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Title:
MULTI-LINE CONNECTION QUICK MULTI-COUPLING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/044977
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A multi-coupling system includes first and second multi-coupling components that can be connected and disconnected. When connected, opposing fluid couplers on the components are connected. The second multi-coupling component has a handle assembly including a hook retainer, and the first coupling component has a roller, and the handle assembly is rotatable to connect and disconnect the components. As the handle assembly rotates for connection, the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the components together. A locking pin assembly has a locking pin that is moveable between extended and retracted positions, and when extended locks in a housing of the second component to prevent rotation of the handle assembly. A user manipulates the locking pin assembly to retract the locking pin, which is automatically retained in the retracted position. The locking pin automatically resets when the handle assembly is rotated to disconnect the multi-coupling components.

Inventors:
WOLF, Luke (6035 Parkland Blvd, Cleveland OHIO, 44124-4141, US)
LEMAY, Paul (4130 Victoria St. N, Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55125, US)
FONER, Brian (7912 West 25th Street, Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, 55426, US)
Application Number:
US2017/049282
Publication Date:
March 08, 2018
Filing Date:
August 30, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PARKER-HANNIFIN CORPORATION (6035 Parkland Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio, 44124, US)
International Classes:
F16L37/56; F16B21/06
Domestic Patent References:
WO2007106036A22007-09-20
Foreign References:
DE202007001232U12007-03-22
DE9209060U11992-10-22
US5507530A1996-04-16
DE202010014532U12010-12-16
DE4222193A11993-01-14
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DRASNER, Lawrence (1621 Euclid Ave, 19th FloorCleveland, Ohio, 44115, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

What is claimed is: 1 . A multi-coupling system comprising:

a first multi-coupling component including a plurality of individual first fluid couplers; and

a second multi-coupling component including a plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the multi-coupling system being configurable between a connected and locked state and a disconnected state;

wherein:

in the connected and locked state at least a portion of the first fluid couplers respectively are fluidly connected to the second fluid couplers, and in the

disconnected state the first fluid couplers and the second fluid couplers are disconnected;

the second multi-coupling component comprises a handle assembly including a hook retainer, and the first coupling component has a roller, wherein the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between the

disconnected state and the connected and locked state; and

as the handle assembly rotates the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state.

2. The multi-coupling system of claim 1 , wherein the handle assembly includes a plate portion, and the hook retainer extends from the plate portion, the plate portion and the hook retainer defining a slot for receiving the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state when the handle assembly is rotated. 3. The multi-coupling system of claim 2, wherein the handle assembly includes a handle portion that extends perpendicularly from the plate portion, and a force is applied to the handle portion to rotate the handle assembly.

4. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 2-3, wherein the roller includes a recessed neck and a head, and the neck slides within the slot and the head presses against an external surface of the hook retainer when the hook retainer interacts with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling

components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state when the handle assembly is rotated.

5. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -4, wherein the second multi-coupling component includes a housing, and the handle assembly is rotatably connected to the housing.

6. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -5, the multi-coupling system being further configurable in a connected and unlocked state; and

the second multi-coupling component comprises:

a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position; and

a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole;

wherein:

in the connected and locked state the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly;

the locking pin assembly is manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi-coupling system to the disconnected state; and

the locking pin assembly is configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

7. The multi-coupling system of claim 6, wherein:

the locking pin assembly includes a knob; the locking pin has a distal end opposite from the shaft end and that is connected to the knob; and

the knob is manipulated by the user to move the locking pin to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole.

8. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 6-7, wherein the locking pin assembly includes a body defining a central passage through which the locking pin moves, and the body has a fixing end for fixing the locking pin assembly to the handle assembly.

9. The multi-coupling system of claim 8, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly has a spiral surface at an end opposite from the fixing end;

the locking pin has a dowel pin that extends outward from a central portion of the locking pin in a direction perpendicular to the axial direction; and

the dowel pin moves along the spiral surface, and an interaction of the dowel pin against the spiral surface moves the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user by turning the knob.

10. The multi-coupling system of claim 9, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly defines a detent slot located adjacent to an upper end of the spiral surface; and

when the locking pin is in the retracted position, the dowel pin is located in the detent slot to prevent movement of the locking pin, thereby automatically retaining the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

1 1 . The multi-coupling system of claim 10, wherein:

the locking pin assembly further comprises a compression and torsion spring located in the central passage defined by the body;

a compression bias of the spring biases the locking pin toward the extension position, such that when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user, the locking pin moves along the spiral surface and snaps into the detent slot under the compression bias to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state; and

a torsion bias of the spring biases the locking pin in a rotational direction away from the detent slot.

12. The multi-coupling system of claim 1 1 , wherein:

the housing of the second multi-coupling component has an inclined surface; when the handle assembly is rotated to reconfigure the multi-coupling system from the connected and unlocked state to the disconnected state, the end shaft of the locking pin interacts against the inclined surface which further retracts the locking pin to push the dowel pin out from the detent slot; and

the locking pin rotates and moves toward the extension position under the torsion and compression bias of the spring such that the dowel pin moves away from the detent slot and along the spiral surface, thereby automatically resetting the locking pin.

13. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 8-12, wherein the knob has an extension that slides along an outer surface of the body when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

14. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 8-13, wherein the locking pin includes a guiding ridge that slides against an inner surface of the body that defines the central passage as the locking pin moves between the extension position and the retracted position.

15. A multi-coupling system comprising:

a first multi-coupling component including a plurality of individual first fluid couplers; and

a second multi-coupling component including a plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the multi-coupling system being configurable between a connected and locked state and a disconnected state;

wherein:

in the connected and locked state at least a portion of the first fluid couplers respectively are fluidly connected to the second fluid couplers, and in the disconnected state the first fluid couplers and the second fluid couplers are disconnected, the multi-coupling system being further configurable in a connected and unlocked state; and

the second multi-coupling component comprises:

a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position; and

a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole;

wherein:

in the connected and locked state the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly;

the locking pin assembly is manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi-coupling system to the disconnected state; and

the locking pin assembly is configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

16. The multi-coupling system of claim 15, wherein:

the locking pin assembly includes a knob;

the locking pin has a distal end opposite from the shaft end and that is connected to the knob; and

the knob is manipulated by the user to move the locking pin to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole. 17. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 15-16, wherein the locking pin assembly includes a body defining a central passage through which the locking pin moves, and the body has a fixing end for fixing the locking pin assembly to the handle assembly.

18. The multi-coupling system of claim 17, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly has a spiral surface at an end opposite from the fixing end;

the locking pin has a dowel pin that extends outward from a central portion of the locking pin in a direction perpendicular to the axial direction; and

the dowel pin moves along the spiral surface, and an interaction of the dowel pin against the spiral surface moves the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user by turning the knob.

19. The multi-coupling system of claim 18, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly defines a detent slot located adjacent to an upper end of the spiral surface; and

when the locking pin is in the retracted position, the dowel pin is located in the detent slot to prevent movement of the locking pin, thereby automatically retaining the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

20. The multi-coupling system of claim 19, wherein:

the locking pin assembly further comprises a compression and torsion spring located in the central passage defined by the body;

a compression bias of the spring biases the locking pin toward the extension position, such that when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user, the locking pin moves along the spiral surface and snaps into the detent slot under the compression bias to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state; and

a torsion bias of the spring biases the locking pin in a rotational direction away from the detent slot. 21 . The multi-coupling system of claim 20, wherein:

the housing of the second multi-coupling component has an inclined surface; when the handle assembly is rotated to reconfigure the multi-coupling system from the connected and unlocked state to the disconnected state, the end shaft of the locking pin interacts against the inclined surface which further retracts the locking pin to push the dowel pin out from the detent slot; and

the locking pin rotates and moves toward the extension position under the torsion and compression bias of the spring such that the dowel pin moves away from the detent slot and along the spiral surface, thereby automatically resetting the locking pin.

22. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 16-21 , wherein the knob has an extension that slides along an outer surface of the body when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

23. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 16-22, wherein the locking pin includes a guiding ridge that slides against an inner surface of the body that defines the central passage as the locking pin moves between the extension position and the retracted position.

24. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -23, wherein the first individual couplers comprises a plurality of male nipple cartridges, and the second individual couplers comprises a plurality of female couplers that receive the male nipple cartridges.

25. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -24, wherein the first and second individual fluid couplers conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm standard couplings.

26. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -25, wherein the first multi- coupling is a fixed component fixed to a base equipment, and the second multi- coupling is a mobile component that is moveable into position to connect the first and second multi-coupling components.

27. The multi-coupling system of claim 26, wherein one of the mobile component or fixed component includes a plurality of guide pins, and the other of the mobile component or fixed component includes a plurality of guide holes that respectively receive the guide pins to align the fixed and mobile multi-coupling components.

28. The multi-coupling system of any of claims 1 -27, wherein the first multi- coupling component includes a plurality of opposing support ridges, and at least a portion of the first fluid couplers are located between the support ridges and spaced apart from the support ridges to permit coupling of individual loose fluid couplers to one or more of the first fluid couplers. 29. A first multi-coupling component for connecting to a second multi- coupling component in a multi-coupling system, the first multi-coupling component comprising:

a plurality of individual first fluid couplers; and

a plurality of opposing support ridges;

wherein at least a portion of the first fluid couplers are located between the support ridges and spaced apart from the support ridges to permit coupling of individual loose fluid couplers to one or more of the first fluid couplers.

30. The first multi-coupling component of claim 29, wherein the individual first fluid couplers comprises a plurality of male nipple cartridges configured to connect to female couplers on second multi-coupling component and/or or individual loose female couplers.

31 . The first multi-coupling component of any of claims 29-30, wherein the first individual fluid couplers conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm standard couplings.

32. The first multi-coupling component of any of claims 29-31 , further comprising a roller configured to interact with a handle assembly on the second multi-coupling to configure the multi-coupling system between a disconnected state and a connected state.

33. A second multi-coupling component for connecting to a first multi- coupling component in a multi-coupling system, the second multi-coupling

component comprising: a plurality of individual second fluid couplers; and

a handle assembly including a hook retainer, wherein the first coupling component has a roller and the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi- coupling system between a disconnected state and a connected and locked state; and

as the handle assembly rotates the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state. 34. The second multi-coupling component of claim 33, wherein the handle assembly includes a plate portion, and the hook retainer extends from the plate portion, the plate portion and the hook retainer defining a slot for receiving the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the

disconnected state into the connected and locked state when the handle assembly is rotated.

35. The second multi-coupling component of claim 34, wherein the handle assembly includes a handle portion that extends perpendicularly from the plate portion, and a force is applied to the handle portion to rotate the handle assembly.

36. The second multi-coupling component of any of claims 33-35, wherein the second multi-coupling component includes a housing, and the handle assembly is rotatably connected to the housing. 37. A second multi-coupling component for connecting to a first multi- coupling component in a multi-coupling system, the second multi-coupling

component comprising:

a plurality of individual second fluid couplers;

a handle assembly that is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between a disconnected state and a connected and locked state

a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position; and a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole;

wherein:

in the connected and locked state the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly;

the locking pin assembly is manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi-coupling system in a connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi-coupling system to the disconnected state; and

the locking pin assembly is configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

38. The second multi-coupling component of claim 37, wherein:

the locking pin assembly includes a knob;

the locking pin has a distal end opposite from the shaft end and that is connected to the knob; and

the knob is manipulated by the user to move the locking pin to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole.

39. The second multi-coupling component of any of claims 37-38, wherein the locking pin assembly includes a body defining a central passage through which the locking pin moves, and the body has a fixing end for fixing the locking pin assembly to the handle assembly.

40. The second multi-coupling component of claim 39, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly has a spiral surface at an end opposite from the fixing end;

the locking pin has a dowel pin that extends outward from a central portion of the locking pin in a direction perpendicular to the axial direction; and

the dowel pin moves along the spiral surface, and an interaction of the dowel pin against the spiral surface moves the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user by turning the knob.

41 . The second multi-coupling component of claim 40, wherein:

the body of the locking pin assembly defines a detent slot located adjacent to an upper end of the spiral surface; and

when the locking pin is in the retracted position, the dowel pin is located in the detent slot to prevent movement of the locking pin, thereby automatically retaining the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

42. The second multi-coupling component of claim 40, wherein:

the locking pin assembly further comprises a compression and torsion spring located in the central passage defined by the body;

a compression bias of the spring biases the locking pin toward the extension position, such that when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user, the locking pin moves along the spiral surface and snaps into the detent slot under the compression bias to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state; and

a torsion bias of the spring biases the locking pin in a rotational direction away from the detent slot.

43. The second multi-coupling component of claim 42, wherein:

the housing has an inclined surface;

when the handle assembly is rotated to reconfigure the multi-coupling system from the connected and unlocked state to the disconnected state, the end shaft of the locking pin interacts against the inclined surface which further retracts the locking pin to push the dowel pin out from the detent slot; and

the locking pin rotates and moves toward the extension position under the torsion and compression bias of the spring such that the dowel pin moves away from the detent slot and along the spiral surface, thereby automatically resetting the locking pin.

44. The second multi-coupling component of any of claims 38-43, wherein the knob has an extension that slides along an outer surface of the body when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

45. The second multi-coupling component of any of claims 38-44, wherein the locking pin includes a guiding ridge that slides against an inner surface of the body that defines the central passage as the locking pin moves between the extension position and the retracted position.

46. The second multi-coupling component of any of claims 33-45, wherein the second individual couplers comprises a plurality of female fluid couplers configured to connect to male couplers on the first multi-coupling component.

47. The first multi-coupling component of any of claims 33-46, wherein the second individual fluid couplers conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm standard couplings.

Description:
Title: MULTI-LINE CONNECTION QUICK MULTI-COUPLING

Related Applications This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No.

62/382,837 filed September 2, 2016, which is incorporated herein by reference.

Field of Invention

The present invention relates generally to quick couplings, and more particularly to multi-couplings for connecting multiple fluid lines in high pressure and other fluid systems, such as hydraulic fluid systems.

Background of the Invention

Quick couplings in general are common devices for coupling fluid lines without the need for special tools. Quick couplings, for example, may be configured as individual couplings for the connection of a single fluid line. An exemplary use of quick couplings is in the connection of hydraulic fluid lines in hydraulic systems.

Individual quick couplings typically have a ball locking mechanism to hold two halves of the coupling together as they try to separate from internal pressures. Quick couplings may be configured as a multi-coupling for connecting any number of multiple fluid lines. A multi-coupling constitutes a group of quick couplings mounted together in a plate or casting. In place of an individual locking mechanism for each individual coupling, a multi-coupling typically has a multi-line connection and locking mechanism that connects and holds the group of individual couplings together. The mechanical advantage of this single multi-line connection and locking mechanism is often beneficial to overcome the combined forces required to connect all of the quick couplings simultaneously.

An exemplary use of multi-couplings with a multi-line connection mechanism is with mobile equipment, such as for example compact farm tractors and similar equipment or vehicles. Often times with such mobile equipment, more than one hydraulic fluid line is needed to run a hydraulic tool or implement, such as a front loader, plow attachment, or the like. The use of standard individual couplings would require the user to make all connections with multiple different connecting steps. A multi-coupling with a multi-line connection can be connected without having to perform individualized connections for each hydraulic fluid line, which saves time and effort. In addition, a multi-coupling generally prevents a user from connecting the wrong hose on the implement to the wrong coupling port on the piece of equipment such as a base vehicle. In the example of a compact farm tractor, different tool implements (e.g., a front loader, plow attachment, etc.) may be mounted to the tractor. The hydraulic fluid system typically employs four individual hydraulic lines, which commonly conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm geometry as an industry standard. Per ISO 16028, all the couplings in the multi-coupling are non-spill couplers meaning there is only a small amount of spillage upon disconnect. This style of coupling also has a flush faced design, which is preferred in applications in which there may be substantial debris. If any debris gets on the face of the coupling, the debris can be wiped off and does not get ingested into the hydraulic system.

Conventional multi-couplings have certain deficiencies. Common issues with multi-couplings are associated with the need to limit the size and weight while still maintaining effective connections. Size and weight particularly are issues that must be addressed in relatively small equipment, such as compact tractors referenced above and similarly sized or configured equipment or vehicles. Because the multi- coupling needs to house multiple individual couplings and resist separation force due to the hydraulic pressure, the multi-coupling can become large due to the need for effective connection. One conventional category of configuration of multi-coupling is a cam slot style multi-coupling. A bushing slides in a slotted cam which pulls and locks the multi-coupling halves together. Slotted cam style couplings generally have two slotted cams that lock the multi-coupling halves together. Another conventional configuration of multi-coupling is a camshaft locking style multi-coupling. In such configuration, a single lever operates multiple cam locking mechanisms to provide the multi-line connection. Conventional multi-couplings, therefore, have more than one cam feature or comparable multiple locking mechanism to make and secure the multi-line connection, but the use of multiple cams or comparable multiple locking mechanisms as is conventional undesirably increases size and weight, and can be difficult to fit within compact equipment. As referenced above, some conventional multi-coupling connection mechanisms provide a handle that a user manipulates to operate the connection mechanism. In such systems, the multi-coupling requires a lock feature for the handle so the multi-coupling cannot be accidentally disconnected. Conventionally, a two-handed operation is required to operate the multi-coupling connection

mechanism. The lock device needs to be actuated and held in position with one hand, while a second hand simultaneously begins the handle rotation. This two- handed operation can be difficult to perform particularly in tight spaces often associated with multi-couplings, and also precludes the use of one hand to operate the multi-coupling and use of the second hand to operate another tool or

monitoring/measuring device (e.g., a temperature or pressure measuring device). In addition, a conventional multi-coupling component typically is configured as matched only for connecting to a complementary multi-coupling component, so that only the mating multi-coupling components can be connected. This could provide a problem to a user that has a multi-coupling component on the piece of equipment, but only loose couplings on the implement to be connected.

Summary of the Invention

The present invention pertains to an enhanced multi-coupling system for a multi-line connection having multiple individual quick couplings. To save space, the multi-coupling system of the present invention locks in the connected state with one cam only, which reduces size and weight as compared to the conventional multi-cam configurations. The multi-coupling may include a mobile component and a fixed component, with one of the components having a handle assembly to pull the two components together into a secured multi-line connection. The joining of the mobile and fixed components may be guided by guide pins. The fluid line couplers may be located between the cam and the guide pins to reduce the separation of the plates when the couplings are pressurized.

To provide a secure multi-line connection, the multi-coupling system may include an enhanced locking pin assembly and corresponding features in the casting of the multi-coupling components that cooperate with the locking pin assembly for an effective securing of the multi-line connection. In this manner, accidental operation of the handle assembly to open the multi-coupling is prevented, and the locking pin assembly thus prevents accidental disconnection of the multi-coupling. The locking mechanism of the present invention requires only one hand for operation, which takes up less space and is easier to operate as compared to conventional two- handed mechanisms. The locking pin assembly may include a locking pin the moves within a pin assembly body. In an example operation, a user turns a knob of the locking pin assembly, which pulls a shaft end of the locking pin out of the multi- coupling casting and places the locking pin in a detent position in the locking pin assembly body. The pin rides on an inclined surface of the multi-coupling housing when the multi-coupling is disconnected. The angle of the inclined surface on the housing of the multi-coupling pushes on the locking pin and removes the locking from the detent position in the locking pin assembly body. This operation resets the position of the locking pin, and when the user makes the next connection, the locking pin automatically locks again. The locking pin assembly may have a torsion and compression spring. This spring biases the shaft of the locking pin into the multi-coupling casting and torques the locking shaft with respect to the locking pin assembly body. The locking pin assembly body may include a spiraled surface that interacts with a dowel pin on the locking pin. Because of the spiral surface on the pin body, when the knob is turned toward a disconnection position, the dowel pin rotates and interacts with the spiral surface, which retracts the locking pin shaft out of the casting. The user may turn the knob until the dowel pin rests in the detent slot. When the coupling is disconnected, the pin shaft rides on the casting on the inclined surface that pushes the shaft into the body and the dowel pin out of the detent slot. In this disconnected state, from the torsion and compression spring the shaft automatically resets and will lock the multi- coupling in the connected state during a subsequent connection operation.

The fixed component of the multi-coupling is configured so that the individual coupler nipples can connect to individual or "loose" female couplers (i.e., couplers not incorporated into a multi-coupling component). Male couplers on the fixed component may be configured as male nipple cartridges having the same geometry as set forth in ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm so that a standard off-the shelf loose coupler can be connected to them. There is also enough space in the fixed component so that the female couplers fit within support ridges formed in the fixed component. This permits loose female couplers on the mobile component to connect to the male couplers on the fixed component.

An aspect of the invention, therefore, is a multi-coupling system. In exemplary embodiments, the multi-coupling system may include a first multi-coupling

component including a plurality of individual first fluid couplers, and a second multi- coupling component including a plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the multi-coupling system being configurable between a connected and locked state and a disconnected state. In the connected and locked state, at least a portion of the first fluid couplers respectively are fluidly connected to the second fluid couplers, and in the disconnected state, the first fluid couplers and the second fluid couplers are disconnected. The second multi-coupling component may include a handle assembly including a hook retainer, and the first coupling component may have a roller, wherein the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between the disconnected state and the connected and locked state. As the handle assembly rotates, the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state.

The multi-coupling system further may be configurable in a connected and unlocked state. The second multi-coupling component may include a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position. The second multi-coupling component further may have a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole. In the connected and locked state, the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly. The locking pin assembly may be manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi- coupling system in the connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi-coupling system to the disconnected state.

The locking pin assembly further may include a spring and detent slot configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state. In addition, the locking pin assembly may be configured interact against an inclined surface of the housing, wherein the spring bias operates to reset the locking pin when the handle assembly is rotated to disconnect the multi-coupling components.

These and further features of the present invention will be apparent with reference to the following description and attached drawings. In the description and drawings, particular embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail as being indicative of some of the ways in which the principles of the invention may be employed, but it is understood that the invention is not limited correspondingly in scope. Rather, the invention includes all changes, modifications and equivalents coming within the spirit and terms of the claims appended hereto. Features that are described and/or illustrated with respect to one embodiment may be used in the same way or in a similar way in one or more other embodiments and/or in combination with or instead of the features of the other embodiments.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Fig. 1 is a drawing depicting a perspective view from a first viewpoint of an exemplary multi-coupling system in accordance with embodiments of the present invention, with the components in a disconnected state.

Fig. 2 is a drawing depicting a perspective view from a second viewpoint of the exemplary multi-coupling system of Fig. 1 .

Fig. 3 is a drawing depicting a perspective view from a third viewpoint of the exemplary multi-coupling system of Figs. 1 and 2.

Fig. 4 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of an exemplary fixed component of the multi-coupling system of Figs. 1 -3 in isolation. Fig. 5 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system of Figs. 1 -3, with the components in a connected state.

Fig. 6 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system of Fig. 5 from generally a top view, with the components in a connected state and locked state. Fig. 7 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system of Fig. 6, with the components now in a connected state and unlocked state.

Fig. 8 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system of Fig. 7, with the components now in a disconnected state.

Fig. 9 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of a housing component of the exemplary multi-coupling system in isolation.

Fig. 10 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of an exemplary locking pin assembly for the multi-coupling system in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

Fig. 1 1 is a drawing depicting another perspective view of the exemplary locking pin assembly of Fig. 10, with the knob removed.

Fig. 12 is a drawing depicting a perspective and cross-sectional view of the exemplary locking pin assembly of Fig. 10.

Detailed Description

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals are used to refer to like elements throughout. It will be understood that the figures are not necessarily to scale. The present invention is described in part in connection with a suitable usage with a compact tractor system. It will be appreciated that such example is non- limiting, and the multi-coupling system of the present invention may be employed in any suitable usage for the connection of multiple individual couplings of fluid lines. In this example, the compact tractor may include a base vehicle that is connected to a front loader implement. It will be appreciated that the front loader also is a non- limiting example, and other attachments (e.g., snow plow, digger, etc.) may be employed as the implement.

The implement may include fluid lines that connect to cooperating fluid lines of the base vehicle for operation of the implement. In the example of a compact tractor system, the connection lines may include four individual hydraulic lines, although any number of individual fluid lines may be connected with the disclosed multi-coupling system. In exemplary embodiments, the fluid lines may conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm geometry as an industry standard. Per ISO 16028, all the couplings in the multi-coupling are non-spill couplers meaning there is only a small amount of spillage upon disconnect. This style of couplings also has a flush faced design, which is preferred in applications in which there may be substantial debris. If any debris gets on the face of the coupling, the debris can be wiped off and does not get ingested into the hydraulic system. The use of ISO 16028 couplings also is a non-limiting example, and thus various categories, configurations, and numbers of individual couplings may be connected together with the multi-coupling system of the present invention.

An aspect of the invention is a multi-coupling system. Generally, in exemplary embodiments, the multi-coupling system may include a first multi-coupling

component including a plurality of individual first fluid couplers, and a second multi- coupling component including a plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the multi-coupling system being configurable between a connected and locked state and a disconnected state. In the connected and locked state, at least a portion of the first fluid couplers respectively are fluidly connected to the second fluid couplers, and in the disconnected state, the first fluid couplers and the second fluid couplers are disconnected. The second multi-coupling component may include a handle assembly including a hook retainer, and the first coupling component may have a roller, wherein the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between the disconnected state and the connected and locked state. As the handle assembly rotates, the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state.

Figs. 1 -3 are drawings depicting various perspective views from different viewpoints of an exemplary multi-coupling system 20 in accordance with

embodiments of the present invention. In an example usage, the multi-coupling system 20 may be employed as a multi-coupling for hydraulic fluid lines in a compact tractor system or similar vehicles or equipment in which a hydraulically operated implement may be connected to a base vehicle. The multi-coupling system 20 may include a first multi-coupling component 22 and a second multi-coupling component 24. The first multi-coupling component 22 may be fixed to a base vehicle or other base equipment in generally a secured fashion without being moveable. Accordingly, the first multi-coupling component 22 may be referred to also as the fixed component 22. The second multi-coupling component 24 generally may be moveable or manipulated with the implement into position to connect the first and second multi-coupling components. Accordingly, the second component 24 may be referred to also as the mobile component 24.

Fig. 4 further shows the first or fixed component 22 in isolation. Referring to Figs. 1 -4, the first multi-coupling component may include a plurality of first individual fluid couplers 26, and the second multi-coupling component may include a plurality of second fluid couplers 28. In the example of the figures, four first fluid couplers 26 are provided for respective connection with four second fluid couplers 28. Also in this example, the first individual fluid couplers 26 may be a plurality of male nipple cartridges, and the second individual fluid couplers 28 may be a plurality of female couplers for receiving the male nipple cartridges. The female nature of the second female fluid couplers 28 is most readily depicted in the viewpoint of Fig. 3. The first fluid couplers 26 may be adjoined to fluid lines on the first component side, and the second fluid couplers 28 similarly may be adjoined to fluid lines on the second component side The fluid lines (not specifically shown in the figures) may be hoses or like components for the transmission of fluid (e.g., hydraulic fluid) between the two components via the fluid connections formed by the joined fluid couplers. As referenced above, four fluid connections configured as shown in Figs. 1 -4 would be suitable for use with compact tractor systems, which typically have four hydraulic fluid lines for operation of a connected implement. In addition, the male nipple cartridges and female couplers may conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm standard couplings. Again, it will be appreciated that such example is non-limiting, and various categories, configurations, and numbers of individual couplings may be connected together with the multi-coupling system of the present invention. It will also be appreciated that the female and male couplers may be reversed for certain applications, with the male couplers being part of the mobile component and the female couplers being part of the fixed component.

The first/fixed component 22 may include one or more guide holes 30, and the second/mobile component 24 may include one or more guide pins 32. The guide holes 30 and guide pins 32 help ensure a proper alignment of the fluid couplers 26 and 28. In particular, the guide pins may be inserted into and received within the respective guide holes, which ensures a proper alignment of the fixed and mobile multi-coupling components. In the particular example of Figs. 1 -4, two guide holes are provided for receiving two respective guide pins, although any suitable number may be employed. The guide pins and guides holes may be reversed, meaning that one of the mobile component or fixed component includes the plurality of guide pins, and the other of the mobile component or fixed component includes a plurality of guide holes.

The first/fixed component 22 also may include a plurality of opposing support ridges 34 and 36. At least a portion of the first fluid couplers 26 may be located between the support ridges and spaced apart from the support ridges. The spacing is configured adequately to allow the individual fluid couplers 26 on the fixed component of the multi-coupling to connect to individual or "loose" female couplers (i.e., couplers not incorporated into a multi-coupling component or casting), which may be present on the mobile side. When the male fluid couplers on the fixed component are configured having the same geometry as set forth in ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm, for example, standard off-the-shelf female couplers can be connected to them. There is also enough space in the first coupling component so that the female couplers fit within ridges 34 and 36 formed in the fixed component. In this manner, any loose individual female couplers on the mobile side can connect to the male couplers on the fixed component in addition or alternatively to female couplers incorporated into a multi-coupling component on the mobile side. The ability to connect loose female couplers to the first multi-coupling component is an advantage not present in conventional configurations. The first/fixed component 22 further may include mounting holes 38 for mounting the first component to a base vehicle. Similarly, the second/mobile component 24 further may include mounting holes 40 for mounting the second component to an implement that may be attached the base vehicle. The mounting may be achieved using any suitable fastening elements, such as nuts, bolts, screws, and the like.

The second/mobile component 24 may include a casting configured as a housing 42 that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers 28. The casting or housing 42 further may support a handle assembly 44 that is attached in a rotatable manner to the housing of the second multi-coupling component via a retention element 46. The retention element 46 may be a shoulder bolt or other suitable retention mechanism by which the handle assembly 44 is attached to the housing 42 in a manner that permits the handle assembly to rotate. The handle assembly 44 may include a handle portion 48 that may be easily gripped by a user to rotate the handle assembly. To aid in comfort of operation, the handle portion 48 may have a rubber cover that extends over a metal or otherwise rigid extension to allow for easy and comfortable gripping. The handle assembly 44 further may include a plate portion 50 from which the handle portion extends perpendicularly, and retention element 46 extends through the plate portion 50 to attach the handle assembly 44 to the casting or housing 42. In this manner, a force may be applied to the handle portion 48 by a user to rotate the handle assembly 44 to configure the multi-coupling system between the connected state and the disconnected state. The handle assembly further may include a hook retainer 52 that extends from the plate portion 50. The hook retainer 52 and the plate portion 50 define a slot 54 configured to receive a roller 56 located on the first/fixed component 22. The roller 56 includes a recessed neck 58 and a head 60.

In general, the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between the disconnected state and the connected and locked state. As the handle assembly rotates, the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state. Referring to the figures, the interaction of the hook retainer 52 and the roller 56 secures the first and second multi-coupling components 22 and 24 together. The second/mobile component 24 also may include a locking pin assembly 62 that is attached to the handle assembly 44. As further detailed below, a locking pin of the locking pin assembly engages a locking pin hole 64 in the casting or housing 42 of the second/mobile component 24, which is shown principally in Fig. 1 . The handle assembly 44 also may include a stop 63 that prevents over-rotation of the handle assembly 44 in either a forward or rearward rotational direction, which maintains the locking pin in a proper position.

In addition, Fig. 5 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi-coupling system 20 with the first and second components 22 and 24 in a connected and locked state. The manner of connection of the components of the multi-coupling system may be illustrated in more detail by reference for example to the progression from the disconnected state of Fig. 1 to the connected state of Fig. 5.

To join the first and second components 22 and 24, the guide pins 32 first may be inserted into the guide holes 30. If the second component 24 is considered the mobile component, the insertion may be achieved through manipulating or moving the mobile component into position with the guide pins received within the guide holes, the first component being the fixed component fixed to a base

equipment. This properly aligns the components 22 and 24 so that the individual fluid couplers 26 become commensurately aligned with respective individual fluid couplers 28 (and/or any loose couplers on the mobile side). As such insertion of the guide pins into the guide holes proceeds, the roller 56 enters the slot 54 defined by the hook retainer 52 and plate 50. Because of the recessed nature of the neck 58 relative to the head 60 of the roller 56, the neck more specifically slides within the slot 54, and the head 56 presses against an external surface of the hook retainer to provide a secured engagement that cannot pull out in an axial direction

perpendicular to a plane of rotation. A user may then apply a rotating force to the handle portion 48 to rotate the handle assembly 44 (e.g., in the counterclockwise direction based on the orientation in the figures, but the orientation can be varied). As the handle assembly 44 rotates, the interaction of the hook retainer 52 and the roller 56 pulls the components 22 and 24 together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state of the overall multi-coupling system 20. Due to the referenced alignment of respective fluid couplers 26 and 28, fluid can now flow through the multi-coupling system to supply fluid and a return flow between the fixed side and the mobile side.

As seen in the connected depiction of Fig. 5, the hook retainer 52 is

configured as a single cam that results in a secure connection of all four fluid lines solely by interaction with the roller 56. Accordingly, this single cam connection is far less complex, and therefore of smaller size and weight, as compared to conventional configurations that employ multiple cam locking mechanisms. The hook/roller interaction additionally leaves largely free access to the fluid lines, which also helps permit the connection of additional loose individual fluid couplers should such need be present. The ability to connect loose fluid lines is far more difficult, and in some cases not available at all, in conventional configurations with multiple locking mechanisms, insofar as the interaction of the conventional multi-coupling

components tends to span or encompass the spatial area of the fluid connections.

The locking mechanism generally may be described as follows. The multi- coupling system further may be configurable in a connected and unlocked state. The second multi-coupling component may include a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position. The second multi-coupling component further may include a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole. In the connected and locked state, the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly. The locking pin assembly is manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi-coupling system to the connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi-coupling system to the disconnected state. The locking pin assembly is configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state. In addition, the locking pin assembly also may be configured to reset the locking pin

automatically when the handle assembly is rotated toward configuring the multi- coupling system in the disconnected state.

Referring to the figures (and see particularly Figs. 1 and 5), as the handle assembly 44 rotates to configure the multi-coupling system from the disconnected state to the connected and locked state, the locking pin assembly 62 becomes aligned with the locking pin hole 64. Upon reaching such alignment, a biased locking pin of the locking pin assembly axially extends into the locking pin hole 64. In this manner, the axial extension of the locking pin located into the locking pin hole locks the handle assembly in the connected position, which prevents accidental operation of the handle assembly to open the multi-coupling system, and the locking pin thus in turn prevents accidental disconnection of the multi-coupling component 24 from component 22. A more detailed configuration of an exemplary configuration of the locking pin assembly 62 is described in more detail below. A progression through Figs. 6-8 illustrates the manner of disconnection of the multi-coupling system 20. Fig. 6 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi-coupling system 20 of Fig. 5 from generally a top view, with the components in the connected state and locked state. As seen in Fig. 7, the locking pin assembly 62 may include a locking pin 66 at a first end and a knob 68 at a second end opposite from the first end. In the connected and locked state, as described above the locking pin 66 extends into the locking pin hole 64 in the housing 42 of the second/mobile component 24. With the locking pin 66 effectively inserted into the casting or housing, movement of the handle assembly 44 is precluded to prevent any accidental disconnection of the multi-coupling components. The configuration of Fig. 6, therefore, illustrates both a connected state and a locked state as the locking pin 66 prevents movement of the handle assembly 44.

Fig. 7 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system 20 of Fig. 6, with the components now in a connected and unlocked state. Fig. 7 is a more close-up view centered in the area around the locking pin assembly 62. The knob 68 may be configured for easy gripping by a user, and thus may be provided with gripping surface features 70. In the example of the figures, the gripping surface features may be grooves, and the knob optionally may have a rubber cover, or other suitable cover material or coating, that extends over a rigid post to allow for easy and comfortable gripping. The knob 68 may be manipulated by a user to retract the locking pin 66 into the retracted position from the locking pin hole 64 in the housing 42. In exemplary embodiments, the manipulation may be a twisting or turning motion that results in retracting the locking pin from the locking pin hole. The precise operation of the overall locking pin assembly is described in more detail below. With the locking pin 66 retracted from the housing 42, rotation of the handle assembly is now permitted for disconnection of the multi-coupling

components. The configuration of Fig. 7, therefore, illustrates both a connected and unlocked state, as the locking pin 66 is retracted to permit movement of the handle assembly but the handle assembly has not as yet been moved. Fig. 8 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary multi- coupling system 20 of Fig. 7, with the multi-coupling components now in a

disconnected state. Comparing Fig. 8 to Fig. 7, the handle assembly 44 in Fig. 8 has been rotated to configure the multi-coupling system in a disconnected state in which the multi-coupling components are disconnected relative to the connected state depicted in Fig. 7 and Fig. 5. Accordingly, the handle assembly rotation to achieve the position or state of Fig. 8 moves the roller 56 out from being retained by the hook retainer 52, thereby disconnecting the multi-coupling components. Fig. 9 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the housing component 42 of the second component 24 of the exemplary multi-coupling system in isolation. The isolated view of the housing 42 in particular shows that the casting that forms the housing may include an inclined surface 71 (also identified in Figs. 6-8). As the handle assembly 44 is rotated from the connected position of Fig. 7 to the

disconnected position of Fig. 8, the locking pin 66 rides along the inclined surface 71 . Such interaction results in the locking pin 66 being forced inward within a body of the locking pin assembly, which automatically resets the locking pin as further described below.

To illustrate further details of the operation of the multi-coupling system 20, additional reference is made to Figs. 10-12, which depict various views of the locking pin assembly 62. In particular, Fig. 10 is a drawing depicting a perspective view of the exemplary locking pin assembly 62, and Fig. 1 1 is a drawing depicting another perspective view of the exemplary locking pin assembly 62 of Fig. 1 0 with the knob 68 removed. Fig. 12 is a drawing depicting a perspective and cross-sectional view of the exemplary locking pin assembly 62 of Fig. 10.

As referenced above, the locking pin assembly 62 may include the locking pin 66 at a first end and the knob 68 at a second end opposite from the first end. As seen again in the example of Fig. 12, the knob 68 may be configured for easy gripping by a user, and thus may be provided with gripping surface features 70. In the example of the figures, the gripping surface features may be grooves, and the knob optionally may have a rubber cover, or other suitable cover material or coating, to allow for easy and comfortable gripping.

As further seen in Figs. 10-12, the locking pin 66 may include a shaft end 72 at the first end of the locking pin assembly farthest from the knob 68. The shaft end 72 is the portion of the locking pin that moves into and out from being located in the locking pin hole 64 in the housing 42, so as to lock and unlock the multi-coupling assembly. As seen particularly in Figs. 1 1 and 12, the locking pin 66 further may have a distal end 74 that is opposite from the shaft end 72. In addition, the knob 68 may define a central bore 76 that receives the distal end 74. The central bore 76 and distal end 74 may have cooperating mating threads or comparable fastening structures, such that the locking pin 66 is connected at the distal end 74 to the knob 68. The locking pin 66 further may include a central portion 78 that is located between the shaft end 72 and the distal end 74. The locking pin 66 further may include a dowel pin 80 that extends outward from the central portion 78

perpendicularly to the axial direction, and a guiding ridge 82 for guiding movement of the locking pin within the locking pin assembly. The locking pin assembly 62 further may include a body 84. The body 84 may define a central passage 86 through which the locking pin 66 moves. The body

84 may include a spiral surface 88 at a first end of the body, and a fixing end 90 with the spiral surface 88 being located at an end of the body opposite from the fixing end. The fixing end 90 may include threads or comparable fastening structures that cooperate with complementary structures provided in a mounting bore defined by the plate 50 of the handle assembly 44. In this manner, the locking pin assembly is fixed via the fixing end to the handle assembly 44. The body 84 may define a detent slot

85 (see particularly Fig. 1 1 ) that is adjacent to an upper end of the spiral surface 88. The locking pin 66 is moveable within the central passage 86 relative to the body 84 along an axial direction of a longitudinal axis of the locking pin.

The body 84 of the locking pin assembly may house a torsion and

compression spring 92 located within the central passage 86 defined by the body, which is anchored at one end in the body 84 adjacent to the spiral surface 88, and anchored at an opposite end within the guiding ridge 82 of the locking pin. The spring 92 is configured to have a compression bias that biases the locking pin 66 toward the extension position axially outward through the fixing end of the body 84 (i.e., to the right in the specific orientation depicted in Fig. 12). The spring 92 also is configured to have a torsion bias that biases the locking pin 66 in a rotation direction away from the detent slot to an initial state as shown in Fig. 1 1 (i.e., in a clockwise direction in the specific orientation depicted in Fig. 12). The knob 68 may include an extension 94 that extends around the body 84.

Operation of the multi-coupling system 20 may be illustrated as follows. As referenced above, Figs. 5 and 6 depict the multi-coupling system 20, with the first and second components 22 and 24 in a combined connected and locked state. Fig. 1 1 is illustrative of the positioning of the locking pin assembly 62 in such connected and locked state. Due to the compression spring bias of spring 92, the locking pin 66 is maximally extended through the body 84, and thus is located in the locking pin hole 64 in the casting or housing 42 as shown in Fig. 6. In such position, movement of the handle assembly is precluded to prevent any accidental disconnection of the multi-coupling components. The dowel pin 80 rests against the body 84 of the locking pin assembly at the base of the spiral surface 88. The interaction of the dowel pin and body in this state, therefore, prevents the locking pin from extending beyond the maximum suitable for locking with the locking pin hole.

To unlock the locking pin assembly 62, a user may manipulate the knob 68 to move the locking pin 66 to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole 64. In the example of the figures, an unlocking manipulation may be performed by turning or twisting the knob 68 to rotate the knob counterclockwise. Due to the connection of the locking pin 66 to the knob 88 (via the connection features of the knob central bore 76 and the pin distal end 78), the knob rotation is imparted to the locking pin 66, which in turn rotates with the knob 68. As the locking pin 66 rotates, the dowel pin 80 moves along the spiral surface 88, and due to the inclined nature of the spiral surface 88, an axial motion is imparted to the locking pin toward the retracted position opposite from the extended position. In other words, an interaction of the dowel pin against the spiral surface moves the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user by turning the knob. In particular, the locking pin 66 is retracted away from the locking pin hole 64 as the dowel pin slides along the spiral surface. Because the knob 68 also is moved by the axial retraction, the extension 94 of the knob 68 slides along an outer surface of the body 84 when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

The axial and rotational movement of the locking pin 66, via turning the knob 68, is against both the compression bias and the torsion bias of the spring 92.

Accordingly, when the locking pin is in the retracted position and the dowel pin 80 reaches the detent slot 85 at the upper end of the spiral surface 88, under mainly the spring compression bias the dowel pin 80 will snap into the detent slot 85. The positioning of the dowel pin within the detent slot prevents further rotation of the knob 68 and locking pin 66, and automatically retains the locking pin the retracted position. Such state of the locking pin assembly is shown in Figs. 7 and 12. As referenced above, Fig. 7 thus illustrates a combined connected and unlocked state of the multi-coupling system components. The locking pin 66 is held in the retracted position shown in Fig. 7, which permits movement of the handle assembly but the handle assembly has not as yet been moved. A progression of Fig. 7 to Fig. 8 then depicts the disconnecting of the components of the multi-coupling system by rotation of the handle assembly 44. With the locking pin retracted, a user may rotate the handle assembly from the position of Fig. 7 to the position of Fig. 8. Such handle rotation moves the roller 56 out from being retained by the hook retainer 52, thereby disconnecting the multi-coupling components 22 and 24.

Reference again is made to Fig. 9 depicting the housing component 42 of the second component 24 in isolation, and particularly showing the inclined surface 71 (also identified in Figs. 6-8). As the handle assembly 44 is rotated to re-configure the multi-coupling system from the connected and unlocked state of Fig. 7 to the disconnected state of Fig. 8, the shaft end 72 of the locking pin 66 interacts against the inclined surface 71 by riding along the inclined surface 71 . Such interaction results in the locking pin 66 being forced further in the retracting direction inward within the body 84 of the locking pin assembly, which is against the spring bias. Referring additionally to Fig. 12, the interaction of the locking pin against the inclined surface 70 of the housing further retracts the locking pin such that the dowel pin 80 is pushed out from the detent slot 85.

When the dowel pin 80 clears the detent slot 85, the locking pin rotates and moves toward the extension position under the torsion and compression bias of the spring 92 such that the dowel pin moves away from the detent slot and along the spiral surface, thereby automatically resetting the locking pin. More specifically, the torsion bias of the spring 92 rotates the locking pin 66 such that the dowel pin 80 is moved rotationally away from the detent slot to adjacent to the spiral surface 88. Under the additional compression spring bias of the spring 92, the locking pin 66 moves back along the spiral surface toward the extended position corresponding to the locked state shown in Fig. 1 1 . As a result, when the handle is rotated back toward the connecting position (e.g., for a subsequent connection of multi-coupling components), the locking pin is reset for locking during a subsequent connecting operation. Accordingly, the locking pin assembly is automatically self-resetting from the retracted position to the extended position.

In the example of the figures referenced in the above description, the handle assembly and locking mechanism are provided on the mobile component, with the roller being located on the fixed component. The configuration may be reversed - the fixed component may include the handle assembly and locking mechanism, with the roller being located on the mobile component. Accordingly, as referenced above, the fixed and mobile components may be referred to more generally as first and second components, with either one of the components including the handle assembly and locking mechanism, and the other component including the roller for connecting with the handle assembly.

The configuration of the multi-coupling system 20 has advantages over conventional configurations in its operation for connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting the multi-coupling components. The locking pin assembly and

corresponding features in the casting that form the housing of the multi-coupling components (e.g., the locking pin hole and the inclined surface) cooperate for an effective securing of the multi-line connection. Because the hook retainer on the mobile component merely needs to interact with the roller on the fixed component in a single cam interaction, the securing mechanism is more compact, having less size and weight, as compared to conventional configurations that use multiple cam locking mechanisms. In addition, the operation of the present invention requires only one hand - i.e., a user can sequentially turn the locking pin assembly to unlock the connection and then rotate the handle for disconnection, all with the same hand in sequence as the locking pin assembly automatically retains the locking pin in the retracted position. The one-handed disconnection operation thus takes up less space and is easier to operate as compared to conventional two-handed

mechanisms, and frees up the second hand for other tasks.

Furthermore, the bias of the torsion and compression spring biases the shaft end of the locking pin into the multi-coupling casting and torques the shaft with respect to the pin body. This results in a self-resetting configuration. As described above, in the disconnected state the locking pin automatically resets to permit locking the multi-coupling in the connected state in a subsequent connecting operation. This automatic resetting is more effective and simplified as compared to conventional configurations.

An aspect of the invention, therefore, is a multi-coupling system. In exemplary embodiments, the multi-coupling system may include a first multi-coupling

component including a plurality of individual first fluid couplers, and a second multi- coupling component including a plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the multi-coupling system being configurable between a connected and locked state and a disconnected state. In the connected and locked state at least a portion of the first fluid couplers respectively are fluidly connected to the second fluid couplers, and in the disconnected state the first fluid couplers and the second fluid couplers are disconnected. The second multi-coupling component comprises a handle assembly including a hook retainer, and the first coupling component has a roller, wherein the handle assembly is rotatable to configure the multi-coupling system between the disconnected state and the connected and locked state. As the handle assembly rotates the hook retainer interacts as a single cam with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state.

In exemplary embodiments, the multi-coupling system is configurable in a connected and unlocked state. The second multi-coupling component may include a locking pin assembly that is attached to the handle assembly, the locking pin assembly including a locking pin that is moveable in an axial direction between an extended position and a retracted position, and a housing that houses the plurality of individual second fluid couplers, the housing further including a locking pin hole. In the connected and locked state the locking pin is in the extended position in which a shaft end of the locking pin is located in the locking pin hole, thereby preventing rotation of the handle assembly. The locking pin assembly is manipulated by a user to move the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state in which the handle assembly is rotatable to reconfigure the multi- coupling system to the disconnected state. The locking pin assembly is configured to automatically retain the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi- coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state. The present invention may include the first and second multi-coupling components as individual components, or as a combination of components to configure the multi-coupling system.

The multi-coupling system and/or the individual first and second multi- coupling components may include one or more of the following features, either individually or in combination.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the handle assembly includes a plate portion, and the hook retainer extends from the plate portion, the plate portion and the hook retainer defining a slot for receiving the roller to pull the first and second multi- coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state when the handle assembly is rotated.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the handle assembly includes a handle portion that extends perpendicularly from the plate portion, and a force is applied to the handle portion to rotate the handle assembly.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the roller includes a recessed neck and a head, and the neck slides within the slot and the head presses against an external surface of the hook retainer when the hook retainer interacts with the roller to pull the first and second multi-coupling components together from the disconnected state into the connected and locked state when the handle assembly is rotated.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the second multi-coupling component includes a housing, and the handle assembly is rotatably connected to the housing.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the locking pin assembly includes a knob, the locking pin has a distal end opposite from the shaft end and that is connected to the knob, and the knob is manipulated by the user to move the locking pin to the retracted position out from the locking pin hole.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the locking pin assembly includes a body defining a central passage through which the locking pin moves, and the body has a fixing end for fixing the locking pin assembly to the handle assembly.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the body of the locking pin assembly has a spiral surface at an end opposite from the fixing end. The locking pin has a dowel pin that extends outward from a central portion of the locking pin in a direction perpendicular to the axial direction. The dowel pin moves along the spiral surface, and an interaction of the dowel pin against the spiral surface moves the locking pin from the extended position to the retracted position when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user by turning the knob.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the body of the locking pin assembly defines a detent slot located adjacent to an upper end of the spiral surface. When the locking pin is in the retracted position, the dowel pin is located in the detent slot to prevent movement of the locking pin, thereby automatically retaining the locking pin in the retracted position when the multi-coupling system is in the connected and unlocked state.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the locking pin assembly further comprises a compression and torsion spring located in the central passage defined by the body. A compression bias of the spring biases the locking pin toward the extension position, such that when the locking pin assembly is manipulated by the user, the locking pin moves along the spiral surface and snaps into the detent slot under the compression bias to configure the multi-coupling system in the connected and unlocked state. A torsion bias of the spring biases the locking pin in a rotational direction away from the detent slot.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the housing of the second multi-coupling component has an inclined surface. When the handle assembly is rotated to reconfigure the multi-coupling system from the connected and unlocked state to the disconnected state, the end shaft of the locking pin interacts against the inclined surface which further retracts the locking pin to push the dowel pin out from the detent slot. The locking pin rotates and moves toward the extension position under the torsion and compression bias of the spring such that the dowel pin moves away from the detent slot and along the spiral surface, thereby automatically resetting the locking pin. In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the knob has an extension that slides along an outer surface of the body when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the locking pin includes a guiding ridge that slides against an inner surface of the body that defines the central passage as the locking pin moves between the extension position and the retracted position.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the knob has an extension that slides along an outer surface of the body when the locking pin is moved between the extended position and the retracted position.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the locking pin includes a guiding ridge that slides against an inner surface of the body that defines the central passage as the locking pin moves between the extension position and the retracted position.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the first individual couplers comprises a plurality of male nipple cartridges, and the second individual couplers comprises a plurality of female couplers that receive the male nipple cartridges. In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the first and second individual fluid couplers conform to ISO 16028 size 6.3 mm standard couplings.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the first multi-coupling is a fixed component fixed to a base equipment, and the second multi-coupling is a mobile component that is moveable into position to connect the first and second multi-coupling components. In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, one of the mobile component or fixed

component includes a plurality of guide pins, and the other of the mobile component or fixed component includes a plurality of guide holes that respectively receive the guide pins to align the fixed and mobile multi-coupling components.

In an exemplary embodiment of the multi-coupling system and/or the first and second multi-coupling components, the first multi-coupling component includes a plurality of opposing support ridges, and at least a portion of the first fluid couplers are located between the support ridges and spaced apart from the support ridges to permit coupling of individual loose fluid couplers to one or more of the first fluid couplers.

Although the invention has been shown and described with respect to a certain embodiment or embodiments, it is obvious that equivalent alterations and modifications will occur to others skilled in the art upon the reading and

understanding of this specification and the annexed drawings. In particular regard to the various functions performed by the above described elements (components, assemblies, devices, compositions, etc.), the terms (including a reference to a "means") used to describe such elements are intended to correspond, unless otherwise indicated, to any element which performs the specified function of the described element (i.e., that is functionally equivalent), even though not structurally equivalent to the disclosed structure which performs the function in the herein illustrated exemplary embodiment or embodiments of the invention. In addition, while a particular feature of the invention may have been described above with respect to only one or more of several illustrated embodiments, such feature may be combined with one or more other features of the other embodiments, as may be desired and advantageous for any given or particular application.