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Title:
POLE SPLINT DRIVER IMPLEMENT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2014/190169
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
Disclosed embodiments are directed toward driver implements (e.g., 100; 370; 400; 500) and methods (e.g., 700; 750) for driving rigid members into a support surface. In some embodiments, the disclosed driver implement is combined with a power machine (e.g., 10; 200; 300) that provides operation signals to the driver implement. Other embodiments disclose a rigid member that is configured to be driven into a support surface by various embodiments of the driver implement.

Inventors:
LACOE, Scott, J. (4295 Stonewood Way, Bismarck, ND, 58504, US)
Application Number:
US2014/039171
Publication Date:
November 27, 2014
Filing Date:
May 22, 2014
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
CLARK EQUIPMENT COMPANY (250 East Beaton Drive, West Fargo, ND, 58504, US)
International Classes:
E01F15/04
Foreign References:
DE102010023216A12012-01-12
EP1388614A22004-02-11
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VELDHUIS-KROEZE, John et al. (Westman, Champlin & Koehler P.A.,900 Second Avenue South, Suite 140, Minneapolis MN, 55402-3319, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. An implement for driving a rigid member into a support surface, comprising:

a frame;

a power machine interface including:

a mounting interface operably coupled to the frame, the mounting interface configured to be mounted on an implement carrier of a power machine; and

a control interface configured to receive a control signal from the power machine;

a driving mechanism carried by the frame and configured to engage with and provide a driving force to the rigid member; and

a positioning mechanism coupled to the frame and configured to position the driving mechanism in response to a control signal received via the control interface.

2. The implement of claim 1, wherein the frame includes a plurality of telescoping sections.

3. The implement of claim 2, wherein the positioning mechanism includes a hydraulic cylinder capable of extending and retracting to position the driving mechanism.

4. The implement of claim 2, wherein the positioning mechanism includes a hydraulic motor operable to position the driving mechanism.

5. The implement of claim 1, wherein the driving mechanism is configured to provide a vibratory driving force to the rigid member.

6. The implement of claim 1 , wherein the driving mechanism is configured to provide a repeated impact force to the rigid member.

7. The implement of claim 1, wherein the driving mechanism includes an engagement feature configured to engage a rigid member while providing a driving force.

8. The implement of claim 7, wherein the driving mechanism includes a biasing member for biasing the engagement feature toward an engagement position with a rigid member.

9. The implement of claim 1, wherein the frame is capable of rotating with respect to the mounting interface about an axis that is normal to a major surface of the mounting interface.

10. The implement of claim 9, and further comprising a frame rotating actuator coupled to the frame and for rotating the frame relative to the mounting interface.

11. The implement of claim 1 , and further comprising a vibration inducing actuator that is capable of introducing vibration into the driving mechanism.

12. The implement of claim 1 and further comprising a holding mechanism capable of being positioned relative to a rigid member for holding the rigid member.

13. A rigid member configured to be driven into a support surface via engagement with the implement of claim 1.

14. The rigid member of claim 13, wherein the rigid member has a plurality of spaced apart engagement features capable of being engaged by the driving mechanism.

15. The rigid member of claim 14, wherein each of the plurality of spaced apart engagement features includes an aperture that extends through the rigid member.

16. The rigid member of claim 13 and further comprising an interface member attachable to the rigid member, the interface member having a plurality of spaced apart engagement features capable of being engaged by the driving mechanism.

17. A method of driving a rigid member into a support surface, comprising:

coupling an implement to a power machine, the implement having a control interface for receiving a control signal from the power machine;

placing the rigid member in a selected position for insertion into the support surface; placing the implement in position to engage the rigid member;

providing a control signal from the power machine to a positioning mechanism on the implement to cause the positioning mechanism to position a driving mechanism in a drive position relative to the rigid member; and transferring a driving force to the rigid member via the driving mechanism to urge the rigid member into the support surface.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein providing the control signal includes manipulating an operator control input in the power machine.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein transferring the driving force to the rigid member includes providing an actuation signal to a driving mechanism.

20. The method of claim 19 wherein providing the actuation signal to the driving mechanism includes providing the actuation signal from the power machine.

21. The method of claim 17, wherein providing the control signal to the positioning mechanism includes providing a pressurized flow of hydraulic fluid to the positioning mechanism.

22. The method of claim 17, wherein providing the control signal to the positioning mechanism includes providing an electrical signal from the power machine to the implement.

23. The method of claim 17, wherein causing the positioning mechanism to position the driving mechanism includes positioning the driving mechanism adjacent an end of the rigid member.

24. The method of claim 17, wherein causing the positioning mechanism to position the driving mechanism includes positioning the driving mechanism adjacent one of a plurality of engagement features on the rigid member.

25. The method of claim 17, wherein causing the positioning mechanism to position the driving mechanism includes providing a downward force on the rigid member.

26. The method of claim 17 and further comprising attaching an interface member having a plurality of spaced apart engagement features capable of being engaged by the driving mechanism to the rigid member.

27. The method of claim 17, wherein placing the rigid member in a selected position for insertion into the support surface includes placing the rigid member adjacent a pole such that inserting the rigid member will reinforce the pole.

28. A power machine in combination with an implement configured to urge a rigid member into a support surface, wherein:

the power machine comprises:

a power machine frame;

a power source;

an operator input;

an implement interface that provides a connection point for providing a control signal; and

the implement comprises:

an implement frame;

a power machine interface, including:

a mounting interface operably coupled to the frame, the mounting interface configured to be mounted on an implement carrier of a power machine; and

a control interface configured to receive a control signal from the power machine;

a driving mechanism carried by the implement frame and configured to engage with and provide a driving force to the rigid member; and a positioning mechanism coupled to the implement frame and configured to position the driving mechanism in response to a control signal received via the control interface.

A splint for reinforcing a powerline pole, comprising:

a vertical member having a plurality of spaced apart engagement members along a vertical surface thereof, the engagement members being configured to be engaged by a driving implement to drive the pole splint into a support surface.

An interface member for attachment to a pole splint comprising:

a vertical member having a plurality of spaced apart engagement members along a vertical surface thereof, the engagement members being configured to be engaged by a driving implement to drive the pole splint into a support surface; and

an adapter positioned on one end of the vertical member, the adapter having a feature configured to assist in positioning the interface member adjacent the pole splint while the pole splint is being driving into the support surface.

Description:
POLE SPLINT DRIVER IMPLEMENT

BACKGROUND

[0001] This disclosure is directed toward implements that are capable of being operably coupled to power machines. More particularly, this disclosure is directed toward implements capable of driving a member such as a pole splint for reinforcing a utility pole into the ground. Many utility poles that are used, for example, to support electrical power wires, are partially inserted into the ground. Over time, such utility poles, especially the portion of the poles that is near or in the ground, tend to deteriorate. Splints are sometimes used to reinforce partially deteriorated utility poles to extend their useful life. Such a splint is partially inserted into the ground adjacent a utility pole and secured to the utility pole to provide increased strength to compensate for deterioration of the utility pole.

[0002] Placing splints around a utility pole that is partially buried in the ground can be labor intensive. Such splints are necessarily driven several feet into the ground and current methods and apparatuses require several persons, many process steps, and relatively long period of time to drive a pole splint into the ground. Improved methods or apparatus for driving pole splints or other reinforcing members around a utility pole to increase efficiency would be beneficial.

[0003] Power machines, for the purposes of this disclosure, include any type of machine that generates power for the purpose of accomplishing a particular task or a variety of tasks. One type of power machine is a work vehicle. Work vehicles are generally self-propelled vehicles that have a work device, such as a lift arm (although some work vehicles can have other work devices) that can be manipulated to perform a work function. Work vehicles include excavators, loaders, utility vehicles, tractors, and trenchers, to name a few examples. Power machines and especially work vehicles are often configured to be operably coupled to any number of different types of implements (sometimes known as "attachments"). The power machine/implement combination can be advantageously used to perform various work tasks.

[0004] The discussion above is merely provided for general background information and is not intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter.

SUMMARY

[0005] Disclosed embodiments are directed toward driver implements and methods for driving rigid members into a support surface. In some embodiments, the disclosed driver implement is combined with a power machine that provides operation signals to the driver implement. Other embodiments disclose a rigid member that is configured to be driven into a support surface by various embodiments of the driver implement.

[0006] In one embodiment, an implement for driving a rigid member into a support surface is disclosed. The implement includes a frame, a power machine interface, a driving mechanism, and a positioning mechanism. The power machine interface includes a mounting interface that is operably coupled to the frame and is configured to be mounted on an implement carrier of a power machine. The control interface is configured to receive a control signal from the power machine. The driving mechanism is carried by the frame and configured to engage with and provide a driving force to the rigid member. The positioning mechanism is coupled to the frame and is configured to position the driving mechanism in response to a control signal received via the control interface.

[0007] In another embodiment, a method of driving a rigid member into a support surface is disclosed. The method includes coupling an implement having a control interface for receiving a control signal from a power machine to the power machine. The method further includes placing the rigid member in a selected position for insertion into the support surface and placing the implement in position to engage the rigid member. Additionally, a control signal is provided from the power mechanism to a positioning mechanism on the implement to cause the positioning mechanism to position a driving mechanism in a drive position relative to the rigid member. The driving mechanism transfers a driving force to the rigid member to urge the rigid member into the support surface.

[0008] In yet another embodiment, a power machine is disclosed in combination with an implement that is configured to urge a rigid member into a support surface. The power machine includes a power machine frame, a power source, an operator input, and an implement interface that provides a connection point for providing a control signal. The implement includes an implement frame, a power machine interface, a driving mechanism, and a positioning mechanism. The power machine interface includes a mounting interface that is operably coupled to the frame and is configured to be mounted on an implement carrier of a power machine. The power machine interface also includes control interface configured to receive a control signal from the power machine. The driving mechanism is carried by the implement frame and is configured to engage with and provide a driving force to the rigid member. The positioning mechanism is coupled to the implement frame and is configured to position the driving mechanism in response to a control signal received via the control interface.

[0009] This Summary and the Abstract are provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used as an aid in determining the scope of the claimed subject matter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating functional systems of a representative implement on which embodiments of the present disclosure can be practiced and a power machine to which the representative implement can be coupled.

[0011] FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating functional systems of another representative implement on which embodiments of the present disclosure can be practiced and a power machine to which the representative implement can be coupled.

[0012] FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of one representative power machine with which implements, such as disclosed driver implements, can be utilized.

[0013] FIG. 4 is a side elevation of another representative power machine with which implements, such as disclosed driver implements, can be utilized.

[0014] FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating a driver implement for driving a rigid member into a support surface according to one illustrative embodiment.

[0015] FIG. 6 is a rear view of a driver implement incorporating the features of FIG. 5 and showing a frame thereof in a fully retracted position according to one illustrative embodiment.

[0016] FIG. 7 is a side view of the driver implement of FIG. 6 showing the frame in a fully extended position.

[0017] FIG. 8 illustrates an enlarged view of a driving mechanism for the driver implement shown in FIG. 6.

[0018] FIG. 8A illustrates engagement between a rigid member in the form of a pole splint and an engagement member of the driver implement of FIG. 6.

[0019] FIG. 9 is an illustration of a lower section of a frame of the driver implement in accordance with an example embodiment. [0020] FIG. 10 is an illustration of a portion of the driver implement with the frame of the driver implement rotated with respect to a mounting interface on the driver implement for mounting the driver implement to a power machine.

[0021] FIG. 11 is a back view of a portion of the driver implement showing the frame rotated relative to the mounting interface.

[0022] FIG. 12 is a diagram of a control system for the implement of FIG. 6.

[0023] FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a driver implement incorporating the features of FIG. 5 and showing a frame thereof with a driving mechanism in a lowered position according to another illustrative embodiment.

[0024] FIG. 14 is a perspective view of the driver implement of FIG. 13 illustrating a driving mechanism in a raised position.

[0025] FIG. 15 is a side cross-sectional view of the implement of FIG. 13, showing an actuation mechanism engaging the driving mechanism to raise it to a fully raised position.

[0026] FIG. 16 is side cross-sectional view of the implement of FIG. 13, showing the driving mechanism in a fully lowered position.

[0027] FIG. 17 is a perspective view of a portion of the driving mechanism of the implement of FIG. 13.

[0028] FIG. 18 illustrates a portion of one embodiment of a rigid member of the type that can be driven into a support surface by the implement of FIG. 13.

[0029] FIGs. 19 and 19A illustrate an adapter for use with splints that are not specifically configured to be driven into a support surface by the implement of FIG. 13.

[0030] FIG. 20 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the implement of claim 13, showing features of the driving mechanism.

[0031] FIG. 21 is a block diagram illustrating a first method embodiment.

[0032] FIG. 22 is a block diagram illustrating a second method embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0033] The concepts disclosed herein are described and illustrated with reference to their application in exemplary embodiments. These concepts, however, are not limited in their application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components in the illustrative embodiments and are capable of being practiced or being carried out in various other ways. The terminology in this document is used for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. Words such as including, comprising, and having and variations thereof as used herein are meant to encompass the items listed thereafter, equivalents thereof, as well as additional items.

[0034] These concepts can be practiced on various implements, including those as will be described below. A representative implement 100 on which the embodiments can be practiced and a power machine 10 to which the implement can be operably coupled are illustrated in diagram form in FIG. 1 and described below before any embodiments are disclosed. For the sake of brevity, only one implement and power machine combination is discussed. However, as mentioned above, the embodiments below can be practiced on any of a number of implements and these various implements can be operably coupled to a variety of different power machines. Power machines, for the purposes of this discussion, include a frame, at least one work element, and a power source that is capable of providing power to the work element to accomplish a work task. One type of power machine is a self-propelled work vehicle. Self-propelled work vehicles are a class of power machines that include a frame, work element, and a power source that is capable of providing power to the work element. At least one of the work elements on self-propelled work vehicles is a motive system for moving the power machine under power.

[0035] Referring now to FIG. 1 , a block diagram illustrates basic systems of power machine 10 as are relevant to interact with implement 100 as well as basic features of implement 100, which represents an implement upon which the embodiments discussed below can be advantageously incorporated. At their most basic level, power machines for the purposes of this discussion include a frame 20, a power source 30, and a work element, as shown in FIG. 1 , an implement interface 40. On power machines such as loaders and excavators and other similar work vehicles, implement interface 40 includes an implement carrier 50 and a power port 60. The implement carrier 50 is typically rotatably attached to a lift arm or other work element and is capable of being secured to the implement. The power port 60 provides a connection for the implement 100 to provide power from the power source to the implement. Power source 30 represents one or more sources of power that are generated on power machine 10. This can include either or both of pressurized fluid and electrical power.

[0036] The implement 100, which is sometimes known as an attachment or an attachable implement, has a power machine interface 110 and a tool 120, which is coupled to the power machine interface 110. The power machine interface 110 illustratively includes a machine mount 112 and a power port 114 for coupling with power machine 10. Machine mount 112 can be any structure capable of being coupled to the implement interface 40 of power machine 10. Power port 114, in some embodiments, includes hydraulic and/or electrical couplers. Power port 114 can also include a wireless electrical connection, as may be applicable on a given implement. While both machine mount 112 and power port 114 is shown, some implements may have only one or the other as part of their power machine interface 110. Other implements, such as a bucket, would not have a power port 114 at all.

[0037] In instances where a power machine has a specific implement carrier, the machine mount 112 will include a structure that complements the specific implement carrier. For power machines without an implement carrier, the machine mount includes features to directly mount the implement 100 to the power machine 10 such as bushings to accept pins for mounting the implement to a lift arm and an actuator for moving the implement. Some implements are not intended to be physically mounted to a power machine at all. One example of an implement that is not intended to be physically mounted to a power machine would be a handheld implement.

[0038] For the purposes of this discussion, implements can be categorized as simple or complex. A simple implement has no work element. One example of a simple implement is a bucket. A complex implement has at least one actuable work element. Complex implements are further divided into those that have one actuable work element and those that have multiple work elements.

[0039] In FIG. 1, the implement 100 illustrates a tool 120 for a complex implement with a single work element 124. The tool 120 includes a frame 122, which is coupled with or integral to the machine mount 112. A work element 124 is coupled to the frame 122 and is moveable in some way (rotation, extension, etc.) with respect to the frame. An actuator 126 is mounted to the frame 122 and the work element 124 and is actuable under power to move the work element with respect to the frame. Power is provided to the actuator 126 via the power machine. Power is selectively provided in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid (or other power source) directly from the power machine 10 to the actuator 126 via power ports 60 and 114.

[0040] FIG. 2 illustrates an implement 100', which depicts a complex, multi-function implement. The features in FIG. 2 that are similarly numbered to those in FIG. 1 are substantially similar and are not discussed again here for the sake of brevity. Implement 100' has one or more additional work elements 124", which are shown in block form. Each work element 124" has a corresponding actuator 126" coupled thereto for controlling movement of the work element 124". A control system 130 receives power from the power machine and selectively provides power to the actuators 126' and 126" in response to signals from operator inputs. The control system 130 includes a controller 132, which is configured to receive electrical signals from the power machine 10 indicative of operator input manipulation and control power to the various actuators based on those electrical signals. The controller 132 can provide electrical signals to some or all of the actuators 126' and 126" to control their function. Alternatively, the controller 132 can control optional valve 134, which in turn controls actuation of some or all of the actuators 126' and 126" by providing pressurized hydraulic fluid to the actuators.

[0041] Although not shown in either of FIGs. 1-2, in some instances, controller 132 can receive signals indicative of operator actuation of user inputs that are mounted on the implement, as opposed to the power machine. In these applications, the implement is controlled from an operator position that is located remotely from the power machine (i.e. next to the implement 100').

[0042] FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of a representative power machine 200 with which implements of the present disclosure can be engaged and operated. The power machine 200 illustrated in FIG. 3 is a self-propelled work vehicle in the form of a skid steer loader, but other types of work vehicles may engage and operate implements of the type disclosed below. A few examples of the many different types of power machines that may operate implements of the type disclosed below include other types of loaders such as tracked loaders, steerable wheeled loaders, including all-wheel steer loaders, excavators, and telehandlers. The loader 200 includes a supporting frame or main frame 202, which supports a power source 204, which in some embodiments is an internal combustion engine. A power conversion system 206 is operably coupled to the power source 204. Power conversion system 206 illustratively receives power from the power source 204 and operator inputs to convert the received power into power signals in a form that is provided to and utilized by functional components of the power machine. In some embodiments, such as with the loader 200 in FIG. 3, the power conversion system 206 includes hydraulic components such as one or more hydraulic pumps and various actuators and valve components that are illustratively employed to receive and selectively provide power signals in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid to some or all of the actuators used to control functional components of the loader 200. Alternatively, the power conversion system 206 can include electric generators or the like to generate electrical control signals to power electric actuators. For the sake of simplicity, the actuators discussed in the disclosed embodiments herein are referred to as hydraulic or electrohydraulic actuators primarily in the form of motors and cylinders, but other types of actuators can be employed in some embodiments.

[0043] Among the functional components that are capable of receiving power signals from the power conversion system 206 are tractive elements 208, illustratively shown as wheels, which are configured to rotatably engage a support surface to cause the power machine to travel. Other examples of power machines can have tracks or other tractive elements instead of wheels. In an example embodiment, a pair of hydraulic motors (not shown in FIG. 3), are provided to convert a hydraulic power signal into a rotational output. In power machines such as skid- steer loaders, a single hydraulic motor can be operatively coupled to both of the wheels on one side of the power machine. Alternatively, a hydraulic motor can be provided for each tractive element to allow for independent drive control for each tractive element on a machine. Steering a skid-steer loader is accomplished by providing unequal rotational outputs to the tractive element or elements on one side of the machine as opposed to the other side. In some power machines, steering is accomplished through other means, such as, for example, steerable axles or articulating frames.

[0044] The loader 200 also includes a lift arm structure 214 that is capable of being raised and lowered with respect to the frame 202. The lift arm structure 214 illustratively includes a lift arm 216 that is pivotally mounted to the frame 202 at joint 218. An actuator 220, which in some embodiments is a hydraulic cylinder configured to receive pressurized fluid from power conversion system 206, is pivotally coupled to both the frame 202 and the lift arm 216 at joints 222 and 224, respectively. Actuator 220 is sometimes referred to as a lift cylinder, and is a representative example of one type of actuator that may be used in a loader 200. Extension and retraction of the actuator 220 causes the lift arm 216 to pivot about joint 218 such that an end of the lift arm 214 represented generally by a joint 232 (discussed in more detail below) is raised and lowered along a generally vertical path indicated approximately by arrow 238. The lift arm 216 is representative of one type of lift arm that may be attached to loader 200. The lift arm structure 214 shown in FIG. 3 includes a second lift arm and actuator disposed on an opposite side of the loader 200, although neither is shown in FIG. 3. Other lift arm structures, with different geometries, components, and arrangements can be coupled to the loader 200 or other power machines upon which the embodiments discussed herein can be practiced without departing from the scope of the present discussion. For example, power machines can have a lift arm such that joint 232 is raised in a generally radial path. Other power machines such as excavators and telehandlers have substantially different lift arm geometries as well as joints from those on the loader 200 illustrated in FIG. 3.

[0045] Loader 200 includes an implement interface 226, which is capable of accepting and attaching an implement to the loader. As discussed above with respect to implement 100, various simple and complex implements can be attached to loader 200. To that end, the implement interface 226 provides two different mechanisms to which an implement can be attached. The first mechanism is an implement carrier 230, which is capable of providing a mechanical connection to operably couple an implement to the lift arm assembly 214. The second mechanism a port 234, which can provide signals to control a function on a complex implement when coupled to the implement. Attaching various implements to the loader 200 can be accomplished by attaching the implement to one or both of the implement carrier 230 and the port 234.

[0046] The implement carrier 230 is pivotally mounted to the lift arm 216 at joint 232. One or more actuators such as hydraulic cylinder 236 are pivotally coupled to the implement carrier 230 and the lift arm structure 214 to cause the implement carrier to rotate under power about an axis that extends through the joint 232 in an arc approximated by arrow 228 in response to operator input. In some embodiments, the one or more actuators pivotally coupled to the implement carrier 230 and the lift arm assembly 214 is a hydraulic cylinder capable of receiving pressurized hydraulic fluid from the power conversion system 206. In these embodiments, the one or more hydraulic cylinders 236, which are sometimes referred to as tilt cylinders, are further representative examples of actuators that may be used in loader 200. The implement carrier 230 is configured to accept and secure any one of a number of different implements to the loader 200 as may be desired to accomplish a particular work task, including the implements described in the embodiments below. Other power machines can have different types of implement carriers than the one shown in FIG. 3. Other types of implement carriers include implement carriers of different geometries, engagement and securing mechanisms, and so forth. Still other power machines do not have implement carriers and instead allow for implements that are directly attached to a lift arm.

[0047] The port 234 provides a source of power and control signals that can be coupled to an implement to control various functions on such an implement, in response to operator inputs, as will be described below in more detail relative to the implements discussed below. In one embodiment, port 234 includes hydraulic couplers that are connectable to an implement for providing power signals in the form of pressurized fluid provided by the power conversion system 206 for use by an implement that is operably coupled to the loader 200. Alternatively or in addition, port 234 includes electrical connectors that can provide power signals and control signals to an implement to control and enable actuators of the type described above to control operation of functional components on an implement. Other power machines can have ports that provide power and/or control signals utilizing different locations or connection structures. The embodiments discussed herein are not limited to any particular port or connection between a particular power machine and an implement for the purpose of supplying power and/or control signals.

[0048] Loader 200 also illustratively includes a cab 240 that is supported by the frame 202 and defines, at least in part, an operator station 242. Operator station 242 typically includes an operator seat, operator input devices, and display devices that are accessible and viewable from a sitting position in the seat (none of which are shown in FIG. 3). When an operator is positioned properly at the operator station 242, the operator can manipulate operator input devices to control such functions as driving the loader 200, raising and lowering the lift arm structure 214, rotating the implement carrier 230 about the lift arm structure 214 and make power and control signals available to implement via the sources available at port 234. Operator input devices can include joysticks, buttons, display panel input devices, variable input sliders, pressure sensitive devices and any other devices than can be manipulated by an operator for the purpose of controlling various functions on the loader 200 or on an implement that is operably coupled to the loader 200.

[0049] Loader 200 also includes an electronic controller 250 that is configured to receive input signals from at least some of the operator input devices and provide control signals to the power conversion system 206 and to implements via port 234. It should be appreciated that electronic controller 250 can be a single electronic control device with instructions stored in a memory device and a processor that reads and executes the instructions to receive input signals and provide output signals all contained within a single enclosure. Alternatively, the electronic controller 250 can be implemented as a plurality of electronic devices coupled on a network. The disclosed embodiments are not limited to any single implementation of an electronic control device or devices. The electronic device or devices such as electronic controller 250 are programmed and configured by the stored instructions to perform various operations related to control of the loader 200, conveying information to an operating, receiving inputs from an operator, and communicating with devices that are in communication with the electronic controller 250 including controllers on implements such as those described below.

[0050] FIG. 4 is a side elevation view of another representative power machine 300 with which implements of the present disclosure can be engaged and operated. Power machine 300 is a utility vehicle and includes an implement carrier 330 to which a simple implement in the form of a bucket 352 is attached but to which implements of the type discussed below can be coupled. Implement interface 326 includes an implement carrier 330 is pivotally attached to a lift arm 316, which is carried on a main frame 302. The main frame supports a power source 304 and a power conversion system 306 that is operably coupled to the power source 304. Power conversion system 306 illustratively receives power from the power source 304 and operator inputs to convert the received power into power signals in a form that is provided to and utilized by functional components of the utility vehicle 300.

[0051] Utility vehicle 300 also includes an electronic controller 350 that is configured to receive input signals from at least some of the operator input devices and provide control signals to the power conversion system 306 and to implements via a port (not shown in FIG. 4, but functionally similar to port 234 of FIG. 3). The utility vehicle 300 has various features that are different from loader 200 in both form and function, but like the loader 200, it is capable of carrying and communicating with implements of the type disclosed below. The implement carrier 330 can be substantially similar to the implement carrier 230 such that the exact same implement can be carried on either power machine (or other power machines such as other types of loaders, telehandlers and the like that have a substantially similar implement carrier). Furthermore, power and/or control signals provided by the utility vehicle 300 through its port via the power conversion system 306 and/or controller 350 can be substantially similar to the power and/or control signals provided by loader 200.

[0052] FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram identifying components of an implement 370 configured to urge or drive a rigid member such as a pole splint into a support surface according to one illustrative embodiment. Implement 370 includes a frame 374, a driving mechanism 372, a frame 374, which carries the driving mechanism, and an actuation mechanism 376 that is coupled to the frame. The actuation mechanism 376 can include one or more actuators coupled to the frame 374. The driving mechanism 372 is capable of being actuated to engage with and provide a driving force to the rigid member that is to be driven into a support surface. In one embodiment, the driving force provided by the driving mechanism is generated by a relatively constant vibratory mechanism that acts against the rigid member. In alternative embodiments, a periodic impact force such as a reciprocating mechanism or a drop hammer can be used to provide a driving force. The actuation mechanism 376 is configured to position the driving mechanism 372. By positioning the driving mechanism 372, the actuation mechanism 376 not only places the driving mechanism 372 in position to engage the rigid member, but also provides an additional downward force on the rigid member to further assist driving the rigid member into a support surface. In some embodiments, the driving mechanism 376 positions the driving mechanism by adjusting one or more portions of the frame 374. In other embodiments, the actuation mechanism 376 positions the driving mechanism 372 by adjusting the position of the driving mechanism relative to the frame 374. This is accomplished by having the actuation mechanism 376 be coupled to the driving mechanism 372, shown in dotted line relationship in FIG. 5.

[0053] A power machine interface 378 is provided for engagement with utility vehicle 300. The power machine interface 378 provides a conduit for providing power from a source on the power machine to the actuation mechanism 376 and the driving mechanism 372. In some embodiments, the power machine interface 378 also includes a conduit for control signals for controlling actuation of the driving mechanism 372 and the actuation mechanism 376 and/or a mounting interface for mounting the implement 370 to power machines such as loader 200 and utility vehicle 300. Power machine interface 378 can also include a mechanism for mounting to a power machine, such as a physical structure that can be mounted to an implement carrier such as implement carriers 230 and 330 described above or other mounting mechanisms for mounting to power machines that do not have an implement carrier such as implement carriers 230 and 330 or other similar implement carriers. In some embodiments, one or more of the actuators of actuation mechanism 376 are coupled to a portion of the power machine interface 378, shown in dotted line relationship in FIG. 5.

[0054] FIGs. 6 and 7 illustrate an exemplary embodiment of an implement 400 that incorporates features discussed in conjunction with the implement 370 above. Implement 400 is discussed below in terms of coupling and/or mounting to loader 200 for the purposes of simplicity, although the same or similar implement can also be coupled and/or mounted to utility vehicle 300 and other power machines. FIG. 6 shows a rear view of implement 400 and FIG. 7 shows a side view of implement 400. Implement 400 includes a driving mechanism 402, a frame 404 to which the driving mechanism 402 is operably coupled, an actuation mechanism 406, which is coupled to the frame 404 and a power machine interface or mounting structure 409, which is coupled to the frame 404. The power machine mounting structure 409 is configured to be engaged and secured with the implement carrier230 of loader 200. The power machine mounting structure 409, along with conduits that are capable of being attached to port 234 (discussed below) of loader 200 are both part of the power machine interface of implement 400. Alternative embodiments can include a power machine mounting structure having engagement features to allow the implement to be secured to implement carriers different from the implement carrier 230 shown in FIG. 3.

[0055] The frame 404 is a telescoping frame having a plurality of sections (in this case three sections: a first section 410, a second section 412, and a third section 414) that collectively operate to expand and contract the frame 404. The first section 410 is a base section of the frame 404 (shown in more detail in FIG. 9), the third section 414 is a top section, and the second section 412 is an intermediate section. The driving mechanism 402 is coupled to the third or top section 414 so that the driving mechanism is always positioned above the frame 404, regardless of whether the frame is fully extended (as in FIG. 7), fully retracted (as in FIG. 6) or somewhere in between. Frame 404 has one intermediate section, but in other embodiments, a telescoping frame can have any number of intermediate sections.

[0056] The frame 404 is sized to allow a maximum reach when fully extended that allows for placement of the driving mechanism 402 above the top of a pole splint and when fully retracted allows for placement of the driving mechanism 402 to a low enough position to drive a pole splint the desired distance into the ground. Pole splints are generally driven into the ground until half of the splint is below the ground and half of the pole splint is above the ground. Pole splints vary in length. The implement 400 shown in FIGs. 6 and 7 is advantageously capable of handling pole splints from ten to thirteen feet in length, meaning that when the frame 404 is fully extended, the driving mechanism 402 can be raised to a height of at least thirteen feet and when the frame is fully retracted, the driving mechanism 402 can be lowered to a height of about five feet. The sizes of pole splints are provided here for illustrative purposes only and should not be regarded as limiting. Other embodiments of telescoping frames can be constructed to locate a driving mechanism to different maximum and minimum heights.

[0057] The actuation mechanism 406 includes a pair of actuators 416 and 418, each of which is coupled to the intermediate section 412. A first of the actuators 416 is also coupled to the top section 414, while a second of the actuators 418 is also coupled to the base section 410. In this illustrative example, the actuators 416 and 418 are hydraulic cylinders that are configured to be selectively powered by a source of hydraulic fluid provided to the implement 400 via a power machine with which it is operably coupled. Actuators 416 and 418 are connected in parallel such that when hydraulic fluid is provided to the actuators, they each retract or expand, depending on which direction hydraulic fluid is provided to the actuators. In some embodiments, the actuation mechanism 406 includes one or more actuators (none shown in FIGs. 6-7) to control stabilizers that extend from the frame to the support surface or ground. In embodiments with stabilizers, positioning the stabilizers onto the ground can allow the frame to be raised off of the support surface, thereby increasing the maximum reach of the frame, resulting in a more compact frame when the frame is fully retracted for a given maximum reach. An example hydraulic circuit for implement 400 is discussed in more detail below.

[0058] As discussed above, the driving mechanism 402 is mounted to the top section 414 of the frame 404. FIG. 8 illustrates the driving mechanism 402 in more detail. The driving mechanism 402 includes a driving force generator 420, which is mounted to a base 422. The driving force generator 420 provides a driving force, which is transmitted to the base 422. The base 422 is coupled to the top section 414 via a plurality of isolators 424. Isolators 424 can be constructed of any suitable material capable of isolating the base 422 from the frame 404 so that the driving force generated by the driving force generator is generally not transmitted to the frame. The driving force generator 420 includes a hydraulic motor 425 (shown in FIG. 6) that drives a pair of eccentrically weighted wheels to generate a vibratory force. The forces generated by each of the eccentrically weighted wheels are such that they cancel out vibrations in a horizontal direction represented by arrow 426 leaving substantially only vibratory forces that act in a vertical direction, as represented by arrow 428. Thus, the vibratory forces are focused in a direction that will tend to urge a pole splint into the ground during operation of the implement 400.

[0059] The driving mechanism 402 also includes an engagement member 430, which is configured to engage a pole splint to urge it into place against a pole while the pole splint is being driven into the ground. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, the engagement member 430 has an engagement surface 432 that includes a plurality of projections 434 extending therefrom. The projections 434 are positioned so that when the engagement member 430 is properly engaged with a splint, the engagement surface 432 is in contact with an end of the splint and at least one of the projections is on each side of the pole splint. FIG. 8A shows a portion of a pole splint 435 in an engagement with the engagement surface 432. Two of the three projections 434 are shown on one side of the pole splint 435, with the third projection being positioned on the opposite side of the pole splint (and not shown in FIG. 8A). The positioning of the three projections in this manner provides some retaining assistance when the engagement member 430 is engaged with the pole splint 435. That is, the pole splint 435 is generally held in a desired vertical orientation by the engagement between the projections 434 and the contour of the pole splint 435. When properly engaged, the vibratory forces are transmitted via the engagement surface 432 to the splint, which the projections 434 hold the splint in place. The engagement member 430 is removably attached to the base 422 with fasteners 436. This allows for attachment of various different engagement members as may be required for different shapes and sizes of splints.

[0060] FIG. 6 also illustrates various conduits for providing pressurized hydraulic fluid to the cylinders 416 and 418 as well as the hydraulic motor 425. A hose guide 440 is attached to the frame 404 in which flexible hoses 442 and 444 that provide pressurized hydraulic fluid to motor 425 are carried. Hose guide 446 carries hoses 449 and 450, which are provided to the cylinders 416 and 418. Because the frame 404 is a telescoping frame, it is necessary to have at least part of the conduits be flexible. The hose guides 440 and 446 restrain the hoses that are carried within them, thereby minimizing the likelihood of damage. Hoses 448 are provided for connection to a power machine.

[0061] In FIGs. 6-7, the frame 404 is shown as being positioned vertically, i.e. generally normal to a support surface on which the implement 400 is placed. Put another way, the frame 404 is shown to be vertically aligned with the power machine interface 409. In some applications, however, the ground or support surface adjacent a utility pole that is to be reinforced with a splint may be sloped. In such a case, the power machine and implement 400 may be tilted such that when the driving mechanism 402 is positioned above the splint, it would be inclined to drive the splint into the ground at an angle with respect to the pole. To address this issue, the frame 404 of implement 400 is pivotally coupled to the power machine mounting structure 409 to allow the frame to be tilted with respect to the power machine mounting structure and thus the power machine.

[0062] FIG. 9 illustrates the first section 410 of the frame 404. The first section includes an interface portion 411, which provides for coupling to the power machine mounting structure 409. As will be described below, the frame is tiltable under power via an actuator. A bushing 455 is provided on the interface portion 411 for coupling to such an actuator.

[0063] FIGs. 10 and 11 illustrate the pivotal coupling between the power machine mounting structure 409 and the frame 404. The frame 404 is pivotally coupled at pivot joint 452. An actuator 454 is coupled to the frame 404 at joint 456 (via bushing 455) and to the power machine mounting structure 409 at joint 458. The actuator 454 is configured to pivot the frame 404 in response to operator input. In FIG. 11, the frame 404 is shown pivoted with respect to the power machine mounting structure. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 11, the frame is capable of pivoting 15 degrees in either direction from a centered position. Other embodiments can have different tilting capabilities as may be advantageous.

[0064] FIG. 12 is a schematic of a control circuit 470 for use on implement 400. An actuator control assembly 472 and an electronic controller 474 are installed on the frame 404 of the implement 400. Controller 474 is configured to be in communication with controller 250 on the loader 200 (or controller on 350 on utility vehicle 300 or a controller on other power machines capable of interfacing with implement 400) to receive indications from operator inputs. Controller 474 is, in one embodiment, connected to the power machine via conduits 492 connected at port 234 (the connection not being shown in any of the FIGs.), although any suitable connection can be made between the controllers 250 and 474 without departing from the scope of this disclosure. The actuator control assembly 472 shown in FIG. 12 has three hydraulic control valves: a first valve 476, a second valve 478, and a third valve 480. The actuator control assembly 472 is shown schematically as a single valve assembly, but any arrangement of valves and valve assemblies can be provided. In addition, other types of actuator controls can be employed, including other hydraulic arrangements, electrical or electronic actuator controls, and the like.

[0065] Three couplers 482, 484, and 486 are shown as being provided to this particular actuator control assembly 472. These couplers 482, 484, and 486 correspond to hoses 448. Couplers 482 and 484 are source couplers that are capable of receiving pressurized hydraulic fluid from a power machine in either a first direction, in through coupler 482 and out through coupler 484 or a second direction, in though coupler 484 and out through coupler 486. Coupler 486 is provided as return line to a low volume reservoir. Power in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid is made available to the first, second, and third hydraulic control valves 476, 478, and 480. Control valve 476 is operably coupled to actuator 454 for controlling the angle of the frame 404 with respect to the power machine mounting structure 409. Control valve 478 is operably coupled to the actuators 416 and 418 for controlling the extension and retraction of the frame 404. A valve 487 is in communication with a base end of each of the actuators 416 and 418. Valve 487 acts to prevent uncommanded fluid flow between the actuators 416 and 418 to prevent uncommanded lowering of intermediate frame section 412. Control valve 480 is in communication with stabilizing or platform leg extension actuators 488 and 490. As discussed above, some embodiments can have stabilizers and in those embodiments, a control valve 480 is provided to control the position of the stabilizers.

[0066] Each of the control valves 476, 478, and 480 are operated to control the various actuators to which they are operably coupled in response to operator inputs. As shown in FIG. 12, the control valves 476, 478, and 480 are in a blocking position, i.e. they are each position to prevent operation of each of the actuators. Controller 474 is operably coupled to each of the control valves 476, 478, and 480 to control the position thereof. Control 474 is shown as having six outputs, A-F, for controlling the control valves 476, 478, and 480. These six outputs can be individual signal lines, different signals provided on a communication bus, wireless signals, or any other acceptable communication scheme capable of providing control signals to the control valves. Control signals A and B are provided to control valve 476 (to either individual control devices such as the solenoids illustrated in FIG. 12 or any other actuation device that control the position of control valve 476) for causing the actuator 454 to extend and retract, respectively. Control signals C and D are provided to control valve 478 for causing the actuators 416 and 418 to extend and retract, respectively. Control signals E and F are provided to control valve 480 for causing actuators 488 and 490 to extend and retract, respectively. Pressurized hydraulic fluid is provided to motor 425 in response to operator input. As shown in FIG. 12, no actuator on the implement 400 is controlled by controller 474 to enable, or prevent, hydraulic flow to motor 424, although in other embodiments, such an actuator may be provided and controlled by a controller onboard the implement.

[0067] FIGs. 13-14 illustrate an implement 500 that can be attached to a power machine such as loader 200 or utility vehicle 300 and is configured to drive a rigid member into the ground according to another illustrative embodiment. The implement 500 includes the components illustrated in FIG. 5, but unlike the implement 400 discussed above, it is not configured to position a driving mechanism at a top end of the rigid member and apply a downward force to the top end of the rigid member to drive it into the support surface. This provides the advantage that the length of the rigid member that implement 500 can drive into a support surface is not limited by the maximum height of the frame as with implement 400 above.

[0068] Implement 500 includes a frame 502, which is a generally vertical member. A power machine mounting interface 504 is operably coupled to the frame 502 and is configured to be attached to an implement carrier on a power machine such as loader 200 and/or utility vehicle 300. Mounting interface 504 can be either rigidly mounted to the frame 502 or rotatably mounted to the frame 502 to allow the frame 502 to be pivoted with respect to the mounting structure in a manner similar to the arrangement discussed above with respect to implement 400.

[0069] Implement 500 has a driving mechanism 506 that is capable of engaging a rigid member and an actuation mechanism 508 that is capable of moving the driving mechanism relative to the frame 502. As will be discussed in more detail below, rather than having a telescopic frame, the position of which is being controlled by an actuation mechanism, the frame 502 of implement 500 is a rigid frame with no sections that move to position the driving mechanism 508. Instead, the driving mechanism 506 is positionable relative to the frame 502 under power of the actuation mechanism 508, at least so far as the actuation mechanism is capable raising the driving mechanism 506 relative to the frame. The frame 502 has a channel 503 formed into it. The channel 503 is provided to guide a rigid member such as a pole splint into a proper position during the insertion process. The channel 503 has an aperture 505 so that a portion of the driving mechanism 506 can engage a rigid member by accessing the rigid member through the aperture. The implement 500 is configured to work with a rigid member that has a plurality of engagement features that the driving mechanism can access to drive the rigid member into the support surface. Thus, the driving mechanism need not be positioned on a top end of the rigid member to drive it into the support surface. Both the driving mechanism and the rigid member will be discussed in more detail below.

[0070] FIGs. 15-16 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of the implement 500 and a rigid member 510, in the form of a pole splint. The actuation mechanism 508 includes a hydraulic motor 512 (shown in FIGs. 13-14) that has a sprocket 514 on its output shaft. The sprocket 514 drives a chain 516 about a driven sprocket 518. The chain 516 is tensioned by a tensioning member 520. An interface block 522 has a pair of hydraulic couplers 524 and 526 of the type that can be coupled to a source of hydraulic power, such as would be available at port 234 and 334. A pair of conduits 528 and 529 supply and return hydraulic fluid to the motor 512. The actuation mechanism is operable under hydraulic power, in response to an operator input (such as might be located on the power machine to which the implement is coupled).

[0071] As the chain 516 rotates about the sprockets 514 and 518, it is capable of engaging a catch member 530 on the driving mechanism 506 to lift the driving mechanism 508 to the raised position. Once the catch member is 530 is in the fully raised position as is shown in FIG. 15, the chain 516 will continue to rotate, causing the catch member to become disengaged from the chain. As a result, the driving mechanism 506 is allowed to fall, thereby transferring a downward force onto the rigid member 510.

[0072] FIG. 17 illustrates an inner portion 532 of the driving mechanism 508. The inner portion 532 is carried within the frame 502 and is attached to an outer portion in the form of weights 534 that are attached to the inner portion and are also carried within the frame. The weights 534 can be a single assembly attached together or individual weights that attached only to the inner portion. The inner portion 532 and the outer portion 534 collectively provide mass to increase the downward force onto the rigid member. The inner and outer portions of implement 500 are but one example of how to add mass to the driving mechanism 508 and should not be considered limiting. Inner portion 532 is shown in FIG. 17 as having the catch member 530 attached to it.

[0073] FIG. 18 shows a portion of the rigid member 510. The rigid member has a main surface 570 and a pair of legs 572 that are generally perpendicular to the main surface. In alternate embodiments, the legs 572 can be positioned so that they are on intersecting planes or have other features that result in the surface of the legs being not planar. This arrangement allows for a handling member such a hydraulically actuated mechanism integrated into various embodiments of an implement to grab, hold, and position the rigid member. The rigid member 510 has a plurality of engagement features 550 that are formed into the main surface 570 that are capable of being engaged by the driving member 508 of implement 500. In one embodiment, the engagement features 550 are a series of evenly spaced deformations that extend along the vertically extending main surface 570 of the rigid member 510. Alternatively, the engagement features can be apertures formed through the rigid member or material such as a series of tabs attached to the rigid member.

[0074] Some rigid members and more particularly, some pole splints may not have engagement features such as those shown in FIG. 18. Since the implement 500 necessarily needs to engage a series of engagement features to drive the rigid member into the ground, such pole splints cannot be ordinarily driven into the ground by implement 500. FIGs. 19 and 19A illustrate an adapter 600 that can be attached or positioned adjacent to such a splint during the driving process. The adapter 600 has vertical member 602 with a series of engagement members 604 and an adapter 606 with one more projections 608 extending downwardly. Alternatively, the adapter 600 can have any feature that is capable of engaging the splint, whether at the top of the splint or otherwise. The adapter 600 can positioned so that the adapter is on a top end of a splint with the vertical member 602 and the projections 608 are on opposite sides of the splint. The splint is thus engaged by the adapter 600 and transfers a downward force via the adapter to the splint.

[0075] FIG. 20 shows a portion of the driving mechanism 508, showing an engagement feature 560 for engaging the engagement features 550 on the rigid member 510. The engagement feature 560 is pivotally mounted to the inner portion 532 of driving mechanism 508 at pivot 562. The engagement feature 560 is biased toward the splint by a biasing member 564 in the form of a spring. The engagement feature has an engagement surface 561 that engages the engagement members 550 to transfer the dropping force onto the rigid member 510. Spring 566 if attached to the engagement member 560 and the frame at tab 568 to bias the engagement member in a downward direction.

[0076] The actuation mechanism 508 includes chain 516, with a link 517, which is configured to catch the catch member 530 (shown in FIG. 15). As the actuation mechanism 508 raises the driving mechanism 506, the engagement member 560 is raised above the engagement member 550. Dropping the driving mechanism 506 causes the engagement surface 561 to hammer onto the engagement surface 550, thereby urging the rigid member into the support surface. Eventually, as the rigid member is driven further into the support surface, the process of raising the driving member causes the engagement member 560 to engage the next engagement member 550 on the rigid member and in the process continue to drive the rigid member into the ground.

[0077] Referring now to FIG. 21, shown is a first embodiment of a method 700 of using an implement that is coupled to a power machine to drive a rigid member such as a pole splint into the ground. Because the method includes a power machine, the implement must necessarily be coupled to the power machine is shown at block 705. The method further includes placing rigid member in a selected position for insertion into the support surface, as is shown at block 710. For example, a pole splint would be placed adjacent the pole to be reinforced. This can be accomplishing by manually placing the rigid member in place or by using the implement (in some embodiments) to grab the rigid member and position it. A control signal is provide from the power machine, as shown at block 715. The control signal can be provided in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid, an electrical signal, or both. In response to the control signal a driving force is transferred to the rigid member as shown at block 720. [0078] Referring now to FIG. 22, shown is a second embodiment of a method 750 of using a pole splint driver to drive a splint into the ground. As shown at block 755, the method includes positioning a telescoping frame of the pole splint driver relative to a pole splint to position a vibratory mechanism of the pole splint driver implement over a splint. This can also include positioning an arm of a power machine, extending the telescoping frame, rotating the frame relative to an attachment plate to accommodate uneven ground, etc. Next, as shown at block 760, the method includes controlling the vibratory mechanism of the pole splint driver to provide a driving force to drive the splint into the ground. As shown at block 765, the method also includes retracting the telescoping frame while controlling the vibratory mechanism in order to apply additional driving force to drive the splint into the ground.

[0079] The embodiments described above provide many important advantages. The implements and the implements in combination with the power machines described above provide apparatuses and methods of installing pole splints in a much more efficient way than was previously available. Previously, several persons were required to perform the various complicated activities required to install pole splints. With the innovative embodiments, described above, the method installing such splints has been greatly simplified, the manpower required to install a splint has been reduced, and the installation can be accomplished much more quickly.

[0080] Although the subject matter has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological acts, it is to be understood that the subject matter defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the specific features or acts described above. Rather, the specific features and acts described above are disclosed as example forms of implementing the claims. Other examples of modifications of the disclosed concepts are also possible, without departing from the scope of the disclosed concepts.