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1. (US20090206589) Extendable frame work vehicle having lift member movable in a true vertical fashion
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Claims

1. A vehicle comprising:
a. a frame having a longitudinal and axial direction and supported by at least one support assembly,
b. a telescoping lift member extending generally in the longitudinal direction having a first end rotatably coupled to said frame and a free end to which an implement is attached;
c. a first actuator for rotating the frame relative to said support assembly to bring the frame into a horizontal condition at least in an axial direction;
d. a second actuator to control the length of said lift member;
e. a third actuator to rotate the lift member relative to said frame;
f. a sensor array comprising sensors that provide signals representative of the angle of the frame with respect to horizontal in at least a longitudinal and an axial direction, signals representative of the length of the lift member, signals representative of the incline of the lift member and signals representative of the position of the vehicle; and
g. a controller that processes signals received from said sensor array and sends signals to at least said first, second and third actuators to ensure that the implement attached to the free end of the lift member does not contact an adjacent surface as the implement moves in a substantially vertical direction within a predefined range of motion.
2. The vehicle of claim 1, wherein said telescoping lift member comprises first and second lift arms each having a first end rotatably coupled to the frame, each having at least one telescoping section movable between a fully retracted length and fully extended length and each having at least one hydraulic cylinder for moving said telescoping sections between said fully retraced length and said fully extended length.
3. The vehicle of claim 2 wherein said second actuator comprises a valve array that provides variable matching flow to the hydraulic cylinders of each of said first and second lift arms so that said first and second lift arms are of substantially equal length as they transition between their fully retracted length and their fully extended length.
4. The vehicle of claim 2 wherein said hydraulic cylinders for moving the telescoping sections of the lift arms are double-acting, constant thrust, constant speed cylinders.
5. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said first actuator and said third actuator each comprise a hydraulic cylinder and a valve for controlling the flow of fluid to and from the cylinder.
6. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said sensor array includes a two-axis inclinometer which generates signals representative of the angle of the frame to horizontal in both the longitudinal and the axial direction.
7. The vehicle of claim 6 wherein said controller processes signals received from said two-axis inclinometer to (a) determine the angle of the frame to horizontal in the axial direction and generates control signals to at least said first actuator to bring the frame to horizontal in the axial direction; and (b) determine the angle of the frame to horizontal in the longitudinal direction and generates control signals to said second and third actuators based at least in part on said determination to ensure that the free end of the lift member moves in a true vertical direction as the lift member is rotated with respect to the frame.
8. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said sensor array includes a single axis inclinometer which generates signals representative of the incline of the lift member to horizontal.
9. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said sensor array includes an encoder which generates signals representative of the angle of the lift member to the frame.
10. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said sensor array includes a linear displacement sensor which generates signals representative of the length of the lift member.
11. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said sensor array includes a non-contact sensor which generates signals used by the controller to determine the distance between the free end of the lift member and said at least one adjacent surface.
12. The vehicle of claim 1 further including a set of wheels and at least one motor to apply power to at least one of said wheels to move the frame over terrain and said controller controls said motor to change the position of the frame with respect to said at least one adjacent surface to expand the size of said predefined range of motion through which the free end of the lift member moves substantially vertically.
13. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said frame comprises first and second portions that are movable longitudinally with respect to each other by a first frame actuator between an extended position and a retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said first frame actuator to control the length of the frame.
14. The vehicle of claim 13 wherein said controller controls the length of the frame to expand said predefined range of motion in which the lift member moves in a substantially vertical direction.
15. The vehicle of claim 13 wherein said frame further comprises a sensor that transmits signals to the controller from which the controller can determine the load carried by the free end of the lift member and said controller, in response to the determined load, sends control signals to said first frame actuator to adjust the length of the frame to counterbalance the load.
16. The vehicle of claim 13 wherein said frame further comprises a third portion that is movable longitudinally with respect to the second portion by a second frame actuator between an extended and retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said second frame actuator to control the position of the third portion.
17. The vehicle of claim 16 further comprising a sensor that transmits signals to the controller from which the controller can determine the load carried by the free end of the lift member and said controller, in response to the determined load, sends control signals to at least one of the first frame actuator or the second frame actuator to adjust the length of the frame to counterbalance the load.
18. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said telescoping lift member is a multi-stage extendable lift member.
19. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said lift member comprises an extension ladder.
20. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein said signals representative of the distance between the free end of the lift member and an adjacent surface are used by the controller to determine whether the adjacent surface is vertical.
21. The vehicle of claim 1 wherein when said at least one adjacent surface is a wall having a first portion that is generally vertical and a second portion that is not vertical, the signals representative of the distance between the free end of the lift member and adjacent surface are used by the controller to determine the shape, location and dimensions of at least said second portion.
22. A method for providing feedback control of a variable length lift member rotatably mounted to a frame supported by at least one support assembly to ensure that the free end of said lift member moves in a true vertical direction without contacting an adjacent surface as the lift member rotates about its axis of rotation, said method comprising:
a. providing a controller, a plurality of sensors sending signals to the controller in real time indicative of the length of the lift member, the angle of the lift member, the angle of the frame to horizontal in both the axial and longitudinal directions and the distance between the free end of the lift member and an adjacent surface, and a plurality of actuators controlled by the controller that adjust the angle of the frame with respect to the support assembly in at least the axial direction, rotate the lift member about its axis of rotation and vary the length of the lift member;
b. placing the free end of the lift member at a point a desired distance from said surface;
c. sensing the angle of the frame in the axial directions to horizontal and adjusting the angle of the frame to the support assembly so that the frame is substantially horizontal in the axial direction;
d. calculating changes in the length of the lift member that must be achieved to move the free end of the lift member in a substantially vertical direction from said point as the lift member is rotated about its axis of rotation; and
e. synchronizing changes in the length of the lift member with changes in the angle of the lift member as the lift member rotates about its axis of rotation to move the free end of the lift member in a substantially vertical direction while monitoring the distance between the adjacent surface and the free end of the lift member and controlling movement of the lift member to prevent the lift member from coming into contact with the adjacent surface.
23. The method of claim 22 wherein said calculating step includes:
a. establishing a point that is both (i) along a substantially horizontal line perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the lift member; and (ii) along a vertical line from the free end of the lift member, and storing the distance from said axis of rotation to said point; and
b. using said stored distance and the changes in the cosine of the angle of the lift member as the lift member is rotated to calculate required changes in the length of the lift member to move the free end of the lift member in a substantially vertical direction.
24. The method of claim 22 further including the step of using said signals indicative of the distance of said free end of said lift member to said surface as a check to ensure that as the free end is moving vertically it does not engage said surface.
25. The method of claim 22 wherein the angle of the lift member is determined by sensing the angle of the lift member to horizontal.
26. The method of claim 22 wherein the angle of the lift member is determined by sensing the angle of the frame to horizontal in the longitudinal direction, sensing the angle of the lift member to the frame and then calculating the angle of the lift member to horizontal.
27. For a vehicle comprising a frame supported by a suspension, a true vertical lift for an item comprising:
a. a telescoping lift member having a first end rotatably mounted to said frame for movement about a first axis of rotation and a second end to which said item is secured, said telescoping lift member comprising first and second multi-stage arms movable in tandem by first and second hydraulic cylinders between an extended condition and a retracted condition, a third hydraulic cylinder for rotating said lift member about said first axis of rotation and a fourth hydraulic cylinder for pivoting the item about the second end of the lift member;
b. a hydraulic circuit for delivering hydraulic fluid to said first, second, third and fourth hydraulic cylinders, said hydraulic circuit comprising a separate twin spool proportional valve associated with each of said cylinders, each of said twin spool proportional valves comprising a pressure transducer generating signals that can be used to calculate force and load at the location of each valve;
c. an actuator for rotating the frame relative to the support assembly;
d. a set of sensors comprising sensors that provide signals used to determine (i) the angle of the frame to horizontal in an axial and a longitudinal direction of the frame; (ii) the length of the telescoping lift member; (iii) the incline of the lift member; (iv) the angle of the item to the lift member; and (v) the distance from the item to at least one adjacent surface; and
e. a controller that receives and processes signals from said transducers and said sensors to control the operation of said actuator to maintain the frame in a substantially horizontal position in at least the axial direction, to control the valves associated with said first and second double-acting hydraulic cylinders to ensure that they are of substantially the same length at all times, to control said valves associated with said first, second and third hydraulic cylinders to ensure that the second end of the lift member moves in a true vertical direction within a predefined range of motion as the lift member is raised and lowered by modulating the length of the lift member as the lift member is rotated about said first axis and to limit movement of the second end of the lift member so that the item does not contact said at lease one vertical surface.
28. The vehicle of claim 27 wherein said frame comprises first and second portions that are movable longitudinally with respect to each other by a first frame actuator between an extended position and a retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said first frame actuator to control the distance between said first and second portions.
29. The vehicle of claim 28 wherein at least one of said transducers transmits signals to the controller from which the controller can determine the load applied to the second end of the lift member by said item and said controller, in response to said determined load, sends control signals to the first frame actuator to adjust the length of the frame to counterbalance the load applied by the item.
30. The vehicle of claim 28 wherein said frame further comprises a third portion that is movable longitudinally with respect to the second portion by a second frame actuator between an extended and retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said second frame actuator to control the position of the third portion.
31. The vehicle of claim 30 wherein at least one of said transducers transmits signals to the controller from which the controller can determine the load applied to the second end of the lift member by said item and said controller, in response to said determined load, sends control signals to at least one of the first frame actuator or the second frame actuator to adjust the length of the frame to counterbalance the load applied by the item.
32. The vehicle of claim 27 further including a set of wheels and at least one motor to apply power to at least one of said wheels to move the frame over terrain and said controller controls said motor to change the position of the frame with respect to an adjacent vertical surface to expand the size of said predefined range of motion through which the second end of the lift member moves substantially vertically.
33. A vehicle comprising:
a. a frame having a longitudinal and axial direction,
b. a suspension supporting said frame extending in the axial direction;
c. a telescoping lift member extending generally in the longitudinal direction having a first end rotatably coupled to said frame for movement about an axis of rotation and a free end rotatably coupled to a spraying tool;
d. a first actuator for rotating the frame relative to said suspension to bring the frame into a horizontal condition at least in an axial direction;
e. a second actuator to control the length of said lift member;
f. a third actuator to rotate the lift member relative to said frame;
g. a fourth actuator to rotate the spraying tool relative to said free end of the lift member;
h. a sensor array comprising sensors that provide signals representative of the angle of the frame with respect to horizontal in at least a longitudinal and an axial direction, signals representative of the length of the lift member, signals representative of the incline of the lift member and signals representative of the distance between the spraying tool and adjacent surfaces and signals representative of the angle of the spraying tool to the free end of the lift member; and
i. a controller that processes signals received from said sensor array and sends signals to at least said first, second, third and fourth actuators to ensure that the spraying tool is maintained at a uniform distance from the adjacent surface as the free end of the lift member moves in a generally vertical direction within a predefined range of motion.
34. The vehicle of claim 33, wherein said telescoping lift member comprises first and second lift arms each having a first end rotatably coupled to the frame, each having at least one telescoping section movable between a retracted length and an extended length, and each having at least one hydraulic cylinder for moving said telescoping sections between said retracted length and said extended length.
35. The vehicle of claim 34 wherein said second actuator comprises a valve array that provides variable matching flow to each of the hydraulic cylinders said first and second lift arms so that said first and second lift arms are of substantially equal length as they transition between their retracted length and their extended length.
36. The vehicle of claim 34 wherein said hydraulic cylinders for moving the telescoping sections of the lift arms are double-acting cylinders, constant thrust, constant speed cylinders.
37. The vehicle of claim 33 further including a set of wheels and at least one motor to apply power to at least one of said wheels to move the frame over terrain and said controller controls said motor to change the position of the axis of rotation of the lift member with respect to an adjacent surface to expand the size of said predefined range of motion through which the spraying tool moves substantially parallel to the adjacent surface.
38. The vehicle of claim 33 wherein said frame comprises first and second portions that are movable longitudinally with respect to each other by a first frame actuator between an extended position and a retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said first frame actuator to control the length of the frame.
39. The vehicle of claim 38 wherein said frame further comprises a third portion that is movable longitudinally with respect to the second portion by a second frame actuator between an extended and retracted position, and said controller transmits signals to said second frame actuator to control the position of the third portion.
40. The vehicle of claim 33 wherein said telescoping lift member is a multi-stage extendable lift member.
41. The vehicle of claim 33 wherein said signals representative of the distance between the spraying tool and adjacent surface are used by the controller to identify variations in the shape of at least a portion of said surface.
42. The vehicle of claim 41 wherein said controller sends signal to said fourth actuator to adjust the angle of the spraying tool to accommodate variations in the shape of the adjacent surface.