Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
HIGH SPEED RATCHET ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/091377
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A multi-drive ratchet assembly comprises a drive shaft having at least one end attachable to a work tool, a drive housing operable by a user to apply a first drive force to the drive shaft, a ratchet mechanism operably coupled to the drive shaft to cause the first drive force applied by the user to be translated to the drive shaft, a pull mechanism for generating a second drive force including a spool and a cable wrapped around the spool, wherein the second drive force is generated by pulling the cable to rotate the spool, and a coupling system operably coupling the pull mechanism and the drive shaft and structured for transferring the second drive force to the drive shaft in order to cause the drive shaft to rotate.

Inventors:
BROVOLD, Thomas E. (51840 Birch Lake Road, Barnes, Wisconsin, 54873, US)
Application Number:
US2008/012037
Publication Date:
July 23, 2009
Filing Date:
October 23, 2008
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BROVOLD, Thomas E. (51840 Birch Lake Road, Barnes, Wisconsin, 54873, US)
International Classes:
B25B13/00
Foreign References:
US4099430A
US4592254A
US3786698A
US4407175A
US3572188A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KIEDROWSKI, Adam (Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly LLP, Plaza VII Suite 3300,45 South Seventh Stree, Minneapolis Minnesota, 55402-1609, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

What is claimed:

1. A multi-drive ratchet assembly comprising:

a driven structure having a shaft attachable to a work tool;

a drive housing operable by a user to apply a first drive force;

a ratchet mechanism cooperating with the driven structure and the drive housing to cause the first drive force applied by the user to be translated to the shaft;

a pull mechanism for generating a second drive force, wherein the second drive force is achieved by the user actuating the pull mechanism; and

a coupling system coupling the pull mechanism and the driven structure for transferring the second drive force applied by the user to the driven structure, thus driving the shaft.

2. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 1 wherein the coupling system comprises a spring loaded pin engageable with a cooperating groove, wherein the spring loaded pin and the cooperating groove interact with one another to transfer the second drive force to the driven structure.

3. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 1 wherein the pull mechanism includes a spool and a cable, and wherein the cable is affixed to and surrounds the spool such that pulling on the cable causes rotational motion of the spool.

4. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 3 wherein the drive housing is a wrench handle structure.

5. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 4 wherein the cable extends through the handle structure and includes a pull ring attached to an end thereof.

6. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 3 wherein the drive housing is configured to fit in the palm of a user's hand.

7. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 3 wherein the drive housing is a screw driver type structure.

8. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 1 wherein the driven structure further includes a disk member having ratchet teeth on an outer circumference thereof, wherein the ratchet teeth operably engage with the ratchet mechanism.

9. A multi-drive ratchet assembly comprising:

a drive shaft having at least one end attachable to a work tool;

a drive housing operable by a user to apply a first drive force to the drive shaft;

a ratchet mechanism operably coupled to the drive shaft to cause the first drive force applied by the user to be translated to the drive shaft;

a pull mechanism for generating a second drive force including a spool and a cable wrapped around the spool, wherein the second drive force is generated by pulling the cable to rotate the spool; and

a coupling system operably coupling the pull mechanism and the drive shaft and structured for transferring the second drive force to the drive shaft in order to cause the drive shaft to rotate.

10. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 9, wherein the drive housing is a wrench handle structure.

11. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 10, wherein an end of the cable extends from the wrench handle structure.

12. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 11 , further comprising a pull ring coupled to the end of the cable extending from the wrench handle structure.

13. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 9, wherein the drive shaft further comprises a disk member having a plurality of ratchet teeth around a circumference thereof, the ratchet teeth on the disk member structured to mate with a corresponding plurality of ratchet teeth on the ratchet mechanism.

14. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 13, wherein the coupling system comprises a spring loaded pin extending from the disk member and structured to engage with a corresponding groove in the spool.

15. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 14, wherein the groove in the spool comprises a shoulder portion and a ramped portion.

16. The multi-drive ratchet assembly of claim 9, further comprising a helical spring operably coupled to the spool and structured to provide a rotational force on the spool.

17. An attachment device for a ratchet wrench comprising:

an attachment housing;

a receiver portion in the attachment housing for attachment to a drive shaft of a ratchet wrench;

an attachment drive shaft extending from the attachment housing and having an end attachable to a work tool;

a pull mechanism for generating a drive force including a spool disposed within the attachment housing and a cable wrapped around the spool, wherein the drive force is generated by pulling an end of the cable extending outside of the attachment housing to rotate the spool; and

a coupling system operably coupling the pull mechanism and the attachment drive shaft and structured for transferring the drive force to the attachment drive shaft in order to cause the attachment drive shaft to rotate.

18. The attachment device of claim 17, further comprising a pull device coupled to the end of the cable extending outside of the attachment housing.

19. The attachment device of claim 17, further comprising a spring member operably coupled to the spool and structured to provide a rotational force on the spool.

20. The attachment device of claim 17, wherein the coupling system comprises a spring loaded pin extending from the drive shaft, the spring loaded pin structured to engage with a groove in the spool.

21. A ratchet assembly comprising:

a ratchet housing;

a drive shaft extending from the ratchet housing;

a ratchet mechanism operably coupled to the drive shaft;

a pull mechanism disposed within the ratchet housing including a spool and a cable wrapped around the spool; and

a coupling system operably coupling the spool of the pull mechanism to the drive shaft.

Description:

HIGH SPEED RATCHET ASSEMBLY

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to hand tools. More specifically, the present invention relates to a high speed ratchet assembly for use in the efficient attachment and removal of fasteners, such as nuts and bolts.

[0002] Hand tools are widely used in both industry and personal applications throughout the world. One frequently used set of tools includes wrenches configured for the insertion and removal of nuts, bolts and other connectors in all types of mechanical devices. For example, these wrenches are utilized in manufacturing applications where systems are being assembled or disassembled. As is well known, screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners are required in virtually every assembled product. Further, where these connectors are not utilized in the products themselves, they are often required in the manufacturing process or manufacturing equipment utilized to manufacture these products. Consequently, wrenches to insert and remove these connectors are continuously required and often required in vast quantities. In addition, where repairs and maintenance are required, wrenches are a vital tool for achieving the necessary repairs or maintenance. As yet another example, certain industries exist entirely for the purpose of maintenance and repair, such as service facilities and the like. In addition to industrial and commercial applications where connectors are applied, individuals often maintain these tools for their personal use. Naturally, do-it-yourselfers or homeowners will maintain their own tool sets for use in everything from routine maintenance to more elaborate home repair projects.

[0003] In addition, certain hobbyists have or require tool sets including wrenches. Some of these hobbyists include car owners, bike enthusiasts, motorcycle owners, etc. Naturally, the list of applications requiring the insertion and removal of fasteners is endless.

[0004] When working on mechanical equipment and systems, it is often necessary to insert and remove screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners in very tight spaces. Naturally, this presents challenges to the individual, often requiring stretching and bending into positions which are uncomfortable and unnatural. Unfortunately, these situations often provide very little room for movement of the wrenches and tools involved. This creates challenges and uncomfortable conditions within which to work. One application where this is typically encountered is in auto repairs to engines, which often require reaching into small spaces. One tool that provides a partial solution to this situation is the standard ratchet wrench. This device provides a drive shaft which is connected to a handle by a ratcheting mechanism, thus allowing the drive shaft to be rotated in a first direction while also allowing the handle to freely rotate in the opposite direction to allow easy repositioning. Thus, the user can drive the drive shaft an angular distance and then simply counter rotate the drive shaft to achieve new positioning. For example, if space within the mechanism being worked upon allows for a one eighth rotation of the wrench (45┬░), the user is easily able to rotate this distance, and then easily move the wrench back to the starting position. While this provides a tool for use in tight situations, it inherently requires repetitive movement. In situations where many turns are required to remove the applicable fastener, this repetitive movement could become very straining and time consuming.

[0005] Naturally, one modern day approach to removing the fasteners is through the use of automated tools. Such tools include electric wrenches and hydraulic powered tools. Unfortunately, these tools tend to be larger and somewhat bulky. While very beneficial for use in open spaces, their size provides challenges when operating in tight quarters and confined areas. Consequently, in the situations generally discussed above, the use of power tools is not an option due to the tight quarters involved.

[0006] As suggested above, there are certain situations where multiple revolutions are required to either attach or remove a connector. For example, with relatively long bolts, a large number of turns are typically

required to complete insertion. Similarly, a nut or other product may require a number of turns to complete installation or removal.

[0007] As is well understood and known, the act of attaching nuts and bolts to devices, or to one another, can typically be divided into two stages. These two stages include the "torque" stage and the "spinning" stage. The torque stage is that portion of the removal where torque is required to either tighten the fastener or loosen the fastener. In the loosening of connectors, the torque stage may be referred to as "breaking away" or "breaking free" the connector. During the spinning stage, less rotational force is required and numerous rotations are typically necessary to achieve full removal or attachment. This is the portion where the connector is either spun on or spun off of the cooperating component. As can be anticipated, the torque stage can be achieved relatively quickly while the spinning stage often takes time because considerable distances must be traveled. Naturally, this creates problems or issues when working in very tight spaces. In these cases, only small rotations are often achievable due to the working space constraints surrounding the connector. Utilizing the above discussed auto service example, the ultimate removal of a bolt may require a very short torque stage, where the bolt has broken free, and then requiring a time consuming spin out stage. The spin out stage is time consuming because of the limited amount of rotation that can be typically achieved by each successive motion.

[0008] Certain attempts have previously been made to provide tools which can operate in tight conditions and provide solutions. For example, the speed socket wrench outlined in U.S. Patent No. 4,620,459 provides the ability to rotate a T-Handle which extends from the wrench handle. This axis of rotation is perpendicular to the driveshaft axis, and allows the user to apply rotational force from a different direction. In use, the wrench can be positioned into a tight space where the typical rotation about the main drive shaft is limited, while actual rotation of the drive shaft can be obtained by turning the extending T-Handle. Similarly, the ratchet wrench described in U.S. Patent No. 6,457,386 provides another mechanism for translating rotational force. This type of ratchet wrench uses a four pawl

ratchet mechanism that engages annular rings on each end of the ratchet drive mechanism. Because of the configuration of these annular rings, the user can rotate the handle either clockwise or counterclockwise to drive the drive shaft in a first direction. Furthermore, by flipping the position of a lever, the user may change the engagement of all four pawls and in turn drive the shaft in a second direction opposite the first from either clockwise or counterclockwise rotation of the handle.

[0009] In each of the solutions outlined above, rotational force must be translated from one axis to another. While this can be useful in tight conditions, and provides an operator with alternatives, the speed of the ratchet is limited. During the spinning stages referenced above, a considerable number of turns are still required to install or remove the connector. This operation requires continuous repetitive motions by the user, thus straining the user and often causing muscle fatigue. Additionally, the time required for spin-off and spin-on is still significant.

[0010] In light of the above referenced issues, a wrench that appropriately addresses both stages of bolt attachment/detachment would be beneficial. Such a wrench would provide the facilities to appropriately break away or torque during the torque stages, while also providing for high speed removal or attachment during the spinning stages.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] The present invention addresses at least some of the above- referenced issues by providing a wrench with additional features not found in existing offerings. Generally speaking, the wrench of the present invention includes or is attachable to a standard socket wrench. Thus, the wrench of the present invention may include a ratchet mechanism which allows it to operate much the same as existing socket wrenches. As is well understood, this allows rotation of a drive shaft in a first direction by corresponding rotation of a handle or housing. Rotation of the housing or handle in the reverse direction simply spins or "ratchets back" without

substantial force being applied to the drive shaft. Naturally, in some embodiments, the ratchet mechanism of the present invention may be capable of functioning in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction. For example, reverse operation may be achieved by switching the wrench orientation and using a double ended drive shaft.

[0012] When compared with standard wrenches, however, the present invention incorporates additional components which enable the wrench to be operated in a "high speed" mode in order to turn the drive shaft at a much faster rate with minimal effort. Particularly, in addition to these well- known features of ratchet-type wrenches previously discussed, the present invention incorporates a high speed operating mode wherein the driveshaft may be rotated at a substantially higher speed as compared to manual rotation by a user in order to address the spin-on/spin-off functions often necessary when using attachment bolts.

[0013] While the actual structure of the wrench itself may take various forms, the central components will remain somewhat similar. More specifically, the wrench of the present invention may primarily be made up of a handle, a housing or main wrench structure, a ratchet mechanism, and a cooperating alternative drive mechanism. The alternative drive mechanism provides the ability to spin fasteners on and off at higher speeds.

[0014] As mentioned, the main body portion of the wrench may take on many different forms, but it may consistently provide a housing structure. In certain embodiments, the wrench may take on a typical handle structure as is well recognized by those familiar with socket wrenches. Alternatively, the alternative drive mechanism may be configured as an attachment portion that may be operably coupled to a standard wrench. Similarly, the main wrench structure may be configured as a palm wrench, somewhat smaller in size and easy to operate within the palm of a user's hand. As yet another alternative, a simplified handle may be configured to extend outwardly along the axis of alignment, somewhat similar to a screwdriver. As can be appreciated, any one of these alternatives could

vary in size and configuration depending on very specific applications that could be involved.

[0015] Configured within the main structure of the wrench of the present invention may be a ratchet assembly. Ratchet assemblies and their functional characteristics are well known by those skilled in the art. Naturally, they provide the ability for the user to drive a drive shaft in a first direction, while allowing easy rotation of the wrench in the opposite direction without imparting significant force upon the driveshaft.

[0016] In addition to the internal ratchet mechanism, the present invention may provide a cooperating cable/spool mechanism as an alternative drive source. This mechanism may cooperate with other structures within the wrench housing to provide both typical ratchet operations, along with a secondary drive feature utilizing the cable and spool. Thus, the alternative drive source may be designed such that it does not interfere with normal operation of the wrench, and may be utilized only when desired by the user. As anticipated, the spool itself may have its axis of rotation primarily aligned with the driveshaft. In addition, the cable may be wound around the spool such that pulling on the cable imparts rotational force. Further, a coupling mechanism may be provided to transfer driving force to the driveshaft when the cable is pulled from the spool. As discussed above, when not in use the coupling mechanism may allow for standard operation of the ratchet mechanism. The cable/spool mechanism may be configured to be spring loaded so as to cause automatic rewinding of the cable after the cable has been pulled by the user to loosen or tighten a fastener. As will be understood, the spring utilized for rewinding could also be used as part of the pull mechanism.

[0017] As mentioned above, the cable may be wrapped around the spool with one end of the cable configured to be accessible by the user. In one exemplary embodiment, this may involve having the cable extend from the side of the wrench structure. In another exemplary embodiment, the cable may be threaded along the length of the handle and have a pull- ring extending from an end thereof. Using this structure, when the cable is

pulled the rotational force may be imparted upon the driveshaft, thus providing the desired operation.

[0018] As anticipated, a wrench with dual modes of operation may require a coupling mechanism and other components with unique features. For example, when the cable is pulled as previously discussed, the corresponding rotation of the spool will cause force to be transferred to the main drive shaft. Such coupling between the spool and drive component may be achieved in one exemplary embodiment via a spring loaded pin within the drive component and a cooperating groove structure in the spool.

[0019] In one particular embodiment, the drive shaft may have dual connectors extending on both ends thereof. Thus, a socket or similar component could easily be attached to both ends of the drive structure. In this embodiment a relatively straight forward coupling mechanism could be used to transfer force from the spool to the drive structure. This structure may only allow the spool to rotate in a single direction. However, actual drive rotation would depend upon the portion of the drive being used. In a similar manner, a sliding drive shaft may be used, which allows for connection of tools on either side of the wrench. This dual sided operation is achieved by sliding the drive shaft to extend from the desired side of the wrench and attaching a desired tool.

[0020] In an alternative embodiment of the present invention mentioned above, the housing and drive shaft may be configured as an attachment to a "standard" socket wrench. This embodiment may continue to have dual modes of operation. However, the "ratchet drive" and alternative drive may be configured as separate components. For example, the drive shaft from the standard socket wrench may be connected to the drive of the attachment. Socket work pieces may then be attached to another end of the attachment drive. In use, this embodiment may require more space during operation due to its size, but with the added benefit of allowing operation with a standard wrench. The alternative drive may be achieved by a pull cable incorporated into the

attachment, with a coupling structure for coupling the alternative drive to the attachment drive when actuated. One advantage of the attachment embodiment is the ability to selectively connect the additional component when used in an application where it is beneficial. Similarly, the attachment may be easily removed to allow the use of a traditional ratchet wrench.

[0021] In another embodiment, the cable drive may be incorporated into a box-end style ratcheting wrench. This configuration provides wrenches of specific sizes with the ability to spin on/off connectors at high speeds. Some compromise in wrench size may be required to achieve this type of operation in this style of wrench. That said, additional features and benefits are provided.

[0022] Utilizing the structures generally outlined above, it is an object of the present invention to provide an alternative mode of operation for a typical ratchet wrench. In one exemplary embodiment, this alternative mode of operation utilizes a cable and spool. To operate, the user may simply pull on the cable, thus causing the spool to rotate. Utilizing the above-mentioned coupling mechanism, this rotation may then impart force upon the driveshaft. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art based on the present disclosure, the ability to drive the driveshaft utilizing the cable and spool mechanism may provide the user with the ability to turn the driveshaft at a relatively high rate of speed. Thus, the spinning on and spinning off operations of fasteners and like becomes more efficient.

[0023] It is another object of the present invention to incorporate the alternative drive mechanism into a standard ratchet wrench. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a pull cord operation to achieve high speed spin-on or spin-off operation of fasteners or connectors.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0024] Further objects and advantages of the present can be seen from the following detailed description, in conjunction with the drawings in which:

[0025] Fig. 1 is a perspective view of one exemplary embodiment of a wrench in accordance with the present invention;

[0026] Fig. 2 is an exploded view of the internal components of the wrench of Fig. 1 ;

[0027] Fig. 3 is a perspective view of a portion of the wrench housing;

[0028] Fig. 4 is an assembled view of the wrench components within the wrench housing;

[0029] Fig. 5 is a perspective view of the coupling structure between a spool and a drive shaft of the wrench;

[0030] Fig. 6 is diagram illustrating one exemplary coil spring that may be coupled to the spool;

[0031] Fig. 7 is a perspective view of the spool illustrating one exemplary first spring connecting means in accordance with the present invention;

[0032] Fig. 8 is a diagram showing the spring of Fig. 6 coupled to the spool illustrated in Fig. 7;

[0033] Fig. 9 is a perspective view of the spring positioned within and engaging the wrench housing;

[0034] Figs. 10A and 10B are diagrams illustrating a second exemplary wrench in accordance with the present invention;

[0035] Figs. 11A and 11 B are perspective views of a gear shaft structured to receive a drive shaft in accordance with the second exemplary wrench;

[0036] Fig. 12A is a cross-sectional view of the drive shaft and gear shaft of the second exemplary wrench illustrating a first drive shaft position;

[0037] Fig. 12B is a cross-sectional view of the drive shaft and gear shaft of the second exemplary wrench illustrating a second drive shaft position;

[0038] Fig. 13 is a perspective view of a wrench attachment embodiment of the present invention, which includes a wrench attachment member structured to be coupled to an existing, standard ratchet type wrench; and

[0039] Fig. 14 is a perspective view of the wrench attachment member of Fig. 13 illustrating the internal components of the device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0040] The present invention involves a ratchet wrench which provides additional features allowing for high speed "spin-on" or "spin-off' of fasteners and the like. While the discussion below will primarily outline the use of this wrench to apply or remove nuts, bolts and screws, it should be understood that any spinning fastener or related device could be more efficiently installed or removed using the wrench of the present invention. As such, the discussion of fasteners below is not limited to nuts, bolts, or screws but includes any potential variations that may exist as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art.

[0041] Referring now to Fig. 1 , there is shown a perspective view of one exemplary wrench 10 which incorporates the features of the present invention. As can be seen, wrench 10 generally includes a handle portion

12 and a ratchet housing portion 14. As well understood by those familiar with hand tools, this particular embodiment resembles a typical ratcheting or socket type wrench. Wrench 10 also includes a dual ended drive shaft 20 having a first attachment end 22 and a second attachment end 24. As will be more fully described below, first attachment end 22 and second attachment end 24 are coupled to one another such that they work in unison when the wrench itself is operating. As can also be appreciated, first attachment end 22 and second attachment end 24 are configured for easy attachment to further work tools, such as a socket attachment or

other driving mechanisms known to those skilled in the art. In this particular embodiment, first attachment end 22 is sized substantially similar to second attachment end 24 such that one of the attachment ends may be used to apply a fastener while the other attachment end may be used to remove the fastener. Thus, the user must simply flip between the two attachment ends during application and removal of fasteners.

[0042] In addition to the features outlined above, wrench 10 further includes a pull device 40. In one exemplary embodiment, as illustrated in Fig. 1 , the pull device may include a pull ring. Pull ring 40 is attachable to a cable 42 extending through an end of the handle portion such that, in an "un-actuated" state, pull ring 40 may be positioned substantially adjacent handle portion 12. As will be discussed in further detail to follow, cable 42 may be structured to cooperate with additional components disposed within ratchet housing portion 14 to rotate dual ended drive shaft 20 and any work tools attached thereto.

[0043] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, any suitable type of cable 42 may be used. Particularly, the type of cable may be selected based upon numerous factors including, but not limited to, strength and size. In one exemplary embodiment, cable 42 may be formed from a stranded wire having an overall diameter between about .020 inches and about .030 inches. Exemplary materials may include stainless steel or tempered steel. These types of cables may carry loads of up to about 200 pounds, which is typically sufficient for a hand pull. In other exemplary embodiments, cable 42 may be formed from a Kevlar® cord or a carbon graphite thread. Regardless of the type of material used, cable 42 may typically be coupled to an internal spool (not shown), such as by threading the cable through a hole in the spool and forming a knot in the cable to keep it from retracting. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, cable 42 may be coupled to pull ring 40 in any suitable manner, such as by tying or crimping the cable to the ring.

[0044] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, a pull ring is merely one type of pull device that may be coupled to cable 42 to allow a

user to grasp and actuate cable 42, and thus, is presented merely for purposes of example and not for limitation. Alternatively, pull devices having any suitable size and shape may be used such as, for example, spheres, oblong rings, hook members, and the like.

[0045] As will be obvious to those skilled in the art from wrench 10 illustrated in Fig. 1 , typical "ratcheting wrench" operation may be achieved. First attachment end 22 or second attachment end 24 may be easily connected to various socket tools for use in the attachment or detachment of fasteners. However, adding to the typical ratchet wrench features, the present invention may provide a high speed operating mode which may be enacted by pulling on pull ring 40. As mentioned above, cable 42 may be connected to cooperating structures within wrench ratchet housing portion 14 of wrench 10 to provide high speed spinning of dual ended drive shaft 20, thus providing the ability to easily "spin-on" or "spin-off' fasteners, as necessary. Such operation will be discussed in further detail to follow. It is important to note that the alternative drive features of the present invention do not interfere with a user operating wrench 10 in a "standard" ratcheting mode of operation. Instead, the alternative drive features of the present invention may be utilized when desired by the user in order to operate wrench 10 in a high speed mode of applying or removing a fastener or the like.

[0046] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, drive shaft 20 is described as a dual ended drive shaft having a first attachment end 22 and a second attachment end 24 merely for purposes of example and not limitation. Thus, embodiments of drive shaft 20 having only a single attachment end are also contemplated and within the intended scope of the present invention. Furthermore, although dual ended drive shaft 20 includes first and second attachment ends 22 and 24 having a generally square cross-sectional shape, numerous other cross-sectional shapes and sizes for attachment to different types of sockets or work tools are also contemplated and within the intended scope of the present invention.

[0047] Referring now to Fig. 2, there is shown an exploded view of wrench 10. As illustrated, ratchet housing portion 14 is configured to contain a number of different components which cooperate to provide the features and functions of the present invention. These components include dual ended drive shaft 20, spool 50, spring 60, cover 70, and retaining clip 72. Furthermore, a ratcheting member 32 is designed to interact with dual ended drive shaft 20 during operation. In one exemplary embodiment as illustrated in Fig. 2, ratcheting mechanism 32 may include a pawl mechanism 33 with a spring engagement member 34 known to those skilled in the art.

[0048] Fig. 2 shows dual ended drive shaft 20, including first attachment end 22 and second attachment end 24, as generally discussed above. Additionally, dual ended drive shaft 20 includes a tubular portion 25 and a disk portion 26 having a plurality of ratchet teeth 28 incorporated on the circumference thereof. Ratchet teeth 28 are specifically configured to interact with a corresponding plurality of ratchet teeth on ratchet mechanism 32 to provide the ratcheting features of a typical ratchet wrench. In one exemplary embodiment, wrench 10 may simply incorporate a single direction ratchet mechanism 32 which achieves the ratcheting functions necessary. In this embodiment, the drive shaft may ratchet in one direction and be driven in the opposite direction as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art. To achieve reversing operation, the wrench may simply be turned around and the opposite attachment end of the drive shaft used for connection to a work tool. Naturally, alternative ratchet mechanisms could be incorporated.

[0049] Spool 50 includes an aperture structured to receive tubular portion 25 of dual ended drive shaft 20 such that spool 50 surrounds drive shaft 20 to enable spool 50 to cooperate with additional structures incorporated into disk portion 26. Generally speaking, spool 50 includes a cylindrical central hub 52 surrounded by a first outer wall 54 and a second outer wall 56. This configuration allows cable 42 (shown in Fig. 1) to be wrapped around spool 50 and contained within a cylindrical space between first wall 54 and second wall 56. In addition, and as will be

described in further detail to follow, extending into first wall 54 is a groove 58. Groove 58 is structured to mate with a corresponding coupling mechanism 59 extending from disk portion 26 of drive shaft 20 in order to transfer rotation of spool 50 to drive shaft 20 when the alternative, high speed mode of operation is being used. Coupling mechanism 59 may comprise any suitable coupling mechanism including, for example, a spring loaded pin. Further details regarding spring loaded pin 59 and groove 58 are discussed below in relation to Fig. 5.

[0050] Also contained within ratchet housing portion 14 is a spring 60. When biased, spring 60 may provide a desired rotational force upon spool 50. Spring 60 may be any suitable spring including, but not limited to, a helical (coil) spring or a power spring. Optionally, spring 60 may be wrapped around sleeve 62 extending from spool 50. Although sleeve 62 may not be a necessary component of the present invention, sleeve 62 may provide many benefits including a means for preventing contact between drive shaft 20 and spring 60 that may otherwise interfere with rotation of drive shaft 20. Cover 70 may be utilized to contain the various components as necessary and to prevent access to and contact with the internal components of wrench 10 during operation. Retaining clip 72 may be structured to function as a "locking means" to secure cover 70 in place within housing portion 14.

[0051] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, spring 60 may be operably coupled to spool 50 and ratchet housing 14 through any suitable connection means. However, several exemplary connection means will be discussed in detail in relation to Figs. 6-9.

[0052] As stated above, spring 60 may provide a rotational force upon spool 50 when the spring is biased. In particular, actuating pull ring 40 (i.e., unwinding cable 42 from spool 50) to drive dual ended drive shaft 20 causes spool 50 to rotate. Because spring 60 is coupled to spool 50, the rotation of spool 50 causes spring 60 to become coiled. As a result, a spring force is exerted on spool 50 such that when the user releases pull ring 40, the force causes cable 42 to be rewound back onto spool 50.

Stated another way, pulling ring 40 causes spring 60 to wind and "power up." Therefore, when pull ring 40 is subsequently released, the coiled spring 60 begins to uncoil, thus causing spool 50 to rotate. As a result, cable 42 is rewound back onto spool 50.

[0053] In one exemplary embodiment, wrench 10 may be designed such that pull ring 40 may be pulled about 18 inches from handle portion 12 during operation. As those skilled in the art will appreciate, the larger the spool diameter, the smaller the number of rotations of the drive shaft for the same length of cable. However, larger diameter spools may provide a greater amount of torque during operation. Thus, when a greater amount of torque is desirable, the wrench in accordance with the present invention may be designed with a large diameter spool. Alternatively, when a greater number of drive shaft rotations is desirable and torque is not as much of a concern, the wrench in accordance with the present invention may be designed with a small diameter spool.

[0054] Fig. 3 illustrates a perspective view of one exemplary ratchet housing 14 in accordance with the present invention. Particularly, Fig. 3 illustrates how one exemplary opening 16 may be utilized to contain each of the components discussed above. In particular, opening 16 in ratchet housing 14 includes first cavity portion 64, second cavity portion 66, shoulder 68, and channel 69. First cavity portion 64 may be structured to receive and contain spool 50, spring 60, cover 70, and retaining clip 72. Furthermore, first attachment end 22 of dual ended drive shaft 20 may be structured to extend through first cavity portion 64 and cover 70 such that a portion of the attachment end is exposed outside of ratchet housing 14 and available for attachment to a socket or work tool. Similarly, second cavity portion 66 may be structured to receive and contain disk portion 26 of dual ended drive shaft 20. As illustrated in Fig. 3, second attachment end 24 of dual ended drive shaft 20 may be structured to extend through second cavity portion 66 such that a portion of the attachment end is also exposed outside of ratchet housing 14 through an aperture 67 on an opposite side and available for attachment to a socket or work tool.

Finally, channel 69 may be structured to receive and contain ratcheting mechanism 32.

[0055] Although ratchet housing 14 has been previously described as including first cavity portion 64 structured to receive spool 50, spring 60, cover 70, and retaining clip 72, and second cavity portion 66 structured to receive disk portion 26, those skilled in the art will appreciate that numerous other housing designs are contemplated and within the intended scope of the present invention. For example, ratchet housing 14 may alternatively include a single, larger cavity portion structured to contain all components including disk portion 26, spool 50, and spring 60. Thus, any suitable housing configuration may be implemented without departing from the intended scope of the present invention.

[0056] Referring now to Fig. 4, a side view of wrench 10 is shown with ratchet housing portion 14 and handle 12 in broken lines in order to illustrate each of the components discussed above in an assembled state. In addition, cable 42 is shown in Fig. 4 to illustrate its positioning relative to spool 50. As shown in Fig. 4, handle 12 of wrench 10 may include a cable channel 73 structured to guide and contain cable 42 within handle 12.

[0057] Based on the foregoing discussion, those skilled in the art will appreciate that pulling upon pull ring 40 in a direction away from handle 12 will cause cable 42 to unwind and rotate spool 50 in a predetermined direction. As will be discussed in further detail below in reference to Fig. 5, spool 50 is designed to interact with dual ended drive shaft 20 in a predetermined manner so that pulling upon pull ring 40 will cause a cooperative operation. Specifically, groove 58 and coupling mechanism 59 may be utilized to impart rotational force upon dual ended drive shaft 20 when pull ring 40 is pulled and cable 42 unwinds.

[0058] Fig. 5 illustrates a perspective view of spool 50 and disk portion 26 of dual ended drive shaft 20. As generally discussed above, disk portion 26 includes a coupling mechanism, which is shown in Fig. 5 as spring loaded pin 59. In particular, pin 59 may be spring loaded in its axial direction. As a result, spring loaded pin 59 may be designed so that it

recesses into disk portion 26 when an axial force in a direction A is applied to the pin as shown in Fig. 5.

[0059] Referring to spool 50, a cooperating groove 58 is cut into a surface thereof. As illustrated in Fig. 5, the cooperating groove 58 includes a recessed end or shoulder portion 82 and a ramped portion 84. Ramped portion 84 is configured to be essentially flush with the surface of spool 50 at an end 86 thereof. Cooperating groove 58 and spring loaded pin 59 are structured and positioned to specifically interact with one another in order couple the movement of spool 50 with the movement of dual ended drive shaft 20. In particular, based upon the geometry of spool 50 and disk portion 26, rotation of spool 50 with respect to disk portion 26 in a first direction will ultimately result in an engagement of these components, while rotation in the opposite direction will not create such engagement. Other than the spring loaded pin and cooperating groove provided above, there is generally no interaction or cooperation between the disk portion 26 and spool 50.

[0060] Specifically, when spool 50 is assembled adjacent disk portion 26 of dual ended drive shaft 20 and rotated in a counterclockwise direction, shoulder portion 82 of corresponding groove 58 in spool 50 may engage with spring loaded pin 59 of disk portion 26, thus causing disk portion 26 to also rotate in a counterclockwise direction. Alternatively, when spool 50 is rotated clockwise, shoulder portion 82 of groove 58 will not engage spring loaded pin 59. Instead, the spring loaded pin 59 will recess into disk portion 26 and be driven up ramped portion 84 of groove 58. Continuous clockwise rotation of spool 50 will result in the spring loaded pin 59 recessing into disk portion 26 and being driven up ramped portion 84 and along the outer surface of spool 50, and the process repeats. Thus, as becomes obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art, the spring loaded pin 59 of Fig. 5 may be designed such that when spool 50 is rotated clockwise, shoulder portion 82 never engages the pin 59 so as to cause corresponding rotational movement of disk portion 26.

[0061] Although spool 50 is illustrated in Fig. 5 as being designed with groove 58 having a substantially flat shoulder portion 82 positioned such that the disk portion may rotate in a counterclockwise direction when spring loaded pin 59 engages groove 58, alternative embodiments are also contemplated. For example, those skilled in the art will appreciate that shoulder portion 82 may be moved to the opposite end of the groove 58 so that clockwise movement of spool 50 now drives disk portion 26 clockwise, and counterclockwise movement of spool 50 results in no corresponding movement of disk portion 26.

[0062] Furthermore, although spool 50 and disk portion 26 of dual ended drive shaft 20 are illustrated as including only a single groove 58 and spring loaded pin 59, respectively, embodiments of the present invention including any number of grooves and spring loaded pins are within the intended scope of the present invention. Thus, in one exemplary alternative embodiment, a pair of grooves and a pair of spring loaded pins may be used. In another exemplary embodiment, a single spring loaded pin and a pair of grooves may be used. In addition, each groove 58 is shown with a shoulder portion 82 merely for purposes of example. As a result, shoulder portion 82 may be replaced with an end having any suitable shape or contour, including a generally rounded surface.

[0063] In other embodiments, groove 58 may be replaced with a single, continuous groove having a plurality of ramped portions 84 and shoulder portions 82 (or something equivalent thereto). A single, continuous groove would enable a spring loaded pin 59 to remain within the groove at all times and eliminate the need to have the pin slide across the outer surface of spool 50 as previously described when traveling outside of the groove.

[0064] In yet other embodiments, one or more grooves may alternatively be formed in disk portion 26, while one or more spring loaded pins or similar connecting means may be placed within spool 50. Thus,

the position of the grooves and connecting means may be interchanged without departing from the intended scope of the present invention.

[0065] As previously discussed, when wrench 10 is assembled, cable 42 is attached to and surrounds spool 50. Consequently, when cable 42 is pulled upon (i.e., actuated), rotational force is generated causing spool 50 to rotate in the corresponding direction. Due to the exemplary coupling features of the device illustrated in Fig. 5, this rotation of spool 50 in the desired direction will cause engagement with disk portion 26, ultimately causing rotation of drive shaft 20. Consequently, pulling on cable 42 may result in desired rotation of the drive shaft, thereby instituting the alternative drive feature of the wrench in accordance with the present invention. Specifically, pulling on cable 42 allows the drive shaft to be easily rotated at a higher rate of speed than possible through ordinary operation of a ratchet wrench by a user. The ability to operate at this higher speed provides the spin-on and spin-off operation discussed above. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that in alternative embodiments, the spring and pull mechanism can be configured so that the spring itself can be used as the pull mechanism rather than utilizing a separate cable.

[0066] Fig. 6 is a front view of one exemplary embodiment of spring 60 in accordance with the present invention. As illustrated in Fig. 6, spring 60 includes first end 90, second end 92, and a plurality of coil layers 94 formed therebetween. As will be discussed in further detail to follow, first end 90 of spring 60 includes a contoured portion 96 structured to engage with a first spring engaging means formed in spool 50 in order to secure spring 60 to the spool. In one exemplary embodiment, contoured portion 96 may be formed by creating a "kink" in a portion of spring 60 at first end 90. Furthermore, second end 92 of spring 60 may include a tab portion 98 structured to contact a second spring engaging means within ratchet housing 14 in order to prevent spring 60 from spinning within ratchet housing 14 and to provide an "anchoring" surface. In one exemplary embodiment, tab portion 98 may be formed by folding or bending a portion of spring 60 at second end 92 to any suitable angle to allow sufficient contact with, for example, an interior surface of wrench housing 14. As

illustrated in Fig. 6, the angle may be about 90 degrees, although numerous other angles are also contemplated and within the intended scope of the present invention.

[0067] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, a suitable spring 60 may be a power spring. Typical power springs are designed to provide a constant force regardless of the number of coils formed with the spring. This is advantageous because it provides a smooth, comfortable pull for the user as opposed to an increasing amount of resistance and a large amount of force pulling the cable back into the ratchet housing experienced with other types of springs. In one exemplary embodiment, spring 60 may be formed from a tempered steel or stainless steel having a thickness between about .004 inches and about .008 inches and a width of about .25 inches. Another advantage of power springs is their long life cycle, which may be upwards of 50,000 cycles or more. This long life cycle minimizes the possibility that spring 60 may ever need to be replaced during the life of the wrench.

[0068] Fig. 7 is a perspective view of spool 50 illustrating one exemplary first spring engaging means in accordance with the present invention. Particularly, as illustrated in Fig. 7, sleeve 62 of spool 50 includes a spring engaging means comprising a pair of slots 100. As will be discussed in further detail with regard to Fig. 8, the pair of slots 100 is structured to receive contoured portion 96 of spring 60 in order to couple first end 90 of spring 60 to spool 50. Although only one pair of slots 100 is illustrated in Fig. 7, those skilled in the art will appreciate that additional slots may be used to receive additional contoured portions of spring 60 without departing from the intended scope of the present invention.

[0069] Fig. 8 is a diagram showing spring 60 of Fig. 6 coupled to spool 50 illustrated in Fig. 7. In particular, contoured portion 96 at first end 90 of spring 60 includes a depressed base portion 102 having a pair of arm members 104 extending therefrom. When assembled, each of the pair of arm members 104 is structured to be received by a corresponding one of the pair of slots 100 in order to couple first end 90 of spring 60 to spool 50.

As illustrated in Fig. 8, the remainder of spring 60 may then be coiled around sleeve 62 of spool 50 such that substantially all contact between spring 60 and drive shaft 20 is avoided.

[0070] Fig. 9 is a perspective view of ratchet housing 14 illustrating one exemplary second spring engaging means in accordance with the present invention. As illustrated in Fig. 9, when spring 60 is positioned within first cavity portion 64 of ratchet housing 14, tab portion 98 of second end 92 of spring 60 is structured to engage with an interior surface of channel 69. In particular, when assembling spring 60 of wrench 10 into ratchet housing 14, tab portion 98 is structured such that it "catches" on the interior surface of channel 69 near the transition to first cavity portion 64. This configuration not only allows spring 60 to be wound during assembly, but it also allows spring 60 to be pre-loaded. Furthermore, the engagement of spring 60 with the interior surface of channel 69 may help to prevent movement of ratcheting mechanism 32 within channel 69.

[0071] Numerous other alternative engaging means may be used to connect spring 60 to spool 50 and ratchet housing 14 without departing from the intended scope of the present invention. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, spring 60 may be coupled to spool 50 and/or ratchet housing 14 with a rivet. In another exemplary embodiment, spring 60 may be coupled to spool 50 and/or ratchet housing 14 with a suitable adhesive. In yet another exemplary embodiment, spring 60 may be welded to spool 50 and/or ratchet housing 14. In yet another exemplary embodiment, spring 60 may be coupled to structures other than ratchet housing 14, such as cover 70. Furthermore, various combinations of attachment means may also be used, such as the pair of slots 100 on sleeve 62, the contoured portion 96 on spring 60, and a suitable adhesive.

[0072] Now that one exemplary embodiment of a wrench in accordance with the present invention has been described, several alternative embodiments incorporating similar inventive features will also be described. For example, Figs. 10A and 10B are diagrams illustrating a second exemplary wrench 10A in accordance with the present invention.

Wrench 1OA is similar to wrench 10 previously describe in reference to Figs. 1-9, but further includes a slidable drive shaft 120 rather than a "fixed" drive shaft. In particular, drive shaft 120 is structured to be slidable between a first position as illustrated in Fig. 10A wherein a first attachment end 122 extends outside of ratchet housing portion 14A, and a second position as illustrated in Fig. 10B wherein a second attachment end 124 extends outside of ratchet housing portion 14A. The function of wrench 10A may be similar to wrench 10 such that, for example, the first attachment end may be utilized for applying a fastener while the second attachment end may be utilized for removing the fastener. However, wrench 10A provides the advantage of not having two attachment ends extending from the wrench housing at all times, thus making the wrench more compact. As will be discussed in further detail to follow, first ball connector 130 on first attachment end 122 and second ball connector 132 on second attachment end 124 may be utilized in combination with socket members to temporarily "lock" drive shaft 120 in place in the desired position.

[0073] Figs. 11 A and 11 B are various perspective views of a gear shaft 134 structured to receive drive shaft 120. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, gear shaft 134 includes tubular portion 136 and disk portion 138 similar to tubular portion 25 and disk portion 26 previously discussed. Gear shaft 134 further includes first socket 140 and second socket 142 structured to receive first ball connector 130 and second ball connector 132, respectively, as will be described in reference to Figs. 12A and 12B below.

[0074] Fig. 12A is a cross-sectional view of drive shaft 120 disposed within gear shaft 134 that corresponds with the first position illustrated in Fig. 10A. As illustrated in Fig. 12A, when drive shaft 120 is in the first position with first attachment end 122 extending outside of housing 14A, second ball connector 132 is structured to engage second socket 142 in order to temporarily lock the drive shaft in place. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, first attachment end 122 may then be used for attachment to a socket or work tool, which may be coupled to first

attachment end 122 using first ball connector 130. In order to move drive shaft 120 to the second position, the user simply applies force in direction 144 in order to push first attachment end 122 into gear shaft 134. The second position of drive shaft 120 is illustrated in Fig. 12B.

[0075] Fig. 12B is a cross-sectional view of drive shaft 120 disposed within gear shaft 134 that corresponds with the second position illustrated in Fig. 10B. As illustrated in Fig. 12B, when drive shaft 120 is in the second position with second attachment end 124 extending outside of housing 14A, first ball connector 130 is structured to engage first socket

140 in order to temporarily lock the drive shaft in place. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, second attachment end 124 may then be used for attachment to a socket or work tool, which may be coupled to second attachment end 124 using second ball connector 132.

[0076] Yet another exemplary embodiment of the present invention includes a wrench attachment structured to be coupled to an existing, standard ratchet type wrench. More specifically, the wrench attachment itself may include a receiver for attachment to the existing drive shaft of the ratchet wrench, and may also contain an alternative drive mechanism such as that previously described above in reference to Figs. 1-12. Specifically, the alternative drive mechanism may include a cable and coupling structure, similar in structure and function to the components outlined above. In the standard mode of operation, drive forces produced by the ratchet wrench may be simply translated through the attachment piece to an attachment drive, which may be coupled to socket tools. The "alternative mode" of operation may be achieved by pulling on a cable coupled to the attachment drive shaft. One advantage of this configuration includes the ability to cooperate with any existing socket wrench, making the wrench attachment a "universal" device. As a result, the user may experience the benefits of the present invention without having to replace their existing wrench.

[0077] Fig. 13 illustrates one example of the wrench attachment embodiment in accordance with the present invention. In particular, Fig.

13 is a perspective view of a wrench attachment 1OB structured to be coupled to an existing, standard ratchet type wrench 150. In this particular embodiment, wrench attachment 10B includes attachment housing 152, drive shaft 154, cable ring 156, and cable 158. Attachment housing 152 may contain the cable pull mechanism (shown in Fig. 14), which may operably engage drive shaft 154 when cable ring 156 is pulled by the user. In this particular manner, standard ratchet wrench 150 is provided with the capability to operate in an alternative mode of operation in order to spin-on or spin-off fasteners at a much higher rate of speed than possible through traditional operation of the wrench. As will be anticipated, work pieces can easily be attached to drive shaft 154 as necessary.

[0078] Fig. 14 is a perspective view of wrench attachment 10B of Fig. 13 with attachment housing 152 shown in broken lines so as to depict the internal components of the device. As illustrated in Fig. 14, wrench attachment 10B generally includes spool 154, spring 156, cover 158, retaining clip 160, and receiver 162 for attachment to a drive shaft of external ratchet wrench 150. Receiver 162 may further include socket 164 structured to receive a ball-type connection on the drive shaft of external ratchet wrench 150.

[0079] Although a few specific embodiments were discussed above, numerous other variations are also contemplated and within the intended scope of the present invention. In yet another alternative embodiment, the cable pull mechanism may be incorporated into a box-end styled ratchet wrench. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, these box-end styled wrenches may include a traditional opening configured to couple with a standard bolt head or nut. The wrench housing itself may contain a unitary ratchet mechanism cooperating with this box-end structure to allow ratcheting operations. The cable pull mechanism generally outlined above may be easily adapted for operation in these types of wrenches as well.

Such a tool may provide additional features and modes of operation which are not presently available on existing box-end styled ratchet wrenches.

[0080] In yet another alternative embodiment similar to that illustrated in Figs. 13 and 14, the attachment housing could be configured in a smaller, substantially circular configuration structured to be easily held within a user's hand. As can be anticipated, many other variations are also possible, all incorporating standard ratcheting operation along with a high speed, alternative mode of operation. This provides additional capabilities for the user which will ultimately save time and energy, thus making the users more efficient.

[0081] Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.