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Claims for Patent: 5,897,031

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Claims for Patent: 5,897,031

Title: Dispenser for antimicrobial liquids
Abstract:A dispenser for dispensing products such as liquid antimicrobials is described. The dispenser includes a bracket/actuator assembly and a container assembly. The dispenser includes a novel mechanism for attaching the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and also includes a novel valve assembly.
Inventor(s): Wirt; David F. (Prescott, WI), Foslien; Floyd L. (Troy Township, WI)
Assignee: Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (St. Paul, MN)
Application Number:08/668,198
Patent Claims: 1. A container assembly attachable to a bracket/actuator assembly having a movable actuator and a pair of mounting flanges; said container assembly comprising:

a reservoir for holding product to be dispensed,

an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed;

a pump, operatively associated with the actuator, for pumping the product through the outlet, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator;

a pair of channels which are sized and shaped to cooperatively receive the mounting flanges of the bracket/actuator assembly to attach the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and to align the driven surface of the pump with the actuator when the container assembly is attached to the bracket/actuator assembly;

wherein the container assembly is attachable to the bracket/actuator assembly in a vertically downward direction; and

the channels are elongate and situated so that they taper toward each other in the direction of attachment so that the driven surface of the pump is guided into a predetermined orientation relative to the actuator substantially simultaneously with attachment of the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly in the vertically downward direction.

2. A container assembly according to claim 1 wherein the container assembly includes a substantially planar rear wall adapted to abut the bracket/actuator assembly when the container assembly is attached to the bracket/actuator assembly.

3. A container assembly according to claim 1 wherein the container assembly includes top, front, and side walls with surfaces which are substantially free of sudden discontinuities to afford ease of cleaning.

4. A container assembly according to claim 1 wherein the container assembly includes a valve assembly that includes said outlet, and

wherein said valve assembly is movable relative to the reservoir between a first position which seals the product within said reservoir and a second position which affords dispensing of product through the outlet.

5. A container assembly according to claim 4 wherein said valve assembly is adapted to rotate between said first and second positions.

6. A container assembly according to claim 4 wherein said reservoir has a vertical axis, said valve assembly is elongate along an axis which is perpendicular to the vertical axis of the reservoir.

7. A container assembly according to claim 6 wherein said valve assembly is adapted to rotate approximately one hundred twenty degrees between said first and second positions; and wherein, in said second position, said outlet opens downwardly.

8. A container assembly according to claim 1 wherein the container assembly is disposable and includes a product path between the reservoir and the outlet, and said product path is located entirely within said container assembly so that the entire product path is disposed of upon disposal of the container assembly.

9. A container assembly according to claim 1 wherein said container assembly includes a pair of side walls which taper toward each other in the direction of attachment, and said side walls each include one of said channels.

10. A container assembly according to claim 9 wherein said side walls have bottom, rear portions and said channels are located in the bottom, rear portions of said side walls.

11. A container assembly according to claim 9 wherein the container assembly includes a bottom wall, and

said channels have a first end opening onto the bottom wall and a second end defined by a shoulder surface which is adapted to engage a stop surface of the bracket/actuator assembly.

12. A method of using a disposable container assembly which is attachable to a bracket/actuator assembly having a movable actuator and a pair of mounting flanges; the method comprising the steps of:

a) providing a container assembly including: a reservoir for holding product to be dispensed, an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed;

a pump, operatively associated with the actuator, for pumping the product through the outlet, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator; a pair of channels which taper toward each other and which are sized and shaped to cooperatively receive the mounting flanges of the bracket/actuator assembly; and

b) attaching the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and substantially simultaneously aligning the driven surface of the pump with the actuator by moving the container assembly in a substantially vertically downward direction relative to the bracket/actuator assembly until the channels engage the mounting flanges.

13. A method of using a disposable container assembly according to claim 12 wherein the step of providing a container assembly includes the step of providing a valve assembly that includes said outlet, and the valve assembly is adapted to move relative to the reservoir between a first position which seals the product within said reservoir and a second position which affords dispensing of product through the outlet; and

the method further comprises the step of moving the valve assembly from said first position to said second position.

14. A method of using a disposable container assembly according to claim 13 wherein the step of moving the valve assembly includes the step of rotating the valve assembly from said first to said second position.

15. A method of using a disposable container assembly according to claim 14 wherein the step of rotating the valve assembly includes the step of rotating the valve assembly approximately one hundred and twenty degrees between said first and second positions, such that, in the second position, the outlet opens downwardly.

16. A method of using a disposable container assembly according to claim 12 wherein the step of providing a container assembly comprises the step of providing a disposable container assembly with a product path between the reservoir and the outlet which is located entirely within the container assembly; and

the method further includes the step of disposing of the entire product path upon depletion of the container assembly.

17. A dispenser for product comprising:

a bracket/actuator assembly having a movable actuator and a pair of mounting flanges;

a container assembly comprising:

a reservoir for holding the product to be dispensed,

an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed;

a pump, operatively associated with the actuator, for pumping the product through the outlet, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator;

attachment and alignment means for attaching the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and for automatically aligning the driven surface of the pump with the actuator during attachment of the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly; wherein said attachment and alignment means comprises a pair of inwardly directed flanges on one of said bracket/actuator and container assemblies and surfaces for engaging said flanges on the other of said assemblies; and

wherein the attachment and alignment means affords attachment of said container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly, and alignment of the driven surface of the pump with the actuator, in a vertically downward direction.

18. A dispenser according to claim 17 wherein the dispenser includes top, front, and side walls with surfaces which are substantially free of sudden discontinuities to afford ease of cleaning.

19. A dispenser according to claim 17 wherein the container assembly is disposable and includes a product path between the reservoir and the outlet, and said product path is located entirely within said container assembly so that the entire product path is disposed of upon disposal of the container assembly.

20. A dispenser according to claim 17 wherein said container assembly includes a pair of side walls which taper toward each other in the direction of attachment, and said side walls each include one of said surfaces for engaging said flanges.

21. A dispenser according to claim 20 wherein the flanges of the bracket/actuator assembly include a stop surface;

the container assembly has a bottom wall, and the surfaces for engaging said flanges have a first end opening onto the bottom wall and a second end defined by a shoulder surface which is adapted to engage said stop surfaces of the bracket/actuator assembly when the container assembly is attached to the bracket/actuator assembly.

22. A disposable container assembly attachable to a bracket/actuator assembly having an actuator movable between a retracted position which affords attachment of the disposable container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and an extended position spaced from the retracted position; said disposable container assembly comprising:

a substantially closed reservoir for holding product to be dispensed,

a pump for pumping the product, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator and being driven by the actuator when the actuator moves from the retracted to the extended position;

a valve assembly having inner surfaces adapted to receive the pump and to define a pump chamber, outer surfaces including sealing surfaces for sealing the reservoir, the outer surfaces of the valve assembly also including grasping surfaces that are sized and shaped to be manually grasped,

an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed; and surfaces extending between said inner and outer surfaces to define a fill hole;

the disposable container assembly including a product path that is located entirely within the container assembly so that the entire product path is disposed of upon disposal of the container assembly; and

wherein the grasping surfaces are located on external surfaces of the disposable container assembly so that the valve assembly is manually movable between a sealed position with the sealing surfaces sealing the pump chamber from the reservoir, and a dispense position with the fill hole affording passage of the product from the reservoir to the pump chamber.

23. A container assembly according to claim 22 wherein said grasping surfaces are rotatable from said sealed toward said dispense positions.

24. A container assembly according to claim 23 wherein said product reservoir is constructed to be suitable for holding sterilizing or disinfecting or antimicrobial product.

25. A container assembly according to claim 22 wherein said grasping surfaces comprise a knob having an outlet tube therein, said outlet tube having said outlet.

26. A container assembly attachable to a bracket/actuator assembly having an actuator movable between a retracted position which affords attachment of the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and an extended position spaced from the retracted position; said container assembly comprising:

a reservoir for holding product to be dispensed,

a pump for pumping the product, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator and being driven by the actuator when the actuator moves from the retracted to the extended position;

a valve assembly having inner surfaces adapted to receive the pump and to define a pump chamber, outer surfaces including sealing surfaces for sealing the reservoir, grasping surfaces that are sized and shaped to be manually grasped, an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed; and surfaces extending between said inner and outer surfaces to define a fill hole;

a cover adapted to receive the reservoir, and having surfaces defining a passageway;

said valve assembly comprises a spool element adapted to be received in the passageway of the cover;

wherein the valve assembly is movable between a sealed position with the sealing surfaces sealing the pump chamber from the reservoir, and a dispense position with the fill hole affording passage of the product from the reservoir to the pump chamber, and

the spool element rotates between said sealed and dispense positions.

27. A container assembly according to claim 26 wherein said spool element includes a vent hole affording passage of replacement air into the reservoir;

said reservoir includes a plug having first and second passageways; said first passageway affording passage of product from said reservoir to said pump chamber, and said second passageway affording passage of replacement air into the reservoir; and

wherein, in the sealed position, said sealing surfaces seal said first and second passageways, and in said dispense position, said fill hole is aligned with said first passageway and said vent hole is aligned with said second passageway.

28. A container assembly according to claim 27 wherein said first passageway includes a one-way valve for preventing flow of product from said pump chamber to said reservoir.

29. A container assembly according to claim 27 wherein the one-way valve comprises a ball valve having a ball, said ball being movable between an open position which affords passage of product from the reservoir to said pump chamber, and a closed position which prevents flow of product from the pump chamber to said reservoir; and

wherein, gravity biases said ball toward said closed position.

30. A container according to claim 27 wherein said pump means comprises a piston mounted within the inner surfaces of said valve assembly for movement between a return position and an actuated position, said driven surface comprises driven surfaces on said piston which are sized and shaped to receive the actuator;

wherein movement of said actuator from said retracted to said extended position causes said actuator to engage the driven surfaces of said piston and drive said piston from said return position to said actuated position; and

said piston includes first and second piston seals situated to seal said vent hole when said piston is in said return position, and to afford passage of ambient through said vent hole, said second passageway and into the reservoir when said piston is in said actuated position.

31. A method of using a container assembly that is attachable to a bracket/actuator assembly having an actuator movable between a retracted position which affords attachment of the container assembly to the bracket/actuator assembly and an extended position spaced from the retracted position; the method comprising the steps of:

a) providing the container assembly including a reservoir for holding product to be dispensed, a pump for pumping the product, the pump including a driven surface for receiving the actuator and being driven by the actuator when the actuator moves from the retracted to the extended position; a valve assembly having inner surfaces adapted to receive the pump and to define a pump chamber, outer surfaces including sealing surfaces for sealing the reservoir, grasping surfaces that are sized and shaped to be manually grasped, an outlet sized and shaped to afford passage of product to be dispensed; and

surfaces extending between said inner and outer surfaces to define a fill hole;

b) mounting the valve assembly for movement between a sealed position that avoids unintended dispensing of product, and a dispense position that is spaced from the sealed position so that product may be dispensed;

c) placing product to be dispensed within the reservoir,

d) storing the valve assembly in the sealed position, and

e) moving the valve assembly from the sealed position to the dispense position prior to dispensing product.

32. A method according to claim 31 wherein the step of moving the valve assembly from the sealed position to the dispense position includes the step of rotating the valve assembly from the sealed position to the dispense position.
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