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Title:
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL FLUID DISPENSING SYSTEM AND ASSOCIATED METHODS FOR DISPENSING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/027129
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A multi-functional fluid dispensing system and method for dispensing fluid which provides an end-user the ability to control the fluid flow dispensed from the container while, in some embodiments, providing illumination of a target area to which the fluids are desired.

More Like This:
WO/2016/166540CONTAINER WITH WRAPPER
Inventors:
ANDREWS, Nicole (1494 Burrell Ave. NW, Concord, NC, 28027, US)
BEAVER, Larry, Gene (3024 Semmes Lane, Indian Trail, NC, 28079, US)
LIVINGSTONE, Marshal (2990 Creekview Drive, Waxhaw, NC, 28173, US)
MACLEAN-BLEVINS, Mark, T. (679 Arbor Drive, Westminster, MD, 21158, US)
WILLIAMSON, Murray (1581 Daybreak Ridge, Kannapolis, NC, 28081, US)
Application Number:
US2017/045489
Publication Date:
February 08, 2018
Filing Date:
August 04, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
RSC CHEMICAL SOLUTIONS (600 Radiator Road, Indian Trail, NC, 28079, US)
International Classes:
B05B15/00; B65D83/22; B65D83/28
Foreign References:
US8333304B12012-12-18
US20030141376A12003-07-31
US20100096477A12010-04-22
US4773567A1988-09-27
JP2012056625A2012-03-22
DE102013000756A12014-07-17
US20060021511A12006-02-02
US6552287B22003-04-22
US20160045925A12016-02-18
US20160101430A12016-04-14
US20030010793A12003-01-16
US2598308A1952-05-27
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
EDWARDS, James, C. (Moore & Van Allen PLLC, 3015 Carrington Mill Blvd. Suite 400,P.O. Box 1370, Research Triangle Park NC, 27709, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A multi-functional dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container, the system comprising:

a fluid dispensing assembly configured to dispense the fluid; and

a flow selection control assembly in communication with the fluid dispensing assembly and configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/') an on state, {if) an off state and {iif) a locked and off state.

2. The system of Claim 1, wherein the flow selection control assembly further comprises a flow volume control selector configured to be moveable to select between (/') the on state, {if) the off state and {iif) the locked and off state.

3. The system of Claim 2, wherein the flow volume control selector includes a plurality of grip ribs disposed about an exterior surface of the flow volume control selector ring.

4. The system of Claim 3, wherein at least one of the grip ribs is connected to a body of the flow selection control assembly via a biasing member, wherein the biasing member provides for inward movement of the at least one of the grip ribs toward the body, wherein the inward movement is required to provide for changing the dispensing system at least from the locked and off state.

5. The system of Claim 3, wherein the at least one of the grip ribs further comprises two grip ribs disposed approximately 180° apart about the flow volume control selector ring.

6. The system of Claim 5, wherein the two grip ribs are connected to a body of the flow selection control assembly via separate biasing members, wherein the biasing members provide for inward movement of the two grip ribs toward the body, wherein the inward movement of the two grip ribs is required to provide for changing the dispensing system at least to or from the locked and off state.

7. The system of Claim 1, further comprising an illumination assembly comprising: a housing including a pushbutton,

an illumination source configured to be received by the housing,

a switch operable to activate the illumination source; and

a power source in communication with the illumination source operable to provide power to the illumination source,

wherein the power source is removable from the dispensing system.

8. The system of Claim 7, wherein the illumination assembly is removably connected to the dispensing head housing assembly.

9. The system of Claim 1, wherein the fluid dispensing assembly is further defined as a fluid dispensing selector assembly that is configured to allow for selection between a wide- area spray dispensing of the fluid and a stream dispensing of the fluid.

10. The system of Claim 1, wherein the flow selection control assembly is further configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/') the on state, (if) the off state, (Hi) the locked and off state and (iv) a measured fluid amount on state, wherein the measured fluid on state provides a predetermined amount of fluid to be dispensed.

11. A multi-functional dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container, the system comprising:

a fluid dispensing assembly configured to dispense the fluid;

an illumination assembly including an illumination source and a power source in communication with the illumination source;

a housing including a pushbutton, wherein the housing is configured to receive the illumination source; and

a switch in communication with the power source, wherein activation of the switch provides power to the illumination source.

12. The system of Claim 11, wherein the pushbutton is engage-able to active the switch prior to dispensing the fluid from the fluid dispensing assembly.

13. The system of Claim 11, wherein the illumination source is configured to be activated without dispensing fluid from the fluid dispensing assembly.

14. The system of Claim 11, wherein the illumination source is disposed proximate the spray nozzle, and wherein a first direction of illumination is generally aligned with a second direction of fluid spray from the spray nozzle.

15. The system of Claim 11, wherein the illumination assembly further comprises a flow direction icon that is disposed proximate the illumination source and is within a general line-of-sight of a user.

16. The system of Claim 11, wherein the power source is removable from the dispensing system.

17. The system of Claim 17, wherein the illumination assembly is removably connected to the dispensing head housing assembly.

18. The system of Claim 1 1, wherein the switch is further defined as a snap action- style dome-shaped switch.

19. The system of Claim 1 1, wherein the illumination source is configured to be activated upon engaging the pushbutton and immediately prior to dispensing the fluid and deactivated upon disengaging the pushbutton and immediately after dispensing the fluid.

20. The system of Claim 19, wherein the engaging and disengaging of the pushbutton is configured to occur via a single finger continuous motion of a user.

21. The system of Claim 1 1, further comprising a flow selection control assembly in communication with the fluid dispensing assembly and configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/') an on state, (ii) an off state, and (Hi) a locked and off state.

22. The system of Claim 21, wherein the illumination source is configured to be activated while the flow selection control assembly is selected to be in any one of (i) the on state, (ii) the off state, and (Hi) the locked and off state.

23. A method for selecting a function state of a multi -function dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container, the method comprising:

receiving a first user input to at least one of a plurality of grip ribs disposed about an exterior surface of a flow volume control selector included within dispensing system, wherein the first user input, moves the flow volume control selector to a position that provides for selecting one of (i) an on state or (ii) an off state; and

receiving a second user input to at least one moveable grip rib, wherein the second user input, moves the at least one moveable grip rib inward toward a center of the dispensing system while simultaneously moving the flow volume control selector to provide for locking or unlocking the dispensing system into or out of (Hi) a locked and off state.

24. The method of Claim 23, wherein receiving the second user input further comprises receiving the second user input to two moveable grip ribs, wherein the second user input, moves the two grip ribs inward toward the center of the dispensing system while simultaneously moving the flow volume control selector and provides for locking or unlocking the dispensing system at least into or out of (Hi) the locked and off state.

25. A method for using a multi-functional dispensing system configured for dispensing a fluid from a container, the method comprising:

while the dispensing system is in any one of a selectable functional state, moving an activation element a first predetermined distance that is configured to engage a switch;

in response to engaging the switch, activating an illumination source disposed within the multi-functional dispensing system;

in response to moving the activation element the first predetermined distance, moving the activation element a second predetermined distance that is configured to open a fluid valve; and in response to opening the fluid valve, dispensing the fluid from the container.

26. The method of Claim 25, further comprising:

releasing the activation element by the second predetermined distance to close the fluid valve.

27. The method of Claim 26, further comprising:

in response to releasing the activation element by the second predetermined distance, releasing the activation by the first predetermined distance to disengage the switch; and

in response to disengaging the switch, deactivating the illumination source.

28. The method of Claim 25, further comprising:

while the dispensing system is in either (ii) an off state or (Hi) a locked and off state, preventing movement of the activation element the second predetermined distance.

29. A method for dispensing a fluid from a fluid-dispensing apparatus, the method comprising: providing enhanced visual acuity to a surface requiring application of a fluid, wherein the enhanced visual acuity is provided by the fluid-dispensing apparatus having an integrated illumination source; and

controlling delivery of the fluid to the surface by configuring the fluid-containing apparatus to provide for one or more of (/') a predetermined amount of the fluid to be applied to the surface, {if) a continuous spray application and/or {Hi) a continuous stream application.

30. The method of Claim 29, wherein providing the enhanced visual acuity further comprises configuring the integrated illumination source within the fluid-dispending apparatus proximate in location to a spray nozzle.

31. The method of Claim 30, wherein providing the enhanced visual acuity further comprises configuring the integrated illumination source to illuminate the surface in response to a user directing the spray nozzle at the surface and activating an activation element included within the fluid-dispensing apparatus.

Description:
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL FLUID DISPENSING SYSTEM AND ASSOCIATED METHODS FOR DISPENSING

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority to United States Provisional Patent Application

Ser. No. 62/370,960, filed August 4, 2016, entitled "Multi -Functional Aerosol Dispensing System and Associated Methods for Dispensing" and United States Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/399,870, filed September 26, 2016, entitled "Multi-Functional Aerosol Dispensing System and Associated Methods for Dispensing," the entirety of which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD

[0001] In general, embodiments of the invention relate to systems, apparatus and methods for dispensing fluids, more particularly, a dispensing system and method for dispensing which provides an end-user the ability to control the fluid flow dispensed from the container while simultaneously providing illumination of a target area to which the fluids are desired.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Dispensing of fluids, such as aerosol dispensing of fluids is a well-known and extensively used form of liquid product delivery across many different industries. In aerosol dispensing, the packaging of the fluid, so that the fluid acts as a propellant for a specific purpose, has allowed convenient dispensing of an extensive array of products. For example, aerosol dispensing has been widely implemented in a variety of products, including, but are not limited to, personal care, food preparation, primary manufacturing, household painting applications, automotive care, and the like.

[0003] Aerosol dispensing involves an aerosol valve that, when activated by a user, allows flow of the fluid from the container as motivated by the aerosol gas within the container. The aerosol valve has an internal biasing element that is structured to force the valve to be in an open state (i.e., fluid flow) when the user applies pressure to the valve and to be in a closed state (i.e., no flow) when the user subsequently removes pressure from the valve.

[0004] In certain applications the fluid delivered by an aerosol dispensing device needs to be delivered to a precise location and, in some applications, in a precise amount. In other applications, the fluid to be delivered by the aerosol dispensing device needs to be dispersed over a wide area or surface. Regardless of whether the application dictates delivery of the fluid to a precise location or dispersion of the fluid over a wide area, the volume or amount of fluid that is dispensed is dependent on the visual feedback provided to the operator using the aerosol device. In all instances, across every industry or end-use application, the visual feedback provided to the operator of the aerosol delivery device is critical for proper and safe application of the fluid being dispensed.

[0005] For certain fluid products, which are characteristically delivered by aerosol means and for certain end-use applications, there is a need to deliver the fluid both as a broadcast spray and as a precise pinpoint stream. For example, an aerosol dispensed lubricant may be used for lubrication of a sliding apparatus on a piece of industrial equipment. In such a use-case, the operator applies a generous broadcast spray coating of the lubricant to the target area. During each such application of the fluid, the time duration and volumetric portion is at the discretion of the end-user (known as on-demand dispensing) based upon the purpose of the specific application. Conversely, this same aerosol dispensed lubricant may be used to lubricate a hinge mechanism on a piece of fine furniture and only a small drop of lubricant is desired; in fact it may be expressly desired to avoid any overspray or spillage of lubricant on any surface except the metal hinge element. In this application the operator has a need to deliver a precise amount of the fluid to a precise location requiring treatment.

[0006] As previously noted, in order to assure precise and safe application of the fluid from an aerosol dispensing system, the end-user must have adequate visual feedback. Such visual feedback allows for proper placement of the dispensed fluid and allows the end-user to self-regulate the portion (or volume) of fluid that is applied to the targeted area. Proper visual feedback requires an adequate line of sight between the end-user and the surface to be treated, and requires adequate illumination of the surface to be treated. In many end-use applications, such as applying an aerosol lubricant to a surface under an automobile or within a piece of industrial machinery, ambient light is often not sufficient for proper visual feedback and, as such, the end-user must rely on a secondary or auxiliary light source {e.g., flashlight or the like) as a means for illuminating the target area. The ability of the end-user to simultaneously hold the aerosol dispensing device and the auxiliary light source while positioning the nozzle of the aerosol dispensing system in the desired location is a daunting task, which typically requires, in most instances, use of both hands of the end-user.

[0007] In many instances, especially for the aforementioned aerosol lubricant example, the aerosol dispensing device is used by tradesmen and, as such, is stored within tool boxes, truck cabinets, tool totes, and the like. During storage, in many of these applications, the storage container (tool box, etc) is transported and is subject to a multitude of vibrations and motions due to shock and vehicular motions. Such vibrations and motions may, in some instances, damage the dispensing mechanism such that further dispensing ceases or is impaired or, in other instances such vibrations and motions, may engage the dispensing mechanism and cause undesirable dispensing of the fluids. Many current aerosol dispensing devices require a secondary cap device to protect against such damage and/or undesired dispensing of fluids during such transportation events; however, after an initial use the caps are often misplaced or otherwise lost, leaving the aerosol dispensing device prone to damage or accidental discharge of the fluid during transportation events.

[0008] Additionally aerosol dispensing devices are typically single-use items, which are disposed of once fully utilized. For this reason, aerosol dispensing devices are generally required to be economically manufactured and assembled so as to result in a low-cost dispensing device.

[0009] Therefore, a need exists to develop an improved aerosol dispensing system and methods for dispensing that overcome the aforementioned problems and obstacles surrounding current aerosol dispensing systems. In this regard, the desired aerosol dispensing system should provide for multi-range dispensing of fluids that allows for both pinpoint stream and broadcast dispensing of the fluids and provide a means for adequate visual feedback. Such, multi-range dispensing and visual feedback, insures that the end-user dispenses the proper amount of fluid dictated by the use-application, so as to guard against underuse or overuse of the fluid. In addition, the desired aerosol dispensing system should guard against damage to the dispensing mechanism caused by vibrations and/or other motions resulting from shock and vehicular motions during typical vehicle transportation of such dispensing devices. Such damage to the dispensing mechanism may result in inadvertent dispensing of fluids. Additionally, the desired aerosol dispensing system should allow for improved utilization of the fluid contents within the aerosol dispensing device, thus, allowing for a greater useful life of the device, since each use can be efficiently dispensed, limiting the likelihood of over-dispensing due to poor dispensing control. Moreover, the desired aerosol dispensing system should address such problems in the context of a dispensing system and device that can be economically manufactured and assembled so as to provide for a low-cost aerosol dispensing device.

BRIEF SUMMARY

[0010] The following presents a simplified summary of one or more embodiments in order to provide a basic understanding of such embodiments. This summary is not an extensive overview of all contemplated embodiments, and is intended to neither identify key or critical elements of all embodiments, nor delineate the scope of any or all embodiments. Its sole purpose is to present some concepts of one or more embodiments in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later.

[001 1] Embodiments of the present invention relate to systems, apparatus, methods, and like for an improved multi-functional fluid dispensing system. Embodiments of the present invention provide for a multi-functional fluid dispensing system which provides the end-user the ability to control the operational state (i.e., on, off and locked states) of the system and also control the range and volume of fluid dispensed from the fluid dispensing device while simultaneously providing illumination of the target area that requires fluid application.

[0012] In specific embodiments of the invention, the user may select from (/ ' ) an on state,

(if) an off state, and (Hi) a locked and off state. In such embodiments, the user may switch, or otherwise toggle, between on and off states while the user is holding the fluid container in an application-ready position. In specific embodiments of the invention, the system is configured such that both sides of the device allow for the user to switch between the on and off states, such flexibility allows for both right-handed and left-handed users to switch between the on and off states while holding the fluid container in an application-ready position.

[0013] Further, safety features are implemented that require the user to use two hands

(i.e., one to hold the container and one to engage the lock/unlock features) in order to switch the device from or to the locked and off state. By requiring the user to use two hands to lock or unlock the device, the likelihood of unintentional release of fluid, during transport or the like, is significantly diminished. Further safety precautions are realized by implementing such a two- handed lock/unlock approach, in that, the likelihood of misuse by children, pets or the like is also diminished. [0014] In other embodiments of the invention, an illumination system is provided that provides for illuminating the target area, such that the illumination source is automatically activated just immediately prior to fluid dispensing and is automatically deactivated immediately after the completion of dispensing fluid. The illumination source is disposed within the multifunctional delivery system so that the illumination provided is focused at a distance and direction exactly equal to the normal surface location and distance to be treated with the dispensed fluid. In additional embodiments of the invention, the power source used to provide power for the illumination source is configured to be removable, so that the power source may be replaced, used in other application once the fluid in the container is exhausted and/or recycled separately from the fluid container. In specific embodiments, removal of the battery source is made possible by configuring the overall illumination assembly as removable.

[0015] In additional embodiments of the invention, the illumination system is configured to provide illumination regardless of the operation state of the system. In this regard, even if the system is in the off state or, in some embodiments, the locked and off state, the user is afforded the benefit of providing illumination to the target area without having to dispense fluid from the container. Such feature is made possible, by configuring the system to activate the illumination source based on an initial movement of the pushbutton and activating fluid delivery based on a further movement of the pushbutton. In the off state and, in some embodiments of the invention, the locked and off state, the device is configured to allow the user to make the initial movement of the pushbutton to activate the illumination source; however, restraints are put in place such that the user cannot make the further movement of the pushbutton to activate dispensing of fluid.

[0016] In further embodiments of the invention, the system is configured for the user to select the delivery mechanism, such as spray/broadcast delivery or stream delivery. Such configuration allows the user to control the amount of fluid dispensed and the coverage area of the fluid. Additionally, the system may be configured to allow for the user to select a metered flow delivery, whereby activation the pushbutton provides for a predetermined measured amount of fluid (i.e., a single shot of fluid as opposed to a continual spray or stream).

[0017] The combined flow volume control (Off, Locked-Off, and On), flow form control

(spray or stream through the extended delivery tube means) and target surface illumination functionality in a single unitary fluid container dispensing system manufactured specifically for single container use, provides an end-user the tool required to perform a multitude of tasks depending upon the fluid contents within the fluid container. The method of treating a surface with a fluid product is enhanced with the added end-user control of the flow volume, the flow form, and as aided by the enhanced visual feedback from the automatic target illumination functionality. The method of storing for use as needed a fluid container and fluid material contents is enhanced by the added end-user flow volume control, which includes a zero-flow or "locked-of ' selection which prevents flow from the fluid container by locking the pushbutton actuator and preventing accidental depressions or actuation which might occur during storage and transport conditions. The use of the multi -function system, when combined with certain aerosol contained fluid materials, by a tradesperson as a tool is enhanced with the convenient accessibility to additional illumination which could be accessed and utilized for needs other than dispensing; for example, finding some other tool or object within the tradespersons toolbox or truck body cabinet.

[0018] A multi-functional dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container defines first embodiments of the invention. The system includes a dispensing head housing assembly and a fluid dispensing assembly connected to the dispensing head housing assembly and configured to dispense the fluid. The system further includes a flow selection control assembly in communication with the fluid dispensing assembly that is configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/ ' ) an on state, (if) an off state and (iif) a locked and off state.

[0019] In further specific embodiments of the system the flow selection control assembly further includes a flow volume control selector, such as a flow volume control selector ring, configured to be moveable to select between (/ ' ) the on state, (if) the off state and (Hi) the locked and off state. In such embodiments of the invention, the flow volume control selector ring includes at least one grip rib disposed about an exterior surface of the ring, wherein the grip rib is configured to be moveable to select one of (/ ' ) the on state, (if) the off state and (iif) the locked and off state. In such embodiments of the invention, the at least one grip rib is connected to a body of the flow selection control assembly via a resilient biasing member, such that the biasing member provides for inward movement of the at least one grip rib toward the body which is required to provide for changing the dispensing system to or from the locked and off state.

[0020] In further specific embodiments of the system, the at least one grip rib further comprises two grip ribs disposed 180° apart about the flow volume control selector. In such embodiments of the system, the two grip ribs are connected to a body of the flow selection control assembly via separate resilient/biasing members, wherein the biasing members provide for inward movement of the two grip ribs toward the body, such that the inward movement is required to provide for changing the dispensing system to or from the locked and off state.

[0021] In further specific embodiments the system includes an illumination assembly that includes a housing including a pushbutton, an illumination source configured to be received by the housing and a switch operable to activate the illumination source, and a power source in communication with the illumination source operable to provide power to the illumination source. The power source is removable from the dispensing system. In related embodiments of the system, the illumination assembly is removably connected to the dispensing head housing assembly.

[0022] In further embodiments of the system, the fluid dispensing assembly is further defined as a fluid dispensing selector assembly that is configured to allow for selection between a spray dispensing of the fluid and a stream dispensing of the fluid.

[0023] In other embodiments of the system, the flow selection control assembly is further configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/ ' ), (if), (iii), and (iv) a measured fluid amount on state, wherein the measured fluid on state provides for a predetermined amount of fluid to be dispensed.

[0024] Another multi-functional dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container defines second embodiments of the invention. The system includes a dispensing head housing assembly and a fluid dispensing assembly connected to the dispensing head housing assembly configured to dispense the fluid. The system additionally includes an illumination assembly including an illumination source and a power source in communication with the illumination source. The system additionally housing including a pushbutton, wherein the housing is configured to receive the illumination source and a switch in communication with the power source, wherein activation of the switch provides power to the illumination source.

[0025] In specific embodiments of the system, the pushbutton is engage-able to active the switch prior to dispensing the fluid from the fluid dispensing assembly.

[0026] In other specific embodiments of the system, the power source is removable from the dispensing system. In related embodiments of the invention the illumination assembly is removably connected to the dispensing head housing assembly. [0027] In another specific embodiment of the system, the illumination source is configured to be activated without dispensing fluid from the fluid dispensing assembly.

[0028] In yet another specific embodiment of the system, the illumination source is disposed proximate the spray nozzle, such that a first direction of illumination is generally aligned with a second direction of fluid spray from the spray nozzle.

[0029] In additional specific embodiments of the system, the illumination assembly further includes a flow direction icon that is disposed proximate the illumination source and is within a general line-of-sight of a user.

[0030] In additional specific embodiments of the system, the switch is further defined as a snap action-style dome-shaped switch. In other related specific embodiments of the system, the illumination source is configured to be activated upon engaging the pushbutton and immediately prior to dispensing the fluid and deactivated upon disengaging the pushbutton and immediately after dispensing the fluid. Such engaging and disengaging of the pushbutton may be configured to occur via a single finger continuous motion of a user.

[0031] In other specific embodiments the system further comprises a flow selection control assembly in communication with the fluid dispensing assembly and configured to allow control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by selecting between (/ ' ) an on state, {if) an off state and {iif) a locked and off state. In such embodiments of the invention the illumination source is configured to be activated while the flow selection control assembly is selected to be in any one of (/ ' ) the on state, {if) the off state and {iif) the locked and off state.

[0032] A method for selecting a function state of a multi -function dispensing system for dispensing a fluid from a container defines third embodiments of the invention. The method includes receiving a first user input to at least one grip rib disposed about an exterior surface of a flow volume control selector included within dispensing system. The first user input, moves the flow volume control selector to a position that provides for selecting one of (/ ' ) an on state or {if) an off state. The method additionally includes receiving a second user input to the at least one moveable grip rib, wherein the second user input, moves the grip rib inward toward a center of the dispensing system while simultaneously moving the flow volume control selector to provide for locking or unlocking the dispensing system into or out of {iif) a locked and off state.

[0033] In further specific embodiments of the method, receiving the second user input further includes receiving the second user input to two moveable grip ribs, wherein the second user input, moves the two grip ribs inward toward the center of the dispensing system while simultaneously moving the flow volume control selector and provides for locking or unlocking the dispensing system into or out of {Hi) the locked and off state.

[0034] Another method for using a multi-functional dispensing system configured for dispensing a fluid from a container. The method includes, while the dispensing system is in any one of a selectable functional state, moving an activation element a first predetermined distance that is configured to engage a switch and, in response to engaging the switch, activating an illumination source disposed within the multi-functional dispensing system. The method further includes, in response to moving the activation element the first predetermined distance, moving the activation element a second predetermined distance that is configured to open a fluid valve, and, in response to opening the fluid valve, dispensing the fluid from the container.

[0035] In specific embodiments the method further includes releasing the activation element by the second predetermined distance to close the fluid valve. In such embodiments the method may further include in response to releasing the activation element by the second predetermined distance, releasing the activation by the first predetermined distance to disengage the switch, and, in response to disengaging the switch, deactivating the illumination source.

[0036] In other specific embodiments the method includes, while the dispensing system is in either {if) an off state or {Hi) a locked and off state, preventing movement of the activation element the second predetermined distance.

[0037] Yet another method for dispensing a fluid from a fluid-dispensing apparatus. The method includes providing enhanced visual acuity to a surface requiring application of a fluid, wherein the enhanced visual acuity is provided by the fluid-dispensing apparatus having an integrated illumination source. The method further includes controlling delivery of the fluid to the surface by configuring the fluid-containing apparatus to provide for one or more of (i) a predetermined amount of the fluid to be applied to the surface, (ii) a continuous spray application and/or {Hi) a continuous stream application.

[0038] In specific embodiments of the method, providing the enhanced visual acuity further includes configuring the integrated illumination source within the fluid-dispending apparatus proximate in location to a spray nozzle. In other specific embodiments of the method, providing the enhanced visual acuity further includes configuring the integrated illumination source to illuminate the surface in response to a user directing the spray nozzle at the surface and activating an activation element included within the fluid-dispensing apparatus.

[0039] Thus, as described in more detail below, embodiments of the present invention relate to systems, apparatus, methods, and the like for a multi-functional fluid dispensing system which provides the end-user the ability to control the operational state (i.e., on, off and locked states) of the system and also control the range and volume of fluid dispensed from the fluid dispensing device while simultaneously providing illumination of the target area that requires fluid application.

[0040] The features, functions, and advantages that have been discussed may be achieved independently in various embodiments of the present invention or may be combined with yet other embodiments, further details of which can be seen with reference to the following description and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0041] Having thus described embodiments of the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0042] FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a container attached to a multi-functional fluid dispensing system, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

[0043] FIG. 2 is a detailed perspective view of the multi-functional fluid dispensing system, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

[0044] FIG. 3 is a left side view of a container attached to a multi-functional dispensing system, in which the fluid dispensing selector assembly is in the spray delivery position, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

[0045] FIG. 4 is a right side view a container attached to a multi-functional dispensing system, in which the fluid dispensing selector assembly is in the stream delivery position, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

[0046] FIG. 5 is a top view of the multi-functional dispensing system, in accordance with embodiments of the invention;

[0047] FIG. 6 is an exploded isometric view of the illumination assembly; in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; [0048] FIG. 7 is an exploded isometric view of the fluid dispensing selector assembly; in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and

[0049] FIG. 8 is an exploded isometric view of the container and the individual assemblies of the multi-functional dispensing system; in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0050] Embodiments of the present invention will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all,

embodiments of the invention are shown. Indeed, the invention may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein;

rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. In the following description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of one or more embodiments. It may be evident; however, that such embodiment(s) may be practiced without these specific details. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

[0051] Various embodiments or features will be presented in terms of systems that may include a number of devices, components, modules, and the like. It is to be understood and appreciated that the various systems may include additional devices, components, modules, etc. and/or may not include all of the devices, components, modules etc. discussed in connection with the figures. A combination of these approaches may also be used.

[0052] Referring to FIG. 1, a perspective view is provided of a multi-functional dispensing system 10 which, according to specific embodiments of the invention, is attached to a container 20, which may be an aerosol container or the like. In other embodiments of the invention the multi-functional dispensing system 10 may be implemented to dispense fluids other than aerosol fluids and, as such may be attached to other containers, as dictated by the fluid being dispensed.

[0053] The multi-functional dispensing system 10 includes a dispensing head housing structure 30, which may be attached directly to the container 20 and a fluid dispensing assembly 40 configured to allow selection between dispensing a dispersed/broadcast spread of fluid or a pinpoint stream of fluid. FIGS. 2-4 provide further details of the fluid dispensing assembly 40 and will be discussed, infra.

[0054] In specific embodiments of the invention, the multi-functional dispensing system

10 includes a flow selection control assembly 50 that is configured to allow user control of flow in the fluid dispensing assembly by a user-selection of an operating state. In specific

embodiments of the invention, the operating states include (i) an on state, (ii) an off state and (Hi) a locked and off state. In (/ ' ) the on state, the fluid dispensing assembly 40 is allowed to dispense fluids, while in (ii) the off state and (Hi) the locked and off state the fluid dispensing assembly 40 is prevented from dispensing fluids. As will be discussed in more detail, infra., in relation to FIGS. 2-4, the locked and off state adds the additional feature of locking the fluid dispensing assembly 40 so as to prevent accidental depressions or actuations of the fluid dispensing mechanism, which might occur during storage, transport or other conditions and/or making the overall device less susceptible to tampering by a child or the like.

[0055] In specific embodiments of the invention, the flow selection control assembly 50 includes a moveable ring, (e.g., a flow volume control selector 60) that is disposed below and around the dispensing head structure 30 and is configured to be rotated in a horizontal plane by a user to select from amongst the various operating states. In additional embodiments of the invention, the flow selection control module assembly 50 includes a flange-like skirt portion 70 which nests upon an exterior surface of the container 20, is disposed below the moveable flow volume control selector 60 and is attached to the dispensing head housing structure 30. The flange-like skirt portion 70 includes indicia 72 that indicate the various operating states and the position that the flow volume control selector 60 needs to be aligned for the selection of the corresponding operating state.

[0056] In other specific embodiments of the invention, the multi-functional dispensing system 10 includes an illumination assembly 80 that is configured to be provide illumination to the target spray area while dispensing fluid via the fluid dispensing assembly 40. In specific embodiments of the invention which will be discussed in more detail in relation to FIGS. 2, 6 and 7, infra., the illumination assembly 80 includes a removable power source, such as a battery or the like that can be removed from the illumination assembly 80 once the fluid has been exhausted from the container 20 or in the event that the power source needs replacement prior to exhaustion of the fluid. Additionally, removal of the power source from the illumination assembly 80 allows for the power source to be used in other applications and/or devices once the fluid has been exhausted from the container 20 and/or provides for recycling the power source separately from the container 20. In specific embodiments of the invention, removal of the power source is made possible by configuring the illumination assembly 80 or one or more of its components to be removable from the overall multi-functional dispensing system 10.

[0057] FIG. 2 provides for an expanded perspective view of the multi-functional dispensing system 10, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. As shown, the flange-like skirt portion 70 includes indicia 72 that indicates the various operating states of the system 10. As shown, indicia 72A indicates (i) the on state, indicia 72B indicates (if) the off state and indicia 72C indicates (Hi) the locked and off state. Each of the indicia 72A, 72B and 72C include an arrow 72D, which when aligned with the position selector of the flow volume control selector 60 indicates that dispensing system 10 currently resides in the operating state corresponding to the arrow 72D.

[0058] Additionally, the flow volume control selector 60 of the flow selection control assembly 50 is configured to include a plurality of grip ribs 62 disposed vertically along the outer perimeter of the flow volume control selector 60. The grip ribs 62 provide a traction feature to the user when rotating the flow volume control selector 60 from one operating state to another. As shown, in specific embodiments of the invention, one of the grip ribs 62A is configured to act as the position selector for the various operating states. In specific embodiments of the invention, grip rib 62A is configured to be vertically taller than the other grip ribs 62 and extend further from the perimeter than the other grip ribs 62. Additionally, according to specific embodiments, the grip rib 62A is connected to the body of the flow volume control selector 60 by a resilient member or spring-like mechanism, for example, a curved spring-like arch (not shown in FIG. 2), which allow for grip rib 62A to be positioned so as to allow the flow volume control selector 60 to be rotated out of and, in some embodiments, into (Hi) the locked and off state when the grip rib 62A has been engaged by a user to move inward, by a squeezing-like force/action or the like. Additionally, the curved spring-like arch provides a biasing force to return the grip rib 62A to its normal outward resting position once the user has released the squeeze-like force.

[0059] In specific embodiments of the invention, the user is required to engage (i.e., move inward) the grip rib 62A to both lock and unlock the device (i.e., rotate the flow volume control selector 60 into and out of the (Hi) locked and off state. Such a configuration requires the user to use two hands to both lock and unlock the device (i.e. , one hand to hold the container and the other hand to engage the grip rib 62A). In other embodiments of the invention the user is required to engage (i.e., move inward) the grip rib 62 A to only unlock the device (i.e. , rotate the flow volume control selector 60 out of the (Hi) the locked and off state). In such embodiments, the flow volume control selector 60 is free to rotate into the (Hi) locked and off state without having to engage (i.e., move inward) the grip rib 62A. Such a configuration allows for the user to use one hand to lock the device (i.e., hold the container and rotate the flow volume control selector 60 with a single hand) and to use two hands to unlock the device (i.e. , one hand to hold the container and the other hand to engage the grip rib 62 A).

[0060] In still further specific embodiments of the invention, release of the squeeze-like force by the user causes the flow volume control selector 60 to automatically rotate back to the (Hi) the locked and off state.

[0061] Additionally, as shown in FIG. 2, the grip rib 62 A has a curved, either concave or convex shape to allow for reception of a user's finger so as to provide easy tactile finger recognition in the event that the user does not have a clear sightline to the grip rib 62A and/or the flow volume control selector 60 (i.e., the curved shape of the grip rib 62 A is easily

distinguishable by the user through tactile feedback from the user's finger).

[0062] Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, side views of alternate sides of the multi-functional dispensing system 10 are shown to indicate specific embodiments of the invention, in which each side of the flow volume control selector 60 includes a grip rib 62A and each side of the flange- like skirt portion 70 includes indicia 72 that indicates the various operating states of the system 10. By providing for each side of the flow volume control selector 60 to include a grip rib 62A and each side of the flange-like skirt portion 70 to includes indicia 72, a user is able to engage the grip rib 62A and move the flow volume control selector 60 to change between (/ ' ) the on state and (ii) the off state, or vice versa, with a finger of either the left hand or the right hand, depending on which hand is holding the container 10 during use. As such, the user is able to readily change operating states to and from (/ ' ) the on state and (ii) the off state using the same hand that is triggering activation of the fluid, regardless of whether the user is using the fluid dispensing device in his or her right hand or left hand. In addition, by providing for two grip ribs 62A disposed 180° apart along the perimeter of the flow volume control selector 60 and configuring the flow selection control module assembly 50 such that both grip rings 62A are required to be moved inward simultaneously (i.e., apply squeeze-like inward force

simultaneously to the grip ribs 62A) in order to move the flow volume control selector 60 into the (Hi) the locked and off state or out of (Hi) the locked and off state, a user must hold the container in one hand while inwardly moving the grip ribs 62A with their other hand in order to lock or unlock the system 10. The inward movement of the grip ribs 62 is made possible by symmetrical resilient member curved spring-like arches (not shown in FIGS. 3 and 4).

[0063] By requiring use of both hands to at least unlock the system 10, the likelihood of inadvertent unlocking (and subsequent dispensing of fluid) is greatly diminished, for example, when storing the device within a tool box or truck compartment in which the device may be subjected to various vibrations and/or intermittent shock loads during transport. In this regard, the two-handed lock and unlock feature prevents the flow volume control selector 60 from accidentally rotating from the (Hi) locked and off state to the (z) on state and unintentionally discharging fluid contents from within the container 20. An additional benefit of this two-handed lock and unlock feature is that it acts to insure that a user intentionally desires to dispense the product, making it somewhat prohibitive to use once the device is in the (Hi) locked and off state. In this regard, the two-handed lock and unlock feature renders the overall device safe when in the presence of household pets or minors who should be prohibited from using the product.

[0064] In other embodiments of the invention, the flow volume control selector 60 is manufactured with a molded tab (not shown in FIGS. 3 and 4) or the like that prevents the flow volume control selector 60 from being rotated until the molded tab is physically removed prior to initial use of the dispensing system 10. The implementation of such a molded tab or other means to prevent movement of the flow volume control selector 60 prior to initial use, provides for tamper evidence in the event that the molded tab or the like has been removed prior to initial use by someone other than the user.

[0065] In other embodiments of the invention, the flow selection control assembly 50 may include a fourth operational state. The fourth operational state, referred to herein as (zv) the measured fluid amount-on state, is configured to provide for a predetermined specific amount of fluid upon actuating the fluid dispensing system 40. In this regard, the (zv) the measured fluid amount - on state is configured to dispense a single "shot" of fluid to the target area. As such, when flow selection control assembly 50 is in the (zv) measured fluid amount-on state the user is required to engage the pushbutton 84 twice in order to dispense two "shots", three times in order to dispense three "shots" and so on.

[0066] In other embodiments of the invention, an internal mechanism (not shown in

FIGS. 2-4) may be implemented within the multi-functional dispensing system 10 to limit movement/rotation of the flow volume control selector 60 (i.e., limit movement rotation to only those positions which align with indicia 72, which correspond to the various operational states. In addition, the multi-functional dispensing system 10 may be configured with a snap-action detent feature (not shown in FIGS. 2-4) in each position that aligns with an operational state so as to provide tactile and/or audible feedback to the user when the flow volume control selector 60 has been inadvertently or intentionally moved to another position or when the flow volume control selector 60 is properly aligned with a chosen position.

[0067] Referring again to FIG. 2 and the top view perspective of FIG. 5 and the exploded isometric view of FIG. 6, the illumination assembly 80 is highlighted, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. The illumination assembly 80 includes a housing 82 having a pushbutton 84, an illumination source 86, which may comprise a Light Emitting Diode (LED), a switch 88, which may comprise a snap action-type dome switch, an insulting layer 90 and power source 92, which may comprise a battery (e.g., a 3 VDC Lithium (LiMN02) coin cell battery). In use, a user will apply a downward force to the pushbutton 84 to cause the pushbutton 84 to move a predetermined distance which compresses the snap action-type dome switch 88. The compression of the dome switch 88 closes an electrical circuit that allows power to flow from the power source 92 to supply requisite power to the illumination source 86. In specific embodiments of the invention, resilient biasing features are molded into the housing 82 to provide, along with the dome switch 86 return force, the biasing force necessary to return the pushbutton 84 to the stationary position once the fluid valve assembly 22, such as an aerosol valve assembly or the like, closing stroke is seated in the fully closed (upward) position upon removal of finger pressure to the pushbutton 84.

[0068] The illumination source 86 may comprise any known or future known source of illumination, including, but not limited to, organic or polymer Light Emitting Diode(s) (LED(s)); Active Matrix Organic LED(s) (AMOLED(s)); a light emitting electrochemical cell; a laser, including but not limited to, a chemical laser, a dye laser, a free-electron laser, a gas dynamic laser, a gas laser, an ion laser, a metal-vapor laser, a nonlinear optics laser, and a solid-state laser; tungsten-halogen; fluorescent; ultraviolet (UV); infrared (IR) and the like.

[0069] In other embodiments of the invention, the illumination source 86 may be activated/illuminated and/or deactivated by means other than the pushbutton 84. For example, the flow volume control selector 60 may be configured such that the illumination source 86 is activated/illuminated and deactivated in response to movement from one state to another state (e.g., moving the flow volume control selector 60 from the (if) off state to the (f) on state activates the illumination source 86 and moving the flow control selector 60 from the (f) on state to the (if) off state deactivates the illumination source 86).

[0070] In specific embodiments of the invention, the elements of the illumination assembly 80 are configured to be press snapped into features within the dispensing head housing structure 30 to provide for precise and rapid final assembly during the manufacturer of the overall dispensing system 10. In addition, as previously noted, in specific embodiments of the invention, the press snap feature allows for the illumination assembly 80 to readily be removed from the dispensing head housing structure 30 to allow for the removal and, in some

embodiments replacement, of the power source 92. In other embodiments of the invention, the power source 92 may be configured to be removed from the dispensing system 10 absent removal of the overall illumination assembly 80. In such embodiments of the invention, the power source may be enclosed in a compartment that is accessible to the user from the exterior of the housing 82 to allow for the user to remove the power source 92 without removing the entire illumination assembly 80.

[0071] As shown in FIG. 2, the illumination source 86 is positioned proximate to the spray nozzle 42 of the fluid dispensing assembly 40. As such, by providing the illumination source proximate to the spray nozzle, the illumination provided by the illumination source 86 is focused at a distance and direction that is approximately equal to the normal and/or

recommended surface location and distance that requires treatment by the dispensed fluid. In addition, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 5, the illumination assembly 80 (or, in other embodiments of the invention, the dispensing head housing structure 30) may further include a flow direction indicating icon 94 that provides the user an indication of the direction of fluid dispensing. In specific embodiments of the invention, the flow direction indicating icon 94 may comprise a translucent or semi-translucent material, such that activation of the illumination source provides for illumination of the flow direction indicating icon 94.

[0072] In alternate embodiments of the invention, the power source 92 may provide power to other features of system 100 that require power. For example, power source 92 may provide power to additional illumination sources disposed within system 100. For example, an illumination source may be included within flow selection control assembly 50 to provide indication of one or more states (i.e., illumination to indicate the on state) or to provide illumination when the user engages grip rib 62A so as to provide a heightened visual assistance to the user when changing from one state to another. In other embodiments of the invention, the power source 92 may provide power to an audio source that provides audio to one or more features of system 100. For example, the audio source may provide an audio indicator associated with dispensing the fluid. In this regard, lightly engaging the pushbutton 84 may result in a low spray rate, while full engagement of pushbutton 84 may result in a higher/highest spray rate. In specific examples, a first audio indicator may be associated with a first spray rate and a second audio indicator may be associated with a second spray rate or the audio indicator may increase in frequency or volume as the spray rate increases. In other examples, the audio source may provide audio indicators to indicate a change in operational state, such that as the user changes operation states a different audio indicator associated with each of the states is provided so that the user is made aware of the operation state that they have changed to. Additionally, power source 92 may be in communication with a fluid volume sensor, such that as the fluid volume sensor detects that the fluid in the container 20 is below a predetermined threshold volume, the power supply 92 provides power to illumination source 86 or another illumination source or an audio source to indicate that the container 20 is approaching empty. For example, in response to determining that the fluid contents are below the predetermined threshold volume, the illumination source 86 or another illumination source may be continuously activated or activated so as to periodically (e.g., blink on and off) or an audio source may provide for output of an continuous or intermittent sound that indicates to the user that the container 20 is approaching empty.

[0073] Referring to FIGS. 2-4 and 7, features of the fluid dispensing assembly 40 are shown in greater detail, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. The fluid dispensing assembly 40 includes housing 41, spray nozzle 42, inner seal 43, dispensing condition control valve 44, and stream delivery tube 46. The dispensing control valve 44 is configured to be actuated by the user to change the fluid dispensing condition from a broadcast/spray delivery mode to a pinpoint stream delivery mode or vice versa. In FIGS. 2 and 3 the dispensing condition control valve 44 is shown in the broadcast or spray delivery position, such that when the valve 44 is in such a position the spray nozzle 42 delivers a wide-spread broadcast or spray application of the fluid in a direction that is generally perpendicular to the vertical axis of the container 20. Additionally, when the valve 44 is in the broadcast or spray position the stream delivery tube 46, which is connected to the distal end of the valve 44 is resting tangential to the container 20. In FIG. 4, the dispensing control valve 44 is shown in the stream delivery mode and, as such, the stream delivery tube 46, which may be removably attached to the distal end of the dispensing control valve 44 is positioned perpendicular to the vertical axis of the container 20 and is aligned with the illumination direction of the illumination source 86. In this position, the stream delivery tube 46 provides for dispensing of a precise stream of fluid upon activation of the fluid valve. FIG. 7 provides an exploded isometric view of the fluid dispensing assembly 40. In use, the dispensing condition control valve 44 mates with and provides sealing means with an internal fluid manifold 48 that is in fluid connection with the fluid valve assembly 22 (shown in FIG. 8) that controls the pressurized fluid material within the container 20. When the fluid valve assembly 22 is opened by depressing the pushbutton 84 of the illumination assembly 80 the fluid contents flow within the internal manifold 48 and into the dispensing condition control valve 44 and, depending upon the position of the dispensing condition control valve 44, dispenses the fluid as either a broadcast/spray or as a precise stream.

[0074] FIG. 8 provides an exploded isometric view of the container and the assemblies of the multi-functional dispensing system 10, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. The system 10 includes dispensing head housing structure 30, illumination assembly 80, fluid dispensing assembly 40, and flow selection control assembly 50. Additionally, the container 20 includes fluid valve assembly 22, such as an aerosol valve assembly or the like, crimped in position and shown with fluid manifold elbow 24 pre-assembled to the fluid valve assembly 22. The flow selection control assembly 50 includes the selector 60 which rests upon the flange-like skirt portion 70 and is connected above to lower main structure part 64. The fluid dispensing assembly 40 is depicted with dispensing condition control valve 44 being held in a position over the fluid manifold 48 (shown in FIG. 7) with inner seal 43 (shown in FIG. 7) providing a resilient seal for allowing the rotation of the dispensing condition control valve 44 to contain fluid communication when dispensing condition control valve 44 is in either the spray delivery position or the stream delivery position. The illumination module 80, as described and shown in FIG. 6 includes pushbutton 84, illumination source 86, switch 88, insulator 90 and power source 92. The dispensing head housing structure 30 completes the overall multifunctional delivery system 30.

[0075] FIG. 8 additionally highlights the modular aspect of multi-functional dispensing system 10, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. The four distinct components of the multi-functional dispensing system 10, i.e., dispensing head housing structure 30, illumination assembly 80, fluid dispensing assembly 40, and flow selection control assembly 50 are configured to provide for ease of manufacturing, in that, each component is configured to be readily received by an adjacent component so as to provide for snap-fit assembly/manufacture or other manufacturing techniques that can be automated {i.e., eliminating the need for manual assembly of the multi-functional dispensing system 10). Additionally, embodiments of the present invention, limit the number of components/assemblies/modules as compared to other similar multi-functional dispensing systems and, in doing so, lends itself further to automated and more efficient/less time-consuming manufacturing.

[0076] Thus, the present invention as described in detail above, provides for a multifunctional fluid dispensing system which provides the end-user the ability to control the operational state {i.e., on, off and off-locked states) of the system and also control the range and volume of fluid dispensed from the fluid dispensing device while simultaneously providing illumination of the target area that requires fluid application.

[0077] While certain exemplary embodiments have been described and shown in the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that such embodiments are merely illustrative of and not restrictive on the broad invention, and that this invention not be limited to the specific constructions and arrangements shown and described, since various other changes, combinations, omissions, modifications and substitutions, in addition to those set forth in the above paragraphs, are possible. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that various adaptations and modifications of the just described embodiments can be configured without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Therefore, it is to be understood that, within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced other than as specifically described herein.