Imported: 10 Mar '17 | Published: 27 Nov '08
USPTO - Utility Patents
Disclosed is a plumbing fixture including an electrically actuated valve by means of which a water flow that penetrates the plumbing fixture can be turned on and off. A first switch that is embodied as a proximity switch is used for opening the valve and thus starting the water flow. The inventive plumbing fixture additionally comprises a mechanically actuated operator's element which is used for regulating another function of the plumbing fixture, such as the water temperature or the water quantity. A second switch that is used for electrically blocking the first switch is assigned to the mechanically actuated operator's element. For this purpose, the second switch is disposed so as to respond when the additional operator's element is manipulated.
The invention relates to a plumbing fixture with an electrically actuated valve for controlling a water flow through the plumbing fixture, with a first switch executed as a proximity switch for opening the valve and with a mechanically actuatable operating element for regulating a further function of the plumbing fixture.
Plumbing fixtures such as e.g. taps are known, which are turned on via a proximity switch and turn themselves off again automatically following a predetermined period of time. In some cases such plumbing fixtures also have a temperature adjustment lever for manual regulation of the water temperature. Limitations arise in this case in respect of the arrangement of the temperature adjustment lever. The temperature adjustment lever must be arranged so that when it is operated the proximity switch is not actuated inadvertently, as this would irritate an operator and in the worst case could even result in the risk of scalding with water that is too hot.
It is an object of the invention therefore to create a plumbing fixture of the type stated at the beginning with which the risk of the proximity switch being actuated inadvertently on operation of a further operating element is reduced.
The object is achieved by a plumbing fixture with the features of claim 1. Advantageous configurations can be inferred from the dependent claims.
The plumbing fixture has an electrically actuated valve with which a water flow through the plumbing fixture can be turned on and off. A first switch executed as a proximity switch serves to open the valve and thus release the water flow. The plumbing fixture also has a further, mechanically actuatable operating element, which is used for regulating a further function of the plumbing fixture. According to the invention a second switch is provided, which is assigned to the mechanically actuatable operating element and is used for blocking the first switch electrically. The second switch is disposed so as to respond when the further operating element is operated.
The first proximity switch and the mechanically actuatable operating element can thereby be arranged at a short spatial distance from one another without the danger existing of erroneous activation occurring. As well as an increase in safety, a feeling of a higher quality rating of the plumbing fixture is also communicated to the user by reason of the invention.
The second switch is expediently likewise executed as a proximity switch. Such a solution has an especially low susceptibility to faults.
The switches can be executed as infrared sensors or as capacitive sensors. These sensors are especially reliable and practicable.
Advantageously the plumbing fixture has a programmable control device, which is connected to the first and the second switch and is programmed such that on actuation of the first switch it emits a control signal for opening or closing the valve and only on actuation of the second switch taking place prior to emission of the control signal does it prevent the emission of the control signal for a predetermined period of time.
Blocking therefore only takes place if no water flow has yet been released. Once a water flow has been released, the blocking function is reversed, i.e. if the water flow had already been released, actuation of the first switch and thus the closing of the solenoid valve is blocked for a predetermined period of time following actuation of the second switch. It is thereby rendered possible that the operator can regulate a function of the plumbing fixture such as e.g. the water temperature according to subjective sensation as normal with one hand in the water jet and with the other on the temperature adjustment lever.
In an advantageous development, the control device is programmed such that on expiration of a shut-off timer it turns off the water flow through the valve and in the event of actuation of the second switch taking place following emission of the control signal it resets the shut-off timer.
It is thus ensured that the flow of water flows for sufficiently long even following regulation by the operator, namely for the predetermined time span of the shut-off timer.
In one embodiment the plumbing fixture has a mixer for regulating the water temperature as a further function. The mechanically actuatable operating element in this embodiment is a temperature adjustment lever for operation of the mixer.
In another embodiment the further function is regulation of the quantity of water.
In a preferred design the plumbing fixture has a substantially cylindrical basic body, arranged on the head piece of which is the first switch. Such a plumbing fixture can be operated particularly easily and intuitively even by operators not familiar with the mode of operation.
Arranged advantageously in the front area of the cylindrical basic body facing the user when in use is a tubular water outflow directed forwards, and in the rear area facing away from the water outlet the further operating element formed as an adjusting lever, at the end of which the second switch is arranged. This like-wise facilitates particularly intuitive operation.
A practical example of the invention is explained in greater detail below with reference to the drawings.
A schematic view of a plumbing fixture 10 is shown in FIG. 1. The plumbing fixture 10 has a cylindrical basic body 17, arranged on the front side of which is an outlet pipe 18 directed forwards. Accommodated in the interior of the plumbing fixture is an electrically actuated valve (not shown), via which a water flow can be turned on and off.
Accommodated in the rounded head piece 13 of the basic body 17 is a proximity switch 12, via which the valve is actuated. Likewise arranged in the interior of the plumbing fixture is a mixer (not shown), which is connected to house hot and cold water connections and mixes incoming hot and cold water in an adjustable ratio. To operate the mixer a temperature adjustment lever 14 is provided, which is fitted on the rear side of the plumbing fixture 10 opposite the water outlet pipe 18. The mixing ratio in the mixer is adjusted by lateral swinging of the temperature adjustment lever 14.
Due to actuation of the proximity switch 12 a pulse is generated to open the valve and thus a water flow is released. A proximity switch in the sense of this description is a switch of a contactless nature, which detects the approach for example of a hand, and as a reaction to an approach changes the switching state. Various types of proximity switches are known. In the practical example, the proximity switch is realized by a capacitance sensor. However, infrared sensors for example are also suitable.
If the hand of an operator approaches the head piece 13 of the plumbing fixture 10, this approach is detected by the proximity switch 12 and a water flow is released by opening of the valve. Since the temperature adjustment lever 14 is arranged at a small spatial distance directly behind the proximity switch 12, there would be a risk that the proximity switch 12 also triggers if the operator is only reaching for the temperature adjustment lever 14 and in doing so passes his hand close to the proximity switch 12. To prevent this, a further capacitance sensor is fitted in the end piece of the temperature adjustment switch 14, which sensor serves as a switch 15 for blocking the proximity switch 12. The switches 12 and 15 are connected for this purpose to a control device (not shown in FIG. 1) likewise arranged in the basic body of the plumbing fixture 10. The control device is realized by a microprocessor, on which a control and monitoring program runs.
FIG. 2 shows the control device 16 in a block circuit diagram. Connected to the control device 16 are the proximity switch 12 and the further capacitance sensor 16. An output of the control device 16 leads to a valve driver 19, which is connected to the electrically actuated valve 11.
The control and monitoring program running in the control device 16 generates a signal for the valve driver 19 when the proximity switch 12 is actuated. The valve driver 19 then applies an operating voltage to the electrically actuated valve 11, so that the valve 11 opens. On actuation of the switch 15, the proximity switch 12 is blocked for a predetermined period of time, i.e. switched to inoperable, so that no signal can be generated for the valve driver. An unintentional release of the water flow is thereby prevented if the actuation of both switches 12 and 15 takes place within the set time window.
This safety function would possibly prevent regulation of the water temperature by the operator according to feel in normal operation. The control and monitoring program is therefore adapted such that the mode of operation of the blocking is reversed if the water flow had already been released when the temperature adjustment lever was operated, i.e. closing of the valve 11 by renewed actuation of the proximity switch 12 is suppressed for a predetermined period of time, so that the possibility exists of the operator being able to regulate the temperature as normal with one hand in the water jet and the other hand on the temperature adjustment lever 14 according to subjective sensation without the proximity switch 12 inadvertently responding when the temperature adjustment lever 14 is reached for and turning the water flow off again.
A shut-off timer also runs in the control and monitoring program, which timer closes the valve 11 again via the valve driver 19 after a predetermined time span has elapsed and thus turns the water flow off again. This shut-off timer is reset if the second switch 15 is actuated. Water is thereby available to the operator for a sufficiently long period of time even after the water temperature has been adjusted.
A work flow of the control and monitoring program is shown in FIG. 3 in the form of a flow chart. On actuation of one of the two switches 12, 15, an interrupt is activated in step 301 that starts the control and monitoring program. It is then first checked in step 302 whether switch 12 (S1) or switch 15 (S2) was actuated. If switch S2 was actuated, then in step 303 a timer for switch S2 is set and the control and monitoring program is acknowledged in step 312. On actuation of S1, on the other hand, it is now checked in step 304 whether the timer for S2 has expired. If this is not the case, the control and monitoring program is acknowledged immediately without further steps. As long as the timer for S2 has not expired, the control program is thus terminated on actuation of S1 without a function being executed. The switch S1 is thus blocked following actuation of S2 for a predetermined period of time, i.e. until the timer for S2 expires. The timer for S2 thus serves to set the time span during which the switch S1 is blocked.
However, if the check in step 304 reveals that the timer for S2 had expired when S1 was actuated, i.e. the switch S1 was not blocked, then step 305 is proceeded with in the flow chart and a timer is set for S1. Then it is checked in step 306 whether the timer for S1 has already expired. As long as the timer for S1 has not yet expired, a check is now carried out in step 307 in the form of a loop of whether S2 was actuated. If S2 is actuated before the timer for S1 has expired, the timer for S2 is set in step 308 and the control and monitoring program is acknowledged in step 312. The timer for S1 thus serves to determine the time window during which blocking of S1 takes place when both switches are actuated, in order to prevent an unintentional release of the water flow.
If S2 is not actuated before the timer for S1 expires, then it is checked in step 309 whether the valve is closed. If the valve is open, it is closed in step 310, a timer is set for the closed period and the control and monitoring program is acknowledged in step 312. The valve now remains closed at least for a time span of this closed period and cannot be re-opened beforehand. Unstable situations in which the valve opens and closes at short intervals are thereby avoided.
If the valve was closed, on the other hand, the valve is opened in step 312, a timer for the open period is set and the control and monitoring program is acknowledged in step 312. The valve now remains open at least until the timer for the open period expires before it is automatically closed again if neither of the two switches S1 or S2 is operated again in the meantime.
As already mentioned, the two switches 12, 15 are realized by capacitance sensors in the practical example. However, the switch 15 can also be formed such that it operates touch-sensitively. Instead of capacitance sensors, the plumbing fixture 10 can also be executed using any other sensor technology, provided that at least one of the switches 12, 15 operates contactlessly. Instead of a capacitance sensor, the switch 15 can also be realized alternatively by one or more microswitches, which are arranged in the interior of the basic body of the plumbing fixture 10 such that when the temperature adjustment lever 14 is swung at least one of the microswitches is pressed down by the temperature adjustment lever 14. Actuation of the temperature adjustment lever is thereby likewise detected and can be used in the manner explained to block the proximity switch 12.