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Title:
IMPROVEMENTS RELEVANT TO TAPS AND HANDLES AND THEIR OPERATION
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/009966
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A tap assembly including: a flow control mechanism, an actuation member associated with the flow control mechanism, the actuation member being adapted to rotate about an axis thereof, wherein rotation of the actuation member actuates the flow control mechanism, and a handle portion operatively connected to the actuation member such that, in use, a substantially linear movement of the handle portion causes rotation of the actuation member.

Inventors:
STEVENS, Gary (556 Curtin Avenue East, Eagle Farm, Queensland 4009, 4009, AU)
JOHNSTON, Nicholas (173-177 Barkly Ave, Burnley, Victoria 3121, 3121, AU)
EDMONDS, James (173-177 Barkly Ave, Burnley, Victoria 3121, AU)
Application Number:
AU2017/050710
Publication Date:
January 18, 2018
Filing Date:
July 11, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
RAMTAPS PTY LTD (556 Curtin Avenue East, Eagle Farm, Queensland 4009, 4009, AU)
ROGERS SELLER & MYHILL PTY LTD (173-177 Barkly Ave, Burnley, Victoria 3121, 3121, AU)
International Classes:
F16K31/44; E03C1/04
Domestic Patent References:
1996-10-17
2013-10-31
2014-10-16
Foreign References:
US2575305A1951-11-13
US2679864A1954-06-01
US20120266992A12012-10-25
US20140251071A12014-09-11
Other References:
CEA REGOLO FAUCET DEBUTS SLIDING TEMPERATURE CONTROL, 1 July 2016 (2016-07-01), Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20170807]
RVB.BE FAUCET / TAP: CATALOGS, 14 May 2016 (2016-05-14), Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20170817]
SLIDE-PHONE INSPIRED FAUCETS, 16 September 2013 (2013-09-16), XP055459257, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20170807]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CULLENS PTY LTD (Level 32, 239 George StreetBrisbane, Queensland 4000, 4000, AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A tap assembly including:

a flow control mechanism,

an actuation member associated with the flow control mechanism, the actuation member being adapted to rotate about an axis thereof, wherein rotation of the actuation member actuates the flow control mechanism, and

a handle portion operatively connected to the actuation member such that, in use, a substantially linear movement of the handle portion causes rotation of the actuation member.

2. The tap assembly of claim 1 , wherein the flow control mechanism is selected from the group consisting of a tap valve, a mixer cartridge for a mixer tap, and a progressive mixer tap cartridge.

3. The tap assembly of claim 1 , wherein the flow control mechanism is a mixer tap cartridge comprising a cold water inlet, a hot water inlet, and an outlet for dispensing a mixture of hot and cold water from the inlets to a fluid dispensing device.

4. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the actuation member is an elongate member that is operatively connected to the flow control mechanism at a first end thereof, and operatively connected to the handle portion at a second end thereof.

5. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the actuation member is selected from the group consisting of a rod, a spindle, and a shaft.

6. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the actuation member is adapted to rotate about its longitudinal axis.

7. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the actuation member is adapted to rotate between two extreme positions of rotation.

8. The tap assembly of claim 7, wherein the degree of rotation between the two extreme positions is less than 360 degrees, preferably less than 180 degrees.

9. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 8, wherein the linear movement of the handle portion is achieved manually by a user pushing or pulling the handle portion.

10. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the linear movement of the handle portion is in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis about which the actuation member rotates.

1 1. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the handle portion is adapted to be installed on a substantially vertical wall and the tap assembly is adapted to be installed substantially horizontally through the wall.

12. The tap assembly of claim 1 1 , wherein the linear movement of the handle portion is substantially parallel to the wall in a substantially vertical plane.

13. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the handle portion is adapted to be installed on a horizontal sink or counter and the tap assembly is adapted to be installed substantially vertically in the sink or counter.

14. The tap assembly of claim 13, wherein the linear movement of the handle portion is substantially parallel to the sink or counter in a substantially horizontal plane.

15. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein the substantially linear movement of the handle portion is sliding linear movement.

16. The tap assembly of any one of claims 1 to 15, wherein the handle portion comprises a mounting portion and a movement portion adapted for movement relative to the mounting portion.

17. The tap assembly of claim 16, wherein movement of the movement portion relative to the mounting portion results in rotation of the actuation member.

18. The tap assembly of claim 16 or claim 17, wherein the mounting portion comprises one or more apertures and the actuation member extends at least partially through the one or more apertures.

19. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 18, wherein the movement portion is adapted for sliding movement relative to the mounting portion, preferably in a plane that is substantially parallel to the mounting portion.

20. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 19, wherein the movement portion is substantially the same size as the mounting portion.

21. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 20, wherein a surface of the movement portion facing a user is substantially pi

22. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 21 , wherein the movement portion is square or rectangular in shape.

23. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 22, wherein the movement portion is moveable between an initial position in which it substantially overlies the mounting portion to a final position in which a portion of the mounting portion is uncovered.

24. The tap assembly of claim 23, wherein the handle portion comprises indicia for indicating to a user the position of the handle portion relative to the initial and final position.

25. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 24, wherein the movement portion comprises a carriage portion adapted for connection to the mounting portion and moveable relative to the mounting portion.

26. The tap assembly of any claim 25, wherein the movement portion further comprises a cover portion adapted for fixed or temporary connection to the carriage portion.

27. The tap assembly of claim 25 or claim 26, wherein the carriage portion is provided with one or more movement devices that abut the mounting portion and facilitate movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion.

28. The tap assembly of claim 25 or claim 26, wherein the mounting portion is provided with one or more movement devices that abut the carriage portion and facilitate movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion.

29. The tap assembly of claim 27 or claim 28, wherein the one or more movement devices are selected from the group consisting of runners, rollers, slides, and wheels.

30. The tap assembly of any one of claims 25 to 29, wherein the carriage portion comprises at least one channel, recess, or groove for receiving at least one wheel or roller connected to the mounting portion.

31. The tap assembly of claim 30, wherein the carriage portion comprises a first channel in an upper region of the carriage portion and a second channel in a lower region of the carriage portion.

32. The tap assembly of claim 30 or claim 31 , further comprising at least one stop member positioned in the at least one channel, recess, or groove for precluding the carriage portion from movement relative to the mounting portion in a particular direction when the at least one wheel or roller abuts the stop member.

33. The tap assembly of any one of claims 16 to 32, further comprising a conversion portion adapted to convert the linear movement of the handle portion into rotational movement of the actuation member.

34. The tap assembly of claim 33, wherein the conversion portion is a linear actuator.

35. The tap assembly of claim 34, wherein the linear actuator comprises a rack and pinion mechanism.

36. The tap assembly of claim 35, wherein the rack and pinion mechanism comprises:

a rack portion with a plurality of teeth, the rack portion being located on the movement portion; and

a pinion portion with a plurality of teeth, the pinion portion being located on the actuation member;

such that as the movement portion moves relative to the mounting portion, the teeth on the rack portion engage the teeth on the pinion portion thereby causing rotation of the actuation member.

37. The tap assembly of claim 35, wherein the rack and pinion mechanism comprises:

a rack portion with a plurality of teeth, the rack portion being located on the movement portion;

a gear wheel with a plurality of teeth, the gear wheel being located on the actuation member; and

a pinion portion with a plurality of teeth, the pinion portion meshing with the rack portion and the gear wheel;

such that as the movement portion moves relative to the mounting portion, the teeth on the rack portion engage the teeth on the pinion portion which in turn engages the teeth on the gear wheel thereby causing rotation of the actuation member.

Description:
IMPROVEMENTS RELEVANT TO TAPS AND HANDLES AND THEIR OPERATION

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention will be explained mainly with reference to its application to water taps, and in particular (although not necessarily exclusively) progressive mixer taps. However, application of the invention may also be possible to handles, knobs and the like used to operate or control devices other than water taps.

BACKGROUND

[0002] A water tap is a device by which the flow of liquid from a pipe or container (e.g. the flow of water from a tap spout, or from a bath spout, or from a showerhead, or the like) can be controlled. Simple taps used for controlling the flow of water from tap spouts, bath spouts, showerheads, etc, are ubiquitous and do not require explanation.

[0003] A mixer tap is a type of water tap which is connected to, and which receives water from, both a hot water supply/pipe and a cold water supply/pipe. Many mixer taps operate in such a way that, not only can the user control the rate of flow of the water exiting the water spout or other water outlet (i.e. not only can the user control how much, or how little, the tap is "turned on"), but the user can also, with one and the same tap, control the relative proportions of hot and cold water that mix prior to exiting the spout or outlet, such that the temperature of the water flowing from the spout/outlet can also be controllably varied (anywhere between the temperature of the cold water supply ("full cold") and that of the hot water supply ("full hot")).

[0004] In one common type of mixer tap, an example of which is given in Fig 1 , the mixer tap has a lever-type handle 1. The user can control the rate of flow of water exiting the spout (the water outlet is a spout in this case) by lifting the lever, or more technically by pivoting the lever in a plane that includes the axis A of the tap, as indicated by arrow F in Fig 1. Note: whilst the mixer tap in Fig 1 has an associated spout, and the base of the spout is mounted directly beneath with the base/heel of the tap lever, nevertheless these kinds of lever-type mixer taps are also often used to control the flow of water (and the temperature of said flow) from other kinds of water outlets too, and the outlet may be located remotely or some distance away from the tap, such as e.g. a showerhead, or a bath spout, etc. An example of such a lever-type mixer tap which might be used to control the flow (and temperature) of water from a showerhead or bath spout, which is remote from the tap itself, is shown in Fig 2. In any case, when the lever 1 is initially lifted as indicated by arrow F (i.e. lifted by only a small initial amount), the tap will be initially turned on and a small flow rate of water will flow from the outlet. If (or as) the lever is then lifted further, the flowrate of water exiting the outlet will increase. When the lever has been raised as far as it will go, the flowrate of water exiting the outlet will be at a maximum. Conversely, lowering the lever (i.e. opposite to arrow F) will reduce the flowrate of water flowing from the outlet, and lowering the lever as far as it will go will ultimately turn the tap off.

[0005] With mixer taps like the ones in Fig 1 and Fig 2, the user can also control the temperature of the water flowing out of the outlet. This is done by twisting or turning the lever about the axis A of the tap, as indicated by arrow T. Generally, when the lever is turned (as per arrow T) as far as it will go in one direction, this will be "full cold" (i.e. any water exiting the outlet when the lever is turned to this extreme be "full cold"), and when the lever is turned as far as it will go in the other direction, this will be "full hot". When the tap is on (to any extent), if the lever is then turned in the direction from "full cold" towards "full hot" the relative proportion of the water passing through the tap that comes from the hot water supply will increase commensurate with the relative position of the lever between the "full cold" and "full hot" positions, such that the temperature of the water flowing out of the outlet increases. And of course the same is true vice versa.

[0006] Turning now to so-called progressive mixer taps, these are a particular type, or subset, of mixer taps. A progressive mixer tap differs from the more general type of mixer tap described above in that, with a progressive mixer tap, whilst the user is (again) able to use the tap to control and adjust the temperature of the water exiting the water outlet, the user is usually unable to control or adjust the flowrate of the water exiting the outlet when the tap is on, or at least the user's ability to adjust the flowrate independently of water temperature is generally reduced in comparison with general mixer taps.

[0007] An example of a progressive mixer tap is given in Fig 3. In a progressive mixer tap, like the one shown in Fig 3 for example, there is generally only a single tap handle or knob which the user can grasp and turn about the tap axis to control the flow of water out of the water outlet associated with the tap (whatever this may be; e.g. bath spout, showerhead, etc). In a progressive mixer tap, this turning of the handle/knob is generally the only way that the handle/knob can move in normal operation of the tap. In Fig 3, the particular example progressive mixer tap shown is illustrated with the tap's turnable knob 3 in its "fully off" position. If the knob 3 is turned (about the axis A) by a small initial amount in the direction indicated by arrow T2 (i.e. clockwise) from its "fully off" position, water will begin flowing out of the associated water outlet. When the knob 3 is in this slightly/initially turned position, the temperature of the water flowing out of the outlet will be "full cold". However, if (or as) the knob 3 is turned progressively further in the direction of arrow T2, the relative proportion of the water flowing from the outlet that comes from the hot water supply will increase commensurate with the amount that the knob 3 has been turned, such that the temperature of the water flowing out of the outlet will increase. And ultimately, when the knob 3 has been turned in the direction of arrow T2 (clockwise) as far as it will go, the water flowing from the outlet will be "full hot". Of course, turning the knob 3 back in the opposite direction (i.e. anticlockwise, opposite to arrow T2) will cause the temperature of the water flowing from the outlet to become cooler, right up until the knob 3 reaches the "fully cold" position described above whereupon the temperature of the water exiting the outlet will again be "fully cold". Then, when the knob 3 is turned further from this "fully cold" position back to its original extreme starting/"fully off" position (shown in Fig 3), the flow of water from the water outlet will cease entirely and the tap will be complete and off.

[0008] As mentioned above, in progressive mixer taps, the user is normally unable to control the flowrate of the water exiting the outlet when the tap is on, or at least the user's ability to adjust the flowrate independently of water temperature is significantly reduced in comparison with other forms of mixer taps (like those in Fig 1 and Fig 2 for example).

[0009] By way of further explanation, in some progressive mixer taps, if the tap's handle/knob is turned from the initial "off" position by a small initial amount to the "full cold" position, water (then at "full cold" temperature) will immediately begin flowing out of the associated water outlet at "full" flowrate or pressure, or at least the water will very quickly (with very little turning of the tap handle/knob from the initial "off" position) reach the maximum or "full" flowrate. And furthermore, in these kinds of mixer taps, if the handle/knob is then turned progressively further (thereby causing the water temperature to increase), nevertheless the flowrate or pressure of the water flowing from the water outlet generally will not change much (if at all) even though the temperature of the water does change, as explained above.

[0010] However, in other kinds of progressive mixer taps, if the tap's handle/knob is turned from the initial "off" position by a small initial amount to the "full cold" position, water (then at "full cold" temperature) will begin flowing out of the associated water outlet initially at only a relatively small flowrate or pressure, and then it is only with further progressive turning of the tap's handle/knob (which also causes the temperature of the water flowing from the outlet to increase) that the flowrate of water exiting the outlet increases.

[0011] Thus, in summary, in some progressive mixer taps, water begins exiting the outlet at roughly full pressure immediately (or very soon after) the tap is initially turned on, whereas in other forms of progressive mixer taps, the flowrate of water exiting the outlet increases as the tap is progressively turned more "on", such that in these latter forms of mixer taps, the flowrate and the temperature of the water exiting the water outlet generally rise and fall together as the tap is turned "more on" and "more off" respectively. In either case though, it will be understood that, with progressive mixer taps, the user is generally either unable to control the flowrate of the water exiting the outlet much (if at all), or otherwise the user is unable to adjust the flowrate of the water independently from adjusting the temperature of the water. [0012] Despite the apparently reduced control that progressive mixer taps give to the user, at least in terms of separately controlling flow rate and temperature, nevertheless progressive mixer taps are often (and they are increasingly being) used because, by providing only a single tap handle or knob that can be turned to adjust water temperature, they may take up less room and/or they be less obtrusive and/or they may be aesthetically preferable, compared to providing two separate taps for hot and cold water respectively, or even in comparison with other forms of mixer taps like e.g. the more conventional mixer taps described above in which a (potentially bulky or less elegant looking) lever-like handle may be needed. Aesthetics, therefore, are often a large part of the reason why progressive mixer taps are used or chosen instead of other forms of taps (and also why they have become popular).

[0013] Many conventional tap handles, including conventional mixer tap handles, progressive mixer tap handles, knobs and the like suffer from the drawback that they may be aesthetically unappealing. For instance, many conventional tap handles and knobs stand proud of a countertop, wall or other surface on which the tap is mounted. Their presence is therefore obvious, which may be undesirable, particularly where a subtle or minimalist design aesthetic is desired.

[0014] It is therefore thought that it might be desirable if a tap (including but not necessarily limited to a progressive mixer tap) could be provided with improved (or at least different) overall aesthetics compared to traditional tap handles, norms, etc, and this includes improved (or at least different) functional aesthetics (the term "functional aesthetics" here is intended to refer to the impression or sensation or overall "feel" associated with the tap's function and movement, as perceived by the user).

[0015] Notwithstanding the previous paragraph, it is to be clearly understood that application of the invention may also be possible to handles, knobs and the like used to operate or control devices other than water taps. It is also to be clearly understood that mere reference herein to any previous or existing devices, apparatus, products, systems, methods, practices, publications or to any other information, or to any problems or issues, does not constitute an acknowledgement or admission that any of those things, whether individually or in any combination, formed part of the common general knowledge of those skilled in the field, or that they are admissible prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0016] In a first form, the invention resides broadly in a tap assembly including:

a flow control mechanism,

an actuation member associated with the flow control mechanism, the actuation member being adapted to rotate about an axis thereof, wherein rotation of the actuation member actuates the flow control mechanism, and

a handle portion operatively connected to the actuation member such that, in use, a substantially linear movement of the handle portion causes rotation of the actuation member.

[0017] The flow control mechanism may be of any suitable form. Preferably, however, the flow control mechanism may be adapted to control the flow of fluid through the assembly. Thus, in some embodiments of the invention, the flow control mechanism may comprise a tap valve, such as a valve for a hot water tap or a cold water tap (e.g. a conventional "jumper" -type valve). In the embodiments in which the flow control mechanism is a valve, the actuation member may be part of the valve and may extend from a portion of the valve, although the actuation member should also be a rotatable relative to other parts of the valve. The tap assembly may also include a housing inside which at least a portion of the valve is received and housed when the tap assembly is assembled and installed for use.

[0018] In alternative embodiments, the flow control mechanism may comprise a mixer cartridge for a mixer tap, including a progressive mixer tap cartridge. In the particular embodiments where the cartridge is a progressive mixer tap cartridge, the actuation member may form part of the cartridge and may extend from a portion of the cartridge, although the actuation member should also be rotatable relative to other parts of the cartridge. The tap assembly may also include a housing inside which at least a portion of the cartridge is received and housed when the tap assembly is assembled and installed for use.

[0019] In either case (i.e. whether the flow control mechanism is a valve, or a cartridge such as a progressive mixer cartridge), the tap assembly may further include a means for securing the valve/cartridge within the housing, such that, when the tap assembly is assembled and installed for use, the valve/cartridge is substantially immovable relative to the housing, albeit the actuation member should still be rotatable about an axis thereof relative to other parts of the valve/cartridge. In some of the particular embodiments mentioned above, namely where the flow control mechanism is a progressive mixer tap cartridge, the means for securing the cartridge within the housing may include a fastener (such as a lock nut or the like) which is operable such that, after the cartridge has been correctly positioned within the housing, the lock nut can be screwed into the housing (or into a portion thereof) to (either by itself, or together with one or more other components or features) secure the cartridge (except for the actuation member) in position.

[0020] In embodiments of the invention in which the flow control mechanism comprises a mixer tap cartridge, it will be understood that the mixer tap cartridge includes two inlets (typically, a cold water inlet and a hot water inlet) and a single outlet (through which the desired mix of hot and cold water flows to a fluid dispensing device, such as a tap, faucet, shower head, nozzle or the like, or a combination thereof). [0021] The size of the flow control mechanism may vary depending on the duty of the tap assembly. It will be understood that, by "size of the flow control mechanism" it is meant the maximum volume flow rate of fluid through the flow control mechanism. For instance, some tap assemblies (such as those used for showers or baths) may require a higher maximum volume flow rate than tap assemblies used for other purposes (such as in a bathroom sink) where a relatively low flow of fluid is sufficient.

[0022] The actuation member may be of any suitable form. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, however, the actuation member may comprise an elongate member. In use it is envisaged that the actuation member may operatively connect the flow control mechanism and the handle portion. In embodiments of the invention in which the actuation member comprises an elongate member, the actuation member may be operatively connected to the flow control mechanism at a first end thereof, and operatively connected to the handle portion at a second end thereof. The actuation member may be directly or indirectly connected to the flow control mechanism and/or the handle portion.

[0023] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the actuation member may comprise a rod, spindle, shaft or the like. In this embodiment of the invention, it is envisaged that a first end of the actuation member may be connected to, or at least partially received within, the flow control mechanism. Thus, it is envisaged that rotation of the actuation member may actuate a valve member within the flow control mechanism to either increase or decrease the flow of fluid through the flow control mechanism. Alternatively, the actuation member may form the valve member in the flow control mechanism, such that rotation of the actuation member either increases or decreases the flow of fluid through the flow control mechanism.

[0024] The actuation member may rotate about any suitable axis. Preferably, however, the actuation member may rotate about its principal axis. It is envisaged that the principal axis of the actuation member may be its longitudinal axis.

[0025] The actuation member may be rotatable between two extremes of rotation, namely an initial position ("fully closed") and a final position ("fully open"). In the case of mixer taps, the fully closed position may correspond to the position at which no fluid may flow through the flow control mechanism, while the fully open position may correspond to the position at which the maximum volume flow rate of fluid is flowing through the flow control mechanism.

[0026] Alternatively, in progressive mixer taps, the fully closed position may correspond to the position at which no fluid may flow through the flow control mechanism, but the fully open position may correspond to the position at which only hot water flows through the flow control mechanism. Thus, it is envisaged that, in this embodiment of the invention, rotation of the actuation member may start from the fully closed position (no flow) through a position at which only cold water flows through the flow control mechanism to the fully open position in which only hot water flows through the flow control mechanism.

[0027] The degree of rotation between these two positions may be less than 360°, so that the actuation member cannot be rotated by more than one full revolution. In some preferred embodiments of the invention, the degree of rotation between the two positions may be approximately 180° or less.

[0028] The handle portion may be of any suitable form. Preferably, however, the handle portion is adapted to move in a linear manner between a first condition and a second condition. Preferably, the first condition corresponds to the initial fully closed position of the actuation member, while the second condition corresponds to the final fully open position of the actuation member. Thus, it is envisaged that the linear movement of the handle portion causes a corresponding rotation of the actuation member.

[0029] The linear movement of the handle portion may be achieved using any suitable technique. For instance, linear movement of the handle portion may be driven using one or more motors or the like. More preferably, however, linear movement of the handle portion may be achieved manually, such as by a user pushing, pulling or otherwise applying a force to the handle portion to achieve the linear movement. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the linear movement of the handle portion may be in a direction substantially perpendicular to the axis about which the actuation member rotates.

[0030] It is envisaged that the handle portion may be associated with a support. Any suitable support may be provided, such as a wall (for instance, a bathroom wall, shower wall or the like) a counter or vanity unit (such as a kitchen counter or bathroom vanity) a sink or basin (such as a kitchen, bathroom or laundry sink) or the like. Preferably, the handle portion may be installed on the support, such as by being connected or mounted thereto. The handle portion may be installed on the support using any suitable technique, such as, but not limited to, one or more fasteners.

[0031] In embodiments of the invention in which the handle portion is associated with a wall, it is envisaged that the tap assembly may be installed generally horizontally in or through the wall. Alternatively, when the handle portion is associated with a horizontal sink or counter, the tap assembly may be installed substantially vertically in the sink or counter.

[0032] When the tap assembly is installed on a support, a portion of the assembly may protrude from a first side of the support and a portion of the assembly may also protrude from an opposite second side of the support. The tap assembly may further include at least one securing member operable to be connected to the assembly on the first side and at least one securing member operable to be connected to the assembly on the second side, wherein, when so connected to the assembly, the said securing members are further operable such that, between them, they engage with the support on the first side thereof and with the support on the second side thereof and secure the assembly relative to support. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the securing members may be adapted to secure the housing relative to the support.

[0033] The handle portion may be adapted for any suitable movement relative to the support in order to actuate the actuation member. As previously stated, however, the movement of the handle portion is substantially linear. Preferably, the substantially linear movement of the handle portion may be in a plane perpendicular to the axis about which the actuation member rotates.

[0034] Preferably, the substantially linear movement of the handle portion may be in a plane that is substantially parallel to the support. It is preferred that the handle portion is maintained a substantially constant distance from the support at all times. Thus, when the support is vertical, it is envisaged that the linear movement of the handle portion may be substantially parallel to the support in a substantially vertical plane, but not inwardly towards the support or outwardly away from the support. Similarly, when the support is horizontal, it is envisaged that the linear movement of the handle portion may be substantially parallel to the support in a substantially horizontal plane, but not vertically towards or away from the support. In both instances, it is envisaged that the movement of the handle portion may be in any suitable direction within the respective plane.

[0035] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the handle portion may comprise a mounting portion adapted for connection to the support, and a movement portion adapted for movement relative to the mounting portion. In this embodiment, it is envisaged that movement of the movement portion relative to the mounting portion may result in rotation of the actuation member. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the mounting portion comprises one or more apertures. In this embodiment of the invention, the actuation member may extend at least partially through the one or more apertures.

[0036] The mounting portion may be connected to the support using any suitable technique. For instance, the mounting portion may be connected to the support using one or more fasteners (bolts, screw, nails, etc.), adhesives (glue, grout, etc.), sealant or the like.

[0037] The movement portion may be moveable relative to the mounting portion in any suitable manner. Preferably, however, the movement portion is adapted for sliding movement relative to the mounting portion. The sliding movement may be in any suitable direction, although it is envisaged that the sliding movement of the movement portion may be in a plane that is substantially parallel to the mounting portion. It is envisaged that the sliding movement may be in any direction within the substantially parallel plane (for instance, vertically, horizontally or at any suitable angle therebetween). In a specific embodiment of the invention, the movement portion may be adapted for horizontal movement relative to the mounting portion when the assembly is connected to a vertical support.

[0038] The movement portion may be of any suitable size relative to the mounting portion. Preferably, however, the movement portion at least partially overlies the mounting portion. In a particular embodiment of the invention, the movement portion may be substantially the same size as the mounting portion so that, in the initial position, the movement portion may substantially overlie the entire mounting portion.

[0039] In other embodiments of the invention, the movement portion may be larger than the mounting portion so that the movement portion overlies the mounting portion at all times during movement of the movement portion relative to the mounting portion.

[0040] The movement portion may be of any suitable shape. Preferably, however, the outer surface of the movement portion (i.e. the surface of the movement portion displayed to a user and positioned substantially parallel to the support) may be substantially planar. In this way, the handle portion may be positioned so as to be substantially parallel to the support. This may give the handle portion an aesthetically pleasing look. While the shape of the handle portion is not critical, it is envisaged that, in some embodiments of the invention, the movement portion may be square or rectangular.

[0041] The outer surface of the movement portion may be provided with any suitable finish. For instance, the outer surface of the movement portion may be provided with a decorative finish, such as a painted or enamelled surface or a metal surface (such as a stainless steel surface). Alternatively, the outer surface of the movement portion may be adapted to have the same look as the support on which it is used. For instance, the colour and/or material used for the movement portion may be the same as that used for the support (e.g. ceramic to match bathroom wall tiles, marble to match a kitchen counter and so on). In this way, the tap assembly may be provided with an aesthetically pleasing look while also being relatively unobtrusive.

[0042] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the movement portion may be moveable relative to the mounting portion between an initial position and a final position. The movement portion may move any suitable distance between the initial position and the final position. For instance, the movement portion may be moveable between an initial position in which it substantially overlies the mounting portion to a final position in which a majority of the mounting portion is uncovered. More preferably, however, the movement portion is adapted to move only a relatively small distance relative to the mounting portion between the initial and final positions. Thus, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, only a relatively small portion of the mounting portion may be uncovered when the movement portion is in the final position.

[0043] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the handle portion may be provided with indicia indicating to a user the position of the handle portion relative to the initial and final positions. In embodiments of the invention in which a mounting portion is present, the mounting portion may be provided with indicia. In this way, as the movement portion moves relative to the mounting portion (which is preferably fixed) the position of the movement portion relative to the indicia may provide the user with an indication of the position of the movement portion relative to the initial and final positions.

[0044] Any suitable indicia may be used, such as one or more words, letters, numbers, symbols, pictures or the like, or any suitable combination thereof. In embodiments of the invention in which the flow control mechanism comprises a cartridge for a progressive mixer tap, the indicia may provide an indication of the temperature of the water or pressure of the water flow. For instance, the initial position may correspond to only cold water flowing through the flow control mechanism, while the final position may correspond to only hot water flowing through the flow control mechanism. Alternatively, the initial position may correspond to an off position in which no water flows through the fluid control mechanism, and movement of the movement portion moves from the initial position through an intermediate position corresponding to only cold water flowing through the flow control mechanism, to the final position corresponding to only hot water flowing through the flow control mechanism. In this situation, indicia may be provided for the intermediate position and the final position, or the initial position, the intermediate position and the final position.

[0045] In a specific embodiment of the invention, the initial position may be provided with indicia such as "off" or "0" and/or the intermediate position may be provided with indicia such as "cold" or "C" and/or the final position may be provided with indicia such as "hot" or "H".

[0046] In some embodiments of the invention, it is envisaged that the position of a part of the movement portion relative to the indicia may indicate to a user the temperature (or pressure) of the water flowing through the assembly. Any suitable part of the movement portion may be used as the reference, such as, but not limited to, an edge of the movement portion.

[0047] Alternatively, the movement portion may be provided with indicia (such as an arrow, line or similar marking) and the position of the movement portion indicia relative to the mounting portion indicia may indicate to the user the temperature (or pressure) of water flowing through the tap assembly. [0048] It is envisaged that, when the handle portion is in an initial position there may be an area, or portion of a surface (and possibly one or more markings or colours or the like on the said area or on the said portion of a surface), which is (or are) obscured from a user's view by the handle portion (or which is/are alternatively underneath or covered or hidden by the handle portion or part thereof, or the appearance thereof may be affected by the position of the handle portion). However, when the handle is initially moved from the initial position towards a final position, the said area or surface portion may begin to be revealed (or uncovered or un-hidden, or the effect on its appearance due to the position of the handle portion may change). Furthermore, with further movement of the handle portion towards the final position, more of, or different parts of, said area or surface portion may become revealed (or more uncovered or more un-hidden or the effect on its appearance due to the position of the handle portion may change more).

[0049] As previously stated, the movement portion may be adapted for movement relative to the mounting portion. This may be achieved using any suitable technique, although preferably the movement portion is slidably movable relative to the mounting portion.

[0050] In a particular embodiment of the invention, the movement portion may comprise a carriage portion adapted for connection to the mounting portion and moveable relative thereto. The movement portion may also include a cover portion adapted for fixed or temporary connection to the carriage portion. It is envisaged that the cover portion may comprise the outer surface of the movement portion that is displayed to a user.

[0051] In embodiments of the invention in which a carriage portion is present, the carriage portion may move relative to the mounting portion using any suitable technique. For instance, the carriage portion may be provided with one or more movement devices, such as runners, rollers, slides, wheels or the like, or any suitable combination thereof that abut the mounting portion and facilitate movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion. Alternatively, the mounting portion may be provided with one or more movement devices, such as runners, rollers, slides, wheels or the like, or any suitable combination thereof that abut the carriage portion and facilitate movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion.

[0052] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the carriage portion may be provided with one or more channels, recesses, grooves or the like in which are received one or more wheels or rollers connected to the mounting portion. Thus, when a force is applied to the handle portion, the movement of the carriage portion results in rotation of the wheel or rollers, thereby facilitating the movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion.

[0053] The wheels or rollers may be of any suitable form, and may be provided in any suitable number. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, however, a pair of channels are provided on the carriage portion, with a first channel being provided in an upper region thereof, and a second channel being provided in a lower region thereof. Preferably, each of the pair of channels is associated with at least one wheel or roller.

[0054] In some embodiments, the opposed ends of a channel may define the limit of movement of the movement portion relative to the mounting portion. By this it is meant that when the carriage portion moves relative to the mounting portion, the wheels or rollers may eventually abut an end of a channel (for instance, an end wall of the channel). In this way, further movement of the carriage portion relative to the mounting portion in that direction is precluded.

[0055] Alternatively, one or more stop members may be positioned in the channel, such that the carriage portion is precluded from further movement relative to the mounting portion in a particular direction when the wheels or rollers abut the stop members.

[0056] The wheels or rollers may be substantially circular in shape, or may be eccentrically shaped.

[0057] As previously stated, it is envisaged that the linear movement of the handle portion may be in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the axis about which the actuation member rotates. Thus, it is envisaged that the tap assembly may further comprise a conversion portion adapted to convert the linear movement of the handle portion into rotational movement of the actuation member. Thus, in a preferred embodiment of the invention, the conversion portion comprises a linear actuator.

[0058] Any suitable linear actuator may be used in the present invention, such as, but not limited to, one or more mechanical linear actuators (screw actuators, cam actuators, wheel and axle actuators), electromechanical linear actuators, hydraulic linear actuators, pneumatic linear actuators, piezoelectric linear actuators and the like, or any suitable combination thereof. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the linear actuator may comprise a mechanical linear actuator. In a most preferred embodiment of the invention, the linear actuator may comprise a rack and pinion mechanism.

[0059] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the rack portion of the rack and pinion mechanism may be located on the carriage portion. The rack may be formed integrally with the carriage portion, or may be formed separately therefrom and adapted for fixed or temporary connection thereto.

[0060] The pinion portion of the rack and pinion mechanism may preferably be associated with the actuation member. For instance, the pinion may be located on the actuation member (for instance, on the end of the actuation member that extends through the mounting portion). Thus, as the carriage portion moves relative to the mounting portion, teeth on the pinion engage with teeth on the rack, thereby causing rotation of the actuation member.

[0061] Alternatively, one or more additional gear wheels may be provided in the rack and pinion mechanism. In this embodiment of the invention, an additional gear wheel may be positioned on the actuation member, wherein the additional gear wheel meshes with the pinion, which in turn meshes with the rack. By providing the additional gear wheel, the torque supplied to the actuation member may be varied (either increased or decreased) as required depending on the size and duty of the tap assembly.

[0062] For the avoidance of doubt, any of the features described herein can be combined in any combination with any one or more of the other features described herein within the scope of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0063] Preferred features, embodiments and variations of the invention may be discerned from the following Detailed Description which provides sufficient information for those skilled in the art to perform the invention. The Detailed Description is not to be regarded as limiting the scope of the preceding Summary of the Invention in any way. The Detailed Description, and also the Background section above, make reference to a number of drawings as follows:

[0064] Figures 1 and 2 are examples of conventional mixer taps of the kind which incorporate a lever that can be lifted to regulate water flowrate and also turned to regulate water temperature.

[0065] Figure 3 is an example of a conventional progressive mixer tap.

[0066] Figures 4 and 5 illustrate a handle portion of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0067] Figures 6A to 6D illustrate steps in the actuation of a handle portion of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0068] Figure 7 illustrates a plan view of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0069] Figure 8 illustrates an isometric view of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0070] Figure 9 illustrates an isometric view of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0071] Figure 10 illustrates an exploded view of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0072] Figure 1 1 illustrates an isometric view of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0073] Figure 12 illustrates a detailed view of a portion of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0074] In Figures 4 and 5 there are illustrated views of a handle portion 10 of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention. The handle portion 10 comprises a mounting portion 1 1 adapted for connection to a support (not shown) and a movement portion 12 adapted for movement relative to the mounting portion 1 1 . The handle portion 10 is for use with a progressive mixer tap (not shown).

[0075] In the embodiment of the invention illustrated in Figures 4 and 5, the handle portion 10 is shown in the initial (off position) in which the movement portion 12 overlies the mounting portion 1 1 . The movement portion 12 has a substantially planar outer face 13 that gives an aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive appearance when the handle portion 10 is mounted to a support.

[0076] The mounting portion 1 1 is provided with indicia in the form of the letters C ("cold") 14A and H ("hot") 14B adapted to quickly demonstrate to a user the water temperature corresponding to the position of the movement portion 12 in use.

[0077] In Figures 6A to 6D, there are illustrated steps in the actuation of a handle portion 10 of a tap assembly according to an embodiment of the present invention. As with Figures 4 and 5, the handle portion 10 of Figures 6A to 6D comprises a mounting portion 1 1 adapted for connection to a support (not shown) and a movement portion 12 associated with the mounting portion 1 1 and adapted for movement relative thereto.

[0078] In Figure 6A, the handle portion 10 is shown in the initial (off) position. In this position, the movement portion 12 overlies the mounting portion 1 1 . In this embodiment of the invention, the position of the edge 15 of the movement portion 12 indicates to a user whether the tap assembly is in use, and when the edge 15 of the movement portion 12 is aligned with the edge 14 of the mounting portion 1 1 , the handle portion is in the initial (off) position. [0079] In Figure 6B, a force is applied to the movement portion 12 so that it moves in a linear manner (horizontally) relative to the mounting portion 1 1 . The edge 15 of the movement portion 12 is now aligned with the letter C 14A on the mounting portion 1 1 , indicating that the water flowing through the tap assembly is cold.

[0080] It will be understood that, in a progressive mixer tap, the position shown in Figure 6B is an intermediate position between the initial position shown in Figure 6A and the final position shown in Figure 6D.

[0081] In Figure 6C, a further force is applied to the movement portion 12 to impart further linear movement. In this position, the edge 15 of the movement portion 12 is now positioned between the letter C 14A and the letter H 14B, indicating to a user that the temperature of the water flowing through the tap assembly is between these two extremes (i.e. warm).

[0082] Finally, in Figure 6D, a further force is applied to the movement portion 12 such that the movement portion 12 is moved to the final position in which the edge 15 of the movement portion 12 is aligned with the letter H 14B on the mounting portion 1 1 , indicating to the user that the water flowing through the tap assembly is hot.

[0083] Figures 7, 8 and 9 illustrate a plan view and isometric views (respectively) of a tap assembly 16 according to an embodiment of the present invention. In Figure 7, it may be seen that the handle portion 10 is provided on the outer surface of a wall 17, with the mounting portion 1 1 being mounted to the wall 17 and located between the wall 17 and the movement portion 12.

[0084] Inside the wall cavity there is a positioned a flow control mechanism in the form of a mixer tap cartridge (located within housing 18). The housing 18 comprises a cold water inlet 19, a hot water inlet 20 and an outlet 21 . In use, the outlet 21 is connected to a pipe leading to a tap, faucet, shower head, nozzle or the like.

[0085] The mixer tap cartridge is connected to the handle portion 10 via an actuation member in the form of a spindle 22. The spindle 22 is connected to a mixer tap cartridge (obscured) at a first end thereof and is associated with the handle portion 10 at an opposed second end thereof. In use, linear movement of the movement portion 12 relative to the mounting portion 1 1 in the direction indicated by arrows 23 in figure 8 is converted into rotation of the spindle 22 and therefore actuation of the mixer tap cartridge.

[0086] The assembly 16 further comprises a rear mounting plate 24 connected to the housing 18 and adapted for mounting to a support (not shown) such as an internal surface of a wall panel, a stud, brace, noggin or the like, or a combination thereof. [0087] In Figure 10, an exploded view of the tap assembly 16 illustrated in Figure 9 is shown. In particular, Figure 10 illustrates an exploded view of the handle portion 10 of the assembly 16.

[0088] The handle portion 10 comprises the mounting portion 1 1 and the movement portion 12. The movement portion 12 comprises a cover portion 25 that is visible to users of the assembly 16 and a carriage portion 26 that, in use, is connected to the cover portion 25 via screws 27.

[0089] The carriage portion 26 includes an upper channel 28 and a lower channel 29 into which wheels 30 are located in use. The wheels 30 are connected to the mounting portion 1 1 , thereby both connecting the carriage portion 26 to the mounting portion 1 1 and also facilitating movement of the carriage portion 26 relative to the mounting portion 1 1. By this it is meant that, when a force is applied to the movement portion 12, the movement portion 12 moves relative to the mounting portion facilitated by rotation of the wheels 30 within the channels 28, 29 in the carriage portion 26. The limit of movement of the carriage portion 26 relative to the mounting portion 1 1 is defined by the location of an end member 34.

[0090] The spindle 22 passes through an aperture 31 in the mounting portion 1 1 , thereby extending forward of the support (not shown). In the embodiment of the invention shown in Figure 10, the end of the spindle 22 is associated with a gear wheel 32. The gear wheel 32 meshes with a pinion 33 that in turn meshes with a rack (obscured) on the carriage portion 26. In this way, the linear movement of the carriage portion 26 is converted into rotation of the spindle 22 about its primary (longitudinal) axis.

[0091] In Figure 10 it may also be seen that the mounting plate 1 1 is connected to both the support (not shown) and the housing 18 via screws 35.

[0092] In Figure 1 1 , an isometric view of a tap assembly 16 according to an embodiment of the invention is shown. In figure 1 1 , the cover portion 25 has been removed from the movement portion 12.

[0093] It may be clearly seen in figure 1 1 that the wheels 30 are located in the upper channel 28 and the lower channel 29 of the carriage portion 26, thereby facilitating sliding movement of the carriage portion 26 relative to the mounting portion 1 1 when a force is applied directly or indirectly to the carriage portion 26.

[0094] The carriage portion 26 is provided with a rack portion 36 including a number of teeth 37 that mesh with the teeth 38 of pinion 33, thereby converting the linear movement of the carriage portion 26 to a rotational movement of the pinion 33. The teeth 38 of the pinion 33 mesh with a gear wheel (obscured) connected to the spindle 22, thereby causing rotation of the spindle and actuation of the mixer tap cartridge (obscured).

[0095] In Figure 12 a detailed view of a portion of the tap assembly is illustrated. Specifically, Figure 12 illustrates the manner in which the teeth 37 of the rack portion 36 mesh with the teeth 38 of the pinion 33 such that, as the carriage portion 26 moves in a linear motion, the linear motion is converted into rotational movement of the pinion 33.

[0096] In the embodiment of the invention shown in Figure 12, the teeth 38 of the pinion 33 mesh with the teeth 39 of a gear wheel 32 that is positioned on the spindle 22. Rotational movement of the pinion 33 results in rotational movement of the gear wheel 32, thereby also resulting in rotation of the spindle 22 about its longitudinal axis. Thus, movement of the carriage portion 26 is in a direction that is substantially perpendicular to the axis about which the spindle 22 rotates. Rotation of the spindle 22 about its longitudinal axis in turn results in actuation of the mixer tap cartridge.

[0097] A further point that is to be clearly understood is that, whilst most of the explanations provided in the Detailed Description section have related to the particular embodiment in Figure 4 to Figure 12 where the tap is a progressive mixer tap, the invention is not limited to progressive mixer taps. Therefore, for example, the embodiment depicted in Figures 4 to 12 could potentially be altered such that the progressive mixer cartridge is replaced by the simple poppet valve assembly of a conventional hot or cold water tap (such valve assemblies typically include a spindle which can be rotated one way to raise, and the other way to lower, a poppet valve relative to a valve seat, etc). In that case, the tap would be a simple hot water tap or cold water tap. Even so, the functionality and benefits provided by the invention could still apply even in this simple case. For example, in this alternative case, the temperature indication markings on the upper surface of the base ring could be replaced by flow rate indication markings. In this way, even though the tap only operates to control the flow of one or other of hot water or cold water, nevertheless the flowrate indication markings (which allow the user to know e.g. how far the tap currently is between "no flow" and "full flow") are still completely hidden when the tap is not in use and therefore do not hinder or detract from the overall intended visual aesthetic or design appearance or "feel".

[0098] Furthermore, even though it is envisaged that the present invention will be applied to taps which are used to control the flow of water (i.e. water taps), the invention is not necessarily limited to this. That is, the invention is potentially also applicable to taps which are used to control the flow of other forms of liquids or fluids (including gases), such that the invention could potentially even be used on, for example, a handle/dial used to control gas flow in an individual gas burner on a gas cooktop or barbecue. And in fact, the invention is potentially even applicable to other forms of dials which do not control or regulate the flow of fluids at all. For instance, the invention could potentially even be used to operate control dials, knobs or the like on electrical appliance such as electric ovens, electric cooktops/stovetops, fans, heaters, etc. In all of these kind of things, at least one turnable dial or handle or knob is typically provided to allow the user to control or regulate the operation of the device in question in some way - i.e. there is a dial or the like that can be turned by the user to allow the device (or the relevant section or part or element of the device) to be turned more on or more off, or to change its more or manner of operation, etc. And in all of these cases, the portion of the dial handle which the user grasps in order to turn it is in turn connected to a rotatable spindle or shaft or the like which in turn connects to the internal functional workings that control the operation of the device. And just like for bathrooms and sinks and the like discussed above, the visual appearance and ascetics of these other kinds of devices is also hugely important to their overall appeal, and therefore these things could potentially benefit in much the same way from the aesthetic, and functional aesthetic, improvements provided by the invention, as has been described above in the context of sinks and bathrooms and the like.

[0099] In the present specification and claims (if any), the word 'comprising' and its derivatives including 'comprises' and 'comprise' include each of the stated integers but does not exclude the inclusion of one or more further integers.

[00100] In compliance with the statute, the invention has been described in language more or less specific to structural or methodical features. It is to be understood that the invention is not limited to specific features shown or described since the means herein described comprises preferred forms of putting the invention into effect. The invention is, therefore, claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the proper scope of the appended claims (if any) appropriately interpreted by those skilled in the art.