(19)
(11)EP 3 288 725 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
24.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/26

(21)Application number: 16787004.7

(22)Date of filing:  26.04.2016
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B25J 19/06(2006.01)
B25J 9/02(2006.01)
B25J 9/12(2006.01)
B25J 18/04(2006.01)
F16M 11/16(2006.01)
F16M 11/24(2006.01)
F16M 1/00(2006.01)
F16M 11/04(2006.01)
B25J 9/04(2006.01)
B25J 17/02(2006.01)
B25J 19/00(2006.01)
F16M 11/18(2006.01)
F16M 11/32(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2016/029383
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/176215 (03.11.2016 Gazette  2016/44)

(54)

POINT OF CONTROL REMOTE-ACTUATION APPARATUS AND METHODS

FERNBETÄTIGUNGSVORRICHTUNG UND -VERFAHREN EINES STEUERPUNKTES

APPAREILS ET PROCÉDÉS D'ACTIONNEMENT À DISTANCE DE POINTS DE COMMANDE


(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: 27.04.2015 US 201514697246

(43)Date of publication of application:
07.03.2018 Bulletin 2018/10

(73)Proprietor: Stevenson, Robert L.
Tucson, AZ 85745 (US)

(72)Inventor:
  • Stevenson, Robert L.
    Tucson, AZ 85745 (US)

(74)Representative: Wilson Gunn 
Blackfriars House The Parsonage 5th Floor
Manchester M3 2JA
Manchester M3 2JA (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A- 3 935 950
US-A- 4 034 867
US-A- 4 790 718
US-B1- 6 668 466
US-A- 3 935 950
US-A- 4 536 690
US-A- 4 849 778
  
      
    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 OF THE INVENTION


    Field of the Invention



    [0001] This disclosure relates to apparatus and methods for remote operation of potentially hazardous equipment, such as electrical switches. More particularly, the disclosure provides apparatus and methods for the controlling equipment through remote actuation of a mechanical link, while distancing a human operator from a potential hazard.

    Background



    [0002] It is well understood that industrial equipment includes points of control such as valves and switches that manage very large and potentially dangerous amounts of energy or materials. The vast majority of such control points are operated safely. However, there are some situations, e.g., equipment malfunction, use of equipment outside of rated specifications, or equipment misuse, which can lead to hazardous situations such as explosions, toxic material release, and the like.

    [0003] For example, in the power distribution industry, personnel who work on or near energized electrical equipment can be seriously injured or killed as a result of arcing faults. An arcing fault is the flow of current through the air between phase conductors and neutral or ground and can result in a tremendous release of energy in the form of extremely high temperatures and pressures along with shrapnel hurling through the air at high velocity. For this reason, when repair work or periodic maintenance needs to be accomplished, the circuit breakers are tripped (opened) and moved out of conductive contact with the primary and secondary disconnects and removed from the switchgear cell. Some circuit breaker switches are rotated with a "hot stick" (insulated rod) while others are operated by hooking the end of a hot stick into a ring connected to a movable contact and pulling or pushing on the ring to open or close the contacts respectively.
    More generally, control mechanisms broadly fall into two categories: rotary operation and linear operation. Thus, it is desirable to provide improved apparatus and methods for actuating valves and/or switches at a distance from a user such that improved safety results.
    US 3, 935, 950 describes and industrial robotic arm which is designed not to twist or pivot.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0004] The disclosure herein relates to apparatus and methods for actuating points of control, such as valves and switches, at a distance.
    In accordance with the present invention there is provided a point of control remote-actuation apparatus having the features of claims 1 and 2 and a method of operating a point of control at a distance with a remote-actuation apparatus having the features of claim 9.
    Controlling a switch or valve at a distance is achieved by an elongate member coupled with a support member having a movable portion and a drive mechanism in communication with the moveable portion. A motor or other way of providing motive force (e.g., hand crank) acts to move the drive mechanism and thus the movable portion and elongate member such that a valve or switch is actuated at a distance from a user.

    [0005] These and other features, aspects, and advantages will become better understood upon consideration of the following detailed description, drawings and appended claims.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0006] 

    Figure 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment.

    Figure 2 is an enlarged, exploded representation of the embodiment in Fig. 1 without the engagement sections and elongated member

    Figure 3 is a partially exploded view of the first embodiment positioned for vertical actuation of a point of control.

    Figure 4 is an elevated perspective view of the first embodiment positioned on a surface for horizontal actuation of a point of control.

    Figure 5 is an elevated perspective view of a second embodiment that utilizes linear movement of an elongated member.

    Figure 6 is elevated perspective view of a third embodiment.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



    [0007] In a first embodiment shown in Fig. 1, a point of control, e.g., switch or valve, controlling apparatus 2 is depicted. The apparatus 2 includes a support member 4 having a movable portion 6, with the moveable portion being coupled with an elongate member 10 (as through a holder 8), with the elongate member being engaged along a length portion such that the elongate member and movable portion are not in axial alignment. The elongate member 10 is not limited to a particular shape or configuration and may be, for example, a rod, plank, or I-beam adapted to engage a point of control at a distance. A drive mechanism 12 in communication with the moveable portion 6 is adapted to move the moveable portion 6 and holder 8 in response to a motive force.

    [0008] In this embodiment, the movable portion 6 of the support member 4 is planar and has the holder 8 (e.g., a clamp or splined area) centrally disposed therein. The apparatus 2 may further include a motor 14 adapted to engage the drive mechanism 12 or the motor may be connected to the drive mechanism by a user prior to use of apparatus 2. Also, the drive mechanism 12 preferably is offset from the movable portion 6 such that the drive mechanism and movable portion are not in axial alignment (e.g., they are side-by-side to each other as shown in Fig. 1). This has been found to provide better torque in some applications where rotary force is needed to move the elongate member such that a switch or valve are actuated.

    [0009] In electrical switch contexts, the elongate member 10 is an electrically insulated rod (e.g. a "hot stick") and the holder 8 may be a clamp. Moreover, where the switch is a vault switch, the support member 4 further includes one or more engagement section(s) 16 adapted for positioning the support member on a surface, such as a section of floor or ground (see Fig. 4). While multiple engagement sections forming a tripod-like structure are shown in this embodiment, many other structures are possible, such as a pole or sheet of rigid material. Preferably, the engagement sections include securing members such as pointed ends 18.

    [0010] Turning to Fig. 2, an exploded and enlarged view of the support member 4, movable portion 6 (e.g., a slewing ring), and select other components of the first embodiment is shown. Fig. 3 shows a partially exploded view of the first embodiment positioned for vertical actuation of a point of control, such as a vault switch V. Alternatively, Fig. 4 is an elevated perspective view of the first embodiment positioned on a surface 20 for horizontal actuation of a point of control. Thus, the support member may include one or more movable engagement members being adaptable to position the apparatus on a surface in at least two orientations.

    [0011] In an embodiment not according to the invention shown in Fig. 5, the apparatus for remote-actuation is reconfigured to provide linear actuation. The apparatus 100 has a support member 102 which also serves as the mounting point for the system controls. Element 104 is a moveable clamp to secure the elongate member 10. Drive mechanism 106 (which includes a motor) is a linear actuator which provides the motive force to push or pull the elongate member as required. Strap or "tie-down" 108 allows a user to connect between provided mounting points 110 on the support member 102 and suitable points on the point of control or its support structure (not shown). This "tie-down" 108 provides the necessary reaction force to allow for the mechanism to operate the point of control. In circumstances where it is not possible or desirable to rely on "tie-down" 108, provisions have been made in the in the shape of the foot (securing member 112) of the engagement means 120 to allow the use of commonly available ballast weights such as sand bags (not shown).

    [0012] In a third embodiment as shown in Fig. 6, yet another remote-actuating apparatus is illustrated. The apparatus 200 has planer support member 220 including a rotatable portion 240, with the rotatable portion 240 further including a clamp 260 adapted to engage an elongate member 280. A drive mechanism 300 in communication with the rotatable portion 240 is adapted to rotate the rotatable portion 240 and clamp 260 in response to a motive force.

    [0013] As with the first embodiment, the apparatus 200 may include a motor 320 adapted to engage the drive mechanism 300 (or the motor may be connected by a user). The actuation of the rotatable portion 240 and clamp 260 through the motor 320 may be remotely controllable by a wired or wireless controller known in the art. Furthermore, the drive mechanism 300 may be offset from the clamp such that the drive mechanism and clamp are not in axial alignment when rotation of the elongate member 280 is desired. Also, the support member 220 may further include engagement sections such as tabs 400 adapted for mounting the support member on a surface such as planks or bars 410.

    [0014] In some embodiments, the drive mechanism and/or moveable portion are removably coupled to the support member, thereby allowing for simplicity of repair, etc. Moreover, some embodiments further include a load measurement indicator 500 that indicates torque versus rotational position as a proxy for operation status.

    [0015] From the description and figures provided herewith, methods for operating a point of control at a distance with a remote-actuation apparatus are readily apparent. In one method embodiment, wherein the remote-actuation apparatus includes an elongate member coupled with a movable portion of a support member and the support member has a drive mechanism, the method includes actuating the drive mechanism such that said movable portion moves the elongate member and thereby operates the point of control at a distance.

    [0016] Preferably, the elongate member is coupled to the moveable member along a length portion of the elongate member such that said elongate member and moveable portion are not in axial alignment, thereby providing greater torque in some applications.

    [0017] In another method for operating a point of control at a distance, a user couples an elongate member with a movable portion of a support member, with the support member having a drive mechanism; and then the user actuates the drive mechanism such that the movable portion moves the elongate member and thereby operates said point of control.

    [0018] As will be apparent from the description above, the embodiments may be used in methods for operating a switch or valve at a distance. Thus, a method may include the steps of coupling an elongate member, which is held by a support member with a drive mechanism and a motor, to a switch or valve and activating the motor such that said elongate member moves the switch or valve to a desired position.

    [0019] The above description and examples are not intended to limit the invention, with is defined by the claims.


    Claims

    1. A point of control remote-actuation apparatus (2), comprising:

    an elongate member (10) having a first end and second end,

    a support member (4) having a movable portion (6), said moveable portion (6) being adjustably coupled with said elongate member (10) along any portion of a length of said elongate member (10) such that said first end and said second end of the elongate member (10) are free of contact with said point of contact remote-actuation apparatus (2) during an actuation operation;

    a drive mechanism (12) in communication with said moveable portion (6), said drive mechanism (12) configured to provide torque to the moveable portion (6) and elongate member (10) in response to a motive force, wherein said drive mechanism (12) is offset from the movable portion (6) such that the drive mechanism (12) and movable portion (6) are not in axial alignment; characterized in that the elongate member (10) is an electrically insulated rod.


     
    2. A point of control remote-actuation apparatus (220), comprising:

    a support member (220) having a rotatable portion (240), said rotatable portion (240) including a holder (260) configured to engage an elongate member (280) along any portion of a length of said elongate member (280) and such that a first end and a second end of the elongate member (280) are free of contact with said point of control remote-actuation apparatus (200);

    a drive mechanism (300) in communication with said rotatable portion (240), said drive mechanism (300) adapted to rotate said rotatable portion (240) and elongate member (280) engaged by said holder (260) in response to a motive force, wherein said drive mechanism (300) is offset from the holder (260) such that the drive mechanism (300) and holder (260) are not in axial alignment; characterized in that the elongate member (280) is an electrically insulated rod.


     
    3. The apparatus of claim 1 or 2, wherein said drive mechanism (12, 300) is removably coupled to said support member (4, 220).
     
    4. The apparatus of claim 1, 2 or 3, wherein said movable portion (6, 240) is removably coupled to said support member (4, 220).
     
    5. The apparatus of any one of the preceding claims, further including a motor (14, 320) adapted to operate said drive mechanism (12, 300).
     
    6. The apparatus of any one of the preceding claims, wherein said movable portion (6, 260) further includes a clamp (8, 260) that engages said elongate member (10, 280).
     
    7. The apparatus of any one of the preceding claims, wherein said support member (4, 220) further includes at least two engagement sections (16, 120, 400) that are positionable.
     
    8. The apparatus of any one of the preceding claims, wherein said movable portion (6, 260) comprises a slewing ring (6).
     
    9. A method for operating a point of control at a distance with a remote-actuation apparatus, said apparatus including an elongate member (10) coupled with a movable portion (6) of a support member (4) along any portion of a length of said elongate member (10) and such that a first end and a second end of the elongate member (10) are free of contact with said remote actuation apparatus (2), with said support member (4) having a drive mechanism (14) that is offset from the moveable portion (6) such that said drive mechanism (12) and moveable portion (6) are not in axial alignment, comprising the step of:
    actuating said drive mechanism (12) such that said movable portion (6) rotates said elongate member (10) and thereby operates said point of control at a distance.
     
    10. The method of claim 9, wherein said elongate member (10) is an electrically insulated rod.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Eine Steuerpunkt Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung (2), umfassend:

    ein längliches Element (10) mit einem ersten Ende und einem zweiten Ende,

    ein Stützelement (4) mit einem beweglichen Abschnitt (6), wobei der bewegliche Abschnitt (6) einstellbar mit dem länglichen Element (10) entlang eines beliebigen Abschnitts einer Länge des länglichen Elements (10) gekoppelt ist, so dass das erste Ende und das zweite Ende des länglichen Elements (10) während eines Betätigungsvorgangs frei von Kontakt mit der Kontaktpunkt-Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung (2) sind;

    einen Antriebsmechanismus (12), der mit dem bewegbaren Abschnitt (6) in Verbindung steht, wobei der Antriebsmechanismus (12) so konfiguriert ist, dass er dem bewegbaren Abschnitt (6) und dem länglichen Element (10) als Reaktion auf eine Bewegungskraft ein Drehmoment bereitstellt, wobei der Antriebsmechanismus (12) von dem bewegbaren Abschnitt (6) so versetzt ist, dass der Antriebsmechanismus (12) und der bewegbare Abschnitt (6) nicht axial ausgerichtet sind; dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das längliche Element (10) ein elektrisch isolierter Stab ist.


     
    2. Eine Steuerpunkt Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung (220), umfassend:

    ein Stützelement (220) mit einem drehbaren Abschnitt (240), wobei der drehbare Abschnitt (240) einen Halter (260) aufweist, der so konfiguriert ist, dass er mit einem länglichen Element (280) entlang eines beliebigen Abschnitts einer Länge des länglichen Elements (280) in Eingriff kommt, und zwar so, dass ein erstes Ende und ein zweites Ende des länglichen Elements (280) frei von Kontakt mit der Steuerpunkt Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung (200) sind;

    einen Antriebsmechanismus (300), der mit dem drehbaren Abschnitt (240) in Verbindung steht, wobei der Antriebsmechanismus (300) dazu ausgelegt ist, den drehbaren Abschnitt (240) und das längliche Element (280), das mit dem Halter (260) in Eingriff steht, als Reaktion auf eine Bewegungskraft zu drehen, wobei der Antriebsmechanismus (300) von dem Halter (260) so versetzt ist, dass der Antriebsmechanismus (300) und der Halter (260) nicht axial ausgerichtet sind; dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das längliche Element (280) ein elektrisch isolierter Stab ist.


     
    3. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, wobei der Antriebsmechanismus (12, 300) abnehmbar mit dem Stützelement (4, 220) gekoppelt ist.
     
    4. Vorrichtung nach den Ansprüchen 1, 2 oder 3, wobei der bewegliche Teil (6, 240) abnehmbar mit dem Stützelement (4, 220) gekoppelt ist.
     
    5. Die Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, die ferner einen Motor (14, 320) aufweist, der zur Betätigung des Antriebsmechanismus (12, 300) geeignet ist.
     
    6. Die Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei der bewegliche Abschnitt (6, 260) ferner eine Klemme (8, 260) aufweist, die mit dem länglichen Element (10, 280) in Eingriff steht.
     
    7. Die Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei das Stützelement (4, 220) ferner mindestens zwei Eingriffsabschnitte (16, 120, 400) aufweist, die positionierbar sind.
     
    8. Die Vorrichtung nach einem der vorstehenden Ansprüche, wobei der bewegliche Abschnitt (6, 260) einen Drehkranz (6) aufweist.
     
    9. Verfahren zum Betreiben eines Steuerpunkts in einer Entfernung mit einer Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung, wobei die Vorrichtung ein längliches Element (10) aufweist, das mit einem beweglichen Abschnitt (6) eines Stützelements (4) entlang eines beliebigen Abschnitts einer Länge des länglichen Elements (10) gekoppelt ist, und zwar so, dass ein erstes Ende und ein zweites Ende des länglichen Elements (10) frei von Kontakt mit der Fernbetätigungsvorrichtung (2) sind, wobei das Stützelement (4) einen Antriebsmechanismus (14) aufweist, der von dem bewegbaren Abschnitt (6) so versetzt ist, dass der Antriebsmechanismus (12) und der bewegbare Abschnitt (6) nicht in axialer Ausrichtung sind, umfassend den folgenden Schritt:
    Betätigen des Antriebsmechanismus (12), so dass der bewegliche Abschnitt (6) das längliche Element (10) dreht und dadurch den Steuerpunkt in einem Abstand betätigt.
     
    10. Verfahren nach Anspruch 9, wobei das langgestreckte Element (10) ein elektrisch isolierter Stab ist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Installation (2) d'actionnement à distance de point de commande, comprenant :

    un élément (10) oblong ayant une première extrémité et une seconde extrémité,

    un élément (4) de support ayant une partie (6) mobile, la partie (6) mobile étant accouplée à ajustement avec l'élément (10) oblong le long de toute partie d'une longueur de l'élément (10) oblong de manière à ce que la première extrémité et la seconde extrémité de l'élément (10) oblong soit sans contact avec l'installation (2) d'actionnement à distance de point de contact pendant une opération d'actionnement ;

    un mécanisme (12) d'entraînement en communication avec la partie (6) mobile, le mécanisme (12) d'entraînement étant configuré pour procurer un couple à la partie (6) mobile et à l'élément (10) oblong en réaction à une force motrice, le mécanisme (12) d'entraînement étant décalé de la partie (6) mobile de manière à ce que le mécanisme (12) d'entraînement et la partie (6) mobile ne soient pas alignés axialement, caractérisée en ce que l'élément (10) oblong est une barre isolée électriquement.


     
    2. Installation (220) d'actionnement à distance de point de commande, comprenant :

    un élément (220) de support ayant une partie (240) tournante, la partie (240) tournante comprenant une poignée (260) configurée pour venir en prise avec un élément (280) oblong le long de toute partie d'une longueur de l'élément (280) oblong et de manière à ce qu'une première extrémité et une seconde extrémité de l'élément (280) oblong soit sans contact avec l'installation (200) d'actionnement à distance de point de commande ;

    un mécanisme (300) d'entraînement en communication avec la partie (240) tournante, le mécanisme (300) d'entraînement étant conçu pour faire tourner la partie (240) tournante et l'élément (280) oblong pris par la poignée (260) en réaction à une force motrice, le mécanisme (300) d'entraînement étant décalé de la poignée (260) de manière à ce que le mécanisme (300) d'entraînement et la poignée (260) ne soient pas alignés axialement ; caractérisée en ce que l'élément (280) oblong est une barre isolée électriquement.


     
    3. Installation suivant la revendication 1 ou 2, dans laquelle le mécanisme (12, 300) d'entraînement est accouplé de manière amovible à l'élément (4, 220) de support.
     
    4. Installation suivant la revendication 1, 2 ou 3, dans lequel la partie (6, 240) mobile est accouplée de manière amovible à l'élément (4, 220) de support.
     
    5. Installation suivant l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant, en outre, un moteur (14, 320) conçu pour faire fonctionner le mécanisme (12, 300) d'entraînement.
     
    6. Installation suivant l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle la partie (6, 260) mobile comprend, en outre, un crampon (8, 260) qui prend l'élément (10, 280) oblong.
     
    7. Installation suivant l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle l'élément (4, 220) de support comprend, en outre, au moins deux parties (16, 120, 400) de prise qui peuvent être mises en position.
     
    8. Installation suivant l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans laquelle la partie (6, 260) mobile comprend un anneau (6) orientable.
     
    9. Procédé pour faire fonctionner un point de commande à distance par une installation d'actionnement à distance, l'installation comprenant un élément (10) oblong accouplé à une partie (6) mobile d'un élément (4) de support le long de toute partie d'une longueur de l'élément (10) oblong et de manière à ce qu'une première extrémité et une seconde extrémité de l'élément (10) oblong soient sans contact avec l'installation (2) d'actionnement à distance, l'élément (4) de support ayant un mécanisme (14) d'entraînement qui est décalé de la partie (6) mobile de manière à ce que le mécanisme (12) d'entraînement et la partie (6) mobile ne soient pas alignés axialement,
    comprenant le stade de :
    actionnement du mécanisme (12) d'entraînement de manière à ce que la partie (6) mobile fasse tourner l'élément (10) oblong et fasse fonctionner ainsi le point de commande à distance.
     
    10. Procédé suivant la revendication 9, dans lequel l'élément (10) oblong est une barre isolée électriquement.
     




    Drawing























    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