The present disclosure is directed to a tool coupler and, more particularly, to a tool coupler having a modular frame construction.
Machines, for example backhoes and excavators, commonly have linkage that is movable to control the motion of a connected tool such as a bucket, a blade, a hammer, or a grapple. A tool coupler can be used to increase the functionality and versatility of a machine by allowing different tools to be quickly and interchangeably connected to the machine linkage. Tool couplers generally include an upper section connected to the machine linkage and a lower section with hooks that engage corresponding pins of a selected tool. The upper section includes a connector assembly that is sized and arranged to connect to a particular type or size of linkage. The lower section includes hooks that are sized and arranged to mate with a particular arrangement of corresponding pins found on a number of different tools. The upper and lower sections are generally integral, with each forming a portion of a one-piece frame that is machined and assembled as a single unit.
Most tool couplers have nearly identical upper sections, since the connection to the machine linkage does not need to change for each tool connected to the coupler. The lower sections, however, can sometimes be different to accommodate different tool designs. When the upper and lower sections are integral, an operator may be required to have multiple different complete tool couplers (i.e. each including both upper and lower sections) available to accommodate tools having different pin configurations. This can be expensive for the customer and the manufacturer.
An exemplary coupler is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,484,250 issued to Gilmore, Jr. et al. on Jan. 16, 1996. In particular, the '250 patent discloses a two-piece coupler for removably connecting a tool to a machine. The coupler includes a male member attached to a boom of a machine, and a female member connected to a stick having a working tool. The male member can be coupled to the female member to thereby connect the stick and working tool to the boom. Separate sticks, each having a different working tool at one end and a female coupling member at the other may be interchangeable to allow one machine to accomplish different working functions.
Although the coupler of the '250 patent may allow different tools to be connected to a common machine boom, it may be less than optimal. In particular, since the coupler is arranged to connect a machine boom to a stick instead of directly to a tool, it may be necessary for the machine user to purchase and store multiple sticks associated with each tool that will be utilized with the machine. The acquisition and storage of these parts may be expensive. Further, the process of interchanging tools may be more complicated and cumbersome, since each change would require replacing a bulky stick along with the tool. In addition, the coupler of the '250 patent requires a hydraulic connector to pass hydraulic fluid through the coupler, from the boom to the stick connected to the tool. This further complicates the process of interchanging different tools and introduces the possibility of leaks and/or part failure.
The present disclosure is directed to overcoming one or more of the problems set forth above and/or other problems of the prior art.
In one aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a tool coupler for connecting a machine to a tool. The tool coupler may include a first frame module having a first pair of side plates and a pair of aligned bores passing through the first pair of side plates. The aligned bores may be configured to receive pins that are connectable to a linkage of the machine. The tool coupler may also include a second frame module releasably attached to the first frame module. The second frame module may include a second pair of side plates and a pair of hooks fixedly connected to the second pair of side plates. The pair of hooks may be configured to receive corresponding pins that are connectable to the tool.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In another aspect, the present disclosure is directed to a method of using a tool coupler. The method may include releasably attaching a first frame module to a second frame module. The method may also include passing pins through bores in the first frame module and a linkage of a machine to coupler the first frame module to the linkage. The method may further include engaging hooks of the second frame module with pins of a tool.
FIG. 1 is a pictorial illustration of an exemplary disclosed machine; and
FIGS. 2-5 are pictorial illustrations of an exemplary tool coupler that may be used with the machine of FIG. 1.
FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary machine 10. Machine 10 may be a fixed or mobile machine that performs an operation associated with an industry, such as mining, construction, farming, transportation, or any other industry known in the art. For example, machine 10 may be an earth moving machine such as an excavator or a backhoe. Machine 10 may include a power source 12, a tool system 14 driven by power source 12, and an operator station 16 situated for manual control of tool system 14.
Tool system 14 may include linkage acted on by hydraulic cylinders to move a tool 18. Specifically, tool system 14 may include a boom 20 that is vertically pivotal about a boom axis 21 by a pair of adjacent, double-acting, hydraulic cylinders 22, and a stick 24 that is vertically pivotal about a stick axis 26 by a single, double-acting, hydraulic cylinder 28. Tool system 14 may further include a single, double-acting, hydraulic cylinder 30 that is connected to vertically pivot tool 18 about a tool axis 32. In one embodiment, hydraulic cylinder 30 may be connected at a head-end to a portion of stick 24, and at an opposing rod-end to tool 18 by way of a power link 31. Boom 20 may be pivotally connected to a frame 33 of machine 10. Stick 24 may pivotally connect boom 20 to tool 18.
Each of hydraulic cylinders 22, 28, and 30 may include a tube and a piston assembly arranged within the tube to form a head-end pressure chamber and a rod-end pressure chamber. The pressure chambers may be selectively supplied with pressurized fluid and drained of the pressurized fluid to cause the piston assembly to displace within the tube, thereby changing the effective length of hydraulic cylinders 22, 28, and 30. The flow rate of fluid into and out of the pressure chambers may relate to a velocity of hydraulic cylinders 22, 28, and 30, while a pressure differential between the head- and rod-end pressure chambers may relate to a force imparted by hydraulic cylinders 22, 28, and 30 on the associated linkage members. The expansion and retraction of hydraulic cylinders 22, 28, and 30 may function to assist in moving tool 18.
Numerous different tools 18 may be attachable to a single machine 10 and controllable via operator station 16. Tool 18 may include any device used to perform a particular task such as, for example, a bucket, a fork arrangement, a blade, a grapple, or any other task-performing device known in the art. Although connected in the embodiment of FIG. 1 to pivot relative to machine 10, tool 18 may additionally rotate, slide, swing, lift, or move in any other manner known in the art. Tool 18 may include fore- and aft-located tool pins 34, 36 that facilitate connection to tool system 14. Tool pins 34, 36 may be joined at their ends by a pair of spaced-apart tool brackets 38, 39 that are welded to an external surface of tool 18.
A tool coupler 40 may be located to facilitate a quick connection between the linkage of tool system 14 and tool 18. Tool coupler 40 may include a first frame module 42 and a second frame module 44. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, first frame module 42 may have a pair of spaced-apart, parallel side plates 46, 48 that are interconnected by a bottom plate 47. Side plates 46, 48 and bottom plate 47 may be integrally formed (e.g. cast as one piece) or formed separately and permanently joined together to form first frame module 42. In an exemplary embodiment, side plates 46, 48 may each include a pair of bores 49, 50. Bores 49 may be respectively aligned with each other in opposing side plates 46, 48 to form pin openings for receiving a first stick pin 51 of stick 24. Bores 50 may be similarly aligned to form pin openings for receiving a second stick pin 52 of power link 31. First and second stick pins 51, 52 may pass through the respective bores 49, 50 and be retained in collars 53A, 53B attached to outer surfaces of side plates 46, 48. In this manner, extension and retraction of hydraulic cylinder 30 acting through power link 31 and second stick pin 52 may function to pivot tool coupler 40 about first stick pin 51.
As seen in FIGS. 3 and 5, first frame module 42 may include upper mounting flanges 68 adjacent each of side plates 46, 48. Upper mounting flanges 68 may be formed by bottom plate 47 extending outwardly beyond each side plate 46, 48. Upper mounting flanges 68 may include mounting holes 70 for receiving fasteners 90 (Shown in FIGS. 2, 3, and 5). Also, bottom plate 47 may further include mounting holes 71 at one end of first frame module 42, and an inclined surface 74 (angled relative to upper mounting flanges 68) may include additional mounting holes 72 at an opposite end of first frame module 42.
As an optional feature, first frame module 42 may include a lifting eye 76 secured at one end of bottom plate 47. Lifting eye 76 may include an attachment end 78 secured to bottom plate 47 and an oppositely disposed aperture end 80. A brace member 82 may be secured to attachment end 78 to provide additional strength to the structure. An article (e.g. cargo) may be secured to first frame module 42 via lifting eye 76, such that the article may be lifted by machine 10. The article may be secured to lifting eye 76 by attaching a lifting structure (e.g. hook or rope) to aperture 80 end. In this way, first frame module 42 may be utilized individually as a lifting tool.
Tool coupler 40 may be detachably connected to tool 18 via second frame module 44. As shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, second frame module 44 may have a pair of spaced-apart, parallel side plates 54, 56 interconnected by cross members 55A, 55B at one end and an end wall 57 at an opposite end. A base flange 58 may connect to one edge of side plates 54, 56 to form a mounting surface configured to mate against bottom plate 47 of first frame module 42. An opening 59 may be formed within base flange 58 to provide access to a cavity 60 located between side plates 54, 56. Side plates 54, 56, cross members 55A, 55B, end wall 57, and base flange 58 may be integrally formed (e.g. cast as one piece) or formed separately and permanently joined together to compose second frame module 44.
Second frame module 44 may include a connecting structure for attaching second frame module 44 to tool 18. In the exemplary disclosed embodiment, the connecting structure may include a pair of hooks 61, 62 formed at opposite ends of side plates 54, 56. Each hook 61, 62 may form a corresponding recess 63, 64 for receiving a respective one of tool pins 34, 36. A locking mechanism 96 (shown in FIG. 5) may be installed in second frame module 44 to secure tool pins 34, 36 in recesses 63, 64 via a pair of latches 65, 66. Latches 65, 66 may move between locked positions, where each respective tool pin 34, 36 is secured between a corresponding hook 61, 62 and latch 65, 66, and unlocked positions, where each pin 34, 36 is free to move out of its respective recess 63, 64. In this way, tool 18 may be releasably secured to second frame module 44 and thus, to machine 10 via tool coupler 40.
Cavity 60 of second frame module 44 may be configured to house locking mechanism 96. Locking mechanism 96 may be a device configured to lock second frame module 44 to tool 18. In the exemplary disclosed embodiment, locking mechanism 96 is a device configured to move latches 65, 66 between locked and unlocked positions. For example, locking mechanism 96 may include a hydraulic actuator 98. Locking mechanism 96 may be accessed via opening 59 defined by base flange 58.
As best seen in FIGS. 4 and 5, base flange 58 of second frame module 44 may be arranged to mate with upper mounting flanges 68 of first frame module 42. Base flange 58 may extend substantially perpendicular to and outwardly beyond side plates 54, 56 to form lower mounting flanges 84. Each lower mounting flange 84 may include one or more reinforcing members 86. Lower mounting flanges 84 may further include mounting holes 88 for receiving fasteners 90. Additional mounting holes 92 may be formed in base flange 58 at one end of second frame module 44. Further, a surface of cross member 55A may be inclined (in that it is angled relative to lower mounting flanges 84) and include mounting holes 94 configured to align with mounting holes 72 of inclined surface 74.
- INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY
First frame member 42 may be attached to second frame member 44 via connection of upper mounting flanges 68 to lower mounting flanges 84. In the exemplary disclosed embodiment, notches 102, 106 may be formed in base flange 58. Notches 102 may be formed on opposing sides at a leading end of second frame module 44. Notches 102 may be configured to receive a vertical flange portion 104 of each of side plates 46, 48. Notch 106 may be formed at a rear end of second frame module 44 and be configured to receive a portion 108 of lifting eye 76. Vertical flange portions 104 and portion 108 of lifting eye 76 may be seated in notches 102 and 106, respectively, to assist with the alignment of first frame module 42 with respect to second frame module 44. Thus, mounting holes 88 may be easily aligned with mounting holes 70 of upper mounting flanges 68 to allow fasteners 90 (e.g. threaded bolts) to be inserted therethrough. Additional fasteners 90 may be inserted through aligned mounting holes 71, 92 and 72, 94, respectively. In this way, first frame module 42 may be releasably attached to second frame module 44. When first frame module 42 is attached to second frame module 44, bottom plate 47 may substantially seal opening 59 from the environment to prevent debris from entering cavity 60 and damaging or hindering locking mechanism 96.
The presently disclosed tool coupler may be applicable to a variety of machines, such as excavators and backhoes, to increase the functionality of these machines. For example, a single excavator may be used for moving dirt, rock and other material, and during the excavation operations, different implements may be required such as a different size of bucket, an impact breaker, or a grapple. The disclosed modular tool coupler can be used to quickly change from one implement to another with ease, thus reducing the time the machine is unavailable for its intended purpose. In addition, since the tool coupler may be constructed with two separate modules, cost savings may be realized for both the manufacturer and customer.
In operation, tool coupler 40 may by assembled by attaching first frame module 42 to second frame module 44. First frame module 42 may be selected to correspond to a particular machine 10 to be used by an operator. For example, a first frame module 42 with a particular spacing of bores 49, 50 may be selected to match the pin spacing of a particular linkage on a machine 10. Similarly, second frame module 44 may be selected to correspond to a selected type, variety, or size range of tools 18 to be used by the operator. For example, a second frame module 44 with a particular spacing of hooks 61, 62 and recesses 63, 64 may be selected to correspond to the pin spacing on a particular grouping of tools 18 to be used in combination with machine 10. First and second frame modules 42, 44 may be securely attached to each other to form a complete tool coupler 40.
To employ the selected tool coupler 40, first frame module 42 may be attached to stick 24 of machine 10. To achieve this attachment, an end of stick 24 and an end of power link 31 may be maneuvered between side plates 46, 48 and in alignment with the pin openings formed by aligned bores 49 and 50. First and second stick pins 51, 52 may then be inserted through collars 53A, 53B and into bores 49, 50 to connect stick member 24 and power link 31, respectively, to first frame module 42. Locking pins (not shown) may then be inserted through collars 53A, 53B and corresponding slots within stick pins 51, 52, if desired, to lock stick pins 51, 52 in place. In this manner, first frame module 42 may be securely attached to an end of stick 24 throughout machine operation.
To attach a tool 18 to second frame module 44 of tool coupler 40, stick member 24 may be maneuvered to a position at which a bottom portion of tool coupler 40 is above tool 18. Second frame module 44 may be oriented so that recesses 63, 64 are located to receive tool pins 34, 36, respectively. Tool coupler 40 may then be lowered onto tool 18 and pivoted as necessary so that tool pins 34 and 36 are seated within recesses 63 and 64. Locking mechanism 96 may next be activated to move latches 65, 66 into locked positions to thereby secure the second frame module 44 to tool 18.
After a first task has been accomplished, an operator may want to connect a tool 18 from a different grouping to the same machine 10 to accomplish a second task. The operator may connect the new tool 18 by first disconnecting the first tool 18 from second frame module 44. In the exemplary disclosed embodiment, this may be accomplished by activating locking mechanism 96 to move latches 65, 66 to unlocked positions such that tool pins 34 and 36 may be moved out of corresponding recesses 63, 64 through appropriate movement of tool coupler 40 by machine 10.
The new tool 18 may include a different connector assembly than that of the previously attached tool 18. That is, the pins of new tool 18 may have a spacing that does not match that of the previously attached second frame module 44. Therefore, the operator may be required to change out tool coupler 40 to allow for connection of new tool 18 to machine 10. Utilizing the disclosed modular tool coupler 40 with releasably connected first and second modules 42, 44, the operator may choose to replace only second frame module 44 with a new second frame module 44 (i.e. a third frame module). To accommodate connection to new tool 18, the pair of hooks 61,62 of new second frame module 44 may be spaced or oriented differently than the pair of hooks 61,62 of second frame module 44 being replaced.
The operator may proceed to disconnect first frame module 42 from second frame module 44 (e.g. by removing fasteners 90) and thereafter attach first frame module 42 to a selected new second frame module 44 (e.g. by reinserting fasteners 90). The newly assembled tool coupler 40 may be reconnected to machine 10 (if it was previously disconnected) and thereafter connected to new tool 18. Machine 10 may then be free to accomplish tasks with the newly-connected tool 18.
It is further contemplated that modular tool coupler 40 may be utilized to attach the same tool 18 to multiple different machines 10, each with a different linkage arrangement. This may be accomplished in a similar manner to the process described above, with the first frame module 42 being swapped with a new first frame module 42 (i.e. a fourth frame module) and second frame module 44 remaining as part of tool coupler 40.
By requiring replacement of only one module of tool coupler 40 to accommodate a different machine 10 or a different grouping of tools 18 (rather than replacing an entire tool coupler), the machine owner's operating costs may be lower. In addition, modular tool coupler 40 may allow for greater versatility than a one-piece coupler. Further, the use of modular tool coupler 40 to connect machine 10 directly to tool 18 may be simpler and more efficient than other designs that may require hydraulic fluid to be passed through the coupler.
It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made to the tool coupler of the present disclosure without departing from the scope of the disclosure. Other embodiments will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the embodiments disclosed herein. It is intended that the specification and examples be considered as exemplary only, with a true scope of the disclosure being indicated by the following claims.