Patent application title: MODULAR HOB
Stefano Palmeto (Alessandria, IT)
Renato Aiello (Ficulle, IT)
Lorenzo Morganti (Milano, IT)
Paola Mosca (Milano, IT)
Silvio Corrias (Moncalvo, IT)
Indesit Company S.p.A.
IPC8 Class: AF24C312FI
Class name: Liquid or gaseous fuel gas electric features
Publication date: 2011-05-05
Patent application number: 20110100352
A modular hob of the type having at least two modules, each of which
comprises a body to be laid onto a top, with which body a cooking device
is associated, such as a gas burner, an electric plate or the like,
wherein the body can be pivoted about an axis between an operating
condition in which it rests on the top and an idle condition in which it
is separated from said top.
1. A modular hob of the type comprising at least two modules, each
comprising a body to be laid onto a top, with which body a cooking device
is associated, such as a gas burner, an electric plate or the like,
wherein the body can be pivoted about an axis between an operating
condition in which it rests on the top and an idle condition in which it
is separated from said top.
2. The modular hob according to claim 1, wherein the module further comprises a bracket which is fixed with respect to the top, thus supporting the body when pivoting.
3. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, comprising a main supply line for powering the cooking devices, wherein the supply line is divided into a number of sections matching the number of modules of the hob, each section being associated with one module.
4. The modular hob according to claim 3, wherein at least one supply line section is connected to a branching line for powering or feeding the cooking device (9A,9B), so that the cooking device of each module can be powered or fed regardless of whether the other modules are in the operating condition or in the idle condition.
5. The modular hob according to claim 3, wherein the supply line is an electric power line connected to an electric network and comprises several sections of as many electric conductors connected together in series.
6. The modular hob according to claim 5, wherein to each section a branching line is connected which comprises electric conductors for powering at least one electric load of the cooking device of the module.
7. The modular hob according to claim 5, wherein the electric power line is connected to a control unit which comprises a power supply for reducing the mains voltage and transforming it from alternating current into direct current.
8. The modular hob according to claim 5, wherein the power line section of each module is fixed with respect to the pivoting body, said power line section being associated with the respective bracket.
9. The modular hob according to claim 3, wherein the supply line is a gas feed line connected to a gas distribution network, and comprises a number of interconnected gas pipe sections matching the number of modules.
10. The modular hob according to claim 9, wherein at least one branching pipe is connected to the feed line section associated with a module comprising a gas burner for feeding at least one gas burner.
11. The modular hob according to claim 9, wherein the gas feed line is connected to a control unit which comprises a gas flow stop valve.
12. The modular hob according to claim 9, wherein the gas feed line sections are coaxially rotatable relative to one another, integrally with the body of the respective module.
13. The modular hob according to claim 2, wherein the bracket is U-shaped and is fitted with a support base from which two coupling arms jut out and embrace the gas pipe, so that the latter is free to rotate in rotation seats provided on each arm.
14. The modular hob according to claim 9, wherein the gas pipes are connected through safety couplings comprising a male coupling terminal a female coupling terminal mutually rotatable relative to each other.
15. The modular hob according to claim 12, wherein the branching pipe is a rigid pipe which can rotate with the body of the respective module.
16. The modular hob according to claim 12, wherein the body comprises at the rear a semi-tubular protection portion which extends behind the body and surrounds the gas pipe in order to protect it from accidental shocks.
17. The modular hob according to claim 2, wherein the bracket is made of a metal having a high specific weight, such as cast iron or stainless steel, so that it can be simply laid onto the kitchen top.
18. The modular hob according to claim 2, wherein the bracket is secured to the kitchen top by means of screws, joints or magnetic connections.
19. The modular hob according to claim 2, wherein the bracket arms can be separated from the base to facilitate the installation and any maintenance of the electric and gas lines.
20. The modular hob according to claim 19, wherein the base comprises coupling slots and each arm comprises a widened-head pin that fits and slides into the fitting portion of the coupling slots.
21. The modular hob according to claim 20, wherein the base is secured to a vertical wall behind the modules.
22. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the body is provided with a handle that facilitates gripping.
23. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the gas burner comprises a semi-permeable element which is permeable to gaseous substances, but not to liquid ones.
24. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the body comprises a pot support comprising a cross whose two bars intersect at the centre of the burner, made up of just two parts joined together at the centre.
25. The modular hob according to claim 24, wherein each bar of the cross of the support substantially has a tapered U shape, the peripheral portion thereof being thicker than the central portion.
26. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the electric line sections corresponding to the different modules are rotatable integrally with the module body and are connected to one another to form the electric power line by means of sliding contacts.
27. The modular hob according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the module comprises a control unit equipped with a transceiver capable of receiving and transmitting radio signals for the purpose of receiving a control signal emitted by a remote control, and a position sensor for turning off the control unit when the module is in the idle position.
28. A method for controlling a hob according to claim 18 through a remote control, wherein the remote control actuates the closest module in the operating position.
29. The method according to claim 28, wherein the remote control sends a polling signal to which all modules in the operating condition respond by emitting a response signal, the response signal being different for each module, so that the remote control identifies the signals received from the different modules and then measures and compares the strength thereof, thus finding the closest module in the module whose signal is strongest.
30. The method according to claim 29, wherein the response signal contains a module identifier, such as a unique numerical code set at the factory or obtained automatically at installation time.
31. The method according to claim 29, wherein the response signal is encoded according to a module-specific encoding.
32. The method according to claim 28 or 29, wherein the remote control sends a dedicated actuation signal to the closest module, and wherein the actuation signal contains the module identifier or is encoded according to the module's specific encoding.
33. The method according to claim 28, wherein the modules which are in the operating condition continuously emit a position signal containing a module identifier, such as a unique numerical code set at the factory or obtained automatically at installation time, and wherein the remote control sends the actuation signal to that module whose position signal is strongest.
34. A pot support adapted to support a pot or a container over a burner, such as a gas burner, wherein the support comprises two bars intersecting at the centre, thus forming a cross on which the pot is laid, wherein said bars have portions having a different thickness, wherein the thicker portion being located at the end of each bar and the thinner portion being located at the centre of each bar.
35. The pot support according to claim 34, wherein the portions having a different thickness are joined by a variable-thickness section.
36. A pot support according to claim 34 or 35 and further including a burner with a flame divider, wherein the thinner portion stays above the flame divider and the thicker portion is located at the sides thereof, so that only the thinner portion of the support is exposed to the flame.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to a modular hob. In the present description and in the appended claims, the term "hob" will refer to a household appliance having one or more cooking devices, such as a gas cooker, an electric heating plate and the like.
 Nowadays, a need is increasingly felt for providing hobs which can be adapted in a customized manner to different requirements, so as to allow a user to arrange a hob that is as versatile as possible. To this end, hobs have been conceived which include different types of cooking devices.
 For example, in an attempt to meet the end user's requirements, the market offers hobs that include both gas burners and electric plates, as well as hobs fitted with electric cooking devices only (plates, oven, etc.) or with gas cooking devices only.
 However, this has solved the problem of customization only to a certain extent, because the user's needs may change after he/she has purchased the hob.
 2. The Prior Art
 In order to provide a higher degree of customization, modular hobs like those disclosed in document DE 102 35 776 to BSH BOSCH UND SIEMENS HAUSGERATE GmbH have been introduced, wherein the hob as a whole is obtained by assembling a certain number of modules in different ways, each module comprising one cooking device, e.g. a gas burner or an electric plate.
 The various modules are laid onto a kitchen top, and each of them is powered or fed separately by the household electric or gas system through a dedicated supply line. By assembling together a certain number of modules, a customized hob is thus obtained which meets the requirements of a single user, who may then at any time change the composition of the hob as desired.
 However, this solution has a few drawbacks: first of all, each module is powered or fed independently of the other ones through a respective branch of the main supply line. Therefore, branching points must be provided in the gas main pipe and in the electric network.
 Modern kitchens also require an optimization of the spaces occupied by the various appliances.
 In this regard, the modular hob described in patent DE 102 35 776 suffers from a further drawback: when the modules are not in use, they remain on the kitchen top; therefore, in order to free up the occupied space, the user has to remove the appliance by disconnecting the respective gas or power supply, pick it up and lay it somewhere else.
 In this respect, it should be noted that the branch of the supply line leading to a module will stay in place even after the module has been removed, so that it must be made safe in order to prevent any accidents from occurring, besides taking up useful space.
 The present invention aims at solving these and other problems suffered by the modular hobs known in the art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 To this end, the present invention is based on the idea of providing a modular hob wherein each module comprises one cooking device (like a gas burner, an electric element or the like) and wherein every single module can be pivoted about a common horizontal axis, thereby attaining the advantage of freeing up the surface on which the modules are laid when not in use.
 A further advantageous feature is that the modules are all supplied by a single connection to the gas or electric mains, so that it is not necessary to provide a branch thereof for each module. As will be explained below, the modules' supply line is modular as well, and extends together with the modules themselves, in particular within them, so that every single module is powered or fed by the preceding one (regardless of whether the latter is operating or not).
 As will become apparent, this allows to remove a module quickly and simply, without leaving any supply line branches on the kitchen top.
 The features of the hob according to the invention are set out in the appended claims.
 These features as well as further advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of an embodiment thereof as shown in the annexed drawings, which are supplied by way of non-limiting example.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 In the drawings:
 FIG. 1 shows a hob consisting of a plurality of modules according to the present invention;
 FIG. 2 shows the hob of FIG. 1 with one module turned up;
 FIG. 3 is a perspective view from the front side of one module of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view from the rear side of the module of FIG. 3;
 FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the module of FIG. 4;
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the rear portion of the module of FIG. 4, without the body thereof;
 FIG. 7 is a perspective front view of the FIG. 6 module;
 FIGS. 8 and 9 are additional perspective views of that module;
 FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the gas pipe connection terminal;
 FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the bracket that supports the module body;
 FIG. 12 is an electric connection diagram relating to the modules of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 13 is a gas feed line connection diagram relating to the modules of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 14 is a top view of a detail of the gas burner;
 FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the detail of FIG. 14;
 FIG. 16 shows a bracket variant.
DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, there is shown a modular hob 1 according to the present invention. It is made up by three modules 2, 3 and 4 joined together and laid on a common top 5 of a kitchen cabinet; the hob also comprises a control unit 40, which will be described later on.
 Each module 2, 3, 4 comprises a pivoting body 2A, 3A, 4A on which a respective cooking device is positioned, e.g. modules 2 and 4 comprise an electric heating plate 9B, whereas module 3 comprises a gas burner 9A.
 Each module 2, 3, 4 further comprises a rear bracket 2B, 3B, 4B removably (or irremovably) secured to kitchen top 5, about which the body can rotate.
 As shown in the drawings, two adjacent modules 2, 3 and 3, 4 are connected to each other at the rear in a manner that will be described in detail hereafter. It will suffice now to say that each module is fed with a combustible fluid, e.g. gas, and receives electric power from an electric line. Depending on the type of module, the combustible fluid may either be only delivered to the next module or be used by the heating element of the module in question.
 As shown in FIG. 2, and in accordance with the idea on which the present invention is based, modules 2, 3, 4 can be pivoted about a horizontal axis between an operating condition in which the module body is laid on the kitchen top and a so-called "idle" condition in which the module body is separated from the kitchen top, like module 4 in FIG. 2. More in particular, modules 2, 3, 4 are each fitted with a bracket 2B, 3B, 4B about which module body 2A, 3A, 4A can rotate, so that the latter can be put in the operating condition or in the idle condition; in order to facilitate gripping of the body for turning it, the body is equipped with a front handle 3C, clearly visible on module 3 of FIG. 3. In order to prevent the handle from protruding from the outline of the body 3A, the handle may be provided in the form of a groove in the body, as shown in the drawings.
 It should be noted that in the idle condition, the module occupies an extremely small space on top 5, hence leaving it available for other functions (e.g. it can be used as a worktop or as a support to lay objects on); the body is closed at the bottom (on the side opposite to the one the houses the cooking device), save for a technical access opening intended for maintenance (not shown).
 More in detail, bracket 3B, as shown in the embodiment of FIGS. 4, 6 and 12, is U-shaped and is fitted with a support base 31 from which two coupling arms 32 and 33 jut out perpendicularly and embrace gas pipe 13, thus letting the latter turn into rotation seats 32A,33A provided on each arm.
 In this regard, FIGS. 6 to 9 show that body 3A comprises at the rear a semi-tubular protection portion 3D which extends behind body 3A and surrounds gas pipe 13 in order to protect it from accidental shocks.
 As far as bracket 3B is concerned, it may rest on the kitchen top. In this case, in order to prevent the bracket from being moved by the rotating module, the bracket is made of a metal material having a high specific weight, e.g. cast iron or stainless steel (so that the bracket is very heavy and preferably heavier than the module), or it is fitted with suitable counterweights (not shown) which may be incorporated into the bracket itself. According to a first alternative, the brackets are secured to the top by means of screws, or a magnet is attached to the bracket underside (or to the kitchen top, if the bracket is made of a material which, like iron or steel, is attracted by a magnet) in order to obtain a magnetic fixing without having to make holes in the top. Further alternative solutions will be described hereafter.
 The rotation of the module may be subjected to calibrated braking, to prevent the movable part of the module from falling accidentally; for the same purpose, a system is also provided for retaining the movable part of the module in the upturned position.
 Before going into the details of the electric and gas supply lines and of the gas line connections, it is now useful to illustrate the basic principle according to which the cooking devices of the different modules are powered or fed by the electric and gas lines.
 The idea conceived herein is to connect the modules in cascade one after the other (with respect to the electric and gas mains), with a supply line extending in a modular manner and being divided into a number of sections matching the number of modules on the kitchen top; a branching line is connected to each supply line section for powering or feeding a cooking device (if the device requires that type of supply, of course), so that the cooking device of each module is powered or fed independently of the condition (operating or idle) of the upstream modules.
 In the illustrated example, as will be explained below, the actual module supply line starts from a control unit 40 (FIGS. 1 and 12) connected to the (electric or gas) mains. The modules can be installed downstream of said control unit in any order; the module arrangement shown in FIG. 1 is therefore merely indicative.
 Referring now to FIG. 12, there is shown the electric power supply diagram (for clarity, the modules are outlined by means of a dashed line): the electric network, schematized by two mains wires 50 and 51, is connected to control unit 40, which may comprise a power supply adapted to reduce the mains voltage and transform it from alternating current into direct current; in other embodiments the power supply may be omitted, so that the modules receive current having the same voltage and frequency as electric network 50,51.
 The actual power line that supplies electric energy to the modules extends downstream of control unit 40. As aforesaid, the electric power line is modular, and in this case consists of three sections (matching the number of modules): a first section 52,53 (for first module 4), a second section 57,58 (for second module 3), and a third section 62,63 (for third module 2).
 For this purpose, control unit 40 is connected to bracket 4B of first module 4 of hob 1, within which from the first power line section consisting of main electric connectors 52 and 53 a branch starts which consists of branching connectors 54 and 55 that supply power to electric load 56 of the cooking device of module 4, which in this case is the electric resistor of electric plate 9B.
 Main electric connectors 52 and 53 then run along the entire bracket 4B and connect (through common electric connections known in the art) to the second section consisting of main electric connectors 57 and 58 running within bracket 3B, from which a branch starts which consists of branching connectors 59 and 60 that supply power to electric load 61 of the cooking device of module 3, which in this case is the piezoelectric device that produces the spark for lighting up gas cooker 9A.
 Likewise, main connectors 57 and 58 are electrically connected to main connectors 62 and 63 (third section) running within bracket 2B, from which branching connectors 64 and 65 supply power to load 66 of electric plate 9B of module 2. The main electric connectors terminate at the free end of bracket 2B, so that they can possibly be connected to the connectors of an additional module.
 Of course, if there is more than one load per module, it is conceivable to provide more than one branching line for each module, or alternatively to connect all the loads of one module to the same branch.
 In this embodiment, each module is powered independently of the operation of the preceding module: in fact, in the illustrated example it is apparent that an idle module 4 will not affect the operation of modules 2 and 3.
 It follows that the power line can be viewed as a modular power line to which the modules' electric loads are connected in parallel.
 In the above-described example, the power line runs within modules' brackets 2B, 3B, 4B and is therefore fixed with respect to the modules' bodies, thus offering an advantage in terms of construction simplicity. When the module is turned, the electric power line will not rotate, as shown by way of example in FIG. 11, wherein dashed lines designate main conductors 57, 58 running within bracket 3B and branching conductors 59 and 60 connected to the load (not shown in FIG. 11).
 The electric connections among the various modules and between each module and the control unit are provided through an automatic coupling actuated by the same movement required for coupling the connection of the combustible fluid feed line.
 The gas feed line follows the same construction philosophy, i.e. it is also a modular line divided into a number of sections matching the number of modules, and each section is connected to a branch for feeding the cooking device (if the latter requires a gas feed), so that the burner of a module is fed regardless of whether the upstream modules in the feed line are idle or not (and whether the upstream modules include a gas burner or not).
 For this purpose, as shown in FIG. 13 (wherein the modules are outlined by means of a dashed line), gas main pipe 70 is connected to control unit 40, which comprises a safety valve adapted to stop the gas feed to all modules at once.
 The actual gas feed line extends downstream of control unit 40. The first section consists of main gas pipe 14, which can rotate relative to bracket 4B of first module 4. The cooking device of module 4 is an electric plate, and therefore it does not require to be fed with gas; hence pipe 14 has no branches and is coupled to main pipe 13 of module 3 through a safety coupling 17, thus extending the gas feed line.
 Module 3 is equipped with a gas burner, which is suitably fed by branching pipe 16 afferent to main pipe 13, i.e. the second feed line section, as shown in greater detail in FIG. 5.
 Main pipe 13 is then connected through a safety coupling 18 to the third section consisting of the main pipe 12 of module 2, which is also equipped with an electric plate and therefore has no branching pipe.
 Main pipe 12 ends with a safety coupling 19 to which an additional module may be connected, as mentioned above; safety couplings 17, 18 and 19 will be dealt with in more detail later on.
 With regard to the gas feed line, it can therefore be stated that every module 2, 3, 4 comprises at least one gas feed line section and that, if a gas burner has been installed on the module, then the latter will also comprise a branching line for feeding said gas burner.
 Going now into the details of the above-mentioned safety couplings 17, 18 and 19, these are used for connecting two adjacent gas feed line sections.
 With reference to FIG. 9, the various gas feed line sections 12, 13, 14 can rotate relative to one another, as aforementioned, integrally with the respective module's body. To this end, they can turn in rotation seats 32A,33A provided in coupling arms 32 and 33 of bracket 3B.
 The rotation of gas pipe 13 about its own axis can be noted clearly in FIG. 5, for example, taking into account that branching pipe 16 is a rigid one for increasing the operational safety and for complying with the applicable regulations.
 Safety couplings 17, 18 and 19 are per se known in the art, and allow pipes joined therethrough to rotate relative to one another, so that pipe 13, for example, can turn about its own axis while adjacent pipes 12 and 14 do not move.
 In short, each safety coupling comprises a male coupling terminal 8 and a female coupling terminal 7, which are also visible in FIG. 3. Around the male coupling terminal there is a safety collar 81, shown in FIGS. 6 to 10, which, when the modules are coupled together, engages into a matching coupling seat 71 provided on the arm of the bracket of the adjacent module.
 Male and female coupling terminals 7 and 8 engage into each other, thus preventing two coupled modules from being detached unless the user acts appropriately upon safety collar 81, which must be slid beforehand into a decoupling position.
 These safety connectors are per se known and are available on the market from, for example, company RECTUS AG under the commercial name SERIES 21KA. No further description will therefore be provided herein, being sufficient to say that such connectors are mostly used and generally known as quick-coupling connectors for fluids.
 Referring now to FIGS. 14 and 15, there is shown a particularly advantageous embodiment of gas burner 9A of module 3. In fact, tests carried out have shown that, thanks to its technical features, and in particular to its compactness, the gas burner type which is most suitable for use on hob 1 according to the present invention is a gas burner complying with the teachings of patent application WO2007036772 by the present Applicant, i.e. a burner comprising a semi-permeable element acting as a flame divider, such as a flame divider 77 made from a microperforated sheet (which is permeable to gaseous substances, but not to liquid ones), as shown in FIGS. 5, 14 and 15. Reference should therefore be made to said patent application for the detailed specifications of said burner 9A.
 A further advantageous feature is the special pot support 90. It has simple cross-like shape, the two bars of which intersect at the centre of flame divider 77, and is characterized in that it may either be made up of just two parts (the bars of the cross) joined at the centre, or be manufactured as one piece.
 Each part is substantially U-shaped and is tapered, peripheral portion 90A being thicker than central portion 90B. The taper minimizes the contact area between the pot support grate and the burner flame, thus preventing any combustion problems.
 In particular, in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, peripheral portion 90A of support 90 extends in the end portions of each bar of the cross outside the area of flame divider 77, whereas thicker portion 90B is above flame divider 77 (when the support is mounted on the burner) in the area of the flame generated by the latter, thus providing a sufficiently strong structure for supporting the pots while minimizing the support surface directly exposed to the flame.
 More specifically, it should be noted that support 90 is formed by two U-shaped bars intersecting at the centre and having the same length, thus forming a cross, each comprising two portions 90A and 90B having a different thickness and joined by a variable-thickness section 90C, wherein thicker portion 90A and variable-thickness junction 90C are outside the burner flame area, whereas the thinner portion is above flame divider 77.
 Support 90 may be secured to the module body in a removable manner, e.g. through a plug-in coupling, so that it can be removed easily (e.g. for cleaning purposes) and to prevent it from coming off from the body when the latter is turned up to the idle position.
 This type of support is especially advantageous when used in conjunction with hob 1 because of its extreme lightness, which limits the weight of the pivoting module body.
 According to an advantageous variant of the bracket of the present invention, which is shown in FIG. 16, base 31A has detachable arms 32A, thus making it easier to carry out installation and maintenance work on the electric or gas lines. In this extremely advantageous variant, base 31A does not rest on kitchen top 5, being instead secured to a vertical wall behind the modules. In this case, base 31A is secured to the vertical wall (e.g. by means of screws) and coupling arms 32A are secured to said base by means of removable connections, which in the illustrated embodiment consist of a widened-head pin 32B that fits and slides into the fitting portion of a coupling slot 31B,31C provided in base 31A.
 Of course, this solution in which the arms can be detached from the base may also be employed in conjunction with a plate laid on or secured to the kitchen top. Said pot support 90 is thus very stable, regardless of the pot diameter, and does not hinder the secondary air supply to the burner; therefore, it is applicable to any type of hob.
 According to a further advantageous aspect, the modules can be controlled remotely.
 For this purpose, each module comprises a local control unit adapted to receive control signals sent by a user through a remote control, as well as to emit a signal towards the latter. In fact, it is particularly advantageous that the user does not have to specify on the remote control the module to which a control signal is to be directed, because the remote control always acts upon the closest module in the operating position.
 To this end, each module is equipped with a position sensor that turns off the control unit when the module is in the idle condition, and with a transceiver capable of receiving and transmitting radio signals.
 The procedure is as follows: the user presses a remote control key corresponding to a request for raising or lowering the flame (or the radiant power, in the case of an electric plate) of the burner which is closest to the remote control; then the remote control sends a polling signal to which all the modules in the operating position respond with a corresponding response signal.
 The response signal is specific for each module, so that the remote control can identify the signals received from the various modules. For example, it may for this purpose contain a module identifier (e.g. a unique numerical code set at the factory or obtained automatically at installation time) or it may be encoded by using a module-specific encoding.
 The remote control measures the strength of the single response signals received and compares the obtained values with one another to find which module is closest, i.e. the one that emits the strongest signal.
 At this point, the remote control can send a dedicated actuation signal for the closest module. Such a signal will therefore contain the module identifier or will be encoded in the module's specific encoding. In this manner, only the closest module will respond to the actuation signal by raising the flame of the burner (or the radiant power of the electric plate).
 Alternatively, a solution which is less advantageous in terms of energy consumption provides that the modules in the operating condition continuously emit a position signal (corresponding to the above-described response signal). The initial polling step can thus be omitted (the remote control must send a polling signal and wait for a response signal), and the remote control can directly send the actuation signal to the module whose position signal is strongest.
 According to a further alternative solution, the modules are simply equipped with a position sensor for detecting whether they are in the operating condition or in the idle condition. In this case, control unit 40 communicates with the modules, e.g. through waves carried over the electric power line, in order to establish which modules can be activated, then it receives a signal from the remote control (on which an activation request command for a specific module has been set), and finally actuates the corresponding module, if the latter is in the operating condition.
 According to yet another variant, it is conceivable that gas branching pipe 16 afferent to the burner is flexible (e.g. a corrugated hose or the like). In such a case, gas pipe 13 can be fixed and integral with bracket 3B, representing the pivot around which the module body rotates. To this end, protection portion 3D can turn about gas pipe 13, so as to guide body 3A as the latter is being moved between the operating and idle positions, while corrugated hose 16 bends and allows the module to switch between the operating and idle positions.
 According to yet another variant, it is conceivable that the electric power line is secured to the gas pipe instead of running within the bracket, so that it can be moved together with the gas pipe. In this case, it will be appropriate to use sliding-type electric contacts (adapted to retain the electric connection between two conductors even in the presence of relative motion therebetween), for the purpose of preserving the electric continuity between the main power line and all the branches thereof.
 Although reference has been made in the present description to an example of embodiment comprising three modules, it will of course be possible to connect any number of modules in cascade.
Patent applications by Silvio Corrias, Moncalvo IT
Patent applications by Indesit Company S.p.A.
Patent applications in class Electric features
Patent applications in all subclasses Electric features