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Title:
A MECHANISM FOR A CLEANING OR LIQUID DISTRIBUTION DEVICE AND METHOD OF OPERATING THE SAME
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/201781
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A mechanism for a cleaning or liquid distribution device includes a support structure and a plurality of modules being rotatably mounted on the support structure. The support structure is capable of rotating. Each of the plurality of modules has a configurable mode of operation. At least two modules have identical or different modes of operation.

Inventors:
LEONG DANIEL (SG)
TAN RAYNER RENYI (SG)
TAN YAN ZHI (SG)
CHEW CHEE MENG (SG)
Application Number:
PCT/SG2021/050183
Publication Date:
October 07, 2021
Filing Date:
March 31, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
NAT UNIV SINGAPORE (SG)
International Classes:
B05C1/08; B08B1/04; A46B5/00; B05C17/02
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SPRUSON & FERGUSON (ASIA) PTE LTD (SG)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A mechanism comprising: a support structure capable of rotating; and a plurality of modules being rotatably mounted on the support structure, each of the plurality of modules having a configurable mode of operation; wherein at least two modules have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation.

2. The mechanism as claimed in claim 1 , further comprising an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, wherein the axle of rotation is linear.

3. The mechanism as claimed in claim 1 , further comprising an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, wherein the axle of rotation is non-linear.

4. The mechanism as claimed in claim 2 or 3, wherein the axle of rotation is rigid.

5. The mechanism as claimed in claim 2 or 3, wherein the axle of rotation is flexible.

6. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the support structure comprises one or more plates.

7. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein sizes and/or positions of the plurality of modules on the support structure are selected such that a total circumferential length of the plurality of modules is greater than a circumferential length of a shape circumscribing the plurality of modules.

8. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein each of the plurality of modules has a degree of rotation, and wherein the degree of rotation of each of the plurality of modules is relative to the support structure.

9. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein one module has a direction of rotation different from that of another module. 10. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein one module has a speed of rotation different from that of another module.

11. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein one module comprises a shape different from that of another module.

12. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein one module comprises a size different from that of another module.

13. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein one module comprises a material different from that of another module.

14. The mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein each of the plurality of modules extends laterally outward relative to an outer edge of the support structure.

15. The mechanism as claimed any one of claim 1 , further comprising: an actuator configured to rotate the support structure; and a plurality of axles mounted on the support structure, wherein each of the plurality of modules is freely rotatable about a respective axle.

16. The mechanism as claimed in claim 1 , further comprising: an actuator configured to rotate the support structure, and a gear set configured to transfer a rotation of the support structure into a rotation of at least one of the plurality of modules.

17 The mechanism as claimed in claim 1 , further comprising a plurality of actuators, each of the plurality of actuators configured to independently rotate a respective one of the support structure and the plurality of modules.

18. A liquid distribution device comprising the mechanism as claimed in any one of the preceding claims.

19. A cleaning device comprising the mechanism as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 17.

20. An operating method comprising: providing a mechanism comprising a support structure and a plurality of modules rotatably being mounted on the support structure, each of the plurality of modules having a configurable mode of operation; and operating the mechanism to rotate the plurality of modules such that at least two modules have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation.

21. The method as claimed in claim 20, wherein providing the mechanism comprises providing an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, and wherein the axle of rotation is linear.

22. The method as claimed in claim 20, wherein providing the mechanism comprises providing an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, and wherein the axle of rotation is non-linear.

23. The method as claimed in claim 21 or 22, wherein the axle of rotation is rigid.

24. The method as claimed in claim 21 or 22, wherein the axle of rotation is flexible.

25. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 24, wherein the support structure comprises one or more plates.

26. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 25, wherein providing the mechanism comprises selecting sizes and/or positions of the plurality of modules on the support structure such that a total circumferential length of the plurality of modules is greater than a circumferential length of a shape circumscribing the plurality of modules.

27. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 26, wherein each of the plurality of modules has a degree of rotation, and wherein the degree of rotation of each of the plurality of modules is relative to the support structure.

28. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 27, wherein providing the mechanism comprises mounting one module comprising a shape different from that of another module on the support structure.

29. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 28, wherein providing the mechanism comprises mounting one module comprising a size different from that of another module on the support structure.

30. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 29, wherein providing the mechanism comprises mounting one module comprising a material different from that of another module on the support structure.

31 . The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 30, wherein providing the mechanism comprises mounting the plurality of modules on the support structure such that each of the plurality of modules extends laterally outward relative to an outer edge of the support structure.

32. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 31 , wherein operating the mechanism comprises rotating one module in a direction of rotation different from that of another module.

33. The method as claimed in any one of claims 20 to 32, wherein operating the mechanism comprises rotating one module at a speed of rotation different from that of another module.

34. The method as claimed in claim 20, wherein the plurality of modules are freely rotatable about respective axles mounted on the support structure, and wherein operating the mechanism comprises operating an actuator to rotate the support structure.

35. The method as claimed in claim 20, wherein at least one module of the plurality of modules is connected to the support structure by a gear set, and wherein operating the mechanism comprises operating an actuator to rotate the support structure, and transferring a rotation of the support structure into a rotation of the at least one module via the gear set.

36. The method as claimed in claim 20, wherein operating the mechanism comprises operating a plurality of actuators to independently rotate a respective one of the support structure and the plurality of modules.

Description:
A MECHANISM FOR A CLEANING OR LIQUID DISTRIBUTION DEVICE AND

METHOD OF OPERATING THE SAME

FIELD OF INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates broadly, but not exclusively, to mechanisms capable of different modes of operation.

BACKGROUND

[0002] In both household and industrial settings, it is quite common that multiple tools are required to complete a set of tasks. For example, to clean a floor thoroughly, it may be necessary to first sweep the floor, then vacuum the floor and finally mop the floor, with each step using a different tool. Likewise, to apply a new paint layer on a surface, it may be necessary to first scrape off the old paint layer, polish/clean the surface, apply a base layer on the surface and finally apply the new paint layer, again with each step using a different tool.

[0003] It has been noted that it can be time-consuming to change tools, thus resulting in process down-time and inefficiency. There may also be safety issues if the work has to be conducted in hazardous, space-confined environments. For example, unused tools may interfere with normal operations, pose hazards, and even injure the operator.

[0004] A need therefore exists to provide mechanisms that can increase efficiency and provide multiple modes of operation.

SUMMARY

[0005] An aspect of the present disclosure provides mechanism comprising a support structure capable of rotating; and a plurality of modules being rotatably mounted on the support structure, each of the plurality of modules having a configurable mode of operation; wherein at least two modules have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation. [0006] The mechanism may further comprise an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, and the axle of rotation may be linear or non-linear. Alternatively or in addition, the axle of rotation may be rigid or flexible.

[0007] The support structure may comprise one or more plates.

[0008] Sizes and/or positions of the plurality of modules on the support structure may be selected such that a total circumferential length of the plurality of modules may be greater than a circumferential length of a shape circumscribing the plurality of modules.

[0009] Each of the plurality of modules may have a degree of rotation, and the degree of rotation of each of the plurality of modules may be relative to the support structure.

[0010] One module may have a direction of rotation and/or a speed of rotation different from that of another module. Alternatively or in addition, one module may comprise a shape and/or a size and/or a material different from that of another module.

[0011] Each of the plurality of modules may extend laterally outward relative to an outer edge of the support structure.

[0012] The mechanism may further comprise an actuator configured to rotate the support structure; and a plurality of axles mounted on the support structure, and each of the plurality of modules may be freely rotatable about a respective axle.

[0013] The mechanism may further comprise an actuator configured to rotate the support structure, and a gear set configured to transfer a rotation of the support structure into a rotation of at least one of the plurality of modules.

[0014] The mechanism may further comprise a plurality of actuators, each of the plurality of actuators configured to independently rotate a respective one of the support structure and the plurality of modules.

[0015] Another aspect of the present provides a mechanism comprising: a support structure; and a plurality of roller modules rotatably mounted on the support structure, wherein one roller module of the plurality of roller modules is configured to perform a function different from that of another roller module. [0016] There is also disclosed a liquid distribution device and a cleaning device comprising the mechanism as described.

[0017] Another aspect of the present disclosure provides an operating method comprising providing a mechanism comprising a support structure and a plurality of modules rotatably being mounted on the support structure, each of the plurality of modules having a configurable mode of operation; and operating the mechanism to rotate the plurality of modules such that at least two modules have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation.

[0018] Providing the mechanism may comprise providing an axle of rotation supporting at least one of the plurality of modules, and the axle of rotation may be linear or non-linear. Alternatively or in addition, the axle of rotation may be rigid or flexible.

[0019] The support structure may comprise one or more plates.

[0020] Providing the mechanism may comprise selecting sizes and/or positions of the plurality of modules on the support structure such that a total circumferential length of the plurality of modules may be greater than a circumferential length of a shape circumscribing the plurality of modules.

[0021] Each of the plurality of modules may have a degree of rotation, and the degree of rotation of each of the plurality of modules may be relative to the support structure.

[0022] Providing the mechanism may comprise mounting one module comprising a shape and/or a size and/or a material different from that of another module on the support structure.

[0023] Providing the mechanism may comprise mounting the plurality of modules on the support structure such that each of the plurality of modules may extend laterally outward relative to an outer edge of the support structure.

[0024] Operating the mechanism may comprise rotating one module in a direction of rotation and/or at a speed of rotation different from that of another module. [0025] The plurality of modules may be freely rotatable about respective axles mounted on the support structure, and operating the mechanism may comprise operating an actuator to rotate the support structure.

[0026] At least one module of the plurality of modules may be connected to the support structure by a gear set, and operating the mechanism may comprise operating an actuator to rotate the support structure, and transferring a rotation of the support structure into a rotation of the at least one module via the gear set.

[0027] Operating the mechanism may comprise operating a plurality of actuators to independently rotate a respective one of the support structure and the plurality of roller modules.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0028] Embodiments of the invention will be better understood and readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from the following written description, by way of example only, and in conjunction with the drawings, in which:

[0029] Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of a mechanism according to an example embodiment.

[0030] Figures 2A-2D show example implementations of the mechanism of Figure 1.

[0031] Figure 3 shows a table comparing different roller implementations and corresponding increases in surface area.

[0032] Figure 4 shows example roller shapes suitable for the mechanism of Figure 1.

[0033] Figures 5A-5D show alternate embodiments of the mechanism of Figure 1.

[0034] Figures 6A-6C show example actuator implementations for the mechanism.

[0035] Figures 7A-7B show example implementations of integration of the mechanism of Figure 1 with other devices.

[0036] Figure 8 shows a flow chart illustrating an operating method according to an example embodiment. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0037] The present disclosure provides a mechanism that can maximize surface contact. In other words, the mechanism can advantageously allow an increase in surface contact as compared to a conventional roller device of the same size. Moreover, the present mechanism also allows a combination of different modules to be used concurrently, which may ensure that operations are carried out effectively and efficiently.

[0038] The mechanism as described may be used in different operations and applications, for example cleaning, painting, etc. It can also be used in applications where operations are tedious and/or time consuming. The present mechanism can be adapted to either a handheld device, or to a robot or an automation system.

[0039] Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram of a mechanism 100 according to an example embodiment. The mechanism 100 includes a support structure 102 which is capable of rotating, and a plurality of modules 104a, 104b, 104c which are rotatably mounted on the support structured 102. Each of the plurality of modules 104a, 104b, 104c has a configurable mode of operation such that, in use, at least two modules may have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation.

[0040] Each of the plurality of modules 104a, 104b, 104c has a degree of rotation, and the degree of rotation of each of the plurality of modules 104a, 104b, 104c is relative to the support structure 102. In Figure 1 , the arrows represent the rotations of the support structure 102 and module 104a. The direction of rotation of the modules 104a, 104b, 104c can vary depending on design and practical considerations, and is not restricted to the direction shown in the figure. For example, the module 104a and the support structure 102 may rotate anti-clockwise as shown in Figure 1 , while the modules 104b, 104c may rotate clockwise. Alternatively or in addition, one module (e.g. 104a) may have a speed of rotation different from that of another module (e.g. 104b).

[0041] While three modules 104a, 104b, 104c can be seen in Figure 1 , each having four rollers 106, it will be appreciated that the number of modules, as well as number of rollers per module, may be varied in alternate embodiments based on practical considerations. As will be discussed in details below, one module may include a shape and/or size and/or material different from that of another module. Further, while the support structure 102 includes two end plates 108a, 108b as can be seen in Figure 1 , it will be appreciated that the support structure 102 may include one or more plates in alternate embodiments.

[0042] Figures 2A-2D show example implementations of the mechanism of Figure 1 . In Figure 2A, the modules 204a, 204b, 204c have the same shape, while in Figure 2B, the module 214a has a different shape from that of the modules 214b, 214c. The support structure 222 in Figure 2C is also different from that in other figures, and may provide a light-weight implementation for certain applications, for example, if the number of modules is known and not expected to change. Figure 2D shows a prototype device in which the support structure is in the form of two big wheels 232a, 232b that are configured to spin concurrently but independently of the modules which are made up of small rollers 236. For example, the small rollers 236 may be made of a sponge material for cleaning applications. In use, as the big wheels 232a, 232b turn, the small rollers 236 that contact a surface to be cleaned will also rotate. As compared to a single big roller, having multiple small rollers can ensure that absorption and cleaning is maximized before the rollers need to be cleaned or replaced.

[0043] As can also be seen in Figures 2A-2D, each module (e.g. 204a, 214a, 224a) is supported by an axle of rotation (e.g. 208, 218, 228) which is mounted to the respective support structure (e.g. 202, 212, 222). In these examples, the axle of rotation may be linear and/or rigid, but it is also possible for the axle of rotation to be non-linear and/or flexible, as described below with reference to Figures 5B-5D.

[0044] In example embodiments, each of the modules extends laterally outward relative to an outer edge of the respective support structure. Such configuration can prevent the support structure from scratching an object or surface that is in contact with the module even if the modules are made of a compressible material. Moreover, sizes and/or positions of the modules (e.g. 204a, 214a, 224a) on the support structure (e.g. 202, 212, 222) are selected such that a total circumferential length of the modules is greater than a circumferential length of a shape (e.g. 210, 220, 230) circumscribing the plurality of modules. For example, in Figure 2A, the total circumferential length of the modules 204a, 204b, 204c is greater than the circumferential length of a circle 210 circumscribing the modules 204a, 204b, 204c. This may be achieved, for example, by positioning the modules 204a, 204b, 204c as close to the outer edge of the support structure 202 as possible so that the modules 204a, 204b, 204c are spaced apart from each other, and increasing the sizes of the modules 204a, 204b, 204c to the extent that they can operate without interfering with each other. If the number of modules is changed, the sizes and/or positions of the modules are adjusted accordingly. In this way, the total surface area provided by the multiple modules in the example embodiments can be higher than that of a single roller of the same size.

[0045] Figure 3 shows a table comparing different roller implementations and corresponding increases in surface area. A comparison was carried out between a single large roller 302, a wheel-in-wheel mechanism 304 with small rollers, and a wheel- in-wheel mechanism 306 with very small rollers. The comparison was to identify the relationship between the size and number of rollers, and how much more surface area can be obtained with reference to the single large roller 302, whilst ensuring that the overall diameter of the roller wheel is kept constant. For the comparison, a diameter of 9cm was used. It was also assumed that the axle diameter is 30% of the roller diameter. From the table in Figure 3, it can be seen that the surface area increases as smaller rollers are used.

[0046] Figure 4 shows example roller shapes suitable for the mechanism of Figure 1. In some embodiments, the cross-section of the rollers making up the modules is circular. For example, cylindrical rollers may form different modules of the same mechanism, and the rollers may have different surface textures or different hardness/compressibility. In other embodiments, the cross-section of the rollers may resemble a polygon or a pointed star. Alternatively or in addition, the dimensions of the rollers may be varied, such that the same mechanism may include roller modules of different sizes. Various possibilities exist, and the examples shown in Figure 4 are not exhaustive.

[0047] Figures 5A-5D show alternate embodiments of the mechanism of Figure 1 . In Figure 5A, a mechanism 500 having a support structure 502 and five modules 504a, 504b, 504c, 504d, 504e, each having a mode of operation, is shown. For example, the module 504a is a liquid absorber, the module 504b is a reactive absorber, the module 504c is an abrasive absorber, and the module 504d is a dust collector. It is also possible for two or more of the modules to serve different aspects of the same function or mode of operation. For example, there may be one abrasive roller with a relatively coarser surface to perform a coarse polishing, and another abrasive roller with a relatively smoother surface to perform a fine polishing. In another example, one module may dispense a cleaning liquid while another module may dispense water. [0048] Figures 5B-5C show a mechanism 510 in which an axle of rotation of at least one of the modules is flexible. For example, each module 514 includes small rollers 516 suspended on a flexible cord 518, with ends of the flexible cord 518 being attached to a support structure 512. At rest (Figure 5B), the flexible cord 518 sags due to the weight of the rollers 516. In use (Figure 5C), a centrifugal force generated by the rotation causes the rollers to extend radially outwardly relative to an outer edge of the support structure 51 . The lateral extension varies along the length of the flexible cord 518 such that it is the highest at the middle section of the flexible cord 518. The embodiment of Figures 5B-5C may allow the rollers 516 to conform better to curvatures or internal surfaces of containers such as tanks and silos. In addition, a roller module using a flexible cord may be simpler in construction and easier to manufacture.

[0049] Figure 5D shows a mechanism 520 in which each module 524 includes rollers 526 suspended on a non-linear cord 528. Here, ends of the cord 528 are connected to each other and the cord 528 may be rigid. The rollers are rigid and the cord may be of a different stiffness depending on the application.

[0050] The mechanism according to the present disclosure can be passive or driven by actuators (e.g. motors). Figures 6A-6C show example actuator implementations for the mechanism. In Figure 6A, an actuator in the form of a motor 600 can rotate a support structure 602, while each of the plurality of modules 604a, 604b, 604c is freely rotatable about a respective axle mounted on the support structure 602. In Figure 6B, the mechanism includes a plurality of actuators in the form of motors 615, 616, 617, 618 each configured to independently rotate a respective one of the support structure 612 and the plurality of modules 614a, 614b, 614c. In Figure 6C, an actuator in the form of a motor 620 can rotate the support structure 622, and a rotation of the support structure 622 can be transferred into a rotation of at least one of the plurality of modules 624a, 624b, 624c using a gear set 626. The speed of rotation can also be adjusted depending on application and requirement. The modules within the same mechanism may also have different speeds of operation, for example, by controlling the individual motors 616, 617 618 in Figure 6B or by using different gear ratios in Figure 6C, as will be appreciated by a person skilled in the art. The individual modules may also be replaced by or be used in combination with different modules such as rollers made of different materials, scrapers etc. depending on the function, as seen e.g. in Figure 5A. [0051] Figures 7A-7B show example implementations of integration of the mechanism of Figure 1 with other devices. By having different roller shapes and driven by different motors, each of the rollers may be used in different applications as shown in Figures 7A-7B. For example, one roller may be used for collecting dust while another may be used as a liquid absorber. In the example in Figure 7A, a mechanism 700 may be used to sweep up dust past a scrapper edge 702 and the dust is then collected by a vacuum nozzle 704. In the example in Figure 7B, a mechanism 710 may be used with both a liquid dispenser 712 and a vacuum nozzle 714, where some modules of the mechanism 710 can sweep up dust which is collected by the vacuum nozzle 714, while some other modules of the mechanism can dispense a liquid received from the liquid dispenser 712 for cleaning. Each of the rollers may also rotate at a different frequency, which can result in a heterogeneous effect by the mechanism. It can be appreciated that the mechanism can be used in several different applications due to the heterogeneous effect provided by the mechanism.

[0052] In other words, the present disclosure provides a mechanism comprising a support structure; and a plurality of roller modules rotatably mounted on the support structure, wherein one roller module of the plurality of roller modules is configured to perform a function different from that of another roller module.

[0053] Figure 8 shows a flow chart illustrating an operating method according to an example embodiment. At step 802, a mechanism including a support structure and a plurality of modules rotatably being mounted on the support structure is provided. Each of the plurality of modules has a configurable mode of operation. At step 804, the mechanism is operated to rotate the plurality of modules such that at least two modules have any one of identical, similar or different modes of operation.

[0054] The mechanism as described in the present disclosure can allow a greater area of contact to the surface as compared to traditional conventional mechanisms of that given size. Having a greater surface area of contact may also result in a greater coverage per run. In addition, this design can also allow different modules, each having different functions, to be used concurrently to ensure that operations can be carried out effectively and efficiently. This may also improve safety where the operations have to be conducted in hazardous and confined space environments.

[0055] There are several advantages in using such a design. Firstly, it may reduce the frequency and preparation time spent between each run. Secondly, it may allow multi function tools to be used so as to complete the task in one run. This may greatly reduce the operation time. One embodiment includes a wheel-in-wheel mechanism where the bigger wheel supports small rollers along the circumference. The small rollers enable the contact with the surface to be maximized as compared to conventional roller device of a similar size. The mechanism as described is also modular and customizable. Advantageously, each smaller spinning module can serve as a different function depending on the type of operation.

[0056] It will be appreciated by a person skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the present invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention as broadly described. For example, optimization of the material, shape and dimensions of the mechanism may be carried out for different scales and types of operation. Alternatively or in addition, work may be carried out in making the system automated, with the possibility of integrating other systems onto it, such as a suction pump or liquid dispenser.The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects to be illustrative and not restrictive.