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Title:
BUCKLE WITH ROTARY STRAP ADJUSTER PIVOTABLY CONNECTED THERETO
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/156721
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to a buckle of a fall protection harness, the buckle comprising a first buckle portion and a second buckle portion, the first and second buckle portions being engageable to each other and disengagable from each other. A rotary strap adjuster is connected to the first buckle portion by a pivotable connection. An axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the rotary strap adjuster and the first buckle portion may be at least generally parallel to an axis of rotation of a take-up shaft of the rotary strap adjuster.

Inventors:
SHAVER STEPHEN D (US)
SAFE NATHAN W (US)
MCLEOD CHRISTOPHER S (US)
Application Number:
PCT/IB2021/050737
Publication Date:
August 12, 2021
Filing Date:
January 29, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
3M INNOVATIVE PROPERTIES CO (US)
International Classes:
A44B11/25; A62B35/00
Foreign References:
US20100242232A12010-09-30
US4228568A1980-10-21
CN105435390A2016-03-30
US20190133261A12019-05-09
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOOD, Kenneth B., et al. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A buckle of a fall protection harness, the buckle comprising: a first buckle portion and a second buckle portion, the first and second buckle portions being engageable to each other and disengagable from each other and having first and second harness straps respectively attached thereto, wherein the first buckle portion comprises a rotary strap adjuster by which the first harness strap is attached to the first buckle portion, the rotary strap adjuster being pivotably connected to the first buckle portion by a pivotable connection having an axis of rotation, wherein the rotary strap adjuster comprises a take-up shaft to which the first harness strap is attached and that is configured to rotate about an axis of rotation when caused to rotate by manual actuation of an actuation knob that is operatively connected to the take-up shaft, to wind up an elongate length of the first harness strap onto the take-up shaft or to unwind an elongate length of the first harness strap from the take-up shaft, and, wherein the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the rotary strap adjuster and the first buckle portion is at least generally parallel to the axis of rotation of the take-up shaft of the rotary strap adjuster.

2. The buckle of claim 1 wherein the first buckle portion comprises a longitudinal axis and a transverse axis, and wherein the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the strap adjuster and the first buckle portion is at least generally parallel to the transverse axis of the first buckle portion and at least generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the first buckle portion.

3. The buckle of any of claims 1-2 wherein the first buckle portion is a female buckle portion and the second buckle portion is a male buckle portion, the female buckle portion comprising an opening configured to selectively receive a complementary catch of the male buckle portion.

4. The buckle of claim 3 wherein the rotary strap adjuster comprises first and second side plates that are transversely spaced apart, and wherein the take-up shaft is positioned in the space between the first and second side plates, is rotatably mounted to the side plates, and comprises a slot for receiving the first harness strap therethrough; and, wherein the rotary strap adjuster further comprises a ratchet formed between the first side plate and the actuation knob, the actuation knob being positioned transversely outward of the first side plate and mounted on a transversely outward end of the take-up shaft and comprising transversely-inwardly- protruding teeth that are biased into engagement with the first side plate by a biasing spring that urges the actuation knob transversely inwardly toward the first side plate.

5. The buckle of claim 4 wherein when the actuation knob is biased transversely inwardly, the transversely-inwardly -protruding teeth of the actuation knob are seated into apertures provided in the first side plate so that the actuation knob and the take-up shaft cannot be rotated in a first, unwinding direction; and, wherein the actuation knob is configured so that manually slidably moving the actuation knob transversely outwardly against the biasing force of the biasing spring causes the transversely -inwardly- protruding teeth to exit the apertures so that the actuation knob and the take-up shaft can be rotated in the first, unwinding direction to unwind an elongate length of the first harness strap from the take-up shaft.

6. The buckle of claim 5 wherein the transversely -inwardly -protruding teeth of the actuation knob are circumferentially -ramped teeth that allow the actuation knob to be rotated in a second, winding direction, opposite the first, unwinding direction of rotation of the actuation knob, to wind up an elongate length of the first harness strap onto the take-up shaft, without the actuation knob first having to be manually slidably moved transversely outward in order to perform the winding rotation.

7. The buckle of any of claims 4-6 wherein the first and second side plates are connected to each other by at least one crossbar that is at an opposite end of the rotary strap adjuster, along the longitudinal axis of the first, female buckle portion, from the pivotable connection of the rotary strap adjuster with the first, female buckle portion, and wherein the crossbar extends transversely across the space between the first and second side plates.

8. The buckle of claim 7 wherein the first and second side plates and the crossbar are sections of a single, unitary, integral piece.

9. The buckle of claim 8 wherein the single, unitary, integral piece is not unitary or integral with the first, female buckle portion but rather is a separately -made piece that is pivotably connected to the first, female buckle portion by a connecting rod that is connected to first and second apertures respectively provided in the first and second side plates of the single, unitary, integral piece and that is seated within a sleeve at a rearward end of the first, female buckle portion, and wherein the sleeve and the connecting rod establish the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the first, female buckle portion and the rotary strap adjuster.

10. The buckle of any of claims 3-9 wherein the first, female buckle portion comprises at least one pawl that is pivotably attached to the first, female buckle portion and that is configured to selectively engage a catch of the second, male buckle portion to lock the catch of the second, male buckle portion within the first, female buckle portion.

11. The buckle of claim 10 wherein the at least one pawl is pivotably attached to the first, female buckle portion so as to exhibit an axis of rotation that is at least generally perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the first, female buckle portion and the rotary strap adjuster.

12. The buckle of any of claims 10-11 wherein the at least one pawl is in the form of first and second pawls that are each pivotably attached to the first, female buckle portion and that are transversely - inwardly biased.

13. The buckle of any of claims 3-12 wherein the first, female buckle portion comprises first and second base plates that are spaced apart along an inward-outward axis of the first, female buckle portion, which inward-outward axis is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the first, female buckle portion and to the transverse axis of the first, female buckle portion, and wherein the first, female buckle portion further comprises an intermediate plate that is sandwiched between the first base plate and the second base plate.

14. The buckle of claim 13 wherein the first base plate is a single, unitary, integral piece that includes a major outward section, a section that is bent to form a sleeve at a rearward end of the first, female buckle portion, and a minor inward section that extends at least generally parallel to a rearward area of the major outward section to define a space therebetween.

15. The buckle of claim 14 wherein the sleeve is at least generally parallel to the transverse axis of the first, female buckle portion and defines a transversely -extending space that is configured to accept a connecting rod by which the rotary strap adjuster is pivotably connected to the first, female buckle portion.

16. The buckle of any of claims 14-15 wherein the second base plate is a single, unitary, integral piece that comprises a first, forward area and a second, rearward area, the areas comprising an inward- outward stepped connection therebetween so that the first, forward area of the second base plate is coplanar with the minor inward section of the first base plate and the second, rearward area of the second base plate is in inward-outward overlapping relation with the minor inward section of the first base plate.

17. The buckle of any of claims 13-16 wherein the intermediate plate provides support for first and second biasing springs that respectively transversely -inwardly bias the first and second pawls.

18. The buckle of any of claims 3-17 with the proviso that the first, female buckle portion does not comprise a buckle slide.

19. The buckle of any of claims 1-18 wherein the first and second harness straps are selected from the group consisting of shoulder straps, chest straps, wait straps, leg straps, and seat straps, and wherein when the first and second buckle portions are engaged to each other, the first and second harness straps are aligned along a common axis that establishes the longitudinal axis of the first buckle portion.

20. A fall protection harness comprising the buckle of any of claims 1-19.

Description:
BUCKLE WITH ROTARY STRAP ADJUSTER PIVOTABLY CONNECTED THERETO

Background

Safety harnesses, e.g., for fall protection and like uses, often include various straps (e.g., chest straps, leg straps, and so on) along with other components such as plates, pads, D-rings and so on. Such straps are often fitted with buckles to facilitate attaching various straps together.

Summary

In broad summary, herein is disclosed a buckle for a fall-protection harness. The buckle comprises a first buckle portion with a rotary strap adjuster that is pivotably connected to the first buckle portion. An axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the rotary strap adjuster and the first buckle portion may be at least generally parallel to an axis of rotation of a take-up shaft of the strap adjuster. These and other aspects will be apparent from the detailed description below. In no event, however, should this broad summary be construed to limit the claimable subject matter, whether such subject matter is presented in claims in the application as initially filed or in claims that are amended or otherwise presented in prosecution.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Fig. 1 is a plan view of an exemplary buckle as used to buckle straps of a harness together.

Fig 2 is a perspective view of exemplary first and second buckle portions in the process of being engaged together with each other to form a buckle (straps are omitted).

Fig. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary first buckle portion comprising an exemplary rotary strap adjuster pivotably connected thereto.

Fig. 4 is a side view of the first buckle portion of Fig. 3.

Fig. 5 is a perspective, partially exploded view of the first buckle portion of Figs. 3 and 4.

Fig. 6A is a perspective, isolated view of view of first and second base plates of the first buckle portion of Figs. 3-5.

Fig. 6B is a view of view of the first and second base plates of Fig. 6A.

Like reference numbers in the various figures indicate like elements. Some elements may be present in identical or equivalent multiples; in such cases only one or more representative elements may be designated by a reference number but it will be understood that such reference numbers apply to all such identical elements. Unless otherwise indicated, all figures and drawings are not to scale and are chosen for the purpose of illustrating different embodiments of the invention. In particular the dimensions of the various components are depicted in illustrative terms only, and no relationship between the dimensions of the various components should be inferred from the drawings, unless so indicated. Although terms such as “first” and “second” may be used in this disclosure, it should be understood that those terms are used in their relative sense only unless otherwise noted.

As used herein as a modifier to a property or attribute, the term “generally”, unless otherwise specifically defined, means that the property or attribute would be readily recognizable by a person of ordinary skill but without requiring a high degree of approximation (e.g., within +/- 20 % for quantifiable properties). For angular orientations, the term “generally” means within clockwise or counterclockwise 20 degrees. The term “substantially”, unless otherwise specifically defined, means to a high degree of approximation (e.g., within +/- 20% for quantifiable properties). For angular orientations, the term “substantially” means within clockwise or counterclockwise 10 degrees. The term “essentially” means to a very high degree of approximation (e.g., within plus or minus 2 % for quantifiable properties; within plus or minus 2 degrees for angular orientations). In particular, a statement that an entity is at least generally, substantially, or essentially parallel to another entity means that the first entity is respectively aligned within plus or minus 20, 10, or 2 degrees of the other entity. It will be understood that the phrase “at least essentially” subsumes the specific case of an “exact” match. For example, two items that are “essentially” parallel may be “exactly” parallel. However, even an “exact” match, or any other characterization using terms such as e.g. same, equal, identical, uniform, constant, and the like, will be understood to be within the usual tolerances or measuring error applicable to the particular circumstance rather than requiring absolute precision or a perfect match.

The term “configured to” and like terms is at least as restrictive as the term “adapted to”, and requires actual design intention to perform the specified function rather than mere physical capability of performing such a function. All references herein to numerical values (e.g. dimensions, ratios, and so on), unless otherwise noted, are understood to be calculable as average values derived from an appropriate number of measurements of the parameter(s) in question.

Detailed Description

Disclosed herein is a buckle 1 suitable for use with a fall-protection harness 5. Such fall- protection harnesses are often used to reduce the likelihood of a user experiencing a fall, and/or to safely arrest the user in the event of a fall. Such harnesses are often used in combination with one or more of a self-retracting lifeline (e.g., a personal self-retracting lifeline), an energy -absorbing lanyard, or other fall- protection equipment. Fall-protection safety harnesses will be distinguished from, for example, general- use items such as backpacks and the like.

An exemplary buckle 1 is illustrated in Fig. 1. Buckle 1 generally includes a first buckle portion 20 and a second buckle portion 10. As supplied to a user, a first harness strap 2 is secured to first buckle portion 20 and a second harness strap 3 is secured to second buckle portion 10. First and second buckle portions 20 and 10 are engageable to each other in order to buckle straps 2 and 3 together as in Fig. 1, and are disengagable from each other. In many embodiments (e.g. of the general type shown e.g. in Fig. 2), first and second buckle portions 20 and 10 will respectively be “female” and “male” buckle portions, accordingly to terminology commonly used in the art to describe such buckles. By definition, a female buckle portion 20 will comprise an opening 22 configured to selectively receive a complementary catch 12 of male buckle portion 10. By “complementary” and “selectively” is meant that buckle portions 20 and 10 are each configured to be mateable with a counterpart buckle portion that is specifically designed to be mateable therewith. Such designs will be contrasted with, for example, “universal” buckles or connectors.

Buckle 1, and first and second buckle portions 20 and 10, will comprise a “longitudinal” axis (denoted “L” in Fig. 1) and a “transverse” axis (denoted “T” in Fig. 1). Such axes will be established by, and correspond to, the longitudinal and transverse axes of the straps that are secured to the buckle portions, as is evident from Fig. 1. This terminology is used for convenience in describing various geometric relationships of the buckle portions; the term “longitudinal” does not mean that, for example, a buckle portion must necessarily exhibit a larger dimension along this axis than along its transverse axis. With regard to first buckle portion 20, a forward direction along the longitudinal axis means a direction toward the end of buckle portion 10 into which is inserted a portion of second buckle portion 10. A rearward direction means a direction toward the harness strap 2 that is secured to buckle portion 10. (Forward and rearward directions “F” and “R” along longitudinal axis “L” are indicated in Figs. 1 and 2.) Thus, first buckle portion 20 comprises a forward end 21 and a rearward end 23, as indicated in Fig. 2. As noted above, an opening 22 may be provided at forward end 21 of first buckle portion 20 to receive a catch portion 12 of second buckle portion 10.

An inward direction refers to a direction that, when buckle 1 and straps 2 and 3 are pulled snug against a user’s body, is toward the body. An outward direction is an opposite direction, away from the user’s body. Inward and outward directions are indicated in the side view (looking along the transverse axis of a buckle portion 20) of Fig. 4.

In some embodiments, a first (e.g. female) buckle portion 20 will include first and second base plates 30 and 35, as visible e.g. in Fig. 3. In some such embodiments, at least one intermediate plate 40 (a portion of which is visible in Fig. 3) may be sandwiched between the base plates 30 and 35. In various embodiments base plates 30 and 35 may be made of e.g. a metal such as steel or aluminum; in various embodiments intermediate plate 40 may be made of e.g. steel, aluminum, a plastic such as e.g. nylon, and so on. Various fasteners (e.g. rivets) 48 may be used to hold plates 30, 35 and 40 together. Various through-holes (unnumbered) can be provided in the plates to accommodate such fasteners, as is evident e.g. in the partially exploded view of Fig. 5.

In some embodiments, a first buckle portion 20 will comprise at least one pawl that is pivotably attached to the first buckle portion and that is configured to selectively engage a catch 12 of the second buckle portion 10 to lock the catch 12 within an interior space 39 of the first buckle portion. In some particular embodiments, the at least one pawl may be in the form of first and second pawls (both numbered 43) as visible in the partially exploded view of Fig. 5. Such pawls may be transversely - inwardly -biased as indicated by arrows 47 of Fig. 2. That is, such pawls may be pivotably coupled to first buckle portion 20, in such manner as to be (partially) rotatable about a rotation axis 46 as shown for one of the pawls in Fig. 5. By transversely -inwardly -biased is meant that an inward, latching portion (e.g. bearing a shoulder 45 as indicated in Fig. 5) of the pawl is biased toward a transverse centerline of the buckle portion, as is evident from Figs. 2 and 5. Such biasing may be achieved e.g. by springs 42 that reside within channels 41 provided in intermediate plate 40 in the general manner indicated in Fig. 5.

Such an arrangement of pawls may be used in combination with a buckle portion 10 (e.g. a “male” portion) bearing a generally T-shaped catch 12 with transversely -protruding teeth 13 as shown in Fig. 2. As the catch is inserted into opening 22 of forward end 21 of buckle portion 20, the leading end of the catch will push the latching portions of pawls 43 transversely away from one another (overcoming the biasing force of springs 42). Upon continued insertion of the catch, the “teeth” of the pawls will travel so far that the pawls are able to snap back toward one another (under the biasing force of the springs) thus securing catch 12 within buckle portion 10 and thus securing the first and second buckle portions together.

The catch cannot thereafter be removed (and the buckle portions disengaged from each other) unless both pawls 43 are rotated to respective "releasing" orientations. To accomplish this, a user can use e.g. the thumb and forefinger to urge manipulation portions (“ears” 44, that are exposed beyond the edges of first and second plates 30 and 35 as shown in Fig. 2) of pawls 43 generally rearward. This will cause pawls 43 to rotate (overcoming the biasing force of springs 42) so that the latching portions of the pawls move transversely outward far enough apart to allow the catch 12 to be removed from the first buckle portion.

It will be appreciated that the above-described first buckle portion 20 (and corresponding, complementary second buckle portion 10) is merely exemplary and that such a buckle portion may be configured as desired. Various designs of buckle portions are described in detail e.g. in U.S. Patents 6668434, 8181319, and 9993048, and in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2011/0239413, all of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein. In some embodiments a first buckle portion will be of a design in which an opening 22 that is configured to receive a catch of a second buckle portion, is located at the forward end 21 of the first buckle portion (e.g. as depicted herein in Figs. 2 and 3). In such a design, the opening is configured to receive a catch that is moved into the opening along a direction that is aligned with the longitudinal axis of the buckle portion. Such a “front-mating” design will be distinguished a “side-mating” design in which a buckle portion comprises an opening (e.g. a generally T- shaped opening) that is provided in a base plate of the buckle portion and that is configured to receive a catch that is moved into the opening along a direction that is aligned with the inward-outward axis of the buckle portion. Such a side-mating design is shown, for example, in Fig. 14A of U.S. Patent 9993048.

In some embodiments, a first buckle portion will not comprise any component of the type often referred to as a buckle slide, a slide bar, or simply as a slide. A buckle slide/slide bar/slide is a member (often knurled or otherwise textured to impart friction to a strap that is brought in contact with the buckle slide) that is elongate in the transverse direction of the buckle portion and that is slidably movable back and forth a short distance along the longitudinal direction of the buckle portion. Such buckle slides are exemplified by item 140 as depicted and described in U.S. Patent 6668434, item 108 as depicted and described in U.S. Patent 8181319, and items 140, 240, 608, 706 as depicted and described in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2011/0239413, all of which are incorporated by reference herein at least for the purpose of making this distinction.

In at least some embodiments, first buckle portion 20 comprises a rotary strap adjuster 100. First harness strap 2 is attached to first buckle portion 20 by way of being attached to rotary strap adjuster 130, e.g. to a “take-up” shaft 110 thereof. For example, a strap 2 may be attached to shaft 110 by passing an end section of the strap through slot 112 (visible in Figs. 2 and 3) of shaft 110, turning this end section of the strap back on itself, and then sewing, stitching, or otherwise attaching the strap to itself to form a terminal loop. Such attachment will typically be at the factory where the buckle and harness is made; the strap will typically remain attached to shaft 110 and thus to first buckle portion 20 at all times, regardless of whether the first and second buckle portions are separated or buckled together. Take-up shaft 110 can be rotated by manual actuation (e.g. by the fingers of a user) of an actuation knob 130 that is operatively connected to take-up shaft 110. Knob 130 and shaft 110 may be turned in a “winding” rotation direction to wind up an elongate length of the first harness strap 2 onto take-up shaft 110 (e.g., in order to remove any excess or “slack” from strap 2) and may be turned in an opposite, “unwinding” rotation direction to unwind an elongate length (e.g. a previously -wound length) of strap 2 from shaft 110.

In further detail, exemplary rotary strap adjuster 100 as depicted herein comprises first and second side plates 120 and 125 that are transversely spaced apart to define a space 128 therebetween. Take-up shaft 110 is positioned in space 128 between plates 120 and 125; a first end 113 of shaft 110 is rotatably mounted to first side plate 120 (e.g., end 113 may be positioned within a through-opening in side plate 120, as evident in the partially exploded view of Fig. 5). A second end 114 of shaft 110 may similarly be rotatably mounted to second side plate 125 (e.g. end 114 may be positioned within a through- opening of side plate 125, also as evident in Fig. 5). Shaft 110 is thus rotatably mounted to the side plates so that it can rotate relative thereto, about an axis of rotation 116 as indicated in Fig. 2.

As noted, exemplary rotary strap adjuster 100 comprises an actuation knob 130 that is positioned transversely outward of first side plate 120. Knob 130 may be mounted on first end 113 of shaft 110, e.g. slidably mounted so that knob 130 is able to slide back and forth along a portion of shaft 110. Typically, this slidable moving of knob 130 along shaft 110 will be in a direction that is parallel to the transverse axis of first buckle portion 20 and that is aligned with the rotation axis 116 of shaft 110.

Actuation knob 130 may comprise teeth 132 that protrude transversely inwardly from transversely-inward face 131 of knob 130. Teeth 132 may be circumferentially ramped, meaning that each tooth 132 gradually protrudes transversely inwardly to a greater extent as a circumferential path is followed along inward face 132, until a transversely inwardmost point of the tooth is reached, after which the tooth drops back steeply toward inward face 132. For example, the exemplary arrangement of Fig. 5 shows three ramped teeth that are circumferentially spaced approximately 120 degrees apart and that incline in a counterclockwise direction (as viewed). Ramped teeth 132 of knob 130 cooperate with (e.g. engage with and disengage from) circumferentially-spaced apertures 121 of first side plate 120 to form a ratchet, as will be readily appreciated. In the specific design of Fig. 5, there are three such apertures 121, spaced at 120 degrees, to cooperate with the three ramped teeth 132 of knob 130.

As shown in Fig. 5, the above-described assembly may further comprise a biasing spring 134 and a retaining collar 135. Retaining collar 135 may be e.g. attached to a terminal end 113 of shaft 110; biasing spring 134 will then occupy a space between collar 135 and a portion of knob 130 and will act to urge knob 130 transversely inwardly along shaft 110. A portion of knob 130 may be provided with various cavities; also, an end portion of shaft 110 may be shaped (e.g. with flats as evident in Fig. 5) to allow knob 130 to be slidably mounted on shaft 110 in a way that knob 130 is slidably mounted on shaft 110 and able to be biased inwardly by spring 134.

When rotary strap adjuster 100 is not in use, teeth 132 will be biased by spring 134 into engagement with first side plate 120. That is, teeth 132 will typically be seated in apertures 121. To wind strap 2 onto take-up shaft 110 (e.g. to remove any slack from strap 2), knob 130 may be manually grasped and rotated in an appropriate, winding direction (clockwise, in the view of Fig. 5). The ramped teeth 132 are gradually sloped to allow this rotary motion to occur, but to oppose any retrograde rotation. As the rotation progresses, the force of the ramps against the edges of the apertures will gradually cause knob 130 to move slightly transversely outward (overcoming the force of the biasing spring), until the end of the ramps are encountered, at which point the biasing spring will cause the knob to return transversely inward, until the next ramps encounter the edges of the apertures and cause the cycle to begin again. This cycling will continue with continued rotation of the knob.

To unwind the strap from shaft 110, knob 130 is pulled transversely outward by a user (overcoming the biasing force of spring 134) until the ramped teeth exit from apertures 121 in a transversely outward direction, at which point the knob and shaft can be freely rotated in the opposite, unwinding direction (counterclockwise, in the view of Fig. 5). When this is finished, the knob can be released and the biasing force of the spring will return the knob transversely inward.

It will be appreciated that turning knob 130 in a “winding” direction will cause knob 130 to periodically slidably move transversely outward; however, this is done “automatically”, by the action of the ramped teeth. Winding in this direction does not require a user to manually slidably move the knob transversely outward in order to initiate or continue the rotation in this direction, in contrast to what is required to turn the knob in an opposing, “unwinding” direction.

Further details of rotary strap adjusters of this general type are disclosed in U.S. Patents 8794378 and 9993048. These documents are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety for at least this purpose. It is emphasized however that a rotary strap adjuster may be configured in any suitable way (e.g. not necessarily comprising a ratchet of this particular style, or even not comprising a ratchet at all).

In the depicted embodiment, first and second side plates 120 and 125 are connected with each other by a transversely extending crossbar 141 (in addition to being connected with each other by a connecting rod 27 as will be discussed later). In some embodiments, any such crossbar 141 may be located at the rearward end 102 of rotary strap adjuster 100.

In some embodiments, first and second side plates 120 and 125, and crossbar 141, may all be sections of a single, unitary, integral piece, e.g. as depicted in Fig. 5. Such an single, unitary, integral piece may be provided e.g. by suitably stamping, bending, forming, and/or cutting a piece of sheet-like material, e.g. a piece of sheet metal. The term single, unitary, integral piece (as used here and elsewhere herein) does not encompass any “piece” that is made by obtaining separately -made items and fastening them together (whether mechanically, or by e.g. welding, adhesive bonding, or the like). Such a single, unitary, integral piece may of course then have various entities mounted thereon or attached thereto, as is evident from Fig. 5.

The rotary strap adjuster depicted e.g. in Figs. 1 and 2 is a relatively “open” design in which any length of strap 2 that is wound up on shaft 110 is readily visible. In other words, the space 128 between first and second side plates 120 and 135, including space 142 in which a wound-up section of strap 2 may reside, is not contained within any kind of housing or cover. In other embodiments, a cover or housing may be provided. In some intermediate designs, a partial housing or cover may be provided. (Even a “full” cover will still require at least one opening to allow strap 2 to enter and leave space 142.)

The various components of rotary strap adjuster 100 may be made of any suitable materials. For example, the first and second side plates, the crossbar (if present), and the takeup shaft may be made of any suitable metal, e.g. steel or aluminum. Knob 130 may be made of formed or molded metal; however, in some convenient embodiments knob 130 may be made of molded plastic, e.g. reinforced nylon or the like.

Pivotable connection

Regardless of the particular style of the rotary strap adjuster, the presence or absence of e.g. any crossbar, housing or partial housing, and so on, a rotary strap adjuster 100 as disclosed herein, will be pivotably connected to first buckle portion 20 by way of a pivotable connection 25 as indicated e.g. in Figs. 1-4. The pivotable connection will allow rotary strap adjuster 100 to pivot back and forth relative to first buckle portion 20 in the general manner indicated by the arcuate block arrows in Fig. 4 (of course, the motion can equivalently be considered to occur by way of first buckle portion 20 pivoting relative to strap adjuster 100).

Pivotable connection 25 will comprise an axis of rotation 26 as indicated in Fig. 2. In many embodiments, axis of rotation 26 of pivotable connection 25 between rotary strap adjuster 100 and first buckle portion 20 will be at least generally parallel to (that is, within plus or minus 20 degrees of) the axis of rotation 116 of take-up shaft 110 of rotary strap adjuster 100. In various embodiments, these two axes of rotation may be at least substantially parallel to each other (i.e. within plus or minus 10 degrees) or at least essentially parallel to each other (i.e. within plus or minus 2 degrees. An arrangement in which these axes of rotation appear to be at least essentially parallel to each other is depicted in exemplary embodiment in Fig. 2 (in which the axes of rotation of the pivotable connection and the take-up shaft are 26 and 116).

In some embodiments, the axis of rotation 26 of the pivotable connection 25 between the rotary strap adjuster and the first buckle portion will be at least generally, substantially, or essentially parallel to the transverse axis of the first buckle portion and will be at least generally, substantially or essentially perpendicular (orthogonal) to the longitudinal axis of the first buckle portion, as is also depicted in Fig. 2.

In some embodiments, the previously -described axis of rotation 46 of the at least one pawl 43 that enables first buckle portion 20 to engaged with a catch of a second buckle portion, may be at least generally, substantially, or essentially perpendicular to the axis of rotation 26 of the pivotable connection 25 between the rotary strap adjuster and the first buckle portion, as can be ascertained by viewing axis of rotation 46 of pawl 43 as seen in Fig. 5 and by viewing axis of rotation 26 of pivotable connection 25 as seen in Fig. 2.

The present work has found that including a pivotable connection between a rotary strap adjuster and a buckle portion (e.g. a female buckle portion) can advantageously enhance the performance of the resulting buckle in static strength tests of the type that are required of many fall-protection apparatus and components. Specifically, the experimental work that resulted in the present application has unexpectedly revealed that the presence of a pivotable connection in a first (e.g. female) buckle portion can allow a buckle (made by engaging the first, female buckle portion to a second, male buckle portion) to achieve enhanced performance in static strength testing, without necessitating that the second buckle portion be reinforced, stiffened, or otherwise strengthened. In other words, it has been found that including a pivotable connection in a first buckle portion can surprisingly enhance the performance of a resulting buckle in static strength testing. And, such a circumstance may reduce or eliminate any need to reinforce or otherwise modify a second buckle portion with which the first buckle portion is used in order to obtain such excellent performance.

An ordinary artisan would not necessarily expect that including a pivotable connection in a first buckle portion would enhance the ability of the resulting buckle to survive static strength testing. That is, conventional wisdom would seem to dictate that to enhance the strength of an item, one should stiffen it, reinforce it, or the like, which would seem to be roughly the opposite of making the item more bendable by including a pivotable connection therein. Without wishing to be limited by theory or mechanism, it is possible that such static strength testing (e.g. of the general type described in ANSI Z359.12 and CSA Z259.12, e.g. in Section 4.2.1.3) may involve some degree of twisting or torqueing of the assembled buckle and that the presence of the pivotable connection actually results in a greater ability of the assembled buckle to withstand such twisting or torqueing.

The presence of a pivotable connection in the first buckle portion has also been found to make the assembled buckle more able to conform to a curved surface of a user’s body when the straps to which the buckle is attached are tightened. This is particularly true when the pivotable connection is oriented so that its axis of rotation is at least generally perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the buckle/straps. Thus, the arrangements disclosed herein can enhance the ability of a fall-protection harness to be comfortably snugged tight against a user’s body. It is noted that in the absence of the disclosures presented herein, there is no readily apparent reason why a pivotable connection (in particular, one with an axis of rotation aligned with the transverse axis of the buckle) need be included in a buckle portion, since each buckle portion will effectively be pivotably connected to its respective harness strap by a pivotable connection with an axis of rotation aligned with the transverse axis of the buckle, by virtue of each harness strap being highly flexible as noted later herein.

In some embodiments, a rotary strap adjuster 100 may be pivotably connected to a first buckle portion 20 by a pivotable connection 25 achieved by the use of a connecting rod 27 that is seated within a sleeve 24 located at the rearward end 23 of first buckle portion 20, and whose ends are mounted to through-openings 122 and 127 provided in side plates 120 and 125 at the forward end 101 of rotary strap adjuster. In such embodiments, sleeve 24 and connecting rod 27 will establish the axis of rotation 26 of the pivotable connection 25 between the first buckle portion 20 and the rotary strap adjuster 100.

A sleeve 24 of a first buckle portion (e.g. of the general type depicted in Fig. 2), that allows a pivotable connection to be achieved, may be provided in any suitable manner. However achieved, in some embodiments any such sleeve may be oriented at least generally parallel to the transverse axis of the first buckle portion, and can thus define a transversely -extending space that is configured to accept a connecting rod 27 by which a rotary strap adjuster 100 can be pivotably connected to the rearward end of the first buckle portion. As can be appreciated from Fig. 6A and 6B, a sleeve 24 does not have to completely circumferentially enclose this transversely-extending space.

In some convenient embodiments, such a sleeve may be provided as an extension of a base plate (e.g. one of the previously -described base plates 30 and 35) of the first buckle portion. Thus, for example, with reference to Figs. 6A and 6B, in some embodiments a first base plate 30 may be a single, unitary, integral piece that includes a major outward section 31, and a section 32 that extends from section 31 and that is bent to form a sleeve 24 at a rearward end 23 of the first buckle portion 20. As apparent in Fig. 6B, such a base plate 30 may further include a minor inward section 33 that extends (from section 32) at least generally, substantially, or essentially parallel to a rearward area 34 of major outward section 31. (Inward/outward directions, and forward/rearward directions along the longitudinal axis of the first buckle portion, are included in Fig. 6B for clarity.)

In some such embodiments, a second base plate 35 that is used in concert with first base plate 30 may be a single, unitary, integral piece (that is a separate piece from base plate 30) that comprises a first, forward area 36 and a second, rearward area 37, with these areas comprising an inward-outward stepped connection 38 therebetween. This can provide that when the first and second base plates are brought together to in the assembly of first buckle portion 20, the first, forward area 36 of second base plate 35 is at least substantially or essentially coplanar with the minor inward section 33 of first base plate 30; and, the second, rearward area 37 of second base plate 35 is in inward-outward overlapping relation with the minor inward section 33 of first base plate 30. Such arrangements are visible in exemplary embodiment in Fig. 6B.

Based on the above discussions it is evident that in some embodiments, rotary strap adjuster 100 (in particular side plates 120 and 125 thereof) will not be part of a single, unitary, integral piece that also includes first buckle portion 20 (in particular, any base plate thereof).

A strap 3 may be attached to second (e.g. male) buckle portion 10 e.g. by passing an end section of the strap through slot 11 as visible in Figs. 1 and 2, turning this end section of the strap back on itself, and then sewing, stitching, or otherwise attaching the strap to itself to form a terminal loop that. Such attachment will typically be at the factory where the buckle and harness is made; the strap will typically remain attached to second buckle portion 10 at all times, regardless of whether the buckle portions are separated or buckled together. Similar, a strap 2 will typically remain attached to the rotary strap adjuster (in the manner previously described) at all times. All such attachments are typically permanent; that is, a buckle or strap is typically not field-replaceable.

The buckle disclosed herein may be used with any straps of any fall-protection harness. Such straps are typically comprised of strong yet flexible webbing (made of e.g. polyamide fibers or the like) to allow the straps to conform to the wearer’s body as needed. Such straps may be e.g. chest straps, leg straps, shoulder straps, waist straps, seat straps, hip straps, and so on. In some embodiments the buckle may be used to couple two like straps together (e.g. to buckle two chest straps together); or, it may be used to couple e.g. a chest strap to a shoulder strap. All such arrangements are possible. If two such straps are brought together e.g. in a “T”, as when a chest strap is coupled to a shoulder strap, the strap that is attached to the first buckle portion (the portion comprising a pivotable connection between a rotary strap adjuster and the buckle portion) will be used for purposes of defining the longitudinal and transverse axes, etc., of the first buckle portion.

Based on the disclosures and discussions herein, it will be apparent that the arrangements disclosed herein may be implemented in various ways. For example, in some embodiments multiple pivotable connections (oriented along any suitable direction, e.g. aligned with the longitudinal axis of the buckle portion) may be present. In some embodiments only a single pivotable connection may be present. In some embodiments, a pivotable connection between a rotary strap adjuster and a buckle portion may be oriented so that the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection is e.g. at least generally perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the take-up shaft of the rotary strap adjuster. In some such embodiments, the axis of rotation of the pivotable connection between the rotary strap adjuster and the buckle portion may be e.g. at least generally parallel to the longitudinal axis of the buckle portion.

In some embodiments a pivotable connection as disclosed herein may be used in a buckle portion that does not comprise a rotary strap adjuster. For example, a female buckle portion whose rearward end merely comprises a slot that allows a strap to be fastened thereto (e.g. a slot of the general type exemplified by slot 11 of Fig. 2, except being in a female buckle portion), might include a pivotable connection located between the rearward slot and the forward end of the buckle portion (to which a male buckle portion is coupled). That is, in such an arrangement forward and rearward sections of a buckle portion may be pivotably connected to each other, e.g. by a pivotable connection whose axis of rotation is oriented at least generally parallel to the transverse axis of the buckle portion. Such an arrangement might, for example, allow the resulting buckle to exhibit enhanced performance in strength testing, irrespective of the absence of a rotary strap adjuster.

The buckle portions, rotary strap adjusters, etc., disclosed herein, can be used with any suitable fall-protection harness. Often, such a harness may be equipped (along with various straps, any of which may benefit from a buckle as disclosed herein) with various pads, plates, and other ancillary components, along with one or more attachment points (e.g. D-rings), to which, for example, a lifeline or lanyard may be attached. Such harnesses are well known and may be used with a wide variety of fall-protection apparatus, methods and systems. Fall-protection apparatus and systems (e.g. lanyards, self-retracting lifelines, positioning systems, horizontal systems, vertical systems, and so on), fall-protection anchorages, components of such apparatus, systems, equipment, and so on, with which the arrangements disclosed herein may find use, are described e.g. in the 3M DBI-SALA Fall Protection Full Line Catalog 2018. Particular fall-protection apparatus such as self-retracting lifelines and components and functioning thereof are described in various aspects in U.S. Patents 7843349, 8256574, 8430206, 8430207, and 9488235, all of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety herein. In some embodiments, a buckle as disclosed herein may meet the requirements of ANSI Z359.12 and CSA Z259.12 (Connecting Components for Personal Fall Arrest Systems).

It is emphasized that a user of any fall-protection device, apparatus, system, or component thereof that includes a buckle as described herein is tasked with carrying out any appropriate steps, actions, precautions, operating procedures, etc., as required by applicable laws, rules, codes, standards, and/or instructions. That is, under no circumstances will the presence of any arrangement disclosed herein relieve a user of the duty to follow all appropriate laws; rules; codes; standards as promulgated by applicable bodies (e.g., ANSI); instructions as provided by the manufacturer of the fall-protection system, apparatus or components; instructions as provided by the entity in charge of a worksite, and so on.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that the specific exemplary embodiments, elements, structures, features, details, arrangements, configurations, etc., that are disclosed herein can be modified and/or combined in numerous ways. It is emphasized that any embodiment disclosed herein may be used in combination with any other embodiment or embodiments disclosed herein, as long as the embodiments are compatible. For example, any herein-described arrangement of a buckle portion may be used in combination with any herein-described arrangement of a rotary strap adjuster, as long as the buckle portion and the rotary strap adjuster are pivotably connected to each other as disclosed herein. Similarly, any such buckle portion and rotary strap adjuster may be used with any suitable fall-protection harness. While a limited number of exemplary combinations are presented herein, it is emphasized that all such combinations are envisioned and are only prohibited in the specific instance of a combination that is incompatible. In summary, numerous variations and combinations are contemplated as being within the bounds of the conceived invention, not merely those representative designs that were chosen to serve as exemplary illustrations. Thus, the scope of the present invention should not be limited to the specific illustrative structures described herein, but rather extends at least to the structures described by the language of the claims, and the equivalents of those structures. Any of the elements that are positively recited in this specification as alternatives may be explicitly included in the claims or excluded from the claims, in any combination as desired. Any of the elements or combinations of elements that are recited in this specification in open-ended language (e.g., comprise and derivatives thereof), are considered to additionally be recited in closed-ended language (e.g., consist and derivatives thereof) and in partially closed-ended language (e.g., consist essentially, and derivatives thereof). Although various theories and possible mechanisms may have been discussed herein, in no event should such discussions serve to limit the claimable subject matter. To the extent that there is any conflict or discrepancy between this specification as written and the disclosure in any document that is incorporated by reference herein but to which no priority is claimed, this specification as written will control.