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1. (WO2015126542) DISPENSER APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING LIQUID SOAP, LOTION OR OTHER LIQUID
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DISPENSER APPARATUS FOR DISPENSING LIQUID SOAP, LOTION

OR OTHER LIQUID

This Application is based on and claims the benefit of and priority to IIS. Non-Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 14/155,551 filed on January 15, 2014 and which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/753,607, filed January 17, 2013.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to dispenser apparatus for dispensing a liquid, the dispenser apparatus being a hybrid providing the ability to alternatively dispense soap or other liquid from a container either by an electric motor or by manually moving the cover of a cabinet holding the container.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Wall mounted dispensers for holding liquid soaps,

lotions and the like and for dispensing such liquids from a nozzle outlet or other opening are well known. Some dispensers utilize gravity to cause flow of liquid through the bottom opening or nozzle outlet when a valve is opened, either manually or by means of an electrically operated valve controller. The liquid to be dispensed may reside in a compartment or reservoir formed by the dispenser itself or in a separate container releasably connected to the dispenser.

It is also generally known to provide various mechanisms for pumping or exerting pressure on the liquid to facilitate dispensing. Such mechanisms differ and are conventionally used exclusively in either manually operated dispensers or electrically powered dispensers.

Conventionally, both are not utilized in the same dispenser apparatus.

Dedication to an electrically operated system can have its drawbacks, one drawback in particular being tnabilit to operate the dispenser manually in the event of loss of electrical power, either due to battery discharge or failure at an electrical outlet.

.DISCLOSURE OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to dispenser apparatus for dispensing liquid soap, lotion or other liquid. The dispenser apparatus is in the nature of a hybrid incorporating a unique combination of structural elements which provides reliable operational ability either by manual power or electrical power through actuation of a pump associated with a liquid container.

The hybrid operation of the dispenser has a number of advantages. There is less reliance on batteries, and lessening of problems concerning infrared and related soap system maintenance issues. The hybrid function ensures that patrons always have soap, resulting in less complaints and related frustration taken out on dispensers (vandalism). For the end user, when soap is in the container, there will always be access to soap whether during eleetricai powered (auto) operation or manual, operation.

The dispenser apparatus includes a cabinet defining an interior for holding a container containing liquid and dispensing structure connected to the container to dispense liquid from the container. The cabinet includes a housing and a cover movably connected to the housing.

Actuator mechanism is connected to the cabinet for operating the dispensing structure to dispense liquid from the container when the container and dispensing structure are held within the interior.

The dispenser apparatus includes an electric motor. The electric motor and the cover are selectively alternatively cooperable with the actuator mechanism to cause the actuator mechanism to operate the dispensing structure and dispense liquid from the container.

Other features, advantages and objects of the present invention will become apparent with reference to the following description and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a front, perspective view of the cabinet of the dispenser apparatus showing the cover thereof being moved to actuating position by a force applied thereto in the direction of the illustrated arrow;

Fig. 2 is a side, elevational view illustrating the cover in two alternative positions relative to the cabinet housing respectively in solid and broken lines;

Fig. 3 is a front, perspective view illustrating the cover removed from the housing, dispensing structure in the form of a pump connected to the housing, and related structure including an electronic module;

Fig. 4 is an exploded, perspective view illustrating operational components of the dispenser apparatus including a pump, the electronic module, and a cover operable pump actuator element removed from the housing;

Fig. 5 is a rear, perspective view of the electronic module and pump connected to the electronic module;

Fig. 6 is an enlarged view of a control switch incorporated in the dispenser apparatus;

Fig. 7 is a side, elevational, cross-sectional view illustrating the cover in the position shown in Fig. 1 and being moved toward actuating position and in engagement with the cover operable pump actuator element and prior to actuation of the pump;

Fig. 8 is a rear, elevational view of the electronic module and showing the relati ve positions assumed by components thereof whe the cover and cover operable pump actuator element are in the positions shown in Fig. 7;

Fig. 9 is a view similar to Fig. 7. but illustrating the cover in engagement with the manually operable pump actuator element and the cover operable pump actuator element having actuated the pump;

Fig. 10 is a view similar to Fig. 8 showing the relative positions assumed b components of the electronic module when the cover and cover operable pump actuator element are in the positions shown in Fig. 9;

Fig. 13 is a rear, perspective view depicting in dash lines the outer outline of the electronic module and showing selected operational components of the electronic module in solid lines;

Fig. 12 is a front, perspective view depicting in dash lines the outer outline of the electronic module and showing selected operational components of the electronic module in solid lines;

Fig. 13 is an enlarged perspective view of an actuator structure, a gear member, and biasing structure of the electronic module;

Fig. 14 is a rear, elevational view of the electronic module illustrating the outer outline thereof and the pump in dash lines, and other parts thereof, including a mechanism for adjusting the dose of the pump, in solid lines;

Fig. 15 is a perspective, exploded view of the pump and an adaptor utilized to adapt the pump to different types of soap containers; and

Fig. 16 is a perspective, exploded view illustrating two alternatively useable representative types of liquid containers that may be used with the pump.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings, reference numeral 10 is employed to identify the cabinet of dispenser apparatus constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The dispenser apparatus is for dispensing liquid soap, however it may be employed to dispense other liquids such as lotion.

The cabinet 10 includes a housing 12 and a cover 14 pivotally connected to the housing by hinge structure of any suitable type located at the adjoining upper ends of the cover and housing. In the arrangement illustrated, the hinge comprises receptacles located at the top of the housing for receiving hinge members (not shown) at the top of the cover which are snapped into place in the receptacles. If desired, the cover may be completely removed from the housing to provide access to the housing interior. Figs. 1 , 2, 7 and 9 show the cover connected to the housing. The cover may be pivotally moved between the normal (non-use) position shown in Fig. 2 in solid lines to the actuator position shown in dash lines in Fig, 2 by applying a manual force as shown by the arrow in Fig. 1, the latter figure and Fig. 7 also showing the cover in its normal (non-use) position. Fig. 9 shows the cover in the actuator position.

The cabinet defines an interior for holding a container containing liquid soap and dispensing structure 18 connected to the container to dispense liquid from the container. In the arrangement illustrated, the dispensing structure 18 is in the form of a liquid pump, but principles of the present invention are applicable with other types of dispensing structure such as a dispensing valve stnictui'e. The dispenser apparatus suitably includes lock-out structure allowing only specific containers and dispensing valve structure combinations to be utilized. For example, the outer configurations of the container and the dispensing structure may be required to match the shapes of the recesses or other structural features of the housing. Electronic lock-outs and/or other types of mechanical lock-outs may be employed in the system as well so that only specific refills may be employed in the system.

Fig. 16, for example, illustrates two types of containers 20, 22 which may be used with the dispensing apparatus. One may for example be a semi-rigid container and the other a collapsible bag-type container. Fig. 15 provides an illustration of how an adaptor 24 may be applied to the pump inlet to allow its use with different container outlet structures.

The dispenser apparatus includes actuator mechanism connected to the cabinet for operating the dispensing structure to dispense liquid from the containe when the container and dispensing structure are installed within the housing.

The actuator mechanism includes actuator structure 30 which is pivotaiiy mounted relative to the housing and more particularly directly pivotaiiy attached to a module 32 that is selectively removably connected to the housing. This may be seen in Fig. 3, for example, which illustrates the module 32 installed in place in the housing. Actuator structure 30 is positioned so that it is engageable by the cover 14 when the cover is moved from its normal (non-use) position to the actuator position shown in Fig. 9, for example, wherein the actuator structure 30 has been moved and rotated as illustrated by the arrow in Fig. 7.

The actuator mechanism also includes actuator structure 34 which is mounted for vertical slidable movement on the module 32. Pump 18 is relcasably connected to actuator structure 34, a lower portion of the pum structure disposed in an open-ended slot 36 of the actuator structure 34, The main body or upper portion of the pump is positioned in and held in a slot 38 defined by the module. Actuator structure 34 is engaged by actuator structure 30 during inward movement of the cover and responsive to movement of the actuator structure 30 caused by movement of the cover to move upwardly along with the lower pump portion held thereby and actuate the pump 18 and dispense liquid therefrom. Fig. 9 shows the pump having been actuated. Soap or other liquid from the pump will exit the cabinet 10 through a bottom opening defined by the cover and housing. The afore -described structure provides for dispensing by manual application of force to the cover.

The dispenser apparatus is in essence a hybrid, also incorporating structure providing dispensing through utilization of an electric motor. The electric motor is identified by reference numeral 40 and incorporated in the module 32 along with batteries 42 for energizing the motor. The electric motor i s operatively associated with actuator str ucture 34 upon energization thereof to move the actuator structure 34 relative to the pump in the manner previously described with reference to actuator structure 30 used for that purpose to actuate the pump and dispense liquid therefrom.

A gear train 46 is operatively positioned between the electric motor and actuator structui-e 34. The gear train includes a gear member 48 which engages the actuator structure.

Rotation of the gears of the gear train, including gear member 48, will cause the actuator struct ure 34 to move upwardly. This is accomplished by a projection 50 on the gear membe 48 engaging and beaiing against the bottom of actuator structui'e 34 and causing upward movement thereof when gear member 48 rotates. Figs. 7 - 10 provide an illustration of the immediately aforesaid operation.

After the pump has dispensed the quantity of soap or other liquid desired, the motor and the gear train are reversed and gear member 48 returns from its position shown in Figs. 9 and .10 to its original position as shown in Figs. 7 and 8. This may be accomplished effectively by utilizing a biasing structure 54 including a fixed rod 56 to which actuator structure 34 is connected and a

biasing spring 58 which continuously biases actuator structure 34 and thus gear- member 38 downwardly. Alternatively, electrical control circuitry may be used for this purpose.

The amount of liquid dispensed from the pump 18 can be adjusted by changing the distance that the actuator structure 34 moves upwardly. One approach for accomplishing this is shown in Fig. 14 wherein a stop 60 having stop elements of different lengths may be rotated and fixed in a desired position to limit the stroke or upward movement of the actuator 34 by engaging same. A simple screw driver may be utilized to make this adjustment or such an operation may be accomplished by using a switch such as switch 62 shown in Fig. 6 to provide the appropriate adjustment internally. An off position on the switch can be used to eliminate use of the electric motor operation altogether so that only the cover actuation mode can be utilized.

The module 32 contains appropriate control circuit boards 64, 66 utilized to control the various functions of the dispenser apparatus functioning as an electronic module. The module is preferably designed to allow for easy placement for alternative cover housing designs that leverage the same size refills and pumps. In the arrangement illustrated, a spring biased projection 68 is incorporated on the electronic module to engage the inside surface of the cover 14 and continually bias the cover outwardly to its normal or non-use position.