Dowd, Peter (7 Sussex Street Hamilton, NZ)
Trow, David (32 Chedworth Avenue Hamilton, NZ)
Blenkinsopp, Keith (62 Knighton Road Hamilton, NZ)
Dowd, Peter (7 Sussex Street Hamilton, NZ)
Trow, David (32 Chedworth Avenue Hamilton, NZ)
|1.||A method for adjusting the height of a work surface for use by an operator in a food or medical industry characterised by the steps of the operator activating a height adjustable mechanism, wherein the height adjustable mechanism upon activation moves the work surface by at least one automated telescopic column to a height deemed by the operator to be optimal for working on the work surface.|
|2.||A mechanism for adjusting the height of a work surface characterised in that there is included an activation switch operable by an operator of the work surface, and a telescopic column which moves as a consequence of activating the activation switch by the operator to adjust the height of the work surface.|
|3.||A mechanism as claimed in claim 2 wherein the telescopic column includes column elements which interfit and slide with respect to each other.|
|4.||A mechanism as claimed in claim 3 wherein the column elements are sleeves.|
|5.||A mechanism as claimed in either claim 3 or claim 4 wherein there is provided wearresistant surfaces between the column elements.|
|6.||A mechanism as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 5 wherein the means by which the column is moved is a pneumatic cylinder.|
|7.||A mechanism as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 6 which includes self draining surfaces.|
|8.||A mechanism as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 7 which includes underhangs.|
|9.||A table which includes a height adjustment mechanism as claimed in any one of claims 2 to 8.|
|10.||A table as claimed in claim 9 which includes a cutting surface.|
|11.||A table as claimed in claim 10 which includes magnets to hold the cutting surface.|
|12.||A method substantially as herein described with reference to and as illustrated by the accompanying drawings.|
|13.||A mechanism substantially as herein described with reference to and as illustrated by the accompanying drawings.|
|14.||A table substantially as herein described with reference to and as illustrated by the accompanying drawings.|
BACKGROUND ART The present invention seeks to address problems found in food processing and medical processing industries. Reference throughout the specification will be made to use of the present invention in the meat industry, however it should be appreciated that this application should not be seen as limiting and the present invention can be used in other industries as well.
Tables used in meat works are of a fixed height. Unfortunately, the staff which use these tables, such as boners and other operators, are of varying heights. This requires people using the table to either stoop or stretch to use the table. It can be appreciated that in an industry such as the meat industry where operations such as boning meat are prolonge and intensive, the stooping or stretching required is unsatisfactory.
In order to address this problem, operators often carry around a step of some sort to ensure that the shorter operators can reach. However, this does not aid taller operators.
The above is not a perfect solution however, as the operator is constantly moved from job to job on a regular basis, and in some instances every 15 minutes. While one of the requirements for the operators to move constantly is to reduce Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS), the requirement fioNto-on*-stretch ortc=ry
around a step actually causes considerable work related injuries including back injuries and OOS.
It is obviously desirable if there could be provided a solution to these problems.
Another problem with the food and processing industries is the requirement to have sterile equipment, or equipment that can be readily cleaned. For example, in the meat industry, any trapped organic matter can rapidly turn pathogenic and therefore needs to be quickly and efficiently removed.
Another feature of the food or medical industries is that it is important that operations are conducted efficiently in general due to the high volume of processing which is involved.
It is an object of the present invention to address the above problems, or at least provide the public with a useable choice.
DISCLOSURE OF INVENTION According to one aspect of the present invention there is provided a method for adjusting the height of a work surface by use by an operator in a food or medical industry, characterised by the step of the operator activating a height adjustable mechanism, wherein the height adjustable mechanism upon activation moves the work surface by at least one automated telescopic column to a height deemed by the operator to be optimal for working on the work surface.
According to another aspect of the present invention there is a provided a mechanism for adjusting the height of a work surface characterised in that the mechanism includes; an active switch operable by an operator at the work surface, and at least one telescopic column which moves as a consequence of activation of the activation switch by the operator, wherein movement of the telescopic column causes the height of the work surface to be adjusted.
It should be appreciated that the activation switch may come in a variety of forms.
For example the activation switch may be foot operated or operated by any other part of the body.
In some embodiments of the present invention the switch can be operated in such a way that the operator does not use his/her hands and therefore does not contaminate the switch with the matter being processed on the work surface.
In one embodiment, the activation switch may be activated using voice recognition technology.
In preferred embodiments the activation switch is a lever switch.
The movement of the telescopic column maybe by a variety of means. For example, the column may be hydraulically operated (say water, oil or any other fluid) electrically operated (for example by use of a stepper motor) or as in preferred embodiments pneumatically operated.
Preferred embodiments, the configuration of the telescopic column is such that relatively smooth surfaces are presented externally so as to minimise the chances of unwanted matter being captured by the height adjustable mechanism, thereby making the height adjustable mechanism easy to clean and or sterilise.
For example, one embodiment of the present invention may have the telescopic column including a variable length member encased in a flexible sleeve so that as the column extends or reduces in length, the sleeve provides a seamless surface which can be readily hosed or otherwise cleaned.
In preferred embodiments, the telescopic column has a pair of interfitting column elements which can slide with respect to each other as the column extends or reduces in length.
In some embodiments these column elements are essentially rigid sleeves.
The sleeves may have any preferred cross-section, but in preferred embodiments they are of a rectangular cross-section.
In embodiments whereby the telescopic column is pneumatically driven, then the driving means may be a pneumatic linear actuator.
It should be appreciated that more than one column may be used with the present invention, although one column does provide a simple easy to clean height adjustment mechanism.
In preferred embodiments of the present invention there is provided wear resistant surfaces located between the moving parts of the height adjustment mechanism.
For example, in embodiments of the present invention which have sleeves that
move relative to each other, there may be provided wear resistant pads between the sleeves.
In preferred embodiments of the present invention, the sleeves are of a configuration wherein there is minimal sideways movements of the sleeves with respect to each other. This ensures that the height adjustment mechanism can also be a supporting mechanism for the work surface in some embodiments.
In preferred embodiments the present invention is supplied with a work surface that provides a table which can be used in the food or medical processing industries. Reference throughout the specification will now be made to a table, although it should be seen that this term should not be seen as limiting.
In some embodiments, the table may be fixed directly to the floor. However, in preferred embodiments the table is attached to a base thus affording the table a degree of portability.
To further enhance the portability of the present invention, there may also be provided wheels to allow the table to be readily moved.
It should be appreciated that the term table implies that the work surface can be moved within a range of heights which operators at the table can work on or over the work surface.
The actual surface area of the work surface can be variable according to the use of the present invention.
It should be appreciated that the present invention addresses a number of the problems presently found in the food and medical processing industries.
The present invention can be used to reduce the incidents of work related injuries including back problems and OOS problems by providing a work surface which can be adjusted to an optimal height by the operator using that work surface.
Hygiene requirements are met by the present invention by having a telescopic column as part of the height adjustment mechanism which can be readily sterilised.
Some embodiments of the present invention in the work surface may be replaceable with respect to the height adjustment mechanism. This enables different work surfaces to be used to suit different types of work and can also be sized to suit different requirements and easy to clean.
Preferred embodiments of the present invention which have a base of wheels contribute to this flexibility of use by making the present invention portable.
Embodiments of the present invention which have a single telescopic column as a height adjustment mechanism and column elements which do not move significantly sideways with respect to each other, provide a simply constructed height adjustment mechanism which also can provide support for a work surface.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS Specs of the present invention will now be discussed by way of example only with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:- Figure 1 is a perspective view of an adjustable height table incorporating the raising/lowering mechanism; and
Figure 2 is a side elevation view; and Figure 3 is an end elevation view; and Figure 4 is a plan view; and Figure 5 is a cross-sectional perspective view through line A-A of Figure 2; and Figure 6a and Figure 6b are detailed views of self-draining surfaces incorporated in the design of the adjustable height table.
The raising and lowering mechanism according to the present invention when incorporated in a table provides a working surface that is easily adjustable to a suitable working height for any operator and/or task to be carried out on the working surface. As a consequence, an adjustable height table as described herein and incorporating the present invention can be used for different tasks each of which may have a different optimum height for the work surface. While the present invention is described as forming part of an adjustable table, this is by way of illustration only.
Referring to Figure 1, the table (10) includes a tabletop (11) with a work surface (12). The tabletop (11) is supported from a base (13) by a column (14). The base (13) includes a central backbone member (15) which is provided at each end with transverse legs (16) having at their outermost ends feet (17). These feet (17) can be adjustable (in a known manner) in position relative to the legs (16) so as to compensate for any unevenness in the ground surface on which the base (13) is located.
The column (14) is formed by an outer sleeve (18) which is fastened at one end to the underside of the tabletop (11). This outer sleeve (18) is slidingly located on an inner sleeve (19) which extends upwardly from the backbone member (15) of the base (13). Relative movement between the sleeves can thus occur under the control of a pneumatic cylinder (20) located within the column (14).
As illustrated, the body of the pneumatic cylinder (20) can be connected via a mount (21) to the underside of the tabletop (11) and the end of the piston rod (22) of the cylinder (20) can be anchored to the central backbone (15) within the confines of the inner sleeve (19). The pneumatic cylinder (20) is operable via a lever switch (23) on one or more sides of the table. Suitable conduits (not shown) connect the cylinder (20), lever switch (23) and a pressurised power source, e. g. a compressed air line.
Radiating from the upper end of the outer sleeve (18) are a plurality of flanges (24) which provide support for the underside of the tabletop (11). As can be seen in Figure 4, these are configured to provide optimal support for the tabletop (11).
It is also possible to fit a tilting surface in place of the tabletop (11).
Close tolerances are provided between the inner and outer sleeves (18,19). Pads of wear resistant material such as a plastics material provide wear surfaces or pads (25) that form the points of contact between the inner and outer sleeves. The use of the plastic wear pads (25) minimises wear and noise. Preferably, the plastics material is a self-lubricating wear resistant material such as nylon.
In the preferred form the nylon pads are formed by"mushroom"type elements.
The head of the mushroom is located between the inner and outer sleeves while
the tail (the end of which is seen in Figure 1) is engaged in an opening in the sleeve. The wear pads are located top and bottom in the column and are staggered so that they do not contact one another as the column telescopes up and down.
The sleeves are preferably rectangular in cross-section. By having the sleeves angular in cross-section ease of the manufacture is realised. Also, a high degree of stability is imparted to the tabletop (11), as there is no relative movement (except axial sliding) possible between the sleeves. Thus, horizontal angular movement of the tabletop (I I) is prevented. The sleeves can be of angular shapes other than rectangular.
Initial trials have shown that a table having a tabletop of, say, 2 metres long and 1 metre wide can lift in excess of 100kg at the end most distant from the cylinder (20) with no effect on the ease of height adjustment. However, it will be appreciated that this capacity can be readily changed by the use of a larger cylinder (20). Also, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the working surface (12) can be made to any size and the range of movement of the column can be arranged for the particular end use.
In the preferred form of the table the tabletop can be removable rather than being fixed to the column (14). The tabletop can also be made from a variety of materials suited for the end purpose. One of the uses of the table as illustrated and described therein is in the meat industry such as in the meat processing plants, butcher shops, etc, where it is envisaged that the table will be constructed from stainless steel or approved plastics material.
For those applications where the ability to keep the table clean is important, it is proposed that the table have self-draining surfaces including the tabletop, under- hands from the table-top, under-hangs from the base, the base itself, the inside of the column (14) and all vertical surfaces.
For example, as illustrated in Figure 5, an under-hang 26 can be provided. This is formed by a return (28) extending from the peripheral skirt (29) projecting down from tabletop (11). The return (28) provides a surface which inclines at an angle of about 5° to the horizontal. A similar under-hang (27) can be provided with the underside of the central backbone (15) of the base (13). The central backbone (15), like the tabletop, can be readily folded from metal.
Where cutting operations are to be carried out on the tabletop (11), the surface (12) can be protected by the provision of a cutting board or boards. For example, in one arrangement the cutting board can be of a plastics material with a magnet or plurality of magnets located within or on the surface of the cutting board which will engage on surface (12). In the preferred form, however, the magnets are located within the plastics material. As the tabletop (11) will in the preferred form be of a stainless steel construction, magnetic strips can be provided under the table, i. e. with a surface opposite to working surface (12). The magnetic strips can be positioned and arranged in such a way that the cutting board can be adjusted in position on the tabletop (11) but easily removable.
To assist in maintaining cleanliness of the inside of the column (14) and thereby provide for draining of condensation within the column (14), a pair of openings (not shown) can be provided at the lower end of the inside sleeve (19).
Preferably, the lower terminal end of the outside sleeve (18) does not extend down
onto the backbone member (15) of the base (13) when the column is lowered to its minimum height thereby leaving the openings exposed.
In operation, a worker can simply operate the lever switch to raise or lower the column (14) in order to adjust the position of the work surface (12). This can be conveniently carried out by providing more than one lever switch (23) at strategic positions about the table.
By having a single column (14), there are no table legs to get in the way of the operator. Also, the table is of an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Furthermore, the table is economic to produce and this is in part due to its ease of assembly.
The invention is open to modification as will be apparent to those skilled in the art. For example, the pneumatic cylinder can be of fixed sliding movement so that it forms the restriction means which restrict the column sleeves to movement only in the height adjustment direction. With such an arrangement, the sleeves do not need to be angular.
Aspects of the present invention have been described by way of example only and it should be appreciate that modifications and additions may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the appended claims.
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