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Title:
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL TAP
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2022/189763
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A multi-functional tap is disclosed that includes a stem with an upstream end and a downstream end, the upstream end of the tap stem being configured to be secured to a support surface; a plurality of outlets provided at the downstream end of the tap stem and comprising a water outlet, a liquid soap outlet and an air outlet; a sensor provided by the tap stem and configured to initiate a timed cycle of water, liquid soap and air dispensing from the respective outlets; and a water conduit, a liquid soap conduit and an air conduit extending from the upstream end to the downstream end of the tap stem inside the cavity to provide water, liquid soap and air to the respective outlets.

Inventors:
HENDERSON PATRICK (GB)
GENT ALEXANDER (GB)
DENBURY RICHARD (GB)
Application Number:
PCT/GB2021/052545
Publication Date:
September 15, 2022
Filing Date:
October 01, 2021
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WALLGATE LTD (GB)
International Classes:
E03C1/05; A47K5/12; A47K10/48; E03C1/046
Domestic Patent References:
WO2020146611A12020-07-16
Foreign References:
CN208982768U2019-06-14
CN210153309U2020-03-17
CN212452930U2021-02-02
CN211155477U2020-08-04
US20170022692A12017-01-26
EP2723267A22014-04-30
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCRIPT IP LIMITED et al. (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A multi-functional tap comprising: i) a tap stem having an outer wall which defines an elongate internal cavity extending therethrough and having an upstream end and a downstream end, the upstream end of the tap stem being configured to be secured to a support surface; ii) a plurality of outlets provided at the downstream end of the tap stem and comprising a water outlet, a liquid soap outlet and an air outlet; iii) a sensor provided by the tap stem and configured to initiate a timed cycle of water, liquid soap and air dispensing from the respective outlets; and iv) a water conduit, a liquid soap conduit and an air conduit extending from the upstream end to the downstream end of the tap stem inside the cavity to provide water, liquid soap and air to the respective outlets.

2. A multi-functional tap as claimed in claim 1, wherein the sensor has a wire which is housed inside the cavity of the tap stem.

3. A multi-functional tap as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the sensor is a motion sensor, an IR sensor, and/or a photoelectric sensor, the sensitivity of which is preferably adjustable. 4. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the liquid soap conduit has an additional conduit for air in order for the soap outlet to dispense foamed soap.

5. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the wall of the tap stem incorporates one or more removable cover sections for enabling access to the single cavity.

6. A multi-functional tap as claimed in claim 5, wherein a manifold block is provided in the cavity at the downstream end of the tap stem, the conduits being connected to inlet ports of the manifold, which ports feed the respective water, liquid soap and air outlets.

7. A multi-functional tap as claimed in claim 6, wherein the manifold block is accessible via said one or more cover sections and removable from the cavity in the tap stem. 8. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the outlets are all in close proximity to each other.

9. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 8, wherein the air outlet is in the form of an elongate slot which is transverse to the lengthwise axis of the tap stem.

10. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the upstream end of the tap stem incorporates a wall-mounting plate and the tap stem extends in a generally straight line, preferably perpendicular to the mounting plate from the upstream end to the downstream end.

11. A multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the tap stem has an upstream first section and a downstream second section which is angled with respect to the first section, the outlets being provided in the downstream second section and the single cavity extending through both first and second sections.

12. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 11, wherein the arrangement is in communication with and/or comprises a control unit, the control unit comprising an electronic controller which communicates with the sensor.

13. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in claim 12, wherein the control unit comprises a water valve, a liquid soap pump and a controllable air supply all being controllable by the controller to deliver water, liquid soap and air to the respective outlets.

14. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in either claim 12 or claim 13, wherein the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply are controllable by the controller according to said timed cycle.

15. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 12 to 14, wherein the controller is adapted to control the operation of the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply, preferably in response to a signal from the sensor.

16. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 12 to 15, wherein the controller is adapted to control the operation of the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply by controlling the time of operation and/or sequence of operation thereof.

17. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of claims 12 to 16, further comprising an input means for the controller.

18. A multi-functional tap arrangement comprising a multi-functional tap as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, further comprising indicia to indicate the operation of the tap arrangement, optionally comprising one or more lights to illuminate the indicia and/or the hands of a user in use.

19. A multi-functional tap arrangement as claimed in claim 12 wherein the electronic controller is configured or programmable to effect periodic purges of at least the water conduit and water outlet, optionally without activation of the sensor.

Description:
MULTI-FUNCTIONAL TAP

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to multi-functional taps, particularly taps configured to dispense water, soap and air.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is known to provide a hand-washing appliance which dispenses water, soap and optionally air for drying the hands of the user. US-A-2017/022692 discloses a faucet with sensing activation and multiple sensors. WO-A- 2020/146611 discloses a lavatory fixture with first and second legs and a connecting section extending between the legs with outlets to dispense water and soap to wash a user's hands and sensors located near each outlet. Unfortunately, such arrangements do not provide the full flexibility needed in facilities for the use of the public including hygiene and efficient use of water and other consumable resources. Arrangements that address these problems have been proposed, for example, in European Patent EP 2723267.

There remains a need, however, for hand washing facilities that improve hygiene and efficient use of resources and are suitable for use in a wide variety of facilities.

It is an aim of the present invention to address this need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention accordingly provides in a first aspect a multi- functional tap comprising: i) a tap stem having an outer wall which defines an elongate internal cavity (optionally a single cavity) extending therethrough and having an upstream end and a downstream end, the upstream end of the tap stem being configured to be secured to a support surface; ii) a plurality of outlets provided at the downstream end of the tap stem and comprising a water outlet, a liquid soap outlet and an air outlet; iii) a sensor (optionally a single sensor, i.e. only one sensor) provided by the tap stem and configured to initiate a timed cycle of water, liquid soap and air dispensing from the respective outlets; and iv) a water conduit, a liquid soap conduit and an air conduit extending from the upstream end to the downstream end of the tap stem inside the single cavity to provide water, liquid soap and air to the respective outlets.

The great benefit of the timed cycle is that the managers of a facility are able to fully control the sequence and timing of the operation of the tap arrangement e.g. to reduce power or water use or, in circumstances where more extensive hand washing is necessary (for example during the Covid 19 pandemic when government recommendations were issued on duration of hand washing) to increase supply of soap, water or air during the hand washing timed cycle.

In preferred arrangements the sensor has a wire which is housed inside the cavity of the tap stem. Usually, the sensor is a motion sensor, a photoelectric sensor and/or an IR sensor, the sensitivity of which is preferably adjustable. With some embodiments the liquid soap conduit has an additional conduit for air in order for the soap outlet to dispense foamed soap.

It is a preferred feature that the wall of the tap stem incorporates one or more removable cover sections for enabling access to the single cavity. Sometimes a manifold block is provided in the cavity at the downstream end of the tap stem, the conduits being connected to inlet ports of the manifold, which ports feed the respective water, liquid soap and air outlets. In such arrangements, preferably the manifold block is accessible via said one or more cover sections and removable from the cavity in the tap stem.

Conveniently the outlets are all in close proximity to each other and preferably the air outlet is in the form of an elongate slot which is transverse to the lengthwise axis of the tap stem.

In some arrangements the upstream end of the tap stem incorporates a wall-mounting plate and the tap stem extends optionally in a generally straight line, preferably transverse (and more preferably substantially perpendicular) to the mounting plate from the upstream end to the downstream end. In other arrangements the tap stem has an upstream first section and a downstream second section which is angled with respect to the first section, the outlets being provided in the downstream second section and the single cavity extending along both first and second sections.

Preferably the tap is associated with a control unit. The tap may be in communication with and/or may comprise the control unit. The control unit may comprise an electronic controller which communicates with the sensor. The control unit may comprise a water valve, a liquid soap pump and a controllable air supply all being controllable by the controller to deliver water, liquid soap and air to the respective outlets.

The water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply may be controllable by the controller according to said timed cycle. The controller may be adapted to control the operation of the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply, preferably in response to a signal from the sensor.

The controller may be adapted to control the operation of the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply by controlling the time of operation and/or sequence of operation thereof.

The controller may further comprise an input means.

The tap arrangement may further comprise indicia to indicate the operation of the tap arrangement, optionally comprising one or more lights to illuminate the indicia and/or the hands of a user in use. Often, the electronic controller is configured to effect periodic purges of at least the water conduit and water outlet optionally without activation of the sensor.

The controller may generally comprise one or more microprocessors and memory components (e.g. non-volatile memory) and may be programmed to control the operation of the air blower, soap dispenser, and/or water dispenser in response to a signal from the sensor.

Generally, the controller will be adapted so that the operation of the air blower, soap dispenser, and/or water dispenser comprises the time of operation and/or the sequence of operation of one or more of these components. In other words, the controller may be adapted so that the timing of each of the component parts of the hand washing procedure and the sequence of the procedure is controllable through the controller.

A typical hand washing procedure will generally begin with user placing their hands under the tap. Such placement is detected by the sensor which then sends a signal to the controller. This results in the operation of a predetermined hand-washing sequence that may be: soap being dispensed for set period of time and/or in a predetermined volume, a pause, water being dispensed for a set period of time, a pause and then air flow being initiated in order to dry the hands of the user.

Generally, the arrangement may further comprise input means for the controller. Input means for the controller will usually comprise a means of communication to the controller that may be a computer or a control panel for providing control signals and programming e.g. the microprocessor of the controller. Further input means may comprise further sensors in the water, soap or air supply systems (e.g. flow rate, level and/or temperature sensors) and clock means (e.g. a real time clock and/or timing mechanism) to enable the sequence and timing of the various operations of the apparatus to be controlled.

Communication between the controller and the other components may be by wired connection and/or by wireless communication. Thus, in some embodiments the controller may be in communication with the sensor, the water valve, the liquid soap pump and the controllable air supply (and/or other components) using for example Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or other wireless communication to communicate settings changes, operation counts, feedback on fault finding to and from the engine/tap/controller. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described in more detail. The description refers to the following diagrammatic drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a rear perspective view of a tap arrangement according to the present invention;

Figure 2 is a front perspective view of the tap shown in figure 1 ;

Figure 3 is a side view of a visible part of the tap of figure 2;

Figure 4 is an underside view of the tap of figure 2;

Figure 5 is a top plan view of the tap of figure 1 ; Figure 6 is a cross-sectional view through the tap of figure 2;

Figure 7 is a perspective view of the tap of figure 5 with a cross-section removed;

Figure 8 is a top plan view of the view shown in figure 7;

Figures 9 to 11 are sections through a manifold block incorporated in the tap of figure 8, taken on lines X-X, Y-Y and Z-Z of figure 8;

Figure 12 is an enlarged underside view of the manifold block shown in figures 9 to 11 ;

Figure 13 is a perspective view of another tap according to the present invention together with ancillary items; Figure 14 is a perspective view similar to figure 13 without a basin/counter;

Figure 15 is a perspective view of the tap of figure 13;

Figure 16 is a side view of the tap of figure 15;

Figure 17 is a top plan view of the tap of figure 15;

Figure 18 is an under plan view of the tap of figure 15; and

Figure 19 is a cross-sectional view through a stem of the tap of figure 15. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the figures, two primary embodiments of a tap arrangement are disclosed, the first being an arrangement in which a multi-functional tap 10 is intended to be attached to and projecting from a wall surface (not shown) such that the tap 10 is preferably disposed over a basin (not shown) or other means for containing or collecting or disposing of water from the tap. The second arrangement is for a multi-functional tap 10’ which is to be attached to a basin 11 or a counter surface adjacent a basin.

Figures 1 to 8 show a multi-functional tap 10 which has a tap stem 12 defined by an outer wall section 13. Ideally, the wall section will be made from metal but other materials such as plastic are possible. The tap stem 12 has a downstream end 14 and an upstream end 15. At the upstream end 15 the tap stem 12 is an optional mounting plate 16 intended to lie flush with a wall to which the tap 10 is to be mounted. In this particular arrangement there is an additional mounting plate 17 which is intended to lie on the other side of the wall the mounting plate 17 is adjustably secured to the tap stem 12 by threaded bolts 42/nuts so that tap stem 12 is clamped to the wall by tightening the nuts in order to move the mounting plate 17 into tight engagement with the wall which is disposed between the mounting plates 16, 17. Other methods of securement are of course possible depending on the particular location for the tap and the desired aesthetics. For example, the mounting plate 16 could incorporate holes such that the mounting plate 16 is secured directly to the wall using suitable fixings such as screws. The additional mounting plate 17 may still be used or may be omitted. The wall section 13 defines an elongate single cavity 18 inside the tap stem 12. The cavity 18 extends from the upstream end 15 to the downstream end 14 of the tap stem 12. In this embodiment the wall section incorporates a removable cover section 13a which can be removed as shown in figures 7 and 8 in order to enable access to the cavity 18 and then replaced. The cover section 13a may be secured to the remaining part of the wall section 13 by a number of methods such as resilient clips or screws/bolts (not shown). The single cavity is a simple construction requiring minimal tooling and results in improved hygiene, the single cavity being easier to clean and maintain. The cover section 13a is ideally provided on an upward facing surface so that maintenance is easier (see later).

The internal cavity 18 provides a volume for receiving a number of conduits. In particular, there is a water conduit 20, a liquid soap conduit 21 and an air conduit 22. The cavity 18 also houses a wire 23 for a single sensor 20. The conduits 20-22 and the wire 23 extend upstream along the cavity where they exit the tap stem 12 and connect to an ‘engine’ 24 which controls and supplies the water, soap and air to the multi-functional tap 10. The engine 24 is ideally hidden from sight, perhaps in a cabinet or behind the wall. The engine 24 will incorporate suitable valves (that may be operated by solenoids) and/or pumps for water and soap, the valves control the water supply from a source of water such as mains water and soap supply from a source of soap perhaps housed in a soap container/reservoir 19. The engine 24 may have an internal power source such as a battery or may be wired to, or plugged into (as shown), a source of mains electricity. The engine 24 also contains an electronic controller (not shown in detail) for controlling the supply of water and soap to the conduits 20, 21 and the supply of air for hand-drying to the air conduit 22 via a suitable air fan or other type of air pump device. The sensor wire 23 will also be connected to the electronic controller for initiating cycles of the water/soap/air. Variations on the precise nature of the engine/controller will be readily apparent, depending on the requirements of the tap/washing cycle.

The water, soap and air conduits 20-22 lead to respective water, soap and air outlets 25, 26, 27 at the downstream end of the tap 10. These outlets 25-27 are directed downwardly when the tap 10 is correctly installed and are clearly visible in figure 4, as is the single sensor 30. The sensor 30 may be a motion sensor or an IR sensor, although other types of sensor may be possible. The intention is that a user can place a hand in proximity to the sensor 30 or move a hand close to the sensor 30 in order to activate a washing cycle of the tap 10. It is also noted that the illustrated embodiment includes an optional additional air conduit 28 which feeds into the soap conduit 21 . This additional air conduit 28 enables the tap 10 to dispense foamed liquid soap. The additional air conduit

28 can, however, be omitted if plain liquid soap is to be dispensed. In this illustrated embodiment, the conduits 20-22 are connected using suitable fixings to a manifold block 35 which may be made from a rigid plastic or other suitable material. The manifold block 35 has various channels 36 for enabling flow of water, soap and air to the respective outlets 25-27, the channels 36 being more clearly shown in figures 9 to 11. The manifold block 35 also houses the sensor 30 and has a dedicated channel 36 for the sensor wire 23. In this particular embodiment the manifold block has channels 36 for water and soap and the sensor wire 23/sensor 30. Air, however, is delivered directly from the air conduit 22 to the air outlet 27 which is formed as an opening in the wall section 13 of the tap stem 12. In this particular embodiment the air outlet 27 is an elongate slot which is generally transverse to the lengthwise axis of the tap stem 12, but alternative shapes of air outlet are possible.

It will be appreciated that the manifold block 35 can be accessed via the removable cover section 13a for maintenance and can be disconnected from the water and soap conduits 20, 21 for maintenance, replacement etc. The cover section 13a being on an upward facing surface provides optimal access to the cavity 18 and the manifold block 35. Additionally, the underside of the manifold block 35 may be covered with a suitable plate 37 secured to the manifold block 35 with bolts/screws 38 as shown in figure 12. The plate 37 has suitable openings for the outlets 20, 21 and sensor 30.

In use of the tap 10, the user will activate the single sensor 30 and this will cause the controller/engine to initiate an entire washing cycle depending on how the controller is programmed. For example, the controller may initiate a fixed cycle which provides a delivery of water for a predetermined time, then a delivery of soap, then a delivery of rinsing water after giving a period of time for hand-washing, and then a delivery of air for a predetermined period of time. Alternative cycles are of course possible dependent on requirements. Only one initiation of the single sensor 30 is required in order to provide all hand-washing requirements, i.e. water, soap, air.

As illustrated, it is preferred that all of the outlets 25-27 are in close proximity so that users do not have to move their hands between outlets. If there is excessive movement between outlets then a user can ‘miss’ all or part of a dispensing cycle. For example, they may miss the delivery of soap if their hands are in the wrong place. Similarly, the sensor 30 is adjacent the outlets 25-27 and is also facing downwardly so that when the tap cycle is activated, the user’s hands are already in position below the outlets 25-27. This is more effective than the sensor 30 being in a different location such as on the top or the side of the tap or on an adjacent wall/counter surface.

Whilst the tap stem 12 has been shown as straight and perpendicular to the wall mounting plate, the tap stem 12 could be other shapes and cross- sections and designed to extend from the supporting wall in a non-perpendicular manner.

In the second illustrated embodiment there is shown a multi-functional tap 10’ which has many similar features to the tap 10 described above. As with tap 10, the tap 10’ is to be used in conjunction with an ‘engine’ 24 incorporating pumps and an electronic controller which connects to the single sensor 30 located at the downstream end of the tap 10’. Instead of being wall mounted, the tap 10’ is intended to be secured directly to a basin 11 surround or to a counter surface adjacent a basin, as shown in figure 13 which also shows the engine 24 disposed below the counter.

The tap stem 12 of tap 10’ also has an outer wall section 13, an upstream end 15 and a downstream end 14, with the outer wall section defining an elongate single cavity 18 in which the conduits 20-22 and sensor wire 23 are received. The main difference with the tap 10’ is that the tap stem 12 has two interconnected sections, a first or upstream section 40 which is generally upstanding from the basin 10 and a second or downstream section 40 which is angled relative to the first section 40 so that the extreme downstream end of the second section 41 is disposed above the recessed part of the basin in a conventional manner. The single cavity 18 is continuous and extends all the way through both sections from the upstream end of the first section 40 to the downstream end of the second section 41. The extreme upstream end or mounting end of the first section 40 is also modified depending on the chosen method of attachment to the basin, but can, as illustrated, include the mounting plate 17 adjustably secured to the first section 40 by threaded bolts 42/nuts so that the basin or counter is clamped between the first section 40 and the mounting plate by tightening the nuts to move the plate 17 closer to the first section 40. The first section 40 may or may not incorporate an integral mounting plate at its extreme upstream end. As with the first described embodiment, the tap 10’ incorporates a removable cover section 13a and the water and soap conduits 20, 21 and the sensor wire 23 extend to a manifold block 35 which can be accessed via the removable cover 13a for maintenance purposes.

Although one conduit and one outlet is provided for each service (i.e. water, soap, air) it is possible to have more conduits/outlets or fewer conduits/outlets (if for example services share one or more outlets/conduits) as required. For example, the water feed may have separate hot and cold conduits/outlets or separate air feeds may supply separate air outlets.

The skilled person will understand that alternative shapes, configurations and materials can be used for the tap. Additionally, the controller can be programmed to run alternative washing cycles or to run periodic purges of one or more conduits/outlets, which purges would operate without actuation by the single sensor 30. The controller can also be used to record use data relating to the tap, such as frequency of use and popular use times, which can be used to determine maintenance cycles and the periodic hygiene purges mentioned above.

In operation, a typical hand wash cycle would involve the following:

The user places their hands under the tap which is detected by the sensor resulting in a signal from the sensor to the controller. The controller operates the soap pump to release a measured quantity of soap (either foamed or un-foamed depending on how the owner/installer/manager arranges the respective settings).

After a timed delay (e.g. 1 to 5 seconds) water is released via the controller operating the water valve for a predetermined period (e.g. 5 to 10 seconds). A time delay (e.g. 1 to 5 seconds) is followed by air being released by the controller operating the air blower, Air is provided for a predetermined time and at a predetermined flow rate. All publications mentioned in the above specification are herein incorporated by reference. Although illustrative embodiments of the invention have been disclosed in detail herein, with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is understood that the invention is not limited to the precise embodiment and that various changes and modifications can be performed therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.