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Apparatus for applying filler material and method of using same

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Title: Apparatus for applying filler material and method of using same.
Abstract: A nozzle for applying filler material within a groove is provided that includes a plate member, an orifice through the plate member, a guide member for engaging the groove, and a pliable attachment. The orifice is in communication with a supply of the filler material. The guide member protrudes from the plate member and has a width less than the groove. The pliable attachment has a channel with an angled portion for directing the filler material into the groove. The nozzle may also be used independent from the attachment. Also provided is a method for applying filler material into the spaces between tiles. The method include steps directed to the preparation of the filler material, such as combining a cementitious material with a plasticizer in order to form an admixture that has a viscosity making it suitable for application through the nozzle. ...


USPTO Applicaton #: #20090294489 - Class: 2226112 (USPTO) - 12/03/09 - Class 222 
Dispensing > With Casing Or Support >Ambulant >With Guide Or Guide Line Marker >Mortar Applying Machine



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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20090294489, Apparatus for applying filler material and method of using same.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-in-Part of and claims priority to U.S. application Ser. No. 12/131,484 filed Jun. 2, 2008 to Gene Keohan entitled Apparatus for Applying Filler Material and Method of Using Same, currently pending, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Billions of square feet of tile are installed in the United States every year. It is very common to tile floors, walls, bathtubs, showers, counters, backsplashes and swimming pools in both residential and nonresidential settings. According to one estimate, approximately 2.7 billion square feet of tile were installed in the United States in 2006.

Normally, after tiles have been installed and have had a chance to set up, a filler material, such as a grout, is applied to the void spaces between the tiles. In doing so, a quantity of grout is first placed on or around the tiles. A grout float or trowel is then used to spread and disperse the grout into the void spaces between the tiles. When spreading and dispersing the grout, the grout float is typically moved back and forth in diagonal sweeping motions in order to work the grout into the void spaces between the tiles. In order to effectively force the grout into the void spaces, the grout float is held at an angle with respect to the tiles. Once the void spaces are completely filled with grout, the excess grout can be scraped from the tiles using the side of the grout float. This is often a time consuming and messy process and can take a large toll on the grout applicator's knees and back.

Accordingly, a need exists for a device that can be used to apply filler materials to the void spaces between tiles and the like in a quicker and cleaner fashion. A need further exists for a device that can be used to apply filler materials wherein the applicator does not have to hunch down on his or her hands and knees. Additionally, a need exists for a method in which filler materials can be applied in a quicker and cleaner fashion and that does not require the applicator to hunch down on his or her hands and knees, thereby preventing pain or injury.

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention is directed to an apparatus for applying filler material within a groove that includes a plate member, an orifice through the plate member, a guide member for engaging the groove, and a pliable attachment. The orifice is in communication with a supply of the filler material. The guide member protrudes from the plate member and has a width less than the groove. The pliable attachment has a channel with an angled portion for directing the filler material into the groove.

Another embodiment of the present invention is directed to an apparatus for distributing flowable materials within the space between two tiles that includes a tubular portion, a plate, an orifice through the plate, a guide member, and a supple attachment. The tubular portion is in communication with a supply of the filler material. The plate has a width greater than the space between the tiles and is adapted for contacting a surface on either side of the space. The orifice is in communication with the tubular portion and the guide member is configured to fit within the space between the tiles. The supple attachment has a cavity in communication with the orifice. The cavity includes a channel with an angled portion for directing the filler material into the space.

A further embodiment of the present invention is directed to a nozzle for applying grout between tiles that includes a tube, a plate member, an orifice through the plate member, and a guide member. The tube is configured to be removably mounted to and in communication with a device for feeding the grout. The plate member has a width greater than the distance between the tiles. The orifice is in communication with the tube for distributing the grout in between the tiles. The guide member protrudes from the plate member and is configured for engaging a space between the tiles.

The present invention is also directed to a method for applying filler material between tiles comprising the steps of providing a nozzle in communication with a supply of filler material, placing the nozzle on the tiles, causing the filler material to be supplied to the nozzle and distributed from the nozzle to a space between the tiles, and moving the nozzle in a direction in order to continue the distribution of the filler material between the tiles. The nozzle includes a plate member with an orifice for distributing the filler material between the tiles and a guide member protruding from the plate member. The method for applying the filler material may also include steps directed to the preparation of the filler material, such as combining a cementitious material with a plasticizer in order to form an admixture that has a viscosity making it suitable for application through the nozzle.

Certain embodiments of the invention are outlined above in order that the detailed description thereof may be better understood, and in order that the present contributions to the art may be better appreciated. In this respect, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of embodiments in addition to those described and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein, as well as the abstract, are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception upon which this disclosure is based may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Though some features of the invention may be claimed in dependency, each feature has merit when used independently.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

Further features of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which the present invention relates from reading the following description with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having a tapered cavity and parallel-walled channel in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an assembled bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having a tapered cavity and parallel-walled channel in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an exploded bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having a parallel-walled chamber and tapered channel in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is an assembled bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having a parallel-walled chamber and tapered channel in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is an exploded bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having multiple channels;

FIG. 6 is an assembled bottom perspective view of a nozzle with an attachment having multiple channels;

FIG. 7 is an exploded side perspective view of a machine for applying filler materials into spaces between tiles; and

FIG. 8 is an assembled side perspective view of a machine for applying filler materials into spaces between tiles.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

OF THE INVENTION

The invention will now be described with reference to the drawing figures, in which like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout. For purposes of clarity in illustrating the characteristics of the present invention, proportional relationships of the elements have not necessarily been maintained in the drawing figures.

One embodiment of the present invention is directed to a nozzle 10 for applying filler material (not shown) into at least one void space or groove (not shown) between tiles (not shown) or the like. As will be discussed in further detail hereinbelow, the nozzle 10 is configured to be in substantially fluid communication with a supply of filler material for distributing the filler material into the void spaces or grooves between tiles. In use, the nozzle 10 is configured to be pushed or pulled in a direction represented by arrow A.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the nozzle 10 includes a substantially solid back plate 12 and an attachment 14. The back plate 12 can be constructed from a plastic such as polyethylene, polypropylene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), urethane, and combinations thereof. The back plate 12 can also be constructed from a cast, forged, or shaped metal, such as aluminum, steel, an alloy, and combinations thereof. In this embodiment, the back plate 12 includes a plate member 16, a tubular member 18, and a guide member 20. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-2 and in most tiling applications wherein the tiles are being installed on a generally flat floor or wall, the plate member 16 is generally flat or planar, but it will be appreciated by one skilled in the art that the plate member 16 can have any suitable shape or form suitable for use in the particular application for which the nozzle 10 is to be used. In certain embodiments, the plate member 16 has a width greater than the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles.

The plate member 16 includes a leading or front edge 24 and a trailing or back edge 26 and further includes a first surface 17, an opposing second surface 19, and an orifice 22 defined therethrough. In certain embodiments, orifice 22 is generally rectangular in shape as shown in FIGS. 1-4 or, in other embodiments such as those shown in FIGS. 5-6, orifice 22 is generally circular. However, it will be appreciated that orifice 22 may have virtually any suitable shape including, but not limited to, square, triangular, oval, and the like. In certain embodiments, the orifice 22 is disposed directly adjacent the guide member 20 has a width, wo that can be less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the space or groove between the tiles. While FIG. 1 shows the orifice 22 as having a generally rectangular shape, it will be appreciated by one skilled in the art that the orifice 22 can take on other shapes or forms, so long as filler material is allowed to pass through the orifice 22.

The tubular member 18 includes a generally sidewall 25 having a substantially hollow interior, a first end 21 and a second end 23. The sidewall 25 can have any suitable cross-sectional shape (eg. circle, oval, square, rectangle, etc.). Sidewall 25 may include an aperture 28 configured to receive a fastener therethrough such as a set screw, pin, bolt, hair pin clip, or spring-loaded push button, and the like for coupling nozzle 10 to a supply of filler material as discussed in detail hereinbelow. As shown in FIG. 1, the tubular member second end 23 is operably coupled to and extends outwardly from the plate member first surface 17 such that the hollow interior of sidewall 25 is in fluid communication with orifice 22. The tubular member 18 can also be adjustably connected to the plate member 16 using, for example, an elbow joint (not shown) or the like disposed between the plate member first surface 17 and the tubular member second end 23 thereby allowing for greater flexibility in adjusting an angle α at which the tubular member 18 extends outwardly from the plate member 16. Alternatively, the tubular member 18 can be pivotably connected to the first surface 17 of plate member 16 using a pivot joint (not shown) or the like disposed between first surface 17 and second end 23. In this embodiment, the pivot joint includes an axis approximately perpendicular to the plate member 16 or an axis approximately longitudinal to the tubular member 18.

The angle α at which the tubular member 18 extends outwardly from the plate member 16 can vary from embodiment to embodiment. For example, in certain embodiments, α is between about 90 degrees and 135 degrees, and more preferably between about 115 degrees and 125 degrees. In other embodiments, α is preferably between about 45 degrees and 90 degrees.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, the guide member 20 protrudes outwardly from the second surface 19 of the plate member 16 proximate the plate member's leading edge 24. The guide member 20 is configured to engage the space or groove between the tiles. The guide member 20 has a width wg that is less than the width of the space or groove between the tiles. The width of the space or groove between the tiles can vary from application to application, depending upon the type and size of tile used and further depending upon the preferences of the person for whom the tile is being installed. Usually, the width of the spaces or grooves is between 0.0625 inches and 1 inch, and most often between 0.125 inches and 0.5 inches. Because the nozzle 10 can also be used for applying concrete or grout between bricks or stones, which are normally separated by larger spaces, the width wg of the guide may be as great as 1.5 inches or more.

The guide member 20 also has a length, lg. That length, lg, is great enough so that the guide member 20 extends past surface 44 of the attachment 14, but not so great that it comes into contact with the flooring or wall on which the tiles are installed. Thus, for most tiling applications, lg is not normally greater than the combination of the thicknesses of the attachment 14 and the tiles. The guide member 20 may include beveled edges 34 to aid in the movement of the nozzle 10.

As shown in FIG. 1, the attachment 14 includes a chamber or cavity 50, a slot 62, and at least one channel 56. The attachment 14 can be constructed of a pliable or flexible material. For example, the attachment 14 may be constructed from a plastic foam-like material such as polypropylene or polyethylene. The attachment 14 may also be constructed from a rubber foam-like material such as Neoprene or vulcanized rubber. The attachment 14 may also be made of combinations of these materials or any other material suitable for use in the present invention.

A first surface 42 of attachment 14 is configured to be removably coupled or, alternatively, affixed to the front surface 19 of the plate member 16. As shown in FIGS. 1-2, when coupled or affixed, the attachment first surface 42 is matingly engaged with the plate member second surface 19 such that the cavity 50 is in communication with the orifice 22. The attachment 14 and plate member 16 can be coupled or affixed by use of an adhesive, interlocking members, fasteners or any other fastening methods now known or hereafter developed. As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the cavity 50 has a tapered configuration such that it decreases in width from front to back. As the width of the cavity 50 decreases, from front to back, the cross-sectional area of the cavity 50 also decreases from front to back toward channel 56. This decrease in cross-sectional area, coupled with the constant flow of filler material, causes the filler material to increase in velocity as it travels from front to back in the cavity 50. The increase in velocity of the filler material aids in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves between the tiles.

The attachment 14 also includes at least one channel 56 having a pair of substantially parallel sidewalls 52 so that channel 56 has a substantially uniform width, wc, from front to back. Like the orifice 22, the channel's 56 width, wc, can be less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles. Thus, the channel's width wc may be between about 0.0625 inches and 1 inch, or alternatively between about 0.125 inches and 0.5 inches for tile applications. Again, because the nozzle 10 can also be used in applying concrete or grout between bricks or stones, the channel's width wc may be as great as 1.5 inches or more.

The channel 56 can also include a wall 58 that further directs the filler material into the spaces or grooves. The wall 58 is sloped from front to back. In addition to directing the filler material into the space or groove, the sloped wall 56 translates to the channel 56 having a decreasing cross-sectional area from front to back. Like the cavity 50, this decrease in cross-sectional area causes the filler material to increase in velocity as it travels from front to back in the channel 50 and, therefore, aids in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves.

The attachment 14 further includes a contacting surface 44. In use, this surface 44 comes into substantially sealing contact with the tiles. This substantially sealing contact prevents the filler material from escaping via the front, back, or sides of the attachment 14. While coming into substantially sealing contact with the tiles, the contacting surface 44 also allows the nozzle 10 to slide on the tiles when it is pushed or pulled. The contacting surface 44 also wipes excess filler material from the tiles, thereby significantly reducing the amount of clean up time and effort required. In one embodiment, the attachment 14 extends around the guide member 20. In such an embodiment, the attachment 14 includes a slot 62 for receiving the guide member 20. The attachment 14 can also have a beveled portion 64 proximate its leading edge 46 to aid the movement of the nozzle over uneven surfaces.

In one embodiment, the nozzle 10 does not include an attachment 14. Rather, it only includes the solid back plate 12. In such a case, the solid back plate 12 can further include a channel, like the channel 56 described above. The solid back plate 12 may also include a cavity, like the cavity 50 described above. Like the channel 56 and cavity 50 described above, the channel and cavity that can be included in the solid back plate 12 would aid in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves.

FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate another embodiment of the nozzle 10. As shown, the cavity 50 has sidewalls 54 that are substantially parallel with one another, giving it a substantially uniform width and cross-sectional area from front to back. As with the other embodiments, the cavity 50 can have a width that is less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the space or groove between the tiles.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the channel sidewalls 52 are converging, giving the channel 56 a tapered configuration. The channel 56 decreases in width, wc, from front to back. Again, this decrease in width, wc, translates into a decrease in cross-sectional area causing the filler material to increase in velocity as it travels from front to back and aids in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves between the tiles. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the channel 56 also includes a wall 58 that further directs the filler material into the groove or space. Again, this wall 58 is sloped from front to back, thus causing a decrease in cross-sectional area of the channel 56 from front to back and an increase in the velocity of the filler material.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the guide member 20 protrudes from the plate member 16 from a location behind the leading or front edge 24. While the guide member 20 is shown protruding directly adjacent the orifice 22, it need not protrude directly adjacent the orifice 22, and can protrude in any area in front of the orifice 22. This embodiment also demonstrates a longer, narrower orifice 22. Again, like other embodiments, the orifice 22 can have a width, wo, that is less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles. Furthermore, this embodiment includes apertures 28 in the tubular member 18 for receiving a fastening device, such as a circlip 38, retaining ring, retaining pin, or snap ring, among others.

One variation of the nozzle 10 shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 does not include an attachment 14. Rather, it just includes the solid back plate 12. In such a ease, the solid back plate 12 can further include a channel, like the channel 56 described above. The channel 56 can be attached to and in direct communication with the orifice 22. Like the channel 56 described above, the channel that can be included in the solid back plate 12 would aid in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves.

FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrate yet another embodiment of the nozzle 10. As shown, the attachment 14 in this embodiment includes multiple channels 56. These multiple channels 56 can be configured to simultaneously distribute filler material into multiple spaces or groves that are substantially parallel to one another. Thus, rather than distributing filler material into only one space or groove at a time, this embodiment can distribute it into multiple spaces or grooves. While this embodiment can be used for tiles of any width, it is most often used for tiles having narrower widths. As illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6, the channels 56 can also include walls 58 that further direct the filler material into the spaces or grooves. The walls 58 are sloped from front to back and aid in forcing the filler material into the spaces or grooves, as discussed with the other embodiments above.

Like the other embodiments, the width of the channels, wc, can be less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles. The distance, dc, between the centers of the channels is determined by the width of the tiles. The distance, dc, between the centers of the channels is normally equal to the width of the tiles plus the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles. For example, if the tiles were 1.0 inch wide with 0.25 inch spacings between them, then the distance, dc, would be 1.25 inches. The distance, dc, is usually between 0.625 inches and five inches

While the embodiment in FIGS. 5 and 6 shows the attachment 14 having five channels 56, the attachment 14 may include more than five or less than five channels.

As shown, the cavity 50 includes a wall 51 having an orifice 53. In order to help the filler material be more evenly distributed to all of the channels 56, the orifice 53 has a tongue portion 55. Even though a tongue portion 55 is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, it will be appreciated by one skilled in the art that other configurations and shapes can be used to help the filler material be more evenly distributed to all of the channels 56. The attachment 14 can also have a rounded portion 66 proximate its leading edge 46 to aid the movement of the nozzle over uneven surfaces.

As set forth above, the orifice 22 in the plate member 16 can be of a variety of shapes, so long as filler material is allowed to pass through the orifice 22. As shown in FIG. 5, the orifice 22 is a substantially circular shape. The diameter of the circular-shaped orifice 22 can be less than, equal to, or greater than the width of the spaces or grooves between the tiles.

As further shown in FIG. 5, β represents the angle at which the tubular member 18 is connected to the plate member 16. Again, the nozzle 10 can be configured to be pushed by the user along the tiles or pulled by the user along the tiles. In cases where the nozzle 10 is pushed, β will normally be between about 90 degrees and 135 degrees, and most preferably be between about 95 degrees and 105 degrees. In cases where the nozzle 10 is pulled, β will normally be between about 45 degrees and 90 degrees. As illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6, the guide member 20 can have a rounded edge 36 to aid in the movement of the nozzle. Again, the nozzle 10 can also be configured such that the angle at which the tubular 18 member is connected to the plate member 16 can be adjusted through, for example, an elbow joint. Additionally, the tubular member 18 can have the ability to pivot or swivel with respect to the plate member 16 on an axis approximately perpendicular to the plate member 16 or an axis approximately longitudinal with the tubular member 18. The tubular member 18 can have apertures 30 configured for receiving a fastening device, such as a circlip 38

One variation of the nozzle 10 shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 does not include an attachment 14. Rather, it just includes the solid back plate 12. In such a case, the solid back plate 12 can further include channels, like channels 56 described above. The solid back plate 12 may also include a cavity 50. To help the filler material be more evenly distributed to all of the channels 56, the orifice 22 in the solid back plate 12 may have a tongue portion similar to the tongue portion 55 described above.

As mentioned above, in use, the nozzle 10 normally receives filler material from a feeding device. That feeding device can be a handheld machine 68, like the one shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, or can be a larger, stand-alone machine (not shown) to which the tubular member 18 of the nozzle 10 is connected via a hose (not shown). In use, the tubular member 18 normally receives filler material from a feeding back plate and passes the filler material on though the orifice 18. As will be discussed in further detail below, the feeding device can be a handheld machine 68, like the one shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, or can be a larger, stand-alone machine (not shown) to which the tubular member 18 is connected to via a hose (not shown).

Alternatively, the nozzle 10 may receive filler material from any other type of feeding device now known or hereafter developed. In one embodiment, the nozzle 10 is in communication with and receives filler material from a device (not shown) that is capable of pushing or pressurizing the filler material, in a fashion similar to the operation of a caulking gun. In that embodiment, the device (not shown) includes a tubular chamber or housing having a sidewall and a plunger or piston that is axially movable within the sidewall. The plunger may be advanced within the sidewall in order to push and/or pressurize the filler material such that it is fed through the nozzle 10.

The handheld machine 68 illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8 is configured to distribute filler material to the nozzle 10. The machine 68 and nozzle 10 can be configured such that they can apply filler material between tiles installed on a substantially horizontal surface (e.g. floor), a substantially vertical surface (e.g. wall), or an overhead surface (e.g. ceiling).

Once it is prepared, the filler material is placed into the hopper 98. The hopper 98 can have an outlet 100 that is rotatably attached to the inlet neck 92 of the chamber 90. The position in which the hopper 98 is attached to the chamber 90 depends upon angle at which the machine 68 is being used. For example, if the machine 68 is being used to apply filler material between tiles installed on a horizontal floor, the hopper 98 would be attached to the chamber 90 in a position similar to the one seen in FIGS. 7 and 8. If the machine 68 is being used to apply filler material between tiles on a vertical wall or an overhead ceiling, the hopper 98 would likely be attached in a position that is approximately 180 degrees offset from the one seen in FIGS. 7 and 8. For other applications, it may be desirable that the hopper 98 be attached at another angle. For example, if the machine 68 is being used to apply filler material between tiles that are set on a vertical wall at a 45 degree diagonal, the user may wish to attach the hopper 98 in a position that is approximately 135 degrees offset from the one seen in FIGS. 7 and 8.

In one embodiment, the filler material is fed into the chamber 90 by gravity. In such an embodiment, the auger 84 can also help pull the filler material into the chamber 90. However, in other embodiments, the filler material is fed into the chamber 90 with the assistance of a rotating paddle, an additional auger, a vibrating rod, or a plunger located within the hopper 98. Though the hopper 98 shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 is bell-shaped, this need not be the case. The hopper 98 can take almost any shape, so long as it allows filler material to be fed into the chamber 90. Furthermore, the hopper can be replaced with a hose (not shown) that is in communication with a supply of filler material.

Once in the chamber 90, the filler material is fed to the nozzle 10 by an auger 84. The auger 84 includes spiral or helical flighting 88 wrapped around a shaft 86. As shown in FIG. 7, the auger 84 is tapered such that the diameter of flighting 88 becomes decreasingly smaller as it progresses towards the nozzle 10.

Depending upon factors, such as the type, viscosity, and desired flow rate of the filler material used, different types of augers 84 can be substituted in and out of the machine 68. For example, an auger 84 can be used that has relief cuts or holes formed into the flighting 88. An auger 84 can also be used that has more or less flights 89 per unit length. Furthermore, an auger 84 having an increased or reduced flighting 88 pitch can be used. Additionally, in substitute of a tapered auger 88, as shown in FIG. 7, the machine 68 can be configured to use a stepped auger. Such a configuration can take place by changing out the chamber 90. Rather than having a gradual decrease in the diameter of the flighting 88 like the tapered auger 84 shown in FIG. 7, the stepped auger has flighting with a substantially uniform diameter at one end and flighting with a substantially uniform smaller diameter at the other end. An auger 84 combining the features of a tapered auger 84 and a stepped auger can also be used.

Again, the filler material is transferred from the hopper 98, through the chamber 90, and then to the nozzle 10. The nozzle 10 can be rotatably and detachably coupled to an output neck 94 of the chamber 90. As discussed above, the nozzle 10 may be attached using a fastener such as a set screw, a circlip 38, a retaining ring, a retaining pin, or a snap ring. These fasteners can engage an indented groove 96 formed around the output neck 94. This engagement can keep the nozzle 10 coupled to the chamber 90, while still giving it the ability to pivot or rotate.

The auger 84 is driven by a motor 80. The motor 80 can be coupled to the auger 84 via a gear reduction unit 82. As demonstrated in FIG. 8, the motor 80 and the gear reduction unit 82 are contained inside of a housing 78. The motor 80 may be of a type that produces a generally high-speed, low-torque output. The motor 80 may be capable of being powered by a DC power source, such as a battery, or by an AC power source, such as a 110V wall outlet. Additionally, the motor 80 may be capable of producing variable speeds.

The gear reduction unit 82 converts the high-speed, low-torque output from the motor into a lower-speed, higher-torque output that drives the auger 84. The gear reduction unit 82 may use a variety of types of gears, including planetary gears, spur gears, helical gears, and worm gears. The gear reduction unit 82 can also include at least two gearing ratios, such as a high and a low In such a case, one gearing ratio creates an output that is of a lower speed and higher torque than the other ratio. A user may select between the gearing ratios by flipping a switch.

The variable speed motor 80, the multiple gearing ratios, and the interchangeability of auger 84 allow a user to precisely adjust the output flow of the filler material from the machine 68. For example, the user may wish to increase the output flow of the filler material in cases where the spaces or grooves between tiles are larger or deeper or in cases where the user desires to move the nozzle 10 at a faster speed. Conversely, the user may wish to decrease the output flow of the filler material in cases where the spaces or grooves between tiles are smaller or shallower or in cases where the user desires to move the nozzle 10 at a slower speed. Such adjustments may be made by adjusting the speed of the motor 80, the gearing ratio, and/or changing the auger 84. A guide recommending certain motor 80 speed, gearing ratio, and auger 84 combinations may be provided with the machine 68. Such a guide sets forth the combinations that are best for applying certain filler materials to certain sized spaces or grooves at certain speeds.

Again, the motor 80 can be powered by a DC power source, such as a battery, or by an AC power source, such as a 110V wall out outlet. When the motor 80 is powered by a battery, that battery may be one of many types, including a lithium ion battery. Though not shown in the drawings, the battery can be attached to the machine 68 at the handle portion 70. More specifically, the battery may be at least partially received by the grip section 72 of the handle portion 70. The trigger 74, when pulled, connects the power supply with the motor 80. Thus, when the user desires filler material to be fed from the nozzle 10, he or she will pull the trigger 74 in order to power the motor 80 and therefore turn the auger 84.

As illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, the machine 68 includes a removable extension portion 76. The extension portion 76 is used to connect the handle portion 70 to the motor and gear reduction housing 78. In some applications, the extension portion 76 may be desirable. When a user is applying filler material to a floor, the user may wish to use the extension portion 76. This allows the user to stand while applying the filler material to the floor. In such a case the user would walk behind the machine 68, pushing it in a forward direction. If the nozzle 10 was configured to be pull rather than pushed, as discussed above, the user would walk in front of the machine 68, pulling it a forward direction.

In other instances, such as when the user is applying filler material to a wall or counter top, the user may wish to use the machine 68 without the extension portion 76. In such a case, the handle portion 70 is directly connected to the motor and gear reduction housing 78. Again, depending on the nozzle 10 configuration, the machine 68 may either be pushed or pulled.

When the extension 76 is either removed or added, the electrical wires connecting the switch 74 to the motor 80 are disconnected, and then reconnected once the extension 76 is removed or added. Alternatively, the extension 76 may include a slot running the length of the extension 76 or have the ability to be separated into two lengthwise pieces, thus eliminating the need to disconnect and reconnect the wires.

As mentioned above, the nozzle 10 may also receive filler material from a larger, stand-alone machine (not shown) to which the tubular member 18 of the nozzle 10 is connected via a hose (not shown). In such a case, the larger, stand-alone machine would feed filler material to the nozzle 10 by using an auger system similar to the one utilized by the machine 68 or by pressurizing the filler material with a pump or a piston. This embodiment could include a valve proximate the nozzle 10 that the user would open or close depending on whether he or she wanted filler material to be distributed from the nozzle 10. This valve could be controlled by the user through the push of a button, the turn of a knob, or the squeeze of a trigger, for example.

Attention will now be drawn to the filler material. Often, the filler material is a cementitious material, such as grout. Other examples of filler material include mortar, sealant, caulking, concrete, and combinations thereof. Because the filler material is directed through the machine 68 and nozzle 10, it is often desirable to decrease the viscosity of the filler material. While water can be used to decrease the viscosity of the filler material, water also reduces the strength of the filler material.

Instead of water, a plasticizer or water reducer can be used. Plasticizers decrease the viscosity without weakening the strength of the filler material. Some plasticizers cause the filler material particles to have a negative charge, thereby leading the particles to repel one another. Other plasticizers decrease the viscosity through steric stabilization. Examples of plasticizers that can be used in the filler material include polycarboxylate, citric acid, formaldehyde, lignosulfonate, zinc salts, borates, phosphates, chlorides, amines and their derivatives, polymeric compounds such as cellulose, ethers, melamines and their derivatives, and naphthalene, among others. In general, any augmentation or chemical additive, organic or inorganic that will reduce the amount of water required to achieve a certain viscosity appropriate for the flow through the machine can be used. Depending on the type of filler material and plasticizer used, the filler material/plasticizer mixture may contain between about 0.001 percent and 0.5 percent plasticizer by mass. In other words, for every 10,000 grams of filler material, approximately 0.1 to 50 grams of plasticizer may be added. Again, upon the addition of the plasticizer, the viscosity of the filler material is decreased. Depending upon the type and composition of the filler material and the amount of plasticizer added, the viscosity of the filler material can be between about 500 and 500,000 cP. In any regard, the viscosity of the filler material should be in a range such that the filler material can pass through the nozzle 10 while still having the ability to set up appropriately in the spaces between the tiles.

The plasticizer may be added to grout, which in some instances may be composed of approximately 25 percent cement and 75 percent sand. In the case where the plasticizer is polycarboxylate, the amount of polycarboxylate added to the grout may between about 0.01 and 0.1 percent of the overall mass of the grout, or alternatively, between about 0.03 and 0.05 percent. In one embodiment, the amount of polycarboxylate added to the mixture is about 0.04 percent of the overall mass of the grout. In such a case, for every 10,000 grams of grout, four grams polycarboxylate are added to the mixture.

Attention will now be drawn to a method for applying the filler material between tiles and the like. In use, a nozzle 10 is provided as described above. The nozzle 10 should be in substantially fluid communication with a supply of filler material. The nozzle 10 is placed on the tiles such that the plate member second surface 19 is in contact with the tiles. The guide member 20 should be located in the space between the tiles. The user then causes filler material to be supplied to the nozzle 10. The filler material is distributed from the nozzle orifice 22 to the spaces between the tiles. The user then causes the nozzle 10 to be moved in a direction in order to continue distribution of the filler material between the tiles. Once the nozzle 10 reaches the end of the tiles, the nozzle 10 is lifted from the tiles\' surface. As the nozzle 10 is lifted, the filler material within cavity 50 empties, leaving an ample amount of filler material that can be pushed into the space between the tiles which was not filled due to the placement of the guide member 20.

Additionally, the method for applying the filler material between tiles can include steps directed to the preparation of the filler material. In those steps, a cementitious material and a plasticizer are provided. The plasticizer is combined with the cementitious material to form an admixture or filler material. Again, the plasticizer, which may be which may be polycarboxylate, is added in order to reduce the viscosity of the admixture without having significant affects on the admixture\'s physical properties, such as its overall strength. As set forth above, when the plasticizer is polycarboxylate, it is often combined with the grout at a ratio of between about three to five grams of polycarboxylate per 10,000 grams of grout, dependent of course on the properties of the grout. Once the plasticizer is combined and mixed with the cementitious material, the resulting admixture can be fed through the nozzle 10 into the spaces between the tiles.

From the foregoing, it may be seen that the nozzle of the present invention is particularly well suited for the proposed usages thereof. Furthermore, since certain changes may be made in the above invention without departing from the scope hereof, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawing be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. It is also to be understood that the following claims are to cover certain generic and specific features described herein.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20090294489 A1
Publish Date
12/03/2009
Document #
12476744
File Date
06/02/2009
USPTO Class
2226112
Other USPTO Classes
401137, 401171, 222324
International Class
/
Drawings
9


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