(19)
(11)EP 3 536 211 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION
published in accordance with Art. 153(4) EPC

(43)Date of publication:
11.09.2019 Bulletin 2019/37

(21)Application number: 17888909.3

(22)Date of filing:  12.12.2017
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A47L 9/16  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/KR2017/014559
(87)International publication number:
WO 2018/124543 (05.07.2018 Gazette  2018/27)
(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
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
MA MD TN

(30)Priority: 30.12.2016 KR 20160184433
30.12.2016 KR 20170134162

(71)Applicant: LG Electronics Inc.
Seoul 07336 (KR)

(72)Inventors:
  • SUN, Changhwa
    Seoul 08592 (KR)
  • KIM, Sangjo
    Seoul 08592 (KR)

(74)Representative: Ter Meer Steinmeister & Partner 
Patentanwälte mbB Nymphenburger Straße 4
80335 München
80335 München (DE)

  


(54)CLEANER


(57) Disclosed is a cleaner having a structure that a supporting member and a cleaning module are coupled to or separated from a cleaner body. The cleaner includes a cleaner body having a module mounting portion; a supporting member inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion, and separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion, through a bottom part of the cleaner body; and a cleaning module coupled to the supporting member so as to be inserted or withdrawn together with the supporting member when the supporting member is inserted or withdrawn.




Description

[Technical Field]



[0001] This specification relates to a cleaner having a cleaning module which can be sanitarily managed.

[Background Art]



[0002] A cleaner is an apparatus for performing a vacuum cleaning function which collects dust by separating the dust and foreign materials from sucked air, or performing a mop cleaning function through a mopping operation.

[0003] The cleaner is configured to simultaneously suck dust and air, and to separate the dust from the sucked air. The dust separated from the air is collected at a dust collector, and the air is discharged out of the cleaner. During this process, dust is accumulated not only in the dust collector, but also in the cleaner.

[0004] Therefore, the cleaner should be managed in order to maintain a clean state and a cleaning function. The management of the cleaner means periodically discharging dust collected at the dust collector, removing dust accumulated in the cleaner rather than the dust collector, etc.

[0005] For management of the cleaner, components of the cleaner should be separated from a cleaner body. However, in this process, a user should touch the components of the cleaner by hand, and may touch dust accumulated in the cleaner by hand. This may cause a problem in a sanitary aspect.

[0006] For instance, US registration patent No. 8,720,001 B2 (2014.05.13.) discloses a configuration that an agitator is formed to be separable from a cleaner body. According to the patent document, a user should overturn a cleaner to take an agitator out by hand, in order to disassemble the agitator. Accordingly, the patent has a problem in a sanitary aspect that a user should touch dust accumulated in the agitator.

[0007] Recently, a cleaner having both a vacuum cleaning function and a mopping function is being developed. For usage of such a cleaner, a user detachably couples a brush assembly or a mop assembly to a cleaner body according to a desired cleaning type. However, in this case, it is impossible to change a cleaning mode of the cleaner in accordance with the mounted assembly.

[Disclosure]


[Technical Problem]



[0008] Therefore, an aspect of the detailed description is to provide a cleaner capable of enhancing a user's sanitary aspect when managed and maintained. Especially, an aspect of the detailed description is to provide a cleaner capable of allowing a user to disassemble or separate components from a cleaner body without touching dust by hand.

[0009] Another aspect of the detailed description is to provide a cleaner capable of selectively replacing a predetermined type of cleaning member coupled to a cleaner body, and having an easy replacement structure.

[0010] Another aspect of the detailed description is to provide a cleaner capable of automatically recognizing a type of a cleaning member coupled to a cleaner body.

[Technical Solution]



[0011] The present invention provides a cleaner capable of coupling or separating a supporting member and a cleaning module to or from a cleaner body in a coupled manner.

[0012] To achieve these and other advantages and in accordance with the purpose of this specification, as embodied and broadly described herein, there is provided a cleaner, comprising: a cleaner body having a module mounting portion; a supporting member inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion, and separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion, through a bottom part of the cleaner body; and a cleaning module coupled to the supporting member so as to be inserted or withdrawn together with the supporting member when the supporting member is inserted or withdrawn.

[0013] The cleaning module includes: a rotation rod rotatably supported by the supporting member, and coupled to the rotation driving portion by being inserted into the module mounting portion; and a cleaning member coupled to an outer circumferential surface of the rotation rod, and configured to clean a floor by being rotated together with the rotation rod when the rotation rod is rotated by a rotation driving force transmitted from the rotation driving portion.

[0014] The rotation rod includes: a rotation coupling member exposed to outside through one end of the rotation rod in an axial direction, and formed to be pressurized toward inside of the rotation rod; and an elastic member configured to provide an elastic force such that the rotation coupling member pressurized toward the inside of the rotation rod is restored to an initial position.

[0015] The module mounting portion includes an inclined surface formed at a contact position with the rotation coupling member while the cleaning module is being mounted such that the rotation coupling member is slid on a slant surface, the inclined surface being configured to gradually pressurize the rotation coupling member toward the inside of the rotation rod while the cleaning module is being mounted.

[0016] The inclined surface is formed to be closer to the rotation coupling member as it is towards inside of the module mounting portion.

[0017] The rotation driving portion is formed to accommodate the rotation coupling member therein. And in a mounted state of the cleaning module to the module mounting portion, the rotation coupling member is pressurized by an elastic force provided from the elastic member to thus be inserted into the rotation driving portion.

[0018] The rotation driving portion is formed to accommodate the rotation coupling member therein. While the cleaning module is being mounted, the rotation coupling member sequentially passes through the inclined surface and an inner plane of the module mounting portion, and then is restored to an initial position by an elastic force provided from the elastic member to thus be inserted into the rotation driving portion.

[0019] The supporting member includes: a first supporting portion which encloses one end of the rotation rod so as to relative-rotatably support the rotation rod, and a second supporting portion which encloses another end of the rotation rod; and a first connection portion and a second connection portion spaced apart from each other, and configured to connect the first and second supporting portions with each other. And the cleaning member is exposed to a space between the first and second connection portions to clean a floor.

[0020] The module mounting portion is provided with a protrusion protruding towards the supporting member, and the supporting member is provided with a hook coupling portion so as to be prevented from being separated from the module mounting portion.

[0021] The hook coupling portion includes: a first part protruding from one end of the supporting member towards inside of the module mounting portion; a second part bent from the first part, and protruding towards outside of the module mounting portion; a manipulation portion protruding from an end of the second part so as to manipulate the hook coupling portion; and a locking protrusion protruding from a middle region of the second part towards the protrusion, so as to be locked to the protrusion when the supporting member is inserted into the module mounting portion.

[0022] The locking protrusion includes: an inclined surface which contacts the protrusion while the supporting member is being inserted, and formed to be slidable along a surface of the protrusion; and a locking surface formed at an opposite side to the inclined surface, and formed to contact the protrusion in a mounted state of the supporting member to the module mounting portion.

[0023] In a mounted state of the supporting member to the module mounting portion, the manipulation portion is spaced apart from the cleaner body so as to be pressurized towards the cleaner body.

[0024] When the manipulation portion is pressurized in an axial direction of the rotation rod, a coupled state between the protrusion and the locking protrusion is released.

[0025] The hook coupling portion is formed at an opposite side to the rotation coupling member. If a coupled state between the protrusion and the locking protrusion is released, the supporting member and the cleaning module are tilted on the basis of the rotation coupling member to thus be separated from the module mounting portion.

[0026] The cleaning module includes a first type cleaning module and a second type cleaning module which are selectively mountable to the supporting member, and a rotation rod of the first type cleaning module and a rotation rod of the second type cleaning module are provided with different number of contact terminals on the same position. The rotation driving portion is provided with a contact switch at a contact position with the contact terminal.

[0027] A controller of the cleaner recognizes a type of the cleaning module mounted to the module mounting portion according to the number of the contact terminal contacting the contact switch, and selects a cleaning algorithm of the cleaner based on the recognized type of the cleaning module.

[Advantageous Effects]



[0028] The cleaning module is inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion together with the supporting member, and is separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion together with the supporting member. This is advantageous in a sanitary aspect. The reason is because most of dust is accumulated on the cleaning module rather than the supporting member, and a user can mount or separate the cleaning module to or from the module mounting portion without touching the cleaning module.

[0029] Further, since the supporting member and the cleaning module are inserted and withdrawn at a bottom part of the cleaner body in an upper and lower direction, convenience in mounting and/or separating the supporting member and the cleaning module may be enhanced. For instance, if a user lifts the cleaner body after pressurizing the manipulation portion of the hook coupling portion, the supporting member and the cleaning module may be separated from the module mounting portion by their weight. Accordingly, in the present invention, inconvenience in overturning the cleaner body may be solved.

[0030] Further, in the present invention, a type of the cleaning module is automatically recognized, and a cleaning algorithm is selected according to the recognized type of the cleaning module. This may enhance performance of the robot cleaner having an autonomous driving function and an automatic cleaning function.

[Description of Drawings]



[0031] 

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing an example of a cleaner according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side sectional view of the cleaner shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a conceptual view showing a bottom part of a cleaner body shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a conceptual view showing the cleaner body of FIG. 1, and a supporting member and a brush module separated from the cleaner body;

FIG. 5 is a disassembled perspective view of the supporting member and the brush module shown in FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a disassembled perspective view of the supporting member and a mop module;

FIG. 7 is a conceptual view showing a process of mounting a brush module to a cleaner body;

FIG. 8 is a sectional view taken along line 'B-B' in FIG. 1;

FIG. 9 is a sectional view taken along line 'C-C' in FIG. 1;

FIG. 10 is a conceptual view showing a process of separating a brush module from a cleaner body;

FIG. 11 is a disassembled perspective view of a main housing, a driving wheel, and a module mounting housing;

FIG. 12 is a conceptual view for explaining a physical and electrical coupling structure between a main housing and a driving wheel;

FIGS. 13 and 14 are conceptual views partially showing appearance of a main housing to which a switch cover is exposed; and

FIG. 15 is a sectional view showing an inner structure of a power switch and a switch cover.


[Mode for Invention]



[0032] FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing an example of a cleaner according to the present invention, and FIG. 2 is a side sectional view of the cleaner shown in FIG. 1.

[0033] In the drawings, a robot cleaner 100 for sucking dust on a floor while autonomously driving on a predetermined region is shown as an example of a cleaner. However, the present invention is not limited to the robot cleaner 100, but may be applicable to a general vacuum cleaner such as canister type and an upright type.

[0034] The robot cleaner 100 may perform not only a function to suck dust on a floor, but also a function to mop a floor. For this, the robot cleaner 100 includes a cleaner body 110 and a cleaning module 120.

[0035] The cleaner body 110 forms appearance of the robot cleaner 100. The cleaner body 110 includes a controller (not shown) for controlling the robot cleaner 100, and various types of components are mounted in the cleaner body 110.

[0036] In the drawings, the cleaner body 110 includes a main housing 111, and a module mounting housing 112 coupled to the main housing 111 in a protruding manner. A main printed circuit board 113 (refer to FIG. 12) which constitutes the controller is mounted in the main housing 111, and a module mounting portion 110a for detachably mounting the cleaning module 120 is formed at the module mounting housing 112.

[0037] However, the present invention is not limited to this. The cleaner body 110 may include only the main housing 111. In this case, the module mounting portion 110a may be formed at the main housing 111.

[0038] A bumper switch 112a for sensing a physical collision may be installed at the cleaner body 110. The bumper switch 112a may include a bumper member 112a'which moves inward by a physical collision with an obstacle, and a switch 112a" pressurized when the bumper member 112a'moves inward.

[0039] In the drawings, the bumper switch 112a is provided at the module mounting housing 112. The bumper switch 112a is disposed on a front surface of the module mounting housing 112. In some cases, as shown, the bumper switch 112a may be disposed on both side surfaces of the module mounting housing 112.

[0040] Wheels for driving are provided at the cleaner body 110. The wheels may be provided on right and left sides of the cleaner body 110. By the wheels, the cleaner body 110 may be moved back and forth and right and left, or may be rotated.

[0041] For instance, if the robot cleaner 100 has an autonomous driving function, the wheels may be implemented as driving wheels 161 rotated by receiving a driving force. As another example, if the cleaner body 110 is moved by a user's manipulation, the wheels may have only a rolling function on a floor.

[0042] An auxiliary wheel 162 may be further provided at the cleaner body 110. The auxiliary wheel 162 supports the cleaner body 110 together with the driving wheels 161, and assists a driving of the robot cleaner 100 by the driving wheels 161.

[0043] As shown, if the module mounting housing 112 is protruding from the main housing 111, the auxiliary wheel 162 may be provided at the module mounting housing 112 for a stable driving of the robot cleaner 100.

[0044] The cleaning module 120 is configured to clean a floor. Dust and foreign materials included in air sucked through the cleaning module 120 are filtered to be collected at a dust container 170. Then, the air separated from the dust and foreign materials is discharged to the outside of the cleaner body 110. An air suction passage (not shown) for guiding an air flow from the module mounting portion 110a to the dust container 170 may be formed in the cleaner body 110. Further, an air discharge passage (not shown) for guiding an air flow from the dust container 170 to the outside of the cleaner body 110 may be formed in the cleaner body 110.

[0045] The cleaning module 120 may selectively include a different type of cleaning member. The cleaning member indicates a brush, a rag or mop, etc. A type of the cleaning module 120 may be determined according to a type of the cleaning member.

[0046] For instance, the cleaning module 120 having a brush may be categorized as a brush module 140 (refer to FIG. 5), and the cleaning module 120 having a mop may be categorized as a mop module 150 (refer to FIG. 6). One of the brush module and the mop module may be detachably coupled to the module mounting portion 110a. A user may replace the cleaning member or the cleaning module 120 according to a cleaning purpose.

[0047] The type of the cleaning member is not limited to a brush or a mop. Accordingly, the cleaning module having a different type of cleaning member may be referred to as a first type cleaning module and a second type cleaning module. The first cleaning module includes a first type cleaning member, and the first type cleaning member may mean a brush, for instance. Likewise, the second type cleaning module includes a second type cleaning member, and the second type cleaning member may mean a mop, etc. rather than a brush.

[0048] At least one of a filter and a cyclone for filtering dust and foreign materials included in sucked air may be provided at the dust container 170.

[0049] The robot cleaner 100 may be provided with a dust container cover 180 for covering the dust container 170. In a state that the dust container cover 180 is disposed to cover an upper surface of the dust container 170, the dust container 170 may be prevented from being separated from the cleaner body 110 by the dust container cover 180.

[0050] FIG. 2 shows that the dust container cover 180 is coupled to the cleaner body 110 by a hinge so as to be rotatable. The dust container cover 180 is fixed to the dust container 170 or the cleaner body 110, and covers an upper surface of the dust container 170.

[0051] If the robot cleaner 100 has an autonomous driving function, a sensing unit 190 for sensing a peripheral situation may be provided at the cleaner body 110. The controller may sense an obstacle or a geographic feature by the sensing unit 190, or may generate a map of a driving region.

[0052] Next, a bottom structure of the cleaner body will be explained.

[0053] FIG. 3 is a conceptual view showing a bottom part of the cleaner body 110 shown in FIG. 1.

[0054] A cliff sensor 112b for sensing a lower terrain may be provided at a bottom part of the cleaner body 110. In the drawings, the cliff sensor 112b is disposed at a bottom part of the module mounting housing 112. The cliff sensor 112b may be disposed at a bottom part of the main housing 111.

[0055] The cliff sensor 112b includes a light emitting portion and a light receiving portion, and time when light irradiated to a floor from the light emitting portion is received by the light receiving portion is measured. Based on the measured time, a distance between the cliff sensor 112b and the floor is measured. Accordingly, when there is a stairstep portion having its height lowered drastically at a front side, the reception time is drastically increased. If there is a cliff at a front side, light is not received by the light receiving portion.

[0056] If it is sensed, through the cliff sensor 112b, that a lower terrain becomes lower by more than a predetermined level, the controller controls a driving of the driving wheels 161 (refer to FIG. 1). For instance, the controller may apply a driving signal in an opposite direction to the driving wheels 161 such that the robot cleaner 100 may move in an opposite direction. Alternatively, for rotation of the robot cleaner 100, the controller may apply a driving signal to only one of the driving wheels 161, or may apply different driving signals to the right and left driving wheels 161.

[0057] The cleaning module for cleaning a floor may be detachably coupled to the module mounting portion 110a of the cleaner body 110. In the drawings, the brush module 140 is shown as an example of the cleaning module. However, the brush module 140 of the present invention may be applied to a general cleaning module such as a mop module to be explained later.

[0058] A supporting member 130 is formed to support the brush module 140. The supporting member 130 is provided with a hook coupling portion 138 at one side thereof. As the hook coupling portion 138 is manipulated, the supporting member 130 may be separated from the module mounting housing 112.

[0059] The supporting member 130 includes a first connection portion 133 and a second connection portion 134 spaced apart from each other. The first connection portion 133 is disposed at a front side of the brush module 140, and the second connection portion 134 is disposed at a rear side of the brush module 140. The brush module 140 is exposed to a space 135 between the first and second connection portions 133, 134, thereby cleaning a floor.

[0060] Next, the supporting member and the brush module will be explained.

[0061] FIG. 4 is a conceptual view showing the cleaner body 110 of FIG. 1, and the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 separated from the cleaner body 110.

[0062] The supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are detachably mounted to the module mounting portion 110a (refer to FIG. 1) formed at a bottom part of the module mounting housing 112. More specifically, the brush module 140 is coupled to the supporting member 130, and the supporting member 130 is formed to be mountable to the module mounting portion.

[0063] The supporting member 130 is inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion through the bottom part of the module mounting housing 112. And the supporting member 130 is separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion through the bottom part of the module mounting housing 112.

[0064] Since the brush module 140 is coupled to the supporting member 130, if the supporting member 130 is inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion, the brush module 140 is also inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion together with the supporting member 130. Likewise, if the supporting member 130 is separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion, the brush module 140 is also separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion together with the supporting member 130.

[0065] As shown in FIG. 4, the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion in upper and lower directions. Accordingly, if the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are separated from the module mounting portion, they may be withdrawn from the module mounting portion by their weight without an external force.

[0066] In the present invention, the brush module 140 is detachably coupled to the cleaner body 110 in a state that the supporting member 130 rotatably supports the brush module 140. However, the present invention is not limited to this. The brush module 140 may be directly detachably coupled to the cleaner body 110 without the supporting member 130. In this case, a structure corresponding to the supporting member 130 may be provided at the module mounting portion of the cleaner body 110.

[0067] FIG. 5 is a disassembled perspective view of the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 shown in FIG. 4.

[0068] The supporting member 130 is formed to rotatably support the brush module 140. The supporting member 130 includes a first supporting portion 131, a second supporting portion 132, the first connection portion 133, and the second connection portion 134.

[0069] The first and second supporting portions 131,132 are disposed at both ends of the supporting member 130 so as to face each other. A separation distance between the first and second supporting portions 131, 132 may be equal to a length of a rotation rod 141.

[0070] The first and second supporting portions 131,132 enclose both ends of the rotation rod 141 so as to support the brush module 140 in a relatively rotatable manner. More specifically, the first supporting portion 131 encloses one end of the rotation rod 141, and the second supporting portion 132 encloses another end of the rotation rod 141.

[0071] The first and second connection portions 133,134 are configured to connect the first and second supporting portions 131,132 with each other. The first and second connection portions 133,134 may be spaced apart from each other at a front side and a rear side of the brush module 140. A brush 142 of the brush module 140 is exposed to the space 135 between the first and second connection portions 133, 134, thereby cleaning a floor.

[0072] The supporting member 130 is detachably coupled to the module mounting portion 110a of the cleaner body 110. For the coupling, at least one hook 136 formed to be locked to the module mounting portion 110a (refer to FIGS. 1 and 7) may be provided at the supporting member 130. For instance, FIG. 5 shows that the hook 136 is formed at one end of the supporting member 130.

[0073] The hook 136 protrudes from an outer side surface of the first supporting portion 131. Once the supporting member 130 is inserted into the module mounting portion, the hook 136 is locked by a protrusion (not shown) formed on an inner side surface of the module mounting portion. With such a configuration, the hook 136 prevents any separation of the supporting member 130.

[0074] A protruding portion 137 protruding in an insertion direction of the supporting member 130 is formed at a rear side of the second connection portion 134. The protruding portion 137 protrudes towards the inside of the module mounting portion. Once the robot cleaner 100 (refer to FIG. 1) moves forward, the first and second connection portions 133,134 continuously receive an external force in a rear side of the robot cleaner. Here, the first connection portion 133 may be supported by the brush module 140, since the brush module 140 is coupled to a rear side of the first connection portion 133.

[0075] However, the second connection portion 134 may be damaged by a continuous external force, because the brush module 140 is not disposed at a rear side of the second connection portion 134. To prevent this, the protruding portion 137 is formed to support the second connection portion 134.

[0076] A groove (not shown) corresponding to the protruding portion 137 is formed on an inner side surface of the module mounting portion, and the protruding portion 137 is inserted into the groove. The protruding portion 137 protrudes in an insertion direction of the supporting member 130, and a moving direction of the robot cleaner crosses the insertion direction. Accordingly, the protruding portion 137 may fix a position of the second connection portion 134 by preventing a movement of the second connection portion 134 in right and left directions and in upper and lower directions. This may prevent damage of the second connection portion 134.

[0077] The brush module 140 includes the rotation rod 141 and the brush 142.

[0078] The rotation brush 141 is formed to extend in one direction. A rotation shaft of the rotation rod 141 may be disposed to be perpendicular to a forward driving direction of the cleaner body 110. The rotation rod 141 is configured to be connected to a rotation driving portion 110b (refer to FIG. 7) when mounted to the cleaner body 110, and to be rotatable in at least one direction.

[0079] The rotation rod 141 is rotatably supported by the supporting member 130. The rotation rod 141 is formed to be rotatable in a restricted state to the supporting member 130. Accordingly, a rotation position of the rotation rod 141 may be fixed by the supporting member 130.

[0080] A rotation coupling member 141a is provided at one end of the rotation rod 141. The rotation coupling member 141a is exposed to the outside through one end of the rotation rod 141 in an axial direction. When the brush module is mounted to the module mounting portion of the cleaner body, the rotation coupling member 141 a is coupled to the rotation driving portion 110b (refer to FIG. 7). With such a configuration, when the rotation driving portion 110b is driven, the rotation coupling member 141a transmits a driving force to the rotation rod 141 from the rotation driving portion 110b.

[0081] The rotation coupling member 141a is exposed to the outside through one end of the rotation rod 141, and is formed to be pressed toward the inside of the rotation rod 141. The rotation coupling member 141a receives an elastic force by an elastic member 141b (refer to FIG. 7) to be explained later. Accordingly, even if the rotation coupling member 141a is pressed toward the inside of the rotation rod 141, the rotation coupling member 141a is restored to an initial position if an external force is removed.

[0082] If the separation distance between the first and second supporting portions 131, 132 is equal to the length of the rotation rod 141, it may be difficult to couple the brush module 140 to the supporting member 130 due to the rotation coupling member 141a. The reason is because the rotation coupling member 141a protrudes from one end of the rotation rod 141. However, since the rotation coupling member 141a can be pressurized, a difficulty in coupling the brush module 140 and the supporting member 130 with each other may be solved.

[0083] A rotation supporting portion 141c is installed at another end of the rotation rod 141. The rotation supporting portion 141c may have an outer circumferential surface formed as a curved surface so as to be rotatable in a restricted state to the second supporting portion 132 of the supporting member 130. The rotation supporting portion 141c may include a bearing 141c' (refer to FIG. 7).

[0084] The rotation supporting portion 141c is supported by the second supporting portion 132 of the supporting member 130 so as to be relatively rotatable. More specifically, the outer circumferential surface of the rotation supporting portion 141c is enclosed by the second supporting portion 132. As the rotation supporting portion 141c is supported by the second supporting portion 132, the rotation shaft of the rotation rod 141 may be disposed to be aligned with a rotation shaft of the rotation driving portion 110b.

[0085] For your reference, if the rotation rod 141 is directly mounted to the module mounting portion 110a without the supporting member 130, a rotation supporting portion for rotatably supporting the rotation rod 141 may be additionally formed at the module mounting portion 110a.

[0086] As aforementioned, the rotation rod 141 may be rotatably mounted to the supporting member 130. In the drawings, the first supporting portion 131 is provided with a through hole for inserting the rotation rod 141, and the rotation coupling member 141a protrudes from one end of the rotation rod 141 exposed to the outside via the through hole.

[0087] The brush 142 is coupled to an outer circumferential surface of the rotation rod 141. A groove 141' is formed at the outer circumferential surface of the rotation rod 141, and the brush 142 may be inserted into the groove 141' in a lengthwise direction of the rotation rod 141.

[0088] The brush 142 may be disposed to form an acute angle at a middle region of the rotation rod 141 in order to collect dust at the middle region. The reason is because a suction force of a suction motor provided from the cleaner body is the largest at the middle region of the rotation rod 141.

[0089] The brush 142 is configured to clean a floor by being rotated together with the rotation rod 141 when the rotation rod 141 is rotated. The brush 142 is an example of the cleaning member. Accordingly, the brush 142 may be replaced by another cleaning member such as a mop. A user may replace the cleaning member or the cleaning module by selection.

[0090] The brush module 140 may further include a contact terminal 143. FIG. 5 shows that the contact terminal 143 is formed on a surface of the rotation coupling member 141a exposed to the outside through one end of the rotation rod 141. However, the position of the contact terminal 143 is not limited to this. The contact terminal 143 may be formed on any position where it may contact a contact switch 110c (refer to FIG. 7) of the cleaner body as the brush module 140 and the cleaner body are coupled to each other.

[0091] If the contact terminal 143 is formed on the surface of the rotation coupling member 141a, the rotation driving portion 110b (refer to FIG. 7) is provided with the contact switch 110c at a contact position with the contact terminal 143. Accordingly, if the brush module 140 is mounted to the cleaner body 110 (refer to FIG. 1), the rotation coupling member 141a of the rotation rod 141 is inserted into the rotation driving portion 110b. And the contact terminal 143 formed on the surface of the rotation coupling member 141a naturally contacts the contact switch. The reason is because the rotation coupling member 141a receives an elastic force from the elastic member 141b (refer to FIG. 7).

[0092] The controller of the robot cleaner may recognize a type of the cleaning module mounted to the module mounting portion, according to the number of the contact terminal 143 contacting the contact switch. For instance, FIG. 5 shows that the contact terminal 143 is provided in 3 in number, and FIG. 6 to be explained later shows that a contact terminal 153 is provided in 2 in number. Accordingly, if the number of the contact terminal contacting the contact switch is 3, the controller may recognize the cleaning module as the brush module 140. On the other hand, if the number of the contact terminal contacting the contact switch is 2, the controller may recognize the cleaning module as the mop module 150 (refer to FIG. 6).

[0093] The controller selects a cleaning algorithm of the robot cleaner based on a recognized type of the cleaning module. For instance, if the cleaning module is recognized as the brush module 140, the controller may rotate the brush module 140 and drive the suction motor and a fan, thereby generating a suction force. On the other hand, if the cleaning module is recognized as the mop module 150, the controller may rotate only the mop module without performing a dust suction operation.

[0094] Hereinafter, the mop module will be explained as another example of the cleaning module.

[0095] FIG. 6 is a disassembled perspective view of the supporting member 130 and the mop module 150.

[0096] Explanations about the supporting member 130 will be replaced by those shown in FIG. 5, and only the mop module 150 will be explained. Explanations about the mop module 150 will be omitted if they are the same as those about the brush module 140.

[0097] A water accommodating portion 151d is formed in a rotation rod 151. A cover 151e (or a lid) through which water inside the water accommodating portion 151d is injected is formed on an outer circumferential surface of the rotation rod 151. If a user is to supplement water into the water accommodating portion 151d, the user may open the cover 151e to inject water into the water accommodating portion 151d.

[0098] Water discharge openings 151f communicated with the water accommodating portion 151d are formed on an outer circumference of the rotation rod 151. Water filled in the water accommodating portion 151d is discharged out through the water discharge openings 151f.

[0099] The water discharge opening 151f may be provided in plurality, and the plurality of water discharge openings 15If may be spaced apart from each other with a predetermined interval therebetween. In the drawings, the water discharge openings 151f are spaced apart from each other with a predetermined interval therebetween, in a lengthwise direction and a circumferential direction of the rotation rod 151. Alternatively, the water discharge openings 151f may be long extended in a lengthwise direction of the rotation rod 151.

[0100] All cleaning modules are compatible with each other. Accordingly, the mop module 150 is also mounted to the module mounting portion 110a (refer to FIG. 7) like the brush module 140 (refer to FIG. 5), and is rotatable as the rotation driving portion 110b (refer to FIG. 7) is driven. Accordingly, a centrifugal force is applied to the rotation rod 151 when the mop module 150 is rotated.

[0101] The water discharge opening 151f may have a preset size such that water filled in the water accommodating portion 151d may be discharged out through the water discharge openings 151f by a centrifugal force only when the mop module 150 is rotated. That is, water filled in the water accommodating portion 151d may not be discharged out through the water discharge openings 151f when the cleaning module 120 is not rotated.

[0102] The rotation rod 151 of the mop module 150 is provided with the contact terminal 153 on the same position as the rotation rod 141 of the brush module 140. However, the number of the contact terminals 153 provided at the rotation rod 151 of the mop module 150 is different from the number of the contact terminals 143 provided at the rotation rod 141 of the brush module. The reason is because the controller of the robot cleaner recognizes a type of the cleaning module based on the number of the contact terminal 153 contacting the contact switch 110c (refer to FIG. 7), which is explained with reference to the aforementioned FIG. 5.

[0103] If the brush module 140 and the mop module 150 are generalized as a first type cleaning module and a second type cleaning module, the cleaning module of the robot cleaner selectively includes the first type cleaning module and the second type cleaning module which are mountable to the supporting member. A rotation rod of the first type cleaning module and a rotation rod of the second type cleaning module are provided with a different number of contact terminals on the same position.

[0104] The robot cleaner is provided with a contact switch at a position where the contact switch contacts the contact terminal 153. The controller of the robot cleaner recognizes a type of the cleaning module coupled to the module mounting portion based on the number of the contact terminal contacting the contact switch. Then, a cleaning algorithm of the robot cleaner is selected based on the recognized type of the cleaning module.

[0105] Especially, the contact terminals 153 are preferably arranged to have the same distance from the center of a rotation coupling member 151a, such that contact positions between the contact terminals 153 and the contact switches are the same. The reason is because the contact switch contacts the contact terminal 153 regardless of an insertion angle of the rotation coupling member 151a into the rotation driving portion.

[0106] A mop 152 is formed to enclose an outer circumference of the rotation rod 151. The mop 152 is an example of the cleaning member. If the mop 152 is coupled to the rotation rod 151, the cleaning module is sorted as the mop module 150.

[0107] The mop 152 may be formed not to cover the cover 151e. In the drawings, the mop 152 is provided with a cut-out portion 152a corresponding to the cover 151e.

[0108] Since the cover 151e is exposed to the outside without being covered by the mop 152, a user can inject water into the water accommodating portion 151d without separating the mop 152 from the rotation rod 151.

[0109] As shown, the mop 152 may be provided with a hollow portion corresponding to the rotation rod 151, and may be formed in a cylindrical shape having both ends open in a lengthwise direction. Alternatively, the mop 152 may be formed to be wound on an outer circumference of the rotation rod 151 and then to have its both ends attached with Velcro.

[0110] The mop 152 may be formed to cover the water discharge openings 151f so as to be soaked by water discharged from the water discharge openings 151f.

[0111] The mop 152 may be formed of a soft textile material. Alternatively, the mop 152 may be formed such that a soft textile material may be formed on a base member formed of a hard material so as to maintain a shape. In this case, the base member is formed to enclose an outer circumference of the rotation rod 151, and is formed such that water discharged from the water discharge openings 151f passes therethrough.

[0112] In FIG. 6, unexplained reference numeral 151c denotes a rotation supporting portion.

[0113] Next, a mounting structure of the supporting member and the brush module will be explained.

[0114] FIG. 7 is a conceptual view showing a process of mounting the brush module 140 to the cleaner body 110, FIG. 8 is a sectional view taken along line 'B-B' in FIG. 1, and FIG. 9 is a sectional view taken along line 'C-C' in FIG. 1. FIGS. 8 and 9 show a mounted state of the supporting member and the brush module 140 to the module mounting portion 110a.

[0115] Hereinafter, only components not explained in the aforementioned figures will be explained, and a process of mounting the brush module 140 to the cleaner body 110 will be explained.

[0116] As aforementioned, the rotation coupling member 141a is formed to be pressed towards the inside of the rotation rod 141. The rotation rod 141 further includes an elastic member 141b, and the elastic member 141b provides an elastic force such that the rotation coupling member 141a pressed towards the inside of the rotation rod 141 is restored to an initial position. The initial position means a state before the rotation coupling member 141a is pressed towards the inside of the rotation rod 141 by an external force, or a position in a state that an external force applied to the rotation coupling member 141a is removed.

[0117] The rotation coupling member 141a is provided with a separation prevention portion 141a' on an outer circumferential surface thereof. The separation prevention portion 141a' protrudes along the outer circumferential surface of the rotation coupling member 141a. Since a hole of the rotation rod 141 through which the rotation coupling member 141a is exposed is smaller than that of the separation prevention portion 141a', the separation prevention portion 141a' may prevent the rotation coupling member 141a from being separated from the rotation rod 141. Referring to FIG. 7, the elastic member 141b is formed to pressurize the separation prevention portion 141a'.

[0118] The rotation driving portion 110b is provided at one side of the module mounting portion 110a. The position of the rotation driving portion 110b corresponds to the position of the rotation coupling member 141a of the rotation rod 141. Accordingly, in a mounted state of the brush module 140 to the module mounting portion 110a, the rotation coupling member 141a is pressurized by an elastic force provided from the elastic member 141b, thereby being inserted into the rotation driving portion 110b.

[0119] An inclined surface 100d is formed at an inlet of the module mounting portion 110a. The position of the inclined surface 110d is a contact position with the rotation coupling member 141a in a process of mounting the brush module 140. Accordingly, in the process of mounting the brush module 140, the rotation coupling member 141a may slide along the inclined surface 110d to thus be pressurized towards the inside of the rotation rod 141.

[0120] The inclined surface 110d is formed to be closer to the rotation coupling member 141a as it is towards the inside of the module mounting portion 110a. Accordingly, during a mounting process of the brush module 140, the rotation coupling member 141a may be gradually pressurized towards the inside of the rotation rod 141 by the inclined surface 1 lOd.

[0121] With regards to another end of the rotation rod 141, the rotation supporting portion 141c is provided with a bearing 141c'. The bearing 141c' is exposed to the outside through another end of the rotation rod 141. The second supporting portion 132 of the supporting member 130 encloses an outer circumferential surface of the bearing 141c', and the second supporting portion 132 encloses the rotation supporting portion 141c at an outer periphery of the bearing 141c'. Accordingly, the rotation rod 141 is rotated in a restricted state to the second supporting portion 132.

[0122] The supporting member 130 is provided with a hook coupling portion 138 so as to be prevented from being arbitrarily separated from the module mounting portion 110a. The hook coupling portion 138 is locked to a protrusion 110e of the module mounting portion 110a. Referring to FIG. 7, the protrusion 110e protrudes from an inlet of the module mounting portion 110a towards the supporting member 130.

[0123] The hook coupling portion 138 includes a first part 138a, a second part 138b, a locking protrusion 138c and a manipulation portion 138d.

[0124] The first part 138a protrudes from one end of the supporting member 130 towards the inside of the module mounting portion 110a. Referring to FIG. 7, a direction of the inside of the module mounting portion 110a means an upward direction. The second part 138b is bent from the first part 138a, and protrudes towards the outside of the module mounting portion 110a. Referring to FIG. 7, a direction of the outside of the module mounting portion 110a means a downward direction.

[0125] As the first and second parts 138a, 138b have different protruding directions from each other, a bending stress occurs between the first and second parts 138a, 138b by an external force. The bending stress means a resistive force occurring from the inside of a material as a bending moment is applied to the material. Accordingly, the first and second parts 138a, 138b have a property to restore a state before the external force is applied.

[0126] The manipulation portion 138d protrudes from the end of the second part 138b so as to manipulate the hook coupling portion 138. Since the manipulation portion 138d is exposed to the outside through a bottom part of the cleaner body 110, it can be manipulated by a user's finger.

[0127] The locking protrusion 138c protrudes from a middle region of the second part 138b towards the protrusion 110e, so as to be locked to the protrusion 110e. Accordingly, if the supporting member 130 is inserted into the module mounting portion 110a, the locking protrusion 138c is locked to the protrusion 110e of the module mounting portion 110a. Arbitrary separation of the supporting member 130 may be prevented by the locking protrusion 138c and the protrusion 110e.

[0128] The locking protrusion 138c includes an inclined surface 138c1 and a locking surface 138c2.

[0129] The inclined surface 138c1 contacts the protrusion 110e during an insertion process of the supporting member 130, and is formed to be slidable along the surface of the protrusion 110e. With such a configuration, the inclined surface 138c1 contacts the protrusion 110e and passes through the protrusion 110e during an insertion process of the supporting member 130.

[0130] The locking surface 138c2 is formed at an opposite side to the inclined surface 138c1. The locking surface 138c2 is formed to be locked to the protrusion 110e in a mounted state of the supporting member 130 to the module mounting portion 110a. Preferably, the protrusion 110e protrudes towards the inside of the module mounting portion 110a in order to prevent arbitrary release of a locked state, and the locking surface 138c2 is formed to plane-contact the protrusion 110e.

[0131] In a mounted state of the supporting member 130 to the module mounting portion 110a, the manipulation portion 138d is spaced apart from the cleaner body 110 so as to be pressurized. Referring to FIG. 7, the cleaner body 110 means a rear surface of the protrusion 110e. If the manipulation portion 138d is adhered to the rear surface of the protrusion 110e, it is impossible to release a locked state of the locking protrusion 138c and the protrusion 110e by pressing the manipulation portion 138d.

[0132] In order to mount the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 to the module mounting portion 110a, the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are coupled to each other. Then, the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are inserted into the module mounting portion 110a through a bottom part of the cleaner body 110.

[0133] During the mounting process of the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140, the rotation coupling member 141a of the rotation rod 141 contacts the inclined surface 1 lOd. And the hook coupling portion 138 of the supporting member 130 contacts the protrusion 110e.

[0134] During the mounting process of the brush module 140, the rotation coupling member 141a contacting the inclined surface 110d is slid along the inclined surface 110d. As the brush module 140 is inserted into the module mounting portion 110a, the rotation coupling member 141a is gradually pressurized towards the inside of the rotation rod 141 by the inclined surface 110d. If the brush module 140 is inserted into the module mounting portion 110a, the rotation coupling member 141a passes through an inner plane of the module mounting portion 110a via the inclined surface 110d. While passing through the inner plane of the module mounting portion 110a, the rotation coupling member 141a maintains a pressed state towards the inside of the rotation rod 141 by the inner plane.

[0135] The rotation driving portion 110b is formed to accommodate the rotation coupling member 141a therein. If the brush module 140 is continuously inserted into the module mounting portion 110a, the rotation coupling member 141a reaches a position where it faces the rotation driving portion 110b. Here, the rotation coupling member 141a is restored to an initial position by an elastic force provided from the elastic member 141b, thereby being inserted into the rotation driving portion 110b.

[0136] While the rotation coupling member 141a is inserted into the rotation driving portion 110b, the hook coupling portion 138 is coupled to the protrusion 110e. While the supporting member 130 is inserted into the module mounting portion 110a, the locking protrusion 138c of the hook coupling portion 138 contacts the protrusion 110e of the module mounting portion 110a, and is pressurized by the protrusion 110e. The locking protrusion 138c and the second part 138b are pressurized towards the first part 138a by the protrusion 110e. If the supporting member 130 is inserted into the module mounting portion 110a more deeply by an additional force, the inclined surface 110d of the locking protrusion 138c overcomes a resistive force to the protrusion, and the locking protrusion 138c is locked to the protrusion 110e.

[0137] FIGS. 8 and 9 show a mounted state of the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 to the module mounting portion 110a. The supporting member 130 is provided with a shield 131a at a lower end of the first supporting portion 131. A space between the supporting member 130 and the module mounting portion 110a may be exposed to the outside by the inclined surface 110d formed at the module mounting portion 110a. However, the shield 131a protrudes from one end of the supporting member 130 to block the space. This may prevent foreign materials such as dust from being accumulated in the space.

[0138] As aforementioned, if the brush module 140 is completely mounted, the contact terminal 143 (refer to FIG. 5) of the brush module 140 contacts the contact switch 110c provided at the rotation driving portion 110b.

[0139] Next, a separation structure of the supporting member and the brush module will be explained.

[0140] FIG. 10 is a conceptual view showing a process of separating the brush module 140 from the cleaner body 110.

[0141] The process of separating the brush module 140 from the cleaner body 110 may be understood to be opposite to the mounting process.

[0142] If the manipulation portion 138d of the hook coupling portion 138 is pressurized in an axial direction of the rotation rod 141, the second part 138b and the locking protrusion 138c are pushed towards the first part 138a. Accordingly, the coupled state between the protrusion 110e and the locking protrusion 138c is released, and thus the hook coupling portion 138 becomes a free end.

[0143] If the coupled state between the protrusion 110e and the locking protrusion 138c is released, the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are tilted on the basis of the rotation coupling member 141a to thus be separated from the module mounting portion 110a. If the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are pulled in an axial direction of the rotation rod 141 in a state that the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are inclined from the original position, the supporting member 130 and the brush module 140 are withdrawn from the module mounting portion 110a.

[0144] In the present invention, the cleaning module 120 (refer to FIG. 2) is inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion 110a together with the supporting member 130, and is separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion 110a together with the supporting member 130. This is advantageous in a sanitary aspect, because most of dust is accumulated on the cleaning module, and a user can mount or separate the cleaning module to or from the module mounting portion 110a by holding only the supporting member 130 without touching the cleaning module.

[0145] Further, since the supporting member 130 and the cleaning module are inserted and withdrawn at a bottom part of the cleaner body 110 in an upper and lower direction, convenience in mounting and/or separating the supporting member 130 and the cleaning module may be enhanced. For instance, if a user lifts the cleaner body 110 after pressurizing the manipulation portion 138d of the hook coupling portion 138, the supporting member 130 and the cleaning module may be separated from the module mounting portion 110a by their weight. Accordingly, in the present invention, inconvenience in overturning the cleaner body 110 may be solved.

[0146] Further, in the present invention, a type of the cleaning module is automatically recognized, and a cleaning algorithm is selected according to the recognized type of the cleaning module. This may enhance performance of the robot cleaner having an autonomous driving function and an automatic cleaning function.

[0147] Next, a physical and electrical coupling structure of the driving wheels 161, the module mounting housing 112, etc. to the main housing 111 will be explained.

[0148] FIG. 11 is a disassembled perspective view of the main housing 111, the driving wheel 161, and the module mounting housing 112, and FIG. 12 is a conceptual view for explaining a physical and electrical coupling structure between the main housing 111 and the driving wheel 161.

[0149] The driving wheel 161 and the module mounting housing 112 are formed as a module which can be coupled to and separated from the main housing 111. The module is a constituent unit of a machine, a system, etc., and means a set of components. As a plurality of electronic or mechanical components are assembled to each other, the module indicates an independent device having a specific function.

[0150] As one module, the driving wheel 161 includes a main wheel 161a, a motor 161b, a wheel cover 161c, various types of sensors 161d, 161d', sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e", and a main connector 161f'.

[0151] Concavo-convex portions for enhancing a frictional force with a ground surface are formed on an outer circumferential surface of the main wheel 161a. If a frictional force between the main wheel 161a and the ground surface is not sufficient, the robot cleaner may slide from an inclined surface or may not move or rotate towards an intended direction. Accordingly, a sufficient frictional force should be obtained between the main wheel 161a and the ground surface.

[0152] Theoretically, a frictional force is unrelated to a contact area, and is variable according to a roughness of a contact surface and a weight of an object. Accordingly, if there are concavo-convex portions on the outer circumferential surface of the main wheel 161a, a sufficient frictional force can be obtained as a roughness of a contact surface is increased.

[0153] The motor 161b is coupled to an inner side surface of the main wheel 161a. A rotation shaft (S) of the motor 161b extends towards the main wheel 161a to thus be connected to a central region of the main wheel 161a. The motor 161b may be provided at each of the right and left driving wheels 161. Accordingly, the right and left driving wheels 161 may be driven independently.

[0154] The wheel cover 161c is formed to protect the main wheel 161a, to support the motor 161b and the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e", and to mount the driving wheel 161.

[0155] The wheel cover 161c is formed to enclose at least part of the main wheel 161a. Referring to FIG. 11, the wheel cover 161c encloses an outer circumferential surface and an inner side surface of the main wheel 161a. The outer circumferential surface of the main wheel 161a is not enclosed by the wheel cover 161c, but is enclosed by the main housing 111. An inner circumferential surface of the wheel cover 161c is spaced apart from the main wheel 161a in order not to prevent a rotation of the main wheel 161a. When the driving wheel 161 has been mounted to the main housing 111, the wheel cover 161c is spaced apart from a ground surface.

[0156] The wheel cover 161c is formed to support the motor 161b. A space (not shown) for mounting the motor 161b is provided at the wheel cover 161c, and the motor 161b coupled to the main wheel 161a is inserted into the space.

[0157] Referring to FIG. 12, a boss portion 161c' may be formed at the wheel cover 161c. And a coupling member inserting hole 111b corresponding to the boss portion 161c' is formed at a bottom surface of the main housing 111. The driving wheel 161 is inserted into a space 111a provided at the bottom surface of the main housing 111. If the boss portion 161c' is coupled to a coupling member (F) disposed in the coupling member inserting hole 111b, the driving wheel 161 is mounted to the main housing 111.

[0158] Various types of sensors 161d, 161d' may be selectively installed at the driving wheel 161. FIG. 11 shows that a cliff sensor 161d and a wheel dropping sensor 161d' are installed at the wheel cover 161c.

[0159] The cliff sensor 161d has been aforementioned. However, a position of the cliff sensor 161d may be variable according to a design. For instance, as shown in FIG. 11, the cliff sensor 161d may be installed at a bottom part of the wheel cover 161c.

[0160] The wheel dropping sensor 161d' may be installed at the wheel cover 161c. The wheel dropping sensor 161d' includes a link (L) and a switch (not shown) so as to sense a downward state of the main wheel 161a. If the main wheel 161a is downward moved from an initial position, the link (L) connected to the main wheel 161a is rotated to pressurize the switch. Then, the switch transmits a pressurization signal to the controller of the robot cleaner.

[0161] The wheel dropping sensor 161d' may be used to control a driving of the main wheel 161a, and to control the cleaner to avoid an obstacle.

[0162] For instance, when a user lifts the robot cleaner, the right and left main wheels 161a are downward moved from an initial position. The controller may stop the driving of the right and left main wheels 161a based on the pressurization signal received from the switch.

[0163] If a pressurization signal is transmitted from one of the right and left main wheels 161a, the controller may rotate the main wheels 161a in an opposite direction. This is an operation to control the robot cleaner to avoid an obstacle when one of the main wheels 161a performs an idling as the cleaner body 110 collides with an obstacle.

[0164] The various types of sensors 161d, 161d' are electrically connected to the main connector 161f" by the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e".

[0165] The sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e" are configured to electrically connect various types of electronic components provided at the driving wheel 161 to the main connector 161f". Each of the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e" may include a cable (C) and a connection terminal (T). The cable (C) protrudes from the main connector 161f', and the connection terminal(T) is installed at the end of the cable (C). The wheel cover 161c may form an arrangement region of the cable (C), and may be provided with a cable holder (not shown) for fixing the cable (C).

[0166] FIG. 11 shows that the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e" are exposed to an outer surface of the wheel cover 161c. However, it is also possible to arrange the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e" so as to be covered by the wheel cover 161c.

[0167] The motor 161b or the sensors 161d, 161d', coupled to the wheel cover 161c, may be provided with a connection socket (not shown) for electrical connection. If the connection terminal (T) of each of the sub connectors 161e, 161e', 161e" is inserted into the connection socket, the motor 161b is electrically connected to the main connector 161f', and the sensors 161d, 161d' are electrically connected to the main connector 161f. When the components of the driving wheels 161 are connected to each other physically and electrically, the driving wheels 161 may be sorted as one module.

[0168] The main connector 161f' may protrude from the wheel cover 161c towards the inside of the main housing 111. The protruding direction of the main connector 161f' from the wheel cover 161c is the same as an insertion direction of the driving wheels 161 into the main housing 111. The space 111a for mounting the driving wheel 161 is provided at the main housing 111, and the driving wheel 161 is inserted into the space 111a. A main printed circuit board (PCB) 113 is mounted in the main housing 111, and one surface of the main PCB 113 is exposed to the outside through the space 111a for mounting the driving wheel 161.

[0169] A connection terminal 113a is provided at one surface of the main PCB 113, and the connection terminal 113a is disposed at a position corresponding to the main connector 161f". And the main connector 161f' is formed to have a shape of a connection socket corresponding to the connection terminal 113a of the main PCB 113.

[0170] Accordingly, when the driving wheel 161 is inserted into the main housing 111, the connection terminal 113a of the main PCB 113 is inserted into the main connector 161f" having a shape of a connection socket, resulting in electrically connecting the main PCB 113 to the driving wheel 161. The positions of the connection terminal 113a and the connection socket may be interchanged with each other. Further, the coupling member (F) may be formed to couple the wheel cover 161c with the main housing 111.

[0171] Such a physical and electrical connection structure may be equally applied to a connection structure between the module mounting housing 112 and the main housing 111. FIG. 11 shows that a main connector 112c similar to the driving wheel 161 is provided at the module mounting housing 112.

[0172] The main connector 112c of the module mounting housing 112 is also electrically connected to various electronic components of the module mounting housing 112 through a sub connector (not shown). If the module mounting housing 112 is mounted to the main housing 111, the main connector 112c of the module mounting housing 112 may be coupled to a connection terminal (not shown) of the main PCB 113.

[0173] A protruding direction of the main connector 112c from the module mounting housing 112 is the same as an insertion direction of the module mounting housing 112 into the main housing 111.

[0174] In the present invention, as the driving wheel 161, the module mounting housing 112, or the like is physically coupled to the main housing 111, it is electrically connected to the main housing 111. This may facilitate an assembly between each module and the main housing 111, and may prevent a secondary inferiority by preventing an influence on other module or components when each module is disassembled from the main housing 111.

[0175] Unlike the configuration of the present invention, if each module is primarily physically coupled to the main housing 111 and then is secondarily electrically connected to the main housing 111, a difficulty in assembly, i.e., a secondary inferiority may occur. Since a physical and electrical connection should be performed by a two-time process not by a single process, the number of assembly processes is increased. Further, in case of disassemble the robot cleaner with a primary inferiority, other module or component may be influenced, resulting in a secondary inferiority.

[0176] Especially, the physical and electrical connection structure of the present invention is advantageous to a massive production by automation. A production process of a modernized robot cleaner is precisely performed by a robot which is operated mechanically, and a man's inaccurate intervention is excluded during the production process.

[0177] If the physical and electrical connection structure of the present invention is applied to the robot cleaner, an assembly between the main housing 111 and each module may be completed by a single automation process. The assembly means not only a physical connection, but also an electrical connection. Since the protruding direction of the main connector 161f" is the same as the insertion direction of the driving wheels 161, a physical coupling direction and an electrical coupling direction between modules may be understood to be the same. Accordingly, the structure of the present invention is very advantageous to an automation process excluding a man's intervention.

[0178] Explanations about unexplained reference numerals of FIGS. 11 and 12 will be replaced by the aforementioned ones. Reference numeral 111b denotes a switch cover, and a power switch structure of the robot cleaner will be explained hereinafter.

[0179] FIGS. 13 and 14 are conceptual views partially showing appearance of the main housing 111 to which the switch cover 111b is exposed, and FIG. 15 is a sectional view showing an inner structure of a power switch 111c and the switch cover 111b.

[0180] The power switch 111 c is configured to turn on and turn off a power of the robot cleaner. Referring to FIG. 15, the power switch 111c is formed as a toggle switch. Referring to FIGS. 13 and 14, the switch cover 111b is installed outside the power switch 111c. The switch cover 111b is disposed to be exposed to an outer surface of the main housing 111, and is formed to cover the power switch 111c.

[0181] Since the robot cleaner performs an autonomous cleaning operation while moving on a predetermined region according to a preset algorithm, it is not preferable to protrude a specific part of the switch cover 111b from the main housing 111. For instance, if the switch cover 111b protrudes from the main housing 111 excessively, the switch cover 111b may be locked to an object such as a wall or a door, while the robot cleaner is moving.

[0182] Further, it is preferable not to protrude the switch cover 111b from the main housing 111 for enhanced appearance of the robot cleaner. Especially, the switch cover 111b should not be protruding from the main housing 111 when the power switch 111c is turned on.

[0183] The switch cover 111b of the present invention forms a curved surface having a predetermined curvature together with an outer surface of the main housing 111, or forms a flat surface together with the outer surface of the main housing 111. Referring to FIGS. 13 and 15, when the power switch 111c is turned on (when part 'I' is pressed), the switch cover 111b forms a curved surface having a predetermined curvature together with the outer surface of the main housing 111.

[0184] On the other hand, referring to FIG. 14, when the power switch 111c is turned off (when part 'O' is pressed), the part 'I' of the switch cover 111b is protruding from the outer surface of the main housing 111. If the power switch 111c is formed as a push button switch and an elastic member is coupled to the switch cover 111b, the switch cover 111b may not be protruding from the main housing 111 regardless of an 'on' or 'off' state of the power switch 111c.

[0185] In the above descriptions, the robot cleaner to which the present invention is applied has been explained as an example. The robot cleaner is merely exemplary, and the present invention is not limited to such a robot cleaner.

[0186] That is, the aforementioned structure may be also applicable to all types of cleaners including a canister type, an upright type, etc.

[Industrial Applicability]



[0187] The present invention can be applied to an industry related to a vacuum cleaner.


Claims

1. A cleaner, comprising:

a cleaner body having a module mounting portion;

a rotation driving portion provided at one side of the module mounting portion;

a supporting member inserted and mounted to the module mounting portion, and separated and withdrawn from the module mounting portion, through a bottom part of the cleaner body; and

a cleaning module coupled to the supporting member so as to be inserted or withdrawn together with the supporting member when the supporting member is inserted or withdrawn,

wherein the cleaning module includes:

a rotation rod rotatably supported by the supporting member, and coupled to the rotation driving portion by being inserted into the module mounting portion; and

a cleaning member coupled to an outer circumferential surface of the rotation rod, and configured to clean a floor by being rotated together with the rotation rod when the rotation rod is rotated by a rotation driving force transmitted from the rotation driving portion.


 
2. The cleaner of claim 1, wherein the rotation rod includes:

a rotation coupling member exposed to outside through one end of the rotation rod in an axial direction, and formed to be pressurized toward inside of the rotation rod; and

an elastic member configured to provide an elastic force such that the rotation coupling member pressurized toward the inside of the rotation rod is restored to an initial position,

wherein the module mounting portion includes an inclined surface formed at a contact position with the rotation coupling member while the cleaning module is being mounted such that the rotation coupling member is slid on a slant surface, the inclined surface being configured to gradually pressurize the rotation coupling member toward the inside of the rotation rod while the cleaning module is being mounted.


 
3. The cleaner of claim 2, wherein the inclined surface is formed to be closer to the rotation coupling member as it is towards inside of the module mounting portion.
 
4. The cleaner of claim 2, wherein the rotation driving portion is formed to accommodate the rotation coupling member therein, and
wherein in a mounted state of the cleaning module to the module mounting portion, the rotation coupling member is pressurized by an elastic force provided from the elastic member to thus be inserted into the rotation driving portion.
 
5. The cleaner of claim 2, wherein the rotation driving portion is formed to accommodate the rotation coupling member therein, and
wherein while the cleaning module is being mounted, the rotation coupling member sequentially passes through the inclined surface and an inner plane of the module mounting portion, and then is restored to an initial position by an elastic force provided from the elastic member to thus be inserted into the rotation driving portion.
 
6. The cleaner of claim 2, wherein the supporting member includes:

a first supporting portion which encloses one end of the rotation rod so as to relative-rotatably support the rotation rod, and a second supporting portion which encloses another end of the rotation rod; and

a first connection portion and a second connection portion spaced apart from each other, and configured to connect the first and second supporting portions with each other, and

wherein the cleaning member is exposed to a space between the first and second connection portions to clean a floor.


 
7. The cleaner of claim 6, wherein the module mounting portion is provided with a protrusion protruding towards the supporting member, and
wherein the supporting member is provided with a hook coupling portion so as to be prevented from being separated from the module mounting portion.
 
8. The cleaner of claim 7, wherein the hook coupling portion includes:

a first part protruding from one end of the supporting member towards inside of the module mounting portion;

a second part bent from the first part, and protruding towards outside of the module mounting portion;

a manipulation portion protruding from an end of the second part so as to manipulate the hook coupling portion; and

a locking protrusion protruding from a middle region of the second part towards the protrusion, so as to be locked to the protrusion when the supporting member is inserted into the module mounting portion.


 
9. The cleaner of claim 8, wherein the locking protrusion includes:

an inclined surface which contacts the protrusion while the supporting member is being inserted, and formed to be slidable along a surface of the protrusion; and

a locking surface formed at an opposite side to the inclined surface, and formed to contact the protrusion in a mounted state of the supporting member to the module mounting portion.


 
10. The cleaner of claim 8, wherein in a mounted state of the supporting member to the module mounting portion, the manipulation portion is spaced apart from the cleaner body so as to be pressurized towards the cleaner body.
 
11. The cleaner of claim 10, wherein when the manipulation portion is pressurized in an axial direction of the rotation rod, a coupled state between the protrusion and the locking protrusion is released.
 
12. The cleaner of claim 10, wherein the hook coupling portion is formed at an opposite side to the rotation coupling member, and
wherein if a coupled state between the protrusion and the locking protrusion is released, the supporting member and the cleaning module are tilted on the basis of the rotation coupling member to thus be separated from the module mounting portion.
 
13. The cleaner of claim 1, wherein the cleaning module includes a first type cleaning module and a second type cleaning module which are selectively mountable to the supporting member,
wherein a rotation rod of the first type cleaning module and a rotation rod of the second type cleaning module are provided with different number of contact terminals on the same position,
wherein the rotation driving portion is provided with a contact switch at a contact position with the contact terminal, and
wherein a controller of the cleaner recognizes a type of the cleaning module mounted to the module mounting portion according to the number of the contact terminal contacting the contact switch, and selects a cleaning algorithm of the cleaner based on the recognized type of the cleaning module.
 




Drawing




















































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