Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
TANK AND FILLER FOR ELECTRONIC VAPING DEVICE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/200200
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Provided is an electronic vaping device and a fill device for adding a liquid into a reservoir for the electronic vaping device. The fill device includes a tank that stores the liquid. A supply fitting is in fluid communication with the tank and includes an interior passage through which the liquid flows from the tank and through a fill port of the reservoir. The supply fitting cooperates with the fill port of the reservoir to cause the fill port to open fluid communication between the supply fitting and the reservoir. A return fitting includes an interior passage through which a fluid expelled from the reservoir flows. A biasing device urges the liquid out of the tank and into the reservoir for the vaping device through the supply fitting, resulting in the fluid being expelled from the reservoir through the return fitting.

Inventors:
DECKER JOHN BELLINGER (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2019/027138
Publication Date:
October 17, 2019
Filing Date:
April 12, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
EVOLV LLC (US)
International Classes:
A24F47/00; B65B3/10
Domestic Patent References:
WO2017046247A12017-03-23
Foreign References:
GB2533874A2016-07-06
US20170071249A12017-03-16
US9877521B12018-01-30
US20160331035A12016-11-17
US20160120227A12016-05-05
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FIRCA, Donald J. Jr. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIM(S)

What is claimed is:

1. An electronic vaping device comprising:

a reservoir that stores a liquid to be at least partially converted into a vapor, the reservoir comprising a fill port through which the liquid is to be introduced into the reservoir;

a heating element in fluid communication with the reservoir and configured to elevate a temperature of the liquid delivered to the heating element into the vapor; and an airflow passage through which air flows adjacent to the heating element as a result of a user inhaling through a mouthpiece, wherein the air flows through the airflow passage to entrain the vapor resulting from operation of the heating element, and transport the vapor away from the heating element toward the mouthpiece.

2 The electronic vaping device of claim 1 further comprising an interlock that limits access to an interior of the reservoir through the fill port.

3. The electronic vaping device of claim 2, wherein the interlock is operable to:

in a first state, prevent the liquid from passing through the fill port,

in a second state, permit the liquid to flow through the fill port, and

change from the first state to the second state in response to proper cooperation between the interlock and a portion of a filling device that is to supply the liquid to the reservoir.

4. The electronic vaping device of claim 1, wherein the fill port comprises a self-sealing valve that is opened by a portion of a filling device to supply the liquid to an interior of the reservoir, and is automatically closed as a result of removal of the portion of the filling device to interfere with liquid escaping the reservoir.

5. The electronic vaping device of claim 1 further comprising an exhaust port, separate from the fill port, through which an elevated pressure established within the reservoir while the reservoir is being filled with the liquid is relieved, wherein

each of the fill port and the exhaust port comprises a self-sealing valve that is opened by a portion of a filling device to supply the liquid to an interior of the reservoir, and is automatically sealed as a result of removal of the portion of the filling device to interfere with liquid escaping the reservoir.

6 The electronic vaping device of claim 5, wherein the self-sealing valve comprises an elastomeric portion that is repositioned as a result of insertion of the portion of the filling device into the self-sealing valve to open the self-sealing valve.

7. A fill device for adding a liquid into a reservoir that is to supply a liquid to be converted into a vapor by an electronic vaping device, the fill device comprising: a receptacle that stores the liquid to be added to the reservoir;

a supply fitting in fluid communication with the tank and comprising an interior passage through which the liquid flows from the receptacle and through a fill port of the reservoir for the vaping device, wherein the supply fitting cooperates with the fill port of the reservoir to cause the fill port to establish fluid communication between the supply fitting and the reservoir;

a return fitting comprising an interior passage through which a fluid is withdrawn from the reservoir as a result of a biasing action that causes the liquid to be added to the reservoir, wherein the return fitting cooperates with an exhaust port of the reservoir to establish fluid communication between the return fitting and the reservoir; and a biasing device that is to be adjusted as a result of the biasing action to: (i) urge the liquid out of the receptacle and into the reservoir for the vaping device through the supply fitting, and (ii) concurrently withdraw a fluid from the reservoir through the return fitting to establish a balanced pressure within the reservoir that limits leakage of the liquid from the reservoir into an air passage of the vaping device.

8. The fill device of claim 7, wherein the supply fitting comprises a nozzle formed from an elongated tube that extends through the fill port and into the reservoir to establish fluid communication between the receptacle and the reservoir.

9. The fill device of claim 7 further comprising a vacuum device that establishes a vacuum at the return fitting to extract the fluid from the reservoir through the exhaust port as the liquid is being added to the reservoir through the fill port.

10. The fill device of claim 9, wherein the biasing device comprises a fill plunger, the vacuum device comprises a vacuum plunger, and the vacuum device comprises a linkage system that converts a force imparted on the fill plunger to add the liquid to the reservoir, into a vacuum force that drives the vacuum plunger in a direction that establishes the vacuum at the return fitting.

11. The fill device of claim 10, wherein the linkage system comprises a drive that moves the exhaust plunger away from the return fitting as the fill plunger is urged toward the supply fitting.

12. The fill device of claim 10, wherein the vacuum is suitable to extract the fluid from the reservoir at an exhaust rate that is less than a fill rate at which the liquid is added to the reservoir, allowing a pressure to build within the reservoir.

13. The fill device of claim 12, wherein a strength of the vacuum at the return fitting increases as the liquid is being added to the reservoir.

14. The fill device of claim 12, further comprising a limiter that interrupts a flow of the liquid into the reservoir in response to an increase in a resistance to continued addition of the liquid into the reservoir.

15. The fill device of claim 7 further comprising a container in fluid communication with the return fitting to receive and collect the fluid expelled from the reservoir through the return fitting.

16. The fill device of claim 15, wherein the container comprises an expandable bladder.

17. The fill device of claim 15, wherein the container and the receptacle are formed as separate chambers of the fill device.

18. The fill device of claim 9 further comprising an actuator system, wherein the biasing device comprises a fill plunger, the vacuum device comprises a vacuum plunger, and the actuator system that is operable to drive the fill plunger and the vacuum plunger.

19. The fill device of claim 18, wherein the actuator system comprises a first electromechanical drive unit that drives the fill plunger, and a second electromechanical drive unit that is operable, independently of operation of the first electromechanical drive unit, to drive the vacuum plunger to establish a pre-defmed air pressure in the reservoir.

20. The fill device of claim 7 further comprising an interlock that interferes with operation of the biasing device when the filler is not in proper communication with the reservoir to fill the reservoir with the liquid in response to adjustment of the biasing device.

21. The fill device of claim 7, wherein the biasing device is adjusted in a first manner to add the liquid to the reservoir, and in a second, different manner to remove the liquid from the reservoir, wherein the balanced pressure is maintained during adjustment of the biasing device in the first manner and the second manner.

Description:
TANK AND FILLER FOR ELECTRONIC VAPING DEVICE

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention

[0001] This application relates generally to a method and apparatus for facilitating the replacement of a fluid in a receptacle and, more specifically, for replacing an e-liquid in a reservoir provided to a vaping device while balancing an air pressure within the reservoir.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0002] According to one aspect, the subject application involves an electronic vaping device that includes a reservoir that stores a liquid to be at least partially converted into a vapor. The reservoir includes at least a fill port through which the liquid is to be added to the reservoir. A heating element is in fluid communication with the reservoir and is configured to elevate a temperature of the liquid delivered to the heating element into the vapor. Air flows through an airflow passage adjacent to, or over the heating element as a result of a user inhaling through a mouthpiece. The air flows through the airflow passage to entrain the vapor resulting from operation of the heating element, and transport the vapor away from the heating element toward the mouthpiece.

[0003] According to another aspect, the subject application involves a fill device for adding a liquid into a reservoir for the electronic vaping device. The fill device includes a tank that stores the liquid to be added to the reservoir. A supply fitting is in fluid communication with the tank and includes an interior passage through which the liquid flows from the tank and through a fill port of the reservoir. The supply fitting cooperates with the fill port of the reservoir to cause the fill port to open fluid communication between the supply fitting and the reservoir. A return fitting includes an interior passage through which a fluid expelled from the reservoir as a result of the liquid being added to the reservoir flows. The return fitting cooperates with an exhaust port of the reservoir to open fluid communication between the return fitting and the reservoir. A biasing device urges the liquid out of the tank and into the reservoir for the vaping device through the supply fitting, resulting in the fluid being expelled from the reservoir through the return fitting.

[0004] According to an embodiment, the electronic vaping device can further include an interlock that limits access to an interior of the reservoir through the fill port.

[0005] According to an embodiment, the interlock is operable to: in a first state, prevent the liquid from passing through the fill port, in a second state, permit the liquid to flow through the fill port, and change from the first state to the second state in response to proper cooperation between the interlock and a portion of a filling device that is to supply the liquid to the reservoir.

[0006] According to an embodiment, the fill port includes a self-sealing valve that is opened by a portion of a filling device to supply the liquid to an interior of the reservoir, and is automatically closed as a result of removal of the portion of the filling device to interfere with liquid escaping the reservoir.

[0007] According to an embodiment, the electronic vaping device can further include an exhaust port, separate from the fill port, through which an elevated pressure established within the reservoir while the reservoir is being filled with the liquid is relieved. Each of the fill port and the exhaust port comprises a self-sealing valve that is opened by a portion of a filling device to supply the liquid to an interior of the reservoir, and is automatically sealed as a result of removal of the portion of the filling device to interfere with liquid escaping the reservoir.

[0008] According to an embodiment, the self-sealing valve includes an elastomeric portion that is repositioned as a result of insertion of the portion of the filling device into the self-sealing valve to open the self-sealing valve.

[0009] According to an embodiment, a fill device can add a liquid into a reservoir that is to supply the liquid to be converted into a vapor by an electronic vaping device. The fill device includes a receptacle that stores the liquid to be added to the reservoir, and a supply fitting in fluid communication with the tank and including an interior passage through which the liquid flows from the receptacle and through a fill port of the reservoir for the vaping device. The supply fitting cooperates with the fill port of the reservoir to cause the fill port to establish fluid communication between the supply fitting and the reservoir. A return fitting includes an interior passage through which a fluid is withdrawn from the reservoir as a result of a biasing action that causes the liquid to be added to the reservoir. The return fitting cooperates with an exhaust port of the reservoir to establish fluid communication between the return fitting and the reservoir. A biasing is to be adjusted as a result of the biasing action to: (i) urge the liquid out of the receptacle and into the reservoir for the vaping device through the supply fitting, and (ii) concurrently withdraw a fluid from the reservoir through the return fitting to establish a balanced pressure within the reservoir that limits leakage of the liquid from the reservoir into an air passage of the vaping device.

[0010] According to an embodiment, the supply fitting includes a nozzle formed from an elongated tube that extends through the fill port and into the reservoir to establish fluid communication between the receptacle and the reservoir.

[0011] According to an embodiment, the fill device can further include a vacuum device that establishes a vacuum at the return fitting to extract the fluid from the reservoir through the exhaust port as the liquid is being added to the reservoir through the fill port.

[0012] According to an embodiment, the biasing device includes a fill plunger, the vacuum device includes a vacuum plunger, and the vacuum device includes a linkage system that converts a force imparted on the fill plunger to add the liquid to the reservoir, into a vacuum force that drives the vacuum plunger in a direction that establishes the vacuum at the return fitting.

[0013] According to an embodiment, the linkage system includes a drive that moves the exhaust plunger away from the return fitting as the fill plunger is urged toward the supply fitting.

[0014] According to an embodiment, the vacuum is suitable to extract the fluid from the reservoir at an exhaust rate that is less than a fill rate at which the liquid is added to the reservoir, allowing a pressure to build within the reservoir. [0015] According to an embodiment, a strength of the vacuum at the return fitting increases as the liquid is being added to the reservoir.

[0016] According to an embodiment, the fill device can further include a limiter that interrupts a flow of the liquid into the reservoir in response to an increase in a resistance to continued addition of the liquid into the reservoir.

[0017] According to an embodiment, the fill device can further include a container in fluid communication with the return fitting to receive and collect the fluid expelled from the reservoir through the return fitting.

[0018] According to an embodiment, the container comprises an expandable bladder.

[0019] According to an embodiment, the container and the receptacle are formed as separate chambers of the fill device.

[0020] According to an embodiment, the fill device can further include an actuator system, wherein the biasing device comprises a fill plunger, the vacuum device comprises a vacuum plunger, and the actuator system that is operable to drive the fill plunger and the vacuum plunger.

[0021] According to an embodiment, the actuator system includes a first electromechanical drive unit that drives the fill plunger, and a second electromechanical drive unit that is operable, independently of operation of the first electromechanical drive unit, to drive the vacuum plunger to establish a pre-defmed air pressure in the reservoir.

[0022] According to an embodiment, the fill device can further include an interlock that interferes with operation of the biasing device when the filler is not in proper communication with the reservoir to fill the reservoir with the liquid in response to adjustment of the biasing device.

[0023] According to an embodiment, the biasing device is adjusted in a first manner to add the liquid to the reservoir, and in a second, different manner to remove the liquid from the reservoir, wherein the balanced pressure is maintained during adjustment of the biasing device in the first manner and the second manner. [0024] The above summary presents a simplified summary in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the systems and/or methods discussed herein. This summary is not an extensive overview of the systems and/or methods discussed herein. It is not intended to identify key/critical elements or to delineate the scope of such systems and/or methods. Its sole purpose is to present some concepts in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is presented later.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

[0025] The invention may take physical form in certain parts and arrangement of parts, embodiments of which will be described in detail in this specification and illustrated in the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof and wherein:

[0026] FIG. 1 is an exploded view of an illustrative embodiment of a vaping device having a separable atomizer that is capable of being repeatedly removed and re- installed on a vaporizer;

[0027] FIG. 2 is a partially cutaway view of an illustrative embodiment of a vaping device;

[0028] FIG. 3 is a schematic view of an illustrative embodiment of a filling device cooperating with an embodiment of a vaping device, the filing device including a plunger system with a linkage system;

[0029] FIG. 4 is a schematic view of another illustrative embodiment of a filling device cooperating with an embodiment of a vaping device, the filling device including an expandable bladder; and

[0030] FIG. 5 is a schematic representation of a portion of a tank including a chimney and a reservoir, illustrating a principle of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0031] Certain terminology is used herein for convenience only and is not to be taken as a limitation on the present invention. Relative language used herein is best understood with reference to the drawings, in which like numerals are used to identify like or similar items. Further, in the drawings, certain features may be shown in somewhat schematic form.

[0032] It is also to be noted that the phrase“at least one of’, if used herein, followed by a plurality of members herein means one of the members, or a combination of more than one of the members. For example, the phrase“at least one of a first widget and a second widget” means in the present application: the first widget, the second widget, or the first widget and the second widget. Likewise,“at least one of a first widget, a second widget and a third widget” means in the present application: the first widget, the second widget, the third widget, the first widget and the second widget, the first widget and the third widget, the second widget and the third widget, or the first widget and the second widget and the third widget.

[0033] Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an apparatus and method for replenishing the supply of an e-liquid of a vaping device. The inventive apparatus and method can balance a building pressure within a reservoir as the e-liquid is being added to the reservoir. A tamper-resistant feature can optionally be provided to the filling device, which limits access to the e-liquid by requiring a sophisticated unlocking manipulation of the device.

[0034] An e-cigarette tank is in operation a sealed structure with one or more openings for wi eking to pass between the liquid-holding reservoir and the heating coil. The tank is toroidal and encloses a central chimney which contains the tank and terminates in the mouthpiece. Air is drawn from the far opening of the chimney across the heated coil, where the liquid is boiled to a vapor. As the air is cooler than the heated vapor, some of the liquid condenses into an aerosol. This aerosol is conveyed through the chimney to the mouthpiece and into the user’s mouth.

[0035] The orifice between the reservoir and the chimney is completely filled with the liquid-saturated wicking, which has to perform a dual purpose. First, when the device is not in operation, it must serve as a plug, preventing the liquid in the reservoir from leaking out. This, despite the fact that the liquid level can be higher than the wicking orifice, so gravity will naturally tend to push the liquid through the opening. Second, when liquid touching the coil is boiled off during operation, additional liquid must be conveyed from the tank to the coil to maintain a saturated condition.

[0036] For the tank to operate satisfactorily, it must satisfy both, seemingly contradictory requirements. The solution of how this is accomplished, and the requirements and implications for the present filling device, can be understood with reference to FIG. 5. FIG. 5 shows a cut-away of one side of the inner tank wall that forms the chimney. The coil is drawn horizontally in FIG. 5, but the forces described below are applicable to vertical coils.

[0037] Considering the liquid in the cross section of wicking inside the orifice between the chimney and liquid reservoir, there are five separate pressures acting on the liquid.

[0038] Atmospheric pressure: The chimney and mouthpiece are open to atmospheric pressure, so there is atmospheric pressure tending to push the liquid to the right (back into the chamber)

[0039] Bubble Pressure: There is also a pressure called the“bubble pressure” of the saturated wicking, which is formed by the cohesive surface tension of the liquid with itself. In order to blow air from the exterior surface of the wicking, through the orifice and into the reservoir, there must be a pressure imbalance greater than the bubble pressure, or bubble point. A detailed description of the bubble pressure and how to measure it is provided in Appendix A, which is hereby incorporated in its entirety by reference.

[0040] Counteracting these two pressures that tend to push material from the chimney to the reservoir are three pressures tending to empty the reservoir:

[0041] Gas pressure inside the tank: There is some air above the liquid level, which fills up the remainder of the reservoir. This volume increases as the tank is depleted and is reduced when the tank is filled. This gas pressurizes the liquid inside the tank.

[0042] Gravity head of the liquid: Gravity pulls on the liquid, causing an increased pressure the further down the tank one goes. The wicking can be near the bottom of the tank because liquid that is below the wicking will not be transported to the coil by the wicking.

[0043] Capillary pressure of the wicking: The wicking is comprised of many parallel fibers. Surface tension causes the liquid to be drawn into the fibers, much like a paper towel picking up a spilled liquid.

[0044] The magnitude of these forces changes with temperature, liquid viscosity and tank design, but the fundamentals are substantially the same for any analysis. As the tank is used to supply liquid to the coil to be converted into vapor, it goes through a number of distinct conditions.

[0045] For the tank to hold the liquid inside with no changes, the sum of the pressures acting on the liquid inside the orifice must be equal. Because there is no gas flow through the wicking, Pbubble is zero. That is:

Patm + Pbubble (0) = Pgas + Pgravity + Pcapillary Solving for Pgas, we see that Pgas = Patm- Pgravity -Pcapillary.

[0046] The consequence of this is that for the tank to not leak liquid, the gas pressure inside the tank must always be lower than the atmospheric pressure, because Pgravity and Pcapillary are always positive.

[0047] For the tank to flow liquid out of the tank in order to replace the liquid boiled through operation of the coil, bubble pressure is equal to 0 because again only liquid is flowing. Net pressure must be present on the right side of the following equation:

Patm + Pbubble (0) < Pgas + Pgravity + Pcapillary

[0048] Because the wicking has lost some liquid from boiling at the coil, the net capillary pressure at the orifice increases, and some volume of liquid moves from the tank to the chimney. By removing some of the liquid from the tank, the gas volume inside the reservoir increases, which causes a corresponding drop in pressure. Eventually enough liquid will be moved from the reservoir to the coil for the drop in Pgas pressure to equal the increase in Pcapillary pressure, and then no more liquid flows. [0049] However, eventually the gas pressure in the reservoir will decrease sufficiently for the net pressure difference to be greater than Pbubble. When this happens, air from Patm in the chimney will be pushed through the liquid, across the orifice, and increase the mass of air inside the tank. This transport will continue until the net pressure difference is again less than Pbubble. This behavior can be seen inside a tank as bubbles forming on the inside surface of the wicking, typically immediately after extended operation.

[0050] If the reservoir is filled without venting the gas, a significant increase in pressure will occur inside the tank, and all the liquid added will flow back out through the wicking, which is counter-productive. However, less intuitively, if the tank is vented to atmosphere during filling, it will leak continuously during the filling operation until it is sealed again. This is because when the tank is opened, the internal gas pressure immediately equalizes with atmospheric pressure. So the pressure equation at the orifice becomes:

Patm + Pbubble (0) = Patm + Pgravity + Pcapillary

[0051] Patm on both sides cancels and Pgravity and Pcapillary are always positive, so the equation becomes an inequality:

0 < Pgravity + Pcapillary

[0052] Which is the case that indicates liquid flow from the reservoir to the coil.

[0053] Even after the open tank is re-sealed, the internal pressure of the tank begins at atmospheric pressure, and only decreases as liquid flows out, increasing the volume of air in the tank and eventually restoring a sufficiently low pressure inside the tank for the liquid to stop flowing out.

[0054] Accordingly, the present apparatus and method involves a system that uses simultaneous positive displacement liquid and gas pumping to maintain or alter - in a controlled fashion- the gas pressure inside the reservoir as the filling operating is ongoing, as well as leave the system in the saturated, no-wicking-flow state at the conclusion of filling. If operated in reverse, the present apparatus and method can involve emptying a tank of liquid, perhaps to allow the user to change liquid flavors, while maintaining the appropriate internal gas pressure to remain in the no-wicking-flow state at the conclusion of the emptying process.

[0055] Generally, an atomizer, interchangeably referred to herein as a tank, includes a reservoir that stores the e-liquid, referred to herein as the“liquid,” that is to be delivered to a heating element provided to the atomizer. The heating element can be activated to convert at least a portion of the delivered liquid into a vapor, which is to become entrained in an airflow created as a result of a user inhaling through a mouthpiece of the atomizer. To fill or at least add liquid to the reservoir, a cap or other portion of the atomizer can include a fill port through which the liquid can be introduced into the reservoir by a separate filling device. The fill port allows the liquid to be added to the reservoir without requiring the cap or another portion of the atomizer to be removed or opened as a preliminary step to adding the liquid to the reservoir. Thus, the integrity of the reservoir enclosure can be maintained, yet allow for use of the separate filling device to add the liquid to the reservoir while regulating the gas pressure within the reservoir to avoid leakage of the liquid into an air passage of the vaping device.

[0056] Since the integrity of the reservoir is maintained, the pressure building in the reservoir as a result of adding the liquid can be relieved by vacuum-assisted removal of a gas above the liquid in the reservoir through a second, exhaust port provided to the reservoir. In addition to the supply line provided with a supply fitting, the filling device used to add the liquid can also include a return line, with a return fitting. The supply fitting cooperates with the fill port of the atomizer concurrently with the cooperation between the return fitting and the exhaust port. As a plunger is inserted into the filling device, the sides of the filling device are squeezed, or another biasing force is applied, the liquid flows from the supply fitting and into the reservoir via the filler port. At the same time, or at least concurrently, the air pressure building in the reservoir from the addition of the liquid can be relieved by extraction of some of the air in the reservoir through the return fitting in cooperation with the exhaust port. The atomizer can optionally be equipped with an interlock, which is configured to require at least one of the supply fitting and the return fitting to properly cooperate with the respective port(s) to establish fluid communication with the interior of the reservoir through the port(s). Similarly, the filler device can optionally be equipped with an interlock that interferes with the expulsion of the liquid by the filler device unless the supply fitting and/or the return fitting is properly cooperating with the respective port(s) of the atomizer.

[0057] With reference to the drawings, FIG. 1 is an exploded view of an embodiment of an electronic vaping device 105. The electronic vaping device 105 includes a vaporizer 120 that is operational to supply electric energy to an atomizer 122, for converting a portion of the liquid 124 stored in a reservoir 126 of the atomizer 122 into a vapor. The embodiment of the vaping device 105 in FIG. 1 includes an atomizer 122 that is removable, and capable of being re-installed on the vaporizer 120 or replaced by a compatible replacement atomizer. The atomizer 122 includes a first connector 134 (e.g., a male threaded member in FIG. 1) that cooperates with a second connector 136 (e.g., a female threaded receiver in FIG. 1) to install the atomizer 122 on the vaporizer 120 in a removable manner, but other releasable/re-installable connectors can be utilized. For the removable embodiments of the atomizer 122, cooperation between the first connector 134 and the second connector 136 can also establish an electrical connection between the vaporizer 120 and the atomizer 122. However, it is to be understood that other embodiments of the vaping device 105 can include a permanent atomizer 122 that is formed as an integral component of the vaporizer 120, and is not removable from the vaporizer 120 without damaging the vaping device 105.

[0058] The term“vapor,” as used herein, refers to gaseous molecules of the e- liquid 124 that are evaporated, and small liquid droplets of the e-liquid 124 that are to be suspended or entrained in the air as an aerosol, as a result of being exposed to an elevated temperature of a heating element 206 (FIG. 2) provided to the atomizer 122. It is the vapor entrained in the air that is inhaled by a user of the vaping device 105 through a mouthpiece 128, which is provided to the atomizer 122 in the embodiment appearing in FIG. 1.

[0059] A partially-cutaway view of an illustrative embodiment of the vaping device 105 is shown in FIG. 2. According to the illustrated embodiment, the vaping device 105 includes a heating element 206 enclosed within a housing 208 of the atomizer 122. The illustrated embodiment of the heating element 206 is formed into a coil that encircles a wi eking material 210. The wicking material 210 is in fluid communication with the e-fluid 124 in the reservoir 126 defined by the atomizer 122 to convey at least a portion of the e-fluid 124 to the heating element 206 to be converted into the vapor. Alternate embodiments of the atomizer 122 can lack the wicking material 210, instead including one or more channels through which the e-liquid 124 can be delivered to the heating element 206 from the reservoir. Regardless of the presence or absence of the wicking material 210, the heating element 206 is arranged in, or adjacent to an airflow passage 215 through which air entraining the vapor generated by the heating element 206 is inhaled by the user. When a user inhales through the mouthpiece 128, ambient air is drawn into the housing 208 through one or more vents formed in the housing 208, over the heating element 206 to transport the vapor entrained in the air through the mouthpiece 128.

[0060] The vaporizer 120 in the embodiment shown in FIG. 2 includes a housing 218 that encloses a power supply 220 such as a battery or battery bank that stores the electric energy used to energize the heating element 206. Examples of the power supply 220 include, but are not limited to a rechargeable, Lithium-ion battery, for example. A user interface 222 is exposed at a surface of the vaporizer 120 to allow the user to input one or more operational parameters to be established by a controller 224 to generate the vapor during each puff. Each individual process involving activation of the heating element 206 and inhalation of the vapor generated by the activated heating element 206 is referred to herein as a“puff.”

[0061] The user interface 222 includes a fire button 226 that, when pressed, causes the controller 224 to close a switch 228 (e.g., a relay, power transistor, etc.) or otherwise electrically connect the power supply 220 to the heating element 206, thereby energizing the heating element 206 to generate the vapor for the puff. Operation of the switch 228 by the controller 224 can optionally be based on feedback corresponding to a temperature of the vapor sensed by a suitable temperature sensor (not shown). Control algorithms government the operation of the heating element 206 can be stored in a non- transitory, computer-readable medium 202 operatively connected to the controller 224. [0062] The atomizer 122, an enlarged schematic view of which is shown in FIG. 3, includes a reservoir 126 that stores a liquid to be at least partially converted into a vapor. To allow users to occasionally add the liquid 124 to the reservoir 126, a cap 304 portion of the atomizer 122 includes at least a fill port 308 through which the liquid 124 is to be introduced into the reservoir 126. Although the present embodiment of the fill port 308 is described as being provided to the cap 304, the fill port 308 can be formed at any location on the atomizer 122 where the fill port 308 is in fluid communication with the interior of the reservoir 126.

[0063] The fill port 308 includes an aperture 312 that receives, or otherwise cooperates with a portion of a supply fitting 316 provided to a filler device 320, described below, that is utilized to add the fluid 124 to the reservoir 126. For example, the aperture 312 can include a self-sealing valve that is pierced by an embodiment of the supply fitting 316 in the form of a nozzle comprising an elongated metal tube. The self-sealing valve can include an elastomeric plug defining a tortuous interior passage through which a fluid can flow when the self-sealing valve is opened. For example, in an unbiased state, the tortuous interior passage is sealed or closed due to the tortuous nature of the interior passage. In other words, the twists/turns of the tortuous interior passage serve to interfere with the unrestricted passage of a fluid through the self-sealing valve. When the self- sealing valve is pierced by the elongated metal tube or other portion of the filling device 320 extending into the tortuous interior passage, the interior passage is relatively straightened. Once the desired amount of the liquid 124 is inserted into the reservoir 126, the elongated metal tube of the supply fitting 316 is removed and the elastic nature of the elastomer defining the tortuous interior passage reverts to its unbiased configuration. The twists/tums of the tortuous interior passage in the unbiased state again interfere with the passage of fluid 124 through the aperture 312. Thus, the self-sealing valve is

automatically sealed as a result of removal of the supply fitting 316 or other portion of the filling device 320 to prevent the liquid 124 from escaping the reservoir 126.

[0064] The embodiment of the atomizer 122 in FIG. 3 also includes an exhaust port 328 formed in the cap 304. An illustrative embodiment of the exhaust port 328 can include the same, or similar self-sealing valve as the fill port 38, but other embodiments of the exhaust port 328 include a different valve structure. The exhaust port 328 and the fill port 308 can each be independently configured to include any valve structure that cooperates with the filling device 320 as described herein to allow the liquid 124 to be added to the reservoir 126 while the integrity of the enclosure defining the reservoir 126 remains intact. At least a portion of pressure building within the atomizer 122 as a result of the introduction of the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126 can be relieved through the exhaust port 328 to prevent an overpressure condition within the reservoir. As noted above, an elevated pressure can force an excessive quantity of the liquid 124 to be conveyed to the heating element via the wi eking material 210 and/or channels. The heating element 206, when next operated, may not be able to fully vaporize the entire quantity of liquid 124, thereby resulting large droplets of the liquid to be inhaled through the mouthpiece 128. Further, the liquid can spill from the vaping device 105 via the mouthpiece 128. Relieving at least a portion of the building pressure within the reservoir 126 can help to avoid the excessive delivery of the liquid 124 into an airflow passage leading to the heating element 206.

[0065] The atomizer 122 can also optionally include an interlock that limits access to an interior of the reservoir 126 through the fill port 308 unless a filling device 320 having a supply fitting 316 structurally configured specifically to cooperate with a portion of the fill port 308. For example, the structure of the supply fitting 316 can act as a key having a custom shape that will only cooperate with the portion of the fill port 308 while in a particular orientation. Thus, the atomizer 122 can optionally be formed as a sealed structure, which does not include a removable cap that allows access to the bulk fluid in the reservoir 126, limiting the risk that an inappropriate part could access the content of the reservoir 126. Users who may lack knowledge of how to properly orient or otherwise align the supply fitting 316 relative to the fill port 308 will also be unable to gain access to the liquid 124 in the reservoir 126 using the filling device 320. However, users who familiar with the operating instructions for the vaping device 105 will be readily able to utilize the filling device 320 to add liquid 124 to the reservoir 126 without compromising the integrity of the reservoir 126. According to alternate embodiments, the interlock can require the cooperation between a plurality of portions of the filling device 320 and a plurality of ports 308, 328 provided to the atomizer 122 to grant access to the contents within the reservoir 126. Regardless of the embodiment, the interlock is operable to, in a first state, prevent the liquid 124 from passing through the fill port 308 (either into or out of the reservoir 126. In a second state, the interlock can be operable to permit the liquid 124 to flow through the fill port 308, optionally in only one direction to enter the reservoir 126 through the fill port 308.

[0066] FIG. 3 also shows an embodiment of the filling device 320 for adding the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126. As mentioned above, the illustrated embodiment includes a receptacle 324 that stores the liquid 124 to be added to the reservoir 124 through the fill port 308. A supply fitting 316 is in fluid communication with the liquid 124 in the receptacle 324 and defines an interior passage through which the liquid 124 flows from the receptacle 324, through the fill port 308 and into the reservoir 126. The embodiment of the supply fitting 316 in FIG. 3 includes the elongated tube formed from a metal, metal alloy, plastic material, etc., that is inserted through the aperture 312 of the self-sealing valve of the fill port 308, and into the reservoir 126 to establish fluid communication between the receptacle 324 and the reservoir 126. A biasing device, shown in FIG. 3 as a fill plunger 332, can be manipulated by a user to urge the liquid 124 out of the receptacle 324 and into the reservoir 124 for the vaping device 105 through the supply fitting 316. Although the biasing device is shown as a plunger 332 that is to be pushed, and thereby inserted into the receptacle 324 to move the liquid 124 through supply fitting 316 into the reservoir 126, the present disclosure is not so limited. Any mechanism that can be used to impart a force onto the liquid 124 in the receptacle 324 and expel at least a portion of the fluid 124 through the supply fitting 316 can be utilized as the biasing device without departing from the scope of the present application.

[0067] Similar to the atomizer 122, the filling device can also include an interlock system that interferes with the dispensing of the liquid without a key. The key can be a physical configuration of a portion of the filling device 320 that will permit the liquid to be dispensed when the physical configuration is properly cooperating with a compatible portion of the atomizer 122. According to other embodiments, the key can be a feature that makes unintentional dispensing of the liquid unlikely. For example, a release mechanism provided to the filling device 320 may be required to be manipulated before the plunger 332 is permitted to be inserted, causing the liquid 124 to be dispensed. As a specific example, a side of the plunger 332 may be required to be compressed concurrently with application of an insertion force on the plunger 332 to dispense the liquid 124 from the filling device 320.

[0068] The elongated tube of the illustrative example of a supply fitting 316, interchangeably referred to as a needle, defines an interior passage comprising an aperture adjacent to a distal end of the needle through which the liquid 124 can exit the needle in the direction indicated generally by arrow 336. However, instead of the needle, alternate embodiments of the supply fitting 316 can be any structure that cooperates with the fill port 308 to form a substantially fluid-tight interior passage for fluid

communication between the receptacle 324 of the filling device 320 and the interior of the reservoir 316. As another example, the supply fitting 316 can optionally include a lure taper similar to a structure that can secure a needle to a syringe. However, any structure that can selectively cooperate with the fill port 308 can be utilized as the supply fitting 316.

[0069] The filling device 320 also includes a return fitting 342 that defines an interior passage through which a fluid (e.g., air) can be expelled/withdrawn from the reservoir 126. The drawing of fluid through the return fitting 342 at least partially relieves the pressure that would otherwise build in the reservoir 126 as a result of the introduction of the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126. The return fitting 342 can be substantially the same as the supply fitting 316, or independently selected as a different structure that cooperates with a compatible exhaust port 328 to establish fluid

communication with the interior of the reservoir 126. However, the length of the return fitting 342 in FIGs. 3 and 4 is shorter than the length of the supply fitting 316. When the filling device 320 is installed on the atomizer 122, the distal end of the return fitting 342 can be arranged vertically above the liquid level in the reservoir 126. For the sake of simplicity and brevity, however, the return fitting 342 is described herein as including a needle similar to the needle described as the supply fitting 316.

[0070] A fluid exiting the reservoir 126 through the return fitting 342 can optionally be received in a container 346 provided to the filling device 320. Such a container 346 is separate, and isolated from the receptacle 324, and is in fluid

communication with the return fitting 342 to receive and collect the fluid expelled from the reservoir 126 through the return fitting 342 in the direction generally indicated by arrow 350. The illustrative embodiment of the container 346 in FIG. 3 is a rigid, cylindrical enclosure that is in fluid communication with the return fitting 342 at one end, and receives a second plunger 354 at the other end. Extracting the plunger 354 from the container 346, in a direction moving away from the reservoir 126 in FIG. 3, expands the volume of the portion of the container 346 that is in fluid communication with the return fitting 342. Under a constant temperature, the increasing volume of the container 346 caused by extraction of the plunger 354 creates a vacuum condition adjacent to the distal end of the return fitting 342 within the reservoir 126. The vacuum condition causes the filling device 320 to draw at least a portion of the fluid from within the reservoir 126 through the return fitting 342, and at least partially offset an increased pressure within the reservoir 126 that would be caused by introduction of the liquid 124 without allowing the fluid to escape the reservoir 126.

[0071] Although the embodiments described in detail above include a cylindrical receptacle 324 and container 346 formed from rigid walls with adjustable plungers as the biasing device, the present disclosure is not so limited. The receptacle 324 and container 346 can be formed as any suitable structure that can supply the liquid 124 and receive the fluid as described herein. As another illustrative example, the receptacle 324 and/or the container 346 can each independently be configured as an expandable bladder 424, 446, as shown in FIG. 4. The biasing device, again shown as a plunger 332, can be inserted into the filling device 320 to compress the bladder 424 that supplies the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126. Air or another fluid within the reservoir 126 expelled through the return fitting 342 as a result of the pressure rise caused by introduction of the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126 causes the bladder 446 to expand. As the bladder 446 expands, the pressure therein will eventually begin to build as the bladder 446 reaches capacity. Once the pressure within the bladder 446 builds to a level that prevents continued introduction of the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126, the reservoir can be assumed to be full, and delivery of the liquid 124 can be discontinued. For the sake of brevity, the embodiment of the filling device 320 in FIG. 3 is the subject of further discussion below. [0072] To cause the rate at which the fluid is withdrawn from the reservoir 126 to be approximately equal to the rate at which the liquid 124 is introduced into the reservoir 126, a linkage system 358 can be provided to adjust a position of the second plunger 354 based on the biasing force applied to adjust the plunger 332. For example, the linkage system 358 can convert or otherwise apply a biasing force that was imparted on the plunger 332 to cause the addition of liquid 124 into the reservoir 126, to the second plunger 354. The force exerted by the linkage system 358 onto the plunger 354 can cause the plunger 354 to be adjusted in the opposite direction of the plunger 332, at a rate dependent upon the rate at which the plunger 332 is inserted. The linkage system 358 can optionally be made reversible. Being reversible, the plunger 332 can be both: (i) inserted to dispense the liquid and cause the second plunger 354 to be withdrawn to create the vacuum for drawing air from the reservoir 126, and (ii) withdrawn to create a vacuum that draws liquid from the reservoir 126 while causing the second plunger 345 to be inserted, thereby expelling air back into the reservoir 126 while maintaining the balanced pressure.

[0073] In the illustrative embodiment of FIG. 3, insertion of the plunger 332 causes a gear rack 362 coupled to the plunger 332 to travel over a pinion gear 366 of the linkage system 358. This interaction between the gear rack 362 and the pinion gear 366 causes the pinion gear 366 to rotate in a clockwise direction in FIG. 3. The rotating pinion gear 366 engages the gear rack 370 coupled to the second plunger 354, and drives the gear rack 370 in a manner that causes the second plunger 354 to be extracted from the container 346. Resulting in the vacuum condition described above at the distal end of the return fitting 342 within the reservoir 126.

[0074] Depending on the gear ratio of the linkage system 358, for example, the position of the second plunger 354 can be adjusted at a rate suitable to create the desired vacuum condition at the return fitting 342 within the reservoir 126. For example, the second plunger 354 can be adjusted to extract the fluid from the reservoir 126 at an exhaust rate that is less than, greater than, or approximately equal to a fill rate at which the liquid 124 is added to the reservoir 126. The linkage system 358 can also be equipped with a limiter, such as a torque limiter provided to the pinion gear 366 for example, to interrupt a flow of the liquid 124 into the reservoir 126 in response to the pressure within the reservoir 126 exceeding a defined threshold pressure. For instance, the torque limiter can be set to cause the pinion gear 366 to stop rotating in response to a torque threshold being reached. For such an example, the plunger 354 may be driven upward to create a vacuum condition that increases in strength faster than the pressure within the reservoir 126 builds as a result of the introduction of the liquid 124. Once the vacuum condition reaches the threshold, the plunger 354 may be difficult to extract further. Once the threshold is reached, further insertion of the plunger 332 to add more liquid 124 can be prevented, thereby imposing a cutoff limit to the quantity of the liquid 214 that can be introduced into the reservoir 126. The cutoff quantity can be established by configuring the linkage system 358 with an appropriate torque threshold.

[0075] According to alternate embodiments, the linkage system 358 can optionally include an actuator system that is operable to drive the plunger 332 and/or the plunger 354. For example, a motor or other electromechanical drive unit can be provided to rotate a gear or other transmission that drives both plungers 332, 354. According to another embodiment, at least two separate, and independently-controllable drive units can form a portion of the actuator system. For such embodiments, a separate drive unit can be coupled to each plunger 332, 354, independently driving each plunger 332, 354 to establish the balanced pressure within the reservoir 126.

[0076] The difference in length between the supply and return fittings 316, 342 can act as a limiter, optionally defining a limit of the height to which the liquid can rise in the reservoir 126. For example, the liquid has a viscosity greater than that of water. Due to the limited diameter of the internal passage within the supply fitting 316 and the return fitting 342, a certain amount of force must be applied to the plunger 332 to expel the liquid from the filling device 320 through the supply fitting 316. However, when the liquid level within the reservoir 126 reaches the height of the inlet of the return fitting 342, a greater force is required to be imparted on the plunger 332 to cause the plunger 354 to be raised and create a vacuum strong enough to also draw the liquid 124 through the return fitting 342. A sensor can be provided to sense this increase in force required to continue inserting the plunger 332 when the liquid level reaches the height of the return fitting 342. [0077] Illustrative embodiments have been described, hereinabove. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that the above devices and methods may incorporate changes and modifications without departing from the general scope of this invention. It is intended to include all such modifications and alterations within the scope of the present invention. Furthermore, to the extent that the term“includes” is used in either the detailed description or the claims, such term is intended to be inclusive in a manner similar to the term“comprising” as“comprising” is interpreted when employed as a transitional word in a claim.