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CLOTHES WASHING MACHINE

Imported: 10 Mar '17 | Published: 27 Nov '08

ADELCIO BRAZ, ANTONIO DE OLIVEIRA, CARLOS EDUARDO BURATTO DE TOLEDO, DOUGLAS ALEX RESENDE PEREIRA, ERICO DE OLIVEIRA MUNHOZ, JORGE OYAMA, WLADIMIR ALEX MAGALHAES BARCHA

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

The present invention relates to a clothes washing machine of the top loading type having a base structure provided with at least one opening for housing other elements of the washing machine and a tub coupled with the base structure. The base structure and tub are aesthetically matched and when coupled, form an exterior of the washing machine, thereby eliminating the need for a cabinet enclosing the base structure and tub.

Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a clothes washing machine of the top loading type having a fixed tub that houses a rotatable basket mounted to a vertical drive shaft that passes through the bottom of the tub and is coupled to a motor unit.

2. Description of the Related Art

In clothes washing machines of the top loading type, the motor unit, which generally comprises an electric motor coupled to the drive shaft, may be provided under a support frame that is secured to the bottom wall of the tub. The assembly defined by the motor unit, vertical drive shaft and rotatable basket remains fixed to the tub. As a result, the vibration due to rotation of the basket during the washing and spinning operations, particularly upon spinning with an unbalanced clothes mass, is transmitted to the tub. In this typical construction, the tub vibrates concurrently with the basket and motor unit.

In this type of construction, the tub cannot directly touch the floor, since the tub moves during the machine operation. Thus, a need exists to provide a suspension system which is able to absorb or dissipate at least part of the vibratory energy transmitted to the tub.

A known solution to overcome this problem usually includes a cabinet surrounding both the tub and the motor unit and which is positioned directly on the floor. This arrangement also includes a suspension system generally in the form of springs or other elastic elements that are secured, at one end, to the tub and at the other end, to the cabinet.

This solution requires a cabinet to operate as a support structure for the washing machine and also as an aesthetic housing. In addition to increasing the number of components needed to assemble the washing machine, the cabinet increases the space required for the washing machine, since it must internally accommodate the suspension system, while providing a gap between the tub and the cabinet. This gap must be sufficient to prevent the tub from colliding with the cabinet during spinning operations with an unbalanced load of clothes.

Another known solution is described in the patent document PCT/AU97/00334. In this solution, the motor unit is attached at one end to the vertical drive shaft that passes through the bottom of the tub and at an opposite end to the support frame. The support frame is secured to a base structure that is suspended by a suspension system. In this solution, the tub is attached to the support frame and vibrates with the basket and motor unit during machine operation. The suspension system is provided under the support frame, allowing the height of the cabinet to be limited to the height of the support frame. However, this solution still requires a cabinet with sufficient height to surround the whole tub, in order to visually and operationally protect the tub during machine operation, since the tub vibrates concurrently with the basket and the motor unit.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

An aspect of the present invention is to provide a clothes washing machine of the top loading type, having a tub that is able to define a portion of the cabinet and a base structure that is able to define a portion of the cabinet, thereby providing more options for the aesthetical design of the machine. Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a clothes washing machine which provides a suspension means with reduced dimensions and simple construction, disposed under the tub.

These and other aspects of the invention are achieved by a clothes washing machine of the top loading type having a base structure provided with at least one opening for housing other elements of the washing machine and a tub coupled with the base structure. The base structure and tub are aesthetically matched and when coupled, form an exterior of the washing machine, thereby eliminating the need for a cabinet enclosing the base structure and tub. The base structure may be a tubular body having a front wall portion, two lateral wall portions, and an upper wall portion. The tub may have a cylindrical wall, lateral wall portions, and a bottom wall for coupling the tub to the upper wall portion of the base structure.

The bottom wall of the tub may have a plurality of internally threaded projections to be aligned with bores provided in the upper wall portion of the base structure and through which are inserted screws for coupling the tub with the base structure. Alternatively, the tub and base structure may be formed as a single piece. The base structure may have ribs that are inserted into slots provided in the bottom wall of the tub to further facilitate coupling of the tub and base structure. The washing machine may further comprise at least one suspension mechanism disposed within an opening of the base structure for absorbing vibration transmitted to the tub during operation.

Another embodiment of the invention provides for a washing machine having a base structure provided with at least one opening, a tub coupled with the base structure, a support frame provided in the base structure, at least one suspension mechanism connecting the support frame to the base structure and disposed within an opening in the base structure, a motor unit attached to the support frame and supporting a rotatable drive shaft, and a rotatable basket disposed in the tub and selectively rotated by the drive shaft. The base structure functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine and the tub functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine.

The support frame may have radial arms angularly spaced from each other and each arm may be provided with a bore.

The suspension mechanism may include a rod having an upper end coupled with the base structure, a middle portion disposed through the bore in the support frame, and a lower end having a stop mechanism, and a support spring provided around the rod having an end connected to the stop mechanism and an opposite end connected to the support frame. There may be one suspension mechanism coupled with each arm of the support frame. The suspension mechanism may further include a dampening spring provided around the upper end of the rod to further absorb vibration. The upper end of the support spring may abut a pad provided in the radial arm of the support frame. Additionally, a spacer pad may be attached to the upper end of the rod.

The wall portions of the base structure may be shaped to match the contour of the wall portions of the tub when the tub is coupled with the base structure.

The present invention allows the base structure to remains fixed, so that the tub of the clothes washing machine can be directly attached to the base structure, and remain coupled thereto while the moving assembly of the machine vibrates during operation. Since the tub is fixed and free of vibration and oscillation, it may be constructed so that it defines a portion of the cabinet. As a result, this solution simplifies the construction of the clothes washing machine, allowing the cabinet to be configured in different manners and increasing the options to define different ornamental plastic forms for the clothes washing machine. Additionally, since the suspension system only needs to maintain the support frame, the invention further allows utilization of simple suspension systems that take up a smaller amount of space within the washing machine.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to the drawings and initially to FIG. 1, the invention relates to a clothes washing machine of the top loading type comprising a base structure 10, which is to be provided on a floor. The base structure 10 may be constructed in different manners, preferably in the form of a tubular body comprising a housing 11, which may be formed by a front wall portion 11a that extends to the rear of the machine, and by two parallel lateral wall portions 11b that are tangent to the front wall portion 11a. The base structure 10 may further comprise an upper wall portion 12 attached to the front wall portion 11a and to the lateral wall portions 11b and being provided with a central opening 12a for housing other elements of the machine. The base structure 10 may be constructed from any appropriate material, for example, from stamped sheet metal or injected plastic material. The base structure preferably forms a bottom portion of the machine cabinet, so that an additional cabinet surrounding the base structure 10 is unnecessary.

The base structure 10 may further comprise a vertically disposed rear frame having end edges attached to the lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10 and also an upper edge affixed to the upper wall portion 12, which acts as further support for the base structure 10. Thus, the rear frame 13, as shown in FIG. 3, operates as an open rear wall portion of the base structure 10 and may be shaped in a generally semi-cylindrical form. It should be understood that the base structure 10 may be constructed in different manners and with different shapes, as long as it functions to support the components of the machine and operates as a housing for the driving elements.

The front wall portion 11a and lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10 may be coupled with support plates 14, each provided with a generally threaded bore 14a for receiving a respective foot 15 of the machine, as illustrated in FIGS. 1, 1a, 2 and 3. As shown, there may be four support plates 14, in each support plate being mounted a foot 15. The feet may be constructed in different manners and the number of feet can vary without changing the scope of the invention. Likewise, the shape and material of the base structure 10 can change without altering the scope of the invention. For example, the base structure 10 may be formed from injected material, for example plastic. Additionally, it may be formed as a single piece, to which the feet 15 are mounted.

As shown in FIG. 3, the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 may have four semi-spherical recesses 16 that are angularly spaced from each other along a circular alignment. The embodiments shown have four such recesses 16. As shown in detail in FIG. 3a, the central region of each semi-spherical recess 16 has a bore 16a that is radially connected, through a slot 17, to a respective window 18 provided in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. The number of semi-spherical recesses 16 corresponds to the number of suspension mechanisms to be provided in the machine. Thus, in the embodiment shown, the recesses 16 correspond to four suspension mechanisms. However, this number can be different from four and still achieve the function of the invention.

The machine further comprises a tub 20 which is constructed to be coupled with the base structure 10 and aesthetically matches the base structure 10. The tub 20 can be formed of various materials, such as sheet metal or injected plastic material. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 6, the tub 20 is independent from the base structure 10 and comprises a cylindrical lateral wall 21, a pair of parallel lateral walls 22 that are vertically aligned with the lateral wall portions 11b of the base structure 10, and a bottom wall 23 provided with a central opening 23a. The tub 20 may be coupled with the base structure 10 by various fixation mechanisms, such as screws 25, clips or any other elements that permit fixation of the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. As shown in FIG. 6, the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 incorporates a plurality of tubular axial projections 24, which are internally threaded and disposed in a circular arrangement. The projections 24 are to be aligned with respective bores 12b provided in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, through which are inserted screws 25 to connect the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. Bores 24a are also provided on the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20, which are aligned with respective bores 12c provided in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 and through which screws 25 are also inserted. It can be readily understood that the type and number of fixation mechanisms can be changed without altering the scope of the invention.

As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10 incorporates at least two upper ribs 19, which are inserted in respective slots 29 provided on the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20, when the tub 20 is coupled with the base structure 10. This arrangement facilitates the connection of the tub 20 and the base structure 10, guaranteeing vertical alignment of the two parts.

It should be understood that the tub 20 may comprise a bottom wall 23 that is shaped to define an upper wall portion for the base structure 10. Additionally, the tub 20 and base structure 10 may be formed as a single piece so that the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 is also the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10.

One advantage of the present invention is that it allows the tub 20 to be solidly incorporated with the base structure 10. Thus, the base structure 10 also functions as the cabinet of the washing machine and no additional housing is necessary. In the illustrated embodiment, the tub 20 presents a cross-section contour equal to that of the base structure 10, thus functioning as the top portion of the cabinet.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 1a, the present invention further comprises a support frame 30 which may be formed from metal and is mounted in the interior of the base structure 10, where it is suspended by suspension mechanisms 40 that connect the support frame 30 generally to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10.

As shown in detail in FIG. 7, the support frame 30 is preferably a single piece and comprises a central hub 31 having four radial arms 32, angularly spaced 90 degrees from each other and provided with a projection 33. It can be readily understood that the number of arms and the amount of spacing between the arms can be changed without altering the scope of the invention. The lower projections 33 may be attached via screws or other fixation mechanisms, to a motor unit 50, which is mounted to the support plate 35. The motor unit may comprise an electric motor having an output shaft, a drive pulley 52, a driven pulley 53, and a belt 54 operably coupling the drive pulley 42 and the driven pulley 53.

The support plate 35 may be affixed to the support frame 30, or alternatively the support plate 35 and support frame 30 may be a single piece. The support plate 35 may have a bearing 37 which supports the lower end portion of a drive shaft 55 that extends upwardly through the tubular hub 31 of the support frame 30. The driven pulley 53 may be affixed to the lower end portion of the drive shaft 55, generally under the bearing 37.

The electric motor 51 may be directly coupled to the drive shaft 55, with or without an intermediate transmission defined by pulleys and belts or by other transmission mechanisms. The drive shaft 55 extends upwardly into the interior of the tub 20.

As shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, each radial arm 32 of the support frame 30 may present a semi-spherical lower recess 36, similar to the spherical recesses 16 of the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. The lower recesses 36 also have a bore 36a.

Referring again to FIG. 1, a generally cylindrical and perforated rotatable basket 60 is mounted to the interior of the tub 20 and secured to an upper end portion of a tubular shaft 56. The tubular shaft 56 encompasses the drive shaft 55, so it rotates concurrently with the drive shaft 55 during spinning operations of the machines. The upper end of the drive shaft 55 carries an impeller 57 disposed in the interior of the basket 60.

In one embodiment of the invention, at least three suspension mechanisms 40 are provided, angularly spaced from each other around the motor unit 50. As shown in FIG. 1a, each suspension mechanism comprises a rod 41 having an upper end 41a coupled with the base structure 10, a middle portion 41b disposed through a bore 36a in the support frame 30, and a threaded lower end 41c, securing, for example through a threaded nut 42a and washer 42b, a stop mechanism 42. Alternatively, the lower end 41c of the rod 41 may be formed to define a retaining element for the stop mechanism 42, eliminating the need of threading the end of the rod 41. Each suspension mechanism 40 further comprises a generally helical support spring 43 provided around the middle portion 41b of the rod 41 and having one end connected to the stop mechanism 42 and an opposite end connected to a radial arm 32 of the support frame 30. Due to this configuration, the support frame 30 is suspended by the support springs 43 of the suspension mechanism. While the illustrated embodiment uses four suspension mechanisms 40, it can be readily understood that other numbers could be used and the invention would still achieve the desired result. Each suspension mechanism 40 is associated with a radial arm 32 of the support frame 30. The upper end of the support spring 43 may be positioned adjacent a pad 43a, which may be constructed from an anti-friction polymeric material. The pad 43a may be provided on the interior of the semi-spherical lower recess 36 of a radial arm 32 of the support frame 30.

Each suspension mechanism 40 may further comprise a dampening spring 44 disposed around the rod 41 and having one end connected through pad 44a to the support frame 30 and the opposite end connected through pad 44b to the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. The dampening spring 44 allows both springs in the suspension mechanism 40 to work in opposite directions, with the dampening spring 44 constantly forcing the support frame 30 against the support spring 43. The use of two springs that work in opposite directions gives the suspension mechanism 40 a higher capacity to absorb vibration from the motor unit during the washing and spinning operations of the machine. The stop mechanism 42 of each suspension mechanism 40 has a cylindrical sleeve 45, and may be constructed of plastic material and designed to surround at least part of the longitudinal support spring 43 of each suspension mechanism 40.

The upper end 41a of each rod 41 is disposed through the bore 16a of a spherical recess 16 of the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10. Furthermore, a spacer pad 46 may be attached to the upper end 41a of each rod 41. The spacer pad 46 is preferably made of an anti-friction material and its lower portion may be attached to the interior of the semi-spherical recess 16, thereby coupling the upper end 41a of each rod 41 and the base structure 10.

Due to the windows 18 and the radial slots 17 in the upper wall portion 12 of the base structure 10, the spacer pad 46 can be attached to the upper end 41a of the rod 41 before being mounted to the semi-spherical recess 16, since the windows 18 present an area that is large enough to allow passage of the spacer pads 46.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the central opening 23a of the bottom wall 23 of the tub 20 receives, through any well known mounting mechanism of the art, a sealing mechanism 70 to provide a seal between the bottom wall and the tubular shaft 56.

While only one possible way of carrying out the present clothes washing machine has been illustrated herein, it should be understood that alterations can be made in the form and arrangement of the different elements that constitute the equipment, without departing from the inventive concept defined in the claims that accompany the present disclosure.

Claims

1. A top loading clothes washing machine comprising:
a base structure having at least one opening for housing other elements of the washing machine; and
a tub coupled with the base structure,
wherein the base structure and tub are aesthetically matched and when coupled, form an exterior of the washing machine, thereby eliminating the need for a cabinet enclosing the base structure and tub.
a base structure having at least one opening for housing other elements of the washing machine; and
a tub coupled with the base structure,
wherein the base structure and tub are aesthetically matched and when coupled, form an exterior of the washing machine, thereby eliminating the need for a cabinet enclosing the base structure and tub.
2. The washing machine of claim 1, wherein the base structure comprises a tubular body having a front wall portion and two lateral wall portions.
3. The washing machine of claim 2, wherein the base structure further comprises an upper wall portion coupled with the front wall portion and lateral wall portions.
4. The washing machine of claim 1, wherein the base structure is formed as a single piece.
5. The washing machine of claim 3, wherein the tub comprises a cylindrical wall and lateral wall portions that are vertically aligned with the wall portions of the base structure.
6. The washing machine of claim 5, wherein the tub further comprises a bottom wall for coupling the tub to the upper wall portion of the base structure.
7. The washing machine of claim 6, wherein the bottom wall of the tub comprises a plurality of internally threaded projections to be aligned with bores provided in the upper wall portion of the base structure and through which are inserted screws for coupling the tub with the base structure.
8. The washing machine of claim 1, wherein the tub and base structure are formed as a single piece.
9. The washing machine of claim 1, wherein the base structure further comprises at least two ribs, which are inserted into slots provided in the bottom wall of the tub to facilitate coupling of the tub and base structure.
10. The washing machine of claim 1, further comprising at least one suspension mechanism disposed within an opening of the base structure for absorbing vibration transmitted to the tub during operation.
11. A top loading clothes washing machine comprising:
a base structure provided with at least one opening;
a tub coupled with the base structure;
a support frame provided in the base structure;
at least one suspension mechanism connecting the support frame to the base structure and disposed within an opening in the base structure;
a motor unit attached to the support frame and supporting a rotatable drive shaft; and
a rotatable basket disposed in the tub and selectively rotated by the drive shaft,
wherein the base structure functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine and the tub functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine.
a base structure provided with at least one opening;
a tub coupled with the base structure;
a support frame provided in the base structure;
at least one suspension mechanism connecting the support frame to the base structure and disposed within an opening in the base structure;
a motor unit attached to the support frame and supporting a rotatable drive shaft; and
a rotatable basket disposed in the tub and selectively rotated by the drive shaft,
wherein the base structure functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine and the tub functions as an exterior housing of at least a portion of the washing machine.
12. The washing machine of claim 11, wherein the support frame comprises radial arms angularly spaced from each other and each arm is provided with a bore.
13. The washing machine of claim 12, wherein the suspension mechanism comprises:
a rod having an upper end coupled with the base structure, a middle portion disposed through the bore in the support frame, and a lower end having a stop mechanism; and
a support spring provided around the rod having an end connected to the stop mechanism and an opposite end connected to the support frame.
a rod having an upper end coupled with the base structure, a middle portion disposed through the bore in the support frame, and a lower end having a stop mechanism; and
a support spring provided around the rod having an end connected to the stop mechanism and an opposite end connected to the support frame.
14. The washing machine of claim 13, wherein there is a suspension mechanism coupled with each arm of the support frame.
15. The washing machine of claim 13, wherein the suspension mechanism further comprises a dampening spring provided around the upper end of the rod to further absorb vibration during operation.
16. The washing machine of claim 13, wherein an upper end of the support spring abuts a pad provided in the radial arm of the support frame.
17. The washing machine of claim 13, further comprising a spacer pad attached to the upper end of the rod.
18. The washing machine of claim 11, wherein the base structure comprises a tubular body having a front wall portion, two lateral wall portions, and an upper wall portion.
19. The washing machine of claim 18, wherein the tub comprises a tubular body having a front wall portion, two lateral wall portions, and a bottom wall portion.
20. The washing machine of claim 19, wherein the wall portions of the base structure are shaped to match the contour of the wall portions of the tub when the tub is coupled with the base structure.