Patent application title: BASKET WASH
Derek Lee Watkins (Louisville, KY, US)
David Scott Dunn (Louisville, KY, US)
IPC8 Class: AD06L120FI
Class name: Bleaching and dyeing; fluid treatment and chemical modification of textiles and fibers cleaning or laundering
Publication date: 2012-05-24
Patent application number: 20120124755
A laundry appliance or washer for washing an associated laundry item
includes a housing and an integrated agitator/basket assembly received in
the housing. A drive assembly is operatively associated with the agitator
and the basket for activating movement of the agitator and the basket in
1. An appliance for washing an associated article containing an
associated laundry item, comprising: a housing; a basket received in the
housing; an agitator that is predominantly rotationally coupled to the
basket to form an integrated agitator/basket assembly; and, a drive
assembly operatively associated with the agitator/basket assembly for
actuating movement of the agitator and the basket in unison.
2. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the basket includes a first wall including a plurality of drainage ports and a second wall without openings therethrough extending from a perimeter of the first wall.
3. The appliance of claim 2, further including a vane wrapped around and extending outwardly from the agitator.
4. The appliance of claim 1, further including a vane extending inwardly from an inner surface of the second wall.
5. The appliance of claim 1, wherein the drive assembly that selectively imparts an oscillatory movement of the agitator/basket assembly.
6. The appliance of claim 1, further comprising a control operatively associated with the drive assembly for controlling at least one of direction, angular acceleration, angular speed, and duration of rotation of the agitator/basket assembly.
7. A washer comprising: a housing including an integrated agitator/basket assembly having an interior cavity dimensioned to receive at least one associated laundry article therein, a bottom wall of the assembly having openings for selective draining of water from the cavity, and a sidewall extending from the bottom that has no openings therethrough; a drive mechanism for oscillatory rotation of the basket in alternating directions; and, a controller for selectively controlling associated water supply to the article containment space and controlling activation of the drive mechanism, the controller being operative to control at least one of direction, angular acceleration, angular speed, and duration of rotation of the basket.
8. The washer of claim 7, wherein the sidewall is a continuous surface.
9. The washer of claim 8, wherein the basket further includes an agitator extending from and integrally coupled to the bottom wall.
10. The washer of claim 9, wherein the agitator extends upwardly and is generally coincident with a central axis of the agitator/basket assembly.
11. The washer of claim 7, further including a first vane extending outwardly from at least a portion of the agitator.
12. The washer of claim 12, further including a second vane extending inwardly from at least a portion of an inner surface of the sidewall.
13. The washer of claim 7, wherein the drive mechanism rotates the agitator in unison with the basket.
14. The washer of claim 7, further including a vane extending from at least a portion of an inner surface of the sidewall.
15. A method of washing associated fabric-containing articles with a washer containing a basket housed in a housing, comprising: filling a basket with water; oscillating the basket and an integrally coupled agitator in alternating directions for a first duration; draining the water from the basket; and, spinning the basket for a second duration to remove water from the basket.
16. The method of claim 15, further including refilling the basket with water; oscillating the agitator/basket assembly in alternating directions for a third duration; draining the associated water from the basket; and, spinning the basket for a fourth duration to remove water from the basket.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein the agitator/basket assembly includes vanes extending into the cavity for moving laundry articles through the cavity during the oscillating step
18. The method of claim 15, wherein the draining of the associated water from the basket is achieved through a plurality of drainage ports formed through a bottom wall of the basket.
19. The method of claim 15, wherein a solid continuous sidewall of the basket includes at least one vane that selectively moves the water and laundry article in the basket.
BACKGROUND OF THE DISCLOSURE
 The present disclosure is directed toward a laundry appliance or washing machine including an integral basket and agitator assembly and, more specifically, to an appliance capable of oscillating and rotating the integral basket and agitator assembly in unison.
 Prior domestic laundry appliances relied upon a shiftable member to selectively actuate oscillation/agitation of an agitator relative to the basket and rotation of the basket and agitator together to centrifugally extract water from the laundry items and basket. In a first position of the shiftable member, the agitator would oscillate/agitate to assist in cleaning laundry items or articles received in the basket. In a second position of the shiftable member, the basket and agitator would spin or rotate together to remove water from the basket and laundry items through openings or perforations in the wall of the basket. The washer typically employed a motor, a clutch, and a transmission to provide oscillation of the agitator in the basket at a relatively low speed. The agitator usually included a vane arrangement or sets of vanes spaced about the agitator to circulate or move the laundry items through the basket in a desired fashion (e.g., in a toroidal flow). When wash and rinse water after each wash and rinse cycle was to be removed from the tub, the motor, clutch, and transmission would then operate in a second mode at a high speed of rotation. The centrifugal force directed the water outwardly through the perforated basket and into a largely stationary outer tub where the water was collected and drained from the appliance.
 As will be appreciated, the cost of the appliance can be significantly reduced if the coupling/decoupling mechanism of a typical washer can be eliminated. Coupling or locking the agitator and the basket together during the spin cycle and uncoupling these components to allow the agitator to oscillate relative to the basket in the agitator mode requires more complex, expensive drive arrangements.
SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE
 This disclosure is directed to a washer which uses the basket to wash the clothes by moving the basket in an oscillatory manner with respect to the clothes, water, and detergent. This washer does not have a separate agitator. The basket provides the motion and scrubbing action to wash the clothes.
 In one exemplary embodiment, the washer or laundry appliance includes a housing, a basket received in the housing, and an agitator integrally coupled to the basket. A drive assembly is operatively associated with the integrated agitator and the basket assembly for actuating movement of the integrated agitator and the basket assembly in unison.
 The appliance further includes a drive mechanism for oscillatory movement of the basket. A controller selectively controls both a water supply to the basket, a drain pump, and activation of the drive mechanism. The controller is operative to control at least one of direction, movement, and duration of rotation of the basket.
 An exemplary method of the present disclosure is directed toward a method of washing fabric-containing articles with a washer or laundry appliance containing a basket received in a housing. The method includes filling a basket with water, oscillating the basket and an integrally coupled agitator for a first duration, draining the water from the basket, and spinning the basket for a second duration to remove remaining water from the basket.
 A primary benefit of the present disclosure relates to an assembly including an agitator integrally connected to a basket to eliminate repeated coupling and decoupling of the agitator component to and from the basket during wash cycles.
 Another advantage associated with the present disclosure includes eliminating the various mechanisms and constructions required to repeatedly couple and decouple the agitator from the basket in known designs.
 A further advantage associated with the disclosure is that wash performance, and more specifically turnover of the laundry items, is not adversely affected by moving the agitator and the basket in unison.
 Yet another benefit resides in the reduced cost and complexity of the integrated agitator and basket assembly.
 Still other benefits and advantages will be found upon reading and understanding the following detailed description.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a partial front view of an appliance for washing laundry items according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the basket assembly.
 FIG. 3 shows a bottom view of the drive system.
 FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the drive mechanism.
 FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating stages of a wash routine utilizing the appliance of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 The present disclosure is directed toward a laundry appliance, washing machine, or washer 10 capable of washing articles or laundry items such as fabrics, clothing, etc. One embodiment of the appliance 10 illustrated in FIG. 1 includes a housing 12 formed of a bottom wall, a rear wall (not shown), a front wall (removed for ease of illustration of internal components) and two sidewalls 12. The walls of the housing 12 enclose and support an integrated basket/agitator assembly 14 dimensioned to receive at least one laundry item received through an open, upper access lid 16 to the basket/agitator assembly 14. The appliance 10 in the illustrated embodiment is a top-load appliance provided with a hinged lid however, other embodiments are contemplated to include stacked appliances, multi-function appliances, and front/side load appliances, etc. The appliance 10 further includes a control panel 18 for input of user selections which guide the controller (not shown) to activate select wash routines in a manner known in the art.
 FIG. 2 illustrates the integrated basket/agitator assembly 14 which includes a basket 20 having a first or bottom wall 22 and a second or side wall 24 extending from a perimeter of the first wall. In the illustrated top-load washer, the first wall 22 is shown as a generally planar, horizontal bottom wall and the second wall 24 is shown as a continuous sidewall extending upwardly therefrom to form a cavity 26 that receives the laundry items. The sidewall 24 is a generally smooth walled basket that is modified relative to known constructions such that it has holes or openings only in the bottom wall. Removal of the holes from the sidewall is necessary to force a vertical flow of water up the inner surface of the sidewall as the basket oscillates back and forth during agitation. This vertical flow lifts the laundry articles up the sidewall of the basket and allows the auger (to be described further below) to pull the laundry articles back down the center. Also, it is important to float the laundry articles in the agitator/basket assembly to achieve turnover as will be discussed further below. As is shown in FIG. 2, the bottom 22 includes a plurality of drainage holes or ports 48 for removal of water in the cavity or article containment space 26. As noted above, the sidewall 24 of the integrated agitator/basket assembly 14 is a continuous surface without openings or holes.
 The basket assembly 14 further includes an agitator 28 extending from and integrally connected to the first wall 22, i.e., the agitator does not move relative to the bottom wall 22 or sidewall 24. The auger or screw feature 50 included on cap 52 that is received on the top of the agitator (FIG. 2) is free to move rotationally in a single direction. That is, the cap with integrated auger 50 rotates in one direction and slips (freely rotates in a second direction of movement of the basket) to urge the clothes generally along a central axis of the cavity 26. The longitudinal extent or length of the agitator 28 is generally coincident with the central axis of the basket 20. In the illustrated embodiment, the agitator 28 extends vertically upward from the bottom wall 22, and includes at least one agitator vane 44 extending outwardly from an outer surface of the agitator 28. There is no limitation made herein to a type of vane extending from the agitator 28. In one exemplary embodiment, the vane 44 is a straight vane having bottom and side fins. In another embodiment, the vane 44 is a dual-action vane type having the foregoing bottom fin and a helical or spiral top fin. Embodiments are contemplated where the helical vane wraps around at least a longitudinal length portion of the agitator 28. Regardless of style, the agitator facilitates movement of the garments that are received in the water contained in the washing cavity 26.
 In one embodiment, at least one basket vane 46 protrudes generally radially inward from an inner surface of the sidewall 24 toward the centrally extending agitator 28. The basket vane 46 can take the form of a helical, continuous vane that wraps along an axial and circumferential extent of the inner surface of the sidewall 24. The basket vane 46 can alternatively take the form of a series of generally parallel vanes spaced apart along the inner surface of sidewall 24. The basket vane 46 may taper along its length (i.e., has an altering width and depth). More specifically, the width of the vane 46 (or fin) is preferably greatest toward the top, open end of the agitator/basket assembly and is reduced toward the bottom wall 22 of the basket. In this manner, the basket vane functions to urge articles downward toward a bottom of the cavity 26. In other embodiments, fins and vanes can take different shapes, thicknesses, and extend from different regions of the basket surface 20 so long as the same urging function is achieved.
 The housing 12 further contains a drive mechanism 30. In the illustrated embodiment (FIGS. 1, 3, and 4), the drive mechanism or drive assembly 30 is generally situated beneath the bottom wall 22, but there is no limitation made herein to placement of the drive mechanism in this particular location as illustrated in the drawings. The drive mechanism 30 is operatively associated with the integrated agitator/basket assembly 14. The drive mechanism 30 shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 includes a motor 32 operatively associated with a drive pulley 35, drive belt 36, and driven pulley 38 (FIG. 3) to impart both oscillatory and rotational movement to the agitator/basket assembly 14. The motor 32 includes an outwardly extending shaft 34 that is capable of select rotation in alternate clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. The drive pulley 35 rotates and drives the belt 36 that extends around the enlarged driven pulley 38 that is connected to the agitator/basket assembly. By, way of example only, the driven pulley to drive pulley ratio is 15:1 in one embodiment although the particular ratio used should not be deemed limiting. Rotation of the shaft 34 translates to movement of the integral agitator/basket assembly 14 via the drive belt and pulley assembly. In the exemplary embodiment, the belt surface of the driven pulley is smooth and only the drive pulley has v-channels to facilitate torque transfer from the motor to the agitator/basket assembly. Again, one skilled in the art will appreciate that other strucutural details of the driven pulley and drive pulley are contemplated without departing from the scope and intent of the present disclosure.
 In the illustrated embodiment, the spoked driven pulley 38 is located in the housing in a region below the basket assembly 14. Hub 60 of the driven pulley is connected to elongated shaft 62 (FIG. 4) that extends axially within the agitator 28 (FIG. 2) to transfer the rotational drive force from the driven pulley 38 to the basket assembly 14. Although not deemed as desirable, it is also contemplated that the outer surface of the basket assembly could directly receive the drive belt, i.e. a portion of the outer surface of the basket assembly can function as the driven pulley.
 A standard inverter, identified by reference numeral 40 in FIG. 4, is used in connection with the motor 32 and electronically energizes the motor based on commands of the controller. The controller is operatively associated with the drive assembly 30 to control at least one of direction, angular acceleration, terminal angular velocity, and duration of rotation of the basket assembly 14. The inverter 40 allows the motor 32 to alternate directions without being limited by any influencing variable. This motor and inverter approach provides a unique agitation profile control. The torque direction, torque ramp, torque constant, and torque duration are manipulated to produce the agitation rate and arc length. By controlling torque, the wash action can be adapted to the load in the basket. For example, with small loads the wash is "normal" while with oversized loads the agitation arc will decrease due to the torque requirements being greater than that supplied by the motor. This minimizes torque requirements for the drive system.
 As noted, the agitator 28 is connected to the bottom wall 22 such that for all durations of a wash cycle, it cannot rotate or move relative to the bottom wall 22. Rather, the belt 36 of the drive assembly 30 imparts movement to the basket assembly 14 via the shaft 62 received in the agitator such that rotation of the basket 20 and the agitator 28 is always concurrent and in unison. In one embodiment, the basket 20 and the agitator 28 are integrally molded together during manufacture to form a one-piece, homogenous body. In another embodiment, the basket 20 and the agitator 28 can be manufactured as two or more separate components and the agitator 28 subsequently securely affixed to the basket 20 to form an integrated agitator/basket assembly 14.
 FIG. 5 is a flow chart that generally outlines an exemplary wash routine method using the washer 10 described herein. More specifically, the method can be incorporated into a program or software of the controller which is used with the appliance having an integrally formed agitator/basket assembly. The method starts at step s100, and includes at least one wash stage 202 and at least one rinse stage 204. The wash stage 202 generally includes mixing a detergent with water in the basket cavity during the first stage of cycle to remove dirt and stains from the laundry articles. The rinse stage 204 generally utilizes only water to remove any residue remaining in the articles.
 The wash stage 202 starts with a first step including filling a basket with water s110. More specifically, the cavity of the basket is filled from an external water supply. A second step in the sequence includes oscillating the integrated agitator/basket assembly in alternating directions s112 for a first duration. The actions of oscillating the basket assembly s112 includes selectively activating the drive mechanism s114 by command of the controller. Imparting motion on the basket assembly is achieved by the drive mechanism s116. More specifically, the motion is imparted by the motor of the drive mechanism selectively driving the pulleys and shaft 62 in alternating directions s118. By way of example only, the oscillation step s112 includes alternating the direction s118 of the agitator/basket assembly approximately every second for a duration of approximately forty-five seconds.
 A next step in the present method includes draining the water from the agitator/basket assembly s120. Water is drained from the agitator/basket assembly 14 through the plurality of drainage ports 48 included through the first or bottom wall 22. The drainage step s120 is followed by spinning (i/e/, rotating) the basket s122 for a second duration, which can be any time amount that functions to extract remaining water from the laundry items and the integrated agitator/basket assembly. The spinning step s122 includes rotating the basket and the integrally connected agitator in unison by driving the assembly in one direction.
 After the water is removed from the integrated agitator/basket assembly in the spinning step s122, the rinse stage 204 initiates. The basket is refilled s126 with water until all the laundry articles contained in the agitator/basket assembly are preferably completely submerged or saturated. The next step in the sequence preferably includes oscillating the integrally coupled agitator/basket assembly in alternating directions s128 for a third duration. The action of oscillating the agitator/basket assembly s128 includes selectively activating the drive mechanism s130 by command of the controller which imparts oscillating motion on the basket assembly s132. More specifically, the motion is imparted by the motor of the drive mechanism selectively driving the pulleys and shaft 62 in alternating directions s134. In the preferred arrangement, this motion results from alternating directions of rotation of the pulleys s132 to achieve a general stroke profile, which includes alternating direction of the integrally coupled agitator/basket assembly 14
 A next step in the present method includes draining the rinse water from the agitator/basket assembly s136. The rinse water is drained through the plurality of drainage ports 48 in the bottom wall 22 of the basket. The wash routine is concluded by spinning (i.e., rotating) the basket s138 for a fourth duration, which can be any time and speed combination that functions to remove the remaining rinse water from the basket. The spinning step s138 includes rotating the integrated agitator and basket in unison.
 Although the method is illustrated and described herein in the form of a series of actions and stages, it will be appreciated that the various methods or processes of the present disclosure are not limited by the illustrated ordering of such actions or stages. In this regard, except as specifically provided hereinafter, some actions or stages may occur in different order, repeated, and/or concurrently with other actions or stages apart from those illustrated and described herein in accordance with the disclosure. It is further noted that not all illustrated actions may be required to implement a process or method in accordance with the present disclosure, and one or more such actions may be combined. The illustrated methods and other methods of the disclosure may be implemented in hardware, software, or combinations thereof, in order to provide the control functionality described herein, and may be employed in any system including but not limited to the above illustrated appliance 10 wherein the disclosure is not limited to the specific applications and embodiments illustrated and described herein.
 The disclosure has been described with reference to the preferred embodiments. Obviously, modifications and alterations will occur to others upon reading and understanding the preceding detailed description. It is intended that the disclosure be construed as including all such modifications and alterations.
Patent applications by David Scott Dunn, Louisville, KY US
Patent applications in class CLEANING OR LAUNDERING
Patent applications in all subclasses CLEANING OR LAUNDERING