FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE
This disclosure pertains generally to injector-type cigarette-making machines, and, more particularly, to improved injector-type cigarette-making machines and methods of using the same.
Injector-type cigarette-making machines are well known. U.S. Pat. No. 2,731,971, to Kastner for “Cigarette Making Machine,” issued Jan. 24, 1956, describes a cigarette-making machine for domestic use that compresses a portion of loose tobacco equivalent to one cigarette and then injects the compressed tobacco into a pre-formed cigarette tube by means of a plunger. The pre-formed empty cigarette tube is held at one end of a hollow nipple of the cigarette-making machine during the injection of the portion of tobacco. Once the compressed tobacco is fully injected into the pre-formed cigarette tube, it is released from the cigarette-making machine to be smoked or stored for later smoking thereof.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,127,900 to Kastner for “Cigarette Machine,” issued Apr. 7, 1964, U.S. Pat. No. 4,411,278 to Kastner for “Cigarette Making Machine,” issued Oct. 25, 1983, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,557,560 to Kastner for “Cigarette Making Machine,” issued May 6, 2003 provide various improvements to the cigarette-making machine described in U.S. Pat. No. 2,731,971. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 3,127,900 describes modifications to the above-described cigarette-making machine to adapt it for making cigarettes with pre-formed cigarette tubes having a filter. U.S. Pat. No. 4,411,278 describes a cigarette-making machine of the same general type as discussed above, but providing a new manufacturing method for substantially reducing the cost of production of the prior devices. All of the foregoing patents are expired. While the aforementioned patents provide various useful improvements for injector-type machines, which have achieved substantial commercial success, such machines still have problems that have remained unsolved until now.
Cigarette-making machines that provide improved safety and improved user ergonomics are disclosed. A disclosed example cigarette-making machine of the tobacco-injecting type includes a faceted handgrip to improve safety and ergonomics. The faceted handgrip projects upward from a top surface of the machine and partially encloses a pivot axis of an actuator of the machine. The faceted handgrip is configured to enable the user to apply a counter-rotational force to prevent the machine from sliding or rotating on a surface as the actuator is operated. In a disclosed embodiment, the faceted handgrip includes a knob having a plurality of facets, and a semi-circular riser integrally formed between the knob and the top surface. An axis of the knob may substantially coincide with the pivot axis of the actuator. The semi-circular riser circularly extends around or partially encloses an end of a shaft and a nut that couples an end of the actuator to the shaft. In another aspect, methods of using an improved cigarette-making machine are disclosed.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 shows a prior-art injector-type cigarette-making machine.
FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of an improved injector-type cigarette-making machine according to a disclosed embodiment.
FIG. 3 shows an example method of using the embodiment of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 shows a top plan view of the embodiment of FIG. 2.
FIGS. 5-8 shows a front elevation view, a side elevation view, a back elevation view and an opposite side elevation view, respectively, of the embodiment of FIG. 2.
FIG. 9 shows a bottom view of the embodiment of FIG. 2, partially illustrating internal components.
FIG. 10 is a cross-section view of the embodiment of FIG. 2 taken along line 300-300 of FIG. 5.
Use of existing cigarette-making machines occasionally results in injury to a user of the machine, particularly users that fail to familiarize themselves with operation of the machine, fail to fully read the operating instructions, fail to fully read safety instructions, or to fail to heed warnings provided therein. Referring now to FIG. 1, which illustrates use of a machine as illustrated in FIG. 8 of U.S. Pat. No. 3,127,900, the cigarette-making machine 10 presents two potential hazards during use to such users. After filling a compacting chamber 12, in which a compacting member 14 moves, with a quantity of tobacco, a user grasps the ejector handle 16, which is oriented at the starting position, with a first hand. The user may then place his or her other hand on the machine 10 to exert a downward force thereon for preventing the machine 10 from sliding on a surface during clockwise rotation of the ejector handle 16. As shown, some users incorrectly positions his or her hand on a corner of the machine 10 proximate the compacting chamber 12 and a hollow nipple 18, through which an injector spoon (not shown) projects. In the illustrated hand position, the user may be subject to a pinching injury from the compacting member 14 and/or a laceration-type injury from the injector spoon. To this end, cigarette-making machines of the injector type are sold or otherwise provided with warnings such as stickers or decals placed on the machine, and operating instructions for educating and alerting inexperienced users as to proper machine operation.
While warnings have been generally effective in substantially reducing user injuries, the warnings have caused many users to operate the machines improperly, resulting in broken or otherwise malfunctioning machines. In particular, some users noticing the warnings may tend to overcautiously operate the machine. For example, users may operate the machine solely with a hand on the ejector handle 16. These overcautious users may rotate the handle 16 clockwise while exerting a downward force on the handle 16 to prevent the machine 10 from sliding on a surface during clockwise rotation of the ejector handle 16. While exerting the downward force on the handle 16 does prevent the machine 10 from sliding, the downward force undesirably causes additional wear and tear on the machine components (e.g., rotating shaft, shaft bushing, linkage assembly, etc.) that couple the handle 16 with the compacting member 14. Many manufacturers of cigarette-making machines offer a warranty for repairing/replacing damaged machines at no cost to the user, which results in lost revenue. To this end, it is desirable to provide a machine that improves ergonomics, improves user safety and reduces improper machine operation. Example injector-type cigarette-making machines that overcome at least these deficiencies are disclosed herein.
FIGS. 2-8 illustrate a disclosed embodiment of an improved cigarette-making machine 100 of the injector-type where a supply of tobacco for a single cigarette is compacted within a compacting chamber and is then injected into a preformed paper cigarette tube by means of an injector. The example machine 100 includes a generally rectangular-shaped housing that includes an upper portion 110 and a lower portion 130. The upper and lower portions 110, 130 may be made of any suitable material such as metal, plastic, etc. The upper portion 110 includes a generally planar top surface 112 and front, rear, right and left sides 114, 116, 118, 120, respectively, depending downward and generally perpendicular to the top surface 112. The lower portion 130, as shown, also includes front, rear, right and left sides 132, 134, 136, 138 depending downward and obliquely outward from the front, rear, right and left sides 114, 116, 118, 120, respectively. As such, the top surface 112 and sides 114-120 of the upper portion 110 and sides 132-138 of the lower portion 130 define an internal cavity for housing moving component parts (e.g., linkage assembly, cam, operating arm, injector, etc.) of the machine 100. Component parts of the machine 100 are well known (see, for example, the patents discussed hereinabove) and, therefore, are not discussed here in detail for brevity. As shown, the lower portion 130 may include a base 102 that may be removably attached to a bottom of the lower portion 130 for the purpose of providing access to the moving component parts to facilitate cleaning, maintenance, repair, etc. The base 102 may be made of any suitable material, but it is preferred that the base 102 be a non-skid material such as rubber or the like to reduce movement (e.g., sliding) of the machine 100 on a surface during use.
As further shown in FIGS. 2-4, the top surface 112 includes an aperture 142 defining an opening to a compacting chamber (not shown) in which a compacting member 144 translates to compress a quantity of tobacco that is disposed in the chamber 140. The machine 100 includes on the left side 120 of the upper portion 110 proximate the front side 114 a hollow nipple 146 in communication with the compacting chamber 140. Furthermore, a clamp member 148 is configured proximate the nipple 146. As is known, a compressed, generally cylindrical tobacco portion is moved from the compacting chamber 140 by an injector (FIG. 9, 230) through the hollow nipple 146 and into a paper cigarette tube disposed on the nipple 146. The clamp member 148 cooperates with the nipple 146 to retain the prefabricated paper cigarette tube on the nipple 146 during tobacco insertion. The machine 100, as shown, also includes on the top surface 112 an actuator 150 and a faceted handgrip 160. The actuator 150 can be rotated through an angle of approximately 180 degrees in a plane above the top surface 112 to drive the internal component parts that, among other things, couple the actuator 150 with the compacting member 144.
As shown in FIGS. 2 and 4, the actuator 150 may be moved in an arcuate path (i.e., moved or rotated about a pivot axis) from a starting orientation (i.e., projecting generally rearward and rightward), which is indicated in FIG. 2 by a dashed-line representation labeled “S”, to a compacting orientation (i.e., projecting generally rightward and slightly forward), which is indicated by a solid-line representation labeled “C”, and then to an ejecting orientation (i.e., projecting generally forward and slightly leftward), which is indicated by a dashed-line representation labeled “I”. When the actuator 150 is in the starting orientation S, the compacting member 144 is fully retracted (i.e., translated rearward) to permit loading of the compacting chamber 140 with tobacco. As the actuator 150 is rotated from the starting orientation S to the compacting orientation C, the compacting member 144 moves forward (i.e., toward the front side 114) to compress the tobacco in the compacting chamber 140. As the actuator 150 is further rotated from the compacting orientation C to the injecting orientation I, the compacting member 144 remains generally stationary and an injector (not shown) translates leftward through the compacting chamber 140 and hollow nipple 146 to move the compressed tobacco into the paper cigarette tube disposed on the nipple 146. By moving the actuator 150 from the injecting position I in an opposite (i.e., counterclockwise) direction, the injector is retracted into the internal cavity so that the completed cigarette may be removed from the nipple 146, and the compacting member 144 is translated rearward to ready the machine 100 for making another cigarette.
One can appreciate that, despite the presence of the optional slip-minimizing (e.g., rubber) base 102, the machine 100 may still undesirably move on a surface during rotation of the actuator 150. To this end, the faceted handgrip 160 is provided so that a user can grip the faceted handgrip 160 as shown in FIG. 2 to apply a counter-rotational force to the machine 100 to substantially obviate or reduce rotational movement of the machine 100 during cigarette-making without causing damage to the machine 100 (e.g., the shaft bushing 152 of FIG. 5, the internal component parts, etc.), which generally occurs if a downward force were applied to the actuator 150. Furthermore, the faceted handgrip 160 is configured on the top surface 112 to provide improved ergonomics to a user of the machine 100. Moreover, the faceted handgrip 160 provides a convenient means to carry and transport the machine 100.
To improve ergonomics, the location of the faceted handgrip 160 substantially coincides with the pivot axis of the actuator 150. However, the faceted handgrip 160 could be implemented apart from the pivot axis. Moreover, while the pivot axis and the faceted handgrip 160 are located in the left, rear corner in disclosed embodiments, the pivot axis and the faceted handgrip 160 could located elsewhere as dictated by internal mechanics or other product design considerations. The example faceted handgrip 160 is generally circular and has a plurality of facets 161 defined on a circumference of the handgrip 160. Because the fingers and thumb of a user will readily fall into place on respective ones of the facets 161, the facets 161 substantially increase the ability of a user to firmly grasp or grip the handgrip 160 and, thus, to apply a counter-rotational force to the machine 100 via the handgrip 160. For example, without the facets 161, the handgrip 160 can more readily turn or slip within a user's hand. Moreover, the facets 161 substantially alleviate fatigue of the hand, wrist or arm during use of the example machine 100.
In a disclosed embodiment, the faceted handgrip 160 includes a knob 162 having the plurality of facets 161 arranged on an outer surface or edge of the knob 162, and a semi-circular riser 164. Preferably there are six facets 161 to enable a thumb, fore finger, etc. to naturally, readily and firmly grasp the knob 162. As shown, the semi-circular riser 164 may be integrally formed between the knob 162 and the top surface 112. In other words, the faceted handgrip 160 may be unitary with the top surface 112. Alternatively, the faceted handgrip 160 (including the knob 162 and the semi-circular riser 164) may be affixed to the top surface 112 with, for example, adhesive, welds, screws, bolts, pins, and the like. In some examples, the faceted handgrip 160 may be removable. An example manner of mounting a removable faceted handgrip 160 is described below in connection with FIG. 10. An axis of the faceted handgrip 160 substantially corresponds to the pivot axis of the actuator 150. The pivot axis of the actuator 150 corresponds to a shaft 200 (FIG. 9) to which the actuator 150 is coupled via a nut 154 and the bushing 152 (FIG. 5). As shown, the semi-circular riser 164 circularly extends around and partially encloses the pivot axis (i.e., the nut 154, the bushing 152, the end of the shaft 200 to which the actuator 150 is coupled, and an end of the actuator 150). The semi-circular riser 164 includes an opening 166 through which the actuator 150 protrudes and can be rotated about the pivot axis. While the example faceted handgrip 160 has a smooth or polished metallic finish, other finishes and/or surface treatments (e.g., brushed, padded, etc.) may be used to further enhance gripability of the faceted knob 160. Moreover, the faceted handgrip 160 may have a rubberized finish and/or rubber elements. For example, the knob 162 could have a rubberized coating, the facets 161 could have rubberized appliqués or inserts, and/or there could be one or more rubber bands inset and/or applied to the outer surface of the knob 162 having the facets 161.
Referring now to FIG. 9, a plan view of the internal cavity of the machine 100 is provided, partially illustrating the internal component parts. As shown, an arm 210 is pivotally connected at its first end to the shaft 200, which connects to the actuator 150 at a distal end above the top surface 112. A link 220 is pivotally connected at one end to a second end of the arm 210 distal from the shaft 200. A second end of the link 220 is pivotally connected to the injector 230. As the actuator 150 is rotated from the compacting orientation (FIG. 2, indicated by C) to the injecting orientation (FIG. 2, indicated by I), the arm 210 and link 220 articulate and translate the injector spoon 230 through the compacting chamber 140 and hollow nipple 146 to fill a paper cigarette tube, which is disposed on the nipple 146, with compacted tobacco. As is known in various conventional injector-type cigarette-making machines (e.g., the machine illustrated in FIG. 1), a tube-retaining lever 240 is spring-biased and coupled with the clamp member 148 for the purpose of holding a paper cigarette tube on the hollow nipple 146 during injection of tobacco into the tube. Furthermore, in such conventional machines, the tube-retaining lever 240 (or a member coupled therewith) provides a stop to prevent over-rotation of the actuator 150 (i.e., moving the actuator 150 past the injecting orientation I) that could cause the link 220 from over-extending the injector 230 into the paper tube since such over-rotation may, for example, cause damage to a filter end of the tube. In one embodiment of the machine 100, to prevent over-rotation of the actuator 150 (i.e., moving the actuator 150 past the injecting orientation I), the fastener 182 is configured on the front side 114 intermediate the left and right sides 120, 118 such that the head 186 of the fastener 182 provides a positive stop for the actuator 150 instead of the tube-retaining lever 240 providing the stop. That is, referring to the illustrated embodiment of FIG. 9, the head 186 projects inward to catch the second end of the link 220 as shown. In this way, the head 186 catches the second end of the link 220 to prevent the arm 210 from contacting the tube-retaining lever 240, since contact between the arm 210, link 220 and tube-retaining lever 240 could potentially cause the paper cigarette tube from being released from the nipple 146 prematurely or cause the arm 210, link 220 and the lever 240 to bind together resulting in improper operation and/or damage to the internal component parts.
FIG. 10 is a cross-section view of the injector-type cigarette-making machine 100 of FIG. 2 taken along line 300-300 of FIG. 5. Only a portion of the machine 100 is shown in the cross-section view of FIG. 10. As shown in FIG. 10, the semi-circular riser 164 may include a flange 305 having any number of slots 310 (e.g., two as depicted). The flange 305 has a bottom surface (not shown) that is intended to be substantially flush with the top surface 112 when a faceted knob 160 including the semi-circular riser 164 and the flange 305 is affixed to the machine 100.
As shown in FIG. 10, the slots 310 each have a first end shaped or sized to allow a head 315 affixed to a shaft 310 to pass through the slot, and a second end shaped or sized to substantially correspond to the shaft 310. To firmly affix a faceted knob 160 including the flange 305 to the machine 100, the lengths of the portions of the shafts 310 located between the top surface 112 and the bottoms of the heads 315 are substantially equal to the thickness of the flange 305. The shafts may be affixed or attached to the top surface 112, or other internal elements of the machine 100, via any means such as a nut, a threaded screw, a rivet, a weld, an adhesive, etc. A faceted knob 160 including the flange 305 may be affixed to the machine 100 by aligning the first ends of the slots 310 with the heads 315 and then rotating the faceted knob 160 to engage the shafts 310 in the second ends of the slots 310, thus, securing the faceted knob 160 to the machine 100. Preferably the first and second ends of the slots 310 are oriented such that operation of the actuator 160 to make a cigarette does not disengage the faceted knob 160 from the machine 100. In other words, rotation of the actuator 160 while applying a counter-rotational force to the faceted knob 160 to make a cigarette preferably results in the counter-rotational force being in the same direction that the faceted knob 160 would be rotated to affix the faceted knob 160 to the machine 100.
While not shown or described herein, the injector-type cigarette-making machine 100 may include an adjustable volume compacting chamber 44 as described in, for example, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/401,126, entitled “Cigarette-Making Machine” and filed on Apr. 10, 2006.
In another aspect, a method of using the improved injector-type cigarette-making machine 100 is provided. Initially, the machine 100 should be prepared or readied by the user to accept a portion of tobacco, for example, by rotating the actuator 160 to be at the starting orientation S. A paper cigarette tube is disposed on the hollow nipple 146 and a portion of tobacco is disposed in the compacting chamber 142. A user places a first hand (e.g., the user's right hand) on the actuator 150 and places a second hand (e.g., the user's left hand) on the faceted handgrip 160. In placing the second hand on the faceted handgrip 160 the user may rotate their hand on the handgrip 160 such that their thumb and fingers align with one or more of the facets 161. The user may apply a counter-rotational force (e.g., in a horizontal plane in a counter-clockwise direction) to the faceted handgrip 160 while they rotate the actuator 150 (e.g. in a horizontal plane in a clockwise direction) with the user's other hand. During rotation of the actuator 150, the user may intermittently or substantially continuously apply the counter-rotational force to the faceted handgrip 160 to prevent slipping of the machine 100 until the paper cigarette tube is filled with tobacco, making a completed cigarette.
All references, including publications, patent applications, and patents cited herein are hereby incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein.
Although certain example apparatuses, articles of manufacture and methods have been disclosed herein, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all apparatuses and apparatuses, articles of manufacture and methods fairly falling within the scope of the claims of this patent.