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Title:
SWITCH ACTUATION DEVICE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2007/089840
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
A switch actuation device (10) for use in connection with electrical switch mechanism (200) having an actuatable structure (206). The device (10) includes an actuation mechanism (16) in operable communication with the actuatable structure (206) for use in urging the actuatable structure (206) of the electrical switch mechanism (200) from a first position to a second position. An actuatable electrical switch arrangement is also disclosed.

More Like This:
JPS5364780TIMER
Inventors:
BLAKEMAN, Ian (4610 Windbrook Drive, Murrysville, Pennsylvania, 15668, US)
Application Number:
US2007/002639
Publication Date:
August 09, 2007
Filing Date:
January 30, 2007
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BLAKEMAN, Ian (4610 Windbrook Drive, Murrysville, Pennsylvania, 15668, US)
International Classes:
G04F3/06
Foreign References:
US3985982A1976-10-12
US4164635A1979-08-14
US5828018A1998-10-27
Other References:
See also references of EP 1982236A2
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PREPELKA, Nathan, J. et al. (436 Seventh Avenue, 700 Koppers BuildingPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15219, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

WHAT IS CLAIMED IS

1. A switch actuation device for use in connection with an electrical switch mechanism having an actuatable structure, comprising an actuation mechanism in operable communication with the actuatable structure and configured to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch mechanism from a first position to a second position.

2. The device of the claim 1, wherein the actuatable structure is a toggle, a projecting structure, a switch or any combination thereof.

3. The device of claim 1, further comprising an adjustable timing mechanism configured to adjust the time it takes to urge the actuatable structure between the first position and the second position.

4. The device of claim I 5 further comprising a housing having: a base portion with an opening extending therethrough, the base portion configured for rigid attachment to the electrical switch mechanism, and the opening configured to receive the actuatable structure therethrough; an enclosure portion having an inner area configured to house the actuation mechanism, the enclosure portion configured to receive the actuatable structure of the switch mechanism and moveably attached to the base portion.

5. The device of claim 4, wherein the actuation mechanism comprises: a track having teeth and rigidly attached to a surface of the base portion of the housing; a drive cog having teeth configured to mate with the teeth of the track, wherein the drive cog is rotatably attached to the moveable enclosure portion via a drive pin; and a drive spring having a first end attached to the drive pin and a second end attached to the moveable enclosure portion; wherein, as the drive cog is moved by an urging force along the track in a first direction, the drive spring winds tighter around the pin, and when the urging force is removed, the drive spring unwinds and urges the drive cog to move along the track in a second, opposing direction.

6. The device of claim 5, further comprising a timing mechanism including: a fly wheel rotatably attached to the moveable enclosure portion via a fly wheel pin; a rocker member pivotally attached to the fly wheel and having a plurality of pins extending from a surface therefrom, the rocker member configured to move back and forth as the fly wheel rotates; a rotatable rocker cog having teeth configured to mate with the rocker pins as the rocker member moves back and forth, the rocker cog in direct or indirect communication with the drive cog; and a fly wheel spring having a first end attached to the fly wheel pin and a second end attached to the moveable enclosure portion; wherein, as the drive cog is moved by the urging force along the track in a first direction, the fly wheel spring winds tighter around the fly wheel pin, and when the urging force is removed, the fly wheel spring unwinds and causes the rocker member to move, thereby causing the rocker cog to rotate, and thereby permitting the drive spring to unwind at a known rate.

7. The device of claim 6, further comprising an adjustment screw in operable communication with the fly wheel pin, wherein the adjustment screw is rotatable to tighten the fly wheel pin and counteract the unwinding forces of the fly wheel spring and the drive spring.

8. The device of claim 7, further comprising a marking on an outer surface of the housing adjacent the adjustment screw, the marking configured to indicate an adjustment level to the user.

9. The device of claim 6, further comprising a plurality of stepping cogs in rotatable communication between the drive cog and the rocker cog.

10. The device of claim 9, wherein the rocker cog is rotatably attached to the moveable enclosure portion via a rocker cog pin have sleeve portion with teeth, the device further comprising:

a first stepping cog having teeth configured to mate with the teeth of the rocker cog pin, the first stepping cog including a sleeve portion with teeth; a second stepping cog having teeth configured to mate with the teeth of the sleeve portion of the first stepping cog, the second stepping cog including a sleeve portion with teeth; and a third stepping cog having teeth configured to mate with the teeth of the sleeve portion of the second stepping cog, the third stepping cog attached to the rotatable drive pin.

11. The device of claim 4, wherein the actuation mechanism comprises: a fluid chamber having a first compartment and a second compartment in fluid communication with each other via a valve and a fluid release conduit; a plunger attached to and extending from the moveable enclosure portion and having a plunger head extending into the first compartment, the plunger configured to urge fluid from the first compartment to the second compartment through the valve; an urging structure in operable communication with the second compartment and configured to urge the fluid from the second compartment into the first compartment through the release conduit.

12. The device of claim 11, wherein the urging structure is a spring having a spring head and attached within the second compartment, wherein, when the plunger is moved by an urging force within the first compartment, the fluid is forced into the second compartment via the valve, thereby compressing the spring; and when the urging force is removed, the spring expands and forces the fluid back into the first compartment via the fluid release.

13. The device of claim 11, wherein the valve is a one-way valve, a flapper valve, a spring-loaded valve, a non-return valve or any combination thereof.

14. The device of claim 11, further comprising a timing mechanism including an adjustment screw in operable communication with the fluid release conduit, wherein the adjustment screw is rotatable to directly or indirectly throttle the flow of fluid through the fluid release conduit for counteracting the urging force of the urging structure.

15. The device of claim 1, wherein the actuation mechanism is powered, battery- powered, electrically-powered, manually-powered, mechanically-powered, hydraulically- powered or any combination thereof.

16. The device of claim 1, wherein the actuation mechanism comprises a first urging structure configured to urge the actuatable. structure of the electrical switch mechanism from the first position to the second position, and a second urging structure configured to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch mechanism from the second position to the first position.

17. The device of claim 16, wherein the first urging structure, the second urging structure or any combination thereof, comprises at least one spring, at least one cog, a mechanical arrangement, a hydraulic arrangement, a powered arrangement, a friction arrangement, a screw- type arrangement or any combination thereof.

18. An actuatable electrical switch arrangement, comprising: an actuatable structure in electrical communication with an electrical wiring system of a structure; and an actuation mechanism in operable communication with the actuatable structure and configured to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch arrangement from a first position to a second position.

19. The electrical switch arrangement of claim 18, wherein the actuation mechanism comprises a first urging structure configured to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch mechanism from the first position to the second position, and a second urging structure configured to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch mechanism from the second position to the first position.

20. The electrical switch arrangement of claim 18, wherein the actuation mechanism is powered, battery-powered, electrically-powered, manually-powered, mechanically-powered, hydraulically-powered or any combination thereof.

Description:

SWITCH ACTUATION DEVICE

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Field of the Invention

[0001] The present invention relates to mechanisms and devices that can be used in conjunction with electrical switch mechanisms, such as a light switch or similar power switch and, particularly to a switch actuation device that can be used in connection with an electrical switch mechanism and/or retrofitted with an existing electrical switch mechanism for use in turning the switch "on" and "off' according to some time delay. Description of Related Art

[0002] Presently, there are a variety of light switches and electrical switches available with certain options or features. For example, dimmer switches are available to set the lights or a fan at a certain level or speed, as adjusted by a dial or slide mechanism. Furthermore, switches are available that have touch-sensitive pads and other surfaces that allow for easy actuation for turning the lights "on" or "off'. Still further, there are switches available, such as rotary dials and the like, that allow for a device or light to be operated for a timed period, while the dial rotates back to some default position. In one example, and according to the prior art, built-in heaters and fans may include such a dial, as may heat lamps or lights in a bathroom. [0003] In both consumer and commercial structures, lights are often inadvertently left on when a person exits a room, which results in a drain in energy and an increase in costs. Often, this light, fan or other appliance may be left on for a long period of time in a room where little human traffic or through-traffic is experienced after the room is vacated. In the home, lights, fans, etc. are often left "on" in the bathroom, closets, garages, hallways, children's bedrooms, etc. Similarly, in commercial establishments, lights are often left "on" in the bathrooms, storerooms, small kitchens, etc.

[0004] In addition, it may be desirable to have a light or other device or appliance turned "on" when the user is not present in the home. For example, if the user is on vacation, it is beneficial to have certain lights turn "on" or "off" according to a set pattern or timing sequence. While certain timing devices are available, these devices use a rotary dial, which includes an outlet, which must be plugged into the wall and, subsequently, a light plugged into the device.

Therefore, the user must rearrange furniture and go through an often laborious task of unplugging and resetting these devices.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] Accordingly, it is one object of the present invention to provide a switch actuation device for use in connection with an electrical switch mechanism that overcomes the deficiencies and drawbacks of the prior art. It is another object of the present invention to provide a switch actuation device that is easily attachable to and retrofittable on an existing electrical switch, such as a light switch. It is yet another object of the present invention to provide an actuatable electrical switch arrangement that includes a switch actuation device that overcomes the deficiencies and drawbacks of the prior art. It is a still further object of the present invention to provide a switch actuation device that allows an electrical switch to be actuated to the "on" or "off' position according to a predetermined timing sequence. It is another object of the present invention to provide a switch actuation device that allows an electrical switch to be cycled between the "on" or "off" position according to a predetermined timing sequence. [0006] Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a switch actuation device for use in connection with an electrical switch mechanism having an actuatable structure, such as a toggle or the like. The device includes an actuation mechanism in operable communication with the actuatable structure. This actuation mechanism is operable to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch mechanism from a first position to a second position.

[0007] The present invention is further directed to an actuatable electrical switch arrangement. The arrangement includes an actuatable structure in electrical communication with an electrical wiring system of a structure. In addition the arrangement includes an actuation mechanism in operable communication with the actuatable structure. The actuation mechanism is operable to urge the actuatable structure of the electrical switch arrangement from a first position to a second position.

[0008] These and other features and characteristics of the present invention, as well as the methods of operation and functions of the related elements of structures and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following description with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of this specification, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts in the various figures. It is to be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for the purpose of

illustration and description only and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the invention. As used in the specification, the singular form of "a", "an", and "the" include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] Fig. 1 is a side view of a standard electrical switch mechanism according to the prior art;

[0010] Fig. 2 is a schematic view of one embodiment of an actuation device according to the present invention;

[0011] Fig. 3 is an edge view of one embodiment of an actuation device according to the present invention in a partially assembled form;

[0012] Fig. 4 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0013] Fig. 5 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0014] Fig. 6 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0015] Fig. 7 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0016] Fig. 8 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0017] Fig. 9 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0018] Fig. 10 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0019] Fig. 11 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0020] Fig. 12 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0021] Fig. 13 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a partially assembled form; [0022] Fig. 14 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 is a fully assembled form; [0023] Fig. 15 is an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 for installation with an electrical switch mechanism;

[0024] Fig. 16 is a front view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where an actuatable structure is in a first position;

[0025] Fig. 17 is a front view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where the actuatable structure is in a second position;

[0026] Fig. 18 a further front view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where the actuatable structure is in a first position;

[0027] Fig. 19 is a further front view of the embodiment of Fig. 3 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where the actuatable structure is in a second position;

[0028] Fig. 20 is an exploded, edge view of a further embodiment of an actuation mechanism according to the present invention for installation on an electrical switch mechanism;

[0029] Fig. 21 an edge view of the embodiment of Fig. 20 for installation on an electrical switch mechanism;

[0030] Fig. 22 is a front view of a still further embodiment of an actuation mechanism according to the present invention;

[0031] Fig. 23 is a front view of a further embodiment of an actuation mechanism according to the present invention installed on an electrical switch mechanism where an actuatable structure is in a first position;

[0032] Fig. 24 is an edge view of the. embodiment of Fig. 23 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where an actuatable structure is in a second position;

[0033] Fig. 25 is a front view of the embodiment of Fig. 23 installed on an electrical switch mechanism where an actuatable structure is in a second position;

[0034] Fig. 26 is a schematic view of a further embodiment of a switch actuation device according to the present invention; and

[0035] Fig. 27 is a still further embodiment of a switch actuation device according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0036] For purposes of the description hereinafter, the terms "upper", "lower", "right", "left", 'Vertical", "horizontal"; "top", "bottom", "lateral", "longitudinal" and derivatives thereof shall relate to the invention as it is oriented in the drawing figures. However, it is to be understood that the invention may assume various alternative variations and step sequences, except where expressly specified to the contrary. It is also to be understood that the specific devices and processes illustrated in the attached drawings, and described in the following specification, are simply exemplary embodiments of the invention. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics related to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting. [0037] The present invention is directed to a switch actuation device 10, as illustrated in various embodiments in Figs. 2-27. In particular, this switch actuation device 10 can be used in connection with an existing and installed electrical switch mechanism 200. As illustrated in Fig. 1, such an electrical switch mechanism 200 is well known in the art. In particular, this electrical switch mechanism 200 includes a switch plate 202, which is attached to a switch box 204. The

switch box 204 includes the necessary electrical wiring housed therein in order to allow electricity to appropriately flow according to the position of an actuatable structure 206, such as a toggle, a switch or the like. It should also be noted that the present invention is useful in connection with any type and style of electrical switch mechanism 200, e.g., a two-toggle switch, a three-toggle switch, etc.

[0038] As illustrated in Fig. 1, the actuatable structure 206 is shown in two positions. Specifically, the actuatable structure 206 or toggle can be moved from a first position or state "A", which typically corresponds to the "on" position of the electrical switch mechanism 200, as well as a second position or state "B", which typically corresponds to the "off' position of the electrical switch mechanism 200. Accordingly, the actuatable structure 206 is moved up and down between positions A and B in order to turn a light, fan, device, etc. "on" or "off'. [0039] In order to attach the switch plate 202 to the switch box 204, a variety of attachment devices can be utilized. For example, and as is well known in the art, the switch plate 202 may include multiple orifices 208 extending therethrough and sized and shaped so as to accept a screw 210 therein. In this manner, the switch plate 202 is removably attachable to the switch box 204 in a specified position on the wall. Typically, two screws 210 are used and extend through two aligned orifices 208 on the surface of the switch plate 202 for attachment to the switchbox 204.

[0040] As discussed hereinafter, the switch actuation device 10 of the present invention is used in connection with the electrical switch mechanism 200. Further, the switch actuation device 10 can be manufactured separately and, subsequently, retrofitted onto an existing electrical switch mechanism 200. Alternatively, the switch actuation device 10 can be manufactured, sold and used as integrated with an electrical switch mechanism 200 or the like. Therefore, the switch actuation device 10 of the present invention is not limited to merely being used in a "retrofit" situation, but may be sold together with a new electrical switch mechanism 200 in the form of a kit.

[0041] A switch actuation device 10 according to one embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in Fig. 2. In this preferred and non-limiting embodiment, the switch actuation device 10 is positionable on or over the switch plate 202, and the actuatable structure 206 would extend through a cutout portion or other receiving .portion 12 of the device 10. Accordingly, the actuatable structure 206 can be moved between positions A and B, as illustrated in Figs. 1 and 2.

However, as discussed in detail hereinafter, the actuatable structure 206 may be fully or partially enclosed within the switch actuation device 10 (or in an enclosure or housing associated with the device 10), such that the actuatable structure 206 is actuated or moved by the movements of a portion or component of the actuation device 10.

[0042] Further, the switch actuation device 10 is attached to the switch plate 202 via some attachment mechanism 14. Any number of attaching methods and mechanisms are envisioned, such as those commonly known in the art. For example, the screws 210 discussed above in connection with the electrical switch mechanism 200 may also be used and extend through respective and aligned orifices in the switch actuation device 10. Therefore, in installation, the user may simply place the switch actuation device 10 on the switch plate 202 and insert screws 210 through the aligned orifices 208 to attach both the switch plate 202, as well as the device 10, to the switchbox 204.

[0043] In operation, the switch actuation device 10 includes an actuation mechanism 16. It is this actuation mechanism 16 that functions to urge the actuatable structure 206 from position A (or "on") toward position B (or "off). In addition, this actuation mechanism 16 may include a first urging structure 18 for urging the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200 from the first position A to the second position B, and a second urging structure 20 for urging the actuatable structure 206 from the second position B to the first position A. These urging structures 18, 20 may work in unison and may be directly or indirectly attachable - or operable with respect to each other in order to effect movement in the appropriate direction. [0044] As discussed hereinafter, these urging structures 18, 20 may be one or more springs, one or more cogs, a mechanical arrangement, a hydraulic arrangement, a powered arrangement, a friction arrangement, a screw-type arrangement or any combination thereof. Still further, urging power or force may be manual (by the user), electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, powered, etc. Similarly, the actuation mechanism 16 may be powered, battery-powered, electrically-powered, manually-powered, mechanically-powered, hydraulically-powered or any combination thereof. In effect, the primary goal of the present invention is to physically maneuver the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200 from the first position A to the second position B (or between positions A and B) for use in activating and/or deactivating the electrical switch mechanism 200. Accordingly, the present invention does not require any complicated

wiring, switch replacement or complex installation or operation in order to achieve the goal of actuating the actuatable structure 206.

[0045] In. another embodiment, the switch actuation device 10 includes a timing mechanism 22. The timing mechanism 22 is used to allow for the timed release or function of the first urging structure 18, the second urging structure 20 and/or the actuation mechanism 16. In another preferred embodiment, the timing mechanism 22 is adjustable, which allows for the selectable adjustment of the movement operation of the urging structures 18, 20 and/or actuation mechanism 16, which effectively provides a timing sequence for actuation of the actuatable structure 206.

[0046] As discussed hereinafter, the timing mechanism 22 may take many different forms, however in function, and in one embodiment, the timing mechanism 22 allows the user to adjustably set how long it should take the actuation mechanism 16 to urge the actuatable structure 206 to the corresponding or state A and/or B. However, such adjustment may be a function of the physics and forces (and counter-forces) driving the actuation mechanism 16. In this manner, the present invention provides for a switch actuation device 10 that can be set and adjusted by the user in order to move the actuatable structure 206 (or toggle, switch, etc.) in accordance with a preferred timing sequence. Further, as discussed hereinafter, some embodiments of the present invention allow for the adjustment of both the movement from position A to position B, as well as the movement from position B to the position A, and, in effect, allow the electrical switch mechanism 200 to be activated and deactivated according to a specified sequence.

[0047] Another preferred and non-limiting embodiment is illustrated in Figs. 3-19. As best seen in Fig. 5, the switch actuation device 10 may include a housing 24, which serves to at least partially enclose the various components and subcomponents of the actuation device 10. In this embodiment, the housing 24 includes a base portion 26, and this base portion 26 includes the above-discussed receiving portion 12, such that the actuatable structure 206 is able to project therethrough. In addition, the base portion 26 is rigidly attached to the electrical switch mechanism 200, and in particular the switch plate 202. In order to rigidly attach the base portion 26 to the switch plate 202, the base portion 26 includes attachment openings 28. In this embodiment, ύie housing 24 (via the base portion 26) is attached to the switch plate 202 using the screws 210 acting as the attachment mechanism 14. As discussed above, the same screws

210 that are used to attach the housing 24 to the switch plate 202 are further used to attach the switch plate 202 to the switchbox 204. Such attachment, together with a secure housing 24, allows for both easy installation and a tamperproof, safety function.

[0048] In operation, a user installs the switch actuation device 10 by attaching the device 10 to the switch plate 202 via the attachment mechanism 14. Next, when using the adjustable timing mechanism 22, the user sets the predetermined release or urging times for the actuation mechanism 14 for urging the actuatable structure 206 to the appropriate position A and/or B. For example, in one embodiment, and as discussed hereinafter, the user may manually move a portion of the switch actuation device 10, which would also manually adjust the actuatable structure 206, and thereafter, the actuation mechanism 16 would include a specified release time as embodied by the physical structure of the actuation mechanism 16. This actuation mechanism 16 would slowly release or urge the actuatable structure 206 back to the original state A and/or B as controlled by the timing mechanism 22. In this manner, the present invention provides a switch actuation device 10 that allows for the timed actuation of the actuatable structure 206 of an electrical switch mechanism 200.

[0049] Returning to the embodiments of Figs. 3-19, the housing 24 may further include an enclosure portion 30, which is slideable or moveable within or along the base portion 26. For example, the enclosure portion 30 may be movable between the first position A and the second position B corresponding with the positions A and/or B of the actuatable structure 206. Further, the enclosure portion 30 includes an inner area 32 for housing the actuation mechanism 14. In addition, the enclosure portion 30 is capable of receiving the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200, such as in a switch compartment 34. See Figs. 7-9. Since the actuatable structure 206 is positioned within the switch compartment 34, which is movable together with the enclosure portion 30, contact areas 36 are formed. These contact areas are fixed with respect to the slideable enclosure portion 30 and positioned on either side of the actuatable structure 206. As discussed hereinafter, these contact areas 36 may include a slanted, rolled or contoured surface or the like, which allows for the appropriate contact with and urging of the actuatable structure 206 between the states or positions A and B.

[0050] As best seen in Figs. 3-5, in this preferred and non-limiting embodiment, the base portion 26 includes one or more guide members 38. These guide members allow for the slideable or movable connection between the enclosure portion 30 and the base portion 26. Any

}

number of arrangements and structures that allow for such sliding of the enclosure portion 30 are envisioned. For example, the guide members 38 may be a tongue-in-groove, rim, T-slot or other similar arrangement that allows the enclosure portion 30 to be fixed to the base portion 26, but slideable up and down with respect to the base portion 26. As another example, the enclosure portion 30 may include a ridge or projecting portion, which is configured to mate with a guide or rim on the base portion 26.

[0051] As best shown in Figs. 4-9, this embodiment of the switch actuation device 10 includes a track 40 having projecting teeth 42. This track 40 is rigidly attached to a surface 44 of the base portion 26. A drive cog 46 having teeth 48 is also provided, and these teeth 48 are sized and shaped so as to mate with the teeth 42 of the track 40. In addition, the drive cog 46 is rotatably attached to the movable enclosure portion 30 through a drive pin 50. In this manner, as the drive cog 46 moves up and down with respect to the track 40, the drive cog 46 and drive pin 50 rotate. [0052] A drive spring 52 is attached at a first end to the drive pin 50, and at a second end to the movable enclosure portion 30. Accordingly, in operation, as the drive cog 46 is moved by some urging force along the track 40 in a first direction, the drive spring 52 winds tighter around the drive pin 50. When this urging force is removed, the drive spring 52 unwinds and urges the drive cog 46 to move back along the track 40 in a second, opposing direction. Due to the relative attachment between the drive cog 46, drive pin 50 and drive spring 52, the enclosure portion 30, once urged into the first position A, returns to the second position B when the urging force is removed. While, as discussed hereinafter, this urging force may be an automated or powered movement, it is envisioned that the driver or origin of this urging force is manual (by the operator).

[0053] Therefore, in overall operation, and in one embodiment, the user slides the enclosure portion 30 from the second position B to the first position A, and since the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200 is captured in the switch compartment 34, this actuatable structure 206 is also moved from the second position B to the first position A. In one preferred embodiment, this urging force, manually engaged in by the user, turns the electrical switch mechanism 200 (e.g., light) "on", and when the urging force is removed, and as the drive spring 52 unwinds, the enclosure portion 30 returns to the second position B, which corresponds to the "off" position of the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200.

Therefore, the electrical switch mechanism 200 is deactivated (e.g., the light is turned "off") after the actuation mechanism 16 urges the actuatable structure 206 back to position B. [0054 J Turning to Figs. 13-15, the present embodiment includes a timing mechanism 22. This timing mechanism 22 includes a flywheel 54, which is rotatably attached to the movable enclosure portion 30 by way of a flywheel pin 56. A rocker member 58 is pivotally attached to the flywheel 54 and includes multiple (preferably two) pins 60 extending from a surface of the rocker member 58. In this manner, the rocker member 58 is capable of moving back and forth as the flywheel 54 rotates about the flywheel pin 56. A rotatable rocker cog 62, which includes teeth 64 is sized and shaped so as. to mate with the rocker pins 60 as the rocker member 58 moves back and forth. This rocker cog 62 is in direct or indirect communication with the drive cog 46. Finally, a flywheel spring 66 includes a first end attached to the flywheel pin 56, and a second end attached to the movable enclosure portion 30. This flywheel spring 66 operates similarly to the above-discussed drive spring 52.

[0055] In operation, as the drive cog 46 is moved by the urging force along the track 40 in the first direction, the flywheel spring 66, like the drive spring 52, winds tighter around the flywheel pin 56. When this urging force is removed, the flywheel spring 66 unwinds and causes the rocker member 58 to move back and forth as the pins 60 of the rocker member 58 engage with the teeth 64 of the rocker cog 62. This causes the rocker cog 62 to rotate at a specified speed, and thereby permits the drive spring 52 to unwind at a known rate. Accordingly, it is the action and reaction of the urging forces of the drive spring 52 and the flywheel spring 66 that allow the enclosure portion 30 to return to the second position B at a set rate. For example, without such a timing mechanism 22 and without any opposing force to the unwinding of the drive spring 52, this drive spring 52 would unwind very quickly and return the enclosure portion 30 at a speed that is likely not preferable. Therefore, this opposing force is provided by the flywheel 54, flywheel pin 56, rocker member 58, rocker cog 62 and flywheel spring 66.

[0056) With specific reference to Figs. 16-18, the interaction between the flywheel 54 and the rocker member 58 is as follows. In a central area of a first end 67 of the rocker member 58 (and preferable between the pins 60), a rocker member pin member 69 is attached to the housing 24. On a second end 71 of the rocker member 58 is a flywheel/rocker pin 73 attaching the second end 71 of the rocker member to an area of the flywheel 54 spaced from the flywheel pin 56. Therefore, in operation, as the flywheel 54 rotates, the rocker member 58 pivots back and forth

about the rocker member pin member 69. This motion, in turn, causes the rocker cog 62 to move or rotate in a "stepped" manner. Accordingly, this arrangement provides a slower (and adjustable) release time to the enclosure portion 30, and contacted actuatable structure 206. [0057] It is envisioned that the unwinding of the flywheel spring 66 may also be adjusted, such that the switch actuation device 10 of this embodiment can be provided with an adjustable timing mechanism 22. In particular, an adjustment screw 68 is placed in operable communication with the flywheel pin 56, and this adjustment screw 68 is rotatable for tightening the flywheel pin 56. This tightened pin 56 counteracts the unwinding forces of the flywheel spring 66 and the drive spring 52. In order to provide more precise adjustment, a marking 70 on the outer surface 72 of the housing 24 (preferably adjacent the adjustment screw 68) provides for an indication of an adjustment level to the user. Based upon the mechanics of the actuation mechanism 16, it can be calculated and calibrated such that a specific angle of turn of the adjustment screw 68 results in a greater or a known greater or lesser release time (or unwinding of the drive spring 52 and the flywheel spring 66).

[0058] As best seen in Figs. 9-15, and in order to further translate the relatively small distance over which the urging force is applied, i.e., the distance it takes to move the actuatable structure 206 from the second position B to the first position A, to an effective release time, a series of stepping cogs 74 can be used. These stepping cogs 74 are in rotatable communication between the drive cog 46 and the rocker cog 62. In one preferred and non-limiting embodiment, the rocker cog 62 is rotatably attached to the movable enclosure portion 30 via a rocker cog pin 76, which has a sleeve portion 78 with teeth 80. A first stepping cog 82 is provided with teeth 84 configured to mate with the teeth 80 of the sleeve portion 78 of the rocker cog pin 76. Further, this first stepping cog 82 includes a sleeve portion 86, which also has teeth 88. A second stepping cog 90 is then provided, and this second stepping cog 90 includes teeth 92 sized and shaped so as to mate with the teeth 88 of the sleeve portion 86 of the first stepping cog 82. This second stepping cog 90 also includes a sleeve portion 94 with teeth 96. Finally, a third stepping cog 98 is provided, and includes teeth 100 for mating with the teeth 96 of the sleeve portion 94 of the second stepping cog 90. Further, this third stepping cog 98 is attached to the rotatable drive pin 50. In this manner, and as is well known in connection with the operation of gears, cogs and the like, these stepping cogs 74 allow the urging force for moving the enclosure portion 30 from the second position B to the first position A to translate into a longer release time as the

enclosure portion 30 moves back from the first position A to the second position B. Any variation of stepping cogs 74, tooth geometry and spacing and physical characteristics may be used to modify the release time.

[0059] As seen in Figs. 16-19, the enclosure portion 30 may include multiple cutout portions 102. These cutout portions 102 allow the user access to the screws 210, which are used to hold the base portion 26 of the housing 24 (as well as the switch plate 202) against the switchbox 204. Further, these cutout portions 102 are aligned with the screws 210 when the enclosure portion 30 is in the second position B, which corresponds to the second B of the actuatable structure 206 (or "off' position).

[0060] Figs. 20 and 21 illustrate a further preferred and non-limiting embodiment of a switch actuation device 10 according to the present invention. As with the previously-discussed embodiment, the present embodiment includes the base portion 26 and enclosure portion 30 discussed above. The enclosure portion 30 includes an inner area 32 with a switch compartment 34 for receiving the actuatable structure 206. As discussed above, this embodiment also includes the base portion 26 rigidly attached to the electrical switch mechanism 200, namely the switch plate 202, as well as the movable or slideable enclosure portion 30. However, in this embodiment, the actuation mechanism 16 is driven or urged by a combination of hydraulic and mechanical forces. In particular, and as seen in Fig. 20, the actuation mechanism 16 of this embodiment includes a fluid chamber 104 having a first compartment 106 and a second compartment 108. The first compartment 106 and the second compartment 108 are in fluid communication with each other via a valve 110, as well as a fluid release conduit 112. [0061] A plunger 114 is attached to and extends from the movable enclosure portion 30 and includes a plunger head 1 16, which extends into the first compartment 106. The plunger 114, and specifically the plunger head 116, when actuated, urges fluid 118 from the first compartment 106 to the second compartment 108 via the valve 110. This embodiment also includes an urging structure 120, which is in operable communication with the second compartment 108, and configured to urge the fluid 118 from the second compartment 108 back into the first compartment 106 through the fluid release conduit 112.

[0062] In operation, the user moves the enclosure portion 30 from the second position B to the first position A, which serves to move the actuatable structure 206, e.g., from the "off' position to the "on" position. This movement of the enclosure portion 30 moves the plunger 114 and

plunger head 116 further into the first compartment 106. This, in turn, forces the fluid 118 through the valve 110 (and, to a lesser extent, the fluid release conduit 112) into the second compartment 108. After this urging or force of movement is released, the urging structure 120 in the second compartment 108 pushes or urges the fluid 118 back into the first compartment 106. In particular, this fluid 118 is metered through the fluid release conduit 112 into the first compartment 106, which, when filling, slowly moves the plunger head 116 and plunger 114 further out of the first compartment 106. This plunger 114 movement moves the enclosure portion 30 back from the first position A to the second position B. As the actuatable structure 206 of the electrical switch mechanism 200 is positioned in the switch compartment 34, the movement of the enclosure portion 30 causes the actuatable structure 206 to also move from the first position A to the second position B. In this manner, the actuatable structure 206 is returned to the second position B at a rate dependent upon the physical features of the fluid 118 (e.g., viscosity, etc.) as well as the mechanical properties of the urging structure 120. [0063] In one preferred and non-limiting embodiment, the urging structure is a spring 122 having a spring head 124, and this spring 122 and spring head 124 are attached within the second compartment 108. hi particular, the spring 122 is attached to and allowed to urge against a wall 126 of the second compartment 108. hi order to stabilize the spring 122 within the second compartment 108, a stabilizing pin 128 may be used. The use of such a stabilizing pin 128 ensures that the spring 122 does not bend or contort in an undesirable position. [0064] In this embodiment, when the plunger 114 is moved by an urging force within the first compartment 106, and the fluid 118 is forced into the second compartment 108 via the valve 110, the spring 122 is compressed. When this urging force is removed, the spring 122 expands and the spring head 124 forces the fluid 118 back into the first compartment 106 via the fluid release conduit 112. Of course, it is preferable that the contact between the plunger head 116 and the first compartment 106, as well as the spring head 124 and the second compartment 108, is a slideable, yet sealed, relationship. For example, as is known in the art, appropriate seals can be provided on the spring head 124 and the plunger head 116, such that they can be moved and bear against the walls of the first compartment 106 and the second compartment 108 without allowing the fluid 118 to escape from these compartments 106, 108.

[0065] Any number of valve arrangements are envisioned for use in connection with the valve 110. It is most preferable that the valve 110 be a one-way valve, which only allows the fluid 118

to be moved in a single direction, i.e., from the first compartment 106 to the second compartment 108. This valve 110 may be a flapper valve, a spring-loaded valve, a non-return valve or the like. Of course, a small amount of fluid 118 is also moved through the fluid release conduit 112 from the first compartment 106 to the second compartment 108 during the movement of the plunger 114. However, upon release of the urging force, the fluid is not permitted to travel back through the valve 110, instead permitted only to flow, in a metered manner, back through the fluid release conduit 112.

[0066] As discussed above in connection with the previous embodiments, the present embodiment also includes a timing mechanism 22. In particular, and also as with the previous embodiments, this timing mechanism may be an adjustment screw 68, which is in operable communication with the fluid release conduit 112. As discussed above, this adjustment screw 68 is rotatable serves to directly or indirectly throttle the flow of fluid 118 through the fluid release conduit 112, which counteracts the urging force of the urging structure 120 (or spring 122). This adjustment screw 68, which may take a variety of forms, may directly enter and impact the flow of fluid 118 through the fluid release conduit 112, or alternatively, may contract, squeeze or otherwise pinch the fluid release conduit 112, which would also throttle the flow of fluid 118. [0067] Yet another embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in Fig. 22. In this embodiment, the actuation mechanism 16 includes the first urging structure 18 and the second urging structure 20. In this embodiment, the first urging structure 18 is the geared arrangement discussed aboy^ Accordingly, this first urging structure 18 operates as discussed above and includes the necessary components to allow for the timed release of the movable enclosure portion 30 from the first position A to the second position B, which serves to move the actuatable structure 206 between the first position A and the second position B.

[0068] However, in this embodiment, a second (non-manual) urging structure 20 is used to move the enclosure portion 30 from the second position B back to the first position A. While, as discussed above, in many of the embodiments, this second urging structure 20 is powered or otherwise initiated manually by the user, in this embodiment, the second urging structure 20 is a powered arrangement. As seen in Fig. 22, a motor 130 includes a motor drive 132 and second drive cog 134. Both the motor drive 132 and the second drive cog 134 are rigidly connected to the drive pin 50. In addition, a battery 136 is used to power the motor 130.

[0069] In operation, when the enclosure portion 30 is in position A, the timed release of the enclosure portion 30 operates as discussed above. However, in this embodiment, when me enclosure portion 30 reaches the second position B, the motor 130 is powered and, using the motor drive 132 and the second drive cog 134, automatically moves the enclosure portion 30 back to the first position A. This movement between the second position B and the first position A is adjustable based upon the operating parameters and physical nature of the motor 130, motor drive 132 and second drive cog 134. It is also envisioned that the movement between the second position B and the first position A is adjustable by the user through some timing mechanism 22. For example, the adjustability may occur through the interaction between the various cogs and mechanical functions of the first urging structure 18.

[0070] As seen in Fig. 22, and in one embodiment, an "on" contactor 138 and an "off' contactor 140 may be used in order to turn the motor 130 on and off. When the second drive cog 134, motor drive 132 or other component makes contact with the "on" contactor 138, the motor 130 is turned "on" and moves the enclosure portion 30 (and, hence, the actuatable structure 206) from the second position B to the first position A. When the "off' contactor 140 is contacted, the motor 130 is disabled, and the return from the first position A to the second position B occurs as discussed above.

[0071] In order to disable the motor 130, an internal switch 142 can be used. This internal switch 142 is functional to turn the motor 130 "off' when the "off" contactor 140 is reached, and turn the motor "on" when the "on" contactor 138 is reached. In this embodiment, an external switch " 144 may also be used in order to allow the user to turn this second urging structure 20 (powered arrangement for moving the enclosure portion 30 from the second position B to the first position A) "on" or "off 5 . While this embodiment has been discussed in connection with the "geared" arrangement discussed above, it is equally useful in connection with any actuation mechanism 14 discussed herein, regardless of whether the actuation mechanism 16 is manually- powered, mechanically-powered, hydraulically-powered, etc.

[0072] A still further and preferred and non-limiting embodiment of the present invention is illustrated in Figs. 23-25. This embodiment also includes the base portion 26 and slideable or movable enclosure portion 30. In this embodiment, the switch compartment 34 includes a first contact member 146 and a second contact member 148, each rigidly attached within the enclosure portion 30, and in particular the inner area 32. Further, these contact members 146,

148 are positioned on either side of the actuatable structure 206. Further, and as best seen in Fig. 24, the first contact member 146 and the second contact member 148 may include a slant surface 150 or the like, which allows for the appropriate contact with and urging of the actuatable structure 206 between the states or positions A and B.

[0073] Furthermore, extending within and along the enclosure portion 30 of the housing 24 is a pair of screw drive conduits 152. These screw drive conduits 152 are sized and shaped so as to accept and mate with a respective screw drive 154, which is rotatably attached to the base portion 26 of the housing 24. In addition, a locator pin 156 is attached within and extends from an inner surface of each screw drive conduit 152. Specifically, this locator pin 156 projects from the inner surface and into a thread train 158 extending along and partially recessed within each screw drive 154.

[0074] In operation, when the enclosure portion 30 is urged between the second position B and the first position A (e.g., manually, by the user) in the direction of arrow C (see Fig. 25), the locator pin 156 and each screw drive conduit 152 runs along each respective thread train 158 and causes each screw drive 154 to rotate. In this manner, the movement of the enclosure portion 30, and therefore the actuatable structure 206, acts as the second urging structure 20, and causes the slanted surface 150 of the first contact member 146 to contact the actuatable structure 206 and push it up into position or state A, or in an "on" position.

[0075] In order to push or urge the actuatable structure 206 back into the second position B, each screw drive 154 is surrounded by a spring 160, which is also attached to base portion .26 of the housing 24. Each spring 160 is nested within a respective spring orifice 162 in the enclosure portion-30, and serves to urge or push the enclosure portion 30 back to its original position or state, which would correspond to the "off' position or second position B. In particular, the springs 160 urge the enclosure portion 30, which urges the second contact member 148 to contact the actuatable structure 206 and push it back into the second position B. [0076] In addition, in order to effectively stop this urging of the springs 160, the enclosure portion 30 may include a rim 164 extending around a portion of the enclosure portion 30. The base portion 26 includes a shoulder 166, such that when the rim 164 contacts the shoulder 166, the enclosure portion 30 is prevented from any further movement. As the springs 160 are urging the slideable enclosure portion 30 back into the second position B, again each locator pin 156 moves along the thread trains 158 and causes the screw drives 154 to rotate.

[0077] This embodiment also includes a timing mechanism 22. In particular, in order to allow for the adjustable release time of the enclosure portion 30, one or both of the screw drives 154 may be affected. In particular, in this embodiment, the timing mechanism 22 includes a knob 168, which, when turned, causes clamp portions 170 to frictionally engage and disengage against the screw drives 154. As the clamp portions 170 are progressively engaged and clamped against these screw drives 154, the screw drives 154 are more resistant to turning and counteract the force of the spring 160, which is attempting to urge the slideable enclosure portion 30 away. Therefore, the release timing can be adjusted according to the amount of clamping force applied to the screw drives 154.

[0078] There are many variations and structures that can use the same basic premise of urging the actuatable structure 206 (or switch, toggle, etc.) between the first position A and the second position B. For example, as seen in Fig. 26, the actuation mechanism 16 may include a slide member 172 having two opposing slide surfaces 174. These slide surfaces 174, in turn, contact a respective contact surface 176. A switch grip 178 clamps around or otherwise contacts and grips the actuatable structure 206, and this switch grip 178 is attached to the slide member 172. [0079] Similarly to the previously-discussed embodiment, the actuation mechanism 16 may also include a spring 180, which is attached within the housing 24, and also attached to the actuatable structure 206. In operation, when the actuatable structure 206 is pushed to the first position or state A and/or second position or state B, for example, into state A with the switch "on", the slide member 172 slides along between the contact surfaces 176 and compresses the spring 180. Thereafter, the spring 180 pushes against the switch grip 178, which is attached to the slide member 172, and urges the slide member 172 back to the other direction toward the opposing state. Accordingly, this embodiment also provides for the timed release of the actuatable structure 206 between the positions A, B. Furthermore, in this embodiment, the timing mechanism 22 may include a knob 182, which, when rotated, bears against one or both of the contact surfaces 176 causing a greater clamp between the contact surfaces 176 and the respective slide surfaces 174. Again, the greater the clamping force, the longer release time effected by the spring 180.

[0080] In ' a still further embodiment, and as illustrated in Fig. 27, the actuation mechanism 16 includes two slanting surfaces 184. In addition, and as with the previous embodiment, a slide member 172 includes a switch grip 178 attached to the actuatable structure 206, however, in this

embodiment, a portion of the switch grip 178 extends between tracks 186, allowing the slide member 172 to slide between the first position A and the second position B. In order to effect this sliding, a pair of rollers 188 contacts a respective slanting surface 194, and these rollers 188 are attached to arms 190, which are urged together with a spring 192. Accordingly, in operation, when the actuatable structure 206 is pressed or urged to the first position A, and as the spring 192 urges the arms 190 together, the rollers 188 slide along the slanting surfaces 184 and move the slide member 172 back into the opposing state or second position B. In this embodiment, the timing mechanism 22 may be the aforementioned knob 182, which can be rotatably adjusted and cause for the further clamping or unclamping of the arms 190 and spring 192. [0081] Any number of variations of the actuation mechanism 16 is envisioned. For example, the actuation mechanism 16 may include bladders, rotating, twisting or sliding members, rollers and other structural variations that achieve the same basic principle described herein. In short, however, the present invention includes some actuation mechanism 16 that allows for the simple movement of the actuatable structure 206 between the first position A and the second position B. Of course, in operation, the switch actuation device 10 can be reversed, such that the rest state can be the "off' state, as well as the "on" state. For example, by simply reversing the embodiments discussed herein, the user may choose the desired function of the switch actuation device 10.

[0082] It is also envisioned that the housing 24 may include access panels for easy maintenance or attachment and installation of the device 10. Further, the housing 24 may include press-release sides for easy reversal of the functioning of the device 10. Still further, the housing 24 may be attached by various types of attachment mechanisms 14, which may include for some anti-tampering capability. Still further, using the same basic principles of physics, the device 10 may be able to cycle between positions A and B, as opposed to remaining static in one state after release. For example, as discussed above, the device 10 may include a manual or powered first urging structure 18 and second urging structure 20, which allows the device 10 to cycle between the first position A and the second position B. This would allow the device 10 to be used as an adjustable "on'V'off" light switching device for use when the user is away from home, e.g., on vacation, etc.

[0083] In this manner, the present invention provides a switch actuation device 10 that is easily retrofittable on or in connection with an electrical switch mechanism 200, which may or

may not be already installed in the wall of the dwelling or structure. However, the switch actuation device 10 may also be provided with the electrical switch mechanism 200, such as in the form of a kit, which may include the switch plate 202, the switchbox 204, etc. In addition, the present invention provides a timed switch actuation device 10 that is easy to install and provides for a timed and release feature for moving the actuatable structure 206 between various states. Still further, the switch actuation device of the present invention can be used for turning lights, devices or appliance "off", which were accidentally left on, or alternatively, switch lights, devices or appliances "on" for security purposes.

[0084] Although the invention has been described in detail for the purpose of illustration based on what is currently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiments, it is to be understood that such detail is solely for that purpose and that the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments, but, on the contrary, is intended to cover modifications and equivalent arrangements that are within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. For example, it is to be understood that the present invention contemplates that, to the extent possible, one or more features of any embodiment can be combined with one or more features of any other embodiment.




 
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