one first hydraulic fitting connected to the first body and at least one second hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the second body.

Preferably the coupling assembly further comprises at least one electrical fitting connected to the first body and at least one second electrical fitting connected to the second body. Preferably the locking means is operable remotely and/or automatically.

Preferably the locking member is adapted to extend into a receiving portion of the second coupling member to lock the first coupling member and second coupling member together.

Preferably the locking means actuator is actuated by a hydraulic force.

Preferably the locking means actuator comprises a hydraulic cylinder. Alternatively the locking means actuator may comprise an electric actuator, for example a solenoid or a servo motor.

Preferably the locking means comprises biasing means which bias the locking member towards an extended position.

Preferably the locking means actuator opposes the biasing means to unlock the locking member.

Preferably one of the coupling members comprises at least one male hydraulic fitting, and the other coupling member comprises at least one complementary female hydraulic fitting.

Preferably the at least one female hydraulic fitting comprises an aperture having a central axis, wherein the locking member is moveable in a direction which is non-parallel to the central axis.

Preferably the direction of movement of the locking member is substantially transverse to the central axis.

Preferably one of the coupling members comprises an elongate guide member and the other coupling member comprises a complementary guide member receiving portion.

Preferably the second coupling member comprises an elongate guide member and the first coupling member comprises a complementary guide member receiving portion, wherein the locking member engages the elongate guide member when in use.

Preferably the elongate guide member comprises a notch/channel and the locking member engages the notch/channel.

Preferably one of the coupling members comprises a guide formation and the other coupling member comprises a complementary guide formation receiving portion.

Preferably the guide formation receiving portion comprises at least one channel.

Preferably the locking member is configured to engage the guide formation receiving portion.

Preferably the locking member is located inside the first body.

Preferably each coupling member comprises a guard means, wherein movement of the first coupling member into engagement with the second coupling member causes movement of each guard means from a guarding position to non-guarding position.

Preferably the guard means slide from the guarding to the non-guarding position.

Preferably the second coupling member comprises a guard means which is rotatably connected to the second coupling member, the guard means comprising a cam portion, and the first coupling member comprises a cam engaging portion, wherein movement of the first coupling member into engagement with the second coupling member causes engagement of the cam engaging portion with the cam portion and consequently rotation of the guard means from a guarding position to an in-use position.

Preferably each guard means comprises a pair of covers, wherein each cover is rotatably connected to the respective coupling member. Preferably both covers of one of the pair of covers comprise respective first engagement formations which comprise a partially cylindrical outer surface, and both covers from the other pair of covers comprise second engagement formations which comprise concave surfaces having substantially the same radius as the partially cylindrical outer surface. According to a second aspect of the present invention there is provided a coupling assembly member comprising a body and at least one first electrical or hydraulic fitting connected to the first body, the coupling assembly member further comprising a locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling assembly member in use, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

Preferably the coupling assembly member is a hydraulic coupling assembly member, wherein the coupling assembly member comprises at least one hydraulic fitting.

According to a third aspect of the present invention there is provided an attachment member comprising a body, a first jaw to engage, in use, a first portion of a work tool, a second jaw which is moveable relative to the body to engage a second portion of the work tool, to thereby secure the work tool to the attachment member, and an actuator to move the second jaw relative to the first jaw, the attachment member further comprising a first coupling member, the first coupling member comprising a first coupling member body and at least one first hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the first coupling member body, the coupling member further provided with locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling member which is connected to the work tool, wherein the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

Preferably the first and second coupling members are hydraulic coupling members and the first hydraulic coupling member is provided with at least one first hydraulic fitting.

Preferably the locking member is provided inside the first coupling member body.

Preferably the first hydraulic coupling member is slideably mounted to the body.

Preferably the attachment member comprises a second actuator for sliding the first hydraulic coupling member relative to the body between a non-coupling position and a coupling position. Alternatively, movement of the second jaw moves the first hydraulic coupling member relative to the body between a non-coupling position and a coupling position.

Preferably the attachment member is provided with a guard means which moves from a guarding position to a non-guarding position as the first hydraulic coupling member moves from the non- coupling position to the coupling position. Preferably the body comprises a cam surface, and the guard comprises a cam surface following means. Preferably the cam surface comprises a side wall of a slot or channel in a side wall of the body. Preferably the cam surface following means comprises a roller.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention there is provided a work tool provided with a coupling member, the coupling member comprising a body and at least one hydraulic or electrical fitting connected to the body, wherein the coupling member is provided with a locking means for releasable engagement with a second coupling member, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator; or the coupling member comprises a receiving portion for receiving a locking means member, wherein the receiving portion does not comprise part of the hydraulic or electrical fitting, or a further hydraulic or electrical fitting.

Preferably the coupling member is a hydraulic coupling member and the hydraulic coupling member is provided with at least one hydraulic fitting.

Preferably the hydraulic coupling member is provided with an elongate guide member which comprises the receiving portion.

Preferably the receiving portion comprises a notch or channel which is shaped and configured to be engaged by a locking member in use.

Preferably the coupling member is resiliently mounted to the body of the work tool.

According to a fifth aspect of the present invention there is provided a method of connecting a first coupling member to a hydraulic coupling member, one of the first and second coupling members comprising a locking means for releasable engagement with the other of the first and second coupling members, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator, the method comprising the steps of: i) moving the first and second coupling members together; and ii) Using the locking means actuator to move the locking member to an engaged position to thereby lock the first and second coupling members together.

Preferably the coupling member are hydraulic coupling members. Preferably the method comprises automatically moving the locking member to an engaged position after the first and second hydraulic coupling members are connected together.

According to a further aspect of the present invention there is provided a hydraulic coupling assembly comprising a first coupling member comprising a first body and at least one first hydraulic fitting connected to the first body, the assembly further comprising a second coupling member comprising a second body and at least one second hydraulic fitting connected to the second body, the first and second coupling members adapted to connect together in use such that the at least one first hydraulic fitting engages the at least one second hydraulic fitting, wherein the first coupling member is provided with a locking means for releasable engagement with the second coupling member, the locking means comprising a locking member and a locking means actuator.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Further aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description which is given by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 Is a perspective view of a first attachment member according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 2 is a perspective view of a second attachment member according to an embodiment of the present invention.

Figure 3 is a perspective view of the attachment members of Figures 1 and 2 connected

together, with the first attachment member connected to a boom of a work machine. Figure 4 is a cross-section side view of the first attachment member of Figure 1.

Figure 5 is a front perspective view of a first hydraulic coupling member according to an

embodiment the present invention.

Figure 6 is a front view of the first hydraulic coupling member of Figure 6.

Figure 7 is a plan view of the first hydraulic coupling member of Figure 6. Figure 8 is a front perspective view of a second hydraulic coupling member according to an embodiment the present invention.

Figure 9 is a front view of the second hydraulic coupling member of Figure 8.

Figure 10 is a plan view of the second hydraulic coupling member of Figure 8. Figure 11 is a rear perspective exploded view of the second hydraulic coupling member of Figure 8.

Figure 12 is a side view of the first attachment member of Figure 1 being brought into

engagement with the second attachment member of Figure 2, with side walls of the bodies of the attachment members removed for clarity.

Figure 13 is a side view of the first and second attachment members in partial engagement, with side walls of the bodies of the attachment members removed for clarity.

Figure 14 is side view of the first and second attachment members in full engagement.

Figure 15 is side view of the first and second attachment members in full engagement, with the first hydraulic coupling member moved into contact with the second hydraulic coupling member, and with side walls of the bodies of the attachment members removed for clarity.

Figure 16 is an enlarged side view of the first and second attachment members in full

engagement, with the first hydraulic coupling member moved further into contact with the second hydraulic coupling member, and with side walls of the bodies of the attachment members removed for clarity.

Figure 17 is an enlarged cross-section side view of the first and second attachment members in full engagement taken through a centre of the near side elongate guide member.

Figure 18 is an enlarged cross-section side view of the first and second attachment members in full engagement taken through a centre of a hydraulic fitting.

Figure 19 is an enlarged cross-section side view of the first and second attachment members in full engagement taken through a centre of the releasable locking means.

Figure 20 is a schematic diagram of a hydraulic system for operating the attachment assembly and the hydraulic coupling assembly. Figure 21 is a perspective view of an attachment assembly and coupling assembly according to another embodiment of the invention, with the first and second attachment members partially engaged.

Figure 22 is an enlargement of area F of the coupling assembly of Figure 21. Figure 23 is a perspective view of the first coupling member shown in Figure 21, with the cover members in a non-guarding position.

Figure 24 is a perspective view of the second coupling member shown in Figure 21, with the cover members in a non-guarding position. Figure 25 is a transverse cross-section view of the first coupling member shown in Figure 21.

Figure 26 is a cross-section side view of the attachment assembly shown in Figure 21 with the first and second attachment members partially engaged.

Figure 27 is a partially exploded perspective view of the second attachment member shown in

Figure 21. Figure 28 is a cross-section side view of the attachment assembly shown in Figure 21 with the first and attachment member rotated such that the first and second coupling members are abutting each other.

Figure 29 is an enlargement of area D of the first and second coupling members shown in Figure

28. Figure 30A shows the first and second coupling members in partial engagement.

Figure 30B shows the first and second coupling members in near-full engagement.

Figure 30C shows the first and second coupling members in full engagement.

Figure 31 shows the attachment assembly of Figure 21 with the first and second attachment members fully engaged, and the first and second coupling member fully engaged. Figure 32 shows an enlargement of area E of Figure 31.

BEST MODES FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Referring first to Figures 1 - 4, an attachment assembly of the present invention is generally referenced by arrow 100. The attachment assembly 100 comprises a first attachment member, generally referenced by arrow 101, and a second attachment member, generally referenced by arrow 102. The attachment assembly 100 is provided with a coupling assembly, generally referenced by arrow 200. In the embodiment shown the coupling assembly is configured as a hydraulic coupling assembly. However, as is explained further below, a coupling assembly described herein as a "hydraulic coupling assembly" may also comprise at least one electrical connector in addition to hydraulic connectors.

The hydraulic coupling assembly comprises a first coupling member 201 and a second coupling member 202. The first coupling member 201 is connected to the first attachment member 101, and the second coupling member 202 is connected to the second attachment member 102, preferably by a resilient connection.

Referring next to Figures 5 to 10, the first coupling member 201 comprises a body 201A to which is connected at least one, and more preferably a plurality of female hydraulic fittings 1. The female fittings 1 are adapted to receive and form a fluid tight connection with the complementary male hydraulic fittings 2 which are connected to the body 202A of the second coupling member 202.

Suitable hydraulic fittings are well known to those skilled in the art and are not described further herein.

The assembly 200 may also be provided with one, or more than one, electrical connector, comprising a plug 3 and a complementary socket 4. In the embodiment shown in the figures the plug 3 is mounted to the body 202A of the second coupling member 202 and the socket 4 to the body 201A of the first coupling member 201, although in other embodiments these positions may be reversed.

One of the first and second coupling member bodies 201A, 202A is provided with a locking means for releasably locking the two coupling members 201, 202 into engagement. In the embodiment shown two releasable locking means 5 are provided, each comprising a hydraulic cylinder 6 which is provided with an extendible member in the form of a pin 7. The cylinder 6 is adapted to extend or withdraw the pin 7, thereby moving it between an engaged and a disengaged position respectively. In other embodiments the hydraulic cylinder may be replaced by an alternative actuating means, for example an electrical solenoid or a stepper motor. The actuating means allow the releasable locking means to be engaged and disengaged remotely and/or automatically.

As best seen in Figures 8 and 9, in the embodiment shown the second coupling member 202 is provided with a pair of elongate guide members 8 which extend from a front face 9 of the second coupling means body 202A and are spaced and shaped to engage corresponding guide apertures 10 provided in a front face 11 of the first coupling member body 201A. The elongate guide members 8 are preferably tapered at a forward end 12 thereof in order to assist with engagement with the guide apertures 10. The second coupling means 202 is preferably also provided with at least one resilient mounting block 30. These allow a small amount of relative movement between the second coupling means body 202A and the second attachment member 102, which may assist with alignment and proper engagement of the male and female fittings 1, 2.

As best seen in Figure 9, the elongate guide members 8 preferably extend further from the front face 9 than the male hydraulic fittings 2. The elongate guide members 8 are provided with a notch or channel 13 on one side thereof. In the embodiment shown the guide members 8 are substantially circular in transverse cross-section, and the notch or channel extends around the entire circumference of the elongate guide member 8. However, this is not essential, and in some embodiments the notch or channel may not extend around the circumference. The notch or channel 13 provides a receiving portion for the pin 7, as is described further below. As can be seen, the receiving portion is not provided on the hydraulic fittings 1, 2, although in some embodiments the hydraulic fittings 1, 2 may be provided with suitable structure to interengage and provide a small resistance to disengagement, as is known to those skilled in the art. In preferred embodiments the hydraulic fittings 1, 2 do not include such a structure.

Referring back to Figures 5, 6 and 11, the releasable locking means 5 are located such that the pin 7 of each locking means 5 extends into a respective guide aperture 10 when extended. In the embodiment shown the pins 7 extend substantially transversely to the central axes 14 of the female hydraulic fittings 1, however, in other embodiments the pins may extend at other angles which are non-parallel to the central axes 14, provided the orientation or geometry of the notch or channel 13 is modified to suit. In an alternative embodiment (not shown) elongate guide member 8 may have an aperture therethrough (completely or partially) rather than being provided with a notch or channel. In this embodiment the pin 7 may be extend into the aperture to lock the first and second coupling members together.

Referring back to Figure 4, the first coupling member 201 is slideably mounted to a body 15 of the first attachment assembly 101. An actuator, typically a hydraulic actuator 16, is provided to move the first coupling member 201 relative to the body 15. Operation of the attachment assembly and hydraulic coupling assembly will now be described in more details with reference to Figures 12 - 19.

Referring first to Figure 12, engagement of the first and second attachment members 101, 102 begins with engagement of a front pin 17 of the second attachment member 102 with a static jaw 18 of the first attachment member 101. The first and second attachment members 101, 102 are then rotated relative to each other about the front pin 17 until a rear pin 19 of the second attachment member 102 is aligned with a mouth of a sliding jaw 20 of the first attachment member 101, as shown in Figure 13. As shown in Figure 14, a further hydraulic cylinder 31 then moves the sliding jaw 20 to engage the rear pin 19. A front pin locking means 21 may also be extended to lock the front pin 17 into engagement with the static jaw 18.

Referring next to Figure 16, with the attachment members 101, 102 engaged, actuator 16 begins to move the first coupling member 201 towards the second coupling member 202.

As can be seen in Figures 12 - 19, both the first and second coupling members 201, 202 are preferably provided with respective first and second guard means 22, 23. The guard means 22, 23 prevent accidental damage to the female and male hydraulic fittings 1, 2 when the coupling members 201, 202 are separated. The first guard means 22 is preferably slideable in a transverse direction to the direction that the coupling member 201 moves under the action of actuator 16. The first guard means is preferably provided with cam engaging means 24 which engage a cam surface 25 provided on the body 15 of the first attachment member 15. In the embodiment shown the cam surface 25 is a side wall of a slot or channel 26 provided in a side wall of the body 15 (best seen in Figure 4), and the cam engaging means 24 is a roller which extends from a side of the first guard means 22.

The second guard means 23 is preferably rotatably connected to the body 202A of the second coupling member 202, and is preferably provided with a convex cam portion 27 which extends radially from the centre of rotation of the guard means 23.

As seen in Figure 15, movement of the first coupling member 201 towards the second coupling member 202 causes engagement of the cam portion 27 with the first guard means 22.

Referring next to Figures 16 and 17, continued relative movement of the first coupling member 201 towards the second coupling member 202 causes continued engagement of the cam portion 27 with the first guard means 22 and consequent rotation of the second guard means 23 from a first or guarding position towards a second or non-guarding position (shown in Figures 18 and 19), thereby exposing the elongate guide members 8. The movement also causes the first guard means 22 to lift under the action of the cam engaging means 24 on the sloped cam surface 25 from a first or guarding position, towards the second or non-guarding position shown in Figures 18 and 19.

Referring next to Figure 18 and 19, continued relative movement of the first coupling member 201 towards the second coupling member 202 brings the male hydraulic fittings 2 into engagement with the female hydraulic fittings 1, and, if provided, engagement of the electrical plug 3 and socket 4. With the fittings 1, 2 fully engaged the hydraulic cylinder 6 can be actuated to engage the pin 7 with the notch or channel 13 in the elongate guide member 8. This locks the first and second coupling members 201, 202 together and prevents unwanted disengagement of the hydraulic fittings 1, 2 and/or the plug and socket 3, 4. The actuation of the hydraulic cylinder 6 may be selected by the operator, or a suitable control system such as that shown in Figure 20 may operate the cylinder 6 automatically once the first and second coupling members 201, 202 are fully engaged. When the first and second coupling members 201, 202 are to be disengaged, the hydraulic cylinder 6 withdraws the pin 7 and the first and second coupling members 201, 202 can be pulled apart by hydraulic actuator 16.

Referring next to Figure 20, a hydraulic circuit for controlling the attachment member and the first hydraulic coupling member described above is shown. The circuit comprises a pilot pump 40 and a main pump 41. The circuit is adapted to operate hydraulic cylinders 6 to extend pins 7 after actuators 16 are fully extended (during connection of the coupling members), and to withdraw the pins 7 before actuators 6 begin to retract when the coupling members 201, 202 are drawn apart. In the embodiment show priority valves 32 are provided to operate the actuators 6, 16 in the correct sequence dependent on whether the attachment member is being connected or disconnected to a work tool.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the releasable locking means cannot be moved to the disengaged position by means of a force applied to the first and second coupling members 201, 202 (for instance a reaction force due to hydraulic pressure in fittings 1, 2). Rather, the releasable locking means can only be disengaged by actuation of cylinder 6. While the embodiment described above is provided with a dedicated actuator 16 for moving the first coupling member 201 towards the second coupling member 202, in some embodiments the movement of the sliding jaw 20 may move the first and second coupling members 201, 202 into engagement, as described in WO2010062193.

Referring next to Figures 21 - 31, another embodiment of an attachment assembly is generally referenced by arrow 300. The attachment assembly 300 is provided with another embodiment of the coupling assembly, generally referenced by arrow 400.

The coupling assembly 400 comprises a first coupling member 401 and a second coupling member 402. The first coupling member 401 is connected to the first attachment member 301, and the second coupling member 402 is connected to the second attachment member 302, preferably by a resiliently flexible connection as described further below. Referring in particular to Figures 23-25, the first coupling member 401 comprises a body 50 to which is connected at least one, and more preferably a plurality of female hydraulic fittings 1. The female fittings 1 are adapted to receive and form a fluid tight connection with the complementary male hydraulic fittings 2 which are connected to the body 51 of the second coupling member 402. In other embodiments the relative positions of the male and female hydraulic fittings 50, 51 may be swapped.

The first coupling member 401 is provided with a locking means 52 for releasably locking the two coupling members into engagement. In the embodiment shown two releasable locking means 52 are provided, each comprising an extendible member in the form of a pin 7, the pins each connected to or forming part of a hydraulic actuator 53 (best seen in Figure 25) which is integrally formed with the coupling member 401. As with the first embodiment described above with reference to Figures 1 - 19, other forms of actuating means may be used to actuate the releasable locking means 52. In the embodiment shown the pins 7 are biased outwardly by a biasing means such as a spring 54 to an engaged or locking position, and can be retracted to a disengaged or unlocked position by means of the hydraulic actuators 53. As with the first embodiment described above, the first coupling member 401 is attached, in use, to a first attachment member 301 and the second coupling member 402 is attached, in use, to a second attachment member 302.

Referring next to Figures 21, 22 and 26, as with the embodiment described above, engagement of the first and second attachment members 301, 302 begins with engagement of a front pin 17 of the second attachment member 302 with a static jaw 18 of the first attachment member 301. The first and second attachment members 301, 302 are then rotated relative to each other about the front pin 17 until a rear pin 19 of the second attachment member 302 is aligned with a mouth of a sliding jaw 20 of the first attachment member 301. A hydraulic cylinder 31 then moves the sliding jaw 20 to engage the rear pin 19, as shown in Figure 31. A front pin locking means 21 may also be extended to lock the front pin 17 into engagement with the static jaw 18.

Referring next to Figures 23 and 26, the hydraulic fittings 1 of the first coupling member 401 are arranged such that their central axes 14 are substantially transverse (for example, within the range 85° to 95°) to a notional line 55 extending radially from a centreline of the static jaw 18 (the centerline of the static jaw being defined as the position of the centreline of the front pin 17, when the front pin 17 is engaged with the static jaw 18) to the front face of the hydraulic fittings 1. Similarly, the hydraulic fittings 2 of the second coupling member 402 are arranged such that their central axes are substantially transverse to a notional line extending radially from the centreline of the front pin to the front face of the hydraulic fittings. In this way the mounting of the first and second coupling members to the first and second attachment members (respectively), is such that the male and female hydraulic fittings are brought into engagement by the rotation of the first and second attachment members relative to each other about the front pin. The hydraulic actuator 16 used in the first embodiment described above is not required.

As best seen in Figures 27-29, the second coupling member 402 is preferably resiliently mounted to the second attachment member 302 in use. In the embodiment shown the second coupling member 402 is connected to or engaged with a plurality of resilient blocks 52 (for example, made from polyurethane) which are engaged with respective apertures 57 or other suitable formations in the second attachment member 302.

In contrast to the embodiment described with reference to Figures 1 - 19, the body of the second coupling member 402 is not provided with an elongate guide member which is adapted to engage a corresponding guide aperture provided in a front face of the first coupling member body (although variations of this embodiment may include these features). In the embodiment shown in Figures 21-31 the second coupling member 402 comprises a channel formation 58 which is adapted to engage a protruding guide formation 59 provided either on the first coupling member 401, or on an attachment member to which the first coupling member 401 is mounted in use (as shown best in Figure 22). Each channel 58 preferably comprises an outwardly flared open end which forms a mouth 60. In the embodiment shown the receiving portions for the locking means 52 are provided as apertures 61 in the side walls of the channel formations 58.

Referring next to Figures 23 and 24, both the first and second coupling members 401, 402 are provided with guard means which prevent accidental damage to the female and male hydraulic fittings 1, 2 when the coupling members are separated, and continue to provide protection until the fittings are sealed.

The first guard means comprises first and second cover members 61, 62 which are rotatably connected the first coupling member 401 about respective rotational axes which are transverse to the central axes 14 of hydraulic connectors 1, and the second guard means comprises third and fourth cover members 63, 64 which are rotatably connected to the second coupling member 402 about respective rotational axes which transverse to the central axes of hydraulic connectors 2. The first and second cover members 61, 62 are biased to rotate towards each other to a guarding position (not shown). The third and fourth cover members are similarly biased. Figures 23 and 24 show the cover members 61-64 in an open or non-guarding position. The third and fourth cover members 63, 64 are each provided with a first engagement formation 65 which comprises a partially cylindrical outer surface 66. The first and second cover members 61, 62 are provided with second engagement formations 67 which comprise concave surfaces 68 having substantially the same radius as the partially cylindrical outer surfaces 66. The spacing and orientation of the first engagement formations 65 and second engagement formations 67 is such that when the attachment members 301, 302 are rotated into engagement about the front pin 17, the first engagement formations 65 engage the second engagement formations 67, as shown in Figures 28-31.

As best seen in Figure 29, the first and second engagement formations 65a, 67a closest to the front pin 17 may come into engagement before the first and second engagement formations 65b, 67b which are furthest from the front pin 17. The resultant force may rotate the second coupling member 402 such that it is parallel with the first coupling member 401, such movement being possible due to the resilient mounting referred to above. Additionally or alternatively, the engagement of the guide formations 59 and the channel formations 58 may cause or at least contribute to this rotation and alignment. In alternative embodiments (not shown) the first and second covers may be provided with the engagement formations having a partially cylindrical outer surface, and the third and fourth covers may be provided with the engagement formations which comprise the concave surfaces.

As best seen in Figures 30A-30C, further movement of the first coupling member 401 towards the second coupling member 402 causes the first and second cover members 61, 62 to rotate away from each other, and the third and fourth cover members 63, 64 to rotate away from each other. As can be seen in Figure 30C, when the coupling members 30c are fully engaged, inner edges 69 of third and fourth cover members 63, 64 abut respective internal surfaces 70 of the first and second cover members 61, 62 such the covers 61-64 operate to protect the coupling assembly when the coupling assembly is fully engaged.

When the coupling members 401, 402 are fully engaged the locking pins 7 are extended into the apertures 61 under the action of the biasing means 54. In some embodiments the hydraulic actuators 53 may be activated to keep the pins 7 in the withdrawn or disengaged state until the first and second attachment members 301, 302 are fully engaged. However, in other embodiments the hydraulic actuators 53 may be deactivated before the attachment members are fully engaged 301, 302, and the pins 7 may automatically extend into the apertures 61 under the action of the biasing means 54 when correctly indexed with the apertures. While not show in Figures 31-31, coupling members 401, 402 may be provided with electrical connections in addition to the hydraulic connectors shown, or a coupling assembly may be provided with one or more electrical connectors and no hydraulic connectors.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that preferred embodiments of the present invention provide a coupling assembly and/or an attachment assembly that allows easy and safe connection of hydraulic components.

The invention may also be said broadly to consist in the parts, elements and features referred to or indicated in the specification of the application, individually or collectively, in any or all combinations of two or more of said parts, elements or features. Aspects of the present invention have been described by way of example only and it should be appreciated that modifications and additions may be made thereto without departing from the scope thereof.