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Title:
A MOTORISED TRANSPORT VEHICLE CURTAIN
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/149752
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A motorised transport vehicle curtain, including a curtain (11), a curtain rail (12) and a drive assembly (10). The curtain (11) being mounted to the curtain rail (12) by brackets (28) that are movable on the curtain rail (12) to allow the curtain (11) to move between open and closed positions. The drive assembly (10) includes a motor (13) and a wheel (14) that engages the curtain rail (12) and which is driven to rotate by the motor (13) to roll along the curtain rail (12) in each of a first opening direction of curtain movement and a second and reverse closing direction of curtain movement. Rolling motion of the wheel (14) relative to the curtain rail (12) is operable the move the drive assembly (10) which is operable to push the brackets (28) in the first direction of movement so that the curtain (11) moves to the open position and to pull the brackets (28) in the second direction of movement so that the curtain (11) moves to the closed position.

Inventors:
MURIE PETER (AU)
Application Number:
PCT/AU2016/050205
Publication Date:
September 29, 2016
Filing Date:
March 22, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PETER MURIE CONSULTING PTY LTD (AU)
International Classes:
B60J5/06; B60J1/20; B60J5/12; B60P7/04; E05F15/662
Foreign References:
DE3435340A11986-04-03
US5676189A1997-10-14
KR101401027B12014-05-29
US20130160955A12013-06-27
US8498747B22013-07-30
CN102211543A2011-10-12
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PHILLIPS ORMONDE FITZPATRICK (AU)
Download PDF:
Claims:
THE CLAIMS DEFINING THE INVENTION ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1 . A motorised transport vehicle curtain, including: a curtain; a curtain rail; a drive assembly; the curtain being mounted to the curtain rail by brackets that are movable on the curtain rail to allow the curtain to move between open and closed positions; and the drive assembly including a motor, and a wheel that engages the curtain rail and which is driven to rotate by the motor to roll along the curtain rail in each of a first opening direction of curtain movement and a second and reverse closing direction of curtain movement, rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail being operable the move the drive assembly which is operable to push the brackets in the first direction of movement so that the curtain moves to the open position and to pull the brackets in the second direction of movement so that the curtain moves to the closed position.

2. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 1 , the wheel rotating in a generally vertical plane.

3. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 1 or 2, the wheel being positioned to bear upwardly against the curtain rail from below the curtain rail.

4. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 3, the curtain rail having an elongate base which extends lengthwise of the curtain rail, the circumferential periphery of the wheel frictionally engaging the base so that rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail is by rotation of the wheel in frictional engagement with the base.

5. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 4, the base of the curtain rail including an elongate groove into which the circumferential periphery of the wheel enters, the circumferential periphery of the wheel frictionally engaging facing edges of the groove, so that rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail is by rotation of the wheel in frictional engagement with the facing edges of the groove.

6. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to any one of claims 1 to 5, the circumferential periphery of the wheel being formed of rubber.

7. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 5, the circumferential periphery of the wheel being formed to have a frustoconical cross-section and the facing edges of the groove being inclined complementary to facing surfaces of the circumferential periphery of the wheel.

8. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to any one of claims 1 to 7, the motor being electric and having a rotor and a stator, wheel being fixed to the rotor and being of a greater diameter than the rotor.

9. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 8, the wheel being coaxial with the rotor.

10. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to any one of claims 1 to 8, the rotor driving the wheel through an intermediate wheel or gear.

1 1 . A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to any one of claims 1 to 10, the drive assembly being suspended from the curtain rail by a roller arrangement, the roller arrangement comprising first and second roller assemblies which are spaced apart on opposite sides of the motor, the first and second roller assemblies and the motor being spaced apart in the same general plane which extends generally in the lengthwise direction of the curtain rail.

12. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 1 1 , the width of the drive assembly being about equal to or less than the width of the curtain rail measured perpendicular to the lengthwise direction of the curtain rail.

13. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to any one of claims 1 to 12, the motor being an electric motor and the curtain rail being electrified, the drive assembly being electrically connected to the curtain rail to deliver electric power to the motor.

14. A motorised transport vehicle curtain according to claim 13, the curtain rail including a pair of spaced apart and parallel elongate conductors that extend for substantially the length of the curtain rail and the drive assembly being in brushed connection with the curtain rail.

15. A drive assembly for a motorised transport vehicle curtain, the drive assembly including a motor, and a wheel for engaging a curtain rail of a transport vehicle curtain the wheel being driven to rotate by the motor to roll along the curtain rail in each of a first opening direction of curtain movement and a second and reverse closing direction of curtain movement.

Description:
A MOTORISED TRANSPORT VEHICLE CURTAIN

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001 ] The present invention applies generally to a motorised drive for flexible transport vehicle curtains that are used typically to form the side walls of large transport vehicle trailers, generally known as "curtain sided semitrailers". The use of a curtain to close the side walls of such trailers allows the walls to be opened and closed quickly, so that cargo or freight, such as palletised items, can be loaded or unloaded from the trailer quickly and easily and from either side of the trailer.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

[0002] A reference herein to a patent document or other matter which is given as prior art is not to be taken as an admission that that document or matter was known or that the information it contains was part of the common general knowledge as at the priority date of any of the claims.

[0003] Semitrailers can either take the form of an open tray, with no end or side walls, or a roof, or the trailer can be enclosed with doors provided at a trailing end of the trailer, and the forward end, the side walls and the roof being formed from solid sheet material. In alternative forms of semitrailers, and the form which is relevant to the present invention, the side walls of the trailer can be formed as a curtain (so- called "curtain sided trailers") so that the side walls can be retracted or opened to allow access to the interior of the trailer for the purpose of loading or unloading goods from the trailer deck, and can thereafter be closed during drive of the semitrailer. The end walls of the semitrailer can be solid or flexible, although that is not of importance to the present invention.

[0004] Curtain sided trailers include a frame, that includes a curtain rail on which the side curtains are hung and on which the side curtains can move between open and closed positions. Brackets extend between an upper edge of the curtain and the curtain rail and normally the brackets would include rollers to ensure ease of movement of the brackets along the curtain rail and thus ease of movement of the curtain between the open and closed positions. [0005] Side curtains also typically are fixed at a bottom edge of the curtain to the trailer deck or trailer structure, so that the bottom edge can be secured in place in a manner that the curtain, in the closed position, is taut. Various forms of bottom edge fixing can be employed, including motorized hooks, elastic or ratchet strapping. The bottom edge fixing needs to allow movement of the curtain between the open and closed positions. The leading edge of the curtain is also fixed in the closed position of the curtain to assist retaining the curtain taut in the closed position and preventing flapping during travel of the trailer.

[0006] Once the semitrailer has been loaded, the curtain can be returned from the open position to the closed position and the bottom edge and the leading edge of the curtain can be secured in place. Curtains can be applied to both sides of the semitrailer, but often only one of the curtains will be opened for loading and unloading the trailer.

[0007] Most sliding curtains are manually operated, such that the vehicle driver will disengage all of the fixings of the curtain and then drag the curtain from the closed to the open position, and once loading or unloading is complete, reverse that process to bring the curtain to the closed position. With the fittings disengaged, the physical process of opening and shutting the curtain requires some strength, given that the curtain is heavy and is shifted in relation to semitrailers, somewhere usually in the region of 13 to 16 metres.

[0008] To relieve the manual requirement for opening and closing the curtain, motorised drive arrangements have been proposed in the past. However, the forms of motorised drive of which the applicant is aware, have failed due to difficulties in accommodating the drive in the area available within the semitrailer structure. Thus, the drive cannot project outwardly from the side walls of the semitrailer as that would increase the width of the semitrailer beyond acceptable dimensions, while accommodating the drive within the semitrailer structure can intrude on the available cargo loading space.

[0009] The applicant has recognised that an acceptable form of motorised drive arrangement would be of benefit for curtain sided semitrailers. The benefits would include increased speed of opening and closing the curtain, thus reducing the time necessary for loading and unloading a semitrailer, as well as reduced physical requirements for the person who opens and closes the curtain, which is usually the transport vehicle driver.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0010] According to the present invention there is provided a motorised transport vehicle curtain, including: a curtain; a curtain rail; a drive assembly; the curtain being mounted to the curtain rail by brackets that are movable on the curtain rail to allow the curtain to move between open and closed positions; and the drive assembly including a motor, and a wheel that engages the curtain rail and which is driven to rotate by the motor to roll along the curtain rail in each of a first opening direction of curtain movement and a second and reverse closing direction of curtain movement, rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail being operable to move the drive assembly which is operable to push the brackets in the first direction of movement so that the curtain moves to the open position and to pull the brackets in the second direction of movement so that the curtain moves to the closed position.

[001 1 ] The drive assembly can include a plurality of motors and a plurality of wheels if required.

[0012] An advantage of the present invention is that the drive assembly that drives the curtain between open and closed positions includes the motor and wheel so that the drive assembly is effectively self-contained so that it is not spread out along the length of the curtain rail. Power to drive the motor can be provided in a variety of different forms or arrangements, but a convenient form will be described later herein. [0013] Moreover, by the wheel engaging the curtain rail to generate movement for moving the curtain between open and closed positions, the drive assembly can be installed with existing curtain rail structures, without significant modification of those structures. In some forms of the invention, the drive assembly can be attached to the existing curtain rail without modification, so that retro-fitting of a drive assembly according to the invention to an existing curtain rail is possible. Thus, transport vehicles that include manual curtain assemblies can be retro-fitted to include a drive assembly in compliance with the present invention, achieving all of the benefits of the present invention, but without substantial outlay in relation to modification of the existing curtain rail structure or in relation to installation.

[0014] A further advantage of the present invention resides in the construction of the drive assembly, which, as indicated above, is self-contained so that it includes all of the moving parts of the motorised transport vehicle curtain, that are in addition to the normal moving components of a manual curtain. The moving parts of a manual curtain usually just comprise the curtain and the brackets attaching the curtain to the curtain rail. The brackets are usually rolling brackets that have rollers to roll on the curtain rail. Thus, the motor that drives the wheel is part of the drive assembly and thus the drive assembly of the invention does not rely on pulleys, cables, linear actuators, solenoids or the like to shift the curtain between the open and closed positions, and which would be mounted along the curtain rail from one end to the other. Rather, the drive assembly can shift along the curtain rail with all moving components being formed as part of the drive assembly, so that structures to mount or cover other moving parts external to the drive assembly are not required. This means that future maintenance of the drive assembly can be easily facilitated by removing the drive assembly from connection with the curtain rail and performing maintenance as required, while moving parts external to the driving assembly are not required.

[0015] In order to minimise the intrusion of the drive assembly of the transport vehicle curtain into the cargo area of a transport vehicle, the drive assembly can be constructed so that it is positioned substantially below the curtain rail (with some of the components above the curtain rail), and with a width that is about equal to or less than the width of the curtain rail, when the width of the curtain rail is measured generally perpendicular to the lengthwise direction of the curtain rail. Such an arrangement minimises intrusion of the drive assembly into the cargo area, as the drive assembly is substantially accommodated beneath the curtain rail and is therefore within an area in which cargo would not normally intrude. Moreover, by this arrangement, the drive assembly does not protrude to an external part of a transport vehicle, which could result in a breach of transport regulations concerning maximum overall width of transport vehicle trailers. Still further, the drive assembly can be arranged to that it does not project upwardly to an extent to increase the height of the trailer.

[0016] The drive assembly in some forms of the invention includes a wheel or wheels positioned to rotate within a generally vertical plane, or about a generally horizontal axis, and the wheel or wheels can be positioned to bear upwardly against the curtain rail from below the curtain rail. The references to a vertical plane and to a generally horizontal axis are to be understood in terms of the environment in which the invention is to be used or installed, such that the plane or axis are unlikely to be precisely vertical or horizontal, but will usually be about or approximately vertical or horizontal. The bearing engagement can be frictional engagement, or can be engagement through a rack arrangement, or a chain for example that extends lengthwise of the curtain rail and which is engaged by teeth formed at the circumferential periphery of the wheel. For simplicity, frictional engagement is the preferred engagement of forms of the invention that have been developed to date.

[0017] Thus, in frictional engagement forms of the drive assembly, the circumferential periphery of the wheel frictionally engages the curtain rail base, or another wall or part of the curtain rail, so that rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail is by rotation of the wheel in frictional engagement with a surface of the curtain rail such as the base. To improve the frictional engagement, the circumferential periphery of the wheel can be formed from a rubber, silicon, polyurethane or other suitable material.

[0018] The wheel can frictionally engage the curtain rail simply by bearing against a surface of the curtain rail with sufficient force so that rotation of the wheel causes a linear motion of the drive assembly. As indicated above, frictional engagement can be enhanced by appropriate selection of material to form the circumferential periphery of the wheel, while in other forms of the invention, the physical structure of the wheel and curtain rail can be selected for improved engagement. In some forms of the invention for example, the base of the curtain rail can include an elongate grove into which the circumferential periphery of the wheel can enter. The circumferential periphery of the wheel therefore would frictionally engage against one or both of the facing edges of the groove, so that rolling motion of the wheel relative to the curtain rail is by rotation of the wheel in frictional engagement with one or both of the facing edges of the groove. In this arrangement, the circumferential periphery of the wheel can be formed to have a frustoconical cross-section, or similar section, with the facing edges of the groove being arranged for engagement with the facing surfaces of the circumferential periphery. The facing edges of the groove can for example, be inclined complementary to the facing surfaces of the circumferential periphery. In this arrangement, the circumferential periphery of the wheel tends to wedgingly engage, or wedge into the groove formed in the base of the curtain rail and that arrangement provides good frictional engagement between the wheel and the curtain rail for movement of the drive assembly along the curtain rail. The circumferential periphery of the wheel can alternatively be formed to have a convex curved cross-section, or a triangular cross-section, or other similar cross-section.

[0019] The motor or motors can be of any form, although an electric, brushless DC motor has been trialled in tests to date and has been found to operate adequately. However, the present invention can operate successfully with DC motors that employ brushes, and with AC motors. Battery operated motors could be employed, with a charging facility allowing for charging to take place for example when the curtain is in a closed position, or the motor could be connected electrically to the transport vehicle electrics. Examples of such connections will be given later herein.

[0020] The motor or motors of the drive assembly can directly drive a single wheel which is in engagement with the curtain rail as discussed above. Alternatively, the wheel that engages the curtain rail can be driven by an intermediate rotary member or members, such as a second wheel or wheels, or a gear or gears. A further alternative includes a pulley arrangement, whereby the wheel is connected to the motor via a belt or chain or the like. These arrangements allow for the RPM of the motor and of the wheel which is in engagement with the curtain rail to be varied or geared. [0021 ] Despite the alternatives above, forms of the invention that include a direct drive, high torque arrangement with a single wheel are preferred, because testing has shown that they operate adequately, and the simple nature of the arrangement has benefits in terms of costs to manufacture, maintenance and reliability.

[0022] An electric motor for use in the drive assembly would include a stator and a rotor. The wheel of the drive assembly can be coaxial with the rotor and can be directly driven from a shaft that is driven to rotate by the rotor. The wheel can have a greater external diameter than the rotor and the stator, so that the drive assembly can be positioned below the curtain rail and the circumferential periphery of the wheel can project beyond the motor to engage the curtain rail.

[0023] Where the power supply to the electric motor comes from the transport vehicle electrics,, an electric cord can be connected to the drive assembly, and the cord can be retractable to ensure that it does not become entangled with the drive assembly or curtain as the drive assembly moves lengthwise along the curtain rail. The cord could alternatively be a flexible flat cable of the kind which is often used in robotics equipment and which allows movement of a component relative to a structure while retaining connection with the flexible flat cable.

[0024] In addition to the alternatives discussed above, a prototype according to one embodiment of the invention has employed a pair of spaced apart conductors that extend for substantially the length of the curtain rail, and which are electrified when the curtain is to be opened or closed. The drive assembly includes a brush arrangement to connect the motor to the conductors. The conductors can be flat, round or chevron copper conductors, and can be closely positioned to each other, such as at a spacing of approximately 2mm. The conductors can extend within the curtain rail, or above the curtain rail or in some forms of the invention, below the curtain rail. The conductors can thus extend relative to the curtain rail at any suitable position that facilitates connection to the drive assembly such as via a brush connection.

[0025] By the above arrangement, the drive assembly can engage the conductors via brushes and without the need for a cable that moves with the drive assembly. Electrification of the conductors need only be undertaken when the curtain is to be open or closed and therefore for the majority of time the conductors are dormant. Moreover, the conductors can again easily be installed at a suitable and convenient position relative to the curtain rail, either in a new trailer or as a retro-fit and can be easily connected to the power supply of the transport vehicle or to an alternative power supply such a separate battery supply.

[0026] The motorised truck curtain can include a positioning system for monitoring the position of the drive assembly along the curtain rail, so that the motor can be energised in a way to drive the wheel in an appropriate direction (clockwise or anticlockwise) for opening or closing the curtain. For example, position sensors can be provided within the motor which are operable to provide a signal or data to a controller that controls which coils of the motor to power, to rotate the rotor in the desired direction for forward or rearward movement of the motorised drive. A control system can be provided so that the supply of electric current to the motor is terminated when the drive assembly reaches either end of the curtain rail so that the curtain rail is either in the open or closed position. Alternatively, electrical overload can be employed to stop the drive assembly at each end of the curtain rail. That overload will occur when the drive assembly can no longer move relative to the curtain rail and once electrical overload is detected, the electrical current can be shut off. This simplified system has been found to work well and does not require more complicated shut-off systems.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0027] In order that the invention may be more fully understood, some embodiments will now be described with reference to the figures in which:

[0028] Figure 1 is a perspective partial view of a curtain rail and curtain of a transport vehicle with a drive assembly according to one form of the invention incorporated.

[0029] Figure 2 is a cross-sectional view through ll-ll of Figure 1 .

[0030] Figure 3 is a perspective view of the arrangement of Figure 1 but with the curtain rail removed. [0031 ] Figure 4 is a perspective view of a drive assembly according to one form of the invention.

[0032] Figure 5 is a front view of the drive assembly of Figure 4. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0033] Figure 1 illustrates a portion of a curtain rail of a transport vehicle, and shows, partly obscured, a motorised drive for a curtain that is mounted to the curtain rail by brackets for movement along the curtain rail. Figure 1 thus shows a drive assembly 10, a curtain 1 1 and an elongate curtain rail 12. The curtain rail 12 is a complex extrusion that is shown in cross-section in Figure 2, although much of the shape of the extrusion is irrelevant in relation to description of the present invention.

[0034] Figure 3 is a view of the drive assembly 10 and curtain 1 1 of Figure 1 , but with the curtain rail 12 removed. With reference to Figure 3, the drive assembly 10 includes a motor 13 and a wheel 14. The motor 14 is electric and includes a stator and a rotor and the axis of rotation of the rotor is coaxial with the rotational axis of the wheel 14.

[0035] The wheel 14 is positioned to rotate within a generally vertical plane, or about a generally horizontal axis and the periphery 15 of the wheel is positioned relative to the curtain rail 12 to bear upwardly against a surface of the curtain rail 12 from below the curtain rail. The periphery 15 engages the underneath of the curtain rail 12 in frictional engagement, and for that purpose, the periphery 15 is formed of a rubber or rubber-like material. That material is shown in Figure 2 as comprising a circular tyre 16.

[0036] As shown in Figure 2, the tyre 16 engages within a groove 18 formed within a base 19 of the curtain rail 12. The groove 18 extends longitudinally of the length of the curtain rail 12 and by upward pressure of the wheel 14 pushing the tyre 16 into the groove 18, there is good frictional engagement between the wheel 14 and the curtain rail 12, so that rotation of the wheel 14 results in movement of the drive assembly 10 lengthwise of the curtain rail 12. [0037] With reference to Figures 4 and 5, the drive assembly 10 is shown in isolation and includes a mounting plate 22, roller assemblies 23 and 24, each comprising four wheels 25, which are spaced apart in pairs on either side of a mount 26. The mounts 26 are attached to either end of the mounting plate 22 and one of the roller assemblies 23 and 24 includes a suspension or vibration control arrangement

30 which connects to a bottom end of the mount 26 via tab 31 to a rod 32 which is mounted between tabs 33 and 34 and which includes a compression spring 35 between tabs 31 and 33. The spring 35 bears against the tab 33 and biases the tab

31 upwardly against downward movement. This suspension arrangement assists smooth travel of the drive assembly 10 along the curtain rail 12, particularly during initial movement of the drive assembly, which can be quite sudden or abrupt. A suspension arrangement 30 can be provided at each of the roller assemblies 23 and 24, although a single suspension arrangement 30 has shown so far to be adequate.

[0038] The mounting plate 22 transitions between front and rear planes via inclined sections 38. This allows the plane of the mount 26 on which the wheels 25 are mounted and the wheel 16 to be coplanar.

[0039] The motor 13 is a brushless DC motor and comprises a rotor 40 and a stator 41 , which are more evident in Figure 2. The wheel 14 is fixed to the rotor 40 for rotation therewith. The construction of the motor is of a known kind and therefore does not require further discussion.

[0040] It is to be noted that the roller assemblies 23 and 24 are of the same construction as used to suspend the curtain 1 1 as shown in Figure 3. An advantage of using the same roller assemblies, is that the same components for suspending the curtain 1 1 can be used to suspend the drive assembly 10 from the curtain rail 12. Accordingly, in Figure 3, the roller assemblies 23 and 24 are identified and these are identical to the roller assemblies 28 which are attached to the curtain 1 1 .

[0041 ] The drive assembly 10 takes power from interaction with a pair of conductors 43 that are housed in an extrusion 44 and that extend lengthwise of the curtain rail 12. The drive assembly 10 includes a power take-off 45 (Figure 5) that cooperates with the conductors 43 by a brush connection with brushes 46 to provide power to the motor 13. The brushes 46 can be carbon/copper brushes. What is not shown in the figures is the electrical wiring that extends between the take-off 45 and the motor 13 but correct wiring would be within the competency of a skilled person and is therefore not required for discussion herein.

[0042] It would be evident from the above discussion, in particular Figure 1 , that rotation of the wheel 14 in a clockwise direction will cause the drive assembly 10 to move in the direction A and that will pull one part of the curtain 1 1 and push the other part of the curtain 1 1 . Opposite rotation of the wheel 14 will result in opposite movement of the curtain 1 1 . The curtain 1 1 can thus be moved between opened and closed position along the curtain rail 12 by actuation of the motor 13 to rotate the wheel 14. It will be a simple matter known to any skilled person to wire the motor relative to the power take-off 45 for clockwise and anti-clockwise wheel rotation. In one arrangement, reversing is achieved using a radio signal from a push button. A receiver, traveling with the motor, feeds the appropriate phases to the motor to make it rotate in the desired direction.

[0043] The invention described herein is susceptible to variations, modifications and/or additions other than those specifically described and it is to be understood that the invention includes all such variations, modifications and/or additions which fall within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure.




 
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