(19)
(11)EP 2 525 689 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
08.05.2019 Bulletin 2019/19

(21)Application number: 11735068.6

(22)Date of filing:  19.01.2011
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
E06B 9/42(2006.01)
E06B 9/60(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2011/021639
(87)International publication number:
WO 2011/090975 (28.07.2011 Gazette  2011/30)

(54)

POWER ASSIST MODULE FOR ROLLER SHADES

KRAFTUNTERSTÜTZUNGSMODUL FÜR ROLLBLENDEN

MODULE D'ASSISTANCE DE FORCE POUR STORES À ENROULEMENT AUTOMATIQUE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 22.01.2010 US 297333 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
28.11.2012 Bulletin 2012/48

(73)Proprietor: Hunter Douglas Inc.
Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • HAARER, Steven, R.
    Whitesville, Kentucky 42378 (US)
  • ANDERSON, Richard, N.
    Whitesville, Kentucky 42378 (US)

(74)Representative: J A Kemp 
14 South Square Gray's Inn
London WC1R 5JJ
London WC1R 5JJ (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
GB-A- 2 013 762
US-A- 2 969 689
US-A- 5 215 296
US-A- 6 047 759
US-A1- 2006 118 248
US-A- 1 080 844
US-A- 4 880 045
US-A- 5 464 052
US-A- 6 047 759
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    Background



    [0001] The present invention relates to power assist modules for use in roller shades. A spring is typically used to assist in raising (retracting) a roller shade. Typically, depending on the width and weight of the roller shade, the spring used to assist in raising the shade is custom supplied for each application.

    [0002] In a top down roller shade, the entire light blocking material typically wraps around a rotator rail (also referred to as a rotator tube or roller tube) as the shade is raised (retracted). Therefore, the weight of the shade is transferred to the rotator rail as the shade is raised, and the force required to raise the shade is thus progressively lower as the shade (the light blocking element) approaches the fully raised (fully open or retracted) position. Of course, there are also bottom up shades and composite shades which are able to do both, to go top down and/or bottom up. In the case of a bottom/up shade, the weight of the shade is transferred to the rotator rail as the shade is lowered, mimicking the weight operating pattern of a top/down blind.

    [0003] A wide variety of drive mechanisms is known for extending and retracting coverings -- moving the coverings vertically or horizontally or tilting slats. A number of these drive mechanisms may use a spring motor to provide the catalyst force (and/or to supplement the operator supplied catalyst force) to move the coverings. Typically, in order to finely counterbalance the weight of a roller shade to make it easier to raise the shade when using some of these control mechanisms, a different spring is supplied for each incremental change in shade width and/or in shade material. Not only does the length of the spring change, but also the K value (the spring constant) changes. This means that the supplier ends up carrying a large inventory of springs in order to cover all the combinations of roller shades which may be sold.

    [0004] It is also desirable to be able to provide a "pre-wind" on the spring to ensure that the spring provides assistance in retracting the shade all the way to the fully retracted position of the shade.

    [0005] Prior art roller shades, such as the shade described in WO 2008/141389 "Di Stefano" published November 27, 2008, provide booster assemblies 100, 102 (See Figure 1), either mounted on a common shaft or on different portions 104, 106 of a common shaft, which are interconnected by connecting pieces 122 (See Figure 2) or 208 (See Figure 5). As a result, it would be extremely awkward and difficult to provide a "pre-wind" to each booster assembly, particularly if it is desired to provide a different degree of "pre- wind" to each booster assembly. In fact, Di Stefano does not disclose any mechanism or procedure to allow any "pre-wind" to be added to the booster assemblies.

    [0006] In any event, to the extent that some degree of "pre-wind" could be added to prior art booster assemblies, the degree of "pre-wind" would be maintained by the interaction between the roller tube and the fixed shaft. As soon as the shaft is removed from inside the roller tube (or alternatively, as soon as the roller tube is removed from outside the shaft), any degree of "pre-wind" of the booster assemblies would be lost.

    [0007] GB 2 013 762 A, upon which the precharacterising portion of appended claim 1 is based, describes a spring loaded end fitting for a roller blind in which opposite ends of a coil spring are carried by a part to be fixed in one end of a hollow blind roller and a part which is normally non rotatably engaged on a tube fixed in a part to be fixed with respect to a mounting bracket. A tube surrounds the spring and engages the coils of spring before the latter is fully unwound, so that the spring is pre-tensioned in the end fitting as fitted. The part which is normally non rotatably engaged forms, with ribs on the tube, a positive engagement clutch which is disengaged, when the spring is overwound, by the longitudinal displacement of that part caused by the axial lengthening of the spring. A further clutch is provided between the part to be fixed with respect to the mounting bracket and the part to be fixed in the one end of the hollow blind roller.

    Summary



    [0008] According to the present invention, there is provided a power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as defined in appended claim 1.

    [0009] An embodiment of the present invention provides a modular spring unit. A plurality of modular spring units may be incorporated into a single roller shade assembly, as required, to finely counterbalance the weight of the roller shade. Each modular spring unit may be fully pre-assembled outside of the roller shade and any desired degree of "pre-wind" may be added to each modular spring unit independent of any other modular spring unit in the roller shade assembly. This desired degree of "pre-wind" may be added to each modular spring unit prior to its assembly to the roller shade, and this desired degree of "pre-wind" is independently maintained for each modular spring unit before assembly of the modular spring unit into the roller shade and even after use and subsequent disassembly of the modular spring unit from the roller shade assembly.

    Brief description of the drawings:



    [0010] 

    Figure 1 is a perspective view of a window roller shade including a control mechanism for extending and retracting the shade;

    Figure 2 is a partially exploded perspective view of the roller shade of Figure 1, with the control mechanism omitted for clarity;

    Figure 3 is a partially exploded perspective view of the roller shade of Figure 2;

    Figure 4 is a perspective view of one of the power assist modules of Figure 3;

    Figure 5 is an exploded perspective view of the power assist module of Figure 4;

    Figure 6 is a side view of the roller shade of Figure 1, with the rotator rail and the control mechanism omitted for clarity;

    Figure 7A is a view along line 7A-7A of Figure 6;

    Figure 7B is a view along line 7B-7B of Figure 6;

    Figure 7C is a view along line 7C-7C of Figure 6;

    Figure 8 is an enlarged view of the right end portion of Figure 7A;

    Figure 9 is an exploded perspective view of the drive plug shaft, the drive plug, and the limiter of the power assist module of Figure 5;

    Figure 10 is a partially broken away, perspective view of a preliminary assembly step of the drive plug shaft, the drive plug, and the limiter of Figure 9, also including the spring shaft ;

    Figures 11, 12, and 13 are partially broken away, perspective views of progressive assembly steps of the spring to the drive plug of Figure 10;

    Figure 14 is a partially broken away, perspective view of the step for locking the drive plug to the drive plug shaft once the desired degree of "pre-wind" has been added to the power assist module; and

    Figure 15 is a partially broken away, perspective end view of the rotator rail of Figures 1 and 2.

    Figure 16 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a window roller shade including a control mechanism for extending and retracting the shade;

    Figure 17 is a partially exploded perspective view of the roller shade of Figure 16;

    Figure 18 is a partially exploded perspective view of the roller shade of Figure 17;

    Figure 19 is a perspective view of one of the power assist modules of Figure 18;

    Figure 20 is an exploded perspective view of the power assist module of Figure 19;

    Figure 21 is a side view of the roller shade of Figure 16, with the rotator rail and the control mechanism omitted for clarity;

    Figure 22 is a view along line 22-22 of Figure 21;

    Figure 23 an enlarged view of the right end portion of Figure 22;

    Figure 24 is a view along line 24-24 of Figure 21;

    Figure 25 is a view along line 25-25 of Figure 21;

    Figure 26 is a view along line 26-26 of Figure 21;

    Figure 27 is an exploded perspective view of the drive plug shaft, the drive plug, and the limiter of the power assist module of Figure 20;

    Figure 28 is a partially broken away, perspective view of a preliminary assembly step of the drive plug shaft, the drive plug, and the limiter of Figure 9, also including the spring shaft ;

    Figure 29 is a partially broken away, perspective view of the step for locking the drive plug to the drive plug shaft once the desired degree of "pre-wind" has been added to the power assist module;

    Figure 30A is an assembled, perspective view of the spring plug and rotator rail adaptor;

    Figure 30B is an exploded, perspective view of the spring plug and rotator rail adaptor of Figure 30A;

    Figure 30C is a partially broken away, section view along line 30C-30C of Figure 30A, showing the spring plug and rotator rail adaptor assembled onto a spring shaft;

    Figure 31 is a section view, similar to Figure 30, but with an additional rotator rail adaptor ready to snap onto the existing rotator rail adaptor;

    Figure 32 is a section view, similar to Figure 31 but showing the additional rotator rail adaptor snapped onto the existing rotator rail adaptor;

    Figure 33 is an end view of the rotator rail adaptor of Figure 30 showing how it engages a 1" diameter rotator rail;

    Figure 34 is an end view of the rotator rail adaptor of Figure 30 showing how it engages a 1-½" diameter rotator rail;

    Figure 35 is an end view of the rotator rail adaptors of Figure 32 showing how the additional rotator rail adaptor engages a 2" diameter rotator rail;

    Figure 36 is a perspective view of the drive plug, the limiter, and the spring shaft, similar to Figure 28, but shown from the opposite side, detailing the location for impacting the limiter to swage the spring shaft to the limiter;

    Figure 37 is a section view along line 37-37 of Figure 36, prior to swaging the spring shaft to the limiter;

    Figure 38 is a section view identical to that of Figure 37, but immediately after impacting a punch to the spring shaft so as to swage the spring shaft to the limiter;

    Figure 39 is a section view, similar to that of Figure 23, but for another embodiment of a window roller shade wherein the rod is secured for non-rotation to the control mechanism for extending and retracting the shade, instead of being secured to the non-drive end mounting clip;

    Figure 40 is an assembled, perspective view of the control mechanism and the coupler with screw of Figure 39;

    Figure 41 is a partially exploded, perspective view of the control mechanism and the coupler with screw of Figure 40;

    Figure 42 is a perspective view, similar to that of Figure 19, but for another embodiment of a power assist module which incorporates both a top limiter and a bottom limiter;

    Figure 43 is an exploded, perspective view of the power assist module of Figure 42;

    Figure 44 is a perspective view of the top limiter portion of the power assist module of Figure 43;

    Figure 45 is an opposite-end perspective view of the top limiter portion of the power assist module of Figure 43;

    Figure 46A is an exploded, perspective view of the limiters portion of the power assist module of Figure 43;

    Figure 46B is a perspective view of the assembled components of Figure 46A, also including a view of an idle end mounting adapter assembly for securing the rod to an end bracket;


    Description:



    [0011] Figures 1 through 15 illustrate an embodiment of a roller shade 10 with power assist modules 12 made in accordance with the present invention. Note that the terms "roller shade" and "shade" are used interchangeably to mean either the entire roller shade assembly 10 or just the light blocking element of the roller shade assembly 10. The intended meaning should be clear from the context in which it is used. Referring to Figure 1 , the roller shade 10 includes a rotator rail 14 mounted between a bracket clip 16 and a drive mechanism 18, which provide good rotational support for the rotator rail 14 at both ends. The rotator rail 14, in turn, provides support for one or more power assist modules 12 located inside the rotator rail 14, as shown in Figure 2. The right end of the rotator rail 14 is supported on a tube bearing 30, which mounts onto the bracket clip 16 as described in more detail later. The left end of the rotator rail 14 is supported on the drive mechanism 18. The details of the drive mechanism support are shown better in Figure 17, in which the drive mechanism 18' is identical to the drive mechanism 18 of this embodiment and includes a rotating drive spool with an external profile similar to the external profile of the tube bearing 30. Both the bracket clip 16 and the drive mechanism 18 are releasably secured to mounting brackets (not shown) which are fixedly secured to a wall or to a window frame.

    [0012] The drive mechanism 18 is described in U. S. Patent Publication No. 2006/01 18248 "Drive for coverings for architectural openings", filed January 13, 2006. Figures 116-121 of the '248 application depict an embodiment of a roller shade 760 with a roller lock mechanism 762, and the specification gives a complete detailed description of its operation. A brief summary of the operation of this drive mechanism 18 is stated below with respect to Figure 1 of this specification.

    [0013] When the tassel weight 20 of the drive mechanism 18 is pulled down by the user, the drive cord 22 (which wraps around a capstan and onto a drive spool, not shown) is also pulled down. This causes the capstan and the drive spool to rotate about their respective axes of rotation. The rotator rail 14 is secured to the drive spool for rotation about the same axis of rotation as the drive spool. As the rotator rail 14 rotates, the shade is retracted with the assistance of the power assist modules 12, as described in more detail below.

    Description:



    [0014] Figures 1 through 15 illustrate an embodiment of a roller shade 10 with power assist modules 12 made in accordance with the present invention. Note that the terms "roller shade" and "shade" are used interchangeably to mean either the entire roller shade assembly 10 or just the light blocking element of the roller shade assembly 10. The intended meaning should be clear from the context in which it is used. Referring to Figure 1, the roller shade 10 includes a rotator rail 14 mounted between a bracket clip 16 and a drive mechanism 18, which provide good rotational support for the rotator rail 14 at both ends. The rotator rail 14, in turn, provides support for one or more power assist modules 12 located inside the rotator rail 14, as shown in Figure 2. The right end of the rotator rail 14 is supported on a tube bearing 30, which mounts onto the bracket clip 16 as described in more detail later. The left end of the rotator rail 14 is supported on the drive mechanism 18. The details of the drive mechanism support are shown better in Figure 17, in which the drive mechanism 18' is identical to the drive mechanism 18 of this embodiment and includes a rotating drive spool with an external profile similar to the external profile of the tube bearing 30. Both the bracket clip 16 and the drive mechanism 18 are releasably secured to mounting brackets (not shown) which are fixedly secured to a wall or to a window frame.

    [0015] The drive mechanism 18 is described in U. S. Patent Publication No. 2006/0118248 "Drive for coverings for architectural openings", filed January 13, 2006, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. Figures 116-121 of the '248 application depict an embodiment of a roller shade 760 with a roller lock mechanism 762, and the specification gives a complete detailed description of its operation. A brief summary of the operation of this drive mechanism 18 is stated below with respect to Figure 1 of this specification.

    [0016] When the tassel weight 20 of the drive mechanism 18 is pulled down by the user, the drive cord 22 (which wraps around a capstan and onto a drive spool, not shown) is also pulled down. This causes the capstan and the drive spool to rotate about their respective axes of rotation. The rotator rail 14 is secured to the drive spool for rotation about the same axis of rotation as the drive spool. As the rotator rail 14 rotates, the shade is retracted with the assistance of the power assist modules 12, as described in more detail below.

    [0017] When the user releases the tassel weight 20, the force of gravity acting to extend the shade urges the rotation of the rotator rail 14 and of the drive spool in the opposite direction from before. This pulls up on the drive cord 22, which shifts the capstan to a position where the capstan is not allowed to rotate. This locks up the roller lock mechanism so as to prevent the shade from falling (extending).

    [0018] To extend the shade, the user lifts up on the tassel weight 20 which removes tension on the drive cord 22, allowing the cord 22 to surge the capstan, unlocking the roller lock mechanism. The drive spool and the rotator rail 14 are then allowed to rotate due to the force of gravity acting to extend the shade. As the shade extends, the power assist modules 12 are wound up in preparation for when they are called to assist in retracting the shade.

    [0019] There is also an "overpowered" version of this drive in which pulling down on the tassel weight 20 by the user extends the shade. As the shade extends, the power assist modules 12 are wound up in preparation for when they are called to assist in retracting the shade. When the user releases the tassel weight 20, the "overpowered" power assist modules 12 urge the shade to rotate in the opposite direction to raise the shade, which shifts the capstan to a position where the capstan is not allowed to rotate. This locks up the roller lock mechanism so as to prevent the shade from rising (retracting).

    [0020] To retract the shade, the user lifts up on the tassel weight 20, which removes tension on the drive cord 22, allowing the cord 22 to surge the capstan, unlocking the roller lock mechanism. The drive spool and the rotator rail 14 are then allowed to rotate due to the force of the "overpowered" power assist modules 12 acting to retract the shade.

    [0021] It should be noted that the cord drivel 8 is just one example of a drive which may be used for the roller shade 10. Many other types of drives are known and may alternatively be used.

    [0022] Figures 2 and 3 show the roller shade 10 with the drive mechanism omitted for clarity. In this embodiment, two power assist modules 12 are mounted over a rod 24. It is understood that any number of power assist modules 12 may be incorporated into a roller shade 10. It should also be understood that the power assist modules 12 in a shade 10 may each have springs 50 (See Figure 5) with different spring constants K, and, as explained later, each of the power assist modules 12 may be pre-wound to a desired degree independent of the other power assist modules 12 in the shade 10. The rod 24 has a non-circular cross-sectional profile (as best appreciated in Figure 7B) in order to non-rotationally engage various other components as described below. One speed nut 26 is installed onto the rod 24 to prevent the power assist modules 12 from sliding off of the rod 24 (keeping the power assist modules 12 inside the rotator rail 14). Another speed nut 28 is installed onto the rod 24 near its other end (See also Figure 8, 7A, and 7C) to prevent the tube bearing 30 from sliding off of the shaft 32 of the bracket clip 16, as described in more detail below. Finally, a plunger 34 is used to secure the bracket clip 16 to a wall-mounted or window-frame-mounted bracket (not shown). The rod 24 is not threaded. The speed nuts 26, 28 have deformable tangs which deform temporarily in one direction, allowing the speed nut to be pushed axially along the rod 24 in a first direction and then to grab onto the rod 24 to resist movement in the opposite direction.

    [0023] Figures 2 and 3 clearly show that, in this embodiment, the rod 24 is shorter than the rotator rail 14 such that the rod 24 does not extend the full length of the rotator rail 14. In this embodiment, the right end of the rod 24 extends to the bracket clip 16, where it is secured against rotation, but the left end does not extend all the way to the drive mechanism 18. If desired, the rod 24 alternatively could be secured against rotation by the drive mechanism 18 and not extend all the way to the bracket clip 16. As another alternative, the rod 24 could extend the full length of the rotator rail 14 and be secured against rotation both at the drive mechanism 18 and at the bracket clip 16. As long as one end of the rod 24 is secured against rotation, it is not necessary for the rod 24 to be supported at both ends, because it is supported by the rotator rail 14 at various points along its length, as will be explained in more detail later.

    [0024] The tube bearing 30 (See Figures 3 and 8) is a substantially cylindrical element having a shaft portion 35 (See Figure 8) having an internal surface which defines an inner circular cross-section through-opening 36 and provides rotational support of the tube bearing 30 on the shaft 32 of the bracket clip 16. The tube bearing 30 has a cylindrical outer surface 38, which engages and supports the inner surface 54 (See Figure 15) of the rotator rail 14. A shoulder 40 limits how far the tube bearing 30 slides into the rotator rail 14.

    [0025] Referring to Figure 8, the substantially cylindrical shaft member 32 of the bracket clip 16 defines a non-circular cross-sectional profiled inner bore 112 which receives and engages the rod 24 to support the right end of the rod 24 and prevent it from rotating. A radially-extending flange 114 on the bracket clip 16 defines hooked projections 116 to mount the bracket clip 16 to a wall-mounted or a window-frame-mounted bracket (not shown). Since the bracket clip 16 is stationary relative to the wall or window frame, and since it receives and engages the rod 24 with a non-circular profile, it prevents the rotation of the rod 24 relative to the wall or window frame. As mentioned above, the shaft 32 on the bracket clip 16 provides rotational support for the tube bearing 30.

    [0026] Referring now to Figures 4, 5, and 8, the power assist module 12 includes a drive plug shaft 42 (which may also be referred to as a threaded follower member 42), a drive plug 44, a limiter 46 (which may also be referred to as a threaded shaft member 46), a spring shaft 48, a spring 50, and a spring plug 52. These components are described in detail below.

    [0027] Referring to Figures 5 and 10, the spring shaft 48 is a substantially cylindrical, hollow member defining first and second ends and having a plurality of ribs 56 (in this embodiment of the shaft 48 there are four ribs 56 projecting radially outwardly at the 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock positions, spaced apart at ninety degree intervals) and extending axially from the first end to the second end. The length of the spring shaft 48 is such that, when assembled onto a power assist module 12 (See Figure 8), the distance between the radial flange 58 on the drive plug 44 and the radial flange 60 on the spring plug 52 is slightly longer than the axial length of the spring 50 when the spring 50 is in its relaxed (unwound) state to allow for spring growth as it is prewound.

    [0028] The ribs 56 not only serve to engage similarly cross-shaped grooves on the limiter 46 and on the spring plug 52, as described in more detail below; they also provide contact points for the inside surface of the spring 50 to contact the shaft 48. As the spring 50 is wound up tighter, its inner diameter is reduced and its axial length increases. This may cause some portion(s) of the inner surface of the spring 50 to collapse onto the shaft 48. The ribs 56 provide an outside perimeter which is sufficient to maintain the spring coaxial with the shaft 48. This prevents the spring 50 from becoming skewed and interfering with the inner surface of the rotator rail 14. The ribs 56 also provide a limited number of contact points between the shaft 48 and the inner surface of the spring 50 in order to minimize the frictional resistance between the spring 50 and the shaft 48.

    [0029] As described below, the ribs 56 on the spring shaft 48 form a cross-shaped pattern designed to fit into and engage similarly cross-shaped grooves on the limiter 46 and on the spring plug 52. As best appreciated in Figure 5, the spring shaft 48 defines a circular cross-sectional profiled inner bore 78 which both slidably and rotatably receives the rod 24. It should be noted that the spring shaft 48 need not be supported for rotation relative to the rod 24. The spring shaft 48 could have an internal cross-sectional profile similar to that of the limiter 46 described below to prevent any rotation between the spring shaft 48 and the rod 24, but this constraint is not necessary. The spring plug 52 has a non-circular cross-section internal opening 110, which receives the rod 24 and matches the non-circular cross-section of the rod 24 in order to key the spring plug 52 to the rod 24 so the spring plug 52 does not rotate.

    [0030] Referring now to Figure 9, the limiter 46 (also referred to as the threaded shaft member 46) is a substantially cylindrical, hollow member defining a cross-shaped groove 62 at a first end 72. This groove 62 receives the ribs 56 of the spring shaft 48 (See Figure 10) such that these two components are locked together from rotation relative to each other, at least long enough to allow a pre-wind to be added to the spring 50 without having to mount the power assist module 12 to a rod 24, as explained in more detail later.

    [0031] A radially-extending shoulder 64 on the limiter 46 limits how far the spring shaft 48 can be inserted into the limiter 46. The other side of the shoulder 64 defines a stop projection 66 extending axially from the shoulder 64. As described in more detail later, and depicted in Figure 10, the stop 66 impacts against a similar axially-extending stop projection 68 on the drive plug shaft 42 to limit the extent to which the drive plug shaft 42 can be threaded into the limiter 46 (and thus how far the drive plug shaft 42 can be rotated relative to the rod 24 to which the limiter 46 is keyed, as explained below).

    [0032] Referring to Figure 7B, the limiter 46 has a non-circular internal cross-sectional profile which matches the non-circular cross-sectional profile of the rod 24. This allows the limiter 46 to slide axially along the rod 24 while preventing the limiter 46 from rotating relative to the rod 24. As explained earlier, the rod 24 is secured against rotation relative to the bracket clip 16 by a similar mechanism, and the bracket clip 16 is, in turn, secured to the brackets (not shown) mounted to the wall or to the window frame. Therefore, the rod 24 cannot rotate relative to the wall or to the window frame, and those components which are also secured against rotation relative to the rod 24, such as the spring plug 52 and the limiter 46, also cannot rotate relative to the wall or to the window frame.

    [0033] Finally, the limiter 46 defines an externally threaded portion 70 (See Figure 9) extending from the shoulder 64 to the second end 74 of the limiter 46. This threaded portion 70 is threaded into the internally threaded portion 76 of the drive plug shaft 42 until the stop projection 66 on the limiter 46 impacts against the stop projection 68 on the drive plug shaft 42, as shown in Figure 10, corresponding to the position where the shade is in the fully retracted position, as discussed in more detail later.

    [0034] It should be noted that, as the shade 10 is extended, the spring 50 becomes coiled tighter, resulting in a gradual collapse of the diameter of its coils and consequent increase in the overall length of the spring 50. In a preferred embodiment, the threaded portion 70 of the limiter 46 has a thread pitch such that the drive plug shaft 42 unthreads from the limiter 46 at a rate (controlled by the thread pitch) which is equal to the rate at which the spring 50 "grows" in length as it is coiled tighter as the shade 10 is extended.

    [0035] Referring back Figure 9, the drive plug shaft 42 is a substantially cylindrical, hollow member defining an internally threaded portion 76 and a smooth, cylindrical external portion 80 which is used for rotational support of the drive plug 44 as explained later. One end of the drive plug shaft 42 has a radially extending flange 82 which defines two diametrically opposed flat recesses 84 and a through opening 86 adjacent to one of the flats, the purpose of which is explained later.

    [0036] The flange 82 is sized to be received inside the rotator rail 14 (See Figure 15), and the flat recesses 84 receive, and are engaged by, the inwardly-projecting and axially extending ribs 88 on the inner surface 54 of the rotator rail 14. Therefore, as the rotator rail 14 rotates, it causes the drive plug shaft 42 to rotate. When the rotator rail 14 rotates so as to extend the roller shade 10, the drive plug shaft 42 rotates relative to the limiter 46, partially unscrewing itself relative to the non-rotating limiter 46 and causing the drive plug shaft 42 to move axially away from (but not to be fully unthreaded from) the limiter 46. The limiter 46 does not rotate because it is keyed to the rod 24 (which is secured to the wall or window frame via the bracket clip 16).

    [0037] Likewise, as the roller shade is retracted, the drive plug shaft 42 threads onto the limiter 46. This continues until the stop 68 on the drive plug shaft 42 impacts against the stop 66 on the limiter 46, at which point the drive plug shaft 42, and therefore also the rotator rail 14 (which is keyed to the drive plug shaft 42 via the flat recesses 84) are stopped against further rotation. As explained later, the spring 50 will still have some unwinding left in it when the rotator rail is stopped, and this is the degree of "pre wind" which may be added to the power assist module 12 to ensure that the shade is fully retracted.

    [0038] Referring now to Figures 9 and 7B, the drive plug 44 is a substantially cylindrical, hollow member defining a circular cross-sectional profiled inner bore 90 which is supported for rotation on the circular cross-section portion 80 of the drive plug shaft 42. The external surface of the drive plug 44 defines a first, frustoconical portion 92 and a second, cylindrical portion 94, as well as a radially extending flange 96 which is very similar to the flange 82 on the drive plug shaft 42, including having diametrically opposed flat recesses 98. The flange 96 also defines an axially-directed projection 100 adjacent to one of the flat recesses 98. The projection 100 is received in the through opening 86 on the flange 82 of the drive plug shaft 42, such that, when the drive plug shaft 42 rotates, the drive plug 44 rotates with it. Since the flat recesses 98 on the drive plug 44 are aligned with the flat recesses 84 on the drive plug shaft 42 when the projection 100 is received in the opening 86, the ribs 88 on the rotator rail 14 are received in and engage both sets of flat recesses 84, 98. Thus, the drive plug shaft 42 and the drive plug 44 both rotate with the rotator rail 14 as the roller shade 10 is extended and retracted. The force required to transfer the rotational torque from the drive plug 44 to the drive plug shaft 42, especially when the spring 50 is fully wound, is not borne exclusively by the projection 100 on the drive plug 44, but rather it is shared with, and in fact is borne substantially by, the aligned flat recesses 98, 84 of the drive plug 44 and drive plug shaft 42, respectively.

    [0039] Referring now to Figures 4 and 8, the spring plug 52 is similar to the drive plug 44, having a first, frustoconical portion 102 and a second, cylindrical portion 104, and a shoulder 60 which limits how far the spring plug 52 fits into the spring 50. The first end 106 of the spring plug 52 defines a cross-shaped groove 108, similar to the cross-shaped groove 62 on the limiter 46. The cross-shaped groove 108 of the spring plug 52 receives the cross-shaped ribs 56 of the spring shaft 48. The spring plug 52 defines an inner bore 110 (See Figures 4 and 5) with a non-circular cross-sectional profile that matches the non-circular cross-sectional profile of the rod 24 and keys the spring plug 52 to the rod 24. Since the rod 24 is secured to the bracket clip 16 against rotation relative to a wall or window frame, and since the spring plug 52 is keyed to the rod 24, the spring plug 52 is also secured against rotation relative to the wall or window frame, but it may slide axially along the rod 24 if required.

    [0040] The spring 50 is a coil spring having first and second ends. Referring to Figures 11, 12, and 13, the spring 50 is assembled onto the drive plug 44 by lining up the first end of the spring 50 with the frustoconical portion 92 of the drive plug 44. The spring 50 is then "threaded" onto the drive plug 44 by rotating the spring 50 in a clockwise direction (as seen from the vantage point of Figure 11). This "opens up" the spring 50, increasing its inside diameter and allowing it to be pushed onto and "threaded" up the tapered surface of the frustoconical portion 92 of the drive plug 44, as shown in Figure 12. A final effort to push the spring 50 onto the drive plug 44 places the spring 50 fully onto the cylindrical portion 94 of the drive plug 44, until the first end of the spring 50 is abutting the flange 96 of the drive plug 44. When the spring 50 is released (that is, when it is no longer being "opened" by the clockwise rotation against the drive plug 44), it will collapse, reducing its inside diameter, so it clamps onto the cylindrical portion 92 of the drive plug 44. The second end of the spring 50 is similarly mounted onto and secured to the cylindrical portion 104 of the spring plug 52 (see Fig. 5). Note that the frustoconical portions of the drive plug 44 and of the spring plug 52 may be threaded (not shown in the figures) to assist in the assembly of the spring 50 to these plugs 44, 52.

    Assembly:



    [0041] To assemble the roller shade 10, the power assist modules 12 are first assembled as follows. As shown in Figures 9 and 10, the drive plug 44 is mounted for rotation onto the outer surface 80 of the drive plug shaft 42, with the flange 96 of the drive plug 44 adjacent to the flange 82 of the drive plug shaft 42 and with the projection 100 of the drive plug 44 not yet inserted into the through opening 86 of the drive plug shaft 42. The limiter 46 is threaded into the drive plug shaft 42 until the stop projection 66 on the limiter 46 impacts against the stop projection 68 on the drive plug shaft 42, as shown in Figure 10. The spring 50 is then threaded onto the frustoconical portion 92 of the drive plug shaft 42, as described earlier and as shown in Figures 11, 12, and finally onto the cylindrical portion 94 of the drive plug shaft 42 as shown in Figure 13. One end of the spring shaft 48 is inserted into the spring 50 until its ribs 56 are received in the cross-shaped groove 62 of the limiter 46. The spring plug 52 is then installed on the other end of the spring 50, with the groove 108 of the spring plug 52 receiving the ribs 56 of the spring shaft 48 and with the second end of the spring 50 threaded onto the cylindrical portion 104 of the spring plug 52. Note that so far the rod 24 has not yet been installed. The power assist modules 12 are now assembled as pictured in Figure 4.

    Prewinding the power assist module:



    [0042] Referring to Figure 13, to "pre-wind" the power assist module 12, the assembler holds onto the drive plug shaft 42 while rotating the drive plug 44 in a clockwise direction (as seen from the vantage point of Figure 13). This causes the spring 50 to start winding up relative to its other end, which is stationary (non-rotating). The other end of the spring 50 is non-rotating because it is secured to the spring plug 52, which is connected to the spring shaft 48 via the cross-shaped groove 108 on the spring plug 52, which is engaged with the cross-shaped ribs 56 on the spring shaft 48. The spring shaft 48 is in turn connected to the limiter 46 (as shown in Figure 10) via the groove 62 on the limiter 46 which also receives the cross-shaped ribs 56 on the spring shaft 48. The limiter 46 is prevented from rotation because the stop projection 68 on the drive plug shaft 42 is impacting against the stop projection 66 on the limiter 46, and the assembler is holding onto the drive plug shaft 42 to prevent its rotation.

    [0043] It can therefore be seen that, as the assembler rotates the drive plug 44 while holding onto the drive plug shaft 42, he is winding up the spring 50. Every time the projection 100 on the drive plug 44 rotates past the through opening 86 on the drive plug shaft 42, the spring 50 will have one complete turn of "pre-wind" added to it. Once the desired degree of "pre-wind" is reached, the assembler lines up the projection 100 on the drive plug 44 with the opening 86 in the drive plug shaft 42 and snaps the drive plug 44 and the drive plug shaft 42 together as shown in Figure 14, with the flange 96 of the drive plug 44 in direct contact with the flange 82 of the drive plug shaft 42 and with the projection 100 of the drive plug 44 extending through the opening 86 in the flange 82 of the drive plug shaft 42. This "locks" the "pre-wind" onto the power assist module 12. The power assist module 12 is now assembled and "pre-wound" and is ready for installation in the roller shade 10. Note that more than one projection 100 on the drive plug 44 and/or more than one opening 86 in the drive plug shaft 42 may be present. In any event, the flats 84 on the drive plug shaft 42 line up with the flats 98 on the drive plug 44 so they may all catch the ribs 88 (See Figure 15) of the rotator rail 14, as explained in more detail below.

    [0044] From the foregoing discussion, it should be clear that the pre-winding method involves holding one end of the spring 50 to prevent its rotation, while the other end of the spring 50 is rotated. Referring to Figure 4, in the pre-wind method described above, the right end of the spring 50 is held against rotation by the spring plug 52 (which is connected to the limiter 46 via the spring tube 48, all of which are prevented from rotation relative to the drive plug shaft 42, which is being held stationary by the person who is doing the prewinding. Using this pre-winding method, the spring 50 can only be pre-wound in discrete quantities, such as in one revolution increments for the embodiment depicted in Figure 9.

    [0045] Each power assist module 12 may be "pre-wound" to the desired degree of "pre-wind" independently of the other power assist modules 12 in the roller shade 10. For instance, some of the power assist modules 12 may be installed with no "pre-wind", while others may have one or more turns of "pre-wind" added to them prior to installation onto the roller shade 10. It should once again be noted that so far the rod 24 has not yet been installed. However, each power assist module 12 is an independent unit which may be stocked or shipped to an installer already with a desired degree of "pre-wind". This degree of "pre-wind" may be changed by simply separating the drive plug 44 from the drive plug shaft 42 far enough to free the projection 100 on the drive plug 44 from the through opening 86 of the drive plug shaft 42, which "unlocks" the power assist module 12 so that the degree of "pre-wind" may be adjusted by rotating the drive plug 44 clockwise relative to the drive plug shaft 42 to add more "pre-wind" or by rotating the drive plug 44 counterclockwise relative to the drive plug shaft 42 to reduce the degree of "pre-wind" and then re-inserting the projection 100 on the drive plug 44 through the through opening 86 of the drive plug shaft 42 to again lock the drive plug 44 and drive plug shaft 42 together.

    Alternate method for pre-winding the power assist module 12



    [0046] Instead of pre-winding as described above, at the drive plug end of the spring 50, another alternative is to prewind at the spring plug end of the spring 50. Referring again to Figures 4 and 5, the user holds onto the spring 50 at its rightmost end, near the spring plug 52, to prevent the rotation of the spring 50. He then grasps the flange 60 on the spring plug 52 and rotates it clockwise. This action "opens up" the end of the spring 50, allowing the spring plug 52 to be rotated while the rightmost end of the spring 50 is held against rotation. Rotation of the spring plug 52 also causes rotation of the spring tube 48, the limiter 46, the drive plug shaft 42, drive plug 44 (which is snapped together for rotation with the drive plug shaft 42) and the leftmost end of the spring 50 (adjacent the drive plug 44). Since the user is holding the rightmost end of the spring 50 against rotation, rotation of the left end of the spring 50 by means of rotating the spring plug 52 prewinds the spring 50. Using this procedure, the spring 50 may be pre-wound any desired amount, including any fractional number of revolutions for an infinitely adjustable degree of pre-wind of the spring 50. As soon as the user stops rotating the spring plug 52, the rightmost end of the spring 50 will "collapse" back onto the cylindrical portion 104 of the spring plug 52, locking onto the spring plug 52 to keep the desired pre-wind on the spring 50.

    [0047] It should be noted that, if this alternative pre-wind procedure is used, the two-piece, snap together design of the drive plug shaft 42 and drive plug 44 is not needed and may be replaced by a single piece unit. However, the two-piece design described herein still has another advantage in that it provides an easy way to release any degree of pre-wind on the spring 50 simply by separating the drive plug shaft 42 from the drive plug 44. As soon as these two parts 42, 44 are unsnapped and released, the spring 50 will uncoil and lose all its pre-wind.

    [0048] Referring now to Figures 2 and 8, to assemble the roller shade 10, the tube bearing 30 is mounted onto the shaft 32 of the bracket clip 16. The rod 24 is inserted, with a forced interference fit, into the inner bore 112 of the bracket clip 16, and the speed nut 28 is slid onto the rod 24 (from the left end as shown in Figure 8) until it reaches the end of the inner bore 112 of the bracket clip 16. This prevents the tube bearing 30 from falling off of the bracket clip 16 because the tube bearing shaft 35 cannot pass over the flange of the speed nut 28 at the end of the bracket clip 16. One or more power assist modules 12 are then installed onto the rod 24 by sliding them onto the left end of the rod 24. The rod 24 engages the spring plug 52 and the limiter 46 of each power assist module 12 such that they are able to slide axially along the length of the rod 24, but they are unable to rotate relative to the rod 24. Since the rod 24 is axially secured to the bracket clip 16 and is prevented from rotating relative to the bracket clip 16, and since the bracket clip 16 is secured to a bracket which is mounted to a wall or to a window frame, then the rod 24 and the spring plugs 52 and limiters 46 of the power assist modules 12 are all mounted so they do not rotate relative to the wall or window frame.

    [0049] The spring shaft 48 of each module 12 is both slidably and rotatably supported on the rod 24. The drive plug shaft 42 is threaded onto the non-rotating limiter 46, and the drive plug 44 is rotatably supported on the drive plug shaft 42 and is locked for rotation with the drive plug shaft 42 via the projection 100 inserted through the opening 86 on the drive plug shaft 42.

    [0050] Once the desired number of modules 12 is slid onto the rod 24, the speed nut 26 is then slid onto the end of the rod 24 to the desired position, as shown in Figure 2, to serve as a stop for the drive plug shaft 42 of the last module 12 by the flange of the speed nut 26 abutting the flange 82 of the drive plug shaft 42. This keeps the power assist modules 12 from sliding out beyond the rotator rail 14. The rotator rail 14 is then slid from left to right over the entire subassembly, making sure that the ribs 88 (See Figure 15) on the inner surface 54 of the rotator rail 14 are received in the flat recesses 84, 98 on each drive plug shaft 42 and drive plug 44, respectively (and in the similar flat recesses on the tube bearing 30, as shown in Figure 7C). The rotator rail 14 slides all the way over all the power assist modules 12 and fits snugly over the generally cylindrical outer surface 38 of the tube bearing 30 until it is stopped by the shoulder 40 of the tube bearing 30.

    [0051] Finally, the cord drive mechanism 18 is installed, which includes a drive spool (not shown) which engages the left end of the rotator rail 14 and causes it to rotate.

    Operation:



    [0052] As was already described earlier, when the tassel weight 20 of the drive mechanism 18 is pulled down by the user, the drive cord 22 (which wraps around a capstan and onto a drive spool, not shown) is also pulled down. This causes the capstan and the drive spool to rotate about their respective axes of rotation in a first direction in order to retract the shade. The rotator rail 14 is secured to the drive spool for rotation with the drive spool about the same axis of rotation as the drive spool. (Like the tube bearing 30, the drive spool also has flat recesses that receive the internal ribs 88 of the rotator rail 14.) As the rotator rail 14 rotates in the first direction, with the user pulling down on the drive cord 22, the shade is retracted with the help of the springs 50. The right end of each spring 50 (from the perspective of Fig. 8) does not rotate, since the spring plug 52 on which it is mounted does not rotate. The left end of each spring 50 drives the drive plug 44 on which it is mounted and the respective drive plug shaft 42 that is connected to the drive plug 44 by means of the projection 100 and by means of the rotator rail 14, which has internal ribs 88 that key the rotator rail 14 to all the drive plugs 44 and drive plug shafts 42. Thus, as the springs 50 drive their respective drive plugs 44, they drive the rotator rail 14 in the first direction, with the assistance of the user pulling down on the drive cord, which drives the drive mechanism 18 and the rotator rail 14 in the first direction, to retract the shade.

    [0053] The "pre-wind" in the power assist modules 12 provides force to retract the roller shade 10 all the way until the shade is completely retracted. Once the shade is completely retracted, the stop projection 66 on the limiter 46 impacts against the stop projection 68 on the drive plug shaft 42 to prevent any further rotation of the rotator rail 14.

    [0054] When the user releases the tassel weight 20, the force of gravity acting to extend the shade urges the rotation of the drive spool in the opposite direction. This pulls up on the drive cord 22 which shifts the capstan to a position where the capstan is not allowed to rotate. This locks up the roller lock mechanism so as to prevent the shade from falling (extending).

    [0055] To extend the shade, the user lifts up on the tassel weight 20, which relieves tension on the drive cord 22, allowing the cord 22 to surge the capstan (as described in US2006/0118248). The drive spool and the rotator rail 14 are then allowed to rotate in a second direction due to the force of gravity acting to extend the shade, overcoming the force of the power assist modules 12. This causes the power assist modules 12 to wind up in preparation for when they are called to assist in retracting the shade again. When the user releases the tassel weight 20 again, the gravitational force acting on the tassel weight 20 puts enough tension on the drive cord 22 to prevent any further surging of the capstan, which locks the roller lock mechanism and locks the roller shade in place (as indicated earlier, other alternative cord operated locking mechanisms could be used).

    [0056] It should be noted that in this first embodiment of the roller shade 10, described above, the rod 24 is supported and secured against rotation by the non-drive end bracket clip 16 (See Figure 8). The spring plug 52 is keyed to the rod 24, so it also is secured for non-rotation to the non-drive end bracket clip 16. The limiter 46 is also keyed to the rod 24, so it also is secured for non-rotation to the non-drive end bracket clip. As the rotator rail 14 (See Figure 1) is extended, its inside surface 54 (See Figure 15) engages the drive plug 44 and the drive plug shaft 42 (via the projections 88 which engage the flats 84, 98 (See Figure 14) of the drive plug shaft 42 and of the drive plug 44, respectively. The drive plug shaft 42 threads itself partially off of the limiter 46 as the spring 50 winds up.

    [0057] When retracting the roller shade 10, the rotator rail 14 is urged to rotate by the spring 50 so as to unwind the spring 50, and this action re-threads the drive plug shaft 42 onto the limiter 46 until the stop 66 on the limiter 46 impacts against the stop 68 on the drive plug shaft 42, preventing any further rotation of the drive plug shaft 42 and therefore also of the rotator rail 14, and this corresponds to the fully retracted position of the rotator rail 14.

    Additional embodiments



    [0058] Additional embodiments described below operate in substantially the same manner as the first embodiment 10 described above, with the following main differences in implementation of the design:
    • The rod 24 may be secured against rotation to either the drive end or the non-drive end of the roller shade, whereas the first embodiment could only be secured against rotation to the non-drive end. This is accomplished by using a coupler.
    • Instead of keying the limiter to the rod 24, it is secured via swaging to the spring shaft.
    • The spring shaft has a "C" cross-section, and it is preferably made from a material, such as extruded aluminum, that is torsionally strong enough to handle the torque applied by the spring 50.
    • The rod 24 is keyed only to a single element (the spring plug) in each power assist module, which facilitates the installation of the rod 24 through the power assist modules.
    • The designs of the drive plug shaft and of the drive plug are slightly different from the first embodiment.
    • Rotator rail adaptors may be added at the spring plug end of each power assist module to provide additional support for the rod 24. These rotator rail adaptors mount onto, but rotate independently from, their corresponding spring plugs and may accommodate a range of rotator rail sizes (diameters).


    [0059] The above changes are described in more detail below.

    [0060] Figures 16-38 show a second embodiment of a roller shade 10' made in accordance with the present invention. The same item numbers are used for this second embodiment 10' as were used for the first embodiment 10, with the addition of a "prime" designation (as in 10') to differentiate the second embodiment from the first embodiment.

    [0061] Referring to Figures 16-18, the roller shade 10' includes a drive mechanism 18', which is identical to the drive mechanism 18 in the first embodiment. Other alternative drive mechanisms may be used, as known in the art. The roller shade 10' also includes a rotator rail 14', a non-drive end bracket clip 16', a rod 24', first and second speed nuts 26', 28', a tube bearing 30', a coupler 34' (See Figure 18), and one or more power assist modules 12'. As explained later, the power assist modules 12' may include rotator rail adaptors 118'. It should be noted that the rod 24' in this second embodiment of a roller shade 10' is secured for non-rotation to the non-drive end bracket clip 16' via the coupler 34'. A third embodiment 10" shown in Figures 39-41 has the rod 24' secured for non-rotation to the drive mechanism 18' via the coupler 34', as explained in more detail later. The aforementioned components are substantially identical to their counterparts in the first embodiment 10 with the exception of the coupler and the rotator rail adaptors (which were absent in the first embodiment 10) and the power assist modules 12' which have structural differences but function in substantially the same manner, as explained in more detail below.

    [0062] Referring to Figures 19-26, each power assist module 12' includes a drive plug shaft 42', a drive plug 44', a limiter 46', a spring shaft 48', a spring 50', a spring plug 52', and may include a rotator rail adaptor 118'.

    [0063] Referring to Figures 20 and 28, the spring shaft 48' is an elongated element, preferably made from a material such as extruded aluminum (or other material of sufficient torsional strength), with a "C" channel cross-section (as may also be appreciated in Figures 25 and 26). As shown in Figures 26 and 30B, the spring plug 52' defines an inner bore 110' with a substantially "V" shaped projection 108' which , as best appreciated in Figure 26, is received in the substantially "V" shaped notch 56' in the "C" channel cross-section of the spring shaft 48', and in the substantially "V" shaped notch 57' of the rod 24' such that the spring plug 52', spring shaft 48' and rod 24' are locked together for non-rotation. To summarize, the "V" shaped projection 108' of the spring plug 52' extends through both the "V" shaped notch 56' in the "C" channel cross-section of the spring shaft 48' and the "V" shaped notch 57' of the rod 24', locking all three of the items for non-rotation relative to each other.

    [0064] The spring shaft 48' is further secured to the spring plug 52' via a screw 53' (See also Figures 20, 26 and 30B) which is threaded between the inner bore 110' of the spring plug 52' and the outer surface of the spring shaft 48' to lock these two parts 52', 48' together against separation in the axial direction.

    [0065] As shown in Figures 25, 27 and 28, the other end of the spring shaft 48' fits into the inner bore 72' of the limiter 46', with the substantially "V" shaped projection 62' of the limiter 46' fitting into the substantially "V" shaped notch 56' in the "C" channel cross-section of the spring shaft 48', such that both of these parts 46', 48' are locked together for non-rotation relative to each other, as shown in Figure 25.

    [0066] Referring now to Figures 36-38, the limiter 46' includes a thinned-out spot 120' to indicate the location where the spring shaft 48' may be hit in the radial direction with a center punch 122', punching through the limiter 46' to swage the spring shaft 48' against the substantially "V" shaped projection 62' of the limiter 46' to lock these two parts 46', 48' together so they will not slide relative to each other in the axial direction.

    [0067] Thus, the assembly of the spring plug 52', the spring shaft 48', and the limiter 46' is secured together for non-rotation relative to each other as well as for non-separation in the axial direction. In this assembly, only the spring plug 52' engages the rod 24' during final assembly (as shown in Figure 26) to prevent rotation of the assembly relative to the rod 24', but the assembly permits sliding motion of the spring plug 52', spring shaft 48' and limiter 46' in the axial direction relative to the rod 24'. As explained in more detail later, the rod 24' is secured for non-rotation either to the non-drive end bracket clip 16' or to the drive mechanism 18' via a coupler 34'.

    [0068] Referring now to Figures 27-29, the drive plug 44' is very similar to the drive plug 44 of the first embodiment, with flats 98' which receive and engage the ribs 88 (See Figure 15) of the rotator rail 14 for positive rotational engagement of these two parts 44', 14. The inner bore 90' of the drive plug 44' is supported for rotation by the smooth external surface 80' of the drive plug shaft 42'. The drive plug 44' defines a hook 100' which snaps over a projection 86' on the drive plug shaft 42' to lock these two parts together (in the assembled position of Figure 29) after the desired degree of "pre wind" has been added to the power assist module 12', so as to "lock" the degree of pre-wind in a similar manner to how this was handled in the first embodiment 10. The drive plug shaft 42' has corresponding flats 84' which align with the flats 98' of the drive plug 44' and receive the ribs 88 of the rotator rail 14 such that both the drive plug shaft 42' and the drive plug 44' together engage the rotator rail 14.

    [0069] As was the case for the first embodiment 10, the limiter 46' includes a stop 66' (See Figure 27) which impacts against a stop 68' on the drive plug shaft 42' when the shade is in the fully retracted position to stop the shade from further rotation, despite the fact that the power assist modules 12' may continue to urge the rotator rail 14' to rotate in the retracting direction.

    [0070] Referring to Figures 30A-30C, the rotator rail adaptor 118' is a planar, generally rectangular element defining opposed flats 124'. It also defines a central through opening 126' which rides over the stub shaft 128' of the spring plug 52' and permits relative rotation between the rotator rail adaptor 118' and the stub shaft 128'. The stub shaft 128' defines an axial shoulder 130' which serves to lock the rotator rail adaptor 118' in the axial direction, to prevent it from slipping axially off of the spring plug 52'. The axial shoulder 130' tapers from a smaller diameter at the end of the stub shaft 128' to a larger diameter at its inner end. During assembly, the shoulder 130' flexes just enough to allow the rotator rail adaptor 118' to slide over the axial shoulder 130' during assembly, and then the shoulder 130' snaps back to its original position to rotationally lock the rotator rail adaptor 118' in place as shown in Figure 30C.

    [0071] Figures 33-34 show how the rotator rail adaptor 118' engages two different sizes of rotator rails 14', and Figure 35 shows how a larger rotator rail adaptor 119 engages a still larger rotator rail 14'.

    [0072] As may be appreciated in Figure 33, the rotator rail adaptor 118' engages the ribs 88' of the rotator rail 14'. This represents the smallest diameter rotator rail 14', which, in this particular embodiment, is a 1 inch diameter rotator rail.

    [0073] Figure 34 shows the same rotator rail adaptor 118' installed in a slightly larger diameter rotator rail 14', in this case a 1-1/2 inch diameter rotator rail. Again, the flats 124' of the rotator rail adaptor 118' engage the ribs 88' of this larger diameter rotator rail 14' which extend inwardly to the same position as the ribs 88' on the smaller diameter rotator rail 14'. The rotator rail adaptor 118' provides a bridge by which the rotator rail 14' supports the spring plug 52', which in turn supports the rod 24' (See Figure 23), which supports the power assist module 12'.

    [0074] Each power assist module 12' is supported at a first end by the drive plug 44' and the drive plug shaft 42' and at a second end by the spring plug 52'. Since the flats 98' of the drive plug 44' (See Figure 27) and the flats 124' of the rotator rail adaptor 118' (See Figure 33) engage the ribs 88' of the rotator rail 14', the rotator rail 14' supports the drive plug 44' and rotates with the drive plug 44' and with the rotator rail adaptor 118'. If two power assist modules 12' are located close together, as shown, for example, in Figure 22, it may not be necessary to have a rotator rail adaptor 118' on the second end of one power assist module 12' (for example on the second end of the module on the left in Figure 22), because the rod 24' is adequately supported by the drive plug 44' at the first end of the adjacent power assist module 12' (for example, the drive plug 44' of the module 12' on the right in Figure 22). Figure 22 does show the use of a rotator rail adaptor 118' at the second end of the power assist module 12' on the left, but it would not be necessary in this instance. Note that the rotator rail adaptor 118' shown in Figure 23 also may not be necessary, since the rod 24' of the power assist module 12' is adequately supported by the shaft 132' of the nearby bracket clip 16'.

    [0075] Figures 31, 32, and 35 show a second, larger rotator rail adaptor 119' which is used for an even larger rotator rail 14', which, in this embodiment, is two inches in diameter. This second rotator rail adaptor 119' snaps over and locks onto the first rotator rail adaptor 118' with the aid of the hooks 131'. The second rotator rail adaptor 119' is a planar, elongated member defining flats 125' and a central through opening 127' which slides over the stub shaft 128' of the spring plug 52', which allows the second rotator rail adaptor 119' to rotate together with the first rotator rail adaptor 118'. As best illustrated in Figure 35, the flats 125' of the second rotator rail adaptor 119' engage the ribs 88' of this larger diameter rotator rail 14'.

    [0076] Figures 18 and 23 show the coupler 34' which, in this embodiment, secures the rod 24' for non-rotation relative to the non-drive end bracket clip 16'. Figures 39-41 show a third embodiment of a roller shade 10" in which the same coupler 34' is used to secure the rod 24' to the mechanism 18' at the drive end of the roller shade. The use of the coupler 34' to secure the rod 24' to the mechanism 18' at the drive end of the roller shade will be described first.

    [0077] Referring to Figures 39-41, the coupler 34' is a sleeve defining an axial through-opening 138' which receives both the rod 24' and at least a portion of a shaft 132' projecting from the mechanism 18'. The shaft 132' has an internal cross-sectional profile which matches up with and receives the non-circular, V-notch profile of the rod 24' for positive engagement between these two parts. The coupler 34' also defines a radially-directed threaded opening 136' which is aligned with an opening 132A' in the shaft 132'. (See Fig. 41) A securing screw 134' is threaded into the threaded opening 136' of the coupler 34' and through the opening 132A' in the shaft 132' and presses against the rod 24', pressing the V-notch of the rod 24' against the corresponding V-projection in the inner surface of the shaft 132'. This securely locks the rod 24' to the mechanism 18', preventing both rotational and axial motion (sliding motion) of the rod 24'.

    [0078] As may be seen in Figures 18 and 23, the same coupler 34' is used to securely lock the rod 24' to the non-drive end bracket clip 16', preventing both rotational and axial motion of the rod 24'.

    [0079] From the above description, it should be clear that the embodiments of the shades 10' and 10" operate in substantially the same manner as the shade 10 described initially. The most substantial functional differences are the use of the coupler 34' to make it possible to secure the rod to either end of the shade and the design of the power assist modules so that only the spring plug 52' needs to line up with the V-notch of the rod 24' during assembly, with all the other components of the power assist module 12' being secured to the spring plug 52', thereby facilitating the assembly of the power assist modules 12' onto the rod 24'.

    Top and Bottom Limiter



    [0080] Referring now to Figures 42 and 43, the power assist module 12* is similar to the power assist module 12' of Figures 19 and 20, but it incorporates a second limiter 140*, as described in more detail below.

    [0081] Referring to Figures 43-45, it may be appreciated that the drive plug shaft 42* and the drive plug 44* are slightly different from the drive plug shaft 42' and the drive plug 44' of Figures 19 and 27. The drive plug shaft 42* and the drive plug 44* are shorter, but serve the same function as their earlier embodiments. Namely, in this embodiment 12*, the drive plug shaft 42* (See Figures 44 and 45) has a first axially-extending stop projection 68* which impacts against the shoulder 66* of the limiter 46* to limit the extent to which the drive plug shaft 42* can be threaded into the limiter 46* (and thus how far the drive plug shaft 42* can be rotated relative to the rod 24' to which the limiter 46* is keyed, as explained above with respect to the power assist module 12' of Figure 20). The drive plug shaft 42* has ears that extend through and snap into slots in a connector plate 42A*, which has recesses that receive the projections from the rotator rail 14 so that the drive plug shaft 42* and plate 42A* rotate with the rotator rail 14.

    [0082] In this embodiment 12* the shoulder 68* of the drive plug shaft 42* works in conjunction with the shoulder 66* of the limiter 46* to act as a top stop, limiting how far the roller shade 10 can be raised. As explained with respect to the previous embodiment 12', as the shade 10 is raised, the drive plug shaft 42* threads onto the limiter 46* until the shoulder 68* on the drive plug shaft 42* impacts against the shoulder 66* of the limiter 46* to bring the shade 10 to a stop. The drive plug 44* may be briefly separated from the drive plug shaft 42* and rotated about the longitudinal axis of the limiter 46* to adjust the amount of "pre-wind" on the shade 10 and then snapped back together.

    [0083] There is a significant difference between the drive plug shaft 42* of this embodiment and the drive plug shaft 42' of the previous embodiment, in that the drive plug shaft 42* of this embodiment includes a second axially-extending stop projection 142* (See Figure 44) which impacts against the shoulder 144* of the second limiter 140* (also referred to as a locking ring 140*) to limit the extent to which the drive plug shaft 42* can be threaded out of the limiter 46*, thereby providing a bottom stop as well as a top stop, as explained in more detail below.

    [0084] Referring to Figures 46A and 48, the locking ring 140* is a substantially circular disk defining a threaded central opening 146* and a slotted opening 148* extending from the threaded central opening 146* to the outer, circumferential flange 150* of the locking ring 140*. It should be noted that the slotted opening 148* is a convenience feature to allow the locking ring 140* to be slide-mounted onto the limiter 46* instead of having to disengage the power assist module 12* from the shade 10 (which could be done by loosening the screw 152 in the idle end mounting adapter assembly 154 and sliding the rod 24' out of the idle end mounting adapter assembly 154, as explained in more detail later).

    [0085] The circumferential flange 150* defines the axially-projecting shoulder 144* as well as a radially-directed, axially-extending prong 156* which projects inwardly from the circumferential flange 150* and serves to lock the locking ring 140* to the locking nut 158*, as explained below.

    [0086] Referring to Figure 47-49, the locking nut 158* resembles a geared wheel with an inner bore 160* defining a non-circular cross-sectional profile, including a key 162* designed to lock onto a slotted keyway 164* (See Figure 47, this slotted keyway is better appreciated in Figure 50) which extends axially along the length of the limiter 46*.

    [0087] Figure 47 shows the locking ring 140* abutting the drive plug shaft 42* such that the shoulder 142* on the drive plug shaft 42* is impacting against the shoulder 144* on the locking ring 140*. To adjust the bottom limiter/ locking ring 140*, the locking nut 158* is first pulled out from the circumferential flange 150* of the locking ring 140* as shown in Figure 47, sliding out the locking nut 158* axially along the length of the limiter 46*. This frees the locking ring 140* to be partially unscrewed along the limiter 46*, away from the drive plug shaft 42*, as shown in Figure 48. Every complete turn of the locking ring 140* equals one complete rotation of the shade 10. Once the locking ring 140* has been unscrewed the correct number of turns to equal the desired lower limit of the shade 10, the locking nut 158* is reinserted into locking ring 140* as shown in Figure 49, such that one of the geared teeth of the locking nut 158* engages the prong 156* of the locking ring 140*, and the key 162* of the locking nut 158* engages the slotted keyway 164* of the limiter 46*. This locks the locking ring 140* against rotation relative to the limiter 46*, which in turn is locked against rotation relative to the rod 24' and therefore also relative to the bracket 16 to which the rod 24' is secured. Now, as the shade 10 is lowered, the drive plug shaft 42* and the drive plug 44* rotate together. The inner threads 76* (See Figure 44, but shown more clearly in Figure 9, item 76) of the drive plug shaft 42* engage the limiter 46*, causing the drive plug 42* and drive plug 44* to travel toward the right (as seen from the vantage point of Figure 49), until the shoulder 144* (See Figure 46A) on the locking ring 140* impacts against the shoulder 142* on the drive plug shaft 42*, bringing any further lowering of the shade 10 to a stop. Note that the limiter 46* does not rotate as it is keyed against rotation relative to the rod 24'.

    [0088] The idle end mounting adapter assembly 154 of Figure 46B is substantially similar to the assembled components 16', 30' and 34' of Figures 17 and 18 described in an earlier embodiment and function in substantially the same manner for securing the rod 24' to the idle end bracket (opposite the drive end) of the shade 10.

    Infinitely-Adjustable-Stop Top and Bottom Limiter



    [0089] The power assist module 12* described above can be adjusted by removing the locking nut 158*, unscrewing the locking ring 140*, and then reinstalling the locking nut 158*. If the bottom hem 194 (See Figures 56-58) of the shade 10 still is not in the desired location, the procedure may be repeated until the hem is as close to the desired location as possible. It may not be possible to get the hem to the exact location desired because the locking ring 140* may only be moved in discreet increments dictated by the position of the key 162* in the locking nut 158* relative to the tooth on the locking nut 158* that engages the prong 156* on the locking ring 140*.

    [0090] Figure 50 depicts the power assist module 12* of Figure 42, but with a vernier coupling and adjusting mechanism 166 for securing the end of the power assist module 12* to the mounting bracket of the shade 10* (See Figures 56-58) which allows very fine and infinitely adjustable control of the bottom hem of the shade 10*, without having to remove the shade from the brackets, as described below. Note that the shade 10* is a "reverse" shade, with the covering material 232 hanging down the room side of the shade instead of the more conventional instance where the covering material hangs down the wall side of the shade. However, it should be noted that the mechanism described herein may be used in either type of installation by simply flipping the shade and all of its components end for end.

    [0091] As explained in more detail below, this vernier coupling mechanism 166 allows for the rotational repositioning, relative to the end brackets, of the entire non-rotational portion of the shade 10* by selectively adjusting the angular position of the rod 24' relative to the mounting bracket 172. This rotationally repositions both the top and bottom stops to either raise or lower the shade 10*, but only when the input is by the user pushing on the adjustment tabs 228 (See Figure 56), not when the input is from the shade 10* impacting against either of the top or bottom stops.

    [0092] Figure 51 is an exploded, perspective view of the coupling mechanism 166 of Figure 50. The coupling mechanism 166 has two distinct assemblies; a first portion 168 which mounts to the power assist module 12* and the tube 14' (See Figure 17) of the shade 10*, and a second portion 170 which mounts to the idle end bracket 172 of the shade 10* as seen in Figure 57.

    [0093] The first portion 168 includes a coupler 176 and screw 178, a tube plug 180, two needle bearings 182, 184, and an idle end shaft 186. The idle end shaft 186 includes a distal, a male spline portion 188, a smooth tubular section 190 for supporting the tube plug 180 for rotation via the two needle bearings 182, 184, and a proximal end portion 192 which is used to secure the idle end shaft 186 to the connecting rod 24' via the coupler 176 and screw 178 in the same manner that the coupler 34' (See Figure 23) and the screw 134' secure the rod 24' to the shaft 132' of the bracket clip 16'. Referring to Figure 57, the tube 14 of the shade 10* mounts over and engages the tube plug 180, with the male spline portion 188 of the idle end shaft 186 in the "bell housing" 196 of the tube plug 180. The tube plug 180 spins freely with the tube 14 on the idle end shaft 186.

    [0094] Referring back to Figure 51, the second portion 170 (also referred to as the bracket clip assembly 170) of the coupling mechanism 166 includes a clutch output housing 198, a spring 200, a clutch input 202, and a bracket clip housing 204. As explained in more detail below, this bracket clip assembly 170 acts as a clutch assembly which allows the rotation of the clutch output housing 198 in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions, and with it the likewise rotation of the clutch input 202, which then rotates the rod 24'. Since the rod 24' is keyed to the limiter 46*, the limiter rotates likewise, as well as the locking ring 140* which is also locked to the limiter 46* via the locking nut158*.

    [0095] If, when the limiter 46* has threaded into the drive plug shaft 42* until the shoulder 144* on the locking ring 140* is impacting against the shoulder 142* of the drive plug shaft 42*, the clutch output housing 198 is turned in the counterclockwise direction (as seen from the vantage point of Figure 56), all the components connected to it and described above (namely the clutch input 202, the idle end shaft 186, the limiter 46*, and the locking ring 140*) will turn with it in the same direction. The shoulder 140* on the locking ring 140* pushes against the shoulder 142* of the drive plug shaft 42* which causes the tube 14 of the shade 10* to rotate so as to raise the hem 194. If instead the clutch output housing 198 is turned in the clockwise direction, all the components rotate likewise and the shoulder 140* on the locking ring 140* moves away from the shoulder 142* of the drive plug shaft 42* which causes the weight of the cover material 232 of the shade 10* to rotate the tube 14 of the shade 10* so as to lower the hem 194. However, if the clutch input 202 is pushed in either direction (because one of the shoulders 142*, 68* (See Figure 44) of the drive plug shaft 42* is impacting against the corresponding shoulders 144* or 66* of the bottom stop and top stop respectively) the bracket clip assembly 170 locks up and does not allow rotation which brings the shade10* to a stop, either at the top or at the bottom as explained in more detail below.

    [0096] Figure 52 offers a more detailed, opposite-end perspective view of the bracket clip assembly 170 of Figure 51. The clutch output housing 198 is a substantially cylindrical element which defines an internal cavity 206 which is open at both ends. An arcuate rib 208 protrudes into the cavity 206, as best appreciated in Figures 53-55. This rib 208 defines first and second shoulders 210, 212 which may press against tangs 214, 126 respectively of the spring 200.

    [0097] The clutch input 202 is also a substantially cylindrical element which has a bore with a female spline 218 (See Figures 51 and 53-55) which receives the male spline 188 of the idle end shaft 186. The clutch input 202 also has an axially-extending locking rib 220 which defines first and second shoulders 222, 224 which may press against tangs 214, 126 respectively of the spring 200.

    [0098] Finally, the bracket clip housing 204 is also a substantially cylindrical element which defines a cavity 226 (See also Figure 51) sized to snuggly receive the spring 200, as well as the clutch input 202 and the rib 208 of the clutch output housing 198. However, the rest of the clutch output housing 198 slides over and snaps onto the bracket clip housing 204, as best seen in Figure 58.

    [0099] As shown in Figures 53-55 and as indicated above, the spring 200 fits snugly in the cavity 226 of the bracket clip housing 204. If one of the shoulders 222, 224 of the clutch input 202 hits against its corresponding tang 214, 216 of the spring 200, the spring 200 expands slightly and locks onto the inner surface of the cavity 226, preventing rotation of the clutch input 202 when such a rotation is initiated by the "input end" which corresponds to rotation initiated by shade 10* as it is fully raised or fully lowered.

    [0100] As best illustrated in Figures 53-55, the rib 208 of the clutch output housing 198 also lies between the tangs 214, 216 of the spring 200. If one of the shoulders 210, 212 of the clutch output housing 198 hits against its corresponding tang 214, 216 of the spring 200, the spring 200 collapses slightly and pulls away from the inner surface of the cavity 226 (as may be appreciated in Figures 54 and 55), allowing rotation, not only of the clutch output housing 198, but also of the spring 200, the clutch input 202, and the assembly 168 (but not the bracket clip housing 204). For instance, in Figure 55 the shoulder 212 of the clutch output housing 198 impacts against the tang 216 of the spring 200, which collapses slightly away from the inner surface of the cavity 226 of the bracket clip housing 204. The tang 216 pushes on the shoulder 224 of the clutch input 202 which therefore also rotates, and with it all the components locked in to the clutch input 202. The clutch output housing 198 may be rotated by the user by pushing on the tabs 228 (See Figures 52 and 56). Pushing on the tabs 228 in the direction depicted by the screwdriver 230 in Figure 56 rotates the entire coupler mechanism 166 (but not the housing 204) in the counterclockwise direction (corresponding to rotation in the clockwise direction in Figure 54). This rotates the locking ring 140*, changing the location of the stop 144*, such that, when the shade is fully extended, the stop 144* on the locking ring 140* impacts against the stop 142* on the drive plug shaft 42* at an earlier position, thereby further limiting the extension of the shade 10*.

    [0101] Pushing on the tabs 228 in the opposite direction from what is shown in Figure 56 rotates the entire coupler mechanism 166 in the clockwise direction (corresponding to rotation in the counterclockwise direction in Figure 55). This rotates the locking ring 140* such that the stop 144* on the locking ring 140* backs away from the stop 142* on the drive plug shaft 42*. The weight of the covering material 232 of the shade 10* causes it to rotate which lowers the hem 194 (such that the stop 142* on the drive plug shaft 42* is always abutting the stop 144* on the locking ring 140*).

    [0102] To summarize, as long as the input is initiated by the user by pushing on the tabs 228 of the clutch output housing 198, the coupler mechanism 166 releases the shade 10* for rotation to adjust the position of the hem 194. However, if the input is initiated by the shade itself (either because the shoulder 68* on the drive plug shaft 42* is impacting the shoulder 66* on the limiter 46* (top stop) or because the shoulder 142* on the drive plug shaft 42* is impacting against the shoulder 144* on the locking ring 140* (bottom stop), then the coupler mechanism 166 locks up, stopping the shade 10* from further rotation.

    [0103] It will be obvious to those skilled in the art that modifications may be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the scope of the present invention as defined by the claims.


    Claims

    1. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening, comprising:
    at least one power assist module (12), including

    an elongated spring shaft (48) having first and second ends;

    a drive plug (44) mounted adjacent to one of said first and second ends of said spring shaft (48) for rotation relative to said spring shaft (48);

    an elongated spring (50) mounted over said spring shaft (48), said elongated spring (50) having a first end fixed relative to said spring shaft (48) and a second end fixed relative to said drive plug (44); and

    a prewinding mechanism for prewinding said spring (50) relative to said spring shaft (48), characterized in that the prewinding mechanism includes a threaded follower member (42) mounted for rotation about an axis of rotation relative to said spring shaft (48); a threaded shaft member (46) non-rotatably mounted relative to said spring shaft (48) and threaded to said follower member (42); a first abutment surface (66) on said threaded shaft member (46) and a second abutment surface (68) on said threaded follower member (42), said first and second abutment surfaces being located so as to abut each other and prevent relative rotation between said threaded shaft member (46) and said threaded follower member (42) when said threaded follower member (42) has threaded a desired axial distance in a first direction relative to said threaded shaft member (46).


     
    2. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 1, wherein said threaded follower member (42) is part of said drive plug (44).
     
    3. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 1, wherein said threaded follower member (42) is a separate piece from said drive plug (44), and further comprising means for joining said threaded follower member (42) to said drive plug (44) for rotation with said drive plug (44) and wherein optionally said means for joining said threaded follower member (42) to said drive plug (44) is releasable, allowing a user to join the threaded follower member (42) to the drive plug (44) so they rotate together and to separate the threaded follower member (42) from the drive plug (44) so they can be rotated independently of each other.
     
    4. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 3, and further comprising a rotator tube (14) mounted over the spring (50) and drive plug (44) of the power assist module (12) and mounted for rotation with said drive plug (44).
     
    5. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 4, and further comprising a rod (24) extending axially through and non-rotatably mounted to the spring shaft (48) of said power assist module (12).
     
    6. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 5, and further comprising a second of said power assist modules (12), wherein said second power assist module is also mounted inside said rotator tube (14), with the rotator tube (14) also mounted for rotation with the drive plug (44) of the second power assist module (12), and with the rod (24) also extending axially through and non-rotatably mounted to the spring shaft (48) of the second power assist module (12).
     
    7. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 1, and further comprising a rotator tube (14) mounted over the spring (50) and drive plug (44) of the power assist module (12), wherein said drive plug (44) is mounted for rotation with said rotator tube (14).
     
    8. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 7, wherein said spring (50) defines a spring length and wherein when said second end of said spring rotates in a first direction with said rotator tube (14) said spring length increases; and
    wherein said threaded shaft member (46) defines a thread pitch such that said threaded follower member (42) moves away from said first end of said spring (50) at substantially the same rate as the rate at which the spring (50) grows in length.
     
    9. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 1 , and further comprising a rotator tube (14) mounted over said power assist module (12) for rotation with said drive plug (44), and a rod (24) extending axially through and non-rotatably mounted to the spring shaft (48) of said power assist module (12).
     
    10. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 9, and further comprising a second of said power assist modules (12), wherein said second power assist module (12) is also mounted inside said rotator tube (14), with the rotator tube (14) also mounted for rotation with the drive plug (44) of the second power assist module (12), and with the rod (24) also extending axially through and non-rotatably mounted to the spring shaft (48) of the second power assist module (12).
     
    11. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 1, further comprising a third abutment surface (144*), located on said threaded shaft member (46*) a desired axial distance away from the first abutment surface (66*) and a fourth abutment surface (142*) mounted for rotation with said drive plug (44*), wherein the third and fourth abutment surfaces are located so as to abut each other and prevent relative rotation between said threaded shaft member (46*) and said threaded follower member (42*) when said threaded follower member (42*) has threaded a desired axial distance in a second direction relative to said threaded shaft member (46*) and optionally including means for selectively positioning said third abutment surface (144*) at various axial positions on said threaded shaft member (46*).
     
    12. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 11, wherein said means for selectively positioning said third abutment surface (144*) includes a threaded stop member (140*) which is threaded onto the threaded shaft member (46*) and a keyed stop member (158*) which is keyed to the threaded shaft member (46*), wherein said third abutment surface (144*) is located on one of said threaded stop member (140*) and said keyed stop member (158*), and including means for selectively connecting the threaded stop member (140*) to the keyed stop member (158*) to fix the third abutment surface (144*) at the desired axial position on the threaded shaft member (46*) and optionally further comprising a rotator tube (14) mounted over the power assist module (12*) and mounted for rotation with said drive plug (44*), and a rod (24') extending axially through and non-rotatably mounted to the spring shaft (48) of the power assist module (12*).
     
    13. A power assist arrangement for a covering for an architectural opening as recited in claim 12, and further comprising a mounting bracket (172) for mounting said rotator tube (14) and said rod (24') on an architectural surface; and a vernier adjustment mechanism (166) between said rod (24') and said bracket (172) including means for selectively adjusting the angular position of the rod (24') relative to the mounting bracket (172), wherein optionally said vernier adjustment (166) includes a clutch assembly (170) with a clutch output housing (198), and a clutch input (202), said clutch assembly (170) allows the rotation of said clutch output housing (198) in clockwise and counterclockwise directions and with it the likewise rotation of said clutch input (202) when the catalyst force for said rotation is applied through said clutch output housing (198), but prevents the rotation of said clutch input (202) when the catalyst force for said rotation is applied through said clutch input (202).
     
    14. A method of providing power assist to a roller shade having a rotator tube (14), including the steps of:

    providing at least one power assist module (12) as recited in claim 1, having a drive plug (44) and a spring (50) with a preselected spring force;

    pre-winding said spring (50) of the power assist module (12) with the power assist module (12) independently retaining its spring pre-wind; and then

    inserting the prewound power assist module (12) into the rotator tube (14) with the drive plug (44) mounted for rotation with the rotator tube (14).


     
    15. A method of providing power assist to a roller shade having a rotator tube (14) as recited in claim 14, and including the additional step of providing a plurality of said power assist modules (12), each of said power assist modules (12) having been independently pre-wound to its own desired pre-wind level prior to insertion into the rotator tube (14) and optionally having a spring (50) with a spring constant which is independent from the spring constants of the other power assist modules (12).
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung, umfassend: mindestens ein Energieunterstützungsmodul (12), das Folgendes beinhaltet:

    einen länglichen Federschaft (48), der erste und zweite Enden aufweist;

    einen Antriebsstecker (44), der neben einem der besagten ersten und zweiten Enden des besagten Federschafts (48) zur Drehung relativ zum besagten Federschaft (48) montiert ist;

    eine längliche Feder (50), die über den besagten Federschaft (48) montiert ist, wobei die besagte längliche Feder (50) ein erstes Ende aufweist, das relativ zu dem besagten Federschaft (48) befestigt ist, und ein zweites Ende, das relativ zu dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44) befestigt ist; und

    einen Vorwicklungsmechanismus zur Vorwicklung der besagten Feder (50), die relativ zum besagten Federschaft (48) ist, der dadurch gekennzeichnet ist, dass der Vorwicklungsmechanismus ein Gewindefolgeelement (42) beinhaltet, das zur Drehung um eine Drehachse montiert ist, die relativ zum besagten Federschaft (48) ist; ein Gewindeschaftelement (46), das nicht-drehbar relativ zu dem besagten Federschaft (48) montiert ist und an das besagte Folgeelement (42) gewunden ist; eine erste Anlagefläche (66) auf dem besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46) und eine zweite Anlagefläche (68) auf dem besagten Gewindefolgeelement (42), wobei die besagten ersten und zweiten Anlageflächen so angeordnet sind, um aneinander anzuliegen und die relative Drehung zwischen dem Gewindeschaftelement (46) und dem besagten Gewindefolgeelement (42) zu verhindern, wenn das besagte Gewindefolgeelement (42) einen gewünschten axialen Abstand in eine erste Richtung, die relativ zum besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46) ist, gewunden hat.


     
    2. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 1, wobei das besagte Gewindefolgeelement (42) Teil des besagten Antriebssteckers (44) ist.
     
    3. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 1, wobei das besagte Gewindefolgeelement (42) ein von dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44) separates Teil ist, und ferner Mittel zum Zusammenfügen des besagten Gewindefolgeelements (42) an den besagten Antriebsstecker (44) zur Drehung mit dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44) umfasst, und wobei die besagten Mittel zum Zusammenfügen des besagten Gewindefolgeelements (42) an den Antriebsstecker (44) optional lösbar sind, um einem Benutzer zu ermöglichen, das Gewindefolgeelement (42) an den Antriebsstecker (44) zusammenzufügen, sodass sie zusammen drehen und um das Gewindefolgeelement (42) von dem Antriebsstecker (44) zu trennen, sodass sie unabhängig voneinander gedreht werden können.
     
    4. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 3 und ferner umfassend ein Drehrohr (14), das über die Feder (50) und den Antriebsstecker (44) des Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) montiert ist und zur Drehung mit dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44) montiert ist.
     
    5. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 4 und ferner umfassend eine Stange (24), die sich axial durch den Federschaft (48) des besagten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) ausdehnt und nicht-drehbar an diesen montiert ist.
     
    6. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 5 und ferner umfassend ein zweites der besagten Energieunterstützungsmodule (12), wobei das besagte zweite Energieunterstützungsmodul auch in dem besagten Drehrohr (14) montiert ist, wobei das Drehrohr (14) auch zur Drehung mit dem Antriebsstecker (44) des zweiten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) montiert ist, und wobei sich die Stange (24) auch axial durch den Federschaft (48) des zweiten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) ausdehnt und nicht-drehbar an diesen montiert ist.
     
    7. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 1 und ferner umfassend ein Drehrohr (14), das über die Feder (50) und den Antriebsstecker (44) des Energieunterstützungsmodul (12) montiert ist, wobei der besagte Antriebsstecker (44) zur Drehung mit dem besagten Drehrohr (14) montiert ist.
     
    8. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 7, wobei die besagte Feder (50) eine Federlänge definiert und wobei sich bei der Drehung des zweiten Federendes in eine erste Richtung mit dem besagten Drehrohr (14) die besagte Federlänge erhöht; und
    wobei das besagte Gewindeschaftelement (46) eine Gewindesteigung definiert, sodass sich das besagte Gewindefolgeelement (42) von dem besagten ersten Ende der besagten Feder (50) mit im Wesentlichen derselben Geschwindigkeit, mit welcher die Feder (50) in die Länge wächst, wegbewegt.
     
    9. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 1 und ferner umfassend ein Drehrohr (14), das über das besagte Energieunterstützungsmodul (12) zur Drehung mit dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44) montiert ist, und eine Stange (24), die sich axial durch den Federschaft (48) des besagten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) ausdehnt und die nicht-drehbar an diesen montiert ist.
     
    10. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 9 und ferner umfassend ein zweites der besagten Energieunterstützungsmodule (12), wobei das besagte zweite Energieunterstützungsmodul (12) auch in dem besagten Drehrohr (14) montiert ist, wobei das Drehrohr (14) auch zur Drehung mit dem Antriebsstecker (44) des zweiten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) montiert ist, und wobei sich die Stange (24) auch axial durch den Federschaft (48) des zweiten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) ausdehnt und nicht-drehbar an diesen montiert ist.
     
    11. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 1, ferner umfassend eine dritte Anlagefläche (144*), die auf dem besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46*) in einem gewünschte axialen Abstand von der ersten Anlagefläche (66*) und einer vierten Anlagefläche (142*) angeordnet ist, die zur Drehung mit dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44*) montiert ist, wobei die dritten und vierten Anlageflächen so angeordnet sind, um aneinander anzuliegen und die relative Drehung zwischen dem besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46*) und dem besagten Gewindefolgeelement (42*) zu verhindern, wenn das besagte Gewindefolgeelement (42*) einen gewünschten axialen Abstand in eine zweite Richtung, die relativ zu dem besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46*) ist, aufweist, und optional Mittel zur selektiven Positionierung der besagten dritten Anlagefläche (144*) an mehreren axialen Position auf dem besagten Gewindeschaftelement (46*) beinhaltet.
     
    12. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 11, wobei die besagten Mittel zur selektiven Positionierung der besagten dritten Anlagefläche (144*) ein gewundenes Stoppelement (140*) beinhalten, das auf das Gewindeschaftelement (46*) gewunden ist, und ein verkeiltes Stoppelement (158*), das an das Gewindeschaftelement (46*) verkeilt ist, wobei die besagte dritte Anlagefläche (144*) auf einem der besagten gewundenen Stoppelemente (140*) und dem besagten verkeilten Stoppelement (158*) angeordnet ist und Mittel zur selektiven Verbindung des gewundenen Stoppelements (140*) an das verkeilte Stoppelement (158*) beinhaltet, um die dritte Anlagefläche (144*) an die gewünschte axiale Position auf dem Gewindeschaftelement (46*) zu fixieren und optional ferner ein Drehrohr (14) umfasst, das über das Energieunterstützungsmodul (12*) montiert ist und zur Drehung mit dem besagten Antriebsstecker (44*) montiert ist, und eine Stange (24'), die sich axial durch den Federschaft (48) des Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12*) ausdehnt und nicht-drehbar an diesen montiert ist.
     
    13. Energieunterstützungsanordnung für eine Abdeckung einer architektonischen Öffnung nach Anspruch 12 und ferner umfassend eine Halterung (172) zur Halterung des besagten Drehrohrs (14) und der besagten Stange (24') auf einer architektonischen Fläche; und einen Verniereinstellungsmechanismus (166) zwischen der besagten Stange (24') und der besagten Halterung (172), die Mittel zur selektiven Einstellung der Winkelposition der Stange (24'), die relativ zu der Halterung (172) ist, beinhaltet, wobei der besagte Verniereinstellungsmechanismus (166) optional eine Kupplungsanordnung (170) mit einer Kupplungsaustrittshülle (198) beinhaltet, und einen Kupplungseintritt (202), wobei die besagte Kupplungsanordnung (170) die Drehung der besagten Kupplungshülle (198) in Richtungen in den Uhrzeigersinn und gegen den Uhrzeigersinn erlaubt und ebenso die entsprechenden Drehung des besagten Kupplungseintritts (202), wenn die Katalysatorkraft für die besagte Drehung durch die besagte Kupplungsaustrittshülle (198) angewendet wird, die Drehung des besagten Kupplungseintritts (202) aber verhindert, wenn die Katalysatorkraft für die besagte Drehung durch den besagten Kupplungseintritt (202) angewendet wird.
     
    14. Verfahren zur Bereitstellung von Energieunterstützung an eine Rolljalousie, die ein Drehrohr (14) aufweist, einschließlich der folgenden Schritte:

    Bereitstellen von mindestens einem Energieunterstützungsmodul (12) nach Anspruch 1, das einen Antriebsstecker (44) und eine Feder (50) mit einer vorbestimmten Federkraft aufweist;

    Vorwicklen der besagten Feder (50) des Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) mit dem Energieunterstützungsmodul (12), das seine Federvordrehung unabhängig beibehält; und dann

    Einführen des vorgewickelten Energieunterstützungsmoduls (12) in das Drehrohr (14) mit dem Antriebsstecker (44), der zur Drehung mit dem Drehrohr (14) montiert ist.


     
    15. Verfahren zur Bereitstellung von Energieunterstützung an eine Rolljalousie, die ein Drehrohr (14) aufweist, nach Anspruch 14, und das den zusätzlichen Schritt zur Bereitstellung einer Vielzahl von besagten Energieunterstützungsmodulen (12) beinhaltet, wobei jede der Energieunterstützungsmodule (12) vor dem Einführen in das Drehrohr (14) unabhängig auf ihre eigene gewünschte Vorwicklungsstufe vorgewickelt wurden und optional eine Feder (50) mit einer Federkonstante aufweisen, die unabhängig von den Federkonstanten der anderen Energieunterstützungsmodule (12) ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale, comprenant : au moins un module d'assistance de force (12), comprenant
    une tige de ressort allongée (48) présentant des première et deuxième extrémités ; une fiche d'entraînement (44) montée de manière adjacente à une desdites première et deuxième extrémités de ladite tige de ressort (48) en rotation par rapport à ladite tige de ressort (48) ;
    un ressort allongé (50) monté au-dessus de ladite tige de ressort (48), ledit ressort allongé (50) présentant une première extrémité fixée par rapport à ladite tige de ressort (48) et une deuxième extrémité fixée par rapport à ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) ; et
    un mécanisme de pré-enroulement destiné à pré-enrouler ledit ressort (50) par rapport à ladite tige de ressort (48), caractérisé en ce que le mécanisme de pré-enroulement comprend un élément suiveur fileté (42) monté en rotation autour d'un axe de rotation par rapport à ladite tige de ressort (48) ; un élément de tige filetée (46) montée non rotative par rapport à ladite tige de ressort (48) et vissée sur ledit élément suiveur (42) ; une première surface de butée (66) sur ledit élément de tige filetée (46) et une deuxième surface de butée (68) sur ledit élément suiveur fileté (42), lesdites première et deuxième surfaces de butée étant situées de manière à venir en butée l'une contre l'autre et empêcher une rotation relative entre ledit élément de tige filetée (46) et ledit élément suiveur fileté (42) lorsque ledit élément suiveur fileté (42) a fileté une distance axiale désirée dans une première direction par rapport audit élément de tige filetée (46).
     
    2. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit élément suiveur fileté (42) fait partie de ladite fiche d'entraînement (44).
     
    3. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit élément suiveur fileté (42) est un élément séparé de ladite fiche d'entraînement (44), et comprenant en outre un moyen d'assemblage dudit élément suiveur fileté (42) à ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) en vue d'une rotation avec ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) et ledit moyen d'assemblage dudit élément suiveur fileté (42) à ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) étant éventuellement détachable, permettant à un utilisateur d'assembler l'élément suiveur fileté (42) à la fiche d'entraînement (44) de manière qu'ils tournent ensemble et pour séparer l'élément suiveur fileté (42) de la fiche d'entraînement (44) de manière qu'ils puissent être tournés indépendamment l'un de l'autre.
     
    4. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 3, et comprenant en outre un tube de rotor (14) monté au-dessus du ressort (50) et de la fiche d'entraînement (44) du module d'assistance de force (12) et monté en rotation avec ladite fiche d'entraînement (44).
     
    5. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 4, et comprenant en outre une barre (24) s'étendant axialement à travers ladite tige de ressort (48) dudit module d'assistance de force (12) et montée non rotative par rapport à celle-ci.
     
    6. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 5, et comprenant en outre un deuxième desdits modules d'assistance de force (12), ledit deuxième module d'assistance de force (12) étant également monté à l'intérieur dudit tube de rotor (14), avec le tube de rotor (14) également monté en rotation avec la fiche d'entraînement (44) du deuxième module d'assistance de force (12), et avec la barre (24) s'étendant également axialement à travers la tige de ressort (48) du deuxième module d'assistance de force (12) et montée non rotative par rapport à celle-ci.
     
    7. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 1, et comprenant en outre un tube de rotor (14) monté au-dessus du ressort (50) et une fiche d'entraînement (44) du module d'assistance de force (12), ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) étant montée en rotation avec ledit tube de rotor (14).
     
    8. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 7, dans lequel ledit ressort (50) définit une longueur de ressort et dans lequel lorsque ladite deuxième extrémité dudit ressort tourne dans une première direction avec ledit tube de rotor (14) ladite longueur de ressort augmente ; et
    dans lequel ledit élément de tige filetée (46) définit un pas de filetage de manière que ledit élément suiveur fileté (42) s'éloigne de ladite première extrémité dudit ressort (50) à sensiblement la même vitesse que la vitesse à laquelle le ressort (50) s'étend en longueur.
     
    9. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 1, et comprenant en outre un tube de rotor (14) monté au-dessus dudit module d'assistance de force (12) en vue d'une rotation avec ladite fiche d'entraînement (44) et une barre (24) s'étendant axialement à travers la tige de ressort (48) dudit module d'assistance de force (12) et montée non rotative par rapport à celle-ci.
     
    10. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 9, et comprenant en outre un deuxième desdits modules d'assistance de force (12), ledit deuxième module d'assistance de force (12) étant également monté à l'intérieur dudit tube de rotor (14), avec le tube de rotor (14) également monté en vue d'une rotation avec la fiche d'entraînement (44) du deuxième module d'assistance de force (12), et avec la barre (24) s'étendant également axialement à travers la tige de ressort (48) du deuxième module d'assistance de force (12) et montée non rotative par rapport à celle-ci.
     
    11. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 1, comprenant en outre une troisième surface de butée (144*), située sur ledit élément de tige filetée (46*), à une distance axiale désirée de la première surface de butée (66*) et une quatrième surface de butée (142*) montée en rotation avec ladite fiche d'entraînement (44*), les troisième et quatrième surfaces de butée étant situées de manière à venir en butée l'une contre l'autre et empêcher une rotation relative entre ledit élément de tige filetée (46*) et ledit élément suiveur fileté (42*) lorsque ledit élément suiveur fileté (42*) a fileté une distance axiale désirée dans une deuxième direction par rapport audit élément de tige filetée (46*) et comprenant éventuellement un moyen de positionnement sélectif de ladite troisième surface de butée (144*) dans différentes positions axiales sur ledit élément de tige filetée (46*).
     
    12. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 11, dans lequel ledit moyen de positionnement sélectif de ladite troisième surface de butée (144*) comprend un élément d'arrêt fileté (140*) qui est fileté sur l'élément de tige filetée (46*) et un élément d'arrêt (158*) qui est claveté sur l'élément de tige filetée (46*), ladite troisième surface de butée (144*) étant située sur ledit élément d'arrêt fileté (140*) ou ledit élément d'arrêt claveté (158*), et comprenant un moyen de raccordement sélectif de l'élément d'arrêt fileté (140*) à l'élément d'arrêt claveté (158*) pour fixer la troisième surface de butée (144*) dans la position axiale désirée sur l'élément de tige filetée (46*) et comprenant éventuellement en outre un tube de rotor (14) monté au-dessus du module d'assistance de force (12*) et monté en rotation avec ladite fiche d'entraînement (44*), et une barre (24') s'étendant axialement à travers la tige de ressort (48) du module d'assistance de force (12*) et montée non rotative sur celle-ci.
     
    13. Système d'assistance de force pour un revêtement pour une ouverture architecturale tel que défini dans la revendication 12, et comprenant en outre un support de montage (172) en vue du montage dudit tube de rotor (14) et de ladite barre (24') sur une surface architecturale ; et un mécanisme d'ajustement de vernier (166) entre ladite barre (24') et ledit support (172) comprenant un moyen d'ajustement sélectif de la position angulaire de la barre (24') par rapport au support de montage (172), ledit ajustement de vernier (166) comprenant éventuellement un ensemble d'embrayage (170) avec un boîtier de sortie d'embrayage (198), et une entrée d'embrayage (202), ledit ensemble d'embrayage (170) permettant la rotation dudit boîtier de sortie d'embrayage (198) dans les sens horaire et anti-horaire et ainsi également la rotation de ladite entrée d'embrayage (202) lorsque la force de catalyseur pour ladite rotation est appliquée par le biais dudit boîtier de sortie d'embrayage (198), mais empêche la rotation de ladite entrée d'embrayage (202) lorsque la force de catalyseur pour ladite rotation est appliquée par le biais de ladite entrée d'embrayage (202).
     
    14. Procédé de fourniture d'une assistance de force à un store à enroulement automatique comportant un tube de rotor (14), comprenant les étapes de :

    production d'au moins un module d'assistance de force (12) tel que défini dans la revendication 1, comportant une fiche d'entraînement (44) et un ressort (50) avec une force de ressort présélectionnée ;

    pré-enroulement dudit ressort (50) du module d'assistance de force (12) avec le module d'assistance de force (12) retenant indépendamment son pré-enroulement de ressort ; et puis

    insertion du module d'assistance de force (12) pré-enroulé dans le tube de rotor (14) avec la fiche d'entraînement (44) montée de manière en rotation avec le tube de rotor (14).


     
    15. Procédé de fourniture d'une assistance de force à un store à enroulement automatique comportant un tube de rotor (14) tel que défini dans la revendication 14, et comprenant l'étape supplémentaire de fourniture d'une pluralité desdits modules d'assistance de force (12), chacun desdits modules d'assistance de force (12) ayant été indépendamment pré-enroulés selon son propre niveau de pré-enroulement désiré avant l'insertion dans le tube de rotor (14) et comportant éventuellement un ressort (50) avec une constante d'élasticité qui est indépendante des constantes d'élasticité des autres modules d'assistance de force (12).
     




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    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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    Patent documents cited in the description