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Title:
ASSEMBLY COMPRISING A CONNECTOR ARRANGEMENT AND METHOD OF DISASSEMBLING AN ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/049599
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
The invention provides an assembly comprising a connector arrangement mechanically connecting parts of said assembly, wherein said connector arrangement comprises a soluble material. There is also provided a luminaire, typically LED based, comprising such an assembly, and a method for disassembling such an assembly and optionally recycling or reusing one or more of the assembly parts. The invention allows efficient and sustainable handling of a product, such as a luminaire, at the end of its useable life.

Inventors:
GIELEN VINCENT STEFAN DAVID (NL)
VAN DEN BOSCH MARCUS JOANNES (CN)
BALKENENDE ABRAHAM RUDOLF (NL)
ARTS-HORNIX EEFJE JANET (NL)
Application Number:
PCT/IB2011/054417
Publication Date:
April 19, 2012
Filing Date:
October 07, 2011
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
KONINKL PHILIPS ELECTRONICS NV (NL)
GIELEN VINCENT STEFAN DAVID (NL)
VAN DEN BOSCH MARCUS JOANNES (CN)
BALKENENDE ABRAHAM RUDOLF (NL)
ARTS-HORNIX EEFJE JANET (NL)
Foreign References:
GB699175A1953-11-04
GB191208058A1912-12-12
US20080143234A12008-06-19
DE19519052A11996-11-28
DE19813938A11999-10-07
Other References:
JOURNAL OF APPLIED POLYMER SCIENCE, vol. 97, 2005, pages 2286 - 2298
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VAN EEUWIJK, Alexander et al. (AE Eindhoven, NL)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. An assembly comprising a connector arrangement mechanically connecting parts of said assembly, wherein said connector arrangement comprises a soluble material.

2. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein the soluble material is soluble in a solvent selected from the group consisting of: water; neutral, acidic or basic aqueous solutions; methanol; ethanol; isopropylalcohol; and acetone.

3. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein said parts of the assembly are insoluble in a solvent in which the soluble material is soluble.

4. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein said soluble material comprises a soluble polymer.

5. An assembly according to claim 4, wherein said soluble polymer is selected from the group consisting of polyvinyl alcohol; hydroxypropyl cellulose; poly(2- vinylpyrrilidone); poly butyl methacrylate; poly ethyl methacrylate; and polymers comprising as repeating units Ν,Ν-dimethyl-acrylamide, methacrylic acid, 2-methyl-acrylic acid 2- dimethylamino-ethyl ester and/or N-vinyl-pyrrolidin-2-one.

6. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein said soluble material comprises a filler.

7. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein at least a part of said connector arrangement is formed of said soluble material.

8. An assembly according to claim 1, wherein the connector arrangement comprises at least part of a snap connection, a press fit connection, a screw, a thread, a rivet, a bolt, or a glue.

9. An assembly according to claim 8, wherein said assembly comprises a lighting device. 10. An assembly according to claim 9, which is not intended to be disassembled during its useable life.

11. A luminaire comprising an assembly according to claim 1. 12. A luminaire according to claim 11, which comprises at least one light-emitting diode (LED).

13. A method of disassembling an assembly according to claim 1, comprising the step of

- exposing at least a part of said assembly including said connector arrangement to a solvent so as to dissolve at least part of the soluble material.

14. A method according to claim 13, further comprising the step of

disassembling said assembly by force.

15. A method according to claim 13 or 14, further comprising the step of

recycling or re-using one or more parts of the assembly.

Description:
ASSEMBLY COMPRISING A CONNECTOR ARRANGEMENT AND METHOD OF DISASSEMBLING AN ASSEMBLY

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to disassembling of articles composed of different parts and materials.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Recycling and responsible handling of products after end-of-life is desirable and often necessary for economical as well as environmental reasons.

Many products are composed of several different types of materials which require different handling after end-of-life of the product. Some materials may be possible to recycle, and other materials, e.g. substances which are hazardous to health and/or the environment, may require safe deposit or storage. Recycling of a product frequently requires disassembling of the product and sorting of the different constituent parts depending on the material(s) contained therein. However, many products are difficult to disassemble without risking cross-contamination of materials, which may spoil the possibilities of recycling. In particular, disassembling may be difficult for a product which is not intended to be

disassembled or dismantled during its lifetime. For example, luminaires containing light- emitting diodes (LEDs) may comprise, in addition to the semiconductor materials and electrodes of the LED itself, glass, polymeric materials (often with a filler such as glass particles or carbon fibers) for example epoxy, polyesters, polyamides, and polycarbonate. Luminaires may also contain adhesive materials, metals, minerals, etc. All these materials require different handling in order to be recycled, re-used or safely disposed of. Today, considerable efforts are being made to improve end-of-life handling of products.

To facilitate recycling at end-of-life, it is desired that all constituent materials can be separated quickly, efficient and with a minimum of cross-contamination.

Disassembling of a product into its constituent parts usually requires manual operation, which only is cost-effective in the case of servicing or re-use of expensive parts. Manual

disassembly of LED based luminaires is not a cost-effective operation. Instead, such products end up at land-fills, or enter a recycling process which involves shredding the product to small pieces each containing several types of material. This treatment leads to large losses due to e.g. incomplete separation of parts and shredding losses due to formation of fine dust.

Hence, there is a need in the art for improved handling of products at end-of- life.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to overcome this problem, and to provide an assembly which can easily and efficiently be disassembled into its different parts.

Another object of the invention is to provide a method for efficient disassembling of such an assembly.

According to a first aspect of the invention, these and other objects are achieved by an assembly comprising a connector arrangement mechanically connecting parts of said assembly, wherein the connector arrangement comprises a soluble material. Thus, the material at least partly constituting the connector arrangement is soluble in a solvent, and hence also the connector arrangement is at least partially soluble in the solvent. Using soluble connectors greatly increases the efficiency by which different parts or materials can be disassembled. For example, an assembly such as a lamp comprising a connector assembly comprising a soluble material may partially or completely disassemble when immersed in a suitable solvent, e.g. water, ethanol or acetone. Also, shredding may be avoided.

Disassembling by dissolving the connector arrangement to separate the previously connected assembly parts may reduce the contamination of materials, thus increasing the yield of material which can be recycled or reused, and also avoid loss of material due to dusting. In all, the assembly according to the present invention enables more sustainable end-of-life handling.

In embodiments of the invention the soluble material is soluble in a solvent selected from the group consisting of: water; neutral, acidic or basic aqueous solutions; methanol, ethanol; isopropyl alcohol; and acetone. These are common, inexpensive solvents which may readily be employed for industrial purposes. The parts of the assembly which are intended to be separated are typically not affected by the solvent used. Typically, the assembly parts are insoluble or at least substantially insoluble in a solvent in which the soluble material is soluble. In embodiments of the invention, the soluble material comprises a soluble polymer. In particular the soluble polymer may be selected from the group consisting of polyvinyl alcohol; hydroxypropyl cellulose; poly(2-vinylpyrrilidone); poly butyl

methacrylate; poly ethyl methacrylate; and polymers comprising as repeating units N,N- dimethyl-acrylamide, methacrylic acid, 2-methyl-acrylic acid, 2-dimethylamino-ethyl ester and/or N-vinyl-pyrrolidin-2-one. Advantageously, the polymers formed are typically soluble in water or other neutral, acidic or basic aqueous solutions.

In embodiments of the invention, the soluble material may comprise a filler or may be mixed with a filler. The presence of a filler may improve the mechanical properties of the connector arrangement, to make it stronger, harder and/or more durable.

In embodiments of the invention, at least a part of said connector arrangement may be formed of said soluble material. Typically, the connector arrangement comprises at least part of the following: a snap connection, a press fit connection, a screw, a thread, a rivet, a bolt, and a glue.

Typically, the assembly according to the invention is not intended to be disassembled during its useable life.

In embodiments of the invention the assembly comprises a lighting device. According to another aspect, the invention provides a luminaire, or a lamp, which is or which comprises an assembly as described herein.

According to a further aspect, the invention provides a method of disassembling an assembly as described herein, for example an LED based luminaire, comprising the step of exposing at least a part of said assembly including said connector arrangement to a solvent so as to dissolve at least part of the soluble material. If necessary, exposing the assembly, and hence the connector arrangement, to the solvent may be followed by a step of disassembling the assembly by force. However, after the assembly has been exposed to the solvent such that the connector arrangement has at least partially lost its connecting function, the force required to completely disassemble the assembly is

considerably less than what is used for conventional shredding. Typically, after the assembly has been exposed to the solvent and optionally also disassembled by external force, one or more assembly parts may be recycled or re-used, or disposed of in a suitable manner.

It is noted that the invention relates to all possible combinations of features recited in the claims. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other aspects of the present invention will now be described in more detail, with reference to the appended drawings showing embodiment(s) of the invention.

Fig. 1 shows part of an assembly according to one embodiment of the

invention.

Fig. 2 is an exploded view of an assembly according to another embodiment of the invention

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

The present inventors have found that disassembling at end-of life of a product comprising different materials can be much facilitated by using a connector arrangement which loses its connecting function when exposed to certain conditions. In particular, the inventors have found that connectors can be made from a soluble material which starts dissolving when exposed to a solvent, thus losing its shape and/or shrinking such that the parts of the assembly connected by the connector arrangement are no longer held firmly together. Hence, a connector arrangement at least partly made from a soluble material may greatly improve end-of-life management of products which are assemblies of parts made of different materials, by reducing the amount of hands-on time and effort required for disassembling, and also reducing the risk for cross-contamination of materials, since the parts forming the assembly may remain intact during disassembling.

As used herein, "assembly" refers to an article composed of different parts or components which are mechanically held together by one or more connector arrangements.

Fig. la and lb show part of an assembly 100 for an LED luminaire including three snap connector arrangements 101 intended to connect a base part 104 to other parts (not shown) like an optical element. Each snap connector arrangement 101 comprises a male snap connector 102 and a receiving arrangement 103, which may be integrally formed on the other parts and the base part 104, respectively, so that the base part 104 and the other parts can be assembled together when the male snap connector 102 and the receiving arrangement 103 are snapped. Either the male snap connector 102 or the receiving arrangement 103, or both, may comprise a soluble material. Fig. 2 shows an exploded view of an LED based luminaire comprising a connector arrangement according to embodiments of the invention. The luminaire 200 comprises a plurality of LEDs 201 arranged on a PCB 202 with all necessary leads etc (not shown), which is mounted within a housing 203. The housing 203 also functions as a heat sink. Inside the housing 203 the LEDs 201 are connected to a driver unit 204 protected by a shell 205. PCB 202 supporting the LEDs 201 is mechanically fixed to the driver unit by a screw 209. A thermal interface material 210, i.e. a thermally conductive material, is provided between the PCB and the driver unit, typically as an adhesive film on the PCB. Screws 211 may be used for mechanical fixation of the driver unit and the shell. In the light output direction, the LEDs 201 are covered by a collimator element 206, which is fixed to the housing 203 by a threaded ring member 207. The inside of the housing is provided with threads 212 for receiving the ring member 207.

The luminaire 200 represents an assembly according to embodiments of the invention. Hence, the shell 205, the driver unit 204, the housing 203, the PCB 202, the LEDs 201, the collimator element 206 and the ring member 207 all represent one or more parts which may be connected to each other using a connector arrangement to form an assembly according to embodiments of the invention. The threads 208 on the ring member 207, the screw 209, the screws 211, the threads 212 and a press fit rib of the shell 205 are examples of connector arrangements which could be a connector arrangement referred to herein.

Additionally, the thermal interface material 201 could also be part of a connector arrangement according to embodiments of the invention. In general, the connector arrangement according to the invention may comprise at least part of the following: a snap connection such as an undercut feature; a press fit connection; a screw; a thread; a rivet; a bolt; or a glue.

The connector arrangement preferably comprises a polymer which is soluble in a solvent. Suitably the soluble material, such as a soluble polymer, is soluble in a non-toxic solvent.

As used herein, the term "soluble" refers to the capability of a material to at least partly dissolve in a fluid solvent, e.g. due to hydrolysis of the soluble material by the solvent. The soluble material typically is soluble in the solvent at a temperature in the range of 10°C to 90°C, and more preferably in the range of 40°C to 80°C. The lower limit of 40°C is preferred because it may reduce or avoid the risk of accidental dissolution of a water-soluble connector material in a high humidity environment. For practical purposes, the rate of dissolution may be of relevance because an industrial process for disassembling and recycling should preferably be time-efficient. Hence, rapid dissolution of the soluble material is advantageous. Preferred rates of dissolution may be in the range of a few minutes to a few days, depending on the process used. Typically, the rate of dissolution is high enough for the connector arrangement to lose its function as a connector within one hour after being contacted with the solvent. The rate of dissolution of the connector arrangement may depend on the material used as well as the shape and design of the connector arrangement, as will be appreciated by one skilled in the art.

In embodiments of the invention, the solvent in which the material is soluble may be water; a neutral, acidic or basic aqueous solution, such as acidic or basic aqueous solutions; methanol; ethanol; isopropyl alcohol; acetone; or mixtures thereof. Preferably, upon dissolution in the solvent, the soluble material of the connector arrangement yields a nontoxic solution.

The connector arrangement according to the invention has enough mechanical strength and hardness to perform is function of mechanically connecting the parts of a product which is not intended to be disassembled during its lifetime. Depending on the type of product and the intended use of the product, and on the type of connector arrangement and its shape, the required strength or hardness of the connector arrangement may vary. For lighting devices such as luminaires containing LEDs the connector arrangement should preferably be able to withstand heat generated by the operation of the device. Hence, for such embodiments of the invention, the soluble material may have a certain heat resistance.

In order to increase the strength and/or the hardness of the material of the connector arrangement the soluble material may comprise a filler, such as glass fibers, carbon fibers and/or alumina particles. The filler material may be mixed with the soluble material. Typically, a mixture of soluble material and filler used in the connector arrangement may comprise 20 to 50 % by weight of filler, for example 30 % by weight of filler.

Furthermore, when the soluble material of the invention is a soluble polymer, its mechanical, chemical and/or physico-chemical properties, such as susceptibility to dissolution, may be influenced both by the choice of repeating units forming the polymer backbone and/or the polymerization process.

In embodiments of the invention, the soluble material comprises polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). PVA is a water soluble synthetic polymer which may have a melting temperature of between 185°C and 210°C depending on the average molecular weight of the polymer. Thus, the material may be used in a connector arrangement for mechanically connecting parts of a product including a lighting device, such as an LED. At the end of its useful life, the product can be at least partly immersed in water, e.g. at a temperature of about 20°C, about 40°C, about 55°C or about 80°C. After a short immersion time depending inter alia on the formulation of the polyvinyl alcohol material and the temperature, for example from about 2 to about 20 minutes, the polymer is at least partly dissolved, leaving a harmless, non-toxic aqueous solution of PVA with a small amount of glycerol contained therein. This solution may be degraded by microorganisms to carbon dioxide and water. In embodiments of the invention, the undercut feature of a snap connection may comprise PVA.

In embodiments of the invention where the soluble material is a glue, it may be based on polyvinyl alcohol or polyvinyl acetate. Due to its high thermal conductivity and high glass transition temperature, such a glue may be used as a thermal interface material for an LED based luminaire.

In embodiments of the invention, the soluble polymer may comprise one or more of the following compounds as repeating units of the polymer backbone: N,N-dimethyl- acrylamide (DMA), methacrylic acid (MA), 2-methyl-acrylic acid 2-dimethylamino-ethyl ester (MEE); N-vinyl-pyrrolidin-2-one (VP). The polymers formed are typically soluble in neutral, acidic or basic aqueous solutions, such as water. However, such polymers are not necessarily biodegradable.

In embodiments of the invention the soluble polymer may be obtained by photo-polymerization. For example, monomers of Ν,Ν-dimethyl-acrylamide, methacrylic acid, 2-methyl-acrylic acid, 2-dimethylamino-ethyl ester and/or N-vinyl-pyrrolidin-2-one may be polymerized using photo-polymerization to form three-dimensional structures (Journal of Applied Polymer Science 2005, Vol. 97, 2286-2298). Hence, advantageously, such polymer materials can be solidified in situ, allowing for much freedom in design and manufacturing of a connector arrangement consisting at least partly of such a material. Furthermore, polymers obtained by photo -polymerization of said monomers may have a shore D hardness in the range of about 25 to 90. The physical and chemical properties of these polymers can be further adapted by copolymerization with other monomers.

In an embodiment of the invention, the soluble polymer may comprise hydroxypropyl cellulose, poly(2-vinylpyrrilidone), poly butyl methacrylate, poly ethyl methacrylate or any combination or copolymer thereof . These polymers are typically soluble in ethanol and/or acetone. It is envisaged that copolymers of these polymers also with other polymers may be useful in a connection arrangement. A soluble material comprising any one of these polymers may also comprise a filler as described above.

In embodiments of the invention, the soluble material may comprise a copolymer obtained by copolymerization of a soluble polymer and a non-soluble polymer (i.e. a polymer which is not soluble in the intended solvent for the soluble polymer). Hence, when the connector arrangement according to this embodiment is exposed to the solvent, the soluble material might not dissolve completely, but merely soften, swell, shrink, or generally lose its shape and hence its function as a connector. For example, a copolymer may be used which is obtained by copolymerization of a soluble polymer and a non- soluble polymer with absorbing and/or swelling properties.

According to the invention, an assembly comprising a connector arrangement which is at least partly formed from a soluble material may be disassembled by exposing the assembly, or at least the part thereof comprising the connector arrangement, to a suitable solvent. The exposure should be for a period of time that is sufficient to at least partially dissolve the connector arrangement, such that the assembly falls apart or subsequently can be easily dismantled. Each of the disassembled parts can then be disposed of or recycled independently of the other parts previously forming the assembly.

Exposure to the solvent may involve for example immersing or dipping the assembly in the solvent, or flushing, spraying or dripping the solvent onto the assembly. It is contemplated that the exposure of the assembly to the solvent could be an automated procedure using e.g. a conveyor belt or the like to transport the assembly through an environment comprising the solvent. Due to complete or partial dissolution of at least a part of the connector arrangement, the assembly may fall apart without application of any external force. However, in particular in cases where the assembly does not fall into pieces after being exposed to the solvent, the assembly may be disassembled by force, e.g. by hand or by a machine, or by ultrasonic radiation.

To improve the accessibility of the solvent to the connector arrangement, holes and/or patterns may be provided in the adjacent parts of the assembly which are intended to come into contact with the solvent. For example, when the connector arrangement comprises the treads 208 of the ring member 207 and/or the threads 212 of the housing 203 (see Fig. 2) small holes may be provided along the periphery of the housing, typically at or near the upper edge of the housing. The ring member 207 and/or the housing 203 may also be provided with a pattern, e.g. comprising opens channels, in which the solvent may be transported by capillary forces to the relevant part of the connector arrangement.

The person skilled in the art realizes that the present invention by no means is limited to the preferred embodiments described above. On the contrary, many modifications and variations are possible within the scope of the appended claims. For example, a luminaire which is or which comprises an assembly according to embodiments of the invention is not necessarily LED based, but may comprise a different type of light source. Furthermore, the assembly within the context of the present invention is not necessarily a luminaire or a lighting device, but may be any product which is composed of different parts, made of different materials, that are mutually connected by any type of connector arrangement, including those explicitly mentioned above but possibly also other types of connector arrangements.