(19)
(11)EP 3 091 126 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
09.11.2016 Bulletin 2016/45

(21)Application number: 16170474.7

(22)Date of filing:  17.02.2010
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
E01H 4/02(2006.01)
B66D 1/48(2006.01)
B66D 1/38(2006.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
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 SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 18.02.2009 IT MI20090215

(62)Application number of the earlier application in accordance with Art. 76 EPC:
10710424.2 / 2398966

(71)Applicant: PRINOTH S.p.A.
Vipiteno (BZ) (IT)

(72)Inventor:
  • RUNGGALDIER, Martin
    39047 ST. CHRISTINA (IT)

(74)Representative: Eccetto, Mauro et al
Studio Torta S.p.A. Via Viotti, 9
10121 Torino
10121 Torino (IT)

 
Remarks:
This application was filed on 19-05-2016 as a divisional application to the application mentioned under INID code 62.
 


(54)SNOWGROOMER COMPRISING A WINCH ASSEMBLY TO AID HANDLING OF THE SNOWGROOMER ON STEEP SLOPES; AND METHOD OF OPERATING THE WINCH ASSEMBLY


(57) A snow groomer equipped with a winch assembly (10) to aid handling of the snow groomer on steep slopes, a user interface (7) and a control unit (13); the winch assembly (10) having a drum (15) that rotates about an axis (A1), a cable (16) wound about the drum (15), an actuator assembly (27) for rotating the drum (15), and a sensor (28) for determining the position of the drum (15) about the axis (A1); wherein the control unit comprises a memory (42) for storing the geometry of the drum (15) and is configured to control the cable as a function of the position of the drum (15) and the geometry of the drum (15); the groomer further comprising a display in the cab of the groomer for showing the winding state of the drum on the basis of the signal emitted by sensor (28) and of the geometry of the drum (15).




Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The present invention relates to a snow groomer comprising a winch assembly to aid handling of the snow groomer on steep slopes.

[0002] More specifically, the snow groomer comprises a frame; a control unit; and said winch assembly, which comprises a support structure fixed to the frame, a drum that rotates with respect to the support structure about an axis, a cable wound about the drum, and an actuator assembly for rotating the drum about the axis.

BACKGROUND ART



[0003] Known snow groomers normally also comprise a tiller for grooming the snow surface of ski slopes; and a shovel for moving masses of snow along ski slopes. When operating the snow groomer on particularly steep ski slopes, the free end of the winch assembly cable is fixed to an uphill anchorage to manoeuvre the snow groomer with the aid of the winch assembly, to ensure greater safety and prevent the snow groomer from slipping in the event of loss of traction.

[0004] Known snow groomers, however, fail to provide for adequate cable control.

[0005] CA 2,441,650, for example, describes a snow groomer comprising a winch assembly, which in turn comprises a cable guide device comprising movable arms operated by the cable. The movable arms operate an actuator to move the cable guide device in front of the drum, to wind/unwind the cable correctly with respect to the drum.

[0006] The snow groomer in CA 2,441,650 fails to eliminate drawbacks caused by occasional deviations of the cable, and may result in malfunctioning of the winch assembly and the snow groomer as a whole, Moreover, the arms may jam and produce undue movement of the cable guide device.

[0007] The snow groomer in CA 2,441,650 also fails to perform functions other than positioning the cable with respect to the drum, with all the drawbacks referred to above.

DISCLOSURE OF INVENTION



[0008] It is an object of the present invention to provide a snow groomer designed to eliminate the drawbacks of the known art.

[0009] Another object of the present invention is to provide a snow groomer designed to improve cable control.

[0010] According to the present invention, there is provided a snow groomer comprising a winch assembly to aid handling of the snow groomer on steep slopes, the snow groomer comprising a frame; a cab; a control unit; and said winch assembly, which comprises a support structure fixed to the frame, a drum that rotates with respect to the support structure about an axis, a cable wound about the drum, an actuator assembly for rotating the drum about the axis, and a sensor for determining the position of the drum about the axis; the control unit being configured to control the cable as a function of the position of the drum and the geometry of the drum, wherein the control unit comprises a memory for storing the geometry of the drum, and is configured to control cable as a function of the position of the drum and the geometry of the drum; the snow groomer further comprising a display in the cab for showing the winding state of the drum on the basis of the signal emitted by sensor, and of the geometry of the drum.

[0011] It is thus possible to control the actual amount of cable wound/unwound on/off the drum, and determine the area of the drum the cable is wound/unwound on/off, and therefore the position the cable should assume with respect to the drum, especially when winding the cable.

[0012] In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the winch assembly comprises a cable guide device movable with respect to the drum to position the cable in a given position with respect to the drum; and an actuator for moving the cable guide device with respect to the drum; said control unit being configured to calculate a position of said cable guide device as a function of the position of the drum and the geometry of the drum, and to control the actuator as a function of the calculated position.

[0013] The cable is thus wound and unwound correctly in a spiral about the drum.

[0014] In another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the winch assembly comprises at least one idle pulley, which is positioned contacting said cable and rotated by said cable; and a sensor for determining the position of the idle pulley; the control unit being configured to acquire the rotation speed of the drum and the rotation speed of the idle pulley, and to control the actuator assembly as a function of the rotation speed of the drum, the rotation speed of the idle pulley, the position of the drum, and the geometry of the idle pulley and the drum.

[0015] It is thus possible to determine correct tensioning of the cable. If the cable is not tensioned properly, it loses grip on the idle pulley, which therefore does not rotate about its axis. If the cable is not kept taut, it may rewind incorrectly or even unwind automatically off the drum due to its own elasticity.

[0016] Another object of the present invention is to provide a method of operating a snow groomer winch assembly.

[0017] According to the present invention, there is provided a method of operating a winch assembly to aid handling of a snow groomer on steep slopes, the winch assembly comprising a support structure; a drum that rotates with respect to the support structure about an axis; and a cable wound about the drum; the method comprising the steps of determining the position of the drum about the axis; controlling the cable as a function of the determined position of the drum and the geometry of the drum, and displaying in a cab of the snow groomer the winding state of the drum on the basis of the signal emitted by a sensor for determining the position of the drum about the axis, and the geometry of drum.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0018] A non-limiting embodiment of the present invention will be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 shows a side view, with parts removed for clarity, of a snow groomer in accordance with the present invention;

Figure 2 shows a larger-scale side view, with parts removed for clarity, of a detail of the Figure 1 snow groomer;

Figure 3 shows a partly schematic plan view, with parts removed for clarity, of a detail of the Figure 1 snow groomer;

Figure 4 shows a larger-scale plan view, with parts removed for clarity, of a detail of the Figure 1 snow groomer.


BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION



[0019] Number 1 in Figure 1 indicates as a whole a ski slope snow groomer.

[0020] Snow groomer 1 comprises a frame 2; two crawlers 3 (only one shown in Figure 1); two drive wheels 4 (only one shown in Figure 1) connected functionally to respective crawlers 3; idle wheels 5 supporting crawlers 3; a cab 6; a user interface 7 in cab 6; a shovel 8 fitted to the front of frame 2; a tiller 9 fitted to the rear of frame 2; a winch assembly 10 fixed on top of frame 2; an internal combustion engine 11; and a power transmission 12 connected functionally to internal combustion engine 11, drive wheels 4, shovel 8, tiller 9, and winch assembly 10. Power transmission 11 may be hydraulic, electric, or a combination of the two.

[0021] Snow groomer 1 comprises a control unit 13 connected to user interface 7 and for controlling snow groomer 1 and winch assembly 10.

[0022] With reference to Figure 2, winch assembly 10 comprises a support structure 14 fixed to frame 2; a drum 15 fitted to support structure 14 to rotate about an axis A1; a cable 16 fixed at one end to drum 15 and wound about drum 15; a cable guide device 17 movable with respect to drum 15 to position cable 16 with respect to drum 15 when winding/unwinding cable 16 on/off drum 15; and a number of idle pulleys 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 fitted in rotary manner to support structure 14 to guide cable 16 along a given path along support structure 14.

[0023] Support structure 14 is a lattice structure, and comprises a bottom portion 23 fixed to frame 2 (Figure 1) and supporting drum 15, cable guide device 17, and idle pulley 18; a top portion 24 that rotates, with respect to bottom portion 23, about an axis A2 crosswise to axis A1; a pivot 25 interposed between bottom portion 23 and top portion 24; and a powered mechanism 26 connected functionally to pivot 25 to selectively rotate top portion 24, with respect to bottom portion 23, about axis A2.

[0024] With reference to Figure 3, winch assembly 10 comprises an actuator assembly 27 connected functionally to drum 15 to rotate drum 15 in opposite directions about axis A1; a sensor 28 fitted to drum 15 to determine the position of drum 15 about axis A1; a guide mechanism 29 for guiding cable guide device 17; a sensor 30 for determining the position of cable guide device 17 with respect to drum 15; an actuator 31 for moving cable guide device 17 with respect to drum 15; and a control device 32 for controlling actuator 31.

[0025] In the Figure 3 example, guide mechanism 29 for guiding cable guide device 17 comprises a track 33 fitted to bottom portion 23 and parallel to axis A1; and a carriage 34 movable, parallel to axis A1, along track 33 and supporting cable guide device 17. Actuator 31 is a linear actuator - in the example shown, a double-acting hydraulic cylinder fixed to bottom portion 23 of support structure 14 and connected functionally to carriage 34. Control device 32 comprises two solenoid valves 35 and 36.

[0026] In an alternative embodiment not shown in the drawings, the guide mechanism comprises an arm, of the type described in CA 2,441,650, that supports the cable guide device and rotates about an axis crosswise to the drum axis.

[0027] Drum 15 comprises two flanges 37 perpendicular to axis A1; and, as shown in Figure 4, a cylindrical wall 38, along which is formed a groove 39 for housing cable 16, which is fixed at one end 40 to cylindrical wall 38.

[0028] Groove 39 winds approximately in a spiral along cylindrical wall 38, and is characterized by semicircular portions connected to one another, and by offset portions that produce a shift, in the direction parallel to axis A1, equal to half the pitch of groove 39. A groove 39 of the above type is generally referred to as a Lebus.

[0029] Cable 16 is wound in a spiral about drum 15. That is, a first layer of cable 16 is wound partly inside groove 39, and further layers of cable 16 are wound, with the same pitch as groove 39, over the first layer.

[0030] As shown in Figure 3, winch assembly 10 comprises a sensor 41 for determining the position of idle pulley 18.

[0031] Control unit 13 is configured to control cable 16, in particular the position of cable 16 with respect to drum 15, and the tension of cable 16, and comprises a memory 42, in which the geometry of drum 15 and the geometry of idle pulley 18 are stored. Control unit 13 is configured to control cable 16 as a function of the position of drum 15 and the geometry of drum 15, which includes the type of groove 39, the dimensions of drum 15 and groove 39, and the number of winding layers of cable 16. Control unit 13 is connected to user interface 7 to enter data into memory 42.

[0032] The position of drum 15 is intended as the absolute position with respect to a zero reference point, in which drum 15 is in a predetermined winding condition, preferably with cable 16 fully wound.

[0033] On the basis of this information, control unit 13 is configured to control the position of cable guide device 17 as a function of a calculated position, and accordingly comprises a computing block 43 to calculate the position of cable guide device 17 with respect to drum 15.

[0034] On the basis of the signal emitted by sensor 28, and of the geometry of drum 15, the winding state of drum 15 can be displayed on a display 44 in cab 6 (Figure 1).

[0035] Once the position of cable guide device 17 is calculated, control unit 13 operates control device 32 to command actuator 31 to set cable guide device 17 to the calculated position.

[0036] Control unit 13 also comprises a comparing block 45 to compare the actual position of cable guide device 17 with the calculated position. The actual position is determined by sensor 30. When the difference between the actual position and the calculated position exceeds a given acceptance range, control unit 13 is configured to correct the actual position of cable guide device 17.

[0037] Control unit 13 comprises two differentiating blocks 46, 47 to acquire the rotation speed of drum 15 and the rotation speed of idle pulley 18 as a function of the respective positions determined by sensors 28 and 41; a computing block 48 to convert the rotation speeds of drum 15 and idle pulley 18 to respective tangential speeds as a function of the geometry of drum 15, the geometry of idle pulley 18, and the absolute position of drum 15; and a comparing block 49 to determine whether the difference between the tangential speeds exceeds a given threshold value. In which case, control unit 13 is configured to stop drum 15, if drum 15 is unwinding cable 16.

[0038] In the absence of slippage between cable 16 and idle pulley 18, the speeds tangential to idle pulley 18 and drum 15 are equal, according to the equation:

where :

ω18 is the rotation speed of idle pulley 18;

R18 is the radius of idle pulley 18;

ω15 is the rotation speed of drum 15;

R15 is the radius on which cable 16 is wound, and which in turn is a function of the absolute position of drum 15.



[0039] Put briefly, the comparison may be of the type : ω18 < K(ω15 * R15)/R18, where K is an acceptance factor.

[0040] Cable tension control is actually also a function of the absolute position of drum 15.

[0041] The present invention provides for a snow groomer capable of precise and also highly versatile winch assembly cable control. The snow groomer, in fact, is capable of controlling the position of the cable along the drum when winding and unwinding the cable; controlling cable tension; and providing the user with a cable winding/unwinding status display.

[0042] The present invention obviously also covers embodiments not described in the above detailed disclosure, as well as equivalent embodiments within the scope of protection of the accompanying Claims.


Claims

1. A snow groomer comprising a winch assembly to aid handling of the snow groomer on steep slopes, the snow groomer (1) comprising a frame (2); a cab (6); a control unit (13); and said winch assembly (10), which comprises a support structure (14) fixed to the frame (2), a drum (15) that rotates with respect to the support structure (14) about an axis (A1), a cable (16) wound about the drum (15), an actuator assembly (27) for rotating the drum (15) about the axis (A1), and a sensor (28) for determining the position of the drum (15) about the axis (A1); wherein the control unit (13) comprises a memory (42) for storing the geometry of the drum (15), and is configured to control the cable (16) as a function of the position of the drum (15) and the geometry of the drum (15); the snow groomer further comprising a display (44) in the cab (6) for showing the winding state of the drum (15) on the basis of the signal emitted by sensor (28), and of the geometry of the drum (15).
 
2. A snow groomer as claimed in Claim 1, wherein the winch assembly (10) comprises a cable guide device (17) movable with respect to the drum (15) to position the cable (16) in a given position with respect to the drum (15); and an actuator (31) for moving the cable guide device (17) with respect to the drum (15); said control unit (13) being configured to calculate a position of said cable guide device (17) as a function of the position of the drum (15) and the geometry of the drum (15), and to control the actuator (31) as a function of the calculated position.
 
3. A snow groomer as claimed in Claim 2, wherein the winch assembly (10) comprises a second sensor (30) for determining the actual position of the cable guide device (17) with respect to the drum (15); the control unit (13) being configured to compare the actual position and the calculated position, and to correct the actual position when the difference between the actual position and the calculated position exceeds a given acceptance range.
 
4. A snow groomer as claimed in Claim 3, and comprising a guide mechanism (29) for guiding the cable guide device (17); the guide mechanism (29) comprising a track (33), and a carriage (34), which is fitted in sliding manner to the track (33), is fixed to the cable guide device (17), and is connected functionally to the actuator (31).
 
5. A snow groomer as claimed in Claim 4, wherein the track (33) is parallel to said axis (A1).
 
6. A snow groomer as claimed in any one of Claims 1 to 5, wherein the winch assembly (10) comprises at least one idle pulley (18), which is positioned contacting said cable (16) and rotated by said cable (16); and a third sensor (41) for determining the position of the idle pulley (18); the control unit (13) being configured to acquire the rotation speed of the drum (15) and the rotation speed of the idle pulley (18), and to control the actuator assembly (27) as a function of the rotation speed of the drum (15), the rotation speed of the idle pulley (18), the position of the drum (15), and the geometry of the idle pulley (18) and the drum (15).
 
7. A snow groomer as claimed in Claim 6, wherein the memory (42) is configured for storing the geometry of the idle pulley (18).
 
8. A method of operating a winch assembly to aid handling of a snow groomer on steep slopes, the winch assembly (10) comprising a support structure (14); a drum (15) that rotates with respect to the support structure (14) about an axis (A1); and a cable (16) wound about the drum (15); the method comprising the steps of determining the position of the drum (15) about the axis (A1); controlling the cable (16) as a function of the determined position of the drum (15) and the geometry of the drum (15); and displaying in a cab (6) of the snow groomer the winding state of the drum (15) on the basis of the signal emitted by a sensor (28) for determining the position of the drum (15) about the axis (A1), and the geometry of drum (15).
 
9. A method as claimed in Claim 8, and comprising the steps of calculating the position of the cable guide device (17) as a function of the determined position of the drum (15) and the geometry of the drum (15); and controlling the position of the cable guide device (17) as a function of the calculated position.
 
10. A method as claimed in Claim 9, and comprising the steps of determining the actual position of the cable guide device (17) with respect to the drum (15); comparing the actual position of the cable guide device (17) and the calculated position; and correcting the actual position of the cable guide device (17) when the difference between the actual position and the calculated position exceeds a given acceptance range.
 
11. A method as claimed in any one of Claims 8 to 10, and comprising the steps of acquiring the rotation speed of the drum (15), and the rotation speed of an idle pulley (18) which is positioned contacting the cable (16) and is rotated by the cable (16); and controlling the actuator assembly (27) as a function of the rotation speed of the drum (15), the rotation speed of the idle pulley (18), the position of the drum (15), the geometry of the drum (15), and the geometry of the idle pulley (18).
 
12. A method as claimed in Claim 11, and comprising the step of stopping the drum (15) when the rotation speed of the idle pulley (18) is below a reference parameter which is a function of the rotation speed of the drum (15), the geometry of the drum (15), and the geometry of the idle pulley (18).
 




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Cited references

REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description