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Articulating quad-drive wheelchair

Abstract
A self-propelled wheelchair with independently driven wheels and dual support frames connected in an articulating relationship. A front frame supports a seat and a rearward extended pivot connector. A pair of front wheels and left and right front drive units are connected to the front frame. A rear frame includes a forwardly extended pivot joint, a rear support platform having a power source thereon, and a pair of rear wheels and left and right rear drive units connected thereto. An articulating junction is formed by the front frame pivot connector attached to the rear frame pivot joint and providing articulation between the front frame and rear frame. A manually operable control unit includes computer circuitry in connection with each wheel drive unit, wherein manipulation of the control unit actuates each drive unit for control of rotational speed and direction of rotation for each wheel.

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Inventors: Fontecchio; Bruce E.; (Old Concord, TN) ; Mellies; Brian W.; (Stilwell, KS)
Correspondence Name and Address: PITTS AND BRITTIAN P C
P O BOX 51295
KNOXVILLE
TN
37950-1295
US


Serial No.: 137607
Series Code: 11
Filed: May 24, 2005

U.S. Current Class: 180/6.5; 180/242; 180/65.1
U.S. Class at Publication: 180/006.5; 180/242; 180/065.1
Intern'l Class: B62D 11/02 20060101 B62D011/02

 

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Claims

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1. An apparatus for transporting a person, said apparatus comprising: a first frame member having a left side and a right side; a first wheel and a second wheel operatively attached to said first frame member, said first wheel located on said left side of said first frame member, said second wheel located on said right side of said first frame member, said first wheel and said second wheel rotating independently about a front axis of rotation; a first motor operatively connected to said first wheel and a second motor operatively connected to said second wheel; a seat attached to said first frame member, said left side and said right side of said first frame member being referenced to said seat; a second frame member having a left side and a right side, referenced to said seat; a third wheel and a fourth wheel operatively attached to said second frame member, said third wheel located on said left side of said second frame member, said fourth wheel located on said right side of said second frame member, said third wheel and said fourth wheel rotating independently about a rear axis of rotation; a third motor operatively connected to said third wheel and a fourth motor operatively connected to said fourth wheel; a pivoting member connecting said first frame member to said second frame member; at least one operator control for operating said apparatus, said at least one operator providing a turn command; and a controller in communication with said at least one operator control, said controller for independently operating said first, second, third, and fourth motors, wherein said controller responds to said turn command by causing said first wheel and said fourth wheel to rotate at a first rotational speed and causing said second wheel and said third wheel to rotate at a second rotational speed, said first rotational speed not equal to said second rotational speed, thereby causing said first frame member to pivot about said pivoting member relative to said second frame member; whereby said apparatus is adapted for self-propelled locomotion.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said controller responds to said turn command by causing said first wheel and said fourth wheel to rotate in an opposite direction relative to said second wheel and said third wheel, thereby causing said first frame member to pivot about said pivoting member relative to said second frame member.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said at least one operator control includes a joystick.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said pivoting member is located substantially equidistant from said first wheel, said second wheel, said third wheel, and said fourth wheel.

5. An apparatus for transporting a person, said apparatus comprising: a frame assembly having a front frame member and a rear frame member, said front frame member connected to said rear frame member at a pivot joint; a seat attached to said front frame member; a first wheel operatively connected to a first motor, said first wheel secured to said front frame member; a second wheel operatively connected to a second motor, said second wheel secured to said front frame member; at least one operator control providing a turn command; and a controller in communication with said at least one operator control, said controller for independently operating said first and second motors, wherein said controller responds to said turn command by causing said first wheel to rotate at a speed different than said second wheel, thereby causing said front frame member to pivot about said pivot joint relative to said rear frame member.

6. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said controller responds to said turn command by causing said first wheel to rotate in an opposite direction relative to said second wheel.

7. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said first wheel and said second wheel rotate independently about a front axis of rotation.

8. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said rear frame member includes a third wheel operatively connected to a third motor, and said rear frame member includes a fourth wheel operatively connected to a fourth motor.

9. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said rear frame member includes a third wheel operatively connected to a third motor, and said rear frame member includes a fourth wheel operatively connected to a fourth motor, said controller responding to said turn command by further causing said third wheel to rotate at a speed different than said fourth wheel.

10. The apparatus of claim 5 wherein said rear frame member includes a third wheel operatively connected to a third motor, said rear frame member includes a fourth wheel operatively connected to a fourth motor, said pivoting joint located substantially equidistant from said first wheel, said second wheel, said third wheel, and said fourth wheel.

11. An apparatus for transporting a person, said apparatus comprising: an articulated frame assembly having a front frame member and a rear frame member; a set of wheels including a left front wheel, a right front wheel, a left rear wheel, and a right rear wheel, said left front wheel and said right front wheel rotating independently about a front axis of rotation, said left rear wheel and said right rear wheel rotating independently about a rear axis of rotation; a driving mechanism allowing said apparatus to be a self-propelled vehicle; a pivoting member joining said front frame member and said rear frame member, said pivoting member located substantially midway between said front axis of rotation and said rear axis of rotation when said front axis of rotation and said rear axis of rotation are parallel; and a two channel controller with a first channel operatively controlling said left front wheel and said right rear wheel and with a second channel operatively controlling said right front wheel and said left rear wheel wherein, in response to a turn command, said articulating frame pivots about said pivoting member when said two channel controller causes said left front wheel and right rear wheel to rotate at a speed different than said right front wheel and said left rear wheel.

12. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein said articulating frame pivots about said pivoting member when said two channel controller causes said left front wheel and right rear wheel to rotate in an opposite direction relative to said right front wheel and said left rear wheel.

13. The apparatus of claim 11 further including a seat attached to said articulated frame assembly.

14. The apparatus of claim 11 further including a seat attached to said front frame member.

15. The apparatus of claim 11 further including at least one operator control providing said turn command to said two channel controller.

16. The apparatus of claim 11 further including at least one operator control providing said turn command to said two channel controller, said at least one operator control includes a joystick.

17. An articulated wheelchair for transporting a person, said articulated wheelchair comprising: an articulated frame assembly having a front frame member and a rear frame member, said front frame member having a first wheel and a second wheel; a driving mechanism allowing said articulated wheelchair to be a self-propelled vehicle; a seat attached to said articulated frame assembly for carrying a person, a means for connecting said front frame member and said rear frame member whereby said front frame member and said rear frame member pivot relative to each other; and a means for causing said articulated frame assembly to pivot by a rotation of said first wheel relative to said second wheel.

18. The articulated wheelchair of claim 17 wherein said seat is attached to said front frame member.

19. The articulated wheelchair of claim 17 further including a means for manually operating said articulated wheelchair by the person seated in said seat.

20. The articulated wheelchair of claim 17 wherein said rear frame member includes a third wheel and a fourth wheel, and further including a means for causing said articulated frame assembly to pivot by a rotation of said third wheel relative to said fourth wheel in conjunction with said rotation of said first wheel relative to said second wheel.
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Description

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1. Field of Invention

[0004] This invention pertains to a self-propelled wheelchair. More particularly, this invention pertains to a self-propelled wheelchair having independently driven wheels and an articulated support frame.

[0005] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0006] Self-propelled wheelchairs having one or more front wheel drive motors and/or rear wheel drive motors are typically utilized for travel across generally level surfaces. Wheelchairs having multiple motors for simultaneously rotating front wheels and rear wheels are typically designed with the front wheels, or the rear wheels, having a steering mechanism which is controlled by an operator's input to a `joystick` control device in order to direct the front pair or rear pair of wheels in a selected direction for wheelchair movement.

[0007] An example of a multiple motor wheelchair having four electric motors is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,805,712, issued to Singleton. The multiple motor wheelchair includes an electric motor for driving each respective wheel, and includes a steering linkage having an electric actuator for turning the front wheels in response to manipulation of a joystick by the operator. The multiple motor wheelchair utilizes a rigid frame to which each wheel is rotatably attached, and to which the electric actuator is secured. The rigid frame does not include an articulating portion, therefore the rear wheels follow generally the same track as the front wheels, and the rear wheels rotate in the same direction as the front wheels during wheelchair movement. The turning radius of the multiple motor wheelchair is delineated by a turning angle created by the extension or retraction of the electric actuator connecting to the front wheels which simultaneous steers both front wheels when the electric actuator is activated by the operator.

[0008] An example of a wheelchair having an articulated pivot assembly is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,633,962, issued to Cox et al. The wheelchair includes front and rear sections pivotably connected at an articulated pivot assembly disposed forward of an occupant's seating position which centers the occupant's weight above the rear drive axle and rear wheel drive motor. The wheelchair is guided by a steering wheel mechanism extended above the wheelchair front section including a solid transverse axle extending between the front wheels. The occupant's seating position is supported by the wheelchair rear section having the driven rear wheels attached, and the occupant's feet are supported by the wheelchair front section having the steering front wheels attached. The occupant steers the wheelchair by turning the steering wheel resulting in turning of the front wheels and resulting in the driven rear wheels following along a path of the front wheels. Therefore, a significant turning radius is required for the wheelchair to negotiate left and right turns.

[0009] An improved wheelchair is sought which provides individual motors for independently driving each wheel in order to separately rotate each wheel in appropriate rotational directions and at the same or different rotational speeds thereby allowing rapid and precise turning of the wheelchair as controlled by an operator.

[0010] In addition, an improved wheelchair is sought including four wheel drive and providing at least one articulation joint between front and rear support frames having respective front and rear wheels independently driven by separate motors to provide rapid turning of the wheelchair substantially within the footprint formed by the wheelchair.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] According to one embodiment of the present invention, a self-propelled wheelchair is disclosed which includes four wheel drive and an articulation joint centrally positioned between front and rear support frames. The wheelchair front frame includes a forward portion supporting a seat portion, and a rearward portion extended to a pivot connector. A pair of front wheels are driven by respective left and right front drive units, with each front wheel and associated drive unit disposed proximal of outboard sides of the front frame. A rear frame includes a forward extended pivot receiver and a rearward extended support platform on which a power source is removably positioned. A pair of rear wheels are driven by respective left and right rear drive units, with each rear wheel and associated drive unit disposed proximal of outboard sides of the support platform. An articulating junction is formed by the front frame pivot connector pivotably connected with the rear frame pivot receiver. The articulating junction provides a range of turning angles between the front frame and the rear frame.

[0012] A manually operable control unit is in electrical communication with computer circuitry including circuitry for transmission of a plurality of control signals to each drive unit. The computer circuitry and each drive unit are separately in power connection with the power source, whereby the computer circuitry provides for controlled actuation of each drive unit to drive each wheel at a rotational speed and direction of rotation proportional to the operator's directional manipulation of the manually operable control unit. Manipulation of the control unit also directs the wheelchair forward or backward proportional to directional manipulation of the control unit. During forward movement, the wheelchair front frame is turned by the front drive units controlling each front wheel rotational speed. The rear frame is turned when driven backwards by the rear drive units controlling each rear wheel rotational speed. A method of operation of a self-propelled, four-wheel drive wheelchair is also disclosed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] The above-mentioned features of the invention will become more clearly understood from the following detailed description of the invention read together with the drawings in which:

[0014] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an articulating quad-drive wheelchair of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 1B is an overhead view of a quad-drive wheelchair of FIG. 1A;

[0016] FIG. 1C is a left side view of a quad-drive wheelchair of FIG. 1A;

[0017] FIG. 2A is a perspective view of the wheelchair articulating for a right turn;

[0018] FIG. 2B is a bottom view of FIG. 2A, illustrating the front frame pivoted at the articulation joint in relation to the rear frame during a right turn;

[0019] FIG. 2C is a right side view of FIG. 2A, illustrating the orientation of the seat assembly, front wheels, and rear wheels during a right turn;

[0020] FIG. 3A is a perspective view of the wheelchair articulating for a left turn;

[0021] FIG. 3B is a bottom view of FIG. 3A, illustrating the front frame pivoted at the articulation joint in relation to the rear frame during a left turn;

[0022] FIG. 3C is a side view of FIG. 3A, illustrating the orientation of the seat assembly, front wheels, and rear wheels during a left turn;

[0023] FIG. 4A is a partially exploded view of the pivoting seat and seat support, the folding bracket and the footrest supported by the front frame;

[0024] FIG. 4B is a partially exploded view of the pivoting seat support, a height adjustable footrest connector, and drive motor support assemblies for each front and rear wheels;

[0025] FIG. 4C is an exploded view of the front frame including a cross-member, a front wheel suspension unit, a front pivot connector and a rear pivot receiver forming an articulating joint between the front and rear frames; and

[0026] FIG. 5 is a block diagram of one embodiment of the articulated wheelchair.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0027] A self-propelled articulated wheelchair 10 with a four wheel drive and an articulation joint 58 substantially centrally positioned between a front frame 30 and a rear frame 50 is disclosed. The wheels and drive units of the wheelchair 10 are individually controlled by computer circuitry in order to rotate each wheel in appropriate directions and at the same or varying rotational speeds to allow rapid and precise turning of the wheelchair in forward or rearward directions, as directed by a seated operator.

[0028] The support chassis of the articulated wheelchair 10 includes a front frame 30 supporting a seat assembly 12 and a folding footrest 20. The seat assembly 12 includes a seat platform 14, and a back support 16 supporting a pivoting right armrest 16'' and a pivoting left armrest 16'. To provide convenient access for control of the articulated wheelchair 10, in one embodiment one armrest includes the operator controls, such as a joystick 26 and associated controls 26'. The seat assembly 12 illustrated in FIGS. 1A-4A includes the control means and joystick 26 extended from the right armrest 16''. To provide additional comfort for the seat occupant, the seat assembly 12 is supported by a bracket 18' which is disposed in swiveling orientation on a seat support member 18'' extended upwards from a connection with a central bracket 30'' encircling the axial member of the front frame 30 (see FIG. 4C). Additional comfort for the seat occupant is provided by the back support 16 being supported by a spring member 16''' and associated connector bracket which allows limited backward travel of the back support 16. The back support spring member 16''' is biased to return the back support 16 to an upright orientation when reclining pressure is reduced by the occupant.

[0029] The foot support assembly 20 includes a pivoting bracket 22 and a cylindrical connector 22' which provides connection to, and limited lateral extension proximal with a forwardly extended connector 24 of a cross-member 32, which is slidably attached to the front frame 30 underneath the seat assembly 12 (see FIGS. 4A and 4B). A range of angle and height adjustments for the foot support 20 is provided by the pivoting bracket 22 being angled relative to cylindrical connector 22' which is sidably engaged with a forward extension of the front frame 30. A limited lateral extension adjustment is provided by the forwardly extended connector 24 being slidably engaged with the forward extension of the front frame 30. The cross-member 32 extends laterally relative to a front portion 30' of the front frame 30 and is positioned underneath the seat assembly 12, in order to support the weight of the seated occupant between the front wheels 102-RL, 102-RR. The weight of an occupant on the seat 14 is supported in swiveling orientation by the seat support member 18'' and distributed across the front frame structure including the axial member of the front frame 30, the cross-member 32, and outboard left and right front brackets 34, 34' connected to opposed outer ends of the cross-member 32. By positioning the seat assembly 12 directly above the axial member of the front frame 30, the occupant's weight is evenly distributed between respective wheel axles 46, 46', which extend from respective front drive actuators 40, 42 supported by the left and right front brackets 34, 34' connected to opposed outboard ends of the cross-member 32.

[0030] The central axial member of the front frame 30 includes a rearwardly extended pivot connector 60 which serves as a male connector of an articulation joint 58 between the front frame 30 and the rear frame 50. In one embodiment, the pivot connector 60 is configured as a cylindrical member extending vertical above a rear end support bracket 62 of the front frame, over which a female connector having a diameter larger than the pivot connector 60 is pivotably positioned, such as a cylindrical pivot receiver 64 extended forwardly from the rear frame 50 (see FIG. 4C). The rear frame includes a rear support shelf 52 having a sufficient surface area to support at least one power source, and preferably multiple power sources 90, 92, which are removable after being decoupled from the wheelchair control unit 80.

[0031] An articulation junction 58 is formed by the front frame pivot connector 60 being pivotably received in the rear frame pivot receiver 64, also referred to as the rear frame pivot joint 64. The articulation junction 58 provides a plurality of turning angles between the rearwardly extension of the central axial member of the front frame 30, and the rear frame pivot receiver 64 extended forwards of the power source platform 52. The centrally positioned articulation joint 58 provides a range of turning angles 98, 98' between the front frame and the rear frame. The range for the turning angles 98, 98' is bounded by the rear bifurcations 402, 404' angled apart at about a sixty degree (60.degree.) angle 98, 98' extended laterally on opposed sides of the front frame pivot connector 60.

[0032] Movement of the wheelchair 10 is provided by front wheel drive units and rear wheel drive units, which are independently powered and controlled by a central control unit, or controller, 80. The front wheel drive unit includes a left front wheel actuator 40 having gearing therein, a left front wheel motor 44 providing transmission of power to the wheel actuator 40, and a right front wheel actuator 42 having gearing therein and a right front wheel motor 44' providing transmission of power to drive the actuator 42. The front wheel drive units are maintained in power communication by electrical connections with the power sources 90, 92 supported by the rear frame 50 on a storage platform 52. Each front wheel actuator 40, 42 is connected by respective left and right drive shafts 46, 46' (see FIGS. 1A and 5), from which respective left and right front wheels 102-L, 102-R are attached to rotate when driven by each front wheel motor 44, 44'. As illustrated in FIG. 4B, rear wheel support brackets 54, 54' are connected to opposed sides of the storage platform 52. The rear wheel drive unit includes a left rear wheel actuator 70 having gearing therein, a left rear wheel motor 74 providing transmission of power to drive actuator 70, and a right rear wheel actuator 72 having gearing therein, and a right rear wheel motor 74' providing transmission of power to drive the actuator 72. The front and rear wheel drive units are maintained in power communication by electrical connections with the power sources 90, 92 supported on storage platform 52. Each rear wheel actuator 70, 72 is connected by respective left and right rear drive shafts 66, 66' (see FIGS. 4B), from which respective left and right rear wheels 104-L, 104-R are attached to rotate when driven by each rear wheel motor 74, 74'. For repairs and/or replacement of each wheel drive unit, disconnection is facilitated for each front wheel drive unit 40, 44 and 42, 44' from respective support brackets 34, 34', by tools 36, 36'. Further, disconnection is facilitated for each rear wheel drive unit 70, 74 and 72, 74' from respective support brackets 54, 54' by tools 56, 56' as illustrated in FIG. 4B.

[0033] A front seat assembly lateral support system is illustrated in FIG. 4C, including spring members 38-L, 38-R extended laterally on opposed sides of the seat support member 18''. On the outboard ends of both spring members 38 are rigidly positioned support brackets 408-L, 408-R providing lateral support for each spring member 38. The lower ends of the upright support brackets 408 are preferably secured to a rearward side of the cross-member 32. The spring members 38 provide lateral support for the seat support member 18'' in order to minimize lateral swaying of the seat support 18'' and seat assembly 12 when a seated occupant and the wheelchair 10 traverse uneven terrain.

[0034] A manually operable control unit, commonly referred to as a "joystick" 26 and associated controls 26', is in electrical communication by at least one electrical connection 28 with the computer module 80 including circuitry for transmission of a plurality of control signals to each drive unit 44, 44', 74, 74'. The computer circuitry and each drive unit are separately in electrical connection with the power supply, whereby the computer circuitry provides for controlled actuation of each drive unit 44, 44', 74, 74' for control by actuators 40, 42, 70, 72 to drive each respective wheel 102-L, 102-R, 104-L, 104-R at equal, or different rotational speeds and/or different directions of rotation proportional to the operator's directional manipulation of the manually operable joystick 26. As an example, upon manipulation of the joy stick 26 in a forward position without indicating a turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 directs each wheel drive unit and actuator to propel the wheelchair 10 forward. Upon manipulation of the joy stick 26 in a rearward position without indication of a turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 directs each wheel drive unit and actuator to propel the wheelchair 10 backwards proportional to the operator's manipulation of the joy stick 26 and the associated controls 26'. The wheelchair 10 is capable of precise changes of direction within generally the wheelchair's footprint, due to the front frame 30 being turned by the front drive units controlling each front wheel rotational speed, and the rear frame 50 being separately guided during turns by the rear drive units 70, 74 and 72, 74' controlling the rear wheel rotational speeds.

[0035] As an example of the capability of the articulated wheelchair 10 to execute precise turns, FIGS. 2A-2C illustrate a right-hand turn 202. In order to execute turns within a small radius, each wheel 102-L, 102-R, 104-L, 104-R is independently controlled. Upon manipulation of the joy stick 26 in a forward position while indicating a right turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 increases the rotation of front left axle 46 and left wheel 102-L by motor 44 and actuator 40 to begin a right turn, and to slow the rotation of right rear axle 66' and right rear wheel 104-R by motor 74' and actuator 72 thereby assisting in completion of a right turn. Also, for an immediate right turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 slows the rotation of front right axle 46' and right front wheel 102-R by motor 44' and actuator 42, and to increase the rotation of left rear drive shaft 66 and left rear wheel 104-L by motor 74 and actuator 70 thereby assisting in completion of an immediate right turn by wheelchair 10. In order to execute an abrupt right turn as directed by the operator's abrupt turning of the joystick 26, to force wheelchair movement within essentially it's own footprint, the computer module 80 causes the actuator 42 and drive motor 44' to turn right front shaft 46' and front right wheel 102-R in reverse, while causing the actuator 40 and drive motor 44 to turn left front shaft 46 and front left wheel 102-L in a forward rotational direction, thereby forcing the front frame 30 to rotate right with rear frame 50 rotating at articulation joint 58 in the direction of front frame 30.

[0036] As an example of the capability of the articulated wheelchair 10 to execute precise turns, FIGS. 3A-3C illustrate a left-hand turn 302. In order to execute turns within a small radius, each wheel 102-L, 102-R, 104-L, 104-R is independently controlled.

[0037] As illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3C, a left-hand turn is accomplished by the articulated wheelchair 10 after the operator's manipulation of the joystick 26, in a forward position while indicating a left turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 slows the rotation of front left axle 46 and left wheel 102-L by motor 44 and actuator 40, and increases the rotation of right rear axle 66' and right rear wheel 104-R by motor 74' and actuator 72 thereby assisting in initiation of a left turn. Also, for an immediate left turn, the circuitry of the computer module 80 increases the rotation of front right axle 46' and right front wheel 102-R by motor 44' and actuator 42, and slows the rotation of left rear drive shaft 66 and left rear wheel 104-L by motor 74 and actuator 70 thereby assisting in completion of an immediate left turn by wheelchair 10. In order to execute an abrupt left turn as directed by the operator's abrupt turning of the joystick 26, to force wheelchair movement within essentially it's own footprint, the computer module 80 causes the actuator 42 and drive motor 44' to turn right front shaft 46' and front right wheel 102-R in a forward direction, while causing the actuator 40 and drive motor 44 to turn left front shaft 46 and front left wheel 102-RL in a rearward rotational direction, thereby forcing front frame 30 to rotate left with rear frame 50 rotating at articulation joint 58 in the direction of front frame 30.

[0038] The articulated wheelchair 10 includes the ability to execute precise turns, to move forward, and to move backwards as directed by the occupant's manipulating of the joy stick 26 and associated controls 26'. Execution of tight turns is needed for self-propelled wheelchairs in order to move the occupant through narrow spaces as found in homes and buildings. The efficient turning movements by the articulated wheelchair 10 are provided by positioning the articulation joint 58 at the center of the wheelchair 10, along with the front support frame 30 being directed in a direction selected by the occupant by the pair of front drive units moving each front wheel at the same or different rotational speeds as required for turning. In addition, the rear support frame 50 is driven in the direction selected by the occupant by the pair of rear drive units moving each rear wheel at different rotational speeds. Further, the computer circuitry 80, and dual data channels 76, 78 provide for transmission of a plurality of control signals to each front pair of drive units 44, 44', and rear pair of drive units 74, 74', to allow precise turning of the articulated wheelchair 10.

[0039] FIG. 5 illustrates a block diagram of the driving mechanism of the articulated wheelchair 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the driving mechanism includes the battery 502, the controls 26, 26', the controller 80, and the motor assemblies M1, M2, M3, M4, which include the drive motors 44, 44', 74, 74', the wheel actuators 40, 42, 70, 74', and the wheel axles 46, 46', 66, 66'. The driving mechanism allows the articulated wheelchair 10 to be a self-propelled vehicle because the wheelchair 10 carries the power (battery 502), the controls 26, 26', and the motors 44, 44', 74, 74' necessary for locomotion.

[0040] The controller 80 receives power from the battery 202 and receives its command signals from the joystick 26 and the associated controls 26', collectively called the operator controls. In the illustrated embodiment, the controller 80 includes two output channels Ch1, Ch2 that provide power to the drive motors 44, 44', 74, 74'. One output channel Ch1 provides power to diametrically opposed motors 74, 44' via cables 76, 76'. The other output channel Ch2 provides power to diametrically opposed motors 44, 74' via cables 78, 78'. In other embodiments, other types of controllers than the illustrated two channel controller 80 are used, for example, a processor connected to the joystick 26 and the associated controls 26' with the processor connected to a controller for each drive motor 44, 44', 74, 74'.

[0041] In operation, when the joystick 26 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 left 302, the controller 80 causes the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L to rotate at a speed different than the speed of the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R, thereby causing the wheelchair 10 to pivot about the articulation joint 58 reducing the turning angle 98 as the wheelchair 10 turns left 302. Once the degree of articulation of the wheelchair 10 is achieved, the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 forward 504, the wheelchair moves forward 504 in a left circular path. If the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 reverse 506, the wheelchair moves in reverse 506 in a left circular path.

[0042] If the operator moves the joystick 26 to move the wheelchair 10 to an extreme left 302 turning position, the controller 80 causes the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L to rotate in the forward 504 moving direction and the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R to rotate in the reverse 506 moving direction, thereby causing the wheelchair 10 to pivot about the articulation joint 58 reducing the turning angle 98 as the wheelchair 10 turns left 302. Once the degree of articulation of the wheelchair 10 is achieved, the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 forward 504, the wheelchair moves forward 504 in a left circular path. If the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 reverse 506, the wheelchair moves in reverse 506 in a left circular path.

[0043] When the joystick 26 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 right 202, the controller 80 causes the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R to rotate at a speed different than the speed of the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L, thereby causing the wheelchair 10 to pivot about the articulation joint 58 reducing the turning angle 98' as the wheelchair 10 turns right 202. Once the degree of articulation of the wheelchair 10 is achieved, the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 forward 504, the wheelchair moves forward 504 in a right circular path. If the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 reverse 506, the wheelchair moves in reverse 506 in a right circular path.

[0044] If the operator moves the joystick 26 to move the wheelchair 10 to an extreme right 202 turning position, the controller 80 causes the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R to rotate in the forward 504 moving direction and the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L to rotate in the reverse 506 moving direction, thereby causing the wheelchair 10 to pivot about the articulation joint 58 reducing the turning angle 98' as the wheelchair 10 turns right 202. Once the degree of articulation of the wheelchair 10 is achieved, the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 forward 504, the wheelchair moves forward 504 in a right circular path. If the joystick 10 is operated to move the wheelchair 10 reverse 506, the wheelchair moves in reverse 506 in a right circular path.

[0045] After the wheelchair 10 has turned left 302 or right 202 a sufficient amount, as determined by the operator, operation of the joystick 26 in the opposite direction, right 202 or left 302, allows the wheelchair 10 to straighten by reversing the rotation of the wheels 102, 104 until the two left wheels 102-L, 104-L and the two right wheels 104-R, 104-R are in parallel alignment.

[0046] The wheelchair 10 includes various functions. The function of connecting the front frame member 30 to the rear frame member 50 is implemented, in one embodiment, by the articulation joint 58 connecting the members 30, 50. In one embodiment, the articulation joint 58 includes a pivot connector 60 received by a cylindrical pivot receiver 64, as illustrated in FIG. 4C.

[0047] The function of causing the articulated frame assembly to pivot by the rotation of the first wheel 102-R relative to the second wheel 102-L is implemented, in one embodiment, by the controller 80 connected to the drive motors 44, 44', which causes the left front wheel 102-L to rotate with a different speed than the right front wheel 102-R. In another embodiment, the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R rotate with a different speed than the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L.

[0048] The function of manually operating said articulated wheelchair 10 by the person seated in said seat is implemented, in one embodiment, by the joystick 26 and associated controls 26'.

[0049] The function of causing the articulated frame assembly to pivot by the rotation of the third wheel 104-R relative to the fourth wheel 104-L, in conjunction with the rotation of the first wheel 102-R relative to the second wheel 102-L, is implemented, in one embodiment, by the controller 80 connected to the drive motors 44, 44', 74, 74', which causes the left front wheel 102-L and the right rear wheel 104-R to rotate with a different speed than the right front wheel 102-R and the left rear wheel 104-L.

[0050] While the present invention has been illustrated by description of several embodiments and while the illustrative embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not the intention of the applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. The invention in its broader aspects is therefore not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus and methods, and illustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the spirit or scope of applicant's general inventive concept.

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20060192362 Pneumatic support system for a wheelchair
20060182581 Portable wheelchair lift
20060180368 Cruise control system for electric wheelchair
20060170182 Manual wheelchair drive system
20060163437 Connecting device for a joystick controller on an electric wheelchair
20060159542 Vehicular wheelchair docking and capture apparatus
20060145456 Foldable wheelchair with extensible link assembly and method
20060138835 Wheelchair, particularly electric wheelchair
20060137942 Wheelchair wheel lock
20060120837 Wheelchair elevator
 
 
Adjustable Bed
Air Curtain
Air Purifier
Auto Lift
Badge Holder
Balance
Blinds
Blister Packaging
Cable Lock
Cable Ties
Carpet
Caster Wheel
CCtv Camera
Cell Phone
Computer Desk
Computer Rack
Conference System
Conference Table
Copier
Counterfeit Detector
Credit Card
Dental Care
Desiccant
Digital Video Recorder
Domain Names
Dome Camera
Double Sided Tape
Electric Hoist
Electric Wheel Chair
Ethernet Switch
Exit Sign
Fire Extinguisher
First Aid Kit
Flow Meter
Forklift Truck
Garden Light
Garden Umbrella
Geogrid
Glue Gun
Hair Treatment
Hand Dryer
Health Care
Hearing Aid
Heat Shrink Tube
Infrared Camera
Infrared Thermometer
Ink
Ink Refill
Inkjet Cartridge
Insurance
Investment Casting
Juice
Juice Extractor
Kitchen Faucet
Laminate Flooring
Lanyard
Laptop
Laser Engraving Machine
Latex Gloves
LED Display
Linear Bearing
Massage Chair
Massage Table
Mattress
Mattress Pad
Mechanical Balance
Memory Foam Pillow
Microscope Camera
Mini Flashlight
Modem Card
Nitrogen Generator
Office Chair
Office Furniture
Pallet
Paper Shredder
Patch Cord
PCB
Personal Care
Photo Paper
Portable Vacuum Cleaner
Power Cord
Powered Wheelchair
Printed Circuit Board
Printed Tape
Printer Ribbon
Printing Machine
Projector
Radiant Heat
Radiant Heating
Rechargeable Flashlight
Rewinding Machine
Roll Label
Safety Vest
Security Door
Self-adhesive Label
Shopping Cart
Skin Care Product
Skin Cream
Spiral Staircase
Stereo Microscope
Storage Box
Storage Racks
Temperature Controller
Terminal Blocks
Thermocouple
Toner Cartridge
Towel Dispenser
Treadmill
Venetian Blind
VoIP Phone
Walkie Talkie
Water Filter
Wheel Chair
Wheelchair
Wire Shelving
Wood Flooring
Wristbands
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